Australian animals are arguably one of the biggest attractions that draw nearly 9 million visitors to Australia every year. From Kangaroos and wallabies to Koalas and wombats to over 800 species of birds, international visitors are keen to see them all. What’s more rewarding than seeing animals in the wild? The truth is that seeing native animals in their natural habitat isn’t easy.
Wildlife behaviour is unpredictable and something you cannot take for granted. So before you plan your outdoor adventure and end up frustrated and disappointed because you haven’t seen any kangaroos or koalas, these tips will help you plan your wildlife adventures in Australia.
Below find our guide to the best places to see native Australian Animals in the wild, as well as the best practices to avoid encounters with the most dangerous animals.
The best time for spotting Australian animals in the wild
While animals tend to be more active at dusk and dawn – crossing roads in the Outback is the no. 1 cause of car accidents – many factors influence their movements, like rain and sun. By hot temperatures, animals hide in cooler places, whereas by rain, they are likely to come out and seek fresh water to drink. Also, humans scare them away, so the more crowded the place, the worse scenario for spotting animals in the wild.
These are good ways to get up close to native animals in Oz. If you are a first-time traveller, I recommend visiting an Australian wildlife sanctuary first. It’s the best way to see all Australian animals in natural enclosures that recreate their natural habitat. Then you are ready to go on outdoor adventures to see them in the wild and hopefully see many of them.
Top places for encounters with native Australian animals
Where can you see native Australian animals in the wild? This is a question I often get from Rocky Travel readers and first-time travellers. That’s why I am telling you about my favourite places in Oz, where I got close to animals, which I treasure. Here are the top places to see native Australian animals in the wild that I have experienced while travelling around Australia.
Where to see kangaroos, and wombats in the wild
Flinders Ranges National Park in South Australia is among the best places to see Australian marsupials. Chances are you will spot all three types of Australian Kangaroos: the Red kangaroo, the western grey Kangaroo and the Euro – very rare Kangaroo – and the yellow-footed Rock Wallaby, which is unique to this area and very much an endangered species. Besides these famous Australian marsupials, there are nearly 100 species of different birds. I saw emus, kookaburra, coloured Australian ring-necked parrots, pink and grey galas, many birds of prey like eagles and more.
With 2 hours drive south of Melbourne, you can get to the Wilson Promontory in Victoria, a top destination for hiking, camping, and wildlife in the beautiful national park skirting the coastline. The Wilson Promontory wildlife is abundant. Here you can see wombats in the wild. You can see heaps of them roaming undisturbed. You will also see emus, kangaroos, and lots of birds. Rosella’s flock to the visitor centre to greet visitors and steal their food. You can also see Pelicans, swans, and more birds in the water inlets. And kangaroos are everywhere.
Margaret River and Dunsborough in South Western Australia This was the most unexpected place for me to see heaps of kangaroos grazing just outside my accommodation in the hills of Dunsborough. When I stayed a few nights just in Margaret River, I was greeted by a family of 3 kangaroos peeking into the kitchen. Furthermore, I also spotted the giant manta ray in Hamelin beach, 45 min drive south of Margaret River.
More places to see Kangaroos in the wild It’s trendy to see kangaroos populating golf courses in Australia. The first time I saw them was at Merimbula in NSW in 2004. I walked from the town centre and ended at the golf course to see dozens of kangaroos grazing and skipping across the fields. Over the years, I saw more kangaroos at golf courses in Mona Vale north of Sydney and Anglesea (photo) on Apollo Bay, Great Ocean Road. This is an excellent stop for seeing kangaroos if you plan a road trip to the GOR.
Best Places for spotting native Australian birds
Cairns and Cape Tribulation is one of the top places for spotting animals in the wild in North Tropical Queensland. This region boasts some unique and endangered animals in Australia. Spotting the native cassowary is regarded as winning the lottery. On my first two trips, I wasn’t so lucky with wildlife, and it was only on my third visit in September 2015 I stroke the top encounter with adult cassowaries crossing the road, just a few meters away from my car. If you want to see the salty crocodile, a river cruise on the Daintree River is the way to go. When touring the Atherton Tableland and its wetland, then Malanda is where you can see the famous tree kangaroo, a small cute kangaroo that lives in the high eucalyptus. I spotted a few hiding highs on the branches. Furthermore, I was lucky enough to spot a platypus swimming in the river in Yanguburra.
