Animals in the wild

Discover animals in the wild in national parks and nature reserves, marine parks and wetlands across NSW. There are fantastic viewing opportunities in these wilderness zones, where you can spot everything from kangaroos and koalas to penguins and humpback whales. 



Bushwalking with the animals 

Lace up your walking shoes and set out to discover the diverse wildlife that inhabits our state. Birds, frogs and reptiles abound in the Blue Mountains, just 90min from Sydney, and you may even be lucky enough to spot a wallaby or wombat. In Mutawintji National Park in the far west of NSW, you can see mobs of emus running through the desert. In the subtropical rainforest of the Border Ranges National Park near Lismore, look for echidnas, platypus, pademelons and possums. 

Emus at Sturt National Park - Tibooburra

Emus in Sturt National Park, Corner Country

Koalas are a source of great national pride: spot them in the Koala Reserve in the Murrumbidgee Valley National Park near Narrandera. Port Macquarie is home to one of the largest wild populations of koalas in Australia, so look to the trees as you follow the boardwalk through Sea Acres National Park.  

Guula Ngurra in the Southern Highlands is one of the state’s newest national parks and the name means ‘Koala Country’ in the local Indigenous language. Follow the 3km Mount Penang Loop Walk to look for these furry marsupials in the gum trees. In Byron Bay, join Vision Walks Eco Tours for a half-day koala safari – they guarantee you’ll see at least one. 

Koala climbing up a tree branch in Guula Ngurra National Park, Canyonleigh

Guula Ngurra National Park, Canyonleigh - Credit: Gareth Pickford

You’re almost guaranteed to see kangaroos – another Aussie icon – at Pebbly Beach in Murramarang National Park and Caves Beach in Booderee National Park, both on the South Coast. Near Coffs Harbour, follow the Look At Me Now Headland Walk early in the morning to see grey kangaroos nibbling on the grass.  

Kangaroo enjoying a scratch near the Look At Me Now Headland, Emerald Beach

Look At Me Now Headland, Emerald Beach

The beaches of Crowdy Bay National Park on the Barrington Coast are also a popular kanga hang out spot. To see the famous big red kangaroos (which can stand up to two metres tall) head into the parks of Outback NSW, like Gundabooka National Park, Mungo National Park and Kinchega National Park. 

The platypus is an incredibly elusive creature. With luck, you can spot the monotreme at dawn or dusk in the pools located at Bombala Platypus Reserve in the Snowy Mountains. Keep a close watch for the shy platypus as it glides gently through the water, leaving a V shape in its wake. Vision Walks Eco Tours runs a platypus walk along a quiet creek in the Byron Bay hinterland and you’ll generally see one or two during the tour. 

Platypus swimming during Vision Walks Eco Tour, Byron Bay

Playtpus Walk Vision Walks Eco Tour, Byron Bay - Credit:  Vivienne Briggs

Underwater encounters 

The marine life in NSW is incredible, with dolphins, whales, turtles, seals and hundreds of fish species regularly found in the pristine waters. Port Stephens is considered Australia’s dolphin capital, with more than 140 bottlenose dolphins calling the area home. Join a dolphin watch cruise with Moonshadow TQC or get into the water with these incredible creatures on a tour with Dolphin Swim. Dolphins are also abundant in the waters off Jervis Bay where Dolphin Watch Cruises runs tours year-round. 

Spotting dolphins with Moonshadow Cruises, Port Stephens

Spotting dolphins with Moonshadow Cruises, Port Stephens

Montague Island off the coast of Narooma is famous for its aquatic animals. Snorkel with the resident colony of fur seals – there can be up to 1,000 of these playful pups in the water at peak times. The island is also home to a thriving colony of thousands of little penguins and more than 90 species of seabirds. Fish Rock Cave, close to South West Rocks, is a haven for grey nurse sharks and scuba diving tours will take you deep into their habitat. 

Between May and November, more than 40,000 humpback whales make their way along the NSW coast. Tours depart regularly from towns from Eden to the Tweed, getting you close to these gentle giants. Adventurous travellers can kayak with the whales in Byron or Batemans Bay and even swim alongside them with the team from Jetty Dive in Coffs Harbour. 

Humpback whale, Forster

Humpback whale, Forster

Waterways & wetlands 

Birdwatchers flock to the waterways of NSW to see more than 600 species endemic to the state. Look for kookaburras and kingfishers along the Murray River, where rosellas, willy wagtails and corellas will be nesting in the tall trees beside the water. The Macquarie Marshes in the Warrumbungles is home to 20,000 waterbirds (and as many as 500,000 after a flood) with cormorants, herons, ibis and spoonbills regularly spotted.

Kookaburra sitting in a tree alongside the Murrumbidgee River, Balranald

Murrumbidgee River, Balranald

Menindee Lakes in the far west of NSW is an inland oasis that supports more than 220 bird species. When water levels are high, you can spot black swans, pelicans and pink eared ducks, as well as huge flocks of Major Mitchell cockatoos and budgerigars. The Murrumbidgee River through the Riverina makes for great twitching, with parrots, rainbow bee-eaters, honeyeaters, galahs and many more.


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