Hippo Beach, Werribee Zoo VIC
Ankle Deep Water for Kids in Melbourne

 
If you are heading to Werribee Open Range Zoo on a hot day, pack your swimming gear for a stopover at Hippo Beach. It's a splash pad next to the hippopotamus enclosure, and it includes several life size hippos to crawl on and run around. Hippo Beach splash pad at Werribee Zoo Above: Three semi-submerged hippos and one stretching its mouth on the splash pad at Hippo Beach

The splash pad is turned on when it is hot, and from the zoo staff it sounds like a fairly subjective decision, but one staff member that I spoke to thought that it was turned on when it is around 26 degrees celcius. The hippo statues are very popular as climbing equipment and for photo opportunities even when the splash pad is off, so you can imagine how popular this area gets when the water is turned on.
The adjacent mini-aqueduct is on all year round. It has a hand pump which you can lift up and down to draw water into two parallel wooden aqueducts. The first common section of the aqueducts is actually a boom that can swing from side to side, changing the destination of the water. The water can either flow into three round dishes, or via a sluice gate over a water wheel. Next to these water features there is also a huge sandpit. The hand pump and wooden channels next to Hippo Beach, Werribee Zoo Above: The hand pump and wooden channels next to Hippo Beach

There is plenty to do at the zoo and in my opinion it is the best zoo in Melbourne because many of the animals are free to roam across wide areas, giving the sense that they are less captive than at other zoos. The close encounters on the bus (graceful grazing giraffes, inquisitive ostriches, etc.), and at feeding time for the lions (where I saw one jump onto the jeep bonnet, separated from several five year olds only by the glass barrier), are two of the highlights. Specifically for kids there is a separate bus tour that runs once per day for kids, a playground, and a stage where you can mimic African dancing.
Essential Information Before You Go:
Location: K Road, Werribee South, 35 km (approx. 45 min. drive) south-west of the Melbourne CBD
Latitude:-37.921221 Longitude:144.664404
Getting there: By car, take the Princes Fwy (M1) to the Duncans Road exit. At the exit, follow the signs to the zoo and head straight across Duncans Road into K Road. Pause briefly to see where some of your vegetables come from along K Road. Travel south for 900 metres to the zoo turnoff (Main Road). By public transport, take a Werribee line train to Werribee Station, then bus 439 which drops you right in front of the zoo entrance.
General facilities: At Hippo Beach: public toilets, cafe, picnic tables, park benches, rubbish bins, sand pit, hammocks, reclining chairs, thatched umbrellas, drinking fountain. There are various kid-friendly activities throughout the zoo, including a playground next to the lawn area, directly left after you go through the entrance.
Baby change facilities: Yes, in the Hippo Beach toilets.
Sun shade: Shade cloth over the splash pad. Various large trees around Hippo Beach. The mini-aqueducts and sand pit can be in full sun for much of the day.
Entrance fee: Yes, see the Werribee Open Range Zoo website for details.
Opening times: The zoo is open 9am to 5pm daily. The aqueduct operates all year round, but the splash pad is only open on designated hot days, notionally above around 26 degrees.
Wheelchair access: Wheelchair accessible paths, toilets and splash pad.
Prohibitions: Do not drink the water, do not climb the railings of the real hippo enclosure nearby,
Managing authority: Werribee Open Range Zoo
Nearby attractions: Riverwalk Splash Park, Crocodile Park
Before you head out, make sure to read the water safety information.
Locality Map:
The marker indicates the location of the entrance to the zoo.
Comments:
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© Brad Neal 2016. All rights reserved. This work is not to be sampled, copied, modified, adapted or reused for commercial purposes without the written consent of the author.