Text by Kelsey Walters // Photos by Kelsey and Scott Walters
With cooler temps and sunny days combining to create the perfect weather, Floridians are flocking to the outdoors this time of year. We aren’t the only ones enjoying the break from the heat. Wildlife everywhere are rejoicing in the milder weather and getting more and more active.
All this means that it’s zoo season! While it’s often thought of as a summertime activity while the kids are out of school, this time of year is actually ideal for a trip to the zoo. Lower crowds, more active animals (and, let’s face it, less of that zoo smell), make this the best time to go.
While Florida has a few to choose from, our family’s favorite has always been the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne. Even though it is smaller than other parks, it packs a big punch with its unique blend of up-close animal interactions and laid-back atmosphere for a relaxing, yet thrilling, day.
If you’re sticking to a budget, the wallet-friendliest and quickest interactions with the animals you can add to your day include snagging a cup of feed for the lorikeets, who are known to hop right onto your hand or shoulder for a snack. You can also grab some lettuce leaves and feed the giraffes. This is our family’s favorite zoo activity, and it always results in big squeals and giggles from Avery.
One of the biggest things that sets this zoo apart from all others throughout the country is that you can get active on the water, right inside the zoo. Brevard Zoo is the only zoo in the nation that offers guided kayaking excursions right through animal habitats. You can set your course through Expedition Africa, or go off on your own adventure through the natural waters of Wild Florida.
In Africa, while you paddle past the fun and playful Lemur Island, African bird exhibit, giraffe feeding platform and the home of the Southern white rhino and zebras, your tour guide gives you insight into the wildlife and their native habitats. On land, one of the most exciting offerings at the zoo is the newly reopened rhino encounter, where you can get up close and personal with the rhinos and zebras.
The Brevard Zoo is also big on giving back to the wildlife community. The not-for-profit organization supports wildlife conservation through public education and participation. Admission funds, guest experiences and even purchases in the gift shop go right back into caring for the animals, not just at the zoo, but at the offsite Sea Turtle Healing Center and other local restoration and conservation efforts. Their newest venture, The Aquarium Project, is slated to combine scientific research and conservation facilities with hands-on marine life experiences and outdoor water adventures.
Scott and I visited the zoo a few years ago and had a blast kayaking and visiting the animals. We couldn’t wait to bring Avery this time to experience it with us. The wooden boardwalks and bridges throughout the habitats made for a relaxing and leisurely pace for our day of exploration. She loved climbing the trees through a tunnel of elevated walkways alongside the monkey exhibit where they could do the same through their own maze.
We stopped by time and time again at the meerkat habitat where we watched them pop out of their holes and scurry around, then we dug “underground” to get a peek into their tunnels and pop our heads up right in the middle of their habitat. The playful otters were another favorite spot as we watched them zip and glide through the water and interact with us as the glass.
Avery’s favorite stop of the day was the Kangaroo Walkabout, where you can take a stroll through the Australian bush right alongside kangaroos and emus. While they are off-limits for petting, the animals are free to roam where they please right around you which makes for a really exciting experience you won’t find anywhere else. This led to her hopping through the zoo as a baby ‘roo for the rest of the day.
Now through April 30, you’ll find a trail of massive, expertly carved sand sculptures depicting life beneath the sea. Other offerings at the zoo include the Treetop Trek of aerial obstacles, ropes courses and ziplines that allow you to glide right over the habitats.
There are plenty of play areas for kids, including a huge animal-themed playground that takes you into the human-sized habitats of gopher tortoises and other Florida creatures, as well as a splash area in the warmer months alongside a large aquarium.
In the coming months, before the return of Florida’s well known sweltering heat, add the Brevard Zoo to your list of things to do and you won’t regret it! The Brevard Zoo makes it easy for anyone to choose their own adventure, and change the way we think of a day at the zoo!
Open daily from 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tickets: $24.95/adult; $22.95/senior; $15.95/ child ages 3-11; children under 3 are free *Purchase tickets online to reserve a day and guarantee admission
Giraffe and Lorikeet Feeding: $2 each
Kayaking: $9.95 (ages 5 and up only)
Rhino Encounter: $29.95 (ages 7 and up only)
All photos property of Kelsey Walters, East Coast Current