Many of us have found memories visiting the zoo as children. If you want to continue this tradition as an adult, there are plenty of options available to those in the Augusta-area! Whether this trip is with your own children, or for friends and other family members, it’s a fun way to spend the day.
If you want to stroll along some beautiful park paths and observe some amazing animal species, check out these incredible zoos nearest to Augusta, GA.
|Zoo Name||Drive Time||Single Tickets & Parking||About the Animals||About the Location|
|Riverbanks Zoo & Garden||1 Hour||– Adults (13 and older): $21.99 |
– Kids (ages 2–12): $18.99
– Kids younger than 2: FREE
– Parking: $5
|– 2,000+ animals|
– 350 species
|– 170 acres|
– Columbia, SC
– Features Aquarium and Botanical Gardens
|Zoo Atlanta||2.5 Hours||– Adults (ages 12 and older): $25-$33|
– Kids (ages 3-11): $19 – $25
– Kids younger than 3: FREE
|– 1,500+ animals|
– 220 species
|– 40 acres|
– Grant Park / Atlanta, Georgia
|Georgia Aquarium||2.5 Hours||– Gen. Admission for All: $39.95 |
– Kids younger than 2: FREE
|– 1,000,000+ animals|
– several hundred species
|– 11+ million gallons of water|
– Atlanta, Georgia
|Greenville Zoo||2.5 Hours||– Adults (ages 12 and older): $12|
– Kids (ages 3-9): $9
– Kids 2 and younger: FREE
|– 300+ animals||– 14 acres|
– Greenville, South Carolina
Does Augusta, GA Have a Zoo?
Although Augusta, Georgia does not have a local zoo, the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park is a 15-minute drive from downtown Augusta and contains 1,100 acres of woodlands and wetlands, with dozens of species of wildlife viewable to the public.
Along the 14 miles of hiking and biking trails, you can observe wildlife native to the Augusta area. Some of the most common animals observed are: Alligators, River Otters, Beavers, Egrets, Herons, Red Shouldered Hawks, Cormorants, Grebes, Osprey, and a host of other birds and waterfowl.
Phinizy Swamp Nature Park is open to the public from dawn until dusk, 365 days of the year. The Phinizy Centers hosts a wide array of educational opportunities and is a popular destination for both families and school trips. There is a Shop & Visitor Center open from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM on Saturday, and 1:00 – 5:00 PM on Sunday. Call ahead during on weekdays, as the Shop & Visitor Center hours vary based on availability of volunteers.
Added Bonuses: It is entirely FREE TO VISIT and you can bring pets, as long as they are leashed and you clean up after them. (Park Rules)
While Augusta does not have a local zoo, the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park is well-worth the visit if you want to experience nature and observe wildlife for free without the 1 to 2.5 hours of driving.
If you are interested in observing more wildlife in Georgia or South Carolina at the ocean, hold up for a minute. You may want to check out this article on the 6 closest beaches to Augusta.
What is the Closest Zoo to Augusta, Georgia?
At 73 miles from downtown and approximately a one-hour drive, the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is the closest zoo to Augusta, GA. Traveling on I-20 East, the zoo is quickly accessible to Augusta residents, with the next closest zoo being an additional 1.5 hours of driving down I-20 West to the Atlanta Zoo.
Riverbanks Zoo & Garden (Columbia, South Carolina)
There are four main reasons that Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is consistently popular, boasting over 1 million visitors per year.
First, as mentioned above, it is only about an hour drive from downtown Augusta, making it readily accessible for a day trip! However, traffic in Columbia, SC around lunch and work commute hours can be especially congested along I-20 and I-26. This is important to plan around if you want to arrive when the zoo opens, as it’s hours of operation are between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM.
Second, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden has the most individual animals and greatest variety of species of any zoo within a three-hour drive. At over 2,000+ animals, this is a larger selection than Zoo Atlanta at 1,500. Additionally, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is home to 350 species, whereas Atlanta’s has 220. While not nearly the size of the Georgia Aquarium, Riverbanks’ aquarium allows visitors to get an aquarium experience on-site, whereas this is not a feature at the Atlanta Zoo.
