10 Native Animals To See While You’re Backpacking Australia

10 Native Animals To See While You’re Backpacking Australia Image | East Coast Tours Australia

From laughing kookaburras to cuddly koalas and giant emus to hopping wallabies, Australia is renowned for its diverse and unique wildlife. So, if you don’t know where to start, why not plan your road trip with hopes to see these iconic animals? Indeed, spotting your first crocodile is bound to make for an unforgettable experience Down Under… crikey!

Quick Links

  1. Koala
  2. Kangaroo
  3. Wombat
  4. Crocodile
  5. Possum
  6. Platypus
  7. Emu
  8. Kookaburra
  9. Wallaby
  10. Echidna

Koalas in Australia

The cuddly and undeniably cute marsupial, the koala “bear” is a must-see whilst in Australia (not actually a bear, but still adorable). These frizzy, grey mammals are super chill and are more often than not found asleep in tall eucalyptus trees. They were named by Indigenous Australians after the term translating to “no drink” as they usually get all of their hydration from eucalyptus leaves and don’t often need water. You may even get lucky enough to see a mum koala with a joey in her pouch, so don’t forget to look up!

Koala in the tree at Magentic Island

Did you know?

Did you know that eucalyptus leaves, which make up a koala’s main diet, are super poisonous? Koalas are one of few animals that can safely digest them, and they sure do, eating up to a kilogram a day!

Where to see koalas in Australia

Most zoos will have koalas, our favourites are Australia Zoo (you can get a photo with a cuddly koala here) and the Brisbane Lone Pines Koala sanctuary. Magnetic Island also has an awesome koala sanctuary.

Where to see koalas in the wild in Australia 

If you want to see a koala in the wild, we recommend Raymond Island in Victoria, a protected koala sanctuary with a dedicated koala walk that’s still off the beaten path. Koalas inhabit ecosystems in south-eastern and eastern Australia, so keep your eyes peeled along the East Coast on your road trip, especially where there are lots of gum trees!

Magnetic Island Koala Sanctuary

Kangaroos in Australia

You may know kangaroos as those jumpy guys plastered all over road signs Down Under! And, you’re not at all wrong. The kangaroo is a herbivorous mammal and is quite common in Australia, often found munching on grass in fields. Kangaroos can be aggressive and protective of their young and are to be watched from a distance in the wild. Unfortunately, you may see kangaroo roadkill on highways and country roads, so be cautious when driving.

Kangaroo and a woman toaking a photo in a field

Did you know?

A single kangaroo “bounce” can see them leaping over 9 metres and travelling at 48km per hour! That is a lot faster than the average cyclist or e-scooter!

Where to see kangaroos in Australia

Kangaroos are common in eastern Australia, and pretty much everywhere along the East Coast! You can for sure spot kangaroos and wallabies, their smaller cousins, at Australia Zoo. Here, there is an enclosure where you can get up close and personal in a safe environment. 

Where to see kangaroos in the wild in Australia

A lot of quiet, grassy areas are home to kangaroos in QLD, NSW, VIC and TAS - just keep your eyes peeled! Check out our campsite article for spots such as the Horizons Kangaroo Sanctuary and Depot Beach which are home to mobs of kangaroos!

Kangaroo next to a woman with red hair

Wombats in Australia

The wombat is a stocky, burrowing and herbivorous marsupial. They burrow in the earth and spend their days grazing on grass and bark for nourishment. There are three species of wombat: the bare-nosed wombat, the southern hairy-nosed wombat and the northern hairy-nosed wombat. The northern hairy-nosed wombats are critically threatened.

Man holding a wombat in Bredls Wildlife Farm

Did you know?

A common tell-tale that a wombat is nearby is the odd cubic scat on the ground. That’s right, wombats have green, square poops, due to their slow digestion and interestingly shaped intestines!

Where to see wombats in Australia

Most zoos in Australia will keep wombats, including Australia Zoo, Bredl's Wildlife Farm and Magnetic Island Sanctuary, so head to your nearest wildlife centre to spot these cute creatures!

Where to see wombats in the wild

Wombats inhabit grasslands, forests, mountains and islands in eastern, south-eastern and southern Australia. The common wombat (bare-nosed) is the most frequently spotted, located in NSW, VIC and TAS. Maria Island off Tasmania is home to huge groups of wombats in the wild due to a lack of predators, where visitors can keep a respectful 2 metres and admire the mother wombats with their babies!

