Say “G’day, mate” to this Horse Cave attraction
You can fly over 10,000 miles to a different continent, crossing the international dateline and into the Southern Hemisphere to the Australian Outback, arriving jet lagged, rumpled and cranky, to see kangaroos, lorikeets and wallabies. Or you can remain in your own time zone and take a pleasant country drive a ways down the road, enter the grounds and be steps away from playing, romping and feeding them. Napping with them, too.
That’s because Kentucky’s own Australian Outback is right here in Horse Cave—at least, 75 acres of it is—at Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo.
The story of this down-under wonder begins in the 1960s, with a Kentuckian named Bill, whose grandfather happened to own a cave in his hometown, and with an Australian named Judy, who grew up on an Outback sheep station. They married and moved to Horse Cave, and Bill managed the Mammoth Onyx Cave. In 1990, the Austins opened the zoo with a focus on Australian culture, including guided cave tours among the activities of this all-around unique attraction.
“We have 30-plus kangaroos in the Outback,” says Brian Dale, who works in media relations at Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo. “Our zoo is one of the few places in the country where guests can feed and pet them, interact, take selfies and even take naps with them.
“We are the only place in Kentucky where you can get close to ‘Bigfoot’ (kangaroos are macropods, meaning they have big feet) and we almost always have a batch of new joeys in and out of the pouch in the Outback.”
While visitors make a beeline to the Outback and its mob of kangaroos and emus, often expressing surprise at how soft and friendly the kangaroos are, it is the zoo’s interactive experiences that routinely blow them away.
“Our visitors love our animal shows where we feature some of our different animals,” says Dale. “It could be a porcupine, serval kitten, dingo, woma python or one of many others.”
Guests are also wild about having their picture taken with a woma python wound about their neck. Dale says these nonvenomous ambush hunters, ironically named Bonnie and Clyde, are the friendliest snakes you will ever meet. (We’ll take his word for it.)
Meeting zoo babies is another major draw.
“Our newest arrivals are two dingo pups that are about 12 weeks old and super friendly,” says Dale. “In the Outback, we have two albino wallaby joeys that are just sticking their heads out of their mothers’ pouches. They look like pink hairless chihuahuas until they start getting their fur.”
Kentuckians have the Austins to thank for originally bringing the Outback to the Bluegrass. The park is under different ownership today, but the adventure and experiences are as amazing as ever.
In addition to being able to freely roam the Outback, watch animal shows (and interact with the headliners) and explore Mammoth Onyx Cave, considered one of the most scenic caves in Kentucky, there are enough activities to fill an entire morning or afternoon and then some.
Visitors can feed the brilliantly colored parrots in the Land of Lorries; meet the goats, horses and other residents at the petting zoo; watch border collies herd sheep during the park’s Woolshed Program; and mine for fossils and gemstones at the sluice. And they can do it on foot or on wheels, with a rental of a four- or six-passenger golf cart.
There are places to picnic on zoo grounds with lunch packed from home or purchased at the Outback Cafe, where the menu includes bison burgers, sloppy joes, made-from-scratch daily specials and other meals and snacks.
Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo
3700 L&N Turnpike Road
Horse Cave, KY
Admission: $25.95 adults; $15.95/ages 4–14; free for ages 3 and under.
Both the zoo and Mammoth Onyx Cave are included in the admission price.
Entry to the Outback, Land of Lorries or Petting Zoo is $1.