Best Places for seeing Koalas in Australia
Great Ocean Road Known as one of Australia’s most scenic drives, the GOR and the Otway coast are the top places to see koalas in the wild. I will never forget when baby koalas crossed my road in 2011 to hide in the bush. While this is an incredible drive, there are some hazards: keep your eyes wide open and know exactly where you want to stop. If you miss a turn or a sign, it’s missed for good; there are no U-turns on the GOR. The best places I can recommend to see Koalas are two: the main road leading to the Lighthouse, you will see plenty of them perching on trees, and it’s a safe place to park and take photos. Another popular place is the Kennett River Koala Walk, soon after Apollo Bay, to the Otway National Park.
The Kimberley Region The Kimberley is the top region for native birds in Australia. Although you can only tour the area in the dry winter months, this is an Outback tropical region with lots of vegetation and over 400 native Australian birds—a paradise for bird lovers. Crossing the Gibb River Road is an adventure of a lifetime. On my Kimberley Outback Adventure last year, I spotted many native birds. Spotting birds is not easy, though, requiring a good dose of patience. But thanks to a couple of our tour mates – bird lovers and bird-watching enthusiasts – we saw many birds! We also spotted dingo, kangaroos, rock wallabies, emus, water lizards and plenty of alligators (the freshwater crocodiles) in Windjana Gorge.
The Buchan Caves Reserve Among all the caves I have visited in Australia, the Buchan Caves are the most spectacular. If you are touring Victoria, Gippsland is a great spot for native wildlife too. I saw many kangaroos and native birds. And I was lucky to know the lyrebird, a fantastic bird that mimics the call of other birds. Not only that, it also mimics sounds such as a chainsaw, camera whirrs and clicks, and many car sounds. While we stopped to listen to his performance, he mimicked a few different birds and a few camera clicks. It was indeed such a fun and unique experience to see a lyrebird in the wild.
Where you will see crocodiles in Australia
The Home of the saltwater crocodiles in Australia is the Top End of Australia and Tropical North Queensland. Park rangers patrolled and monitored all areas here, especially if tourists visited them. The wet season is when saltwater crocs are more active; therefore, all gorges and waterfalls are closed during these months. In the dry season, the official rangers ensure no crocodiles are left there. No more crocs mean the green light to open access to those gorges and waterfalls again. Unless you are out in the bush often and spend a lot of time in the wilderness, it is not common to get close to the most dangerous animals in Australia. Although you are unlikely to make this kind of close encounter, here you can click to learn about the list of the top 30 dangerous native animals of Australia.
Best practices on how to stay clear of saltwater crocodiles
These are essential tips when travelling Australia’s Top End and Tropical North Queensland to learn how to avoid the most dangerous animals in Australia. #1 Watch crocodiles warning signs. This is the first simple rule to follow. The simple tip is to stay away from that area whenever you see one of those croc signs. And first and foremost, do not swim in the water or camp close to that area as a precaution. If unsure, ask the park rangers or phone the visitor centre. #2 Please avoid deep muddy waters as crocodiles usually hide, spot and attack their prey, cattle and other animals. Small creeks, waterfalls and rock pools are generally okay. If unsure whether the area is safe, ask the local rangers or contact the visitor centre. #3 Never venture off the beaten track if you intend to do so; ask for advice first. And always stay away from water as a first rule, especially during the wet months. #4 Do not walk or stand on the water’s edge, so avoid walking along the river bank or at the shore. Saltwater Crocodiles move extremely fast (reaching 40-60 km/hour), jumping and snapping out of water within seconds. When walking, it is always better to face the water and never walk close to it at night. #5 Pay attention to where you place your tent. When camping in Australia, put the tent away from the water and do not leave any food scraps around your place. Be careful, especially at night, and never leave your camping place. This is actually of the dangers of camping in Australia. Always watch out for things, areas or situations that can attract crocs.
Where are venomous Australian Snakes to be encountered?
Australia is home to some of the most venomous spiders in the world. But they are not as dangerous as you may think. Australian snakes are aggressive but never stalk or attack you unless provoked. Of course, if you tread on a snake, it will attack you and most likely bite you.
Best Rules to avoid snake encounters in Australia
These are the basic rules and tips to avoid dangerous snakes in Australia. #1 Walk barefoot on grass, especially at night. #2 Always watch where you put your feet when walking outdoors. #3 Use a torch or a headlamp when walking outside at night. #4 Always wear sturdy shoes when bushwalking or walking outdoors. #4 When spotting a snake outdoors, do not panic. Stay calm, move, or touch it. Snakes do not like humans.
