Australia’s temperate climate, unique wildlife and expansive natural landscapes offer ample opportunities for incredible animal encounters and unforgettable animal experiences. With unique animal encounters in every state, it’s easy to plan your next holiday with these bucket list animal experiences throughout Australia’s diverse landscape.
Watch the Turtles Hatch at Heron Island
Once a year, hundreds of green and loggerhead turtles gather to lay eggs upon the sandy beaches of Heron Island. Soon a new generation of these treasured marine creatures will hatch! For a truly unique animal encounter – visit between October and March to witness the turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs. If you want to catch the moment the little ones emerge, be there between January and April.
However, Heron Island is a beautiful destination at any time of the year, and you can always go to greet these majestic beings in their natural habitat. The island rests at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef- a beautiful place to snorkel, experience the colourful underwater world and swim among the many turtles that frequent the area.
Where to Stay: Heron Island Resort
With exclusive access to the island, Heron Island Resort allows you to relax and indulge in tropical suites, perfectly situated to make the most of your island getaway experience. Enjoy the casual beach atmosphere at the Pandanus Lounge with local evening entertainment. You can also digest the splendid ocean views and local cuisine at the Shearwater Restaurant.
Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef
For one of the most iconic animal encounters, snorkel or dive The Great Barrier Reef- the world’s biggest coral reef one of seven wonders of the natural world. Experience the magnificent colours of the many species of fish, turtles, sharks, rays and more. This bucket list experience is accessible from multiple locations in Queensland. The Whitsundays and Cairns are the major regions that offer a range of tours.
Where to Stay:
There are multiple luxury resorts located in both regions. Try Hayman Island or qualia on Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays or The Reef House in Palm Cove, Pullman Sea Temple Resort and Spa in Port Douglas or Shangri-La Hotel The Marina in Cairns.
Meet the Dolphins at Tangalooma Island Resort
If you’ve ever wanted to feed a wild dolphin, Tangalooma is the place. A popular animal encounter, this is located on the beautiful Moreton Island off the coast of Brisbane. There are two pods of dolphins whose members visit nightly for a feed. The island managers have been facilitating the dolphin feeding since 1992 when a local dolphin, which they had named Beauty, became comfortable enough to accept fish from their hands. Nowadays, her grandchildren do the same, in this incredible animal encounter and to the immense joy of visitors to the island. The dolphin feeding program is approved by strict guidelines and only provides the dolphins with 20% of their required diet so that they continue to hunt independently.
Where to Stay: Tangalooma Island Resort
Choose from a variety of accommodation options at the resort, with relaxed beach style furnishings in close proximity to the water and your memorable animal encounter. The deluxe beachfront villas offer private and spacious accommodation and direct beach access with ocean views. Access to the island is by ferry, departing from Brisbane.
Swim with the Seals at Sea Life, Mooloolaba
Come face to face with the puppies of the ocean at Sea Life in Mooloolaba. You can dive in to join them for a swim or simply shake their flipper definitely a bucket list experience not to be missed. There are plenty of photo opportunities and while you are there you can see all kinds of sea creatures, from fish to stingrays. You can also get to know the penguins, who will be very grateful when you feed them some tasty fish.
Where to Stay:
For a beachside holiday, look no further than the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort, or if you prefer a relaxing mountain retreat, visit Spicers Clovelly Estate. Both of these resorts are under an hour’s drive from your incredible animal encounter at Sea Life Mooloolaba and either scenic location will be well worth taking some time to explore.
Marvel at the Dingos on Fraser Island
World Heritage listed Fraser Island is the worlds’ largest sand island, stretching over the eastern Queensland coast for 120km. Home to many a natural phenomenon including around 30 packs of wild Dingoes. Be careful to keep your distance when out spotting Dingoes as they can be unpredictable.
Where to Stay: Kingfisher Bay Resort
New South Wales
Roar and Snore at Taronga Zoo, Sydney
Enjoy drinks and canapes while soaking up the iconic views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Afterwards, get up close and personal with the Zoo’s most friendly critters in this iconic animal encounter. Stay in a safari-style tent and be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the Zoo at night. This animal encounter also includes a guided safari tour and a ticket to explore the Zoo at your leisure. You can even help feed the animals!