Woman holding a wombat

Crocodiles in Australia 

The Aussie freshwater crocodile, or “croc” as nearly all Australians nickname them, is an immense, prehistoric reptile that spends its days in the water and on nearby land. They tend to eat fish and insects, however, can hunt larger animals like wallabies, birds and even other crocs.

Crocodile at Hartley's Crocodile Farm

Did you know?

Crocodiles are excellent sprinters, and when startled can leap into a “high sprint” on their back legs and dash into the water. This behaviour is usually seen when the creature is surprised and runs to where it is most comfortable and hidden.

Where can I see crocodiles in Australia?

The late Australian Wildlife Warrior, Steve Irwin, is renowned for his studies and conservation efforts in crocodiles all over Australia. Check out the crocodiles and croc show at Australia Zoo, often run by Steve’s son Robert Irwin! The Hartley Crocodile Centre in Cairns and the Bredl’s Wildlife Farm in Airlie Beach are also great places to spot these reptiles.

Where can I see crocodiles in the Australian wild? 

To be blunt, you don’t want to see crocodiles in the Australian wild without a tour guide. These apex predators are incredibly dangerous, and even though they don’t actively hunt humans, being in their territory unprotected by a professional is highly risky and people have died. Unfortunately, humans have taken to feeding crocodiles which has increased the risk of them attacking humans in places like campsites. Please heed any crocodile warning signs with caution and take all local advice regarding crocs seriously.

Person taking a photo of a crocodile at Hartlety's

Possums in Australia

Sort of like the tree rats or squirrels of Down Under, possums are pretty common in Australia! An animal that hasn’t been scared off from urban areas, you’ll find possums in trees, on roofs and tightrope-walking across powerlines even in the busiest of cities. The common brushtail possum is the thriving species, however, there are many others like the pygmy possum (mundarda), ringtail possums and yellow-bellied glider.

Little possum in someone's hands

Did you know?

Possums were introduced in New Zealand to spark fur trade, however, are now considered a pest and are controlled under law. Similarly, in Tasmania, the brushtail possum population is quite damaging to food production and biodiverse ecosystems and numbers are also managed under law.

Where can I see a possum in the wild?

Australian possums inhabit eastern, northern, south-western and south-eastern parts of Australia, and you can safely spot one in the wild (or not-so-wild streets of Brisbane City). These nocturnal animals live in a wide variety of places, from rainforests to tree hollows and mountain ranges to your share house roofs and have a diet of leaves mostly but are known to eat many fruits, vegetables and flowers. So, look up and notice any shaking trees in the evenings… it could very well be a possum feasting! Oh, and possum-proof your garden patch, they’re known to love basil!

The Australian Platypus

These amphibious mammals really are something of a splice. Part fish, part furry land creature, platypus are super cute, shy creatures with large bills. Adapted and streamlined for swimming, these little guys have dense, waterproof fur, webbed feet and strong arms along with a powerful tail. The platypus commonly eats bottom-feeding marine creatures but is sometimes known to venture to the surface and have a go at catching a frog or insect.

Did you know?

When a platypus dives down into the water to catch its next bite, it loses most senses including sight, smell and hearing. However, these clever creatures aren’t swimming totally blind; they use their unique electroreceptive systems and touch receptors which act as a sort of radar and help them navigate. This advanced capability dates back incredibly far in evolutionary history, and gives us a brief insight into the mysterious and wonderful ways of a platypus!

Where can I see a platypus in the wild?

Platypus are found in fresh waterways of eastern Australia, including ponds, streams, lakes, rivers and bankside burrows. You won’t spot a platypus in far north Queensland, but they do have habitat all along the East Coast. However, the platypus is a notoriously shy creature and feeds often from dusk to dawn, so it's an early wake-up and quiet walk to see a platypus! Tasmania has a few platypi walks out near the Huon Valley, and they have also been spotted in Jindabyne’s Kosciusko River to name a few places.

Emus in Australia 

These ginormous flightless birds are seriously something, and a total must-see while you’re backpacking around Australia. While emus technically are birds, they don’t boast many of the regular features often associated with birds. Emus don’t fly, sing or tweet. They are known for their incredibly fast running speed and loud grunts that are particularly distinguishable during the breeding season. The emu is related to the cassowary and ostrich. In fact, the emu is the second largest bird in the world, standing nearly 2m in height!

