Australian wildlife and where to find it!

I’ve always been obsessed with wildlife, you won’t be surprised to hear that David Attenborough is a huge inspiration to me and part of the reason why I love to travel so much; I mean, have you seen some of the places he’s been to?? Over the last year, travelling Australia has given us the opportunity to see some pretty amazing animals up close and while my goal would be to see every.single.animal in the wild, I thought I’d put together a guide on the best places to see Australian wildlife to help you cross some of these furries off your animal bucket list. Our Australian wildlife checklist features animals you can only see here, animals we’ve already seen and so many more. We’ll also include animal guides to help you track them down in the wild too!!

Kangaroo

When you come to Australia you are pretty much guaranteed to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. They’re an Australian icon and very widespread. What surprised me the most is just how big they are! They’re not scared either. If you ever find yourself driving in Australia, avoid dusk and dawn as that’s when they’re most active and they’re not afraid of jumping out in front of you!

We were lucky enough to have this mob grazing on our garden whilst we were living on the farm, there was about 15 of them in total, including baby Joey’s sticking out of their mum’s pouch!! They were so relaxed I’m convinced I could have gone and sat amongst them.

Excuse the low quality. My trusty phone didn’t do so well under pressure haha

Want to see Kangaroos in the wild for yourself? You won’t have to drive far, once you get out of any city limit you’ll soon spot them in the fields. Jervis Bay is a great spot to see them up close in the wild and of course, Kangaroo Island too, or there are plenty of sanctuaries across the country that allow you to feed them; although that’s not quite the same as seeing them roaming free.

Platypus

Not one we’ve seen yet but We finally managed to spot some in Queensland! (Post coming soon) In the meantime, we used this Platypus spotting guide to help us in our mission! I didn’t realise they can be found all over Australia so whether you’re staying in the south, or road tripping like us, there’s sure to be a spot nearby where you can see Platypus in the wild.

According to the guide that inspired us to add Platypus to our road trip itinerary, Bombala Platypus reserve, just across the Victoria border, in NSW, is ideal for spotting these unique mythical looking mammals. Or you can or you can try your look in the Blue Mountains, NSW or even at the Otways on the Great Ocean Road, VIC.

Wombat

Who’d have thought we’d be in Australia a whole year and not see a single wombat. We’re back to camping soon so hopefully, we’ll come across these elusive creatures then.

UPDATE: We DID see a wombat while we were camping and it was A.MAZING. I could have sat and watched the little fella all day!! Photo coming soon

They’re mainly found in the South East and although we didn’t see any on our day trip, Wilsons Promontory is a really good spot for finding wild Wombats! Let us know if you find any!!

Koala

Another Aussie icon but one that isn’t as common as you’d expect. Although in some areas you can still be lucky enough to see them often, their numbers are falling fast and you have to be looking for them in order to see them. We expected to see them in every tree while driving the rural roads but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

We did see plenty of Koala whilst driving The Great Ocean Road though. Victoria is the only state in Australia who’s Koala population isn’t affected by the Chlamydia disease, which means their numbers are fairly steady (although still not as high as they used to be, due to deforestation) and the animals are able to grow much bigger. The best place for an almost guaranteed close up sighting is Kenneth River, try to get there early/late in the day to avoid any crowds. We also spotted them in the trees from a distance in The Grampians and by towards The Otways.

wildlife spotting in australia

Koala spotting top tip; Look in the big ‘V’s of the branches and watch out for poop around the tree base… all big giveaways that a Koala is nearby. They sleep often and move very little.

Again some sanctuaries and zoos will allow you to hold the Koala but I believe some states are starting to ban this as it’s too stressful for the animal. Do your research on the place first and decided whether they have the animals best interests in mind, or if they just want your dollar.

Great White Shark

These are in the news so often in Australia and I think they get more stick than they deserve.

However scary they are, we have to remember that they don’t seek us out to kill us. So if you want t get closer to these misunderstood ‘monsters’, head to South Australia where heaps of ethical cage diving tours operate. We didn’t realise while we were there that SA is the only place in Australia you could do this kind of experience, so don’t make the same mistake as us! We’re going to try and head back in the next year.

