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9 uniquely NSW wildlife adventures

Dive Jervis Bay, Jervis BayCredit: Jordan Robins

Seals playfully swimming in Jervis Bay.

#feelnsw #newsouthwales

9 uniquely NSW wildlife adventures

Dive Jervis Bay, Jervis Bay Credit: Jordan Robins

Seals playfully swimming in Jervis Bay.

#feelnsw #newsouthwales

Hashtags #feelnsw #newsouthwales

Layer upon layer of wildlife fills the skies, seas and lands across New South Wales. Here, 895 national parks protect a hive of habitats, with rolling rivers home to platypus, towering eucalypts cradling koalas and red desert plains dotted with kangaroos. Cities and towns are wild at heart, their lush parklands the stomping grounds of some 903 native land animal species. Plus, world-leading sanctuaries offer incomparable encounters with creatures from afar, while the Pacific Ocean pulses with seals, dolphins, whales and colourful fish, many of them found nowhere else on Earth. With such rich biodiversity and one-of-a-kind experiences to enjoy, it’s no wonder NSW is known as The Natural State. Here’s just a few standout animal adventures for your holiday hitlist.  

Have a whale of a time 

Every year from May to November more than 40,000 humpback whales migrate along the NSW coastline as they move between their Antarctic feeding grounds and their tropical breeding areas, with the population continuing to grow since whaling ended in the late 1960s. On a three-hour Discovery Cruise with Whale Watching Sydney, you’ll journey through picturesque Sydney Harbour then out to the open ocean, where these gentle, 18-metre giants may perform spectacular acrobatic displays. Whale-watch tours are available all along the coast, including in Merimbula, Cronulla, Newcastle, Yamba and Port Macquarie, while Jervis Bay Marine Park has the rare opportunity to swim alongside them. If you’d like to stay on solid ground, Cape Solander’s new accessible viewing platform delivers unrivalled sightings as the whales pass southern Sydney.   

Choose unique zoo encounters  

Globally renowned for its pioneering conservation efforts – including recent breeding wins with rare natives such as little penguins, snapping turtles and long-nosed fur seals – Taronga Zoo Sydney offers VIP access to some 5,000 animals with its Roar and Snore package. Dine and unwind in a safari-tented glampsite flanked by lions, tigers and meerkats on one side, and  jaw-dropping views of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House on the other, before the wild lullabies of myriad critters soothe you to sleep. An ever-changing range of behind-the-scenes experiences is also included, such as twilight walks, keeper talks and hands-on sessions with everything from giraffes to friendly snakes. The animal adventures continue at Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo, where zoofari drives lead to vast savannahs filled with rhinos, giraffes and zebras; as well as at Featherdale Sydney Wildlife Park, where you can discover the world’s largest collection of Australian animals. 

Whale Watching, Forster Credit: Destination NSW

Humpback whales breaching off the coast of Tuncurry-Forster

#feelnsw #newsouthwales

Whale Watching, Forster Credit: Destination NSW

Humpback whales breaching off the coast of Tuncurry-Forster

#feelnsw #newsouthwales

Taronga Zoo, Mosman Credit: Destination NSW

A resident koala at Taronga Zoo, Mosman in Sydney.

#feelnewsydney

Taronga Zoo, Mosman Credit: Destination NSW

A resident koala at Taronga Zoo, Mosman in Sydney.

#feelnewsydney

Meet and greet wild koalas 

From the southern Eurobodalla’s open woodlands to the North Coast’s dense forests, koala habitats span the length of NSW.  In Port Macquarie, just 70 minutes’ flight from Sydney, opportunities to see these endangered enigmas up-close abound – particularly at Sea Acres National Park and the acclaimed Koala Hospital, the world’s first facility solely dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and rereleasing injured koalas. Take a free, self-guided tour to meet the plucky patients – the hospital cares for 250 koalas each year – and visit the Koalaseum for fascinating hands-on educational exhibits. Further afield, you can search for wild koalas in the Tillligerry Habitat near Port Stephens; the Koala Country of the Southern Highlands, or the Riverina’s  Murrumbidgee Valley Nature Reserve, where 200 of these snoozy beauties reside. 

Play with the puppies of the sea 

Comical Australian fur seals frolic in the shallows of Barunguba Montague Island – inviting you to take the 20-minute boat ride across from Narooma to join them in some of the South Coast’s most crystalline waters. And while seal swims are available all year round, it’s worth braving the winter chill: that’s when the number of these playful pinnipeds peaks and humpback whales may also pass by. If you’d prefer to keep your happy feet dry, try a sunset tour  – the island is also home to NSW’s largest colony of the world’s smallest penguin, the little penguin, with more than 8,000 breeding pairs to observe.  