If you prefer a little more sophisticated lodgings, you can opt for the wildlife retreat experience. There, your room will be surrounded by a bushland sanctuary where koalas and echidnas roam free. With rooms right by the animal enclosure, you’ll easily spot wildlife amongst the gumtree forests right outside your room.
Where to Stay:
Book your Wildlife retreat at Taronga Zoo
Dine with the Fish at Sydney Aquarium
The SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium offers the ultimate immersive dining experience. Dine against an exquisite underwater backdrop as hundreds of mesmerising fish, turtles, sharks cruise the reef before your eyes. A truly magical animal encounter… Choose from 6 stunning dining locations each with unique views of the exhibit, from 360° glass tunnels in the heart of the busy reef, to beautiful night time displays of moon jellyfish illuminations. The experience comes complete with an exclusive, after-hours self-guided tour, a three-course dinner, and a 2 hours premium beverage package.
Experience Sydney’s only underwater restaurant for a memorable, one-of-a-kind evening with your loved ones.
Where to Stay:
Feed the Stingrays at Bendalong on the NSW South Coast
This next animal encounter is fantastic fun for the whole family with the added bonus that it is absolutely free! Head down to Bendalong, the stunning Boat Harbour Beach, and look for where the boat ramps are located. The area is a local hotspot for a unique animal encounter! Wade into the water and feel the majestic stingrays gliding past you to feed on the scraps thrown to them by fishermen.
Where to Stay: Bannisters by the Sea
A stunning boutique coastal retreat, perched clifftop in Mollymook with sprawling ocean views. Home to the acclaimed Rick Stein at Bannisters restaurant, this is perfect for lovers of freshly caught seafood and great wine.
Swim with the Whale Sharks at Ningaloo Reef
Ningaloo Reef is internationally renowned as the best place to meet and swim with whale sharks. Visit this iconic reef and see the gentle giants frequent the area between March and July every year. It’s also a great place to spot humpback whales and manta rays!
Where to Stay: Sal Salis
With the Ningaloo Reef just offshore, this exclusive safari camp is located on a deserted stretch of beach in the Cape Range. Includes gourmet meals and an assortment of alcoholic & non-alcoholic drinks from a select open bar.
Experience Sunset on a Camel in Broome
People come from far and wide to partake in this next animal adventure. Experience a sunset like no other while riding a camel in iconic Broome, the far north coast of Western Australia.
For a truly unique stay, you will be accommodated in a luxurious tent located just steps from crystal blue waters. You can snorkel the Ningaloo Reef, kick back in a hammock or settle in for a delicious meal under the stars.
Where to Stay: Cable Beach Club Resort & Spa
The only resort located on Cable Beach, the award-winning Cable Beach Club Resort & Spa is a unique blend of cultural influences and architecture.
Feed the Dolphins at Monkey Mia
Travel further south to your next animal encounter with the Dolphins at Monkey Mia. Stand in the shallows on the white, sandy beaches of Shark Bay and greet them with a healthy serving of fish.
Where to Stay: Rac Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort
Family-friendly resort situated on the stunning shores of Shark Bay, home to the famous dolphin encounters. A range of rooms are on offer, including Beach View rooms where you can watch the Dolphins frolic in the crystal waters.
Pat a Quokka on Rottnest Island
Further down the Western Australia coast is the acclaimed Rottnest Island, known for its thriving Quokka population found nowhere else on earth. These tiny, happy animals have no fear of humans and will come right up to visitors for a photo! A heart-warming animal experience not to be missed on your Western Australia travels.
Where to Stay: Discovery Rottnest Island
Nestled behind the dunes of the iconic Pinky Beach, one of the most relaxed and breathtaking coastal locations in Australia, Discovery Rottnest Island offers glamping at it’s finest.
Australian Capital Territory
Spend a Night with Endangered Animals at Jamala Wildlife Lodge
For an ultimate luxury safari lodge, experience Canberra National Zoo and Aquarium’s Jamala Wildlife Lodge. Meet the most dangerous and endangered species on earth and learn how you can help their survival. The immersive experience includes lavish overnight accommodation, all food and dinner beverages, and exclusive tours.
