Australian wildlife to experience
Australia has been blessed with some of the most incredible wildlife in the world, both on land and in the sea. From koalas, dolphins and penguins, to great white sharks, crocodiles and dingoes, the most amazing encounters can be had with Australian wildlife. So where are the best places to see wildlife in Australia?
Take a look at our top Australian wildlife experiences, put together with the help of some great travel writers .
Table of Contents
Cute Australian Animals
Where to See Koalas Great Ocean Road
Australian wildlife was one of the main reasons why we decided to make a trip to the other side of the world with kids. And it didn’t disappoint! We saw wild wallabies, seals, wombats, pelicans and many other birds, and of course many wild kangaroos and koalas. But one of the most memorable wildlife encounters was feeding wild parrots and spotting koalas along the Great Ocean Road at Kennett River.
The moment we stepped out of the car we saw a koala sleeping high in the tree and lots of colourful parrots. We bought some seed at the nearby store and before we knew it we were surrounded by birds. The kids loved feeding them! We then walked further and spotted over 20 koalas along the road. Kennett River has a big wild koala population making it one of the best places to see koalas in Australia in the wild. Don’t miss it if you are travelling along the Great Ocean Road.
Jurga from Full Suitcase – Kennett River Koala Walk
Where to see Penguins in Australia – Phillip Island, Victoria
There are plenty of cute Australian animals to see, and the Phillip Island Penguins are top of my list. As the sun sets every night, hundreds of little penguins emerge from the sea and waddle their way up the beach on Phillip Island, returning home to the safety of their burrows for the night.
Seeing one of the largest penguin colonies in Australia in the wild is a magical experience and one that can’t be beaten.
This world-famous Penguin Parade is viewed from a purpose built boardwalk to ensure no one interferes with the penguins in their nightly walk. You can’t take photos (your flash will scare the penguins) but you can sit in awe and watch nature at it’s best with your kids.
Phillip Island is only 90 minutes from Melbourne. Penguin parade bookings are essential during school holidays and recommended at all other times.
Nicci from Trip Chiefs – Join our FREE Mini-course – 4 Steps to Achieve Your Travel Goals
Where to see Quokkas – Rottnest Island
One of the cutest Australian wildlife is the Quokka, which is native to Western Australia. The best place to see them is the beautiful Rottnest Island where you can get up close to the sweet marsupials.
Take your own photos of these not so camera shy furry creatures who even seem to smile in photos! Rottnest Island is off the coast of Perth and well worth discovering over a couple of days.
Nicci from Trip Chiefs – 37 Must See Australia Bucket List Destinations
Where to see Kangaroos in Australia
If you’re travelling outside of the big cities and especially if you head out into the Australian bush, then chances are pretty good you’ll see a kangaroo.
Kangaroos are most active at dawn and at dusk, and tend to rest in the shade during the heat of the day, so keep that in mind when you’re looking (and driving). The last thing you want is one jumping in front of your car.
So where to see kangaroos in Australia? Here are some of the best places:
- Kangaroo Island, South Australia is aptly named with some amazing opportunities to spot kangaroo. You’ll likely see them along the roadsides and nearby fields and paddocks but other great places to spot kangaroos are Flinders Chase National Park, Lathami Conservation Park and Kelly Hill Conservation Park.
- South Australia’s Flinders Ranges are home to the red kangaroo, western grey kangaroo and euro, plus the endangered rock wallaby. If you miss out on seeing them in bushland, then try the campgrounds, which they love.
- Pebbly Beach in Murramarang National Park (near Jervis Bay) on the New South Wales South Coast, is a favourite for spotting kangaroos. They’re everywhere!
- On the beach at Lucky Bay, Western Australia the kangaroos love having a rest, which means some great photo opportunities for you. Lucky Bay is about 40 minutes drive east of Esperance. The best time to see them is early or late in the day.
- Yanchep National Park in Western Australia (45 minutes north of Perth) is a fantastic spot to see kangaroos as they eat and doze in the open grassy fields, or have a get together near the Yanchep Inn. Keep an eye out for koalas while you’re there.
- There are kangaroos all over Hamilton Island in Queensland. Try to stay quiet when you spot one, so as not to scare them off.
