Experts in Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific

Australia's big 5 native animals

Posted 10 August 2015
You’ve heard of Africa’s 'big five', now we take a look at Australia's 'big five' fascinating animals.

Australia's wildlife is extremely varied, so it can be hard to decide exactly which animals you want to see. To help, we’ve picked some of the most iconic and interesting creatures to spot on your trip Down Under.


One of Australia’s best-known and loved marsupials, the kangaroo is a grazing herbivore with four distinct species; red kangaroo, eastern grey kangaroo, western grey kangaroo and antilopine kangaroo. Red kangaroos, the largest type, can grow to a length of 2.7 metres from head to tail and all types live in social groups known as a ‘mob’. 

Kangaroos are fairly common throughout Australia, particularly the red and western grey, but quite often the most reliable state to see them in the wild is New South Wales. They’re sensible and tend to find shade in the hottest part of the day, so the best time to see them is at dawn and dusk. Murramarang National Park in the south of NSW is known as one of the most reliable locations to spot Australia’s national icon. You might also want to try Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia.

Did you know? Female kangaroos are able to choose the sex of their offspring.


A short and stocky macropod about the size of a domestic cat, the quokka is mostly nocturnal and feeds on grass, leaves and bark. These curious critters have been described by some as the happiest animal on the planet, owing to how photogenic they tend to be. They live in small family groups, dominated by a male, but share territory with other families.

Rottnest Island, off the Western Australia coast near Fremantle, was named by Captain Cook after the rat-like creatures inhabiting the island. Those animals are the humble quokka, so as you might expect this is the best place to see them.

Did you know? Unlike most other macropods, such as kangaroos and wallabies, quokkas can climb trees.


Echidnas are the oldest surviving mammal on earth and Australia is home to four short-beaked species of the animal. They have spines covering their entire body, which are modified hairs used solely for defence against predators.  The short-beaked echidna feeds largely on ants, termites and larvae.

Echidnas live throughout mainland Australia and several of the islands and in all types of habitat, from mountains to the outback. They’re very common and spend a lot of time among rocks and logs, but their quiet nature means they can be hard to spot. Tasmania and Queensland are considered two of the best locations to see them.

Did you know? Echidnas have a lower body temperature than all other mammals, which means they have a slow metabolism and as such can live up to 50 years.

Tasmanian devil

We all love Taz, the Looney Tunes depiction of the Tasmanian Devil, and the fact is there are similarities. The real creature, the size of a small dog, does fly into a fit of rage when threatened and does have a voracious appetite. The Tasmanian Devil is a carnivore that feasts on dead animals, birds, fish and even fur and bones.

As the name suggests, the only place these creatures can be seen in the wild is Tasmania. They are mostly nocturnal, but can be seen in the Cradle Mountain area.

Did you know? Its strong, muscular jaws give it one of the most powerful bites of any mammal in the world.


Along with the kangaroo, the koala is an iconic Aussie animal and this cuddly marsupial live off the eucalyptus trees that are most common in the east of Australia. They eat around a kilogram of leaves a day, which has the effect of making them smell like the trees they consume.

Koalas live near certain sections of the Great Ocean Road, such as Port Stephens. They are easier to spot than the likes of the echidna, but less common overall. 

Did you know? Koalas in the southern regions of Australia are considerably larger and have thicker fur than their northern counterparts.

If you struggle to spot any of our 'big five' in the wild, Australia has many zoos and wildlife parks where you're sure to see these unique creatures. Simply ask our Travel Designers to recommend the best wildlife experiences to add on to your Australian holiday.