Wombats, wallabies, koalas and kangaroos – seadragons, sawfish and sulphur crested cockatoos – platypuses, dingoes, spotted quolls and bandicoots – quokkas, emus and dugongs in Ningaloo.
It’s no great secret that Australia has the most unique wildlife on the planet. Its relative isolation from the rest of the world has harboured the evolution of some of the animal kingdom’s most fascinating fauna. Over 80 percent of Australian critters aren’t found anywhere else on Earth, and although a picture may speak a thousand words, seeing the real things up close and personally is an indescribably fulfilling experience. The Land of Oz is teeming with wildlife, so much so that it seems everywhere you look there’s a curious creature nearby as interested in you as you are in it.
Australia’s isolated position isn’t the only thing responsible for its spectacular biodiversity – size plays an important role too. Its three million square miles stretch from tepid Tasmania to tropical Queensland, altogether traversing six different climate zones, which have contributed greatly to this evolutionary extravaganza of a country. So vast and plentiful are Australia’s national parks and wildlife reserves that narrowing them down to just ten suggestions for you has been a very real but rewarding challenge.
Kangaroo Island, South Australia
An Aboriginal settlement for thousands of years, Kangaroo Island used to be connected to the mainland, but its human inhabitants left when sea levels rose, separating them from the rest of Australia. Today, as you may have guessed from its name, the island abounds with kangaroos, but they aren’t the only animals you can expect to see here. Kangaroo Island is also home to protected little penguin colonies, wallabies, koalas, crocodiles, snakes and more. Aside from its wealth of wildlife, it’s also a place of captivating beauty, exhilarating outdoor activities and big enough to warrant taking a few days to explore all it has to offer. If you’re thinking of hopping over to Kangaroo Island from the mainland, then the sublime Southern Ocean Lodge, perched atop a secluded cliff at Hanson Bay, offers luxury lodge accommodation every bit as special as its surroundings.
Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
Thanks to extensive coverage from David Attenborough and various other wildlife documentarians, there probably isn’t much that you don’t already know about the Great Barrier Reef. The world’s largest coral reef owes its size and spectacles to the same phenomenon that gave birth to Kangaroo Island – rising sea levels. For years, Aborigines have recounted tales of the sea swallowing a large portion of Australia’s east coast, but it wasn’t until very recently, when oceanographers mapped the reefs’ shallow sea floor, that they discovered these ancestral stories are actually a whopping 50,000 years old. Situated in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island Luxury Lodge is perfectly placed to help you acquaint yourself with the aquatic treasures below the sea’s surface. Sea Turtles, whales, dolphins and thousands of species of fish all frequent the Great Barrier Reef, ready to welcome you to one of the natural world’s greatest wonders.
Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
Destinations don’t come much more remote or wild than Ningaloo Reef. Staying in Sal Salis’ charming wilderness tents, striking the perfect balance between sophistication and simplicity, here we enjoyed waking up each day and diving into the warm Indian Ocean to swim with some of the most majestic creatures on Earth. Floating through flurries of fish, you’ll find the gentle giants of Ningaloo, whale sharks, ambling amongst the reefs as manta rays sweep over the shallow ocean floor below. The size and scale of these beautiful beasts is unarguably impressive but, for us, it’s only when you take a closer look that you discover the real magic of Ningaloo. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the dainty and delicate sea horse, or if you’re a fan of Disney films, you’ll find Nemo and his clownfish friends hiding in a nearby sea anemone.
Rottnest Island, Western Australia
The little-known cat-sized critter in this picture is called a quokka. If you love animals, which we’re guessing you do since you’ve bothered to read this far, enter ‘quokka selfies’ into your search engine and thank us later. Rottnest Island, is about 19 miles from Perth and is most famous for its abundance of quirky quokkas with their heart-warming smiles and cheeky chappie confidence. These cute creatures and their furry photogenic faces, along with the opportunity to see bottlenose dolphins and southern fur seals, make Rottnest an idyllic daytrip location if you’re visiting nearby Perth. And if you’re looking for accommodation in this neck of the woods, look no further than COMO The Treasury, which occupies a selection of wonderfully restored Victorian buildings. At just 15 minutes from Perth airport, The Treasury is conveniently placed for a hassle free excursion across the water to Rottnest Island.
Freycinet National Park, Tasmania
In contrast to the friendly-faced Quokka, the main attraction of Freycinet National Park has starkly juxtaposed features. Despite its diabolical name and the permanent expression of annoyance on its face, the Tasmanian devil is surprisingly timid and shy. The devils of the Freycinet Peninsula share their Tasmanian habitat with a range of small critters, from Possums to Wombats and Sugar Gliders. Sitting in the Coles Bay Conservation Area of Freycinet National Park, Saffire Freycinet’s Luxury Lodges allow you to stay in the heart of one of Tasmania’s most scenic areas, surrounded by flora and fauna so unique that you won’t even find them on mainland Australia. Freycinet is also a great place for spotting ocean-dwelling mammals like the southern right whale, humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins. This is also a brilliant opportunity for you to see one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches, situated in Wineglass Bay.