An emu with a blue neck and shaggy body

Did you know?

The emu holds great significance within Indigenous Australian culture, with many ancient Dreamtime stories and astrological constellations relating back to this immense bird, dating back over 50,000 years!

Where can I see an emu?

Emus are only found in Australia, inhabiting rainforests and increasingly more arid zones. They are wanderers and make great journeys across the country in search of food with their flock. You can see cassowaries and emus at Bredl's Wildlife Farm and Australia Zoo!

Kookaburras in Australia 

The laughing kookaburra is a cheeky local neighbour to most Australians, with its unmistakable laugh and smooth bill. While these birds naturally eat insects, they are renowned for swooping in to snatch food from campers and beach barbequers all around the country. I mean, you’re not an Aussie until you’ve had the sausage sandwich stolen right from your hand by a hungry kookaburra!

Kookaburras in a tree

Did you know?

Kookaburras are not quite as cute as they make out to be at all times. Hosting plenty of surprising ferocity, kookaburras can eat snakes up to a metre long, swooping in to grab it and smacking it against the ground to make it unconscious before digging in! 

Where can I spot a kookaburra in Australia?

Many zoos feature kookaburras in their enclosures, including Hartley's Crocodile Centre in Cairns and Australia Zoo.  However, it’s pretty common to spot these guys outdoors in the wild around beach-side parks, campsites and bush too. They really like to hang out for those tasty human-made snacks, however, it’s important to not feed the wildlife ever, as it encourages reliance on people!

The Australian Wallaby

The kangaroo’s smaller, undeniably cuter relative, wallabies are native marsupials with many similarities to the ‘roo. With their huge eyes and little paws, it’s difficult not to let an “aww” slip out when you spot them. They spend most of their days munching on grass and plants, and are no-joke identifiable as mini kangaroos! Their strong tail is used in defence and as a stabiliser, and their flat faces and strong teeth are perfect for their herbivorous diet.

Wallaby in the driveway

Did you know?

Wallabies are distinguished by their habitat, with three distinct groups: the shrub wallaby, the brush wallaby and the rock wallaby. Each of these three types of wallaby has unique features adapted to their respective habitat. For example, rock wallabies are known for their ashy colour with lighter streaks which help them camouflage amongst vast rocky outcrops!

Where can I spot a wallaby? 

Much like kangaroos, you can often find wallabies grazing in grassy fields, in the bush or even amongst drier rocky areas. They’re found in all states along the East Coast of Australia and are often victims of car accidents on motorways, so always drive with caution while you’re road-tripping! Or, to get up a bit closer, head to Australia Zoo to mingle with the wallabies!


Spikey, mysterious and stout, echidnas are wonderfully wild Aussie critters. Their body is covered in thin spines and fur, of which there is more in cooler habitats. This sharp characteristic is a great method of self-defence, as a smaller animal of prey. echidnas can burrow down into the earth extremely quickly, making it nearly impossible for predators to attack. There are short-beaked and long-beaked echidnas, however, the short-beaked are the most common specie on the Australian mainland.

Woman next to a spikey echidna at Australia Zoo

Did you know?

Much like the platypus, echidnas are naturally equipped with some pretty advanced electroreceptive technology! This allows them to monitor the exact location of insects and other food sources as they scour the ground for tasty snacks! Once found, they stick their long, sticky tongue out and dig in!

Where can I see an echidna?

Australia Zoo has a few resident echidnas, as does the Magnetic Island Wildlife Sanctuary. To see an echidna in the wild is pretty lucky, but not totally uncommon. They prefer cooler climates, and are abundant in Tasmania, with populations also in Victoria and New South Wales. Keep your eyes peeled in areas with many hidey-holes such as hollow trees, rock gaps, tree roots, caves and underbrush are abundant.

Magnetic Island Sanctuary Echidna

Ready to spot Australia’s top 10 native animals IRL? Whether you’re craving beach, bush or rainforest, Australia is laden with impressive creatures of all sizes and shapes! 

Let your next Aussie road trip be adorned with incredible flora and fauna with a jam-packed itinerary that will take you to the best natural hidden gems on offer. Check out our backpacker-friendly itinerary planner or chat with us about your sun-soaked plans Down Under!

East Coast Tours acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners of Country and recognises their continuing connection to land, sea, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all First Nations peoples.

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