Australia’s Wild Destinations
Planning a getaway?
I have been fortunate to have traveled throughout most of Australia (and beyond), searching for and photographing its unique wildlife. The few places I haven’t been to yet, I have researched and written about in my books – so I have ‘virtually’ been there!
If you are going on a self-drive or fly-drive wildlife getaway, or are looking for inspiration on where to go for your next trip, the information below might just help you get the most out of your planned trip or inspire your next wild adventure.
Of course, you could always book a tour with me and let me do all of the planning and organising for you. You can check out my regular and upcoming tours here.
Wild Places You Should Visit
Queensland is Australia’s second largest state or territory, covering an area of just under 1.75 million km² (22.5% of the country’s land mass).
As a large state, Queensland has an extensive fauna list containing approximately 600 birds, 160 mammals, 500 reptiles, 130 frogs. This diversity stems from the range of habitat types, wet, dry, rocky, arid evergreen, deciduous to the misty cloud covered tropical rainforests in the north. Further, these ecosystems contain a vast diversity of plants that influence temperature and provide the diversity of niches that has, in part, allowed for the diversification of fauna.
The state contains 20,000km² of rainforest (55% of Australia’s total). Divided between four major rainforest regions, tropical rainforest (Cape York Peninsula and the Wet Tropics), subtropical rainforest (Eungella) and cool-temperate rainforest (South East Queensland), Queensland is home to some of the world’s oldest rainforest. The majority of Queensland’s (70%) rainforest occurs in the north of the state in the Wet Tropics bioregion
Throughout each level of the rainforest, from the fertile soil and leaf litter covered floor, to the dense understorey, up the moss and lichen covered buttresses, tree trunks and saplings into the high sitting epiphytes and lianas that stretch into the dense canopy of strangler figs and rainforest trees, wildlife has been able to flourish.
Rainfall also plays a significant role in rainforest function providing the water that allows for the flow of waterfalls, streams, rivers and soaks providing the moisture that creates the high humidity levels. Similarly, elevation plays a critical role in both isolated rainforest patches such as those at Mt. Elliot or Cape Melville, whilst also allowing for an increase in the diversity and endemicity of flora and fauna as temperature and rainfall vary. The significance of these factors, together with the ecological diversity and unique values of Queensland’s rainforests have been recognised by UNESCO and Queensland’s World Heritage List sites include the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area, Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area and Fraser Island World Heritage Area, making the state’s rainforest an essential place to visit for any wildlife enthusiast. Although granted many protections, Queensland’s rainforests are still recovering from the impacts of logging and are threatened by many factors including weeds, fire, feral animals, cyclones (in tropical regions) and fragmentation.
Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park
For wildlife enthusiasts the first thing that comes to mind when the Cape York Peninsula is mentioned is Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park and the incredible diversity of rainforest species that inhabit what is actually a very small area (346km²).
Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park and the surrounding area is home to 15 endemic bird species, out of almost 240 in total. The national park was gazetted in 1981 and contains the largest area of lowland rainforest in Australia, covering 49,000ha (expanded from 33,000ha, in 2011). It is bordered by mangroves and beaches to the east and the heathlands of the Tozer Range to the west.
Lockhart River is the northernmost town on the east coast of Australia and is a remote, coastal indigenous community home to a mix of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.
At the beginning of World War II an American airbase (predominantly for bombers) was set up at Lockhart River and the dense rainforests were used to train troops in jungle warfare before they were dispatched to south-east Asia. In 1987, the community was given a trust title of the lands and administration of the lands. The traditional name of Iron Range is Kutini-Payamu, which means Cassowary (Kutini) and Rainbow Serpent (Payamu).
Although wildlife is abundant year-round, the best time of year to go is during the wet season (when seasonal migrants have arrived), though this may mean you have to fly in. It is important to familiarise yourself with the local bird and frog calls, because you will likely hear them before you see them. Similarly, the large diversity of skinks and small reptiles are often given away by the rustling of the leaf litter as they search for prey. Unfortunately, many of the species that occur here are very difficult to find and photograph, particularly species like the Trumpet Manucode (Phonygammus keraudrenii).
There are a selection of unpowered camping sites near waterways with toilets provided, including: Chilli Beach, Rainforest, Cooks Hut and Gordon Creek camping areas. Generators are permitted in some areas and 4WD access is required. Camping permits are required and fees apply, a tag must be displayed at your campsite. Check website for updates, bookings and more details (https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/kutini-payamu/camping.html#rainforest_camping_area).
