Moonlit Sanctuary Honest Review [We’ve Been Twice]
We completed our second visit to Moonlit Sanctuary last week on our trip to the Mornington Peninsula. The last time we visited it was just the two of us, but this time we had a (nearly) two-year-old in tow, so saw the sanctuary from a different perspective.
We think Moonlit Sanctuary is a great half-day out. It might be a little underwhelming in size when compared to the big Zoos Victoria sites in Melbourne and Healesville, but this is also reflected in the price. We love the focus on Australian birds and animals, the open and easy-to-view pens, helpful staff, great conservation efforts and up-close experiences.
Below is our review of Moonlit Sanctuary, some comparisons with the other zoos and sanctuaries in the state and some tips for your visit.
Moonlit Sanctuary Ticket Price
The price for an adult entry at Moonlit Sanctuary is $26 with a child ticket at $13. Children under 4 are free with other options available for families and pensioners.
There are also annual memberships available for $66 an adult, $33 a child or $175 for a family of two adults and two children.
Price Comparison to Other Zoos in Victoria
|Zoo||Adult Cost of Entry||Child Cost of Entry||Free Age|
|Moonlit Sanctuary||$26||$13||Under 4|
|Melbourne Zoo||$40||$20||Under 3|
|Healesville Sanctuary||$40||$20||Under 3|
|Halls Gap Zoo||$38||$19||Under 4|
|Ballarat Wildlife Park||$35||$19.5||Under 5|
|Mansfield Zoo||$18||$10||Under 3|
Vs Zoos Victoria Sites
The price compares well to the bigger zoos in Melbourne which are both run by Zoos Victoria.
The adult ticket to Moonlit Sanctuary is $14 cheaper than the Zoos Victoria Locations and the child ticket is $7 cheaper. Both Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary do offer free tickets at the weekend and public holidays for under 13s.
Very young children go free at both places, though it is ‘under 4s’ at Moonlit Sanctuary and ‘under 3s’ at the main Melbourne zoos, so a slight point of difference there.
Vs Mansfield Zoo
The only other Zoo we can offer an opinion on is Mansfield Zoo, as we visited this in November 2020 as part of a trip to the Victorian High Country.
The price is by far the cheapest on this list and $8 less than Moonlit Sanctuary, but as an experience, it also isn’t up to the same standard. The zoo wasn’t very well laid out, the animals weren’t as easy to see in their enclosures and it had a strange mix of Australian animals alongside things such as camels, lions and even some Texas Longhorn cattle.
Our daughter had fun feeding the wallabies, but it definitely wasn’t as much fun as Moonlit Sanctuary.
Moonlit Sanctuary Animals
What we love about Moonlit Sanctuary (and the same with Healesville Sanctuary) is that they focus purely on Australian wildlife. Our best views of things such as wombat, Tasmanian devils and quoll have been here because they are committed to showing off and conserving the beautiful wildlife of this country.
Outside of platypus, pretty much every Aussie animal you’d expect to see is here. Koala, kangaroo, snakes, wombat, dingos, wallaby, Tasmanian devil, lizards and pademelon. They also have a wonderful selection of birds, from colourful parrots to Australia’s biggest bird of prey the wedge-tailed eagle.
The enclosures are big enough that the animals feel like they have enough space, but also easy enough to see into that we could see everything.
It’s also possible to buy small pots of food and feed the wallabies and pademelon that roam around at the far end of the sanctuary. If our daughter could speak, this would definitely be her highlight of the trip, it was wonderful to see her interacting with the animals up close (though there are now some VERY well-fed ducks, as seeing them come up close made her chuckle the most!).
There is a huge range of animal encounters you can have at Moonlit Sanctuary, from taking the dingoes for a walk (yes really, we got the shock of our life when we first visited and two of these guys came round the corner on leads), to the classic Aussie Koala-photo.
