As a child, we spent many weekends creating childhood memories at Alma Park Zoo. Sadly Alma Park zoo closed its gates in 2014. I had always wondered what had happened to our favourite animals of Alma park until I heard they were relocated to Wildlife HQ on the Sunshine Coast in Woombye.
Wildlife HQ (formally known as The Queensland Zoo) is located behind one of Queensland’s most famous attractions, The Big Pineapple.
The Big Pineapple is one of Queensland’s iconic big fruit attractions and has been attracting tourists from all around since 1971. After the closure of Alma Park Zoo, Wildlife HQ re-homed around 200 of Alma Park animals.
We decided to head up to the Sunshine Coast over the weekend to check-out Wildlife HQ and the Big Pineapple of course. Visitors are no longer able to enter inside the giant fruit but are still able to capture its giant glory from the outside.
Front Of The Big Pineapple
Big Pineapple View From Train
The ticketing office and small gift shop is accessible from the front near the car park. There is a gutter step that runs along the car park and up to the ticketing office, but there is an access ramp around the corner. Wildlife HQ entry tickets and tickets to access the Big Pineapple train to Koala Station are purchased here.
The Big Pineapple train takes visitors through the grounds of the Big Pineapple to the entrance of the zoo.
The train is accessible to wheelchairs with a designated carriage and step-free entrance. I was able to easily roll on into the carriage in my wheelchair.
The heritage-listed Pineapple Train was built in the 1950s and was originally in service as a cane train,
The short train ride to Koala Station was very rickety. and to be honest the old train has seen better days, but I found it quite fun, and the ricketiness did add a bit of character to the old ride.
After disembarking the train and following the path down from Koala Station to Wildlife HQ we quickly realised the paths weren’t very wheelchair friendly. Even though there were access ramps that provided step-free access, the walking paths however, were badly uplifted from tree roots, which left the narrow walkways extremely un-level and full of potholes.
Once off the rainforest walking path, we made our way out onto the grass area, which, believe it or not, was easier to get around on than the walking paths. This area was home to some cute wallabies, goats, koalas and even a cute little deer that wandered freely.
The next area took us into the main area where the larger enclosures were, such as the dingos, monkeys, lemurs and Queensland’s only Sun Bear.
The animals were all wide awake and moving about happily within their enclosures. The atmosphere at the zoo was very relaxing and welcoming, and having the animal wide awake and visible made visitors excited to be there.
Wildlife HQ has a small café available that serves hot and cold food and drinks to zoo visitors. There wasn’t a lot of tables available and it took us awhile to find a table to sit at to eat our lunch. We ended up sharing a table with a lovely elderly couple.
Wildlife HQ is popular for its variety of animal encounters available, from meeting the cutest baby quokkas to their gorgeous red panda. Unfortunately, a lot of their encounters are not accessible to visitors in wheelchairs as most encounters require access into the enclosure, which isn’t accessible. I was recommended the encounters where they could bring the animal out to me. We were able to meet their very cute baby quokka and sugar gliders. Wildlife HQ is a part of a fabulous quokka breeding program and does wonderful work in wildlife conservation and education. I fell in love with their cute baby quokka, who we got to hold and get some adorable selfies with.
The zoo is broken up into two areas. On this side, areas are on grass, gravel or dirt tracks. The most difficult area for me to get around on was the area that was made up of gravel/rocks. This area was nearly impossible to move around on in my wheelchair. I kept on getting bogged every time I moved, so we needed to bypass this area completely because it just wasn’t doable in a wheelchair.
Wildlife HQ Gravel Area
Wildlife HQ Crossing
Access over to the other side of the zoo through the rainforest area, is fairly difficult with uneven bitumen pathways. The other section of the zoo located over the train line has cemented paths, but sections are very hilly with some extremely steep areas.
This area of Wildlife HQ is home to some of their more exotic animals such as the Maned wolf and Capybara. This section of the zoo seems to be a bit more modern with newer cemented pathways and enclosures, however due to the hilly landscape the access was still difficult to navigate in a wheelchair.
This side of the zoo is also where the only disabled toilet is located, but during our visit, the toilet was out of order. Before finding the disabled toilet, we asked a number of staff where the disabled toilet was, unfortunately none of them informed us it was out of order, and we had to find this out for ourselves.
Overall, our day visiting Wildlife HQ at the Big Pineapple was enjoyable, even though wheelchair access is not great. It is a perfect place to visit for a family day out on the Sunshine Coast and to meet some native and unique exotic animals, but it might not be the best option if you or a family member use a mobility aid.
I did have a fair amount of trouble getting around Wildlife HQ in my power wheelchair. Wheelchair access was fairly difficult due to the gravel surfaces and uneven, steep and up lifted pathways. Having the only disabled toilet out of order was also a concern. I love the work Wildlife HQ do, but wheelchair accessibility throughout the zoo is problematic. .I would love to see a more accessible Wildlife HQ in the future.
For more information about Wildlife HQ, check out their website listed below.
In my opinion, I give Wildlife HQ a rating of 2 for wheelchair accessibility, and 3.5 stars for our overall experience .
* I was not financially compensated for this review. The review is based on my own opinion and personal experience.*