Adelaide Zoo Nature's Playground

“Connecting children to nature through play, regardless of age or ability”


Royal Zoological Society of South Australia





Design Partners

Wax Design / Ric McConaghy Playspaces

Scope of Work

Deliver, Detail, Develop, Discover

Executive Summary

Adelaide Zoo is one of South Australia’s most iconic attractions and home to more than 2,500 exotic and native animals. With a passion for interactive visitor experiences, Wax Design, on behalf of the Zoo's management, chose Fleetwood Urban to help create a new play structure to connect children - of all ages and abilities - to nature through safe and unstructured play. Nature’s Playground was the award-winning result.


Fleetwood Involvement

Fleetwood Urban was involved from start to finish. Using our unique DesignExecute2™ process, our team collaborated seamlessly with all project partners - Adelaide Zoo, WAX Design and Ric McConaghy Playspaces - on a daily basis. Our role included helping to refine the initial designs, creating 3D concepts and shop drawings, recommending appropriate materials (both from a quality and cost perspective) before playing the lead role in construction and installation.

More Project Information


Wax Design, the Landscape Architects, met the brief to create an interactive and sensory space that “connects children to nature through play”. Celebrating Earth’s diverse biomes (biological communities) their inspired design features a creek to represent aquatic systems and water play, a sandpit to demonstrate a hot desert, a rope climb, aerial walkway and elevated timber pods to reflect the great forest canopies. While innovation was a key focus for Nature’s Playground, so was accessibility and this had real design implications. Four metres above the ground, it lets children mimic the way animals move through the treetops and provides sweeping views across the zoo and parklands. Thanks to the access lift, this play creation is something children of all ages and abilities can enjoy.


The high traffic, high energy nature of the play structure meant construction had to be of the highest quality to ensure all design elements and play equipment would withstand heavy daily use. Central to this was the need for robust footings to provide ongoing stability for every structure. Timber was heavily specified as part of the ‘natural’ design aesthetic, necessitating important choices around durability, affordability and constructability. Unseasoned hardwood was recommended for the walkway to provide enhanced traction. The timber is detailed to Fleetwood’s exacting standard to ensure minimal shrinkage and longevity. Minimising disruptions to zoo patrons was another key part of the construction brief, something that was successfully achieved by fabricating and pre-assembling the main design elements off-site.


Nature’s Playground is filled with design and construction innovations. While many can’t be seen, one of the most visual is the stunning elevated walkway. The utilisation of stainless steel wire netting infill panels, (rather than traditional balustrade) maximises the visibility and the feeling of fun and freedom, it provides a ‘never possible before’ aerial view of the animals from a safe and secure vantage point high above the zoo.


  • High quality, high durability hardwood in keeping with the natural zoo setting
  • Bespoke tower with viewing platform
  • Four-metre high aerial walkway
  • Three timber play pods with adjoining footbridges
  • Stainless steel wire netting to maximise visibility
  • Wheelchair access throughout including a lift to the walkway

  • Stainless steel
  • Rope
  • Unseasoned hardwood
  • Hot dip galvanising
  • FRP minimesh
  • Stainless steel wire netting

As a public play structure enjoyed by hundreds of families every day, safety was a critical consideration. By carefully translating the initial designs into a safe and practical reality, it was Fleetwood’s responsibility to meet the stringent Australian standards for playgrounds and ensure the ongoing wellbeing of all children who use Nature’s Playground, now and into the future.


All timber used in Fleetwood structures is from sustainably grown forests that comply with the Australian Forestry Standard.


Nature’s Playground has quickly become a much-loved part of the Adelaide Zoo experience. It offers a safe and unstructured play structure for children of all abilities, providing a fun break during busy visits to the zoo. But, just as importantly, it’s a place where parents can catch their breath and relax in comfort.


The new play structure was the result of extensive community consultation. This external input provided a rich source of insights and inspiration, with the design team gathering many ideas directly from families and children, particularly around issues of inclusivity – something that continues to have a daily impact on the levels of enjoyment experienced by zoo visitors.


Adelaide Zoo is an outdoor wonderland for families, with exotic surroundings, experiences and exhibits at every turn. Nature’s Playground fits seamlessly into this unique natural setting, providing a creative outdoor space for children of all ages and abilities to come together and play.


Award Name Location Year
AILA National Landscape Architecture Award Play Spaces Adelaide Zoo 2017
AILA SA Award of Excellence Adelaide Zoo 2017
AILA SA Tourism Landscape Architecture Award Adelaide Zoo 2016
Civic Trust Bob Such Award for Social Benefit Adelaide Zoo 2016
City of Adelaide Prize Commendation Adelaide Zoo 2016