Australian spiders are not deadly. However, they are probably snakes and crocodiles that people tread to encounter while travelling in Australia. Learn how to recognise them and what to do in case you get bitten by one.
The Sydney Funnel Web Spider and the Red Back Spider
Only one spider is considered fatal, the Sydney Funnel Web Spider, a sizeable black web spider found in Syndey within a 150 km radius of the city. However, since an antivenom was introduced in the early ’80, none has died of this spider bite. If you are bitten, you should go to the doctor, and if needed, you will be treated with this antivenom. Some people do not even get any severe symptoms at all. Another spider is the Red Back Spiders, found everywhere in the country, especially in warm urban regions. They look similar to the venomous Black Widow Spider, with a distinctive red stripe on the back.
Facts about the Australian Animals
Australia’s wildlife heritage represents one of Australia’s most fascinating attractions. Australian wildlife evolved over millions of years, and 80% of all Australian animals are unique to this country. From cuddly animals to the most dangerous ones, you find many marsupials in Australia, like the popular Kangaroos, Koalas and Wombats, which cannot be found anywhere else. Let’s look at five cute and unique Australian animals you will see and admire while travelling to Australia.
The Koala is probably the cutest among all Australian animals because of its look with furry “bear ears”. Koalas are, for this reason, often referred to as “Koala bear” Koalas are not related to the bear, though. Koalas are marsupials.Like Kangaroos, they carry their young in a pouch. Koala is an aboriginal word meaning “no water” In fact, Koalas rarely drink water because they get the fluid they need from the eucalypt leaves.
They climb up to the highest branches of eucalypt trees. They can eat up to 1 kg of eucalypt leaves every day, making them asleep most of the time. To mark the territory, the Koala rub its chest against eucalypt trees. It has a life span of 10-12 years. The primary threat for Koalas is represented by destroying their natural habitat and predators like dogs, foxes and dingos.
Australia’s most famous animal, Kangaroos or just “roos“, as the locals call them, represent Australia’s most recognized icon worldwide. According to an estimate, there are over 40millions of Kangaroos in Australia, thanks to their fast and efficient breeding way. The interesting fact is that the female kangaroo is permanently pregnant. A female kangaroo can have 3-4 youngs, a.k.a. one joey (the name for the young) inside the pouch, an older one outside the pocket but still drinking milk from one teat and 1-2 embryos awaiting birth.
Wombat is the one I like most among all the cuddly Australian animals. Wombats are also marsupials with a distinctive backwards pouch, so the dirt does not get into the pouch while burrowing. They are closely related to the Koala. They have heavy bodies and can reach 30-40kg, with short tails and legs. It has stiff, grey-brown fur.
Their habitat is eucalypt forests and woodland areas. Wombats are solitary and primarily nocturnal, and despite their sluggish look, they can run up to a speed of 40km/hour when alarmed. Yes, the biggest threat you have guessed is the humans: wombats are continuously trapped and shot by farmers who want to stop them from digging burrows into their cultivated fields.
A Wallaby looks like a kangaroo, but it is smaller. You will see many of them in Australia, and can be found nationwide. Adorable animals. Wallabies, like Kangaroos, belong to the large family of macropods (great-footed animals), including the wallaroo and other lesser-known species.
Quokkas are believed to be a kind of wallabies, but scientists discovered that they are instead a group of their own. They can be found only in South Western Australia and Perth, and you can spot plenty on Rottnest Island. This is where the name Rottnest Island comes from. This island was named by a Dutch explorer who thought that Quokkas were rats and named the island in 1658 “Rotte nest”, which in Dutch means “Rats nest”.
A Quokka has a cat’s size, has long coarse grey fur, weighs 4kg, and is 80cm long, with a short, stiff tail and short hind feet. Quokkas hop like wallabies and are nocturnal animals eating grass and tree leaves to get enough moisture, especially in summer when there is almost no water on Rottnest Island’s western part.
There are two species of crocodiles in Australia, Freshwater Crocodiles and Saltwater Crocodiles. Freshwater crocs are harmless and live in freshwater rivers. The Salties, as the Aussies call the saltwater crocodiles instead, are very aggressive and belong to the top 3 deadliest animals in the world. They are giant reptiles and can reach up to 7-meter length (23 feet), and their jaws can produce massive pressure. These animals are hazardous. Unfortunately, every year in Australia, a crocodile kills a few people.
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First published in 2012, last updated in Jan 2023
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