You hear it all the time. Everything in Australia wants to kill you. I’m not gonna lie, guys: I’ve wanted to visit Australia for as long as I can remember, but I’ve always been terrified of the idea of spiders the size of dinner plates and crocodiles biting your arm off and snakes hiding in your toilet. I even found out that the strange, fascinating, adorable platypus can hurt you – the males have venomous spurs in their back legs! This fact greatly upset me, and I decided I’d had enough of Australia’s bullshit.
Wanna hear the good part, though? I saw huge spiders, but not actually that many, and none the size of dinner plates. I saw tiny venomous spiders and didn’t get bitten; in fact they all ran away from me so fast I didn’t have time to be scared! I barely even saw any snakes, and I never saw a wild croc.
What I did see was fluffy koalas and friendly kangaroos, and a lot of animals I’d either never heard of, or never knew were even in Australia…
So, let’s start off with the good ones!
I don’t think it’s possible to picture Australia without thinking of kangaroos. But everyone says once you’ve been there a while (and especially if you drive) then you’ll hate them after a while – in fact, they are seriously considered pests by Australians.
However, I never got tired of seeing them! And one of my favourite experiences in Australia was getting up at 5am (okay, not that part) and driving to a beach for the sunrise – because these guys come out to say hello! This amazing experience was at Cape Hillsborough near Mackay in Queensland, which happens to be one of our favourite beaches on the east coast, so I highly recommend a visit if you’re passing through.
My mum had a toy koala when she was young, she gave it to me when I was a kid and it’s still kicking about now, so it’s only natural that I’ve always had an affinity for these fake bears. Well, that and the fact they are super duper cute and are basically real life teddy bears! (with really big claws and chlamydia. Yeahhhh…)
One of my biiiig Australia bucket list items was holding one at a zoo – we ended up doing it at a Lone Pine koala sanctuary in Brisbane instead, which I guess is the same sort of thing.
But there’s nothing quite like stumbling across one in the wild – the best places to see them are along the Great Ocean Road, in Noosa’s national park, and you’re basically guaranteed to see them on Magnetic Island on the forts walk hike! I saw not one but THREE on Maggie Island!!
The platypus is my all-time favourite Australian animal! It’s the weirdest creature in the world (a duck-billed egg-laying mammal that lives in the water?!) which can be summed up in the fact that when it was first discovered, it was generally considered to be a hoax.
But while platypuses are real, they’re pretty hard to find. Which is why I made it my mission to see one! Turns out they don’t even have them at Australia Zoo, or in fact many zoos at all. But they do have them at Lone Pine, so I was thrilled to see one there. A real life platypus!
After getting my research on, I found a couple of places you can see them in the wild. The best place is Eungella national park, which happens to be near Cape Hillsborough, and was an unexpected highlight of the road trip! To get to the platypuses at Broken River, you have to drive up a mountain via a very windy road, and the views from the top are unreal. So yeah, 10/10 would recommend, and you get bonus platypuses.
Wallabies are like the younger, less popular cousin of the kangaroo – but they’re still really cute!
Not gonna lie, I wouldn’t want to get too close to one of these bad boys. One of Ash’s most memorable experiences was driving to work along a dirt track, to find an emu racing alongside them!!
Well what surprised me the most about the wombat is how big it is!! I did not expect that! Unfortunately we never saw one in the wild (I hear Tasmania is the best place for that) but we saw quite a few at zoos and they’re SO CUTE AND SQUIDGY.
And if you have any doubts as to whether wombats could ever make it onto your list of favourite animals, look no further than this video of cuteness!
We were woken early in the morning by the kookaburra’s laugh more than once… and quite often they were overwhelmingly loud at sunset, too.
I mean, I don’t exactly associate dolphins with Australia, but it wasn’t a surprise to see them. What was pretty awesome, though, is that we saw them on Christmas Day!
(we also saw humpback whales from a distance, but I never got a picture! And I swam near a turtle in the Great Barrier Reef but again didn’t get a photo, waaaahh)
Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. The thought of spiders actually put me off ever going to Australia. Because here, my mum scoffs in my face about how they’ll never hurt me so why am I scared of them? Well, children, that’s a VERY different story in Australia. The worst thing? Those infamous dinner plate spiders (which, as I said above, I never saw any of, but the one above was bigger than my hand which is big enough for me!!) are the ones you don’t have to worry about. Huntsman spiders (basically fricking tarantulas) are spider bros, not spider foes, and will fight the real enemy for you. Oh no, the dangerous ones are house spider size (Sydney funnel web) or even smaller (redback). And I saw tons of redbacks during my farm work! Nope nope nope. Get me outta here.
I don’t mind snakes, but the idea of seeing one in Australia did freak me out a little because they are truly dangerous. Like, people still die quite frequently kind of dangerous. I don’t know how, but in 14 months I only ever saw one live wild snake (and I got a crappy picture of it above… and yes, it is on someone’s roof!). Two if you include one in the road that the guy driving ran over. It was night time so we couldn’t really see it but he thinks it was an eastern brown, the second most deadly snake in Australia. The one I saw was at least 6ft but not actually dangerous, a carpet python. The one you’ve really got to watch out for? The taipan. Do not mess with that motherfucker!
I didn’t see a wild crocodile, which to be honest I am quite glad about. We went to various campsites in the far north Queensland that had crocodile warnings! But the scariest thing about crocodiles (saltwater crocs especially, which grow up to a monstrous 7 metres) is you don’t get a warning. There’s a splash and then you’re either dead or missing a limb.
We did see the crocodile show at Australia Zoo though, which was fascinating and adrenaline-fuelled, but probably not quite the same without Steve Irwin.