Choose from 3 uniquely magnificent accommodation options, guaranteed to delight any animal lover. The Giraffe Treehouses overlook the enclosure’s lush surroundings, allowing close and personal interaction with the resident giraffes. Stay at the Jungle Bungalows to sleep a heartbeat away from a pride of lions, cheetah, tigers, or a Malayan sun bear. For those looking for a further step up, why not experience the uShaka Lodge? The room is fully decked out with African fine carvings, artworks, and artifacts as well as a magnificent shark tank and Colobus monkey exhibits.
Where to Stay: Jamala Wildlife Lodge
Experience the Magnificent Penguin Parade on Phillip Island
Just off the coast of Victoria lies Phillip Island, home to the famous Penguin Parade – a must-see animal encounter for penguin lovers. These adorable furry friends arrive at sunset every evening of the year. The parade lasts around 2.5 hours. It’s a spectacular sight watching these tiny little creatures emerge from the sea and waddle along the boardwalk, into the hills to settle in their nests. The best time to visit is during the summer months December to February as the winds can be quite cool during the winter season.
Stroll through the Eucalpyt Forest with the Koalas
Another animal attraction not to be missed while on Phillip Island is the Koala Reserve. Promoting koala conservation, this ecotourism animal encounter will see you stroll through treetop boardwalks in the Eucalypt forest and come ‘face-to-face’ with koalas in their natural habitat.
Where to Stay: Glen Isla House Phillip Island
Only a 15-minute drive to Phillip Island Nature Park is Glen Isla House. Nestled among 2 acres of heritage gardens, the elegant house boasts direct beach access and a cosy fireplace in the shared lounge, or take in the great outdoors on the terrace.
Cosy up with Kangaroos, Koalas & Wombats on Kangaroo Island
Despite the name, Kangaroo Island is actually one of the best places in Australia to spot koalas. Of course, there are definitely plenty of kangaroos about too! To get closer to these native icons, make your way to Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park. There, you’ll be able to cuddle a koala while learning about the island’s native wildlife. You can also meet a wombat or hold a marmoset. Kangaroo Island is a paradise to explore. With the craggy coast is alive with whales, sharks, and cuttlefish, there are endless places to hike, swim and relax.
Make friends with the Sea Lions
Just 45 minutes from Kangaroo Island’s main town of Kingscote, Seal Bay Conservation Park is home to the magnificent Australian Sea Lion colony. Take your own self-guided animal experience along the boardwalks and view the colony from above. Alternatively, join a guided tour down on the beach and get up close to these majestic animals. Your team of experienced guides will teach you more about the endangered species. ,
Where to Stay: Sea Dragon Lodge
Sea Dragon Lodge is a large property offering private access to a secluded beach. With sweeping ocean views, and surrounded by hundreds of metres of bushlands, the lodges are a haven in nature. Enjoy a continental breakfast and take in the scenery from the expansive deck.
Cruise along the Kakadu National Park
Our next recommendation for an up-close-and-personal animal encounter is a cruise through the mangroves, crocodile spotting! Admire the native bird varieties that frequent the plains of Kakadu National Park. Also, keep your eyes peeled for carefully camouflaged crocodiles just below the surface…
The savannah woodlands are also home to buffalo, wallabies, wild pigs, and dingoes. Why not see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat and experience a guided safari tour?
The excitement of seeing what you can spot adds so much joy to a stroll along the boardwalk. You can even use the Kakadu Birds App to track which feathery locals you see!
Where to Stay: Bamurru Plains
These safari-style bungalows on the coastal plains of the Mary River Delta. offer a unique opportunity to safely spend the night in harmony with the local wildlife. Reconnect with nature in this tropical oasis.
Get up Close to a Tasmanian Devil
Cradle Mountain National Park is home to the elusive and mysterious Tasmanian Devil. Devils@Cradle is a unique conservation sanctuary located at the entrance to the national park offering personalised guided tours for close-up encounters with these endangered animals.
Where to Stay: Cradle Mountain Lodge
A warm, rustic retreat nestled high in the Tasmanian wilderness, featuring cosy cabins, fine food and wine and many activities.
Looking for more unique experiences for your next holiday? Head to our Inspiration Page for a range of luxury holiday ideas and get creative with your next holiday itinerary!
Photo credit to Tourism Kakadu, Tourism Australia, Lords Safaris, Exceptional Kangaroo Island Tourism WA and Taronga Zoo, Tourism WA, Calypso Star Charters, SA Tourism Commission, Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree, Tourism & Events Queensland and Phillip Island Nature Parks.