Australia: Where to find Kangaroos, Koalas, Emus, Cockatoos, Snakes & other Australian Animals

kangaroo and joey, NSW

When I was in Merida, in Mexico, I got chatting to a bartender, who was, funnily enough, serving me drinks at a bar. He told me he loved to speak English and that he was interested in seeing Australian animals. I said, ‘you won’t see many around here’. Actually I didn’t, because that would be considered very stupid. He ended up shouting me a tequila and I promised to email him the best places to find Australian animals in exchange.

As the Lannisters incessantly and annoyingly say in Game of Thrones, ‘we always pay our debts’. And as Shrek said when he stole the clothes off of a nobleman, ‘Thank you, gentlemen, someday I will repay you, unless of course I can’t find you, or if I forget.’

It’s been a few years now, and of course I lost the guy’s email address on the way back to the hotel, but I always eventually get around to doing things I promised even if it was to someone serving me drinks in a bar whom I will likely never meet again – well he was a very nice fellow! I couldn’t even find the bar the next night to chat and get his email again, it just up and vanished (both he bar and the email address!) and I had the feeling in the end that he may have been a figment of my imagination. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t, so if you are he, and you and your bar are real, I hope you find this, and I hope we can meet again one day where I will happily shout you a tequila and show you as many kangaroos as you can handle.


I’m hesitant to give a very detailed account of finding every Australian animal, and even more hesitant to provide ‘useful information’ rather than my usual rambling stories. But here goes, just for Juan, or whatever his name was, the bartender who loved to speak English to Australians.

Firstly, Kangaroos. If you don’t like Kangaroos you’ve got a few screws loose. Forget about wallabies, nobody really knows what the difference between a wallaby and a kangaroo is anyway, but still, they are awesome as well.

But that’s mean towards wallabies so before I go on, here’s a brush-tailed rock wallaby. Which actually does look very different to a kangaroo, and is also very special!

wallaby tinbinbilla

But back to kangaroos.

kangaroos by beach

My favourite kangaroo spotting places are around South Durras Beach, New South Wales, (where the mum and joey photo on top of the page comes from), and other south coast NSW coastal towns like Pambula Beach (see my page on Pambula for poor quality pics of kangaroos sitting on people’s front lawns there). It is super amazing to see wild kangaroos grazing in large numbers just beside the beach. And by the way, it’s not something you’ll see in Sydney so Juan, and other bartenders from Merida or people of other occupations from anywhere in the world visiting Australia, if you are a keen kangaroo aficionado, take the drive a few hours south of Sydney to these places.

Here’s a video of my daughter and son patting a kangaroo down in the South Durras area when they were little (my kids not the kangaroos):

Another pic of a kangaroo and joey in South Durras below just because they are so cute.

kangaroo and joey south durass NSW

And why not some more pics…


The other place you’ll see kangaroos in abundance is around Canberra. My god, they are fricking everywhere. If you find open grassland about, parks, sporting grounds, on roadside verges, you’ll probably find a kangaroo not too far away. So much so that Canberra ranks highest for any Australian city for kangaroo-car collisions. I saw one of the poor things just a few days ago sitting on the road after being hit, dying, and it was the saddest thing in the world. I wish they’d build them some nature bridges to let them hop across the highway like they do it Germany.

kangaroos tidbinbilla, ACT

The picture above, taken at Tidbinbilla, near Canberra, says it all, big mobs of the critters munching away at the foothills of the well, hills.

Wombats are another poor road kill victim, you end up seeing heaps of them dead around the place as well. I’ve only ever seen a few live wild wombats. I saw some on a farm in Nutfield, Victoria where I worked. They had a big burrow and in the early morning I saw them going in and back to bed. Another time when riding around some back roads, again in Victoria, where there was one who was obviously injured from being hit by a car. I also saw one on the way between Canberra and the Blue Mountains which also, sadly, looked like it’d been hit by a car.

wombat stolen off the internet

By the way I stole this photo of a wombat from the internet, if it’s yours please claim it.

As for other Australian critters, my favourites are snakes and emus, though I’m also very fond of wombats, echidnas and platypuses. And earlier when talking birds I forgot the iconic kookaburra!! But here’s an echidna in Canberra. I rushed out from my office to see it when someone spotted it from the window.

echidna australia

Snakes are fascinating, but you don’t tend to see them all that often. I remember just about every snake encounter I’ve ever had.

In the summer, but particularly spring, you’ll often see a few red-bellied Blake snakes at Tidbinbilla near Canberra. They aren’t very aggressive, but certainly don’t touch them or accidentally step on them as they are still in the top 20 most venomous snakes in the world. They’re just about always more interested in trying to find frogs to eat and have always ignored me completely when I’ve come across them.

As for other encounters, I’ve had quite a few but there was the time Stephen Badley and I had been siting on a rock out in Currumbin Valley, on the Gold Coast, Queensland, for a few hours by a waterfall before we noticed there was a little snake curled up sleeping in a crevice by our legs, probably just a python. Some other boys cruelly started throwing rocks at. Don’t throw rocks at them or hit them with sticks at that’s what wankers do. You’ll also risk getting bitten and killed. But if you are the sort of person that throws rocks at animals perhaps you’re not much of a loss!

