St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park: An Old Attraction with New Life
A Northeast Florida attraction that’s been around for more than a century keeps visitors entertained with new exhibits.
Just across the bridge from downtown St. Augustine lies a quintessential Florida attraction full of colorful birds, exotic mammals and impressive reptiles. It’s also the only place in the world visitors can see every living species of alligator, crocodile, caiman and gharial.
Visit the newest exhibit, the Sloth Landing! These furry and fascinating mammals spend almost their entire life hanging upside down except for brief excursions to the forest floor or for a swim. Our pair of sloths, Teddy and Grizzly share their rainforest habitat with other species from the tropics. Check out the Rainforest Sloth Encounter which places you up close and personal with the sloths and even provides opportunities to touch these shy animals. After a short overview of the species’ habitats, behaviors, and diet zookeepers will then provide a 15 to 20-minute physical encounter with the sloths, as they attempt to feed Teddy and Grizzly their favorite fruits and veggies.
In the Spring, from March through June, visitors come from far and wide to see the native herons, egrets, roseate spoonbills, and wood storks during nesting season. Here, in the Wading Bird Rookery, birds find security in the Alligator Swamp, where they roost and raise their young safe from tree-climbing predators thanks to hundreds of alligators hanging out beneath the oak branches. A wooden walkway through this natural wetlands provides up-close viewing of the undisturbed birds, allowing for photographers to achieve award-winning shots every year. The Annual Photo Contest awards the top images taken in the rookery and throughout the zoo.St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park recently celebrated its 129th anniversary with its largest new exhibit in a decade, Oasis on the Nile. The highlight of Oasis on the Nile is a boardwalk built around a pool holding four 12-foot Nile crocodiles. Visitors can view the crocodiles on two levels and watch feeding shows, as well as see Egyptian artifacts, including statues of coiled snakes and busts of pharaohs that complement the exhibit’s theme.
Oasis on the Nile is located between the Wading Bird Rookery and Lemurs of Madagascar, two popular park exhibits. It also links to one of the Alligator Farm’s main draws, the Crocodile Crossing zip line. These aerial excursions include more than 50 obstacles and 17 ziplines that will have you climbing and zooming through the zoo. Two ropes courses crisscross seven acres of the park, taking adventurers right over alligators and crocodiles. As they fly through the air, they’re at eye level with tropical birds and playful lemurs.
Crocodile Crossing is $68 per person, and everyone going through the course must be at least 8 years old and in good physical condition. Not quite ready for Crocodile Crossing? The Sepik River Course is lower to the ground and not quite as long. It’s $38 per person. Another opportunity for visitors to test their daring is the Python Challenge, a 40-foot free-fall that gently lowers fliers to the ground. It’s $10 for one jump or $15 for three.
Once your adrenaline is pumping, spend time visiting some of the animals that call the park home, like pythons, lemurs, macaws and Maximo, a saltwater crocodile clocking in at 15 feet, 3 inches and 1,250 pounds.
See Wildlife Shows
Then head over to one of the educational wildlife shows for an in-depth look at the park’s residents. Highlights include: Realm of the Alligator, combining an animal talk with training demonstrations. (Try to attend a show around noon or 3 p.m. so you can see an alligator feeding, too.) Scales & Tails Reptile Show, a hands-on experience during which some guests get to hold a snake. Rainforest Review, showcasing the on-stage personalities of some of the park’s parrots and other rainforest residents. Florida’s Forest Friends, an interactive program that teaches about the Sunshine State’s habitats through its animals.
Show times and locations may change with the weather, so check the Alligator Farm’s website or pick up a guide once you’re in the park. The guide also shows the locations of the park’s snack bar, the ToucanTina, and KidsZone playground — both are ideal for taking a break from touring.
To see more than meets the eye, take a behind-the-scenes walking tour and learn how park keepers care for some of the animals. Watch training sessions and maybe get the chance to touch or feed some of the creatures. Tour participants must be at least 6 years old, and the cost is $30 per person.
St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with summer hours extended to 6 p.m. Park admission is $28.99 for adults 12 and older, and $17.99 for kids 3-11 years old. Discounts are available for AAA members, members of the military and senior citizens.