- If you want to stay on the mainland, you need to take a wander along the beach at Cape Hillsborough, north of Mackay, Queensland, early in the morning. These roos don’t seem to be too worried about sharing the beach with a few tourists with their cameras but just remember, they may seem nice but they are still wild and unpredictable.
- Bells Beach on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria is a great place to see kangaroos especially at dusk and dawn. Popular spots are Bones Road and Angelsea Golf Club.
Where to see Kangaroos in Sydney
One question that so often gets asked is where to see kangaroos in Sydney? Contrary to popular belief, you won’t find any kangaroos hoping through the streets of Sydney. There are too many cars and people and not enough grass for them. So to see kangaroos in Sydney you’re either going to have to visit Taronga Zoo, or if you want to see them in the wild (which is a thousand times better), then you’ll need to take a day trip out of Sydney to places like the Blue Mountains (you should go there anyway), the Australian Botanic Gardens in Camden (not in the city centre),
Nicci from Trip Chiefs – Road Trip with Kids Essential Guide
Animals to See in Australia
See Dingo on Fraser Island, Queensland
No trip to Fraser Island is complete without sighting a dingo. The best place to spot dingoes on Fraser Island is the beach during early morning and late afternoon when they are most active looking for food.
During our one-week visit to Fraser Island we spotted over ten dingoes, all on the beach. They are extremely inquisitive and as long as you stick to the rules by not feeding them, not approaching or touching them, not taking food onto the beach or lakes, or other stupid behaviour, you’ll have an amazing encounter. But you’ve got to remember they’re wild animals, and definietly don’t behave the same was as pets. You have to keep your kids at arms length.
We had one circle us at very close range (less than a metre away), while the boys were building sandcastles, but we all stood tall together, with the kids in between us, and it never threatened us. It just wanted to see what we were doing and if there was any food. The boys certainly had a story to tell when they went back to school!
Nicci from Trip Chiefs – check out our guide to Rainbow Beach – the entry way to Fraser Island
Where to see Platypus – Nymboida River, New South Wales
The beautiful Nymboida River is home to one of the largest platypus communities in New South Wales. Platypus are timid creatures so you’re not likely to find them in places where there are a lot of people hanging around. For the best chance of spotting platypus in the wild, hire a kayak or canoe and tell the boys to keep the noise down.
Aim to be in the river between Pollacks Bridge and the Nymboida Coaching Station either early in the morning or at dusk to improve your chances of seeing the elusive platypus.
Nicci from Trip Chiefs – Family Travel Toolkit
Dangeous wildlife in Australia
Crocodiles in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
There are over 100,000 wild crocodiles in Australia’s Northern Territory and around 10,000 of them live in Kakadu National Park.
One of the best places to see crocodiles is from the two-hour Yellow Water River cruise along the Yellow Water Billabong. During our cruise, we saw 17 crocodiles! From one-metre female crocodiles, to giant monsters at over five-metres. During the cruise, the experienced guides educated the passengers about crocodile safety in Kakadu, as well as told us stories of crocodile behaviour.
The most impressive crocodile we saw was well over five metres and was slowing zigzagging up the billabong alongside the boat. In his mouth, he had something large, submerged under the water, which appeared to be a log. Our guide was quite intrigued as crocodiles don’t usually carry logs. Weren’t we all completely shocked when the crocodile brought his prized possession slightly above the water’s surface to reveal he was carrying a feral pig in his mouth!
During our cruise, we also saw wild brumbies, ducks, various bird species and snakes. The Yellow Water River Cruise was one of the highlights of my family’s entire trip in the Northern Territory.
Melissa from Thrifty Family Travels – Things to do in Darwin
Australian Sea Animals
Marine life on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef is the ultimate Australian wildlife encounter. You swim so close to coral reefs you can almost touch them, be amazed by the sight of hundreds of different colours and species of fish, and wowed by sea cucumbers, giant clams and sea turtles in their natural habitat.
This is no ordinary place to explore. As the world’s largest coral reef, it needs to be seen in person, to be believed. We spend so much time looking at places like the Great Barrier Reef on television, that many people wonder whether it’s worth exploring it for real. Well in our opinion, it is absolutely worth seeing, exploring and learning about this incredible piece of nature face-to-face.
