Where to see Australian Marine Life

Swim with the world’s largest fish or watch the world’s smallest penguins waddle along the beach. Where to see Australian Marine Life
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Where to see Australian Marine Life

Swim with the world’s largest fish or watch the world’s smallest penguins waddle along the beach.

Australia’s wide range of marine environments play host to some of the world’s most fascinating creatures. It doesn’t matter if you’re visiting the tropical north or dipping a toe in the more bracing waters of the south, there’s a memorable marine experience waiting for you. 

Whale Shark, Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

Swim with sharks, manta rays and whales – or cruise along with them

Swim with a whale shark – the world’s largest fish – on Ningaloo Reef off Exmouth in Western Australia. Ningaloo Whaleshark Swim operates tours from mid-March until mid-September. Manta rays frequent the reef all year but it’s best to snorkel with them from mid-May until mid-September when numbers are highest. From 2016, Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef – a remote safari camp 70 kilometres from Exmouth – will start offering guests the chance to swim with humpback whales (August 1-October 31) as well as whale sharks. 

On the NSW South Coast, swim, snorkel and dive with the playful fur seals living around Montague Island with Island Charters Narooma.  The waters off NSW are known as the “Humpback Highway” – you can see migrating whales from May to November with Sydney-based Captain Cook Cruises and Jervis Bay Wild, which also runs cruises year-round to see the bay’s resident bottlenose dolphins. In Tasmania, you can spot seals, dolphins and whales during a three-hour wilderness cruise from Bruny Island south of Hobart.

Penguin Parade, Phillip Island, Victoria

Waddle on the wild side 

Watch the parade of little penguins returning home at sunset on Phillip Island, a 90-minute drive south-east of Melbourne. Head to the beachfront viewing stands and boardwalks to see the world’s smallest penguin surf in on the waves and waddle towards their burrows in the dunes. The park also has an underground viewing area that puts the most popular penguin pathway at eye-level for humans. 

On Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef, see turtles lay their eggs on the beach from November; while from December until May, hatchlings emerge from the sand and make their way into the sea. On South Australia’s Kangaroo Island – known as the Galapagos of Australia –  join a ranger-led tour to see wild sea lions surfing into Seal Bay and resting up on the sand.

Smile at a crocodile

Want to see a crocodile up close (but not too close)? Just off the scenic Captain Cook Highway between Cairns and Port Douglas is Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. This 10-hectare wildlife park allows you to cruise the lagoon to see the 19 resident crocodiles. From Kununurra in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, take a 55-kilometre cruise up the Ord River with Triple J Tours to see harmless freshwater crocodiles basking on the riverbanks, as well as spectacular birdlife. Adrenalin junkies can look a croc right in the eye at Darwin’s Crocosaurus Cove. Hop into the Cage of Death to meet a saltwater crocodile measuring more than five metres long.

Snorkelling, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland


Explore the Great Barrier Reef



See the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, home to 1625 fish species and 450-plus types of coral, as well as marine turtles, starfish, dugongs, sea anemones, crustaceans, sponges and shells. An unusual underwater experience is available at Green Island near Cairns. Seawalker helmet-diving involves walking along the sea floor close to a coral reef. The waterproof helmet allows those with glasses and contact lenses to keep wearing them for a better view of the reef animals. Coral spawning occurs on Australia’s east and west coasts at different times of the year. On the Great Barrier Reef, the spectacular annual event takes place in late spring or early summer (October-December) while on the west coast it happens on Ningaloo Reef, near Exmouth, in autumn (March-April).