Australia is known for its cute and cuddly wildlife, but did you know you can also get up close and personal to these animals?
Nearly every traveller to Australia is looking forward to having an incredible wildlife experience and, truth be told, it’s pretty easy to accomplish. Of course you can hand-feed a kangaroo, snuggle a koala and take a selfie with a quokka - but did you know Australia is also famous for these other unique wildlife encounters? Why not jump into the water with sea lions or watch saltwater crocodiles devour their dinner. Whatever you pick, it’s guaranteed to earn you true bragging rights.
Ride a camel along the beach in Port Stephens
Port Stephens is known for its immense coastal sand dunes that you can explore on quad bike and sand board. But there’s another form of transportation that’s even more unique. In Port Stephens, you can get to know the local camels as you ride along on their backs. Embark on a camel ride along Stockton Beach, where your camel train will cruise along the sand and even into the gently crashing waves. From the back of your camel, you’ll be able to see the vast sea of golden sand that surrounds you. Opt for the sunset cruise for a peaceful way to end the day.
Connect with wildlife in the Yorke Peninsula
A favourite with Adelaide locals, the Yorke Peninsulais a great place to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of city life. The peninsula is located an easy two-hour drive from Adelaide, but with coastal landscapes and spectacular cliffs, you’ll feel a world away. Visit Innes National Park, set on the southwest tip of Yorke Peninsula, where you can drive through yellow canola fields before reaching rugged coastline. The area is home to an abundance of local wildlife, and you’re almost guaranteed to see animals such as emus, wallabies, dolphins - sometimes even seals come close to shore. Don’t miss Ethel Beach, a picturesque stretch of sand with the ruins of a 1900’s Norwegian ship named “The Ethel” still laying at the base of the coastline. At the tip of the Yorke Peninsula you’ll find Inneston Lake, which features crystal clear waters perfect for an Instagram snap.
Learn more about wildlife encounters in South Australia
Swim with sea lions
While cuddling a fuzzy koala will make your heart swell, heading underwater for an afternoon of antics with playful sea lions will have you laughing until your cheeks are sore. Sea lions are naturally friendly and will quite possibly swim right up to you before putting on an aquarobics show – they’re so well known for their antics they’ve earned the nickname, “puppies of the sea”. One of the best places to go swimming with these playful critters is in the clear waters of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. Here, they’ll duck, dive and frolic about, even posing for photos before slipping off on their next playdate. Book your tour and be sure to pack an underwater camera.
Head out for a day of whale watching
If getting into the water isn’t necessarily your thing, there are other ways to have an incredible wildlife experience in Australia. Between May and November, you can spot whales from many scenic spots along Australia’s east and west coastlines. Southern right whales journey to the temperate breeding waters off Southern Australia and Victoria, while energetic humpback whales continue north to the Great Barrier Reef and Kimberley, to mate and calve. Coming in summer? You won’t miss out. From February to April you can head down to Bremer Bay in Western Australia to see the gathering of the largest pod of orcas in the Southern Hemisphere.
Smile at a crocodile
Few animals fascinate visitors as much as these prehistoric creatures. Both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles can be found in Australia, but it is the larger species, the saltwater crocodile, that captures the imagination. With their sheer size – they grow up to seven metres (23 feet) long – "salties" resemble dinosaurs more than any other modern-day animal. There are several places to see crocs in Darwin, including a crocodile swimming experience in which you are lowered into the crocodiles' water in a perspex enclosure. If you’re near Cairns, head to Port Douglas for a day at Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. You'll see crocodiles leap out of the water to feed, take a wetlands lagoon cruise and visit the crocodile farm where they live in their hundreds.
Spend a day at Australia Zoo
If seeing a large number of different animal species is high on your list, a great way to find them all in one place is with a visit to Australia Zoo, on the Sunshine Coast (just an hour north of Brisbane). Home to the late Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, the zoo is still run by the Irwin family and has a focus on the conservation of both native and exotic species. Families will love the chance to feed native animals, have an animal encounter, watch a crocodile feeding show and see birds of prey interact with their keepers.