Nicci from Trip Chiefs – check out my bucket list of must-do experiences in Australia
Whales at Hervey Bay, Queensland
Hervey Bay is the whale watching capital of Australia, with plenty of tour companies offering cruises to see humpback whales. If whale watching is on your Australia bucket list, I recommend you do it here. Why? Because humpback whales spend a lot of time in these waters during their annual migration and chances of spotting them are high.
Of course, you want to see the whales from as close as possible. There’s nothing like watching a majestic humpback dive right underneath your feet! However, safety regulations make this a bit tricky. Boats are not allowed to approach the animals too closely, for risk of hurting them. At a certain distance, the engines need to be turned off. Now, it’s up to the whales!
Visitors are encouraged to make as much noise as they can because it often attracts the naturally curious animals. They want to find out what all those humans are getting so excited about and end up circling the boat in the process. So hop around clapping and shouting, to be rewarded with one of the most amazing wildlife experiences ever!
Nele from Global Introvert
Whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef
Swimming alongside majestic whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef is the making of unforgettable memories and big stories to tell all your friends and family. No we’re not crazy recommending you take your kids swimming with whale sharks. They aren’t going to eat you! They are filter feeding fish, not people feeding ones.
To see these incredible gentle giants, head to Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth between mid-March and mid-September and book a tour. Preferably a tour with a spotter plane to increase your chances of seeing a whale shark.
Depending on when you go, you may ever see humpback whales, dugongs and manta rays.
It is recommended children under four stay on dry land but for the older kids, you will need to decide whether your child is up to snorkelling in the ocean near a whale shark that could be up to 12 metres long! Children can come on board as observers and stay on the boat but anyone 12 and under has to have a parent or guardian with them at all times.
Nicci from Trip Chiefs
Stingrays in Hamelin Bay, Western Australia
South of Margaret River wine region in Western Australia, almost at Augusta, is a very special beach: Hamelin Bay. Not only is Hamelin Bay a stunningly beautiful beach with soft white sand and crystal clear water, it also offers something very special that you will rarely find at any other beach in the world – stingrays! Big, beautiful stingrays that come right into the beach and swim around your feet.
When you arrive at Hamelin Bay, make your way to the boat ramp where the fishing boats come in, and you will see several stingrays and eaglerays, all hoping to score some fish scraps off the fishing boats. Stand in ankle deep water and get the kids to shake their fingers on the surface of the water and the rays will swim right up to them in search of food and tickle their feet! An amazing experience.
Marianne from Mum on the Move – Visiting Margaret River with kids
Sea Lions on Kangaroo Island, South Australia
There is only place in the world where you can enter a wild colony of sea lions and that is on Kangaroo Island. Seal Bay Conservation Park protects this colony of around 1000 Australian sea lions, which are amongst the rarest of their species.
Ever since European settlers came to Australia, sea lions had been hunted for food, skin and bait. Some species were hunted close to extinction, so in 1954 Seal Bay was declared a habitat protected zone. Today the park supports a large colony of Australian sea lions and welcomes over 100,000 visitors a year.
To see the sea lions on the beach in their natural habitat without disturbing them, you must go on a guided tour. Getting close enough to a massive bull seal that you can look into his eyes is truly an amazing experience.
Self-guided tours along the boardwalk are also available but you are not allowed down onto the beach.
Talek from Travels with Talek
Dolphins at Tin Can Bay, Queensland
One of the best wildlife experiences I had whilst living in Australia (and there were many), was feeding wild dolphins at Tin Can Bay on the Sunshine Coast. These dolphins are meeting you out of choice, which is one of the nicest things about the whole experience. It’s such a privilege.
The story goes that back in the 1950’s an injured dolphin named ‘Old Scary’ was rescued by locals and fed fish every day until he was strong enough to hunt for himself. From that day on, he continued to visit, bringing his family with him. Now the 4th generation of his family are still visiting and you can have the privilege of meeting and feeding them too!
Turn up early – they recommend from 7.00am. The dolphins usually make an appearance around 8.00am but because they are wild, there are no guarantees. The dolphins were much later than usual when we were there, and we almost missed a flight hanging on to see if they’d visit. Fortunately they did and because most people had got fed up waiting, we were rewarded with a really personal one-on-one experience with them!
