By Hannah Belger
Roughly the size of mainland USA, Australia really is a big country. Choosing where to go and what to see can be overwhelming, and sometimes it’s easy to get lost searching for fun things to do. Lucky for me, when my best friend and I visited Australia, we had a local to help us navigate the country, including where to see its famous native wildlife.
When I first arrived, there was a lot I didn’t understand about Australian wildlife. For example, how wallabies and kangaroos could be different (in my defence, the wallaby does kinda look like a baby kangaroo) and why you should keep your distance from big kangaroos.
There are many animals to see in when visiting Australia, and after travelling the country, these are three of the best places I visited where you can discover animals in a safe and non-intrusive way.
Great Ocean Road
Victoria's Great Ocean Road isn't technically one place, more like a cool road trip. Just outside of Melbourne, I have to include it here because it has to be the best value for the buck spent when it comes to exploring Australia’s gorgeous and expansive wildlife.
There are a ton of ways to the Great Ocean Road, but we chose a Melbourne to Adelaide four day trip. We visited the Great Ocean Road Wildlife park, which is not a zoo, but a self-sustaining family farm that coexists with nature perfectly. Not only was it animal-friendly but a family-owned business that prides itself on how it takes care of its residents.
While exploring the Kennett River we also got to meet a pair of friendly koalas. Fun fact, the name koala is thought to mean ‘no drink’ in the Aboriginal language, which is appropriate since koalas get more than 90% of their water by eating gum leaves. They also mostly just nap.
New South Wales Highlands
The Highlands in New South Wales is surrounded by national parks, which means there are plenty of wild Australian animals in the region. With plenty of trails and hikes to do, the other most popular activities include a walk around Fitzroy Falls and the amazing walking with wombats tour. With awesome guides leading the way, this is a great way to explore and see these cute creatures in their natural habitat. Pro explorer tip – you can tell you’re in wombat country when you spot their unusual cube-shaped poop! After you see wild wombats, wait for sundown and discover another amazing animal that calls the Highlands home – glowworms. In the evening, you can visit Bundanoon’s Glow Worm Glen and see these amazing luminescent creatures light up the cave walls.
One of the oldest surviving rainforests in the world, the Daintree Rainforest's vast wetlands and lowlands sport many different and amazing creatures, most famously a huge population of saltwater crocodiles. While visiting North Queensland, we joined the boat tour through the mangrove swamp to spot them in the wild and marvel at their incredible beauty. I can’t begin to describe the adrenaline rush we felt as we passed them by! Prehistoric and majestic, they (thankfully) seemed quite uninterested by our presence.
No trip to the rainforest is complete without a cultural adventure with the Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people, the traditional owners of the area. Taking their guided Mossman Gorge tour, they taught us ancient techniques like spearfishing, catching crabs and how to source simple bush foods. This experience allowed us to connect with this amazing land in ways I didn’t think possible!
With so many amazing animals to see and regions to explore, the primal nature of the places we visited in Australia was intense and honestly breathtaking. There is no wrong way to visit Australia and see the wildlife here, as long as you are mindful of the impact you have on the places you visit.