Maru Koala and Animal Park is a family run tourist attraction on five acres near the waterline of Westernport Bay and features an animal park, Pirate Pete's Mini-golf and the Homestead Bistro with the Dinosaur Indoor playroom. Part of the Gippsland region and only fifteen minutes from Phillip Island, Maru has been operating its current location since 1983.
We are passionate about fostering an understanding and appreciation of our native wildlife and their environment and do this through tactile experiences where you can hand-feed, pat and 'get in touch with' many of the animals, including koalas. The park keepers provide regular talks to encourage you to learn more about the animals and Maru is also an authorized Wildlife Shelter, rehabilitating injured and orphaned native animals and then returning them to the wild.
The Maru and Heffer History
The Maru business was originally founded by Mrs. Ruth Heffer and her late husband George and all of their three children, Marilyn, Stephen and Ian were all involved. Ruth and George ran a dairy farm in the Cobram area and in 1974 Ruth registered the business name of Maru Craft. "Maru" was formed using the first two letters of the ladies names, Marilyn and Ruth. The family made hand crafted ceramics and traded from several locations and markets before George and Ruth moved to Frankston and purchased an uncleared bush-block of land in Grantville to 'retire' on.
They began clearing and building their new home and Ruth said to George "I just want a little shop out the front to keep me occupied in my retirement" and so "Maru Craft" began trading from a small shop on their Grantville property in 1983. As the business grew and coaches began to stop on their way to Phillip Island, animals were also added. George was fond of animals and there are many stories of one of his favourite wombats following him all around the property, or Charlie the cockatoo (still a Maru resident) perched on George's shoulder or greeting guests in the shop.
The entire family was originally involved, but it was son Ian who saw the potential for the business to be developed on a much larger scale and took over management from his parents in 1990. As the animal park grew, the trading name was changed to 'Maru Koala and Animal Park', the original small shop twice expanded to include an eating and retail area and an Australian themed Mini-golf course added. In 2006 the golf was rejuvenated into a unique pirate themed course complete with a pirate ship and life-size pirate figures.
Ruth and George continued to remain involved but in 1997 George sadly passed away. Despite being over 88 years of age and now retired Ruth is still very passionate about Maru and a regular friendly face greeting visitors. In 2004 Ian married Neroli who has also joined the business and daughter Becky was born in 2006 and then Tabatha in 2008 with both regular and popular faces at the animal park as they interact with the visitors.
It was a sad day on the 3rd January 2009 when a major fire totally destroyed the buildings and all contents and the charred remains of the original shop and buildings were cleared away. Maru continued to trade from temporary buildings and in August 2011 a brand new building of over a million dollars investment was opened. The new modern premises include the entrance and souvenir area and a large commercial kitchen that caters for the Homestead Bistro, with dining area and indoor playroom that looks out over the animal park.
From its humble beginnings, Maru has developed into an award winning and professional tourist attraction that is still very proudly family owned and operated.