Looking for other places to stay?
Torres Strait Islands
This is a group of over 270 islands in the Arafura Sea, and over 250 species of bird have been recorded here. The best (and most accessible) islands are Boigu, Dauan and Saibai, all of which are in the far north. Some of the species found on these islands occur on both the New Guinea and Australian mainlands, some regularly migrate between the two, while others are also found in Papua New Guinea, but do not venture further south to mainland Australia. A number of vagrants also appear on these islands from time to time, making them increasingly popular with birders. Some of the more commonly encountered species within the island group are Ashy-bellied White-eye, Coconut Lorikeet, Collared Imperial-Pigeon, Gurney’s Eagle, Red-capped Flowerpecker and Singing Starling.
The Wet Tropics
Cairns is a modern city located in tropical northern Qld, with easy access to the Great Barrier Reef. It is bordered by rainforest-clad mountain ranges and is the the last major centre before heading north to the beautiful Daintree Rainforest and over the Daintree River to the Cape York Peninsula. Cairns is home to over 150,000 people, which is around 30,000 less than the closest major city of Townsville. Although many birding visitors think that they need to head to the Daintree (and further north up Cape York Peninsula) or to the Atherton Tablelands to start their birding adventure, there are many great sites in and around Cairns that can amass an impressive list of species. A few hours spent roaming the Flecker Botanic Gardens and the adjacent Centenary Lakes in the early morning, followed by a visit to the Jack Barnes Bicentennial Mangrove Boardwalk, and a walk along the Esplanade on the evening rising tide (particularly between September and May when many migratory species visit the area), before heading back to the Botanic Gardens for a late evening stroll along the swamp boardwalk, could yield an impressive list of over 80 species, which would kick start your northern birding trip in great style. In fact around 300 species have been recorded in and around Cairns, so staying a few days here could be very worthwhile indeed.
With over 230 species of birds recorded, the protected area of Hasties Swamp is a small (56ha) but invaluable destination for any birder. The park contains a mixture of wet and dry forests, woodlands and wetlands, and at the foothills of the the Great Dividing Range (west) and the Herberton Range (south). The basalt subsoil is covered with a mixture of clay and rich sponge-like peat soils, which traps water and prevents the swamp from drying out completely. Only in a few extended droughts has the swamp become completely dry. Historically, the near-permanent waters of Hasties Swamp, known as Nyleta by the local Yidinji people, provided a valuable seasonal meeting place for them, where they would hunt wildlife and gather the local food plants. More recently, after the establishment of tin mines in Heberton, the site became a popular watering hole and feeding place for travelling workers and their horse and bullock teams. The area was established as a national park in 1980. No entry fees are payable and the park is open 24 hrs/day, every day of the year, although visitors are recommended to check park alerts (www.npsr.qld.gov.au/park-alerts) prior to visiting. Toilets (wheelchair accessible) and a two-storey bird hide (lower floor is wheelchair accessible) are available on site but visitors must bring their own drinking water and food, and are encouraged to take their rubbish with them when they leave. To get here from Atherton, head south on the Atherton-Herberton Road (Route 52), and turn left onto Hasties Road (3 km), then right onto Koci Road (250m) [4 minutes by car].
Julatten (Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge)
The park and immediate surrounds combines rainforest, open woodland and riverine habitats, making it one of the most ideal places for most of the tropical bird species to be found within the region. Over 230 bird species have been recorded on and around the site, including the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher, which breeds there between November and March. Many other species also breed there, including a number of species that are endemic to the region. The grounds are privately-owned and accessible by guests of the lodge (although day visits by small groups or individuals may be possible for a small fee, which is donated by the owners to local wildlife charities). The property is located at the base of the Mount Lewis range and primarily caters to birders and general wildlife lovers for most of the year, but is closed during the peak of the wet season (mainly between mid-January and mid-April). In addition to the amazing birdlife, the property is also home to many species of frogs, mammals, reptiles and butterflies (and other insects), many of which are unique to northern Qld. The owners are very accommodating and will help to make your birding experience as enjoyable and successful as possible, but also want to ensure that this is done with minimal impact on the birdlife, so, as should always be the case, please ensure you conduct your birding ethically.
Kuranda National Park
Another part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, the Kuranda National Park encompasses 274.1km² extending from around Palm Cove to the Mowbray River. It is best accessed from Kuranda along Black Mountain Road.
