Where to meet Australia's cutest animals
10 of Australia's signature wildlife cuties and where you can meet them.
By Katrina Lobley
Want to grab a selfie with a koala, kangaroo, Tasmanian devil or quokka? Have you always wanted to spot an elusive platypus? Maybe an echidna? It's easy to meet Australia's unique wildlife both in the wild and in wildlife sanctuaries. It's so easy to choose your very own ultimate Aussie wildlife adventure!
Australia’s cutest animals
Where can I meet a quokka?
Koalas and kangaroos might be Australia's best-known animals, but Rottnest Island’s adorable quokkas are perhaps the country's most photogenic furry resident. Visitors love to take photos with the friendly marsupials, as they often look like they are smiling. Even celebrities like Chris Hemsworth and Margot Robbie have posted quokka selfies on Instagram.
- How to see quokkas in Australia: The best place to grab a quokka selfie is on Peth's Rottnest Island – a 90-minute ferry ride from Perth, making it a great day trip destination. The best time of day to see these nocturnal marsupials is mid-to-late afternoon – take one of the free daily guided walks to try to spot one.
Where can I cuddle a koala?
Some Australian states prohibit koala cuddles, but it's permitted in Queensland and South Australia at select wildlife sanctuaries. Currumbin is home to more than 50 koalas, and the koalas that are comfortable with humans only work for 30 minutes every three days to make sure they stay healthy and happy. After your cuddle, pay a visit to the park's koala hospital, which treats sick and injured koalas with the aim to re-release them into the wild. In South Australia the 20-minute sessions in the koala enclosure allow time for visitors to take photos and have a cuddle with a koala.
3. Platypus and Echidnas
Where can I splash around with a platypus and hug an echidna?
Platypuses are notoriously shy and quite rare to spot in the wild. Luckily you can get close enough to tickle this elusive national icon at a number of wildlife sanctuaries, zoos and enclosures around Australia. In Melbourne, you can step into a pair of waders and into the platypus play pool to frolic with one of these freshwater-dwelling creatures. Most Australian zoos and wildlife parks also feature encounters with the adorably obtuse echidna. These spiky little creatures will capture your heart as they come in for a cuddle – they might even sit on your lap!
Where can I swim with dolphins?
As an island nation, Australia offers an abundance of dolphin experiences. If you stay at Tangalooma Island Resort on Queensland's Moreton Island, head to the water's edge to watch wild bottlenose dolphins glide right up into the shallows to receive a fish from your hands. On Australia's West Coast, bottlenose dolphins swim into knee-deep water, where visitors can hand-feed them under the supervision of practiced guides.
Where can I hang out with kangaroos?
Our national icon, the kangaroo, is plentyful here in Australia, so there is no shortage of places where you can see them either in the wild or an ethical enclosure. Kangaroos are known to have many different habitats. In the wild, you'll find 'roos' in groups roaming the grassy areas of the bush as well as sun-bathing on the many beautiful beaches across the Australian coastline. You can also find them climbing trees in the mountains or hopping across the red sand in the iconic Aussie outback plains.
- How to see kangaroos in Australia: Some of the most popular kangaroo hotspots inclulde North Stradbroke Island (known as Straddie) just off the coast of Brisbane. For beach-going roos you can head to Pretty Beach and Pebbly Beach in Shoalhaven 210 kilometres (130 miles) south of Sydney, or at in Western Australia's Lucky Bay, near Esperance. For an outback experience, don't miss The Kangaroo Sanctuary's afternoon tours in Alice Springs. Zoo enclosures more your speed? At Canberra’s National Zoo and Aquarium you have the chance for an up-close encounter with a tree kangaroo, a type of kangaroo with shorter legs perfect for climbing trees.
Where can I wander with a wombat?
Wombats may be difficult to spot during the day, but seeing these rotund little creatures emerge at dusk is worth the wait. To see them in the wild, take a nature hike or grab a bicycle and explore the many native reserves and nature parks, which are especially stunning early in the morning and at sunset.