Emu

It wasn’t until I saw one in the wild, that I realised how cute they are! Whilst working on an almond farm I was lucky enough to be greeted by a family of Emu every morning as the sun came up. They’re very easily startled but watching them move amongst the trees was something else.

If you want to see wild Emu in Australia, head to rural Victoria. They’re abundant here, thriving off of the fruit farms and dry weather. Coorong National Park in SA is a great spot to see them too.

Whale Shark

Western Australia is famous for its ethical snorkelling experiences. When we look for tours like this it’s so important that the company do their best not to disrupt the natural way of life for the animals involved. This means; no touching, no luring and certainly no bating (using food to bring them closer).

We could have had this experience whilst in Indonesia for a lot cheaper but most of the tours we saw either fed the whales to keep them close to boats, or allowed tourists to touch them. We’d much rather wait, pay a little bit more and know that we’re not supporting an unethical company.

Hopefully, we’ll get over to WA within the next year and see Whale Sharks in the wild off the coast of Australia!

Wedge Tail Eagle

Until you’ve seen one swoop down in front of your van and try to (almost successfully) fly away with a dead kangaroo, you won’t comprehend how big they are. We saw 4 of these huge birds whilst in the Grampians so if you want to indulge in a bit of camping and big bird watching, we highly suggest heading here. The Wedge Tail Eagle is the largest bird of prey in Australia and with a wingspan that can reach 9ft they truly are incredible.

The Great Ocean Road

Crocodiles

Now, these really do scare me. They’ve been around for so long, practically unchanged and they can take down almost anything they wish. Yet, I still want to see them in the wild. Yes, I’m probably crazy but let’s blame Sir David ok?

Crocodiles can be found in Queensland, as well as Northern and Western Australia. Apparently, they’ve even been spotted much closer to Brisbane than they ever have in the past but the best place to see them in the wild is Mary River, WA.

Echidna

The illusive Echidna is one of Australia most abundant native species, yet it is very rarely spotted. They can be found all over the country and seem to have no preferred type of terrain, which is probably what makes them so hard to find.

Whilst we were in SA, cooped up in the van waiting for a storm to pass, we were lucky enough to see one of these secretive mammals scurry across the road right next to us. Then just recently we saw one whilst walking in the Sydney Royal National Park, he wasn’t bothered by us so I finally managed to snap a picture!

Eastern Brown Snake

I bet your skin shivers when you hear that name doesn’t it? Mine does! So you can imagine my reaction when Dec came home from work telling me he’d seen on the farm. As the weather warms up, these snakes become more common, especially in the Eastern and Central Australia. They’re often found on farmlands and on the outskirts of urban areas where they can feast on mice and other small mammals.

They are one of Australia’s most venomous snakes so it’s recommended you don’t actively seek these for yourself. If you do come across them though, leave them alone and they’ll soon be slithering on their way. They’re active throughout the day but when the sun is at it’s hottest they’ll seek shade to cool off.

Sugar gliders

I used to be fascinated by sugar gliders, and once I realised they had them here in Aus they were added straight to me ‘to see’ list. These furry little things hide high in the tree and are nocturnal. They can be found in Sydney’s Royal National Park apparently… so guess where I’m heading when we’re next there!

Australian monitor lizard / the Goanna

Have you seen the rescuers down under? If you have, you’ll recognise this sly lizard. Growing up to 2 meters, it isn’t a lizard other animals want to mess with. Their home is restricted to Australia’s east, being spotted near Melbourne and up to Cape York.

We spotted our first Australian monitor lizard as it scaled a eucalyptus tree, heading for a birds nest. It was put off by the parent’s dive bombing it, aiming for its eyes and unfortunately, I think they lost the battle. If you want to see one for yourself, keep your eyes in the trees as that’s where they usually hang out although they are keen burrowers too and can run fast.

Possum

Ok, so I still cringe when I think of this. Remember when I said I thought we’d see Koala all the time? Well, when we first saw a possum up in the tree… I actually thought it was a koala. When you look at the picture, I hope you can see where I was mistaken haha, I soon realised though and my excitement didn’t fade. As much as they’re a ‘nuisance’ to a lot of rural areas, I still think they’re super cute.

The best places to see Australian wildlife

You can find possums anywhere and everywhere, cities, towns, beaches.. anywhere. They’ll mostly be out at night but you’ll still be able to see them sleeping in the trees and bushes in the day time.

Cassowary

These Dino-birds can be found in northern Queensland and the Northern Territory in the tropical rainforests. They’re magnificent birds but very territorial so never approach them if you do come across them in the wild.

If you want to find Cassowary in their natural environment, the best places to find them are Daintree rainforest and Edmund Kennedy National Park, both in Queensland.

Cockatoo

You don’t have to go far to see these clever birds. We’ve seen them in Melbourne, on The Great Ocean Road, in Sydney and there are heaps in rural New South Wales. They might not be anything special for people in tropical climates but coming from England, seeing these parrots in the wild was a great experience for us.

A post shared by Jodi (@_jodileanne) on

Other types of unique bird you can find throughout Australia include:

  • The White Ibis (Aka, the bin chicken)
  • The Gala (The pretty pink parrot in my feature image)
  • Australian magpie
  • Kookaburra
  • King Parrots

And sooooo many more!!

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whales pass the Australian coast every year for their migration from the Antarctic. You can see them between June and November almost anywhere along the east coast as they make their way North. Sydney Royal National park offers a great lookout point to spot them for yourself!

Read about our day whale spotting in Sydney here!

Southern Right Whale

This was a completely unexpected encounter for us. Driving along the Great Ocean Road, we spotted signs for Logans Beach Whale Nursery in Warrnambool… this obviously sparked our interest. 5 Minutes later we were stood on a beach, looking at 3 adult Whales with 2 calves… It was a moment I will never forget.

Logans Beach gets its name from the migration path of the Southern Right Whales. Every year between June and September, these Whales come to the beach cove to nurse their calves. Therefore, these whale sightings are complete, 100% wild but also fairly unpredictable. This facebook page will keep you up to date on all whale sightings along the Great Ocean Road if you want to try and predict where they’ll be.

Read more about our wildlife adventures along the Great Ocean Road here.

Dingo

Ahh, Australia’s wild dogs. The reasons for the world’s longest fence, and one you definitely wouldn’t want to fuss. Dingoes can be found all across Australia away from cities and busy urban areas. They’re also not always orange! All black or all white Dingoes can be found in the forest and rainforest areas of the country. The most famous place to spot them is Fraser Island, just off the coast of Queensland. However, they can also be seen in the red centre; Uluru and Alice Springs.

Grey-headed flying fox

If you’re heading for the east coast, be prepared for the skies to fill with huge singing bats once the sun starts to set. At dusk, you’ll be able to see these beautiful (and loud!) bats heading out for their evening adventures. Our favourite place to watch them was Green Square Park in Sydney, as they hung out in the trees there in big groups, not disturbed by the people around them. They have been spotted all across the east coast though, from Melbourne right up to Bundaberg in Queensland and with a wingspan of up to 1m, they’re hard to miss!

Dolphin

Everyone loves dolphins and they can be seen all along the NSW coastlines along with an array of whales. However, if you want to see a truly unique pod of Bottlenose Dolphins, head to Port Adelaide and try and get a glimpse of the Port River Dolphin Pod. We were in Adelaide for a very short visit but I’m almost certain I managed to catch a fleeting glimpse of them one night. You can read more about the port river dolphins, and why they’re special here

Don’t have time to head to Adelaide? Sydney NSW, Hervey Bay QSL and Bruny Island TAS are just a few other spots that are often home to these beautiful water babies.

Tree Kangaroo

This Kangaroo is like something out of a mythical story, looking like a small Kangaroo crossed with maybe a Cat, I didn’t believe it was real when I first read about it. So now I’m on a mission to find one for myself. Located in the Daintree Rainforest the tropics of Queensland, as far down as the Atherton Tablelands, they’re believed to be incredibly hard to see but I’m willing to try my luck!

Pelican

These are another birth whose size I underestimated. They’re so big, yet they fly so gracefully. If you’re looking to see Pelican in the wild, you won’t have to look far in South Australia. Adelaide’s waterways are home to many, none of which are shy.

This big guy was stood on somebody’s water porch (if that’s even what they’re called??? haha) watching a nearby fisherman, no doubt planning a raid on his catch basket.

South Australia

Seeing Pelicans in the wild here in Australia won’t be hard. Whilst they don’t tend to stick to busy waters, you’ll certainly find them on calm floodways and lakes; or at harbours where there are plenty of fishermen/fish!

Blue tongue skink

If you’re creeped out by scaly things, you won’t be too fond of the Bluetongue skink. I, however, fell in love with them when I first saw them on a farm in Victoria. They’re great for farmers as they eat the insects the would usually destroy the crops so it’s apparently good luck to see them around. They’re widespread across the south-east of Australia in more rural areas, so you’re more likely to see them while camping or hiking than you are in your back garden. They’re not shy and will sit quietly watching you, while you watch it.

Huntsman Spider

I had to include this giant, so I apologise if you have a phobia, I won’t include a photo, don’t worry.

Like many, I had heard many horror stories about these 8 legged giants and expected to have one in our room within the first week. I was constantly keeping a lookout and checking the corners of rooms. It was actually 4 months before I saw my first one, even then it was only tiny; no bigger than your average house spider in England. That’s not to say that was the only one we’ve seen though, as our last encounter still gives me the chills; we had one JUMP onto our car, presumably from a tree, and climb in through the window while we were driving. Which is fine, what wasn’t was how big it was!! This beast was the size of Dec’s hand! We soon had him evicted but it definitely made it hard to sleep in the van for a few nights afterwards!

If you are scared of spiders and are worried about coming to Australia because of them, don’t be. We’ve been here a whole year now and have only seen a few Huntsman and even less red backs; especially in the cities. They apparently get a lot more common in more tropical weather, so we’ll soon find out I guess once we hit Queensland.

I had to stop there, or this list of Australian wildlife would go on forever. These are some of my favourites, for all kinds of reasons. I might add to it, if I come across anything particularly unusual as Australia has so many more animals than what’s listed here. I hope you found this guide on where to find Australia’s wildlife useful, or at least interesting!

Have you seen any of these in the wild? Which would you really like to see? We’d love to hear from you!!

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2018-11-02T23:22:50+00:00

28 Comments

  1. Sveva 30/07/2018 at 5:19 am - Reply

    Lol, wonderful guide! You forgot to mention Penguins! When I was in Australia we went to a beach and watched them come out of the water during sunset, it was quite a beautiful phenomenon!

    • Leah 30/07/2018 at 5:48 am - Reply

      I did!! We’ve seen them twice here too! Can’t believe I forgot haha thanks for the reminder!!

  2. Lara Dunning 27/07/2018 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    There are so many animals in Austrailia that I’d love to see and this list has all of them, plus some I didn’t even know about, like a tree kangaroo! How cool is that! High on my list is the echidna. That is so cool you got to see two!

  3. Food and Footprints 26/07/2018 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    Enjoyed this round up of the many different animals in Australia! Koalas have quite the life – sleep and not move much all day!

  4. Meygan 26/07/2018 at 6:02 am - Reply

    Love the fauna in Australia! Some of the critters are so darn cute. Although, I am not very keen on the reptiles – mainly snakes! Eeeeek.

  5. Heather 24/07/2018 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed this article! We had a pair of sugar gliders for 6 and 7 years before they passed at those respective ages. I’m so sad and I miss them…they were so much fun!!

  6. Tara 24/07/2018 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    The first thing I do when visiting a new place is research the animals I may spot, and I think it’s so awesome that you’ve created this great resource. I live in the US and have never been to Australia, and for me it would be like visiting another planet. Of the animals mentioned on your list, I’d be excited to see any one of them, but if I had to go looking, I’d seek out the koala, some of the colorful birds, and the whale shark. Oh, and maybe the platypus and the emu.

  7. Lisa 23/07/2018 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    I watch a lot of Attenborough and only have seen these animals in his programmes! Would love to see the kangas and koalas, and I appreciate the tips you give to try and spot them. There are some on the list I’ve never heard of, and now will have to look them up!

  8. Neha 23/07/2018 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    Wow, didn’t realise just how many kinds of exotic wildlife Australia has! I’d love to be able to see koalas and kangaroos someday, and maybe a platypus and emu, but i’m not so sure about sharks, spiders and crocodiles 🙂
    That said, it’s impressive how diverse the wildlife in Australia is!

  9. Christina 23/07/2018 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    It would be amazing to see a Koala when we go to Australia. They are so cute. I have heard the Kangaroo can be aggressive. Is that true? I think we will skip the sharks, snakes and crocodiles haha not for us. We would definitely want to see a Cockatoo though.

    • Leah 23/07/2018 at 4:32 pm - Reply

      They can be protective and territorial, yes. The only place I’d suggest trying to get close to them is at the sanctuaries where they are used to people. However, the mob we saw from our porch were more than happy to relax just a couple of feet from us; on their terms.

  10. Mohana and Aninda 23/07/2018 at 8:24 am - Reply

    I love this post! Australia is home to so many species that aren’t found elsewhere. Koalas are one of my favourite animals! Aren’t they cute? I had never heard of an echidna until now. I’d love to see one. Hope you see all the others on your road trip!

  11. Jithin 22/07/2018 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    Australia has an unique wildlife that we cannot see anywhere in the world like Kangaroos and Koala. This was an interesting and informative post about the wildlife of Australia. I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Leah 23/07/2018 at 3:50 am - Reply

      Thank you Jithin! I’m glad you enjoyed it

  12. Kellee @ LifeAdventurers 22/07/2018 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    That’s the only thing stopping me heading to Australia, dangerous spiders! Although, to hear to took you 4 months to spot your first one puts me a little at ease. I’m no way afraid of spiders, I like them a lot in fact. Just don’t want to be killed by one! I would love to go our looking for Echidna and Sugar Gliders though.

    • Leah 23/07/2018 at 3:51 am - Reply

      We’ve seen a fair few redbacks but again, not in the cities. Only while we’ve been on the farms. You’ll be fine!!

  13. Tony 22/07/2018 at 10:54 am - Reply

    Oh my gosh. This is such a great post! I am an animal-man, so all of this is really interesting to me. In fact, cage diving with great white’s is one of my two life goals (Well, actually I want to free swim with one…. but I think that’s unlikely to happen).

    On a cuter note, my girlfriend is infatuated with koalas, so I should take her out there to see some!

    • Leah 23/07/2018 at 3:52 am - Reply

      You really should! She’d love it. Honestly, the cage diving in Adelaide looks amazing, you could tick it off your list and introduce your girlfriend to Koalas all on the same trip!

  14. Bob Bales 22/07/2018 at 4:34 am - Reply

    Okay, giant spiders, tree kangaroos and huge eagles that can carry off kangaroos. Dang I had no idea. I also never knew that chlamydia was such an epidemic with koalas. Quite a diverse animal population for sure.

    • Leah 23/07/2018 at 3:53 am - Reply

      Haha it’s definitely got some amazing wildlife! Yea but it isn’t the same strain as the one humans can carry, thankfully!

  15. Jenn and Ed Coleman 22/07/2018 at 3:21 am - Reply

    I have to say, sugar gliders are the cutest thing ever. When I visited Austraila, my must-see animal was the flying fox. I distinctly remember going to the Sydney Zoo and seeing them in person for the first time. In Cairns, we went to a nocturnal animal center and realized how many of these animals only come out at night.

    • Leah 23/07/2018 at 3:53 am - Reply

      They’re amazing, aren’t they! I couldn’t believe how big they are!

  16. Yukti 22/07/2018 at 2:44 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing perfect Guide to spot Australian Wildlife. I love exotic animals from Australia as they are rarely seen anywhere else. I have seen Koalas and Kangaroos when I was living in Australia and they were really super cute.

    • Leah 23/07/2018 at 3:54 am - Reply

      Thanks Yuki! I think the wildlife is one of the things that makes Australia so special! Glad you liked it.

  17. Retha 22/07/2018 at 2:26 am - Reply

    It is a dream of mine to see a koala 🐨 and a platypus in the wild. Someday that dream will be a reality!

    • Leah 23/07/2018 at 3:55 am - Reply

      I hope so too Retha!

  18. Anthony 21/07/2018 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    With two of the Four Friends living in Australia and two living in Canada, you have made the Canadian’s home sick with this post. We love Aussie wildlife so much and the bush landscape and beaches are like nowhere else in the world. The Canadians look forward to our trip downunder in late 2018

  19. Sage 21/07/2018 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    Australia has some of the most amazing and unique animals in the world. I would be thrilled to see everyone of these beautiful creatures in the wild! Okay, maybe not any of the sharks…

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