Cute Australian Animals and how to find (or avoid) them

cute australian animals

If you want unique animal travel experiences, head to Australia: More than 80% of all mammals, reptiles and amphibians in Australia are only found in Australia.

Some, like the kangaroo, wombat and koala are famous for their cuteness:

where to see koalas in australia

Others, like snakes, jellyfish and spiders are famous for their dangerousness: 

dangerous spiders in australia

If you're trying to find cute Australian animals, you may well run into some of the dangerous Australian animals too, so this blog post is all about answering two questions:

How can I find the cute Australian animals? 

How can I avoid the dangerous Australian animals?

First things first, let's look at cute animals:

Cute Australian Animals 

Where to see kangaroos in Australia

cute australian animals

When we first landed in Australia we had 'kangaroo goggles' - every piece of old bark/abandoned tyre/lump of mud looked like a kangaroo. We were quickly disappointed and figured we'd never see an actual kangaroo. 

where to see kangaroos in australia

Then, two weeks later, we were walking in the woods, when two GINORMOUS bucks (male kangaroos) randomly crossed our paths. Despite the fact that they were (a lot) bigger than us, they had terrified deer-caught-in-the-headlight eyes and quickly bounced off. 

where to see kangaroos in australia

We learnt two things, firstly you're more likely to see wild kangaroos on a rainy day, (almost every time we saw kangaroos in the wild it was raining). And secondly, wild kangaroos rarely let you close:

cute australian animals

After that day, we saw lots of kangaroos in fields, by the sides of roads and railway lines, but our next super-exciting-wild-kangaroo-encounter was on Kangaroo Island, that's a whole other story which can be found here: Is Kangaroo Island Worth It?

Again though, these wild kangaroos didn't let us close, but don't worry, if 'pet a kangaroo' is on your bucket list, head to a wildlife park to find a friendly photogenic one, we went to:

where to see kangaroos in australia

animals only found in australia

and Caversham Wildlife Park (Western Australia): 

where to see kangaroos in australia

Kangaroos are kind of like deer (and not just in the headlighty way), if they're in the wild they'll run off, if they're in a wildlife park they're super tame and are used to humans. 

cute australian animals

Admission is around AU$30 per adult but the animals seem well-cared for and respected and so it's 100% worth it. And kangaroos aren't the only animals they have there, they also have koalas!

Where to see kangaroos in Australia: in wildlife parks if you want to get up close, in the wild opt for places where they can hide (e.g. forests) and go on rainy days / at dusk/dawn. 

Where to see koalas in Australia

where to see koalas in australia

We first saw wild koalas on our second Australian House Sit in Adelaide. Our lovely home owner told us that koalas are often in the nature reserve next door, so every time we walked the dog we spent a lot of time searching for koalas:

cute australian animals

When I say searching, I mean that every eucalyptus tree we passed we stared at intently, hoping to catch the smallest glimmer of grey fur between the tightly knit leaves. 

animals only found in australia
Hey, where are the koalas at?

When we finally saw koalas a week later, we realised how pointless that staring had been. When a koala is in a tree, there's no need to search for it, it's very obvious:

where to see koalas in australia

So our tips for seeing wild koalas: 

1) Don't waste time staring at eucalyptus trees, if a koala is there you will know
2) Ask the locals where they usually spot koalas. 

where to see koalas in australia

But, like kangaroos, you're not guaranteed to see a koala in the wild. So if 'see a koala' is on your bucket list, head to a wildlife park again. 

We were extremely happy to hold one at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (which is the oldest and biggest koala park):

is holding a koala vegan

This was one of the absolute highlights of our trip. I'm so happy in this photo, you can't even tell that the koala's claws are really, really digging into me - those bad boys hurt! But still, best day ever.

should you hold a koala

Incidentally, (despite how stoned the above koala looks), they don't sedate the koalas or anything horrible, they just limit the amount of time that you can hold them (enough time to take a photo). They are very good with the koalas and won't let you hold them if the koala isn't interested. Which brings me on to my next point:

Is holding a koala vegan?

