If you’re a fan of things that creep and crawl, fly and flutter, you’ll find your fill in Kuranda’s zoos. Children especially enjoy these attractions, though there’s certainly enough to keep adults entertained with the sheer variety of species and the chance to sight wildlife up-close and personal without a trip into the bush.

A koala clings to a branch.

Koalas aren’t the only animals on display at Kuranda Koala Gardens, but they might be the cutest! Photo © lightpoet/123rf.

The Australian Venom Zoo (Coondoo St., tel. 07/4093-8905, daily 10am-3pm, adult $16, child $10) showcases everything that freaks out the average adult and delights nearly every child: snakes, scorpions, gigantic spiders, and centipedes. The zoo breeds many of the resident animals for the extraction of their venom, which is then sent to research labs around the world, who use it for medical research and the preparation of medicines. Considering that many life-saving medicines are being developed from venoms, this is a worthwhile undertaking, and checking these creatures out is creepy fun. While the number of creatures in the zoo is quite impressive, they are relatively small, so going around the facility shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes.

This is the largest live butterfly exhibit in Australia, with over 1,500 tropical butterflies and moths in residence.Head straight from the venomous underworld into the colorful fluttering of the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary (8 Rob Veivers Dr., tel. 07/4093-7575, daily 9:45am-4pm, adult $19, child $9.50, family $47.50), just across the road from the zoo. This is the largest live butterfly exhibit in Australia, with over 1,500 tropical butterflies and moths in residence. Look out for the electric blue Ulysses butterfly, which lives in the local rainforests, and the world’s largest moth, the Hercules moth, which is sometimes on display.

Birdworld Kuranda (Heritage Market Place, tel. 07/4093-9188, daily 9am-4pm, adult $17, child $8.50) houses some 80 species of birds from around the world. Even though theoretically you should be able to spot most of these birds in their natural habitat outside, the waterfalls, ponds, and natural plants make this a bird-lovers’ and photographers’ delight, as you can watch the colorful birds and get some decent close-up pictures. Some even come and land on your shoulders.

Kuranda Koala Gardens (Heritage Market Place, tel. 07/4093-9953, daily 9am-4pm, adult $17, child $8.50) is dedicated to arguably the world’s cutest marsupial, the snub-nosed koala. You can watch them, take pictures, and even hold one. In most states in Australia, only trained professionals are allowed to handle koalas, but Queensland still allows the general public to cuddle koalas, although the experience may not be around for much longer. It comes at a price ($19 per picture), and you only get to hold one briefly, without any interaction, as the law is very strict about not stressing these critters out too much. They feel like slightly matted woolly sweaters, in case you are wondering. And after that hug, there are other fellow marsupials on display: kangaroos, wombats, wallabies, and some other wildlife.

Kuranda Wildlife Experience Pass

Three of the main animal attractions in Kuranda, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld Kuranda, and Kuranda Koala Gardens, offer visitors a bumper pass, saving on the individual tickets. The pass costs $46 per adult and $23 per child, allowing you entrance to all three attractions while saving $7 per adult and $3.50 per child when compared to the individual ticket prices. Alternatively, you can opt for a Friends of the Rainforest ticket, which includes entry to both the Koala Gardens and Birdworld for $29 per adult and $14.50 per child. The Butterfly Sanctuary, for some reason, is not included in any other deals.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Sydney & the Great Barrier Reef.