Before you visit, you may like to read my guide to taking awesome wildlife photos.
Leanne from Globetrotter GP
The cost to feed the dolphins is $5 entry fee per person plus another $5 for each fish. Buy tickets on arrival from the volunteers at Barnacles. Please note you cannot touch the dolphins.
Dolphins at Bunbury, Western Australia
Family fun and learning is assured at the Dolphin Discovery Centre in Bunbury, Western Australia.
Start out by learning about the local Bottlenose Dolphins that live in Koombana Bay, followed by a visit to the discovery pool where you learn about various sea creatures, from a sea star to an octopus, by touching and seeing them up-close during a brief tour by the knowledgeable volunteer staff.
It’s the dolphins we all come to see, and if they are not popping up in the interaction zone at the centre, you can take a boat cruise (at a cost) into the bay to watch the dolphins at their very best and even have the option of swimming with everyone’s favourite friend of the sea.
Once you are finished with the dolphins, there is fun to be had for the kids in the outdoor playground area, while the parents enjoy a coffee or bite to eat at the centre’s café. Bring your swimwear and go to the beach area for a swim in the calm waters of Koombana Bay, with a lifesaver always on watch.
It’s fun, it’s educational and affordable at the same time, what more could a family ask for in a great day out in Western Australia.
Anthony from Fair Dinkum Traveller
Great White Sharks in Port Lincoln, South Australia
Being able to get up close to Great White Sharks is an experience you’ll never forget. These amazing, powerful creatures get a lot of bad press, but jumping on a cage dive trip is a great way to educate all members of the family. You learn about their habits, how their bodies work and why they are sometimes spotted a little too close to the shore for comfort.
A cage dive is a unique opportunity offered in Port Lincoln, South Australia to share the ocean and watch the sharks in their natural habitat, knowing that you are safe. And for those that don’t want to physically get in the water with them, there are a few boats on the water that have an underwater viewing platform – which gives you a great alternative to getting wet!
Vicki from Make Time to See the World – Australian bucket list ideas
Wildlife Reserves Australia
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Canberra
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is located in the Australian Capital Territory and it sits on the edge of the Namadgi National Park. If you want to experience native Aussie animals in their natural habitat, then this is the place for you.
There are bushwalks galore, ranging from beginners (this includes kids), right up to difficult hikes that take a number of hours. As you hike along these trails you can spot some of Australia’s most elusive animals. Just so you know, kangaroos and emus are everywhere. But if you want a real trip you will sign up to go on a tour with the rangers to see wallabies, koalas and the secretive platypus.
When you sign up with the rangers, not only will they show you the animals but it is also about the education of these unique creatures. This includes the conservation efforts being made, the habits and eating habits and the distinctive features of the animal.
Tidbinbilla is one of my favourite nature reserves Australia has to offer with its unique Aussie animals.
Helena from Through an Aussies Eyes
Visit Serendip Sanctuary, Geelong
Not far from Geelong in Victoria is a small wildlife oasis called Serendip Sanctuary. Parks Victoria runs this free, family-friendly wildlife sanctuary in Lara where kids can get up close with native Australian animals and see thousands of migratory birds in the wetlands.
Walk through the different enclosures and enjoy some of the interactive exhibitions. Kids can test their jumping prowess against a kangaroo. There are all kinds of native animals, from emus and kangaroos to wallabies and bandicoots. Walk through the aviary and see beautiful owls up close. Plus there are about 150 other species of birds to try and spot. There are bird hides where you can watch the bird life and listen to their noisy chatter.
Serendip Sanctuary offers all the basic facilities you need for a family picnic. There are toilets close to the car park, electric undercover BBQs and picnic tables galore.
The enclosures make it feel less like a zoo and more like an animal-filled adventure. And it’s 100% free, though you can make a small donation to help with the upkeep of the sanctuary.
Sandra from Heading for the Hills
When it comes to wild animals, Australia certainly has an abundance of them. But one thing you need to always remember is they are wild animals. So keep your distance, never feed them, and let them remain wild animals for the next person to enjoy.
Have you seen our story on the best zoos in Australia? Take a look for an animal encounter of a different kid.