Ever since the poor showing at the Myrtle Beach roadside zoo, I’ve been hesitant to visit another roadside zoo. However, I’m glad I made an effort to explore the Garlyn Zoo in Naubinway, Michigan. The Garlyn Zoo Wildlife Park has native and exotic animals in a well-cared-for animal-friendly environment over 30-acres that allows you and your family plenty of opportunities to feed most of them. Visiting the zoo is the perfect place to take a rest break as you are road tripping through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Here is everything you need to know when you visit Garlyn Zoo Wildlife Park.
Garlyn Zoo is a small family-owned business where many of the animals have been rescued or donated. The animals in the zoo are hand-raised, friendly, and enjoy seeing people as much as people enjoy seeing them. The owners and workers at Garlyn Zoo Wildlife Park hope that you will come away with a more incredible feeling for the need to protect and preserve our wild places and the animals within them.
As you are driving along US-2, you need to know that the zoo’s entrance is a little hard to find. The sign for the zoo is set back off the highway, and most drivers are speeding down the road, which makes it easy to drive past it. I would recommend putting the Garlyn Zoo, six miles east of Naubinway and 40 minutes west of the Mackinac Bridge, in your GPS to know exactly when to turn. When you turn into the entrance, you’ll have to drive on a dirt road through the trees to the parking lot. There is plenty of parking space, even a lot for RVs.
The entrance is a short walk from the parking lot, which also has an area for food if you are hungry. Ticket prices are $15/adult; Children 3-13 are $10, and kids under 2 are free. Until August 31st, the zoo’s open hours are 10 am until 6 pm, with the last admission at 5 pm daily. The fall open hours are from 10 am until 5 pm, with the last admission at 4 pm. While you are purchasing your tickets, you can also buy food for the animals. This zoo separates what food can go to which animal with the deer, goats, and alpacas getting grain, apples for the bear, and feed sticks for the parakeets. Plus, there is a bunny farm where kids can feed the tiniest little bunnies.
Once you enter the wildlife park, you have many choices on which direction to start walking on the cedar mulched trails, through the mature pine and birch forests on the zoo’s property. The buildings and enclosures are numbered on a map so that you can see all the animals, including those freely walking around the zoo. The animal enclosures are well-built, and you can see that with some getting double fences and even enclosures toward the top of the fence. During the day, you can see several volunteers walking around, making sure the zoo is clean and taking care of the animals; you can tell that this is a well-run zoo.
The animal enclosures within the zoo blend well with the natural surroundings of towering red and white pine, birch, and maple forests of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The owners have kept the natural look and feel of the north woods as much as possible, doing most of the work on the zoo by hand.
I love feeding the deer and especially the tiny baby goats. They are so cute as they run-up to the fence to get your ice cream cone filled with feed. Their little mouths are nibbling for the food and tickle your hand as you reach out to feed your favorites.
Make sure to space out the food as you might run out before you get to the alpacas on the other side of the zoo.
As you walk past the domestic animals, you head toward the exotic animal area of the zoo. I was surprised to see African Lions, Timber Wolves, Siberian Tigers, and a Grizzly Bear. The animals look so healthy and comfortable in their large enclosures. It is wonderful to be able to see these unique animals so close.
Expect to spend at least an hour and a half exploring all the animals within the zoo. Breaking up the long drive from downstate to up north with a walk around a lovely zoo while feeding and seeing all kinds of animals is an excellent way to stretch out your legs before you get back in the car with the family to continue your drive. On your next road trip to the Upper Peninsula, I hope you can take some time to see a wonderful roadside zoo that genuinely cares for the animals and the visitors that stop by. Garlyn Zoo Wildlife Park is waiting for your visit.
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