Tilligerry Habitat Reserve, Tanilba Bay, New South Wales © Rob Mulally
The best places to see wild koalas
Nothing melts your heart more than seeing a wild koala snoozing in the treetops. Make it happen, with these top koala-spotting locations.
By Amy Fraser
Cute, fluffy and super laid-back, koalas are no doubt one of Australia’s most loved animals. In contrast to our iconic kangaroos, who spend most of their time hopping around in groups, these sleepy marsupials will typically be spotted alone (or with a joey), sitting among the treetops. Seeing them in the wild can require some pre-planning – or a bit of luck! Here are the best places to spot koalas in Australia.
Kangaroo Island is a natural oasis with breathtaking scenery, magnificent wildlife and gourmet delights peppered from end to end. Though its name hints at an abundance of a particular Aussie icon, since the 1920s the island has been home to large colonies of koalas. You can spot them while exploring the beauty of Flinders Chase National Park, or during a sustainability-focused Exceptional Kangaroo Island tour.
Explore more of Kangaroo Island
Raymond Island, a four-hour drive from Melbourne in Gippsland, could quite possibly be the most relaxed island in Victoria – not just for its dreamy scenery, but for the large population (around 250) of koalas. Hop on the short ferry from Paynesville and take your time exploring the island’s Koala Trail on foot or via two wheels; you might even spot a few kangaroos, echidnas and native birds while you’re there.
How to support native wildlife
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road’s greatness extends well beyond its dramatic drive. It’s also home to some of the best koala-spotting locations in the country. If you’re driving from Melbourne, be sure to make Kennett River one of your first stops. Park your car at the Koala Kafe (between Lorne and Apollo Bay) and hit the Kennett River Walk. Further along the Great Ocean Road lies Cape Otway, home to Australia’s longest-serving lighthouse, awe-inspiring scenery and large colonies of koalas amid other native animals.
Head out on the Great Ocean Road
Venture 2.5 hours north of Sydney to Port Stephens, where pods of dolphins play along the coast, rolling sand dunes fringe the beach and colonies of koalas snooze across the rainforest canopy. For the best chance of spotting them, head to the free-to-enter eco-tourism reserve, Tilligerry Habitat.
Discover Port Stephens
The town of Port Macquarie sits around four hours north of Sydney. Home to over 2,000 koalas and the world’s first koala hospital, there’s no surprise this region provides bountiful opportunities to encounter these cute marsupials in the wild. Lace up your trainers for a walk in Sea Acres National Park, following the easy 1.3km (0.8mi) boardwalk through the treetops.
Watch wildlife responsibly
You’ll spot Magnetic Island from the shores of Townsville in Queensland, a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. The island is just a 20-minute ferry ride from shore and is home to the largest koala population in northern Australia. With its leafy national park, palm-fringed beaches and epic wildlife, Magnetic Island encapsulates the beauty of Australia. Hike the two-hour Forts Walk for a high chance of seeing multiple wild koalas enjoying island life.
Find koalas on Magnetic Island
North Stradbroke Island
North Stradbroke Island, off the coast of Brisbane, emanates the Australian ‘no worries’ attitude. It’s a place to clear your mind, immerse yourself in nature and enjoy the simple – yet beautiful – things in life. If there’s anyone who adopts this lifestyle on the island, it’s Straddie’s resident koalas. Spot them among the gum trees, or doing as their fellow locals do – wandering the island’s townships.
Get back to nature on North Stradbroke Island
Noosa National Park
Noosa: an idyllic pocket of the Sunshine Coast where the turquoise ocean meets national park. Though you can drive one hour to reach the wildlife wonders of Australia Zoo, you don’t have to walk far in Noosa to end up in koala territory. Bring your binoculars on a hike through the breathtaking Noosa National Park. For your best bet of spotting a furry friend sitting in the treetops, follow the 7km (4mi) Tanglewood Track.
Find furry friends in Noosa
Yanchep National Park
Though koalas are not native to Western Australia, the state has been graced with their adorable presence since 1938, when a colony was introduced to Yanchep National Park. Just one hour from Perth and wheelchair accessible, Yanchep’s Koala Viewing Area – complete with a raised boardwalk – is a great place for anyone wanting to see koalas in the wild.
Discover quirky koala facts
Located on the outskirts of Canberra, Tidbinbilla boasts an array of habitats that support a wide range of Australian animals. Amid the mix of species including kangaroos, echidnas, emus and lyrebirds are, you guessed it – koalas. Check out the Koala Path for close-up views of breeding koalas before continuing along the 1.8km (1mi) Peppermint Trail.
Meet adorable Aussie wildlife