- How to see wombats in Australia: One of the best places to see wombats in the wild is on Tasmania's Maria Island; take the Maria Island Walk for a multi-day experience. At Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, a conservation resort beyond the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, wombats freely wander around the 2,800-hectare (7,000-acre) property, nibbling at the grass.
7. Tasmanian Devils
Where can I meet Tasmanian devils?
Where better to see the infamous Tasmanian Devil than it's eponymous island state? If you're driving around Tasmania, it's possible to glimpse Tasmanian devils scampering near the roads looking for carrion (dead animals to eat). But, for a guaranteed encounter, there are multiple sanctuaries, zoos and enclosures to get up close and personal to these wildly adorable little critters.
- How to see Tasmanian Devils in Australia: Head to Devils@Cradle, an 80-minute drive from Burnie in the state's north-west. Book a Day Keeper Tour, an After Dark Feeding Tour or a Dine with the Devil experience. Closer to Hobart is the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo, which offers a Devil Tracker Experience – a 4WD tour on which you help track the devils' movements.
8. Sea Lions and Seals
Where can I take a dip with sea lions and seals?
These charismatic creatures are as frisky as they are curious, so you can expect to have a few close encounters under the crystal-clear waves. What's the difference between sea lions and seals, you ask? While seals have small flippers and wriggle about on their bellies when on land, sea lions have large flippers that allow them to 'walk'. But when you meet them in the water, they’ll both entertain you with somersaults and backflips while blowing bubbles toward your snorkel mask – they’re so playful, they’ve been dubbed the “puppy dogs of the sea”. If you're here between May and November, you might also be lucky enough to spot southern right and humpback whales in these waters.
- How to see sea lions and seals in Australia: On South Australia's Kangaroo Island visitors can stroll among the Australian sea lions that come to sunbathe on the sands of Seal Bay. A 45-minute guided tour travels from the boardwalk through the sand dunes and down to the beach. If you're ready to join fur seals in the water, head to Port Lincoln, a seven-hour road trip from Adelaide. Adventure Bay Charters and Calypso Star Charters will bring you by boat out onto the water before you dive in. You can also swim with seals in Narooma, a five-hour drive south of Sydney. Book a tour with Montague Island Tours or Island Charters Narooma.
9. Fairy Penguins
Where can I see a penguin parade?
Located just a 90-minute drive south of Melbourne, Phillip Island is a wildlife haven. One of the area’s most popular events, the Penguin Parade allows visitors to catch a glimpse of the island's native little penguins as they come back ashore after a day of fishing. You will not be sorry you experienced the magic of watching little penguins waddle home from the ocean to their burrows.
- How to see fairy penguins in Australia: Head to Summerland Beach for a 180-degree viewing of the parade on their tiered seating. There are also several VIP and guided tours on offer for up-close viewing and ranger commentary. Alternatively, try to catch a glimpse of them in their burrows from the elevated timber boardwalks around the island. With over 32,000 little penguins living on the island, you've got a good chance of spotting a few.
Where can I have a dingo play-date?
Want to combine your love for dogs with iconic Aussie wildlife? Look no further than our native dog – the dingo! From the cutest of cuddles with the pack, playing games with their toys through to getting the ultimate photo; these experience will make a lasting impression, guaranteed to leave you grinning from ear-to-ear and create lasting memories to treasure.
- How to see dingoes in Australia: The dingo encounter at Symbio Wildlife Park just one hour south of Sydney, takes you in behind-the-scenes to play around with their adorable dingoes – both adult and pups. In Victoria, you can make a dingo play-date at the Dingo Sanctuary, under an hour's drive from the Melbourne CBD, or at the Moonlit Sanctuary – an hour south-east of Melbourne. Heading north? The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland is home to some very playful and cuddly dingoes as is the Durong Dingo Sanctaury approx 3.5 hours drive north-west of Brisbane. On the west coast you'll find more awww-inspiring dingo encounters at the Redz Zoo & Conservation Park, an hours drive north of Perth, Western Australia.