8 of Australia’s most iconic wildlife and where you can find them
15 April 2021 - By Bianca Drieberg
We have some of the most unique wildlife in the world, yet we often don’t get the chance to see them in their natural habitats. Thankfully we don’t have to step too far into the wild to see some of these Australian icons.
Here’s a guide to your best chance of seeing these creatures – and what to watch out for!
1. Tasmanian Devil
The ‘Tassie Devil’ is small but feisty, and one of Australia’s rarest species! About the size of a dog, they look pretty cute, but think twice before trying to get too close, they are known for their powerful bite.
You can find the Tasmanian Devil in, surprise, surprise – Tasmania. They aren’t easy to spot in the wild, but you can visit them in a wildlife sanctuary. Try taking a trip to Tassie, around Christmas for the best chance of seeing them.
Echidnas are shy, so if you do find them, they’ll be slowly wandering around most habitats, from deserts to rainforests and alpine mountains. They’ve also been seen swimming across rivers and beaches. Otherwise burrowed into the soil, hiding under vegetation and in hollow logs.
While echidnas aren’t dangerous, their spikes may be if they get a fright! When they feel threatened, they curl into a ball, protecting their soft belly and exposing only their sharp spines.
You’ll have the best chance of seeing echidnas in places like the Great Western Woodlands in Western Australia. Echidnas are most often seen during early morning and in the late afternoon, as they tend to avoid temperature extremes.
Our stubby little wombat friends tend to like the cold climate and you’ll know they are around by following the trail of cube-shaped droppings! You’ll often spot them after dark, but like most animals in the wild, their cute demeaner can change if they feel threatened. They may be short, but they are mighty and have been known to charge at people, so just give them some space.
Most people visit Cradle Mountain and Maria Island in Tasmania to spot wombats in the wild, but you can also find them in the New South Wales Southern Highlands and the Snowy Mountains, not far from Sydney, and even in national parks in central Queensland.
It’s not hard to spot a ‘roo’ in most parts of Australia, particularly in regional or country areas. And when you do, it’ll often be in the early morning or late at night as they tend to avoid the heat of the day. Best viewed from afar, kangaroos been known to fight with each other, jumping to kick with their back legs and can give a nasty gash with their long claws. They’re called “boxing kangaroos” for a reason!
What most people are on the lookout for is seeing a female kangaroo carrying her baby joey in her pouch. Kangaroos breed all year around and joeys are carried for almost a year in the mother’s pouch, so you’ll have a good chance of seeing this little wonder first-hand.
The Emu is our tallest native bird and can’t fly! Australia is the only place in the world where you can see them in the wild – likely running alongside your car when driving drive through outback New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
If you come across road signs saying that Emus are in an area, slow down when driving, particularly at dawn and dusk, when Emus are most active. And if you are on foot, although they are not typically aggressive toward people, they can run nearly 50 km per hour and they kick if they need to – so you’ll want to have your runners on!
Before these cute little guys (and girls!) became famous on social media for being the world’s happiest animal, quokkas were unknown to anyone outside of outside Rottnest Island in Western Australia.
Quokkas are tame little creatures who usually make an appearance from mid-late afternoon – you can catch a ferry over from Fremantle, WA, and there are plenty of them to see on the island. Quokkas get their great reputation from their seemingly big grins and friendly natures. However, they can bite and get aggressive when they feel threatened, so it’s best not to handle them or get too close.
Dingoes are Australia’s largest carnivorous mammal and you can actually find them across most Australia (except Tasmania) – from deserts to snow-covered alpine areas, from grasslands to rainforests. But one of the best places to see them is on Queensland’s Fraser Island, where you’ll see them wander freely along the beaches.
These are pack animals and different seasons bring out different behaviours, so the best safety tips are to stay within a dingo safe fence, never leave food scraps around, give dingoes plenty of space, and if you want to photograph them, it’s best done from your car.
The platypus is quite shy, so they’re pretty hard to spot in the wild. You’ll have your best chance of seeing them early in the morning or late in the evening, in dams or reservoirs as well as natural lakes, rivers, creeks, backwaters and billabongs. July and August in particular are generally great months for spotting platypus in south eastern Australia – places like the Blue Lake at Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains, NSW, Lake Elizabeth in the Great Otway National Park, VIC, and Warrawee Forest Reserve in Tasmania.
Seemingly harmless, the platypus produces venom, mainly during mating season. So, if you’re lucky enough to see one in the wild, give them a wide berth – these creatures can bite but you’ll live to tell the tale.