23 Best Places To Visit In Australia For Animal Experiences
Want to know where are the best places to visit in Australia for animal experiences? Whether you’re looking to tick off some bucket list experiences with Australian animals, look no further. We’ve found some of the most incredible and slightly crazy experiences with Australian animals you won’t find anywhere else in the world!
Just last weekend we nearly ran over an eastern long neck turtle, an emu, countless kangaroos and we even saw a herd of camels in someone’s front yard. It still blows my mind how 90% of the animals in Australia can ONLY be found in Australia.
It’s got me thinking about all of the insane experiences with Australian animals which should really be part of a massive Australia bucket list.
It’s also quite fascinating to hear from people living in other countries. When we spent a while in America last year, the first question we always got asked was about the dangerous animals in Australia. It made us laugh that it’s weirdly just part of life here.
Anyway, here’s some of the most insane and memorable experiences you can have with Australian animals. We’ve tried to keep zoos out of this post and mostly mentioned experiences with Australian animals in the wild.
Before we start – there are a couple of links in this post. If we’ve inspired you to do one of the tours mentioned below, it’s at no extra cost if you book through our links.
When I found out only last year that you can in fact swim with humpback whales in Mooloolaba with Sunreef Mooloolaba, I couldn’t believe it! And you can also swim with whales in Hervey Bay too on a combined Fraser Island and swim with whales tour with Tasman Venture.
As you probably know, the whale migration in Australia runs from June – November. Between these months, more than 30,000 whales will swim up and down the East Coast of Australia.
But you can also swim with humpback whales in the wild in Western Australia as well. About half way up the WA coast you can swim with humpback whales in Coral Bay with Coral Bay Encounters and from Exmouth with Ningaloo Discovery.
Coral Bay is ultimately one of the most amazing beach towns in Australia. It’s the gateway to the Ningaloo Reef, an exceptional reef that easily rivals and dare I say surpasses the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a sight to be seen! It’s no wonder we mention this stunning town a lot in this post!
2. Go Whale Watching In Australia
WHEN & WHERE When: June – November (June-July is peak time) Where: Most places on East Coast Australia, specifically the following: NSW: Sydney, Jervis Bay, Bateman’s Bay QLD: Hervey Bay
If you prefer to stay on a boat and go whale watching in Sydney or whale watching in Jervis Bay for example then the opportunities are endless.
We have been whale watching in Sydney with Sydney Eco Whale Watching Tours and it was excellent. It was a great day out because we went on a sailing boat across Sydney Harbour and sailed back after seeing 5 whales into the sunset. It was beautifully romantic to say the least.
You can also go on many whale watching tours on the East Coast of Australia during the whale migration. Jervis Bay, Hervey Bay and Bateman’s Bay offer up tours.
If you didn’t know, blue whales are the largest animal known to have ever existed in the world being nearly 30 metres long and weighing a hefty 174 tonnes. And… you can get a glimpse of them in Freemantle, Perth.
We were lucky to go and see the blue whales in Mirissa, Sri Lanka and it was absolutely mind blowing. Although you can only see about 20% of the animal out of the water, it’s unbelievable how big they really are.
This is massive bucket list item for anyone who is into marine life. When we told the crew on our whale watching boat in Sydney that we had seen blue whales, their faces just lit up in awe.
4. Swim With Dwarf Minke Whales
WHEN & WHERE When: May to August (June-mid July peak) Where: Port Douglas, QLD with Silver Series
Did you know the only place in the world to swim with minke whales is in Port Douglas in Queensland?
During the Winter, the minke whales make their annual migration from Antartica to the Great Barrier Reef from May to August.
Whilst the minke whale is the second smallest baleen whale in the world, they can grow up to 8 metres (not anywhere near like the Blue Whales at 30 metres!).
Either try your pot luck and hope to see these rare whales on a day trip or go on a live aboard in Great Barrier Reef for a few days and spend a few days looking for them.
I remember visiting Coral Bay in Western Australia and I just fell in love with this little beach town. Between March to August you can swim with the beautiful whale sharks in Coral Bay with Coral Bay Eco Tours or from the nearby town of Exmouth with Ningaloo Discovery in the Ningaloo Reef.
The beauty about snorkelling with whale sharks is that you don’t need to go diving to get close to them. The ethical tours have really strict regulations and are only found by a spotter.
Whale sharks are often found on the surface of the water because they rely on the sun to change their body temperature so they are much easier to spot than other under water animals.
Swimming with whale sharks is a complete once in a lifetime bucket list opportunity. Do not miss out on this experience!
The only place in Australia where shark cage diving is permitted is located in Port Lincoln, South Australia with Adventure Bay Charters. Apparently there are over 1000 sharks around the Neptune Islands which is a 3 hour boat ride away, so the chances of seeing one is pretty high.
