One of the best things to do in South Australia with kids is a day at Monarto Safari Park. Here is all you need to know for a great visit.
I am a bit wary about zoos. In recent years we have become more informed about the way zoos and other animal attractions treat their animals.
It’s no longer okay to ride elephants, and circus animals are no longer made to do unnatural tricks. Zoos with animals confined in small, dirty cages are no longer entertaining or fun. In fact, they are downright repulsive.
The good news is, you will not find anything like that here at Monarto Safari Park.
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TL;DR? Here's the outline
- About Monarto Safari Park
- Where is Monarto Safari Park?
- Monarto Safari Park Prices & Tickets
- Monarto Safari Park Opening Hours
- How Long to Spend at Monarto Safari Park
- Visiting Monarto Safari Park
- Monarto Safari Park Experiences
About Monarto Safari Park
Monarto Safari Park was first started in 1983 when the South Australian government designated 1000 hectares of land as a breeding and conservation area for Zoos SA.
In 1993, Monarto was opened up to the public as an open range zoo allowing visitors to see the animals and continue with the Zoos SA mission to connect people with animals.
Soon many animals were moved here from the Adelaide Zoo to allow larger enclosures to be built there for the remaining animals. Other animals were brought in from all over the world to establish breeding programs for many endangered species.
Today Monarto Safari Park is over 1500 hectares and has acquired even more land for future development. All of the area is open range, meaning the animals roam in huge enclosures not cages like you would see in a traditional zoo.
It’s not only being used for breeding and conservation of animals though, there are many areas where Australian native animals live in the wild too, and you are just as likely to see wild kangaroos and emus wandering around as giraffes and lions.
There are also pockets of rare native flora that are being revegetated, and some areas remain as virgin scrub that is now protected from future development.
In 2019 a huge new redevelopment was announced, including the name change from Monarto Zoo to Monarto Safari Park. The plans include a luxury resort and glamping facilities and a big new visitor centre.
A whole new area of more than 500 hectares, called Wild Africa, is being developed that will have roaming herds just like the safari parks in Africa. There are also new habitats, such as a huge, walk-through lemur enclosure, and lots of new experiences too.
Some parts of the redevelopment have now been completed, such as the new visitor centre and the lemur habitat. The accommodation and Wild Africa are expected to open later in 2023.
When completed this will turn Monarto Safari Park into the largest safari park outside of Africa. You can read more about it here. I, for one, am very excited to see the upcoming changes.
Where is Monarto Safari Park?
Monarto Safari Park is located on the traditional lands of the Ngarrindjeri people.
The distance from Adelaide to Monarto Safari Park is about 75km. If you are driving, it’s an easy drive along the South Eastern Freeway, taking a little under an hour.
There is a limited bus service to Monarto Safari Park from Adelaide run by LinkSA. During the week it goes directly to Monarto, on the weekends a connection is needed in the town of Mount Barker.
The bus leaves from Currie Street in the centre of Adelaide, with services in the morning to Monarto then returning later in the afternoon. For more information, go to the LinkSA website here.
The LinkSA bus prices (as of April 2023) for Adelaide to Monarto direct are $23.80 (adult) or $11.90 (concession) each way.
The weekend service requires an AdelaideMetro bus to Mt Barker which has varying prices, at most it will be $5.80 each way (see all Adelaide Metro fare details here). The LinkSA bus from Mount Barker to Monarto Safari Park will be $14.60 (adult) or $7.30 (concession) each way.
If you are visiting Adelaide with family members, it might be worth considering hiring a car to drive to Monarto. I use and recommend Rentalcars.com to compare and find the cheapest car rental options.
Until the Monarto Safari Prak accommodation is open, f you would like to stay nearby, I recommend staying at the Bridgeport Hotel in Murray Bridge, just a ten-minute drive away.
Want a special day out? How about an E-Cycling Safari, possibly the most fun of the Monarto Safari Park tours. You will spend a whole day exploring the park with a guided e-bike tour, including breakfast with the giraffes and the Lions 360 experience.
Monarto Safari Park Prices & Tickets
For general entry to Monarto Safari Park tickets can be bought online for $45 for adult tickets, and $25 for children’s tickets. Children under four are free.
There are various family tickets available too. Concession tickets are also available for $33.50, but you will need to ensure you have a photo ID with you.
If you would like to also visit Adelaide Zoo, there are discounts of up to 50% on the second park if you buy a two-park pass.
Even better, you could pick up an annual membership from Zoos SA and have unlimited access to both Adelaide Zoo and Monarto Safari Park and even more zoos and wildlife parks across Australia.
Your membership payment helps to save species both here at Monarto and across the world through international partnerships.
Monarto Safari Park Opening Hours
Monarto is open from 9:30 am until 5 pm every day of the year. Yes, that includes Christmas and all other public holidays. Don’t arrive too late in the day though, because the last Zuloop bus leaves the visitor centre at 3 pm.
How Long to Spend at Monarto Safari Park
It is really easy to spend a full day at Monarto. If you don’t have a full day, the bare minimum of time I would allow is 2 hours. The Zuloop bus takes 90 minutes to do one entire loop – but that is all you would see.
I recommend allowing time to get off at least one or two of the stops to see some more of the animals and some time to enjoy the cafe, gift shop and displays at the visitor’s centre.
I also highly recommend including one of the animal experiences in your day too, which will add another hour or two at least, depending on the experience you choose.
There’s hiking, picnic areas, playgrounds for the kids and free keeper talks to do too. I almost always spend a whole day at Monarto and always leave feeling like there is still more to see and do.
