Best Places to Spot Iconic Australian Wildlife in the Wild
Australia is home to some incredibly unique animals. More than 80 per cent of Australia’s flora and fauna is found no-where else in the world and includes around 70% of the world’s marsupials as well as unusual monotremes (egg-laying mammals).
While many of Australia’s iconic animals such as koalas and Tasmanian devils are well recognized around the world, finding them in the wild can prove to be a difficult task. Many Australian animals are either nocturnal or exist in remote habitats. While many wildlife lovers resort to visiting captive sanctuaries or wildlife parks to see Aussie animals, there are others who would rather make the effort to see them free in their natural habitat.
Follow this helpful guide to spotting some of Australia’s most recognized animals in the wild. Many regions which Australian animals call home can be found just outside easy to reach capital cities, some even within the city limits. So ditch the zoos and search for affordable flights to some of these great wildlife hotspots to spot your favourite Australian animals.
Australia offers the only place in the world to see the odd looking platypus, an egg-laying poisonous mammal with a duck-like bill. Often shy and nocturnal, the best state to spot a wild platypus during daylight is Tasmania. The state’s many rivers and streams such as the Mersey and Meander Rivers offer the best opportunity to spot this loveable creature in the wild. Towns such as Deloraine and Latrobe offer the best access to rivers for viewing
On the mainland, check out the clear blue waters of Jenolan Caves in N.S.W. or Lake Elizabeth near Forrest in Victoria. Platypus are restricted to the east coast but can be seen all the way up to northern Queensland and on offshore islands such as Kangaroo Island.
Most people picture the common wombat when they think of wombats, but Australia offers up three different species. The common wombat can be found throughout south-eastern Australian and Tasmania. River valleys and mountainous areas offer the best habitat and you will usually be able to spot their burrows signifying their presence. Check out the Murrumbidgee River around the Cotter Dam and Uriarra areas near Canberra in the A.C.T. or Kangaroo Valley in N.S.W.
Narawntapu National Park was once a great place to spot common wombats in Tasmania but many sadly succumbed to deadly mange. More dependable areas are Maria Island and Cradle Mountain.
To spot the threatened southern hairy-nosed wombat, check out Brookfield Conservation Park and pay a visit to Epping Forest National Park to see the last remaining endangered northern hairy-nosed wombats.
At one time devils were found on mainland Australia but are now restricted to the island after which they are named. Often heard more than seen in the wild, the devils have became quite scarce in recent years due to a deadly facial tumour disease spreading through the wild population. Recovery efforts have managed to bring some relief to the species and thankfully there are still areas where you can see wild devils.
Healthy devils have recently been introduced to Maria Island as well as Narawntapu National Park, both places where you can camp and track the calls of the noisy carnivorous marsupials. Although the devils roam throughout the island, your best bet is to search outside the busy cities and avoid areas such as the northeast, whose populations were most affected by the tumour disease. Tasmania’s rugged northwest remains a stronghold for the species in places such as Cradle Mountain and the Tarkine Forest Reserve.
Australia’s kangaroo population greatly outnumbers its human population. While most people recognize the giant red or grey kangaroo species, Australia is home to dozens of species of kangaroos and smaller wallabies. There even exists a few species which have taken to the trees of Queensland’s rainforests.
If you’re after the largest most popular kangaroo, the red kangaroo, your best luck will be in the arid central Outback regions of Australia. Check out Alice Springs and Outback roads around Uluru as well as areas around Mildura such as Mungo N.P. or Murray-Sunset N.P.
Grey Kangaroos can easily be spotted just about anywhere in and around Canberra including the city centre. Check out places like Tidbinbilla and Mulligan’s Flat for a more wild experience. Western grey kangaroos can be seen on Kangaroo Island in S.A. and Esperance in W.A.
The large black flightless bird with a dangerous kick looks like it belongs in Jurassic Park, but you can find the southern cassowary in Tropical North Queensland. The Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation are notable areas to find the giant birds as is further south in Etty Bay. The quiet town of Mission Beach supports the highest density of endangered cassowaries in all of Australia.
Probably Australia’s most loveable animal, the Koala, can be a bit of a challenge to spot in the treetops since it spends most of its time sleeping and therefore motionless. Its range is restricted to eastern Australia in areas that offer up large tracts of eucalyptus.
The state of Victoria offers numerous locations where you can spot a wild koala including along the Great Ocean Road. Be sure to make a stop at Kennett River or Bimbi Park, both of which offer good chances. Another great spot in Victoria is Raymond Island, easily reached by a short ferry ride from Paynesville.
Koalas were introduced to Kangaroo Island in the 1920s and what began with fewer than two dozen individuals blossomed into thousands. You can easily spot wild ones in places like the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary or Lathami Conservation Park.
While many would be wise to avoid the giant deadly saltwater crocodiles of northern Australia, most are captivated by the thought of seeing one in the wild. They are the world’s largest reptiles with males reaching over 5 metres. While places like Kakadu and Darwin may be notorious for seeing large crocs, there are many areas across the Top End to spot a croc.
In Western Australia, cruising the vast Kimberley region and checking out places like Marlgu Billabong, are sure to reward you with sightings of both saltwater and freshwater crocodiles. The Daintree River is full of both species of crocs as well. You are pretty much guaranteed to see one on a river cruise or simply by making your way across the ferry en route to Cape Tribulation.
If in Kakadu, try Cahill’s Crossing or take an Adelaide River cruise in Darwin for best results.
While sheep graziers may despise the dingo, many people seek out the native wild dogs. They are mainly restricted to the Northern Territory and northern Queensland due to the construction of the 5,600km Dingo Fence built in the 1880s. They can often be spotted in the Red Centre around towns like Alice Springs. Listen to their howls while hiking the Larapinta Trail or around the world famous Uluru.
In Queensland, head to Fraser Island for a great chance to see wild dingoes. Some 200 animals make up around 30 individual packs that roam the island. They are thought to be the purest strain of dingo in eastern Australia due to the fact they haven’t crossbred with domestic or feral dogs to the same extent as their mainland counterparts.