A mountainous region, much of which isn’t accessible, the park provides habitat for over 70 mammals, 340 birds, 75 reptiles and 40 amphibians, including the Southern Cassowary (p.???) Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo (p.???), Boyd’s Forest Dragon (p. ???) and a large number of endangered frog species.
This area is an important wildlife corridor linking the northern and southern sections of the Wet Tropics rainforest, which were separated during the last glacial maximum.
Access to the park is limited during the summer months due to heavy rain. The township of Kuranda is at the southern end of the park and there are numerous wildlife watching opportunities in town itself.
Kuranda provides many opportunities to learn about the native fauna of the area through the Barron River Cruise, Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld, Koala Garden, Kuranda Scenic Railway, the Skyrail, or through any of the amazing rainforest walks from town.
It is important to know that Myrtle Rust (Austropuccinia psidii) has been detected within the area and all efforts to reduce the spread of this disease should be made.
A tropical climate dominates year round, with summer being hotter and more humid (27-33°C) with an average monthly rainfall of over 375mm from January-March, whilst winters are drier and slightly cooler, averaging around 26°C with a rainfall over less than 50mm per month during June-October.
Daintree is a small town on the southern side of the Daintree River, and nestled between the foothills of the MacDonnell Range to the west and the Coral Sea (and Great Barrier Reef) to the east. The Daintree region lies within the Wet Tropics of northern Qld, and supports a range of important birding habitats, including tropical rainforest, mangrove, riverine and marine. The Daintree National Park was World Heritage Listed in 1988, and supports around 430 species of birds. The region has great spiritual and cultural significance to the indigenous Kuku Yalanji people, who cared for the land for tens of thousands of years prior to European settlement in the area in the late 1870s. The current name, given to the river by explorer Georg Dalrymple, is after the geologist Richard Daintree, whose work ultimately led to the gold rush of 1877, although he never actually visited the region himself. Several riverboat charter cruises are available to be taken along the Daintree River, and a vehicular ferry crosses the river at Lower Daintree, allowing access to Cape Tribulation in the north and the ancient Daintree Rainforest. Sir David Attenborough fell in love with the region in 1957, and still considers it (and the Great Barrier Reef) to be the most wonderful part of the world – and, no doubt, you will too!
Townsville Town Common Conservation Park
Located a short drive north of Townsville city centre, the conservation park, known locally as the Town Common, covers around 3,250 ha of lagoons, coastal wetlands, mangroves, vine thickets, beaches and mountain ranges, and is bordered by the Bohle River to the west and the Coral Sea to the east and north. It is among the best birding locations in Australia, particularly for waterbirds, which are most numerous during the wet season and can be found in dense congregations right up until the middle of the year when the waters start to dry up. In fact around 280 species have been recorded in the area, including many breeding residents. There are two bird hides, numerous viewing areas and a lookout tower, all of which afford good viewing over the lagoons and wetlands. The deeper lagoons hold water long into the dry season and dense flocks of birds congregate on and around these in increasing numbers as other wetlands dry out and food becomes harder to find. Some of the more common species include Black-necked Stork, Brahminy Kite, Brolga, Comb-crested Jacana, Double-barred Finch, Magpie Goose, Pied Stilt, Plumed Whistling-Duck, Rainbow Bee-eater, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Royal Spoonbill, Spangled Drongo and White-bellied Sea-Eagle. The nearby Magnetic Island is easily viewable from the park, and Hinchinbrook Island can be seen on the horizon to the north. These are both popular tourist destinations.
The latest count of bird species recorded at these incredible world-renowned wetlands stands at over 260 species (around 27.5% of Australia’s total), over 220 of which are regular visitors or breeding residents. Located in the township of Ingham, the capital city of the shire of Hinchinbrook, the wetlands were named after the Eastern Grass Owl Tyto capensis, which can be seen around dusk as they leave their daytime roosts and fly low over the wetlands. Around 4 kilometres of walkways wind around and through the wetlands, with numerous viewing platforms and hides overlooking the waterways, rushes and islands. The rehabilitated wetlands cover an area of 120 hectares, with dedicated parking adjacent the Information and Wetlands Centre, and the site is truly a birder’s paradise, and a place not to be missed on any journey to northern Qld. The town of Ingham has a large Italian heritage, and over half of the residents being of Italian descent, and is often dubbed Little Italy. Many Italian immigrants came to the area to work in the local sugar cane industry and an annual Australian-Italian Festival is held in August to celebrate this heritage, and many people come travel to the area at this time to enjoy the Italian wines, foods and music that accompany the cultural activities.
