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If you want to get up-close to the wild side of Australia – hop with the wallabies, snap a crocodile, or cuddle a koala – you can hire a 4x4, employ a guide, and head out into the outback. Or you can get on the ferry to Taronga Zoo and do all of the above, ice-cream in hand. That's the beauty of a city like Sydney. It may be a sprawling modern metropolis, but it's one packed with open spaces, parks, reserves and botanical gardens. And Taronga Zoo sprawls over just such a wide open green space – 21 hectares of bush land in North Sydney that have been an uncaged refuge for wildlife since 1916.
The name comes from 'taronga', an aborigine word for 'beautiful view'. Which it certainly is. Bradley Head, the home of Taronga, juts out Sydney Harbour, with the icons of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge providing a fitting (or should that be surreal) backdrop for its roaming giraffe and elephants. Taronga Zoo is a world-renowned conservation centre, as well as a natural home for many of Australia's threatened indigenous species. It has successfully developed a breeding programme for Asian elephants.
Most visitors arrive via the ferry coming from Circular Quay, then being treated to a spectacular ride up to the Zoo's main buildings on the Sky Safari cable-car ride. Once there, you can plan a 'walkabout' that can take in everything from marsupials – like the platypuses and Tasmanian Devils – to the egg-lying antics of the spiky echidna (actually classed as a mammal). There are seals and penguins too, in the pools of the Great Southern Ocean, and deadly snakes in the Serpentaria.
In fact, over 300 species roar, hop, slither and squawk in the wooded environs of Taronga. And you can get close enough to get excited (or nervous) by buying a ticket to the Zoo's Animal Encounters. A full-blooded animal experience, without the need for a tent or a bush-knife. And Koala cuddles come free.
This family-friendly Sydney hotel is located in the historical district, just steps away from Circular Quay and Museum of Contemporary Art. The Rocks Markets and Sydney Opera House are also within 15 minutes. Sydney Circular Quay Station is only a 3-minute walk and Wynyard Station is 7 minutes.
Situated near the beach, this luxury hotel is within 3 miles (5 km) of Taronga Zoo, Balmoral Beach and Kirribilli House. Museum of Sydney and Museum of Contemporary Art are also within 3 miles (5 km).
Situated in Mosman, this campsite is 0.2 mi (0.4 km) from Taronga Zoo and 3.1 mi (5 km) from Circular Quay. Balmoral Beach and Museum of Sydney are also within 3 miles (5 km).
Situated in Mosman, this holiday home is within 3 miles (5 km) of Taronga Zoo, Balmoral Beach and Kirribilli House. Luna Park and Sydney Harbour Bridge are also within 6 miles (10 km).
Situated in Mosman, this holiday home is within 3 miles (5 km) of Taronga Zoo, Luna Park and Mater Hospital. Balmoral Beach is 1.6 mi (2.6 km) away.
Situated in Mosman, this apartment building is within 1 mi (2 km) of Balmoral Beach and Taronga Zoo. Mater Hospital is 2.9 mi (4.6 km) away.
Situated in Mosman, this apartment building is 0.7 mi (1.2 km) from Taronga Zoo and 2.8 mi (4.6 km) from Mater Hospital. Balmoral Beach and Museum of Sydney are also within 3 miles (5 km).
Situated in Mosman, this holiday home is within 3 miles (5 km) of Taronga Zoo, Luna Park and Mater Hospital. Balmoral Beach is 1.3 mi (2 km) away.