Thus, if you want to see more kinds of animals, you may want to visit Riverbanks Zoo & Garden in Columbia, SC instead of going to Atlanta. Below are some of the highlight exhibits.
- The Birdhouse at Riverbanks
- Grizzly Ridge – grizzly bears
- Otter Run – North American river otters
- Sea Lion Landing – California sea lions, harbor seals
- African Plains (zebras, giraffes, ostriches)
- Ndoki Forest (African elephants, gorillas)
- Riverbanks Farm (goats, alpacas, barn owls)
- Lemur Island
- Aquarium Reptile Complex – 50,000+ gallon tank
- Kangaroo Walkabout
- Asian Animals – Siberian tigers, babirusas, siamangs
- Conservation Outpost – two-toed sloths, black-footed cats, golden-lion tamarins, tree kangaroo
Third, in addition to the zoo experience, you have access to 70 acres of botanical gardens, which include eight separate areas. Riverbanks’ botanical gardens have been ranked by both HGTV and Horticulture magazine as among the best in the country. These include:
- Waterfall Junction – 3 acre garden designed for kids
- The Asian Garden
- Bog Garden
- The Collection Garden
- Dry Garden
- Old Rose Garden
- Shade Garden
- Walled Gardn
Fourth, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden has additional rides and activities designed for families with younger children. Waterfall Junction has both splash zones and tree houses for interactive fun. Zoo rides include a mini railroad and a carousel, with a rock-climbing wall as well. To get closer to the animals, there is the Riverbanks Farrm, along with options to feed the giraffes or lorikeet birds.
Given the close proximity to Augusta, the variety of animals and species, the botanical gardens, and activities for all ages, it’s easy to see why the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is such a popular destination for Augustans.
Zoo Atlanta (Grant Park / Atlanta, Georgia)
Located near the heart of downtown Atlanta in Grant Park, Zoo Atlanta is 145 miles from Augusta, GA and takes on average 2.5 hours to drive one-way. Also referred to as the Atlanta Zoo, it is the second closest zoo to Augusta and a popular destination with nearly 1 million visitors per year. Here are some of the main reasons to visit Zoo Atlanta if you’re coming from Augusta.
First, although Zoo Atlanta has less animals overall, it houses certain animals that are not found in Riverbanks Zoo & Garden. For example, the giant panda, red panda, Malayan sun bear, giant otter, and common warthog are found at Zoo Atlanta. So, depending on what animals you most want to see, Zoo Atlanta may be for you.
Second, as the capital city of Georgia, Atlanta offers many additional recreational activities and sites that you may want to experience in addition to the zoo. For example, you could visit the Georgia Aquarium explore the Atlanta Beltline or dine at a host of restaurants that can only be found in Atlanta. If you have the desire to pack in a lot of additional experiences besides the zoo, you may want to consider Zoo Atlanta.
Although not technically a zoo, the Georgia Aquarium makes this list because it is well worth the visit and only a 2.5 hour drive from Augusta. At over 11 million gallons of water, the Georgia Aquarium ranks as the largest aquarium in the United States and third-largest in the entire world.
Some of the highlights include:
- beluga whale
- 9 different species of sharks (zebra, whale, blacktip reef, great hammerhead, sand tiger, sandbar, silky, silvertip, tiger)
- Asian small-clawed and southern sea otters
- common bottlenose dolphins
- African penguins
- manta rays
- and hundreds more!
If you are interested in school fieldtrips, virtual programs, homeschool day, and numerous other educational programs, check out Georgia Aquarium’s Programs Page
Greenville Zoo (Greenville, South Carolina)
And the fourth recommendation on the list is a 14 acre, 300+ animal zoo up in Greenville, SC. At 115 miles away, the drive is roughly 2.5 hours away via U.S. Route 25. Instead of driving along the incredibly busy I-20 to Columbia or Atlanta, you get to observe open livestock fields and rolling hills in rural South Carolina. The drive along U.S. Route 25 is quite scenic, but there will be fewer pitstop locations available.
The zoo itself is a much quieter experience than the bustling three mentions above. Some of the featured animals include the:
- amur leopard
- African lions
- giant anteater
- South American aviary exhibit