The encounters are all sensitively done for the animals (with the koala encounter for example, the koala is on a tree and you are asked to stand slightly behind for photos, not hold it) with none of them looking unhappy or stressed. In fact, the last time we visited it was 10am on a Monday, and the koalas were getting excited in their enclosure as they thought it was encounter time. Unfortunately for them, the 10am session only happens on a weekend. The keeper explained to us that they really enjoy it as they get some extra eucalyptus and love being fussed over.
READ NEXT: If you’re looking for another great animal experience on the Mornington Peninsula check out my review of Rain, Hayne and Shine Farm
The encounters range in prices, with the dingo walk $100 for two people, a wombat encounter $60 and a koala close up $25 per person. For the latest encounters and prices check the Moonlit Sanctuary website.
Below is a photo of our very own Mrs Sabbatical Guide, having her koala encounter two months before our little girl was born. It’s one of those classic Aussie photographs that every ex-pat has to get at some point!
Another thing that becomes very clear as we spend more time at Moonlit Sanctuary is their commitment to conservation.
They currently are actively involved with conservation programs for:
- Yellow-bellied Glider
- Tasmanian Devil
- Squirrel Glider
- Spot-tailed Quoll
- Regent Honeywater
- Orange-bellied Parrot
- Helmeted Honeyeater
- Bush Stone-Curlew
I was really impressed with the amazing work they’ve done to help save the Orange-bellied Parrot. This colourful little bird is one of only three parrots in the world that migrate, spending summer in Tasmania and winter on the mainland.
Back in 2018, there were only 20 adults left in the wild. Moonlit Sanctuary constructed a breeding facility for 20 birds, and since 2016 has bred over 230 and released over 140 birds, with the latest population now just under 200 in the wild. It is a huge success story and reminds me of the work they did on Cousin Island (the island saved by a bird!) and La Digue while we were in Seychelles!
Recommended Reading: My Complete First-Hand Guide to the Mornington Peninsula [What To Do, Where To Stay & More]
Moonlit Sanctuary Layout & Map
Above is a photo of the map from Moonlit Sanctuary.
It gives you an idea of the mix of animals they have here but also shows the open, sprawling layout they have. At points, especially at the back end of the park you almost forget you are in a sanctuary, as it just feels like you’re out for a walk in the bush.
The central feature of the sanctuary is the wonderful lake, in the photo above you can see the view looking over to where the dingos are kept. The size of the lake in the photo should give you an idea of the scale of the sanctuary when you compare it to the map, it’s big, but not too big for tiny legs to manage.
Visiting Moonlit Sanctuary Tips
Moonlit Sanctuary is located around an hour from Melbourne by road, close to the Mornington Peninsula towns of Tyabb, Hastings and Somerville.
Moonlit Sanctuary opens 0900-1600 daily with the last entry at 1500. Their full opening hours can be found here, as at some times of the year they don’t open until 0930.
Moonlit Sanctuary Tips
Here are a couple of tips to help you get the most from your Moonlit Sanctuary visit:
- Moonlit Sanctuary is very open and can get hot. Bring sun hats and lots of cream as you would anywhere outside in Australia.
- Also bring bug spray as the animals naturally attract insects which will happy chew on your legs.
- Take note of the special talks and activities that happen at set times of the day. There are shows at the arena, keeper talks and conservation shows on throughout the day which are listed when you arrive.
- Buy some animal feed on the way in, out daughter had more fun feeding the wallabies than anything else.
- The food at the cafe is great, so don’t feel you have to bring a packed lunch
Tours to Moonlit Sanctuary from Melbourne
There are a number of tour companies that operate trips to Moonlit sanctuary in conjunction with other destinations in the area, so if you don’t have your own transport then you can still visit.
Phillip Island Penguin Parade and Moonlit Sanctuary Tour
This tour from around A$145 per person, builds a trip to Moonlit Sanctuary on the way to an evening viewing of the penguins on Phillip Island and includes all entrance fees.
Puffing Billy, Moonlit Sanctuary and Penguin Parade Day Trip
From around A$195 per person, this tour incorporates two of Victoria’s icons alongside a trip to Moonlit Sanctuary. Moonlit Sanctuary also includes a guided tour as an added extra (included in the price).
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