I’ve got to cheat a little bit on this one too, because I never saw a dingo on Fraser Island or anywhere else, booo! I thought these guys would be EVERYWHERE on Fraser! Nope, I had to settle for one at Lone Pine sanctuary instead.
You think the emu’s scary? Check out the cassowary. They are basically dinosaurs and can gut you like a fish with one foot. I am SO gutted (ha! see what I did there?) because we specifically took a short detour to Etty Bay to try and catch a glimpse of one – and missed a mother and baby by ten minutes. We stuck around for a little while but there was no sign of any more. Cassowaries are seriously endangered, and although there are signs all around that area of Queensland, you’ll be hard pressed to find one. Etty Bay is definitely your best bet.
Alright, I’m including sharks even though I don’t have a picture of one – but we actually saw a little dogfish shark at Whitehaven beach in the Whitsundays!! Not quite what you imagine when you think of sharks in Australia, but it was pretty cool! You can dive with great white sharks in Port Lincoln near Adelaide if that’s your sort of thing, or whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef in WA.
Oh, possums! I first encountered a possum in Melbourne, when we walked past a park and got accosted by the cutest little brown guy (I probably caught a disease from him but hey ho). The hostel we lived at in Brisbane had them in the back yard – but they were completely different to the one in Melbourne! Queensland ones are way cuter! And neither of them are ANYTHING like their hideous American cousins. Naturally, they are considered pests (and they really are – we caught them on several occasions in our kitchen!) but THEY ARE SO DAMN CUTE!! I’d literally never heard of them before so I think they were my biggest surprise.
All over Brisbane, we saw huge fruit bats flying overhead at night, and they looked so freaking cool. Every time we looked up, there’s a batwing. It was Cairns that really surprised us though. There are a couple of trees close to the city centre housing hundreds upon hundreds of flying foxes – and you can go and see them during the day! Which means you get to see their CUTE LITTLE FACES and omg if they aren’t adorable! Hang out around the centre at 6pm to watch them all fly out for the night, it’s quite a spectacle.
One of my absolute highlights of Melbourne was going to see the little penguins on St Kilda pier! I had no idea you could even see penguins in Australia! Once you’re in Melbourne, you don’t have to do a lot of research to know that you can go to Philip Island (home of penguins and the Hemsworth brothers, what more could you want?) to see these guys, but it’s amazing how many people DON’T know that you can see them for free 20 minutes from the centre of Melbourne! In fact, we only found out through a recommendation from a friend. Go just before sunset to see them returning home to their holes in the rocks at the very end of the pier. Most of the breakwater is off-limits to conserve their environment, but there is a short stretch you can observe them in.
I suppose it’s not unusual to see birds of prey, but what surprised me was the frequency we saw them. Every single day on our road trip, we had loads of hawks swooping over our campervan and it was pretty awesome. The creme de la creme, though, was stopping and seeing this wedge-tailed eagle.
Water dragon lizards
Oh, guys. I love lizards. They hadn’t exactly been on my radar for “Australian” animals, but I saw them almost every single day in Brisbane. They love to hang out in the city botanic gardens by the pond, in Roma Street Parklands, and we always saw them when we walked under Story Bridge too (which was our main route into the city centre). We even had one or two in our back yard! They are so cool, I lived there for six months and always stopped to look at them! (and I could probably do a whole post of photos of them…!)
Monitor lizards / goanna
Another surprise lizard encounter was in Noosa, when we had a Boxing Day barbecue! …and suddenly THIS monster strolled on past. Well shit a brick, we moved out of the way for that one!
There are 25 species of goanna in Australia, and a whopping 450 species of skink!
Ummm, crabs? Really? Well, did you know that it’s possible to see entire armies of crabs scuttling across the beach? And really super pretty sparkly ones?! Exactly!
Okay, not an unexpected animal, per se. The name kinda gives it away (although I didn’t see one of these in the wild either). But I genuinely had no idea what they look like… it’s not like I’d ever really thought to look them up. But I did NOT expect them to look quite so different to their Looney Tunes counterpart!! Taz is a total lie, guys!
I guess despite parts of Australia being tropical, I never actually associated tropical birds with it. They are everywhere! But while they’re really pretty, their voices are… not. Seriously. Shut the f up, guys.
There are tons of pretty cool birds in Australia, but these are one of the most common. They are also noisy as hell, but I love their little mohawks (I realise the one in the third picture is a different type of cockatoo, shh now).
These are not pretty, but they are pretty random! You get them in parks and you get them in city centres. Turkeys. In city centres. What is up with you, Australia??
I know a seal doesn’t seem like something that would come under an “unexpected” wildlife category… but when you see one outside Sydney Opera House with a harbour bridge backdrop, you bet it does!!
I have to admit – I’ve not nearly covered everything. I didn’t go to Rottnest Island so I haven’t got a quintessential quokka selfie. I managed to avoid all the jellyfish (another thing in Australia that wants to kill you – or at least, in the words of Dobby, maim or seriously injure), I didn’t get to go to Bundaberg to help baby turtles get to the sea during hatching season, and did you know there are wild CAMELS in the Australian desert?!
I haven’t even mentioned echidnas, because they were nigh on impossible to get a photo of. My favourite fact about any Australian animal? A baby echidna is called a PUGGLE!!! A puggle!!!
Oh, and obviously beware of drop bears.
One of my favourite things about Australia is its diverse wildlife, and it definitely didn’t disappoint!
What weird and wonderful creatures have you seen in Australia?
All photos in this post are mine and based on my experiences