Where to See Koalas in the Wild
Nothing can match seeing koalas in the wild, munching on eucalyptus leaves, sleeping in tree forks, or jumping from branch to branch (koalas are great jumpers). But finding koalas in their natural habitat is not always as simple as it looks. These are rather shy and elusive animals, and their colour can easily be mistaken for that of the eucalyptus.
Remember that koalas are nocturnal animals. It is more difficult to spot them during the day as they move less, particularly in the summer. The best time to look for koalas is early mornings and late afternoons when they are more active.
Tips for spotting koalas in the wild:
Koalas can be found in open forests and woodlands in the coastal regions of Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia. Northern Territory and West Australia have no remaining koala population, and there are no koalas in Tasmania.
If you see fresh eucalyptus leaves or koala scats on the ground, have a look directly above: a koala may just be hiding up in the eucalyptus tree.
To increase your chances of seeing koalas in the wild, you should consider remaining in the same area for a few days. National parks offer various accommodation options.
Don’t hesitate to ask Visitor Information Centres about the best places to spot wild koalas in the region. They will be happy to point you in the right direction.
If you come across a sick or injured koala, you should contact the local wildlife organisation. They will help you get in touch with registered koala rescue and care teams.
Keep in mind that injured koalas bite and scratch.
Read the Wildlife Rescue emergency advice before starting the trip.
Be sure to learn some basic facts about koala behaviour. For example, they raise their ears upwards as a sign of an alert or agitation, while ears pulled backwards are an indicator of distress.
Check the national park’s website before you visit for the up-to-date information on temporary closures. Access to parks may be restricted due to weather conditions and bushfires.
While entrance to national parks is often free, transportation to the islands by ferry can be pricey, especially if you are bringing a car.
Make sure to drive very carefully and avoid driving at dawn, dusk, and night time. That is when koalas and other native animals wander across the roads, and hundreds of koalas are killed by cars on Australian roads every year. Look for “Koalas Cross Here” road signs and watch for koala eyeshine in the dark.
Victoria: Where to spot wild Koalas
Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road, one of the world’s most scenic drives, is the perfect place to see koalas in the wild. Here are some popular places to stop and look for these amazing animals:
With its significant koala population, Kennett River is often considered being the koala capital of Australia. This is one of the best settings to get a glimpse of wild koalas near Melbourne. Take a walk or drive along the Grey River Road and you’ll easily come across some sleepy furballs in eucalyptus trees. If you visit Kenneth River in the spring, you may even spot a cute young baby koala or two.
The eucalyptus woodland of Phillip Island offers fantastic opportunities to come close to koalas in their natural habitat. Head to the Koala Reserve’s tree-top boardwalk to get a closer view and join a Koala Eco-Explorer Tour where rangers share in-depth information about koalas on the island.
French Island National Park
French Island National Park is home to a healthy population of wild koalas, used to repopulate other areas since they are largely free from the devastating chlamydia. Keep an eye on the tree forks along the Pinnacles Track, and you might just spot a koala resting there. Fairhaven campground offers an unforgettable experience of sleeping under the stars with the koalas. Camping is free of charge, but you must book a pitch in advance.
Great Otway National Park
Koalas abound in Cape Otway National Park. You can easily spot them along Lighthouse Road, but make sure to park in a safe spot as the road can be very busy with traffic. Combine your quest for koalas with a visit to Cape Otway Lighthouse, the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia. If you are planning to spend more time in the area, Cape Otway Bimbi Park offers the option of camping underneath the koalas.
Koalas were introduced to Raymond Island in 1953 as part of a conservation initiative, and today this is one of the prime spots to see koalas in Australia. There are approximately 200 of these cute tree-hugging creatures on the island. You can find them in the trees along the clearly marked Koala Trail, but it is not unusual to see them crossing the street or perched on pavements around the island.
Warrandyte State Park
Warrandyte State Park is the closest national park to Melbourne, only half an hour's drive from the CBD. You’ll have a good chance of seeing a koala in the trees at Pound Bend Reserve, a popular picnic ground with several easy walks and trails along the Yarra River.
Inspiration: driving holidays in Victoria
Queensland: Where to spot wild Koalas
Magnetic Island National Park
Located within the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, Magnetic Island is the home of one of Australia's largest wild koala populations with more than 1,000 koalas. And the best part is, they are not too difficult to spot since eucalyptus trees here are quite low. Forts Walk, the island’s popular track with a stunning panoramic view of the area, is perfect for encountering these enigmatic creatures.
Brisbane Koala Bushlands
Brisbane Koala Bushlands is a network of natural areas set aside to protect the koala habitat. The bushlands are part of the Koala Coast Network, one of the most important areas inhabited by koalas. Follow the Stockyard Creek walking track and stop at a viewing deck from which you are guaranteed to spot some snoozy koalas.
Brisbane Ranges National Park
Brisbane Ranges National Park koalas are descendants from French Island and Phillip Island ones, brought here in the 1950s and 1970s. Today, the park has the highest density of koalas in Victoria. There are good chances to see them in the northern part of the park, near Reids Road. Besides koalas, look for kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, and possums. Don't miss the stunning wild flora—Brisbane Ranges is known as the richest wildflower habitat in the state.
North Stradbroke Island
North Stradbroke Island, with its vast range of nature walks, is one of the world’s largest sand islands and home to the only naturally occurring island populations of koalas. North Stradbroke offers numerous opportunities to spot koalas in the wild.
Self-drive holiday options in Queensland
New South Wales: Where to spot wild Koalas
Tilligerry Habitat is a community-based ecotourism park close to Sydney, with plenty of easy walking tracks through the scenic swamp mahogany forest. Tilligerry Information Centre regularly sends out scouts to find koalas and map their location for visitors.
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South Australia: Where to spot wild Koalas
Kangaroo Island is one of the world's last unspoiled island wilderness inhabited by koalas, but also kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, and many other native Australian animals. Eighteen koalas were introduced to the island in the 1920s to prevent the diminishing population from going extinct.
Until the recent 2019-2020 bushfires, Kangaroo Island had more than 50,000 koalas, but it is estimated that fewer than half remain.
South Australia self-drive itineraries
Western Australia: Where to spot wild Koalas
Yanchep National Park
Yanchep National Park near Perth has a small koala population. The raised Koala Park boardwalk gives a close view of the animals in their natural environment, and visitors can learn more about these fascinating creatures during free daily koala talks.
Trip-planning inspiration: stunning Aussie self-drive itineraries for nature lovers