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The best places in Australia for (ethical) wildlife watching

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It’s no secret that the wildlife in Australia is incredible, and the continent is home to some creatures found nowhere else on the planet but our own backyard. We’ve got giant birds, ancient reptiles, animals that hop and underwater eco-systems that will make you lose track of time as you explore. Oh, and Australia has also pretty much cornered the market on marsupials—who doesn’t love a handy pocket?

In this guide, we’ll reveal the best wildlife-watching experiences you can have right here in Australia! Though we’ve listed spots to visit all over Australia, it’s essential that you check your local travel restrictions before you depart.

What should you look out for when it comes to finding ethical wildlife tours?

There are a few key things to look for when interacting with native wildlife. When choosing a wildlife-watching tour or planning your own wildlife experience, it’s important to have as minimal impact on the wildlife as possible. For example, the animals should be able to go about their business undisturbed, and they should not be incentivised or forced to perform. Ideally, you want to be observing the animals in their natural habitat without encroaching on their space. To learn more, check out our guide on ethical animal tourism.

Where are the best places in Australia to see…

Crocodiles – Darwin, NT

See crocodiles on a wildlife tour

You probably already know the answer to this one: Darwin is where the crocs are. NT’s most populous city has become famous for its croc tourism, so much so, the industry is credited with helping Australia’s crocodile numbers recover.

However, for an ethical way of seeing crocs, we recommend heading out on a boat tour. In particular, touring the Corroboree Billabong on the Mary River Wetlands or Kakadu’s Yellow Water Billabong are top picks. The operators that work these areas pride themselves on showing these ancient animals in their natural habitat. If you go, pack a camera with a sharp zoom lens. Budding wildlife photographers will also love the access to the scenery and birdlife on these excellent eco-friendly tours.

Best wildlife tour for: seeing Australia’s most dangerous animal!

Humpback Whales – Hervey Bay, QLD

Spit humpback whales on an ethical wildlife tour

We have no shortage of vantage points for seeing whales in Australia, thanks to our 59,736km of coastline. But for spotting humpbacks, the east coast is one of your best bets. The entire length of our eastern board, from Tasmania to Queensland, sees a procession of humpback whales migrate from Antarctica and then back again over the winter months. This is affectionately known as the ‘Humpback Highway’.

So, if the entire coast is a good bet, where is the best spot for whale watching? Hervey Bay is the place to aim for. This is the last stop for these gentle giants because the calm waters around Hervey Bay is where they give birth to their calves and raise them before making the journey back. That’s right, you can see baby whales!

If you’re on Australia’s west coast, you aren’t out of luck when it comes to whale watching. Humpback whales venture along WA’s coastline, and one of the best places to spot them is from the cliffs of Kalbarri.

If you plan to look for humpback whales from a boat tour, opt for one that doesn’t feed whales and slows to a stop when they do encounter whales. The boat should be far enough away as not to split up a pod.

Best wildlife tour for: whale watching

Whale Sharks – Ningaloo Coast, WA

Swim with whale sharks in Ningaloo on a wildlife tour

Without a doubt, the best place to see whale sharks in Australia is the Ningaloo Marine Park. The Ningaloo Reef is considered one of the best dive spots in the world and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its exceptional biodiversity.

From March to September, going diving in the Ningaloo Reef will likely mean seeing the world’s largest fish, the whale shark. Diving opportunities here offer visitors a chance to have truly wild encounters with the marine life without disturbing them, or their habitat. Best of all? The season for whale shark spotting is also big for dugongs, dolphins, turtles and manta rays. If you love marine life, there are few places in the world that beat the Ningaloo Reef for underwater wildlife encounters.

Best wildlife tour for: underwater wildlife

Kangaroos and Koalas – Kangaroo Island, SA

Get up close to the kangaroos of Kangaroo Island on a wildlife tour

Kangaroo Island is a veritable haven for animal lovers. In fact, the island is is frequently celebrated for being a place where the local flora and fauna can really thrive—and they’re making a comeback following recent wildfires. We’ve listed it as a place you can see kangaroos and koalas, but there are seals, wallabies, echidna and possums that also call this island home.

There are plenty of hotspots you can go to see the local wildlife, such as Seal Bay, Admirals Arch, and the wider Flinders Chase National Park area. You can also duck into a conservancy such as the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary to see some of these animals up close.

Best wildlife tour for: seeing the native Australian wildlife

Wombats and Tasmanian Devils – Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park, TAS

Meet wombats on a wildlife tour to Tasmania

We think that the cutest marsupials in Australia might just be the rotund wombat and the tiny Tassie Devil, and these adorable creatures are best found in Tasmania.

Only a couple hours’ drive from both Launceston and Hobart, the Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park is an ideal place to start. Not only is the park a stellar camping spot, it is also known for its phenomenal hikes and scenic beauty. Oh and did we forget to mention that it’s riddled with indigenous wildlife?

At Cradle Mountain, not only are you in with a chance of seeing wombats in the wild and Tasmanian Devils at the park’s nearby sanctuary, but you might also encounter quolls, echidna, black currawong, and platypus. These animals have us rethinking our cuteness rankings.

Best wildlife tour for: seeing Tasmanian Devils

Sea lions and Dolphins – Eyre Peninsula, SA

Go wild swimming in Baird Bay on a wildlife tour

Sea lions and dolphins have secured their place in the hearts of humanity thanks to their curious and friendly natures. Unfortunately, this has meant they have often been the star attractions at waterparks, far from their natural environment.

However, there are ways you can encounter these intelligent and beautiful animals without impacting them negatively. In South Australia, down along the Eyre Peninsula, you can go wild swimming with dolphins and sea lions. Stop by Baird Bay to see these curious creatures in their own element.

Best wildlife tour for: meeting dolphins and sea lions

Dingoes – Fraser Island, QLD

See the dingoes of Fraser Island on a wildlife tour

Fraser Island, hands down, is the best place to see the wild dogs of Australia. The island is off the eastern coast of Queensland, situated right next to Hervey Bay and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and national park.

The population of dingoes that live here come from a long lineage and are considered to have the purest pedigree in the world. In fact, they have largely remained unchanged since these dingoes’ ancestors migrated here thousands of years ago.

If you decide to visit Fraser Island for some dingo spotting, it’s definitely best to choose a trusted and eco-friendly tour operator rather than seeking them out solo. Dingoes are hunting dogs, and the population on the island is wild and considered dangerous if you’re not careful. That said, there are few sights more exciting than seeing one of the dingoes on Fraser Island. This is a top wildlife destination in Australia, and well worth a cheeky weekend away.

Best wildlife tour for: seeing wild dingoes

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