Where to See Australia’s Wildlife
Published on: September 28th, 2018
Last modified: July 28th, 2023
Rife with wildlife endemic to its lands, Australia is an animal lover's paradise.
Home to famous marsupials, unmatched coral reefs and plenty of places to see humpback whales, you can do it all in Australia.
Whether you want to swim with the mantas or get up close and personal with koalas, here's where to see Australia's wildlife.
The best places to see whales in Australia
With over 35,000km of coastline around Australia, there are plenty of opportunities to see different species of whales around the country. The humpback whale and whale shark are the most popular species, drawing in crowds who travel to Australia just to see them.
To catch a glimpse of humpback whales, who travel from Antarctica to warmer waters every winter, head to Hervey Bay (Queensland), the Whitsundays and even Sydney. Hervey Bay is an annual stopover for the whales and their babies during their migration, and you’re almost guaranteed a spotting if you visit during the autumn. Because the water is shallow around the Whitsundays, which is a preferred calving spot from May to September, you’re also very likely to spot the whales on a visit there.
Ningaloo Reef (a UNESCO world heritage site on Australia’s west coast) is one of the best places in the world to see whale sharks from March to August. The 300km long coral reef is home to loads of marine life, and you can pretty much rely on seeing humpback whales there from July to November. Coral Bay (in the heart of the reef) and Exmouth (further north) are the main towns along the reef, but we recommend a stay at Sal Salis to get a once in a lifetime, back to nature experience.
The best places to see wildlife around Australia
Where to see kangaroos
Though kangaroos can famously be seen basically everywhere in Australia, South Australia’s aptly named Kangaroo Island is one of the best places in the country to do so. A short flight from Adelaide, a third of the island is made up of protected national parks, so the marsupials roam aplenty. There’s also plenty of other wildlife to see. Southern Ocean Lodge is the perfect base for your excursion, and they even take people out at dusk for their signature ‘Kangas and Canapes’ experience to spot kangaroos and wallabies when they are most active.
Where to see koalas
Most active during the cooler months, koalas are another popular wildlife draw for visitors to Australia. The country’s famous Great Ocean Road is perhaps the easiest place to spot them. We recommend taking a few days to explore it on foot with a private guide.
Kangaroo Island and Noosa National Park are also popular koala-viewing destinations. At Noosa, you can stay at Spicers Tamarind or Clovelly, both wonderful places to use as a base. Phillip Island, which is actually most well-known for being a haven for penguins, also houses a Koala Conservation Centre dedicated to the protection of the marsupials. It’s a great place to spend the day among the animals, watching them live in their natural habitat.
Where to see echidnas
Echidnas, one of the only two types of egg-laying mammals in the world, are found all around Australia. They are easily found in almost all habitats around the country, regardless of climate, but Kangaroo Island and Tasmania are your best bets for guaranteeing a sighting. Trips along Great Ocean Road will also pretty much guarantee that you spot these spiky creatures.
Where to see wombats
Kangaroo Island, Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain and Southern Australia are the best places in Australia to see the wombat. These curious marsupial species, which have been around for centuries, are also endemic to Australia.
Where to see the quokka
Quokkas are exclusively native to Western Australia. More specifically, they can only be found on Rottnest Island. Thanks to their cute faces, they are thought of as the world’s “happiest animal”, and have become a tourist attraction in and of themselves.
Australia’s Best Reefs
Lord Howe Island
The world’s southern-most coral reef and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the reef off the coast of Lord Howe Island has one of the more unique underwater atmospheres. Made up of remnants of an extinct volcano, it’s full of trenches and caves and houses over 500 species of fish! Thanks to its remoteness, it is extremely pristine and the wildlife is vibrant. We recommend visiting between September and May. Capella Lodge is the perfect property to enjoy this incredible region.
Made up of over 300 kilometers of coral reef, Ningaloo Reef is one of the longest reefs in the world. It’s incredibly easy to access because it’s so close to the shore, and there are many great snorkelling sites from which to see the various marine life. Around Ningaloo, you can find turtles, manta rays, over 500 species of fish and over 250 species of coral. The best time to visit is from August to December, and it’s well worth using Sal Salis as your base.
Great Barrier Reef
Of course no mention of Australia’s reefs is complete without the Great Barrier Reef. Sitting off the coast of Queensland in North Australia, it’s the longest – and most famous – coral reef system in the world. However, the reef does tend to get very crowded, especially between the high season of June to October, so we tend to recommend Ningaloo and Lord Howe for divers wanting a bit more space.