Get out of town and frolick with dolphins or spot kangaroos.
30 minutes from the city
Explore the bush
At Kalkari Discovery Centre, inside Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in Sydney’s north, you’re guaranteed to spot resident eastern grey kangaroos, rock wallabies and lyrebirds while strolling through eucalypt-scented bushland. Here, Australian brush turkeys, with their red scalps and bright-yellow wattles, find refuge from suburban predators such as dogs and cats. But not all enemies can be eliminated and the turkeys can sometimes be seen fighting off goannas intent on stealing their eggs. Rarer – but not unheard of – sightings include snakes and the endangered long-nosed bandicoot. The wildlife is free to roam the centre’s expansive grounds and visitors are encouraged to keep a respectful distance. Kalkari is open throughout the year (except for Christmas Day) and if you’re visiting in spring, expect bonus wildflower displays.
Kalkari Discovery Centre
Ku-ring-gai Chase Road, Mount Colah; (02) 9472 9300
One hour from the city
Interact with the animals
The Australian Reptile Park is a Noah’s ark of Australian wildlife; a shady bushland on NSW’s Central Coast filled with an exhaustive collection of native creatures (and a fair number of exotics, too). You’ll find cassowaries and quokkas here, tree frogs and Tasmanian devils and that most venomous of snakes, the taipan. But this is more than just a display zoo: visitors are encouraged to get involved – watching staff milk deadly Sydney funnel-web spiders as part of an antivenom program, walking leashed dingoes along the park’s nature trails, handfeeding kangaroos and posing for photos with koalas. For special insight into the park’s conservation work – and exclusive access to its endangered Tasmanian-devil breeding facility – take the VIP Behind the Scenes tour. The park is open year round, except for Christmas Day, but you can only see Elvis the saltwater crocodile being fed on weekends and during school holidays.
Australian Reptile Park
Lot 69, Pacific Highway, Somersby; (02) 4340 1022
Two-and-a-half hours from the city
Dive with the dolphins
You won’t get any closer to Australia’s marine inhabitants than the experience offered by Dolphin Swim Australia: plunge into the cerulean waters of Port Stephens, north of Sydney, and watch as wild-but-friendly bottlenose dolphins approach. Wearing wetsuits, masks and snorkels, swimmers are attached by a safety harness and bridle to a towrope between the bows of a 52-foot ocean catamaran. Before long, the dolphins are crisscrossing the bow, leading their human visitors on an exhilarating journey. The aim of this world-first swim experience is for people to enter the dolphins’ territory without imposing themselves on it; the operators abide by stringent conservation and safety protocols. Those who prefer to stay dry can assist with Dolphin Swim’s ongoing dolphin migratory and distribution study from the comfort of the boat. Swims occur Friday to Sunday from September to May and on weekdays depending on demand.
Dolphin Swim Australia
D’Albora Marina, Nelson Bay; 1300 721 358
SEE ALSO: Where to Meet Wild Animals