The cutest Australian animals and where to find them near Melbourne. - Explore Australia Tours
Explore Australia Tours
A A
The cutest Australian animals and where to find them near Melbourne.

The cutest Australian animals and where to find them near Melbourne.

Learn about Australia's favourite critters and how you can get a close up glimpse of them or see them in the wild.

Australian animals, often on top of any visitor to Australia’s list of what they need to see. Whether your favourite is the Kangaroo, Koala, Platypus, wallaby or the beloved Wombat, we thought we’d put together some fun facts about these beloved critters and let you know where you can find them around Melbourne and in Victoria.

Kangaroo

kangaroo

About

Kangaroos like many of Australia’s favourite animals are marsupials which is a type of mammal the main trait of which is that their young are carried in a pouch. They are a member of the macropod family (large feet) and there are 6 species with apparently over 30 million scattered throughout Australia. They are from the same taxonomic family as the wallaby but are distinguished as the 6 largest species.

Interesting Facts

  • Kangaroos cannot move backwards as they lack a rotating knee joint. They have this in common with emus which is why both are on the national emblem of Australia as we are a nation that does not go backwards.
  • A popular myth is that Captain James Cook saw a group of Kangaroos and asked a local what they were. The local replied with the Guugu Yimithirr word “Kangaroo” which the English translation for is “I don’t understand you.”
  • Females are able to “pause” the development of their embryos. They will usually do this to allow they joey currently in their pouch to develop enough to leave or if there is not enough food or water around to raise another young one.
  • A newborn Joey or “neonate” emerges after only 33 days, it is blind, deaf, furless and about the size of a small jellybean. It spends the next 190 days in the mothers pouch rapidly developing fur, eyes and everything else until it is ready to emerge.

Where to find them in Victoria

The Grampians National Park is a great spot to see plenty of big Eastern Grey Kangaroos bounding around and Wilsons Promontory also has a large kangaroo population. Highfield national park on the Mornington Peninsula is another great spot to catch a glimpse and on the Great Ocean Road you can do Kangaroo viewing tours at Anglesea Golf Club for a bit of Fun. Remember to not approach Kangaroos in the wild, if you want to get up close to these guys and even have the opportunity to feed them it’s best to visit a wildlife sanctuary. Healesville sanctuary to the northeast of Melbourne is a great place to visit and get up close or if your south and heading to Phillip island then the Kangaroo and Wallaby walk at Moonlit Sanctuary is the spot to go.

Wallaby

wallaby

About

Wallabies come from the same taxonomic family as Kangaroos but are classed as the smaller members of the family. They are often mistaken for joeys(baby kangaroos) but you can tell the difference by the shape of their snout, teeth, colour of their fur and the fact that wallaby legs are shorter compared to their size to make them fast in forested areas.

Interesting Facts

  • The Tamar Wallaby has a compound in it’s milk called AGG01 which is 100 times more effective than penicillin  at fighting bacteria. This is how the severely under developed newborns are able to fight off bacteria and infection.
  • The top speed of a wallaby is 48 kilometres an hour.

Where to find them in Victoria

Wallabies are harder to spot in large groups like the kangaroo but one such place to see a lot of swamp wallabies is on Phillip island between the Phillip island Penguin Parade and the nobbies boardwalk. To see them up close in a sanctuary, Healesville Sanctuary or Moonlit Sanctuary are just the ticket!

Koala

koalas

About

Koalas are also marsupials and not in any relation to bears whatsoever as some people have previously mistakenly thought in the past. They have a small stout tail-less body and spend most of their time – 20 hours a day in fact, sleeping in a tree. This is due to their diet which consists of eucalyptus leaves. Eucalyptus leaves are hard to digest and have little nutrient value besides being mostly water. In fact Koalas are only able to digest them because of a special enzyme they have in their stomach, the digestion however takes so much of their energy hence all the sleeping.