We went shark cage diving in South Africa and although we were in two minds about whether to do it (for ethical reasons), I’m glad we did. We learnt so much about sharks and could clearly see how passionate the crew were about them.
WHEN & WHERE When: May – August Where: QLD: Lady Elliot Island WA: Coral Bay with Coral Bay Eco Tours
Another amazing underwater experience I was fortunate to do in Coral Bay with Coral bay Eco Tours was to swim with manta-rays which is an absolutely magical experience.
You can also swim with manta-rays at Lady Elliot Island in the Southern Great Barrier Reef from Bundaberg. The amazing thing about snorkelling with the manta-rays at Lady Elliot Island is that you’ve got a chance of spotting the completely rare pink manta-ray. This is one of the Australian animals you won’t find anywhere else in the world!
I spoke to someone on Instagram who told me you can only spot the pink manta ray by swimming underneath them as their back is black like the others. They had indeed seen this rare manta ray!
8. Swim With Turtles In Australia
WHEN & WHERE Where: QLD: Lady Elliot Island, Lady Musgrave Island (May – August) WA: Coral Bay (Dec – Mar) with Coral Bay Ecotours
I don’t think there’s one person in the world who doesn’t have a soft spot for turtles. Good news is there’s plenty of places to swim and snorkel with turtles in Australia!
We were really lucky to swim with turtles in Lady Elliot Island. The lagoon on the island is home to so many turtles, we saw at least 10 who were all happy to swim next to us. It was absolutely amazing!
WHEN & WHERE Where: QLD: Mon Repos Turtle Centre, near Bundaberg (November to March) NT: Bare Sand Island with Sea Darwin(all year but July-August peak)
Turtle hatchling season is one of the biggest drawcards to visiting the Bundaberg region in Queensland because so many turtles come to this part of the coast to lay their eggs.
We’ve personally visited Mon Repos Turtle Centre and loved it. Here you’ll be able to read all about turtles and watch some really cool videos as well about turtle conservation.
We then went out onto the protected beach but didn’t see any turtles at the time. They do offer evening tours which is when you’re more likely to see turtles hatching their eggs (we were lucky to see this on a previous trip to Sri Lanka).
You can also go on an 8 hour tour from Darwin to Bare Sand Island to see turtle hatchlings as well with Sea Darwin.
It doesn’t get much more crazy or Australian other than swimming with a salt water Crocodile in Darwin at Crocosaurus Cove. It’s the only place in Australia where you can be this adventurous or utterly crazy to come to eye with these Australian animals!
Known at the cage of death, you’ll get the opportunity to dive in a tank with some of the largest crocodiles in the world!
Crocosaurus Cove is home to the world’s largest Australian reptiles so be prepared to see a 200,000 fresh water aquarium situated in the heart of Darwin.
Further up the coast from Port Lincoln in South Australia is Baird Bay, home to sea lions.
In this eco friendly tour with Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience, you’ll be able to get up close to sea lions in the wild. If you’re lucky, you might be able to swim with their friends – dolphins – on the same trip!
I’d be surprised to hear if anyone didn’t have swimming with dolphins on their Australian bucket list!
Good news is, you can swim with dolphins in Port Stephens with Dolphin Swim Australia which is just a 3 hour road trip away from Sydney! It’s the only place you can swim with dolphins in NSW!!
You can also swim with dolphins in Bunbury in WA with Dolphin Discovery which I’ve been lucky enough to do when I was a backpacker years ago. It has always been on my bucket list so when I found out you can swim with dolphins in Australia, I jumped at the opportunity!
WHEN & WHERE When: All year round Where: Monkey Mia, WA
When I first came to Australia I went on a trip up the West Coast which is absolutely amazing. The water is a bright turquoise and the sand is super white, something you don’t see so much on the East Coast of Australia. Plus there’s not many people travelling WA either.
I remember stopping off at Monkey Mia, a beach town where wild dolphins come right up the the shore every single day and up to three times a day. The same group of 8 dolphins visit each day and have been given names because the locals recognise them so much!
Monkey Mia has been recognised as one of the best places in the world to interact with dolphins because of their reliability. You’ll be able to watch the dolphin feeding which mainly takes places between 7am-12pm. But the dolphins can come for feeding up to 3 times a day (only by the guides).
There are very strict rules on feeding the dolphins and they are only fed fish to make sure they can hunt on their own. Outside of feeding times, it’s actually illegal to approach a dolphin in the water within 50m.
WHEN & WHERE When: June or September to November Where: Cairns, QLD
It would be kinda weird if we didn’t talk about scuba diving Great Barrier Reef in this post. As a huge bucket list item for many people, we recommend either going on a day trip or a live aboard from Cairns in Northern Queensland to make the most of it.
