Rottnest Island, WA © Tourism Australia
Meet Australia's new Instagram stars
Looking to break the internet with your next Instagram post? Australia’s got the formula all figured out. Get on out here, and make sure to bring your strong selfie game with you. Grab your camera and strike a pose with one of these superstars to add a bit of bounce to your Instagram feed – it’s a whole new ball game in Australia.
Australia is known for its cute array of animals. Among the cutest of the bunch are Western Australia’s quokkas, small marsupials known for their cheeky smiles. Visit Rottnest Island, a short ferry ride off the coast of Perth, and you’ll see them playfully hopping around, curiously watching people go about their business. Quokkas are inquisitive, and quite happy to hop over and photobomb your selfies – and getting a selfie with one of these adorable creatures has become a trend you don’t want to miss out on.
They’re large, measuring approximately 14 metres (46 feet), they’re undoubtedly beautiful, and they come a-visiting in large numbers at Ningaloo Marine Park, located near Exmouth along Western Australia’s coastline. Between April and July, Ningaloo is the only place in the world where whale sharks are known to reliably show up so close to shore every year. Whale sharks are graceful beings – and vegetarian, which means they’re harmless to snorkel with. Sign up for a day-long marine tour from Exmouth or Coral Bay and you can do just that. Alongside the whale sharks, you might spot manta rays, turtles, dolphins and even other species of whales. In fact, from July to October, you can swim with humpback whales right here off Ningaloo Reef. Book your nights at Sal Salis to stay near the water's edge.
Snuggling up with a sleepy-eyed koala might sound cosy, but another cute Australian animal lies beneath the surface of the sea. Sea lions, sometimes called ‘puppies of the sea’ are ridiculously playful, and will leave you laughing at their acrobatics and antics reminiscent of your four-legged best friend (hence the nickname). South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula is one of the best places to go for a swim with these underwater acrobats. They’re known to put on quite the show, ducking and diving and occasionally coming close for a quick photo before heading back to their games. Don’t forget an underwater camera when you book your tour.
Head down to Pebbly Beach, a popular bushwalking and surfing spot about 270 kilometres (167 miles) south of Sydney, for a sight, you won’t forget anytime soon – kangaroos soaking up the sun on the beach. Eastern grey kangaroos are found in large numbers here, and love to relax on the grass and sand. They might even pose for a picture. While you’re here, follow the locals’ lead and head to the beach for another wildlife encounter. Pods of dolphins are often spotted here riding the waves out to sea.
While you’re motoring down Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, you would be well-served to keep your eyes peeled for koalas. The drive itself is quite spectacular, hugging the coastline past forests, seaside towns and cliffs. And if you head down Lighthouse Road in Cape Otway – a diversion off the route about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the town of Apollo Bay – you’re likely to see these adorable critters hidden up in the treetops. They hang out here in abundance, but you’ll need to train your eyes to spot them; once you master that, you won’t run out of koalas to see. Our pro tip: don’t stop when you see a cluster of cars and people peering up at trees – keep driving a few more kilometres and you’ll get a private photoshoot with these cuddly critters. And while you’re on this detour, continue down to Cape Otway Light Station, Australia’s oldest surviving lighthouse.
Both freshwater and saltwater crocs – which have outlived the dinosaurs – can be found in Australia, and these prehistoric creatures are a sight to behold. Darwin is where you should go to see “salties” in action. These beasts can grow up to a whopping seven metres (23 feet) long, and if you sign up for a crocodile swimming experience, you will get up-close with them as you’re lowered into the water in a safe and secure Perspex enclosure. If you’re around Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, spend a day at Hartley's Crocodile Adventures in Port Douglas. Here, you can go on a wetlands lagoon cruise and visit a croc farm where these majestic creatures live in great numbers. Watch them leap out of the water to get to their meal.
You might know the Tasmanian devil from the whirling cartoon character, but a real-life interaction with these creatures promises to be a wholly different experience. One of Australia’s top luxury hotels, Tasmania’s Saffire Freycinet, operates a ‘retirement home’ for the endangered marsupial. Here, you can watch these animals dig into their daily feed in a large enclosure that mimics their natural habitat. You can also head over to Devils@Cradle in Cradle Mountain, a 2.5-hour drive from Hobart, to further your understanding of the Tasmanian devil.
It’s difficult to resist letting out an excited squeal when you first see a wombat. These cute, portly marsupials are notoriously shy, but emerge as dusk falls over Wilsons Promontory National Park in Victoria, just a three-hour drive south-east of Melbourne. Wombats spend most of the day tucked away in their burrows, but you might spot them at the entrance to the main beach or making their way across the campgrounds looking for the best grasses to feed on. If you're lucky, you might also come across kangaroos, emus, echidnas and rosellas while you’re here.