Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
For something a little wild on your beach vacation try visiting the Gulf Breeze Zoo.
Since 1984 this wild animal park has entertained children of all ages. Located on U.S. Highway 98 just east of Pensacola, the park has always been a popular family attraction, hitting the 120,000-visitors mark the first year it was open. Reasonably priced and offering shows, animal feedings a picnic area, gift shop and other activities, the zoo is a full day of entertainment.
Over the years, the Gulf Breeze Zoo has grown from a small compound to about 50 acres in size with over 800 animals both in cages and roaming free. A 30-acre wildlife preserve includes zebras, kudus, llamas, ostriches, eland (the world’s largest antelope) and gorilla and chimpanzee islands.
A boardwalk over the preserve lets visitors see the animals without bars or screens blocking the view – great for photography, especially when the animals cooperate and come in close. Another way to view these animals is to take a train ride through the preserve. The train passes by the hippos, emu, zebras, gorillas and the alligators before finishing at the train station and snack bar.
Visitors can walk on accessible paved pathways to the various animal exhibits. Caged and otherwise secured animals include lions, tigers, and bears (oh, my) as well as an Andean Condor, kangaroos, orangutans and a Komodo Dragon behind glass. There’s even a giant snake pavilion, a collection of creepy crawlies, and, of course, Florida alligators.
Stairs lead to a platform above the giraffe compound where at designated times visitors may watch zoo staff feed the giraffes. A petting zoo for young children is located near the water fowl, allowing young children to interact with animals such as deer and small farm animals. Various shows or Encounters are scheduled throughout the day with such animals as the toucan, camel, reptiles, orangutans and the giraffe feeding.
Entrance to the park is through the Lion’s Lair Gift Shop which sells tee-shirts, toys, and tickets. For those wishing to feed the animals there is a $3.50 per cup fee. Families with young children may rent a stroller for $5 or a wagon for $7. The train ride is an additional charge of $3.50 per person. Children two and under are free.
Kudu rest in the shade.
The ring-tailed lemurs are shy.
The monkeys are always fun to watch.
The Gulf Breeze Zoo is located at 5701 Gulf Breeze Parkway, Gulf Breeze, Florida, about 10 miles west of the Panhandle Butterfly House in Navarre, and is open year round, Monday through Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM. The last tickets are sold at 3 PM. Adults (ages 13 to 64) are $15.95, Seniors (65+) are $14.95, and Children (2 to 12) are $11.95. Children under 2 are free. Military and group rates and season passes are available. The zoo is closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. For more information call (850) 932-2229 or click here to visit their website.