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Go Behind-The-Scenes In Sydney

If you are planning a visit to Sydney, or you are a local looking for a new way to see your city, these three behind-the-scenes experiences will make your visit extra special.

For me, there’s something especially alluring about going behind-the-scenes at an attraction. It could be my curious personality, or perhaps it is the feeling that I’m privy to insights not available with a regular entry ticket. Whatever it is, I’m always ready to sign up for a glimpse behind the curtain or over the fence, and if it’s accessible for the whole family, all the better!

Here are some of my favourite behind-the-scenes adventures in my home city of Sydney, with great accessibility for all.

Behind The Sails: Sydney Opera House

Arguably Sydney’s most recognisable building, the Sydney Opera House offers accessible tours which provide visitors with the history of the design and construction of this magnificent landmark.

It’s difficult to imagine Sydney Harbour without its crown jewel but, as you’ll learn on this special tour, the process of building the Opera House was arduous and fraught with controversy. It’s a fascinating side to Sydney’s history that is often taken for granted as we enjoy its performance spaces while watching world-class acts.

On the Behind The Sails tour, visitors get access to many of the performance and concert halls where a guide highlights features and design elements which make the Opera House unique. No two tours are the same. On some tours, like ours, guests may be able to witness the incredible feat it is to change sets and equipment for a new show.

A Sydney Opera House accessible tour not only provides a look at the inner workings behind each performance but gives visitors a wealth of information about its history. 

The Sydney Opera House has undergone many accessibility enhancements in recent years and ramp or lift access is provided throughout the tour. Find out more about accessibility on Behind The Sails tours on the Sydney Opera House website.

Two wheelchair users listening to the tour guide speak inside the atrium of the Sydney Opera House
This special tour of the Sydney Opera House gives you a new perspective on one of Australia’s most recognisable landmarks.

Breakfast with koalas: WILD LIFE Sydney

Looking for a furry companion to join you for breakfast? Well, look no further: Australia’s favourite marsupial is ready to welcome you at WILD LIFE Sydney, Darling Harbour.

While the koalas are more than content with their large bunches of eucalyptus leaves for breakfast, lunch and dinner, visitors booking the Koala Breakfast are treated to a hot buffet which includes eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast and fruit.

It’s an early start, but the tour includes a keeper-led tour of WILD LIFE Sydney before it opens to the public. That means there’s no jostling for position for the perfect snap and the animals are eagerly waiting feed time so they are mostly active. The tour offers fun and quirky facts about some of the zoo’s Australian residents including Princess the cassowary (Princess is a male for the record), Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, wallabies, a range of snakes, lizards and three freshwater crocodiles.

At the conclusion of the tour guests are invited to have a photo with one of the koalas who enjoy a rooftop home among the gum leaves. 

Breakfast with the koalas runs Friday, Saturday and Sundays, from 7:15am – 9:00am. It’s a great way to start the day. Book your breakfast on the WILD LIFE Sydney website.

A family in front of a small eucalyptus tree with a koala amongst the leaves
You won’t have to share your bacon and eggs when you breakfast with the koalas at WILD LIFE Sydney.

Become a zookeeper: Sydney Zoo

Sydney Zoo offers an excellent hands-on accessible zookeeper experience. You’ll get plenty of facts and figures about the animals at the zoo, and unique insight into what it’s really like to be a zookeeper. Spoiler alert – it’s not all glamorous, and there seems to be a lot of shovelling involved. 

The program is led by Steve, a wheelchair user, and Jess, a zookeeper at Sydney Zoo. Activities vary according to what’s happening seasonally – for example, it was kangaroo mating season, so the males were not so keen on having visitors on the day of our visit. While we may like to assume it’s for privacy reasons, I suspect they are territorial over their female pals.

Instead, we got to know some of the zoo’s scaly residents including Jabba the Water Dragon, Cookie the Blue Tongue Lizard and Chandler the Children’s Python. We listened to a keeper talk about the camels and fed them, created some enrichment for the residents in the nocturnal house and took part in a tactile activity where we had to guess who in the zoo owned various feathers and hair that had been collected from the animal enclosures – It’s harder than you think. 

Sydney Zoo is located in the Western Sydney suburb of Eastern Creek and offers excellent accessibility throughout the zoo. The program is appropriate for anyone aged eight and up that has access needs. The Australian Companion Card is accepted.

Make a booking to be a zookeeper for the day on the Sydney Zoo website.

A young man in a wheelchair with a young woman standing behind him, reaching out to touch a lizard, held by a zookeeper who is also using a wheelchair
Become a zookeeper for a day at Sydney Zoo, and get up-close with the animals who call it home.

This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

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