The Melbourne Aquarium opened in 1999, was extended in 2008 and was fully renovated in 2013 to the way it is today. It’s located on the corner of King and Flinders Streets under the Flinders St viaduct and on the banks of the Yarra River and is now referred to as Sealife Aquarium Melbourne.
I can recall when the Melbourne Aquarium was under construction and when it opened and it certainly doesn’t seem like nearly 20 years ago! Even more surprising, it was my first visit to the Sealife Aquarium Melbourne. I’m not really sure how that happened as I have done most things in Melbourne for kids over the years and we have visited a number of aquariums in different countries when we have been travelling.
Parking in the city is always a bit tricky and I suggest that the best option is to catch public transport. You can get off at Flinders St Station and then get any tram (they are all free in the city) west down to King St. The tram stops right outside the entrance to the Sealife Aquarium Melbourne.
If however you are driving, the best option would be to park at Crown Casino. There is an entrance right behind Sealife but this is the premium parking and you will pay a premium fee. On the southern side of the Casino Complex there is another multi level carpark that you can enter from King St or from Whiteman St. Expect to pay between $6 – $16 depending how long you stay and its a 10 minute walk to Sealife. I think that’s pretty reasonable for inner city parking. You can always risk it and see if you can get a street park but you will have to adhere to the meter times as they are red hot on fining people for overstaying.
This map will help you plan your visit. Familiarise yourself with before arriving so that you know where things are and can plan your talk and feed times accordingly. This isn’t the best of maps but it does tell you the lay out of the floors, the right hand side records the talk and feed times for each day.
There are a couple of different packages that you can purchase for visiting the Sealife Aquarium Melbourne. There is even an option to purchase an annual pass for those marine life crazy kids!
For Melbourne Aquarium single ticket I recommend purchasing through Klook, they often have slightly discounted prices available.
The Melbourne Big Ticket incorporates entry to Legoland Discovery Centre Melbourne and Sealife Melbourne Aquarium. This is great value and save you money if you are planning on visiting both attractions.
There are three options for marine animal experiences at Sealife Aquarium Melbourne:
Float around the 2.2 million litre Oceanarium where you can meet and learn about stingrays. The stingrays are inquisitive and will slide right up beside the boat and watch while your Sealife guide hand feeds them. The behinds the scenes tour will take you through the food prep area, vet lab and dive zone. Experience runs twice daily at 12pm & 1pm, there is a maximum of 7 people allowed to participate. Experience runs for approximately 60 minutes and is subject to change. Kid under 4 years are strictly not permitted, children between 4-15 years must be accompanied by an adult.
Get amongst the lovely King and Gentoo Penguins and meet the sub-Antarctic colony, this experience includes Antarctic snow gear to keep you warm while you learn about how Sealife Aquarium keep the conditions just right for our polar friends. This experience takes place each day at 2pm, a maximum of 3 people can participate daily. The experience runs for 45 mins and you must be over 14 years to participate.
This one is for the brave! No cages!! Just you and your instructor with all those sharks! One of the only places you’ll be guaranteed to swim with a grey nurse shark, port jackson shark, wobbegong sharks and leopard sharks that range in size from 1-3 metres. I saw the grey nurse shark and I reckon he’s a bit bigger than 3 metres though, not to mention the truly enormous sting rays they have in the 2.2 million litre oceanarium. This experience runs 4 times daily from Friday to Monday. There is a maximum of 4 people in each group and the dive lasts for 1.5hrs consisting of a 30min dive. No pervious diving experience is necessary to participate in this experience, just your big girl undies! Remember no cages!
I had expected that Sealife Aquarium Melbourne would be quite small inside, it is surprisingly larger than it appears with 4 levels of exhibitions. You enter on the ground level and follow the path through the Bay of Rays and on to the rock pools where the kids can have some time touching and learning about some marine life. We know how kids love to touch things!
There’s a rocky reef talk daily at 12.30pm.
Then it’s on to ancient oceans were you learn about pre-historic giants of the sea. Including some remarkable animals that have lived in the ocean for millions of years such as the now extinct Megladon and some that have seen the test of time such as mudskippers, epaulette sharks and pig nosed turtles.
Through here you head down to basement 1 and the art aquarium where the kids can colour in some pictures which can be scanned and then appear on the interactive wall. Next up in the coral caves a kaleidoscope of tropical fish colour including my favourite clown fish a.k.a Nemo! My favourite marine type is definitely the tropical fish, the displays had special domes where kids could get up close for a better view of the fish.
Then down the escalator to basement 2, home of shipwreck explorer, ocean explorer and mermaid garden. There was a very impressively ugly moray eel in one of the shipwreck displays, he came out while we were watching and the kids were amazed at the size of this creature, he was yellow and looked very ferocious. Ocean explorer is were you’ll find the 2.2 million litre oceanarium with the glass walk through tunnel, home to sharks and enormous sting rays floating overhead among may other marine animals. You could easily stay in there for hours just taking in the massive size of some of these marine animals. If you look closely in the tank, you might just see a mermaid!
