Think Australian animals are only out to kill you? Think again. This is a huge misconception about Aussie animals. They’re actually really quite amazing.
Australian animals are one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Australia. I loved the koalas and was so looking forward to holding one. They are so stinkin’ cute and I love small furry animals.
When I arrived in Australia, I was shocked to learn you can only hold a koala in the state of Queensland. I was in New South Wales. This was right after I graduated from university and was on an unpaid internship. I was only in the country for 10 weeks, and didn’t have a whole lot of money. I did find out you can still have an “encounter” with the koalas and feed them, and this turned out to be great as well.
Then, I found more can’t miss Australian animal encounters I had no idea about. I could hold a snake, a wombat, feed the roos and more. Oh man, was I in heaven!
Fast forward to my husband and I moving back to Australia for three years. Low and behold, there’s more animals to play with! Below I’ve compiled my top 10 list of can’t miss Australian animal encounters around the country.
I’ve let you know why I love it, linked to where you can book it, and let you know a few tips. I’ve now held a koala 3 times (no one gets to hold one around me if I don’t), swam with whale sharks, crocs, and seals, kayak-ed with dolphins, and many more.
Before we get to the can’t miss Australian animal encounters, let’s get one thing straight right now. Koalas are not bears. They are not related to bears, they are not in any way a bear. They are most closely related to the wombat. Don’t know what that is? Keep reading.
Can’t Miss Australian Animal Encounters
Hold a Koala
Where I did it: I’ve held a Koala in Cairns, Kuranda, and Hamilton Island (all in Queensland).
What it Costs: Generally it’s about $30 extra to getting into whatever zoo you’re going to.
Why I loved it: My favorite was Kuranda because I actually got to snuggle with it (shown in the photo). The other two places I just had to put my hands at my stomach and the koala just sort of sat there. In Kuranda, I could hug the koala.
Where else you can do it: Pretty much every zoo in Queensland offers this experience. However, if you’re in another state, the zoos will offer encounters where you can pet and possibly feed them. They’ll also talk to you about the animals more and you’ll get to learn something.
Top Tip: Honestly, I would recommend not holding one, and doing an encounter where you get to feed and pet them. Adam and I did a private encounter in Newcastle at Blackbutt Reserve. It was $30 at the time, and we could feed and pet them for basically as long as we wanted. However, now they charge $70 for the encounter, but entrance to the park is completely free. When you hold a koala, it’s basically just a photo-op, you’re not going to feed it, and you’re not going to get it hold it for long.
Feed a Kangaroo
Where I did it: I did this in a lot of places, but my favorite is the Moonlit Sanctuary near the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. They have a nocturnal tour that is fantastic. You can feed the roos, you can also feed a lot of other nocturnal animals, as well as seem some of them get fed. For instance, the Tasmanian Devil will fed on your tour and a lot of times you won’t see them during the day.
What it Costs: Usually, feeding the kangaroos is included with any zoo admission. Be sure you only feed them the food provided by the zoo, which is sometimes an additional fee.
Why I loved it: Well the kangaroos are just fun. And they hop, so that’s cool!
Where else you can do it: Basically every zoo all over the country will let you feed the ‘roos. I’ve done it in Sydney, Cairns, at the Steven Irwin Zoo, and at the two different zoos in Victoria, Healesville and Melbourne Zoo. No matter where you go in Australia, I am positive there’s a zoo that will let you do this.
Top Tip: If you can’t make to the nocturnal tour at the Moonlit Sanctuary, you can still go for the day and feed kangaroos. It’s a lovely, less crowded zoo for sure.
Swim with Whale Sharks
Where I did it: Exmouth, Western Australia with Ningaloo Reef Dive.
What it Costs: It’s very pricey, $390 AUD per person. Prices will vary slightly with different tour companies. It’s an all day trip with lunch, snorkeling equipment, and afternoon tea included.
Why I loved it: What’s not to love? It’s a pretty amazing experience considering you are swimming with the largest fish in the sea. They seem to move in slow motion because they are so large. I also just love the way they look. Their dots and unique face are lovely.
Where else you can do it: I don’t know of many other places where this is possible. You can do it from Coral Bay, which is just a couple of hours from Exmouth. You can also do it in Mexico (if you never make to Australia).
Top Tip: The water is extremely choppy! If you get sea-sick at all, make sure you take medicine before hand. I spent most of my day throwing up. Also, this is a seasonal activity, the whale sharks are not there year-around, so be sure you plan ahead.
Hold a Snake
Where I did it: I’ve don’t this in so many places, I don’t remember them all anymore. The most recent was at the Moonlit Sanctuary in Victoria.
What it Costs: This was included in the Sanctuary tour.
Why I loved it: Snakes are fun! Australia boasts (yes, boasts) having the most poisonous snakes in the world, and I really learned to appreciate them more when I lived in Australia. They have important roles in the ecosystem and the possibility of getting bit by one is very low. You’ll learn more about the snakes they have and don’t worry, you’re not holding the world’s most poisonous one.
