Officially known as the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens, the Melbourne Zoo is located a short tram ride north of the city center and survives as Australia’s oldest zoo. It was modeled on the London Zoo and first opened to the public on 6 October 1862 on a 55-acre parcel of land at Royal Park. While its initial function was to help animals acclimatize after being transported to Australia, it developed into a zoo in its own right with animals acquired for public display.
The Melbourne zoo is set across numerous themed bioclimatic zones, including the African rainforest section where gorillas and pygmy hippos can be seen and the Asian rainforest which features tigers. An Australian bush area enables visitors to get up close to native wildlife such as kangaroos, koalas and hairy nose wombats and there’s a flight aviary filled with different bird species.
A highlight of the Melbourne Zoo is its Trails of the Elephants exhibit that features five Asian elephants, as well as the Orangutan Sanctuary with both pure Sumatran and Sumatran-Bornean hybrids. The new Wild Sea exhibit is home to seals, little penguins and Australian pelicans, while the Reptile House has an exotic collection of frogs, snakes and lizards.
Today visitors can still see some of the historic enclosures from the zoo’s early years, including the heritage-listed Elephant House that now hosts the popular overnight Roar and Snore experiences. This is a fantastic opportunity to get up close to some of the zoo’s nocturnal residents and be led on special guided keeper walks.