There are Ocean Predators talks daily at 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm.
This time we went back up to the ground floor and found the home for the most humungous salt water crocodile, Pinjarra. He’s the type you wouldn’t want to see coming at you! There are two viewing areas over the ground floor and level 1 where you can view Pinjarra and his daily activities.
There are daily croc talks at 11am and 4pm.
The coral atoll is another amazingly colourful tropical fish encounter. With floor to ceiling windows you can watch the beautiful coloured fish going about their business. Keep an eye out for dory!
A daily coral talk starts at 1.30pm.
Rainforest adventure is where you’ll find all your freshwater turtles, lung fish, snakes, lizards and frogs. There’s a shallow fresh water pool, no touching but a good place to observe the rainforest environment and the animals that inhabit it.
A daily freshwater turtle talk commences at 2.30pm.
This leads you back down to the ground level and exit. Before you exit there’s a few exciting things still to see. i think the most intriguing marine animals are seahorses! Since we went to Seahorse World in Tasmania I’ve had a real soft spot for seahorses, especially since finding out that the male seahorse carries the babies! Not to mention they are monogamous and mate for life! We could learn a bit from seahorses!
The kids will be thrilled at the 4D Ice Age – No Time For Nuts short film on this level. You will be provided with 3D glasses as you walk in and the theatre seats around 60 people so you shouldn’t have to wait long and the movie goes for about 20 mins. No Time For Nuts, had the kids giggling and I love watching them reach out and try and grab things as they come flying off the screen.
Last but not least, you could almost say they save the best for last! The penguin playground! We arrived at the perfect time, feeding time. This was the most recent addition to Sealife Aquarium being added in 2013. The King and Gentoo penguins were sourced from another aquarium in New Zealand. The exhibit features real ice and snow to simulate real Antarctic conditions. We were lucky enough to see recently born King penguins, looking all fluffy in their brown coat of fluff. I was surprised at the size of the baby penguins, they were significantly larger than I had expected them to be.
We stayed and watched the penguins for a while, I loved watching them run down or waddle down the back set of stairs. They really are engaging animals and you can’t help but watch them. They are cheeky and entertaining and move like lightening in the water. We arrived at feeding time and the penguins put on quite a show diving in and out and above the water collecting the fish. It did feel a bit like Happy Feet when he’s in the enclosure looking out at everyone looking at him!
The Adventures Cafe is located on level 1 overlooking the Yarra River with views over to Crown Casino and back down to Southbank and Flinders St Station. We had a cracking sunny clear day so the view was lovely. We stopped here for a coffee and you can order yourself a snack and take in the view. Snacks include hot and cold options such as burgers, wraps, fish & chips or fresh salads. There are also kid friendly options chicken strips, fish or toasties.
The Croc Cafe will be open if the Adventures Cafe is closed but they both won’t be open at the same time.
While these aquariums are fantastic for all of us to learn about marine life and all those things under the sea that we would otherwise unlikely see. We also need to help protect them from harm. Sealife Aquarium Melbourne fund and support protecting the great white shark, rescuing sea turtles and breeding vulnerable species.
Research and tracking of great white sharks is costly and imperative to the survival of the species. The aquarium assists with sea turtles that are stranded on Victorian beaches and tracks their progress when returned to to the wild. Breeding programs are essential to many endangered species such various sea dragons and the King Penguins. Lets help preserve these beautiful animals for future generations to enjoy.
We really enjoyed the Sealife Aquarium Melbourne, it is much bigger than anticipated and is jam packed with marine animals we have never seen before and ones that are local in our immediate environment. I love the colourful tropical fish species where the little ones really loved the penguin enclosure (well I did too). Alannah enjoyed the turtles and learning about animals she hadn’t heard of and the oceanarium was a hit with all.
What’s not to love, it was a great day out and the little ones enjoyed the Paw Patrol interactive activities and collected all their stamps. The complex caters well to families and a parents room and child suitable food in the cafe. The shop at the exit is well stocked with loads of souvenirs in every price range.
All in all, its a great day out, you could easily get around the aquarium in a few hours but could stay much longer if you wanted too. We were there a lot longer than I had anticipated as Alannah was reading a lot of the exhibit information signs and really chose to learn a lot about the different animals.
If you love penguins, you can also visit Phillip Island and see the little penguin parade which happens each evening at dusk. Its definitely worth a visit and a great option to see penguins in the wild and a great day trip from Melbourne.
If your looking for accommodation options close to Sealife Aquarium Melbourne, I recommend booking through Hotels Combined for competitive rates in the area.
Have you been to the Sealife Aquarium Melbourne or any other one elsewhere? What do you think? Please tell me in the comment box below.
Sal, Craig & our3kids
Disclaimer: We had a mutual beneficial arrangement with Sealife Aquarium Melbourne, as always our opinion is our own.