Where else you can do it: Basically any zoo in Australia will let you do this. It’s usually an extra cost but one of the cheaper options.
Top Tip: Don’t be scared! I’ve seen a lot of people not hold a snake because they were terrified, but it’s really a cool experience. I’m not a big snake person, but I did enjoy this.
Dive with Crocs
Where I did it: Crocosarous Cove, Darwin
What it Costs: It’s not cheap but you don’t really want to be in a cheap cage with a croc. It’s $170 AUD for one person and $260 AUD for two people.
Why I loved it: Holy crap scary! Crocs are one of the most terrifying Australian animals to me and I was panicked the whole time we were in this area. I was also terrified when we were getting into the cage. However, once we got in, I was fine and it was really cool to see them so close and very unique. The Crocosarous Cove as a whole is also quite good and interactive. You can hold baby crocs and
Where else you can do it: To my knowledge, this is the world’s only croc dive and advertised as such.
Top Tip: Take an underwater camera as you’ll have plenty of time to take your own pictures but also I’d recommend buying the ones from them as well. They are expensive but pretty worth it.
One more note on saltwater crocs. These guys are dangerous. Please, do not go swimming in any water that has a warning about them. You will die. End of story on that. If it says don’t swim, do not swim. Please!
Hold a Wombat
Where I did it: I did this in Bateman’s Bay at the Birdland Animal Park during my first trip to Australia, therefore I’ve lost my photo, but here’s a cute wombat in the wild.
What it Costs: This was included with the entrance fee to the wildlife center.
Why I loved it: Wombats are too cute and I loved holding the baby.
Where else you can do it: There are a couple of places in Queensland that let you hold a full-sized wombat.
Top Tip: This one is more rare, so do your research if it’s important to you.
Kayak with Dolphins
Where I did it: Byron Bay, New South Wales
What it Costs: About $60 AUD.
Why I loved it: You’re guaranteed to see dolphins or you can go again for free or get your money back.
Where else you can do it: There is a kayak with dolphins on the Mornington Peninsula but there’s no guarantee and we didn’t see any when we went. I believe there are several other places around the world where you can do this one as well, it’s not as unique but still worth doing.
Top Tip: Take a waterproof camera that isn’t a go pro type. We had one that was similar to a go pro where you can’t zoom in and you can’t see what you’re taking, thus we never did get very good photos. What’s below is the best we got and that bummed me out.
Swim with Fur Seals
Where I did it: We swam with the seals off the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria which is basically always cold water.
What it Costs: $160 AUD
Why I loved it: Seals are super interactive animals and they love to play. They’ll come right up to you and it’s too cute.
Where else you can do it: Pretty much all over Australia. I recommend doing it in Western Australia, there’s fewer people and warmer water.
Top Tip: Just know that it’s expensive. We were also supposed to swim with dolphins but they couldn’t find any.
Wade with a Platypus
Where I did it: Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria
What it Costs: This is a pricey one, but it’s well worth it. It will run you $175 AUD/person.
Why I loved it: It’s a private encounter, only two people allowed and the workers will take photos and videos for you while you’re doing it. The platypus is also a very interactive creature. She will come up to you and let you scratch her belly like a dog, it’s very cute. The more bubbles you make in the water, the more the platypus likes you and wants to play with you, so be sure you move your hands around, just don’t move your feet or you might step on her!
Where else you can do it: As far as I know, there is no other place in the world that you can do this.
Top Tip: Book early as they only do it once a day so it fills up quickly.
Ride a Camel in the Outback
Where I did it: Uluru, Northern Territory
Why I loved it: We did this at sunset, which was amazing. The guides are great and they even have an open bar with snacks for an hour after the tour. They take pictures for you on your camera as well as professional ones. It’s a pretty special experience as it lasts about an hour and the sunset is amazing no matter what the weather is like. You’ll also get that insta-worthy photo with Uluru in the background and you on a camel.
What it Costs: It’s about $85 AUD for the regular tour and $160 AUD sunset tour. The sunset tour includes free adult drinks after with nibbles.
Where else you can do it: You can also ride a camel in Broome on the beach. We didn’t do it because we’ve already ridden one, but it looked lovely as well.
Top Tip: Do it at sunset. Yes, it costs a bit more, but you also get more out of it.
More Aussie Animals
If you’re more into seeing animals in the wild, do not despair. I’ve shared the best places are to view wildlife in Australia as well. Wild is always better in my opinion. Nevertheless, rest assured that although many of these are contained, paid encounters, the animals are well taken care of the proceeds go to helping them. However, I’m not here to tell you what to believe, so if zoos aren’t your thing, then skip out on the ones that take place there. The whale sharks, seals, and dolphins are all in their natural environment and do not take place in a zoo. Not all the encounters are strictly Australian animals, but all of them can be done in Australia.
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How do you feel about Australian animals? Are you afraid of them? Do you have crazy stories about how they can kill you? Let me know in the comments, I’m most curious!