Montague Island, Narooma Credit: Destination NSW

Getting up close to seals as part of the Montague Island Discovery Tours experience

#newsouthwales #feelnsw

Montague Island, Narooma Credit: Destination NSW

Getting up close to seals as part of the Montague Island Discovery Tours experience

#newsouthwales #feelnsw

Go bush for platypus 

One of Earth’s only egg-laying mammals, platypuses are found only in Eastern Australia’s freshwater systems, where they burrow into muddy banks and forage for insects and crustaceans. The crisp, clear rivers of the Snowy Mountains are prime habitats for these cute recluses; Bombala has such high numbers that it’s known as Platypus Country, with a designated reserve offering an elevated vantage point to see them foraging. Closer to Sydney, the Royal National Park has a new population of platypuses: 10 were recently reintroduced into the Hacking River and they’re already breeding. As you search for them along the Lady Carrington trail, look out for their egg-laying mammal cousins, too – the park is also a hotspot for echidnas, the world’s only other monotreme. Rather a guided search? Book a platypus walking tour near Byron Bay.  

Jump into a kangaroo experience 

From coastal bushland to suburban golf courses, rolling countryside to desert plains, NSW’s biodiverse landscapes host 15  different types of kangaroo and wallaby. For a close look at elegant Eastern Greys, reach for the beaches of Murramarang National Park on the South Coast, where the myth of the surfing ’roos was born. For the towering red specimens seen in many a meme, head to the outback: you’ll find an abundance of these musclebound macropods in Mungo, Kinchega and Gundabooka National Parks, while in Mutawintji they live alongside the state’s only colony of endangered yellow-footed rock wallabies and a large population of emus. If you’re staying in Sydney, you may wish to take a guided day tour to see them in their urban habitats. 

Look At Me Now Headland, Emerald Beach Credit: Destination NSW

Kangaroo grazing on Look At Me Now Headland, Emerald Beach.

#feelnsw #newsouthwales

Look At Me Now Headland, Emerald Beach Credit: Destination NSW

Kangaroo grazing on Look At Me Now Headland, Emerald Beach.

#feelnsw #newsouthwales

See the Devil in Barrington Tops 

You don’t need to leave the mainland to see wild Tasmanian devils: in the Barrington Tops area of The Hunter, Aussie Ark is maintaining the world’s largest insurance population of the charismatic carnivores in huge free-range, protected enclosures. This innovative conservation initiative is successfully breeding threatened natives – including Eastern quolls and long-nosed potoroos – to help them sidestep extinction. Join an Aussie Ark Ranger on a 2.5-hour guided tour to explore the sprawling Devils In the Wild habitat and watch them feed, before looking for quolls, potoroos and bandicoots. Nearby, you can continue your native encounters by seeking out the local wombats, or take your search to the Greater Blue Mountains with an expert-led tour

Make a splash with dolphins, turtles and sharks 

The nutrient-rich waters of the Pacific Ocean support an abundance of wildlife, presenting countless opportunities to connect with creatures from the deep. On the North Coast, Dolphin Swim Australia runs NSW’s only completely wild dolphin swim with an intimate four-hour tour off Port Stephens; endangered grey nurse sharks are the highlight of a South West Rocks diving charter, while a turtle tour of the Cook Island Aquatic Reserve offers the chance to see endangered Loggerheads and Hawksbills. The ocean adventures continue offshore, too, where UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island boasts the world’s southernmost coral reef, with more than 60 dive sites and nearly 500 fish species, many of them endemic to this marine wilderness. 

Connect with feathered friends 

With more than 400 species of native bird, NSW is a twitcher’s happy place – and you don’t need to venture far to see some sought-after species. A stroll through Sydney’s Centennial Parklands winds through a range of habitats, where tawny frogmouths, powerful owls, kookaburras, black swans, corellas, black cockatoos and Eurasian coots live side by side. Just two hours’ flight away on Lord Howe Island, 14 types of seabird breed in their hundreds of thousands, and local conservation efforts have brought the endemic woodhen back from the brink of extinction. Back on the mainland, wedge-tailed eagles soar over the Murray Valley Regional Park, Mount Oxley, and Blackheath areas, while the Blue Mountains and New England National Park are lyrebird hotspots. Not sure where to start? Let the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s accredited experts lead you to intriguing sightings on a birding tour

 

Shoalhaven Zoo, Jervis Bay Credit: Discover Jervis Bay

Kookaburra at Shoalhaven Zoo, Jervis Bay.

#feelnsw #newsouthwales

Shoalhaven Zoo, Jervis Bay Credit: Discover Jervis Bay

Kookaburra at Shoalhaven Zoo, Jervis Bay.

#feelnsw #newsouthwales

Cook Island, Fingal Head Credit: Destination NSW

Woman freediving with a local sea turtle in waters off Cook Island, Fingal Head.

#feelnsw #newsouthwales

Cook Island, Fingal Head Credit: Destination NSW

Woman freediving with a local sea turtle in waters off Cook Island, Fingal Head.

#feelnsw #newsouthwales

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