Interesting Facts

  • Koalas are one of a few animals that can digest the eucalyptus leaf due to a special enzyme they have in their stomach. They develop this enzyme when they are young once they have grown fur and are no longer suckling at their mothers teat. The mother feeds the joey(baby) what is called a “pap” daily for a period of time. This is basically just eucalyptus leaves crushed up with her poo. This allows the enzyme to be passed down to the young.
  • Koalas, same as all other marsupials are born extremely under-developed. They are small and resemble a jellybean with no fur, eyes, ears or claws. Over 9 months it will develop and start resembling what we all know a koala to be and leave the pouch to travel on it’s mothers back. After 12 months it is fully weaned and it’s bond with the mother is permanently severed as it becomes fully independent.
  •  Koalas sleep 20 hours a day due to their not being a lot of nutrient value in the eucalyptus leaves that make up their diet and it also taking a lot of energy to digest the leaves.
  • The name Koala comes from the Dharug gula dialect meaning “no drink”. This is due to Koalas rarely seen coming down from trees or drinking and was believable due to the fact that eucalyptus leaves have such a high water content. Koalas will however definitely drink when they are dehydrated and especially when the weather exceeds 30 degrees Celsius.
  • Koalas are the only animal that will reproduce even if there isn’t enough food to go around. French island is a classic case of this as it is the largest population of disease free Koalas in Australia, they constantly breed themselves to the extent where a majority of the population gets relocated and there’s even breeding control happening on the island.
  • Koalas have a big plate of cartilage in their bum with no nerve endings which allows them to sit in their tree all day and not be uncomfortable.

Where to find them in Victoria

For close up encounters and photos best head to a wildlife sanctuary such as Healesville or moonlit, the Koala Conservation centre on Phillip island is also a great spot.

if you want to see them up close in the wild there’s a few choice spots to visit. The Otway national park along the great ocean road Is absolutely flush with Koalas. You can usually see a lot around Kennett River or if you turnoff at lighthouse road on the way to Cape Otway lighthouse you’ll get a view of plenty of them and in fact once you get close to the lighthouse you’ll see how destructive Koalas can be with plenty of bare trees as they eat their way through.

Platypus

platypus

About

The Platypus is an interesting creature indeed and very cute! It has a bill like a duck, a tail like a beaver and feet like an otter which originally lead scientists examining a preserved one in the 1800s to think it was a fake made of animals sewn together. That’s not the only thing that makes the platypus unusual, along with 5 species of echidna it is a mammal that lays eggs as opposed to birthing live young.

Platypus are very hard to spot as they spend a lot of time under water and in their burrows, they hunt their prey using electrolocation and have a spur in their hind foot that delivers a toxin capable cause extreme pain to humans.

Interesting Facts

  • Platypuses are one of only 6 species(the 5 other being types of echidna) that are mammals that lay eggs instead of birthing live young.
  • They have a spur in their hind foot that delivers a poison capable of causing extreme pain to humans.
  • With a duck bill, beaver tail and otter feet Platypuses are sure a unique creature!

Where to find them in Victoria

They are really hard to spot in the wild as spend most of their time in burrows or swimming under water. Lake Elizabeth a short drive north of Apollo Bay is one such place you can catch a glimpse but make sure you go early morning to have the best chance.

Healesville Sanctuary does a great platypus show that you can check out and they also do a close up swim with platypus experience. Make sure if you want to do the close up experience that you book a couple of weeks in advance.

Wombat

wombat

About

Wombats are cute stout marsupials that walk on all fours, live in burrows and feed on grass. They are crepuscular like many Australian animals so mostly active at night and on cool days. Being marsupials they have similar breeding habits to Koalas and Kangaroos with gestation lasting 20 to 25 days. They give birth to underdeveloped young which stay in the mothers pouch for further development.

Interesting Facts

  • Wombats have square shaped poo! This is thought to be due to the shape of their intestine, they use it to mark their territory.
  • Wombats have a backwards pouch so that when they dig their burrows they are not shovelling dirt into their baby’s home.
  • They’ve got a mean streak! Just like Koalas Wombats have a big plate of cartilage on their backside. When being chased by a predator wombat will scramble into their burrow and stick their butt in the entrance, the predator will bite and claw at the wombats cartilage with no luck and eventually get bored. The wombat will lower itself to expose it’s fleshy back and when the predator goes for the flesh it smashes the predators head against the roof of the burrow!

Where to find them in Victoria

Moonlit wildlife sanctuary and Healesville sanctuary have good opportunities or if you want to see them in the wild head to Wilsons Promontory. You have the best chance of seeing wombats on cooler days. .

Emu

emu

About

The second largest bird after the ostrich emus are common across Australia and are characterised by their long legs and necks as well as soft feathers and inability to fly. Just like the kangaroo emus are unable to move backwards which is why we have them on our national emblem as Australia does not move backwards!

Interesting Facts

  • Emus can run up to 50 kilometres per hour!
  • The emu has a pouch in it’s windpipe that is used for communication. When inflated it can make big booming and drumming noises.
  • Emus lay large dark green eggs.

Where to find them in Victoria

Wilsons promontory is a great spot to view emus in the wild or you can head to Moonlit or Healesville sanctuary for a close up look.

Join us on one of our Melbourne Day Tours