Daintree National Park, Queensland
Australia is probably most famous for its Kangaroos, but have you ever heard of the tree-kangaroo? Well, 10 Australia points to you if you have, however, for those who haven’t, there’s a total of twelve different tree-kangaroo species but only two of them live amongst the Aussies. The Bennet’s tree-kangaroo and the Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo (pictured above) can both be found in the tropical Rainforest of Daintree. Just north of Cairns, this captivating jungle is over 110 million years old and is known for its exceptional biodiversity, housing the Platypus Creek Scientific area. The best place to stay if you’d like to visit one of the world’s oldest heritage sites is Silky Oaks Lodge, nestled right on the edge of the forest in Cape Tribulation. Silky Oaks offers a range of luxurious rainforest accommodation, from treehouses to tropical timber lodges or prime riverfront properties. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as lying in a hammock, serenaded by the relaxing sounds of the rainforest.
Blue Mountains, New South Wales
Koalas can be found in many places throughout Australia, but few are as scenic or mystifying as the Blue Mountains. Around 50 miles west of Sydney, the area takes its name from an apparent blue tinge that the mountains take on when viewed from a distance. This phenomena is an optical illusion caused by particles emitted from eucalyptus trees manipulating the light spectrum. The Blue Mountains are home to over 400 species of animals, including platypus, echidnas, spotted quolls, yellow-bellied gliders, dingoes and kangaroos. This is a great place to visit if you’re staying in Sydney, but if you’d like to be closer to the action and spend a few days out in the wilderness, we’ve found an absolutely gorgeous ranch resort about an hour north of here. Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa sits in 4000 acres of land, surrounded by four forests, a nature reserve and two national parks – the perfect partner to a Blue Mountains adventure.
Great Otway National Park, Victoria
Around exactly halfway along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road lies Great Otway National Park, a popular recreation area with residents of Melbourne. This is another great place to see koalas in the wild and also the other animal to share pride of place with the kangaroo on Australia’s coat of arms, the emu. Amongst the emus, koalas, kangaroos and platypuses, visitors can enjoy a range of activities, including cycling, fishing, fossicking and four wheel driving. Our suggestion for making the most out of a visit here is a stay at the Great Ocean Ecolodge. Entirely powered by solar energy, this collection of lodges sit in close proximity to The Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology and is only a short distance to the beach, where it’s not uncommon to see kangaroos hopping around, making a splash and topping up their tans.
Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
If you haven’t already guessed by now, we’re big animal lovers here at Destinology, which is why Kakadu National Park is one of our favourite down under domains. Wandering around Kakadu feels more like being on an African safari than discovering northern Australia and, considering that the park is about twice the size of Jamaica, there’s plenty to explore. Bamurru Plains is situated on the fringes of Kakadu and is an excellent place to soak up the subtropical sun as you relax in the pool and watch the world and its wildlife go by. The Safari Bungalows at Bamurru Plains are all built on raised timber platforms, and not only are they luxurious, but they also feature three mesh walls, giving you panoramic views of the creatures that roam nearby. From buffalo to flying foxes, kangaroos and even crocodiles in the surrounding rivers and creeks, Kakadu Park and Bamurru Plains are perhaps our wildest suggestions yet, in the very best sense of the word.
Uluru (Ayers Rock), Northern Territory
We’ve been North, South, East and West and now it’s time to head to a very different wild habitat from the rest – Australia’s Red Centre. Roaming around the outback is a humpbacked mammal you’d normally associate with North Africa and the Middle East. Camels were brought to Australia by early pioneers to help cartographers map the outback and carry supplies from colony to colony and, although still used for camel rides by tour operators, you’ll find wild camels enjoying their freedom in and around the country’s desert regions. The Red Centre also homes kangaroos, dingoes, birds and several reptiles, some more friendly than others, including the unusual-looking thorny dragon. Undoubtedly, if you’re venturing this deep into the outback, you’re here to see the sacred aboriginal site of Uluru, making the luxurious tents of Longitude 131° ideally suited to help you take in its spellbindingly still surrounding landscape and its wild inhabitants.
So, there you have it – ten wildly different and even more wildly populated Australian spots of immense natural beauty, and we’ve barely covered a fraction of what you stand to uncover with a trip down under. If you’re thinking of exploring this amazing continent, feel free to get in touch and pick the brains of our luxury travel experts, who are at hand to ensure that you get the most out of your holiday experience.