Short answer? Yes. For families in Sydney - whether living here or travelling - there couldn't be a better destination to experience the best of Sydney.
Nestled within Taronga Zoo (with its own little sanctuary to ogle), the Wildlife Retreat is a brand new overnight eco-retreat that offers an extraordinary opportunity to sleepover with Australia’s unique wildlife. But let’s be clear – this is not a camping (or even glamping) situation. It is complete luxury.
What’s more, the Wildlife Retreat is completely not-for-profit, and supports Taronga’s important conservation and research projects in Australia and around the globe. The exclusive tours completely opened my eyes to how important the work of the zoo is for our wildlife – moving from entertainment to conservation – and there has never been a more pertinent time for this focus.
Owned and operated by Taronga Conservation Society Australia, the Wildlife Retreat features 62 rooms in five environmentally sensitive and sustainably designed lodges, and I can say with confidence that they are as beautiful and luxurious as any top hotel room in Sydney – perhaps with the best view of any (ours overlooked the Harbour Bridge and the zoo’s giraffes).
The Retreat also offers ‘The Sanctuary,’ which is a thoughtfully designed habitat, created especially for guests of the Retreat, and plays home to an array of native wildlife including wallabies, bettongs, short-beaked echidnas and koalas. While you can wander through it on your own or through a guided tour, you can also simply wake up to it – sometimes with a koala on the tree directly outside of your window, or the sounds of the animals first thing in the morning.
While it's hard to ignore the surroundings and the incredible animals at every turn, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were at a five star resort anywhere in the world.
The dining, for example, is world-class. Being all-inclusive, all guests have a 2-course dinner and a buffet breakfast included at the beautiful Me-Gal restaurant. The menu is rich with fresh, native ingredients and locally-sourced produce. For starters, I had a Fraser Isle spanner crab timbale with pea mousse, fried native saltbush, truffled crème fraiche, sesame tuille and salmon pearls (all of which were eaten by my 2-year-old). For mains, I had the pan-seared Coral Coast barramundi, with clams, honey parsnip puree, bok choy, sourdough anchovy crumb and scallop soup foam.
Yes, it’s a culinary delight, but it’s also completely welcoming for children. Mine chose fish and chips from the kids’ menu (with ice cream for dessert), and they are well-equipped with colouring pencils and high chairs so you can sit back and enjoy the view (and the cocktails – go the Ginger Ninja).