Healesville Sanctuary began life in 1921 as a place to study native fauna for medical research. It opened to the public in 1934 and quickly became “world renowned for its platypus care and research,” explains The Animal Facts. The main exhibits include Dingo Country (“a dramatic rocky high country habitat and the home of Healesville’s dingos”), the Sidney Myer World of Platypus (“a nocturnal habitat … renowned as the best platypus exhibit in the world”), Land of Parrots (“a walk in aviary where visitors may become a perch for some of the birds and can feed some of these birds”), Animals of the Night (“mountain pygmy possums, bilbies, gliders, Lord Howe Island stick insects and bandicoots”) and Cool Conservation (“highlights breeding programs for the mountain pygmy possum and the Southern corroboree frog”).
It’s all about the natural environment, says Weekend Notes. “Unlike most zoos, Healesville Sanctuary offers animals an environment that is natural and all animals are Australian so they are not taken out of their own natural habitat or country to be on display in a small man made enclosure.” The main aim is “education, conservation, helping endangered Australian animals, rehabilitation and protecting wildlife” and it offers visitors the chance to get up close with animals -- “you can hold a parrot, feed a red tailed cockatoo, pat a galah and walk through many aviaries and the kangaroo enclosure.”
But there’s more to the Healesville region than “holding out a handful of seeds to a flock of parakeets,” writes Hannah Bambra in Broadsheet. “While the tourist busses still roll in to this main attraction, return visitors are finding a growing cluster of cafes and restaurants in Healesville that are putting the best produce of the Yarra Valley on their plates” -- art galleries, weekend escapes, flower farms and wineries “tucked in between the undulating landscape.” Set against “the backdrop of evergreen hills,” this little town less than a hour from the big city is “perfect for wandering unhurriedly or stopping to indulge in regional wine, cheese platters and wood fire pizzas.” Bambra highlights Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps Winery and Cellar Door (“the centre of Healesville's food and wine precinct … the best of local produce features on their wood fire pizzas and in their sweet and musky wines”), TarraWarra Museum of Art (“the drama of the countryside is on display as much as the 20th century Australian art … an excellent sense of place and often features artists who have managed to capture the landscape over time”), Badgers Weir (“a small creek is central to this family picnic spot and if you don't feel like setting up in a rotunda or at picnic table, you can perch yourself on a stone and eat lunch with your feet in the water”) and the White Rabbit Brewery (“worth visiting for a casual tasting or to stock up on a bulk serving of your favourite dark or white ale”).