Which South Australian Zoo to choose?

Which South Australian Zoo is right for you?

South Australia has some fantastic zoo options for the animal lover. Zoos SA operates 2 zoo’s within South Australia. Monarto Zoo and Adelaide Zoo. Both offer a unique experience from each other and deciding which to visit can be difficult.

Below you’ll find the highlights and downsides to each zoo. How to get there. The types of animals you might encounter, and information on how to choose the perfect zoo experience for you.


Created as a conservation area and breeding program for endangered species in 1983. Monarto Zoological Park was at the time closed to the general public. Luckily for us, in 1993 this changed and Monarto opened its gates to the world. Visitors could now experience unique animals from all over the world in this huge open range zoo.

How huge? Monarto is massive! In fact it’s the largest open range zoo in the world. With 1,500 hectares allocated to allow the animals to roam and behave as close to nature as possible.

Monarto operates much like a safari park. From the visitor centre you jump on one of the free guided tour buses that travels around the park. Buses perform pickups at designated stops nestled among the Mallee woodlands and shrublands. Or walk along one of the many walking trails spread around the park.

The open, sweeping landscape. Herds of animals wandering and grazing the land. Or lazing under trees avoiding the midday sun. It truly feels like you’re on a true African safari tour.

Image of a Giraffe and bus on an open plain at Monarto Zoo
Tours Buses Get You Close To The Action

What animals will you see?

Monarto is the place to go if you’re after an African safari like experience. It boasts over 50 different species of animals. It’s the place to go if you’re wanting to see some of the bigger animals.

Animal highlights of the zoo would be:

  • African Painted Dogs, Cheetahs, Lions and Hyenas.
  • Black and Southern White Rhinoceros.
  • Giraffes.
  • Chimpanzees.
Image of a Rhinoceros at Monarto Zoo

Getting there?

Driving is by far the easiest option. From Adelaide it’s around a 45 minutes drive on the freeway. Don’t have a vehicle? LinkSA offers a bus service to Monarto

Image of a large American Bison at Monarto Zoo
Monstrous American Bison

Highlights Of Monarto

Be sure to hop off the bus at the Giraffe platform. This is a great place to stop and walk out onto the long viewing platform. You can get close to the Giraffes at feeding time.

The Chimp enclosure is another outstanding feature of Monarto. Take the walking path from the visitor centre down to the Chimpanzee enclosure. Watching the antics of the chimps in action is great fun.

Don’t miss feeding time at the Carnivore enclosures. It’s the best time to truly see how big some of these creatures really are!

Image of a Tasmanian Devil feeding on a carcass at Monarto Zoo
Feeding Time Is Confronting, But Interesting

Downsides Of Monarto

Monarto can be a little hit or miss. Some visits the animals will be close to the route taken by the bus. Often walking in front of the bus or alongside. Yet other times they can be so far away or hidden with nothing visible.

Photography is difficult at Monarto. Besides a few stop off points, such as the Giraffe and Carnivore enclosure, you will be on a moving bus. Getting a great photo through the bus window is difficult. Reflections and distortion ruin many photos.


First opened in 1883, Adelaide is one of the first zoos in Australia. This might make you think it’s old and outdated, but nothing is further from the truth.

Reinvented and updated over the years, Adelaide has become a modern zoo. Old metal jail type enclosures have mostly been replaced with glass fronted enclosures. With extensive green areas added throughout the zoo. This gives you the feeling of walking through a tropical jungle. Or perhaps visiting the wilds of China in the giant bamboo forest.

Every effort has been made to allow the over 3,000 animals found at the zoo to feel at home. Realistic enclosures allow for a more natural feel for the animals. While raised platforms allow a better viewing experience for visitors. Great for getting up close and personal to the animals.

Visitors can even become the attraction! Raised catwalks allow the tiny Tamarin monkeys to roam around and explore the zoo. Make sure to look up once in awhile. You might see a cheeky monkey observing you!

Image of a Red Panda climbing a tree at Adelaide Zoo
Cute Red Panda

What animals will you see?

Adelaide Zoo has a huge variety of exotic and Australian native animals. With over 250 different species to see, listing them all is impossible.

Animal highlights of the zoo would be:

  • Hippopotamus.
  • Giraffes.
  • Giant pandas.
  • Orangutans.
  • Meerkats. Who doesn’t love the always curious meerkats?
Image of a Hippopotamus in water at Adelaide Zoo

Getting there?

Adelaide Zoo is an easy walk from the CBD. Taking around 15-20 minutes from Rundle Mall. Either head down North Terrace or along the River Torrens. Paid car parking is available on Plane Tree Drive. (Free on Sundays)

Image of a Meerkat at Adelaide Zoo
Who Doesn’t Love A Meerkat?

Highlights Of Adelaide

The nocturnal house is a great place to view some of Australia’s hard to see native animals. Animals that usually only come out after dark.

Don’t miss the children’s zoo! I’d like to say this is great for kids, but honestly, it’s fun for everyone. Meet, feed and play with some cute animals. Goats, chickens and quokkas are all roaming around waiting for a pat.

Huge interactive playground near the zoo entrance featuring slides, raised walkways, swings and more.

Image of a Seal at Adelaide Zoo
Seals Are One Of The Most Active And Fun Animals To Watch At Adelaide Zoo

Downsides Of Adelaide

While the realistic enclosures are better for the animals. They can sometimes interfere with seeing the animals. Animals have more options to hide if they want.

Some of the older enclosures are an eyesore compared to the newer enclosures. Particularly the lion enclosures.

Cost/Opening Times

Depending on your plans, the below ticket options are the most useful:

  • Single Pass –  1 day pass for either Adelaide or Monarto Zoo.
  • Two Zoo –  1 day pass for both Adelaide and Monarto Zoo. Great option if you plan to visit both zoos in South Australia.
  • Unlimited Pass –  12 months unlimited access to South Australian zoos and affiliated zoos in many states throughout Australia. Perfect for visitors travelling around Australia and visiting multiple zoos around the country.

Check the ZoosSA website for up to date pricing.

Both zoos are open from 9:30am to 5pm, 7 days a week.

[alert type=”info” dismiss=”no”]

Both zoo’s have onsite food options. They serve general cafe fare or fast food options. The food isn’t great and extremely overpriced. Either bring your own food or go elsewhere.

If visiting Adelaide Zoo, head back into the CBD and visit some of our best cheap eats.

If visiting Monarto, head back up the freeway to Hahndorf.  You’ll get better food at a similar price.[/alert]

[alert type=”info” dismiss=”no”]

If money is no object, both zoos offer unique experiences at an additional cost. What kind of experiences? How does walking into a 360 degree cage with lions all around you sound? Yeah, you can do that!

There’s a huge rage of unique experiences to cater to most budgets. Find the right experience for you at Adelaide or Monarto.[/alert]


Both zoos are great fun and we would recommend seeing both if time permits. But if you’re staying in the Adelaide CBD or visiting with kids and want a quick and easy outing. Or only have around 3-4 hours to spare, then I would suggest Adelaide Zoo.

Monarto Zoo really requires a full day to do it justice. If you have time to make the drive and spend the day exploring, then we highly recommend it. Monarto is more suited to older children who can handle sitting still on a bus for long periods of time. But seeing the bigger animals up close and watching the big carnivores feeding is a huge thrill.

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