As Bill Bryson states in his fantastic book Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country, ‘80% of all that lives in Australia, plant and animal, exists nowhere else.’
80% is a fairly staggering percentage of uniqueness by anyone’s standards, so perhaps it goes some way to explaining why so many of us, myself included, are so intent on spotting (and photographing) as much of this uniqueness as we can.
Yes, seeing some of Australia’s native wildlife comes pretty near the top on many Down Under traveller lists.
From crazy cassowaries to dangerous dingoes and cute koalas, most of us certainly want to go home saying we’ve seen a few of them – albeit from a safe distance!
Sure we can hop along to one of the country’s many zoos and quickly tick a ton off our list, but where’s the fun in that. Spotting Australian animals in the wild is what it’s really all about.
This can be easier said than done however, because being wild, these Australian animals aren’t always at our beck and call!
It’s taken me a while to cross most of them off my bucket list, but after 2 years I’m delighted to say I’m finally getting there.
If you want to speed the process up a bit, then heading straight to a creature’s prime territory really is the key.
Designed to help you do just that, my list of the 9 awesome places to spot Australian animals in the wild, will have you ticking them off your bucket list in no time.
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#1 Kangaroos at Cape Hillsborough, QLD
There’s plenty of places you can see the odd roo hopping around in Australia, but few can beat the setting of Cape Hillsborough.
The fabulous park just north of Mackay in Queensland is set on the coast and every morning at dawn sees grey kangaroos and wallabies come to feed on the mangrove pods washed up by the tide.
As far as I’m aware this is one of the only places you can spot kangaroos on the beach – far more often they are seen munching in grassy bushland.
Getting a shot of these gorgeous Australian animals against a backdrop of the sun rising over the ocean means it really is venturing here.
#2 Koalas on the Great Ocean Road, VIC
My tip if you want to see some of these grey, eucalyptus-munching, slow marsupials is to head towards the Cape Otway Lighthouse in the middle of this famous drive.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to pay the $25 AUD to go into the lighthouse! Just drive down there and you’ll more than likely see a good few koalas in the trees.
I probably saw over 25 when I visited, easily detectable due to the number of parked cars at the side of the road in that spot!
Keep your eyes peeled and you’re bound to tick these classic Australian animals off your list too!
#3 Cassowaries in the Daintree, NT
One of the largest birds in the world, cassowaries look similar to giant turkeys and are also flightless.
They are however, definitely more scary than turkeys, being rated the most dangerous bird in the world!
This is due to their powerful kick and prehistoric claw, which can have one of these bad boys doing you some serious damage very quickly!
Seeing cassowaries in Mission Beach, in Far North Queensland, is possible, but they are far more common slightly further north in the Daintree area as they enjoy the thick vegetation of the rainforest here.
Many people see them whilst driving north, but you have to be quick, these Australian animals can run at 50km p/hr!
5 ESSENTIAL PACKING ITEMS FOR AUSTRALIA
#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop in Australia and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous country justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!
#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Australia – from cities to national parks! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for stylish strolling, I love mine.
#3 Good Guidebook – I’m still a massive fan of the Lonely Planet Guidebooks and do think their Australia edition is well put together.
#4 Good Water Bottle – Travelling in hot old Australia can be thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because tap water is drinkable… and free!
#5 Good Sun Hat – And there’s no denying you’ll need a good sun hat for protection in Australia too. In my opinion you can’t go past this Hello Sunshine one, which is both gorgeous and ideal for keeping the rays off your face.
#4 Wombats in Kangaroo Valley, NSW
Weirdly, given the name, Kangaroo Valley in New South Wales, is actually one of the best places to spot a wombat. The Bendeela Campground is a favourite haunt of theirs!
These massive mole-like creatures dig complex burrows underground and are generally nocturnal, meaning you’re more likely to see them emerging at dusk.
Hard to miss when they do, these sturdy fellows are the bulldozers of the Australian animals, weighing up to 36kg.
Despite their rather hefty appearance, they are cute however and seeing one is a real treat.
More prolific in the south of the country, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania also have healthy populations.
#5 Dingoes on Fraser Island, QLD
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and an esteemed National Park, Fraser Island, which sits off the coast of Southern Queensland is the most famous for being the world’s largest sandbar.
Probably it’s second-biggest claim to fame however, is the fact that it’s one of the best places to see wild dingoes during your time Down Under.
Essentially wild dogs, dingoes look very beautiful, but they can certainly be vicious and should never be approached.
Viewing them along 75 Mile Beach on Fraser Island, from the safety of a vehicle therefore, is the best way to spot this iconic Australian animal, whilst still allowing you some great photos.
#6 Quokkas on Rottnest Island, WA
Endemic to a small island off the coast of Perth in Western Australia, quokkas are perhaps one of the rarest Australian animals, as they only live on this small patch of land.
A relative of the wallaby, but arguably cuter (for those who don’t agree they look like giant rats), the quokkas are one of the main tourist drawcards for Rottnest.
As such, quokkas have become pretty friendly fellas, keen to get a feed out of you if they can and hardly difficult to spot once you get here.
Many people visit Rottnest as part of day trip from Perth and it’s a great one for the kids.
Learn more in my post about the island here.
#7 Crocodiles in Kakadu, NT
Kakadu National Park is the largest in Australia and, situated in the Northern Territory, is teeming with crocs.
If you want to avoid unbearable humidity and heat, then visiting Kakadu during the dry, winter season between May and September really is advised.
At these times the wetlands are less flooded and boat tours will take you out on many of the creeks, rivers and estuaries with croc-spotting being the aim of the game.
The Yellow Water Cruises are particularly famous and when I went, there were crocs all over the place – on the banks and in the water – eek!
#8 Platypus in Eungella, QLD
Located just outside the seaside city of Mackay in tropical north Queensland, Eungella National Park sits high above the ocean in the midst of some dense cloud forest.
Brave the steep windy road up there however and you’ll be rewarded with the best chance of seeing a wild platypus in the whole of the country.
These Australian animals are notoriously shy, so you do have to be exceedingly quiet when looking for them.
Dawn and dusk are the best times to spot these rare creatures and there is a great walk, with clearly marked observatory points, within the Broken River section of Eungella National Park to help you do just that.
#9 Echidnas at Cradle Mountain, TAS
The hedgehog of the land Down Under, the spiky echidna seems to pop up in the least unexpected places.
I’ve seen one snuffling along in Noosa National Park and another rustling the edge of my tent on Magnetic Island, but neither of these are advertised as well-known places for spotting them.
The place that is well-known and recommended is the fabulous Cradle Mountain National Park in Tasmania.
This destination should definitely be on your itinerary anyway, as it’s certainly one of most incredible places to visit in Tasmania.
Visible any time of the year, one of the best ways to spot an echidna is by hiking in this national park.
Then you can say you’ve seen only one of the 2 species of monotreme in the world and what a thrill that will be!
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So there you have it, my top 9 recommendations for the most awesome places to spot some classic Australian animals in the wild … binoculars at the ready!