Since I wrote this post five years ago, I have become vegan and have to ask myself, should I be feeling bad about holding a koala? Here are the facts:

Holding a koala in Australia is illegal except in Queensland and South Australia. 
Koalas can get stressed from human contact and can die from stress. 
Using animals for commercial gain just isn't vegan. 

Saying that:

Koalas at koala sanctuaries like Lone Pine Koala sanctuary tend to be rescued from the wild/ born in captivity - aka can't live in the wild anymore/ever

In an ideal world, yes we'd all donate out of the good of our hearts to finance these koala sanctuaries, but we don't and all the koala holding money goes towards the koalas - feeding them, housing them etc.

In my personal experience, the koala I held seemed healthy and happy, it didn't act stressed and I only held it for a few minutes. 

Ultimately, I don't think holding a koala in Australia is anywhere near as bad as riding an elephant, or a camel, or taking photos with drugged up tigers, or circuses or zoos for that matter. In terms of evil animal tourism, koala holding isn't so bad, but if I went back I wouldn't do it again, and if I went back in time I'd advise my younger self to see koalas in the wild - it's better for them and it should be more rewarding for us. But that's just my two cents. Let's move on. 

Where to see koalas in Australia: if you want to see them in the wild, ask the locals where they hang out. Note: there are no wild koalas in Western Australia. 

Emus in Australia

animals only found in australia

Emus are (undoubtably) proud to share the top spot with the kangaroo on the coat of arms of Australia, (they're also on a few of the coins). 

Emus are pretty common all across Australia so you'll probably spot one (we never did though).

However, we did learn a lot about emus and met one called Julia at Emu Ridge on Kangaroo Island. She was originally called 'the bitch' because she toed her husband to death, but when Julia Gillard became Prime Minister, the sexist owner of the Emu renamed 'the Bitch' to 'Julia', because he's a loser. 

We never found out why Julia toed her husband to death. Emu males are actually the ones who incubate and nurture the babies, but perhaps Julia's husband did a bad job. Who knows. 


Wombats are ugly. I think they are the ugliest things ever: 

cute australian animals

Like the koalas, you can pay to have your photo taken with them, but you're not allowed to hold the wombat, the staff do instead:

where to see wombats in australia

Despite their ugliness, wombats are still pretty cool. Firstly, unlike kangaroos and koalas, their pouch is backwards. So if you're looking at the back-end of a wombat, you might just see a baby:

cute australian animals
Photo Credit: Matt Jones

Another cool thing about ugly wombats is their poop - it comes in cubes.

So how do you find these back-to-front-babies that have cube shaped poop? They are actually best found at night because they are nocturnal. They have a great sense of smell and hearing though, so if they smell or hear you, you won't see them.

There are still well known wombat hangout zones though so, again, ask the locals. 

And let us know if you see any cube shaped poop!

On that happy note, let's move onto the dangerous Australian animals: 

Dangerous animals in Australia

Dangerous spiders in Australia

Australian spiders: don't worry, definitely not as bad as you think. I mean sure, the Sydney Funnel Web Spider is one of the most deadly spiders in the world, but, there have been no (recorded) deaths since the anti-venom became available in 1981. 

Most Australians have their homes sprayed to deter dangerous spiders (and cockroaches). So in the whole nine months we were in Australia we only saw three spiders: a Black House Spider (which was outside), a female Black Widow (also outside, also dead) and a Huntsman Spider (in the kitchen).  

Now, this was the Huntsman Spider: 

dangerous spiders in australia

It was DINNER PLATE SIZED. But, I should probably tell you that she's not venomous. She was quite happy being put in a (large) pot and being chucked outside. 

Essentially, dangerous spiders in Australia aren't that scary, but for more information do check out this website, dangerous spiders in Australia it's really informative and has great pictures. 