And there was that time when I was working on a farm in Victoria, for famous racing-car driver Peter Brock, where I had this black plastic over a pile of compost and then I pulled it off and on one side there was a massive tiger snake and on the other a massive brown snake. Well the brown snake pissed off pretty quick, but tiger snakes, they don’t seem to see that well and this was was that big it probably thought noone would be stupid enough to hang around once they saw it, so it just sat there, but I needed to level out the area with a tractor, so I got a garden rake and nudged it along, it kept sitting there striking at the rake head not moving until it realised the rake was not going to die or go away before slithering away slowly. Tiger snakes seem to have terrible eyesight.

Other places I’ve seen snakes include pythons up near Mount Warning in NSW and even big brown snakes in my suburb in Crace, Canberra. If you want to see a snake I suggest the most likely time in southern states is mid to late spring when they are just waking up after the cooler winter months. In Victoria, when I worked on the farm in Nutfield, I’d often see copperheads, tiger snakes, red-bellied black snakes, brown snakes and the occasional python during this period  and then nothing for the rest of summer, not counting that time I went to take a piss into the grass and I started to pee and then I noticed what looked to be a baby brown snake curled up in the grass, and you know how hard it is to stop peeing when you start, so I had to be coordinated to manage to step back and finish the call to nature at the same time.

You’ll most likely spot snakes in places where they have lots of prey – such as frogs, mice and rats (hence why you find them around compost heaps which also attract these critters).

Now dear Juan/ others, there’s also an absolute abundance of cool birds in Australia. Again around Canberra/ rural NSW are some of the prime spots to spot them. Large flocks of cockatoos, galahs are easily spotted as well as heaps of rosellas and grass parrots.

cockatoos Canberra sign

The pair of rosellas below just come to my backyard to eat basil and sunflower seeds.


In coastal areas, like South Durras and Pambula you’ll also usually spot lots of lorikeets. The lorikeet above is feeding on the nectar of some beachside banksia type things.

Lorikeet eating nectar

You also get plenty of lorikeets on the Gold Coast. Like these ones my wife and I are holding at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.

lorikeets Currumbin wildlife sanctuary Gold Coast

But by far my favourite, and I don’t think I really need google to tell me, the largest of Australian birds – fine with the exception of the cassowary of far north Queensland – is the Emu. My favourite wild emu encounter was cycling along a road by 90-mile beach in Victoria where I had the privilege of racing with a pair of emus as the ran alongside the road. They won. I think they were on steroids though, I’m pretty sure I saw a copy of Lance Armstrong’s autobiography laying in the bush around there. Come to think of it I also saw a little baby brown snake that day, it was heating itself on the road. As I knew it would shortly get run over if it lay there, and it didn’t seem to itself, I nudged it off with a short stick. It didn’t even strike like the older ones would have.

Oh, and along with kangaroos and red-bellied black snakes, Tidbinbilla nature reserve also has heaps of emus (pictured below).

emus tidbinbilla

I usually spot a few emus roaming around Corin Dam which is on the road to Tidbinbilla not far from Canberra. Like the ones below. You can also see wombats in this area but mostly they come out at night.

emus near Canberra Australia

Okay, by now you’re screaming, what about the bloody koalas! Well forget about the bloody koalas, you are never going to see a koala in the wild, and if you do it will be asleep. Also they are now classed as endangered, which is truly sad, and as usual the government doesn’t do nearly 5% enough to stop them going extinct.

But there are still a few places you can see them. The best place to see a semi-wild koala (at least around Canberra) is, yet again, at Tidbinbilla – go to my youtube channel to see one actually moving about on the ground:

koala tidbinbilla Canberrakoala Canberra australia

You are also likely to spot plenty of koalas down the Great Ocean Road, around Cape Otway, in Victoria. In fact it’s the only place I’ve seen really wild ones as wild ones tend to curl themselves up into a cute and cuddly ball high up in gum trees.

koala great ocean road

But seriously if you want to see koalas survive, you should donate to the likes of the World Wildlife Fund and the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and others, or get involved in a local landcare group as they need as much habitat preserved as possible. And with devastating fires more frequently occurring, and government inaction on climate change, there is absolutely no guarantee that koalas won’t go extinct in the 21st century. The only thing that will save them is millions and millions more trees and millions of dollars towards scientific help to study their susceptibility to sexually transmitted diseases which are killing thousands of them.

There’s millions of kangaroos though, so no worries on that front.

Oh well, that’s a quick guide to some of the critters you find in Australia. At least in the southern parts. I’ll leave you with an interesting thought which may sound odd, but hell it’s true. Australian animal poo smells good. I love the aroma of wombat or kangaroo as I walk in the bushes. Keep your nostrils open for this, it is like smelling a fine wine.

So that’s it Juan from Merida, or whatever your name was, good luck out there in ‘nature’.

If you want to read about the area around Merida, Mexico, check out my story: here.