Detailed review by Caradawn
I am very much in support sustainable living and looking after nature, so Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary was on my list to visit. It is a 35 acre site which has been re-vegetated with native plants, re-populated with native (and endangered) animals and enclosed to keep out introduced animals which would harm the native wildlife.
Finding the entrance is quite interesting. There are signs directing you to it; you turn off at Stirling and then there is a fair drive until you see a sign which says, Warrawong 50m with an arrow pointing to turn left. You then go whizzing past it because it's actually only about 10m further on.
There is ample parking which is free and entry between 9am and 4pm is also free. On arrival we were given a map and informed that there would be an animal show on with tickets available at the counter before the show. Unfortunately the show is not free and we paid $13 for a family of four, which I thought was reasonable.
There are guided walks available at a price, or you can have a self guided walk for free. A friend had made a comment that she couldn't manage Warrawong because of her bad back and strolling around the sanctuary I understood why. A lot of the paths go up and down and would be hard work for some and mostly inaccessible to wheelchair users. However, I did see a wheelchair user there and I expect that the boardwalks would have been accessible to her. She was able to attend the animal show and cafe.
A boardwalk takes you through the wetlands and rain forest, making progress there quite easy. Then paths go through the hillside woodlands where you can usually find the odd wallaby or spot some koalas. If you need a rest or just want to watch nature, then there are plenty or benches dotted around. The ruins of a settlers' cottage offer a point of interest other than the wildlife.
Back near the entrance we sat and watched a bandicoot foraging while we waited in the area for the animal show to start. The handler seemed quite knowledgeable and was entertaining. He explained that at some point the young emus would arrive because they knew they'd get food to distract them. This warning was probably a good idea as a surprise visit by such large birds may well have frightened some of the younger children. The emus may have still been juveniles, but they looked full size to me! The man started by passing round jars with spiders in, including the lethal redback. Then we got to stroke some lizards and my daughter held a snake before it got agitated by another girl and had to be put back. These were all local animals that you might encounter in the garden or the bush. The handler explained where you might find them and what to do if you should find them (whether they are approachable on not). He explained to the children that if you should ever encounter a snake you should leave it alone and tell an adult. Before he brought each animal out he would warn the audience if they needed to be quiet or make slow movements. The highlight of the show had to be his surprise in a bag. He brought out a cloth bag and asked us to be particularly quiet and not make any sudden movements for this animal as it can jump very far if scared. Then he took out a sugar glider. It was one of the cutest and prettiest little creatures I've ever seen with its big round nocturnal eyes. Unfortunately we couldn't stroke it as it was a nervous animal, but we watched it crawl up the man's jumper.
There is something much more satisfying about spotting a koala in its natural environment, rather than having it put on display for you. Different Australian environments have been planted in this sanctuary, so you can try to spot the platypuses and turtles in the ponds, see the small birds in the swamp, or discover what might be hiding among the ferns in the rain forest. However, for those who are less patient with looking for elusive animals and want to see them up close, there are some kangaroos and wallabies which are used to human contact and can be stroked and fed with pellets purchased from the counter at the entrance.
As the platypuses tend to be more active in the evenings, it is not very likely that you will spot them during the day. In fact many of the animals tend to be nocturnal, so there are guided nocturnal walks available. Visitors can book evening meal and nocturnal walk packages or even stay overnight in an eco-cabin. This sort of thing starts to get a bit pricey though, with guided walks starting at $25 per adult (at the time of writing). The good thing about a visit to Warrawong is that you can make it as budget friendly as you need to. You may not get to see as many animals during the free entry time period, but it is still enjoyable nevertheless.
Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary