Our Australian wildlife bucket list!
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 quick rundown of our Australian wildlife bucket list and a guide on the best places to see Australian wildlife, so hopefully you can see some of them for yourself too. Our Australian wildlife checklist features animals you can only see in Australia, 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!!
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.
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. Our favourite encounter was at Trial Bay Gaol, where they’re roaming around the abandoned jail cells!
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 wanted to see them in the wild. Yes, I’m probably crazy but let’s blame Sir David ok?… We were lucky enough to get to see them in the wild (without paying for a tour) in Far North Queensland.
Once you head into Far North Queensland and the Northern Territory, it’s safe to assume that every. single. waterway has crocs in. Our absolute favourite place to see them is the Eubenangee Swamp, just north of Innisfail. Here you can stand on top of a hill and look out over a swamp that is teaming with croc life.
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.
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!
Image from The Australian Wildlife Conservation website.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Update: We managed to find them at Etty Bay in lower Far North Queensland (just past Innisfail) after locals told us they like to hang out on the beaches there. Numbers are increasing along what it known as ‘the cassowary coast’ so anywhere from Tully right up to the Daintree you’re likely to see them!!
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.
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
- King Parrots
And sooooo many more!!
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! We’ve been lucky enough to see them a lot while travelling the East Coast. Fraser Island is another favourite whale spotting location of ours
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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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