Australia has so much diversity to explore and enjoy, and that includes its wildlife. No visit to Australia is complete until you see some of its incredible animals in the wild.
Along with the unique types of wildlife you also have a great variety of ways in which to interact with these amazing animals, ranging from half or full-day excursions to multi-day touring options. You can choose to do many of these as part of a group, small group, or private tour. Don’t just decide to visit Australia to see the wildlife; take the time to examine how you want to experience the wildlife. Often, the experiences are as unique as the wildlife itself.
There’s a fun fact about two animals that appear on the Australian Coat of Arms: the emu and the kangaroo. The reason they represent the nation on the Coat of Arms is because neither of these animals has the ability to move backwards, which symbolises a nation always moving forward.
Many of Australian’s unique animals are marsupials, which means they carry their premature young in their pouch. Of course, Australia has more than just marsupials. It also has incredible reptiles, sea animals, and even penguins. So let's see what kind of animals you can expect to see if you visit the land downunder for yourself.
What animals can I see in Australia?
These adorable cuddly marsupials are everyone’s favourite. Just remember that they are not technically a bear. They live in eucalypt forests, love to eat eucalyptus leaves—a vast amount of leaves—and sleep up to 20 hours a day.
Though eucalyptus or gum trees are located throughout Australia, finding a koala on your own can be challenging. A great way to not only to see koalas but learn about them is by joining a wildlife experience with a true Aussie with a passion for koala conservation. You can do this on a single-day tour called Kangaroos and Koalas in the Wild and on multi-day tours, where you will not only see koalas in the wild, but also learn about koala research. You’ll learn about how the markings on a koala’s nose are unique to each individual koala—it’s like their fingerprint. You’ll track research koalas in the wild and while you are at it take part in an environmental exercise of identifying and pulling invasive weeds. You can experience this koala experience plus a day along one of the most scenic coastlines in the world on the Great Ocean Road & Wildlife Eco Tour.
If you want to cuddle a koala you may want to visit them in Queensland as there are restrictions on this activity in many states. One of the best places to have a wonderful photo with a koala is up at Rainforestation, located just outside of Cairns in the village of Kuranda. A fabulous full-day experience here can include an amazing scenic rail journey on a historic train through rainforest past waterfalls up to the village of Kuranda where you can visit a butterfly sanctuary if you choose. Spend time with members of the local Indigenous tribe and learn to play the didgeridoo, throw a boomerang, and enjoy an Aboriginal cultural experiences in the rainforest. Return on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which is a cable car that glides over the canopy of the rainforest with stops enroute for short walks.
There are 55 different species of kangaroos, and 50 million kangaroos living in Australia. That means there are more kangaroos than people on this island continent. Getting up close to these marsupials is not always easy, but there are a variety of day tours and extended touring options to choose from. One of the most interactive and immersive experiences can be found on Kangaroo Island, an island just off the coast of South Australia known as a zoo without fences. It’s easily accessible from Adelaide. You will not only see kangaroos in the wild, but also koalas and walk among the seals on the beach in addition to seeing… maybe we won’t spoil all the surprises of the truly immersive wildlife experience. You’ll have to head to Kangaroo Island for yourself to see who else you can find on this fascinating island.
These little marsupials are known as the happiest animals on earth. Perhaps it is because they are on a lovely little island just off the coast of Perth known as Rottnest Island. An interesting fact about Quokkas is that they are virtually blind and can only see vague outlines. This is one of the reasons they aren’t afraid of humans. There are many opportunities to interact with these little creatures on a visit to Rottnest.
Fighting extinction, the Tasmanian Devil can still be found in Tasmania. These nocturnal marsupials are known for being naturally feisty in nature, but they are resilient as they have been fighting an aggressive type of cancer that causes facial tumors. Tasmania has done some amazing work on conservation and the preservation of the species, but the fight is not over yet. There are many touring options in Tasmania that include a visit to a wildlife or conservation park looking after the welfare of the Tassie Devil.
Not unique to Australia, but who can resist watching these cute little birds waddle up the beach at dusk after a full day of fishing? Phillip Island is about two hours from Melbourne and each evening the Little Penguins put on a parade on the beach as they return from a day out at sea and return to their burrows. Standing on a great private viewing platform with a nature guide and watching the Little Penguin Parade is an amazing experience. Combine a visit to Phillip Island with time on the Great Ocean Road on a two-day Best of Victoria tour.
Sharks are not unique to Australia. However, Australia has some pretty unique ways to interact with them. Yes, we said “interact.” You can swim in a cage with Great Whites! This is a non-aggressive experience where Great White Sharks are brought to the boat using sound including a very interesting playlist that includes some Aussie tracks such as ACDC’s “Back in Black”—no chum or bait here. You can watch from aboard the boat, get into the water in the cage, or, if you like to stay dry, view them from an underwater aqua sub. In the same area, Port Lincoln, known as the seafood capital of Australia, you can also extend your stay to swim with the friendly sea lions.
Crocs are definitely not the type of wildlife you want to go seeking on your own. There are two main types of crocodiles in Australia: freshwater crocodiles found in Western Australia, Queensland, or the Northern Territory, and saltwater crocodiles, known locally as salties. These guys are big! An adult male can weigh up to 1,000 kg and reach a length of 5.2m. Saltwater crocodiles can be very dangerous to humans—they are strictly carnivorous and will eat almost anything that gets too close. Two of the main places to see crocodiles are in Northern Queensland and the Top End (the region near Darwin in the Northern Territory).
You can get up close, but not too close on a trip into Kakadu National Park, which is your typical Crocodile Dundee country. You’ll find wildlife such as saltwater crocodiles as well as Aboriginal rock paintings and amazing natural landscape. You can also see jumping crocodiles from Darwin on a day cruise and visit Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, where guests can experience the Cage of Death, Australia’s only crocodile dive. While up in the tropical north Queensland, you can visit a crocodile spot on your way to the rainforest. Don’t worry: you won’t be swimming with these salties.
Feed wild dolphins and relax on a gorgeous beach on a sunny Queensland island—what more can you ask for? Well, how about a variety of exciting activities, which include sand tobogganing? Located just off the coast of Brisbane, the waters of Tangalooma Island Resort are home to a pod of wild dolphins who come to shore each evening at dusk for a feed—an included activity for all guests. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most visitors. Also, just north of Brisbane, you will find the Australia Zoo, run by the Irwin Family, where you can see a wide variety of Aussie wildlife and learn about the amazing rehabilitation work being done here.
These gentle giants of the sea really are not whales or sharks as you’d typically think of them; they are actually the largest known fish on the planet. They range in size from 5.5m–10m in length. You can get up close and personal with these amazing giants of the sea. Swimming alongside one of these gentle giants is truly an unforgettable experience. It is a bit of a journey to get to Ningaloo Reef in the north of Western Australia, but while you are there you can snorkel the other great reef in Australia. Ningaloo Reef is a fringing reef and actually accessible from land, so you can walk out to the reef from the beautiful beaches and swim, splash around or even drift snorkel. While up at Ningaloo, you can swim with manta rays, enjoy the Outback, and perhaps even enjoy a stay in a luxury tented safari resort.
Experience the remoteness and beauty of the Outback, along with the unforgettable wildlife of kangaroos, koalas, emus, maybe even a thorny devil, and swim with sea lions in South Australia. Get extra brave and easily add a swim with Great White Sharks while you are in the area. This 4WD luxury camping experience will truly be unforgettable.