Visiting Monarto Safari Park
One of the things that have already changed at Monarto Safari Park is the entrance and the Visitor Centre. Entry used to be from the Old Princes Highway, but it has now been moved to the other side of the park off Monarto Road.
This adds about 5-10 minutes to the drive time from Adelaide, so make sure you allow for that if you have been before.
Once you arrive at the visitors centre, grab a Monarto Safari Park map and information about when the free keeper talks are throughout the day so you can start to plan your time.
If you like to plan even further ahead, the keeper times are available over on the website here.
To see most of the animals you will need to jump on the Zu-loop bus. It stops outside the visitor information centre (look out for the signs) and leaves about every 15-20 minutes.
Either do a full loop on the bus and learn about all the animals and conservation projects, or get off at the various stops to see the keeper talks.
The volunteer guides on the buses will remind you what keeper talks are coming up and where to get off the bus. And don’t worry, they will not let you off in the lion enclosure!
If you prefer, there are also a lot of safe hiking trails available as part of Monarto Safari Park. There are over 12km of walking tracks that are open for hiking. Some will take you to the various locations for the keeper talks, others will take you through bushland.
One Zu-loop stop you should get off at is at the old visitors centre, now called “The Outpost”. This is the old visitor information centre so there are toilets, a playground and picnic tables here.
On weekends and during SA school holidays the cafe here is also open for a few hours in the middle of the day. There are also some animals close to this stop that you can walk to see.
The meerkats are only metres away and are always a favourite of both kids and adults alike. There are a few different enclosures, and you may need to search through them to find the meerkats.
Just like in the wild, tunnels zig-zag underground where the meerkats can live and breed, and the enclosures only contain the above-ground portion of their habitat.
There are also a pair of African crested porcupines that live close to the visitors’ centre, but they have always been elusive during my visits. I am assured by other people they do exist though! There’s now a new baby porcupine too, born in January 2023.
The yellow-footed rock wallabies are a little further along the path that eventually leads to the Chimpanzee enclosure.
This enclosure is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere and is home to twelve chimpanzees, and when I was there earlier this year, a new baby girl too.
There are about 500 animals here at Monarto Safari Park, more than 50 different species, so I won’t go through and list them all.
Some you can see are giraffes, lions, two different types of rhino, cheetah, bison, ostriches, zebra and many more here, all living out on the open plains.
Many of them are endangered, some even extinct in the wild, and the breeding programs are playing a vital role in preserving the species.
After you have finished visiting the animals, make sure you browse through the gift shop or grab a snack, drink or meal at the cafe.
While there are plenty of areas to bring and eat a picnic, all proceeds from the cafe go towards animal conservation, so it’s good to support the cause even more if you can.
The shop stocks not just a good range of soft toys and kids’ gifts, but there are also many local products such as jewellery, crafts, wine, honey, dried fruits and olive oil to purchase too.
Do not leave without making your way upstairs to the viewing deck for great views across the park.
While you are up there, stop by the interesting display about Monarto’s history. I was surprised to learn that it had been around for much longer than I imagined, and enjoyed reading about some of the best-known animals that have lived here – including the last elephant to live in SA.
Monarto Safari Park Experiences
As well as a general visit there are several Monarto Safari Park experiences that are particularly special. Here you can get up close and personal with some of the animals and learn more about them and their plight for survival.
Here are a few of the most popular, but there are many more available. To see them all, click here.
Monarto Safari Park Lions 360 Experience
Recently a new cage was built in the lion enclosure. The cage is not for the lions though, it is for visitors.
People walk through a tunnel into the lion enclosure and emerge into a mesh cage, which is all that is between you and the lions. If they so wish the lions can come over and climb all over it.
There is also an old vehicle backed into the cage which again visitors can climb into. Sit in the driver’s seat and watch out the front window as the lions walk all over the windscreen to investigate what the movement is inside.
I don’t think you could get any more up close to these amazing creatures unless you took the cage away!
Read about my Lions 360 Experience here.
Monarto Safari Park Giraffe Safari
With this experience, visitors can get up close to the giraffes and learn all about them. There is a huge herd at Monarto, the largest in Australia, with only a few of them in the enclosure the bus drives through at any one time.
There is almost always a baby or two to see, and I know that since my last visit at least two more babies have arrived. During the giraffe safari visitors also get to hand-feed some of the giraffes.
Monarto Safari Park Rhino Interactive Experience
Monarto Safari Park has both the Southern White Rhino and the Black Rhino living here. The latter is critically endangered so the program here is particularly important.
There are big plans to bring more rhinos to Monarto shortly, but in the meantime, you can spend some time hanging out with the keeper and those that are already here, including the cutest little southern white rhino baby!
Visitors get to assist with the daily health checks, and since this is an afternoon experience, you get to help put them to bed too.
Monarto Safari Park Lions at Bedtime Experience
This late afternoon experience has visitors helping the keepers call the largest lion pride in Australia into their night quarters. You get to help to feed them, before also having a chance to get close to some of the other carnivores at Monarto, the hyenas.
The Land of the Lemurs
This is the latest experience offered at Monarto, part of the new Wild Africa development. Spend an hour wandering through the 3.5-hectare lemur habitat while these cheeky critters play around you.
Read about my visit to The Land of the Lemurs here.
Want more Monarto Safari Park reviews? Check out what other people are saying on TripAdvisor here
Visiting more great South Australian locations? These posts might help
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