We’ve been on a live aboard in Great Barrier Reef with Reef Encounters a few years back and had a great time. Just imagine being able to wake up to the sunrise over the reef – it’s something that will stay with you forever!
Also, I can’t recommend enough to go on a seaplane around Great Barrier Reef as well. Being able to see the Great Barrier Reef from above is just magical. They might even randomly point out where Steve Irwin died on the reef (they did when we went on the trip!). Check out this tour which will also take you to a private island – sounds like paradise!
15. Explore The Wildlife On Kangaroo Island
WHEN & WHERE When: All year round Where: Kangaroo Island SA
Kangaroo Island isn’t called Kangaroo Island for nothing!
More than a third of Kangaroo Island is home to a huge variety of Australia wildlife including koalas, kangaroos, sea lions and penguins! Some of the best beaches in Australia are located at Kangaroo Island as well as some incredible rock pools to check out.
More than a third of Kangaroo Island is home to a huge variety of Australian animals including; koalas, kangaroos, sea lions and penguins! Some of the best beaches in Australia are located at Kangaroo Island as well as some incredible rock pools to check out.
If you’re visiting Australia for a short period of time, I doubt you’ll find more wildlife anywhere else. We recommend going on a full day trip from Adelaide -this is a really popular trip you should check out.
As we know, Kangaroo Island was hit by the 2020 bush fires. Please go and support the locals and Australian animals on this island – they need your help more than ever!
Tours to Kangaroo Island
There are loads of tours to Kangaroo Island you should check out below!
16. Hug A Koala At Australia Zoo
WHEN & WHERE When: All year round Where: Sunshine Coast QLD
Even if you’re not into zoos, you need to check out Australia Zoo as it’s pretty incredible.
One of the best things to do at Australia Zoo is to have a cuddle with a koala. Although we haven’t listed many animal activities in a zoo in this post, Australia Zoo is without a doubt the best zoo in the world. And if you’re not convinced, you just need to go and check out their animal hospital at the zoo to see for yourself.
It’s also home to one of the only places in Australia where you can hold a koala, an experience like no other!
You can do a full day tour from Brisbane or Noosa if you don’t have a car with you.
WHEN & WHERE When: December – February Where: Philip Island in VIC
Not only is Australia home to kangaroos, crocodiles and koala bears, but if you make your way down to Philip Island near Melbourne, you’ll be able to check out the penguins on Philip Island. I know it sounds random because we all think of penguins preferring cold weather but Australia is home to some too!
The Penguin Parade Afternoon Wildlife Tour takes place at night time when the penguins come out. You’ll be given a pair of night time googles so you can get up close to the adorable penguins on the sand.
The penguin tour on Philip Island is often known as one of the best Australia animals experiences in the country.
If you’re looking to see some penguins in NSW, I have always heard there are apparently resident penguins at Collins Flat Beach in Manly.
Phillip Island Tours
There are quite a few tours to consider to Phillip Island. We recommend checking out the below.
20. Annual Red Crab Migration
WHEN & WHERE When: October to January Where: Christmas Island
Although Christmas Island is technically closer to Indonesia, it’s still part of Australia. It’s also a magical island where you can fully immerse yourself into nature and witness something you won’t find anywhere in the world – the red crab migration.
Although there are 14 species of land crabs found on Christmas Island, it’s known that 60 million red crabs migrate across the island each year to mate.
Remarkably the red crabs’ journey starts in the wet season as they leave the forests and head over the ocean. During this time, they are protected by the island’s park rangers as they block off roads and even build fences so the crabs make their way to the ocean. This is truely a sight to be seen.
Wondering how to get to Christmas Island? You can get to Christmas Island via Perth or Fiji currently. Virgin Australia were running flights from Perth but who knows what’s happening with that airline post Corona Virus.
And if you really want to go all out, check out Australia’s oldest camel station at Beltana Station in South Australia. Here you can choose from a day camel trek up to a 15 day camel trek!
22. Find Tasmanian Devils
WHEN & WHERE When: All year round Where: Taranna (near Port Arthur), TAS
As you know, we’ve tried to limit the amount of zoos in this post but we couldn’t miss out the Tasmaian Devil Tracker Adventure based in you guessed it… Tasmania!!
The Tasmanian Devil Unzoo is the world’s first intentional Unzoo to promote a natural experience with these Australian animals. You’ll be able to go on a guided tour around native bushland to learn all about the Australian species, you won’t find anywhere else on earth!
23. Spend The Day With A Platypus
WHEN & WHERE When: All year round Where: Healesville Sanctuary, Yarra Ranges VIC with Healesville Sanctuary
I wonder how many people have actually ever seen a platypus up close before? Well here’s an opportunity to become a platypus keeper for the day at Healesville Sanctuary in the Yarra Ranges National Park in Victoria where you’ll spend the entire day with these Australian animals.
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