By Darren Griffiths

The Best Wildlife Spotting Locations on Australia's East Coast

26th August 2023

From the iconic Great Barrier Reef in Queensland to the Cradle Mountain National Park on the island of Tasmania, the east coast of Australia is blessed with some amazing wildlife. These include some rather unusual animals that have found homes in the many territories and national parks of this region.

This guide will recommend where and how to best see the wildlife of Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania. So keep your eyes peeled for your ultimate Australian east coast wildlife tour.

However, before delving into the details, it’s worth noting that numerous cruise liners operate trips to the East Coast. Opting for the well-priced option of wildlife holidays with Wildfoot Travel will allow nature lovers to sail to Whitsunday Island, Lizard Island, and many other anchoring points close to the reefs from where marine life activity can be seen in full display.

The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland 

Stretching for 2,300 km, this largest reef system in the world is made up of thousands of individual reefs and is a place where marine life simply thrives. Some of the magnificent creatures you can encounter here are sharks, clownfish, and giant clams among many others.

Said to be the world’s largest living structure, it encompasses 2,900 reef systems, 300 coral cays, and 600 islands. It is so massive that The Great Barrier Reef is even visible from outer space. The marine life that calls the Great Barrier Reef their home includes 1,800 species of rainbow fish, six of the seven species of highly endangered marine turtles, nearly 134 species of sharks, and 17 different kinds of sea snakes.

The Great Barrier Reef truly holds a dizzying array of marine life and is a mecca for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts. With the addition of comfortable underwater observatories for non-swimmers or for those who simply prefer not to get wet.

Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania 

The Cradle Mountain National Park in Tasmania is unlike anything you will find on mainland Australia. From cascading mountain streams to ancient rainforests fringed with glacial lakes, this stunning nature park is a dream for wildlife buffs, nature walkers, anglers, and hardcore hikers. For a challenge, hike the 65 km Overland Track to Mount Ossa, the state’s highest point at 1617m to marvel at the temperate rainforests and glacial lakes below. 

This park is home to the world-renowned Overland Track and the beautiful Dove Lake. There are nearly 78 bird species recorded here, plus three macropod species, and even platypuses. Though a sighting of Australia’s largest carnivorous marsupial, the Tasmanian Devil, is not guaranteed, you will be pleased to know wombats can be seen in plenty near both dawn and dusk as they are nocturnal.

Phillip Island, Victoria

If you are a penguin fan, the coolest place on the planet to see these delightful little creatures scurrying across the sands is Phillip Island. Named after Admiral Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of New South Wales, there are annually over three million visitors who flock to this park for its surfing scene, and wildlife views. But that is not all, this island holds annual events like the World Superbike and the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, which help bring the crouds.

While the playful penguins do tend to steal the show, there are plenty of other wildlife creatures here to excite the nature enthusiast. The most second sought-after are the Koala bears living at the Koala Conservation Centre and the kangaroos at the 60-acre Phillip Island Wildlife Park. Additionally, there is a huge colony of seals which can be seen at Sea Rocks on the southwestern tip of the island.

Great Otway National Park, Victoria 

Stretching from Torquay up to the Otways hinterland, the Great Otway National Park borders the world-famous Great Ocean Road and naturally has some of the most breathtaking coastline scenery to be found anywhere in the world. Located in Barwon’s southern region of Victoria and 162 km southwest of Melbourne, the key features of the park are its rugged coastline, rocky platforms, sandy beaches, magnificent waterfalls, and to top it all are the beautiful spring flowers found in the north.

Here you will come across unique wildlife roaming around freely in their habitat overlooking the ocean. You won’t have to look hard to spot Koalas wedged in a branch of the tree fast asleep. The elusive platypus can sometimes be seen on the banks of rivers or lakes where they make burrows in the muddy shores. If that is not enough, every year the Otway coastline plays host to as many as 25; different types of migrating whales like southern whites, blue whales, humpbacks, and orca whales. Many of these whales come to breed here before heading back to the waters of the Antarctic.

Daintree Rainforest, Queensland 

Queensland is a dream destination for wildlife lovers as it is home to some of the best national parks in the country. The dense Daintree Rainforest is the habitat of some unique animals and bird species, that can not be found anywhere else in the world despite Australia. The Daintree Rainforest Is one of the oldest rainforests in the world and is located in the northern part of Queensland. It is spread across an area of 1200 sq km and the rainforest is easily accessible from Cairns and Port Douglas on a day trip.

The best way to explore Daintree is by cruising from Port Douglas for an intimate flora and fauna experience in this World Heritage-protected region. The cruises are operated by eco-friendly vessels that cause no harm to the environment and are limited to a fixed number of operators.

Spotting a saltwater crocodile is the key attraction of Daintree, alongside the hundreds of different birds, like the great-billed heron, tree possum, cassowary, and many more. The banks of the Daintree River which flows through the park hold an array of amazing life. Apart from the fierce-looking saltwater crocodiles, visitors can spot the Musky-rat kangaroo, feral pigs, azure kingfisher, and spotted cuscus.

Byron Bay New South Wales 

The coastal town of Byron Bay is where the iconic Cape Byron Lighthouse is located. The region is popular for its spectacular beaches, unique shopping and dining experiences, vibrant community spirit, and last but not least, excellent whale sightings. The Cape Byron Marine Park is the best place to see dolphins and whales here in the most eastern part of Australia. Whale-watching tours are conducted daily between June and October when there is a good chance to have multiple sightings of whales, dolphins, and turtles.

The waters of the bay are home to at least 100 bottlenose dolphins alone, so you are almost certain to see them frolicking in the sea from the shores of Wategos Beach. The best chance of spotting whales from land is at the Cape Byron Lighthouse or from the Captain Cook lookout point, especially between the months of May and November. For an innovative outdoor experience, sign up to dive from Julian Rocks, a must for scuba enthusiasts, or go kayaking alongside playful marine animals.