Dangerous Australian snakes

dangerous snakes in australia

My dad has a theory that every human is either afraid of snakes or spiders, depending on which part of the world their ancient ancestors come from. The theory fails with me though, I'm not scared of either (moths on the other hand...)

My point is, if you've made it past spiders, chances are you're now going to freak out about dangerous Australian snakes. But, as with the spiders, snakes aren't as bad as you think in Australia.

In the whole nine months we were in Australia we only saw snakes three times. We saw them twice on Kangaroo Island in late September and once in November in Western Australia. 

This is one of the ones we saw on Kangaroo Island - a Black Tiger Snake and she is very venomous: 

dangerous snakes in australia

And yes, those are my feet on the right, because I am a tit and will do anything for a great shot.

So, what do we advise you to do when it comes to avoiding dangerous Australian snakes?

1) Avoid long grass, or anything really where you can't quite see the floor. When it comes to snakes, if they hear you they will slither off and hide, but if they're asleep and you step on them, they will (understandably) defend themselves. Now you're not likely to step on them if you see them. So always go to places where you can see the floor.

2) If you see one back away as far as possible. Snakes can actually strike a person from a distance of three times their body length. Just keep backing away. 

3) If you are bitten:
  •  Stay calm (easier said than done, but panicking speeds up the poison's progress).
  • Calmly go to hospital - you actually have plenty of time to go there, so don't worry if it's far away.
  • Don't worry about which type of snake bit you, the anti-venom works for everything. 
Chances are you probably won't see a snake in Australia, and unless you're poking it/standing on it /winding it up, you're even less likely to be bitten - so be sensible, but don't loose sleep over it! 

Jellyfish in Australia

Don't worry about dangerous Australian snakes or spiders, spend your worries thinking about the jellies!! They can be deadly. 

dangerous animals in australia

But really, like the snakes, if you do a couple of things you'll be fine. Firstly, Australians have signs on some of the beaches like this:

dangerous animals in australia
Photo Credit: Romain Bochet

Needless to say, if you see a sign like this on the beach, don't go in the water - jellies like the Box Jellyfish can and will kill you. 

Another good safety tip is to have a quick walk up the beach before you go in the water. If there are a lot of dead jellies on the beach, chances are there will be a lot more in the sea. Alive or dead, it doesn't matter - jellies still sting. 

We saw this Portuguese Man O War on the beach in New South Wales: 
dangerous animals in australia
Interestingly, Portuguese Man O Wars are not actually jellyfish read more here. But the same principles apply, if you see them dead on the beach, don't go in the water - they are responsible for around 10,000 human stings in Australia every summer. 


We'll finish the dangerous Australian animals with, what I think, is the coolest animal you can find in Australia: Goannas. 

animals in australia

Goannas aren't exactly dangerous to humans, though there is some debate over whether their venom is poisonous, or just teaming with bacteria. 

Similarly to snakes, goannas do attack if you attack them first. Like I said, their bite is nasty, and there is always the added risk that they will scratch you with their long claws.

So really, don't attack a goanna, and then they are not dangerous. We only encountered one wild goanna, but she was lovely.

We were House Sitting on the Gold Coast and she tried to come through the cat flap. But then she saw me and stood completely still (and thus became invisible), but I went a bit closer to have a better look at her, and she ran off up a tree:

animals in australia

When we were on Kangaroo Island we met a man who had a goanna in his garden. He said that whilst she was always annoyingly trying to sneak into the chook (chicken) house, she was definitely still an asset to the garden as she kept away the snakes. 

Conclusion: Cute Australian Animals and how to find (or avoid) them

So there you have it, our guide on how to find Australian animals, and how to avoid the dangerous ones. 

Yes, there are indeed some dangerous animals in Australia, but with a bit of knowledge and caution there's no need to be scared. Australia is a massive country and you're not likely to bump into any of these guys (nasty or nice) unless you actively go out looking for them like we did. 

What is your favourite Australian animal?

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Travelling through the kyriarchy and weaselling our way out of the rat race - a female travel blogger writing about socially and politically conscious travelling.


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