"National parks and wildlife viewing (East Coast)" Australia Things to Do Tip by worldtrekker
Australia Things to Do: 1,335 reviews and 2,260 photos
The following is a response I wrote in the forums:
There is more than enough to see and do in Victoria, NSW & Queensland. I'm not sure about accessibility to some of the places I will mention with public transportation, as I had my own vehicle... Not sure if camping will be an option for you, but it cetainly helps with wildlife viewing!
If you stick to the east coast and don't do any internal flights to Darwin, Alice Springs, Tasmania, etc. would the money saved make it affordable for you to rent a car? A way that I saved money on fuel, camping expenses, etc. was to take other travelers with me. They could also pitch in towards the car rental cost. I found people quite easily by posting up notices at backpackers - usually more people responded than I had room for. A car would give you a lot more flexibility and I think give you more and better opportunities to see wildlife.
My top picks for national parks/scenic areas in these 3 states: Wilsons Promontory, The Grampians, Great Ocean Road, Blue Mountains (although I haven't been), Fraser Island, Cape Hillsborough, Eungella, Whitsunday Islands, Cape Tribulation, Atherton Tablelands.
Near Melbourne is Wilsons Promontory National Park. I loved this park. We did a 3 day (41km) hike here via Oberon Car Park, Sealer's Cove, Refuge Cove, Little Waterloo Bay... beautiful beaches along the way! Lots of wildlife in the park - lots of wombats, kangaroos, and wallabys. We had a wombat in our campsite - under our Landcruiser! There are also koalas in the park, but we didn't see any.
Croajingolong National Park in Victoria: We went to the Double Creek Nature Walk at dusk to go spotlighting for koalas, gliders, possums, etc. We actually saw a koala on the road just before arriving there! Spotlighting is a lot of fun and often you get to see some interesting animals. If you do this, use a red filter over the torch as this doesn't disturb the animals and you will have more time to view them. You can go spotlighting in any of the forest areas in Australia. Near this park in Mallacoota and there is a golf course there where kangaroos like to hang out. We must have seen 75 of them congregated there. This is certainly a nice area, but you might want to skip it if you have had luck with kangaroos in other places. With your limited time, there are other parks I would prefer to visit...
Grampians National Park has some great scenery and hiking. Had a really close encounter with an echidna here - got some nice photos from less than 1 meter away! Check out the Balconies and MacKenzie Falls. Between the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians is Tower Hill State Game Preserve. We saw quite a few emus, kangaroos, and a koalas here.
Fraser Island in Queensland is unique and well worth a visit. It is the largest sand island in the world and has very clean fresh water lakes and creeks. It would be best if you could spend at least a night on the island - it is only accessible by 4X4. There are tours or you could pitch in with other travelers to rent one on the mainland.
Cape Hillsborough National Park was a lot of fun - hiked the Andrews Point Track. Green turtles nest and hatch on the beach here between Oct-Nov so perfect timing for you. Wildlife we saw: kangaroos, scrub turkeys, wallabys, a carpet python, and a sea turtle from Turtle Lookout. If you are there during low tide - you can walk out to Wedge Island...
Eungella National Park: probably the best (most reliable) place to see platypus in Australia - at Broken River (dusk/dawn). Great place for spotlighting as well. We had the opportunity of seeing a barking owl land in a tree and feed on a quail it had just caught. Also saw possums and another night bird called a tawny frogmouth. Nearby is Finch Hatton Gorge - there is a hike through the rainforest to Araluen Falls where you can swim and also jump in from about 7 meteres above the pool.
The Whitsunday Islands are truly worth a few days on a sailboat. I went there 2x and spent between 5-7 days cruising around the islands. We rented a sailboat both times. There are also tours, day trips, etc. out of Airlie Beach. Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island is amazing. I also really enjoyed Hamilton Island and Long Island. Box Jellyfish inhabit this area.
South of Cairns is a possibility for white water rafting on the Tully River. It is a very popular spot so you can expect a lot of rafts on the river. The rapids include several at class 4. Although it can be crowded, it is still a good time.
Also just south of Cairns are the Atherton Tablelands. Millaa Millaa Falls are breathtaking. Zillie Falls are also beautiful. If you have the opportunity to go spotlighting here at night check it out at the Curtain Fig Tree. I was actually looking to find tree kangaroos here although no luck with that. However I saw plenty of other animals: brushtail possums, long tailed pygmy possums, white tailed rats, bats and frogs... Also went spotlighting in Hypipamee National Park and saw several types of possum and a pandemelon.
Cape Tribulation north of Cairns is another great rainforest park. Look for crocodiles... and certainly visit to Bat House to meet a flying fox up close and personal: http://www.austrop.org.au/batties/bat%20house.htm
Just the areas I mentioned above could fill your entire trip... if you do decide that you want to fly to other parts of Australia on this trip, I could give you more suggestions... Tasmania has some amazing national parks and wildlife viewing...
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