Eungella National Park
Extending from the lowlands to over 1,200m up into the cloud covered hills of the Eungella Plateau and the Clarke Range, Eungella National Park contains the longest continuous stretch of sub-tropical rainforest in Australia.
The region is extremely biodiverse with over 40 mammal species, 250 birds, 50 reptiles, 15 amphibians and 860 plants.
Being an isolated patch of rainforest 400km south of the Wet Tropics and 1,200km north of South East Queensland’s rainforests, there are many endemic species. This includes the Eungella Honeyeater, which was first described in 1983 from a specimen collected from this location. There are also the Eungella Spiny Crayfish (Euastacus eungella), Orange-speckled Forest Skink, Peppered-belly Broad-tailed Gecko (Phyllurus nepthys) and two endemic frogs, the Eungella Dayfrog (Taudactylus eungellensis) and Liem’s Tinkerfrog. Unfortunately, a third endemic frog species, the Northern Gastric Brood Frog (Rheobatrachus vitellinus), has not been seen since 1985, one year after being discovered.
Declared in 1941, the park has since expanded and is one of the best-known locations to watch Platypus in Australia. The park covers a large number of habitat types and many of the longer walks provide the opportunity to explore them all, particularly the Mackay Highlands Great Walk.
Warm and humid in summer, 20°C – 30°C, daytime temperatures can drop into the 10°C – 20°C range during winter. Be aware that night temperatures can drop well into single figures. Rainfall is seasonal and peaks during the wet season (November-April), with monthly average rainfall over 170mm from December-March.
South Eastern Queensland
Lamington National Park
Lamington National Park is located on the border of NSW, atop the McPherson Range, which rises to a height of 1100m, and is home to over 200 bird species. The park is the northernmost limit of Australia’s ancient Antarctic Beech forests, that closely resemble the flowering plants of 100 mya, and were once widespread through the continent. It is also home to extensive rainforests, including cool temperate, subtropical and dry, which are part of the Gondwana Rainforests of the Australian World Heritage Area (listed in 1994), and Australia’s largest area of Hoop Pine, among the most ancient conifers in the world. Key species to be found in the region include Albert’s Lyrebird, Eastern Bristlebird, Green Catbird, Paradise Riflebird and Regent Bowerbird, indeed Albert’s Lyrebird is found only in this area. The western side of the Lamington Plateau is called Green Mountains (also known as O’Reilly’s, the family name of the owners of the resort that is located there), while the eastern side of the plateau is named Binna Burra, which is the local Aboriginal term for “where the beech tree grows”. The earliest people to inhabit the area were the Aboriginal Yugambeh people and evidence still exists of their use of the area. The earliest European to visit were Francis Roberts and Isaiah Rowland, who surveyed the Qld-NSW border between 1863 and 1866.
New South Wales
New South Wales is Australia’s most populous state, with over 7.8 million residents and is the country’s 5th largest state. It is bordered by Queensland in the north, South Australia and Northern Territory in the west, Victoria in the south and the Pacific Ocean lies along the east coast. Cape Byron is the state’s (and the country’s) most easterly mainland point. New South Wales surrounds the Australian Capital Territory, which contains the country’s capital, Canberra and has 41 offshore islands, although almost all of these are small and have either small or no resident human populations.
The state’s landscape varies greatly from west to east, with sandy deserts, rocky ranges and plains dominating the west and rainforests, mountain ranges and open woodlands found in the east. The uplands of the far west of the state, the western plains in the central area and the Great Dividing Range in the east form the three main topographical regions.
These regions contain a combined total of 17 bioregions, which support a huge number and diversity of plant and animal species.
Although generally regarded as having a mild temperate climate, the north-west of the state can see much higher temperatures than the alpine areas of the south-east. Rainfall averages also show a gradual increase from west to east, with the north-west at around 200mm per annum, compared with an annual mean of 1,500mm in the north-east.
The state of New South Wales is 801,212 km2 in size, of which 70,846 km2 is held within its 867 reserves. The state’s 6,060 km2 of rainforests are the most diverse of any in Australia. They are widely distributed in the state’s east, from the ancient, lush World Heritage-listed subtropical Gondwana Rainforests that occur extensively within the Border Ranges National Park on the Queensland border to the isolated pockets of dry temperate (littoral) rainforests of the far south-east of the state.
The ancient Gondwana Rainforests (conserved within 28 separate reserves) and the Greater Blue Mountains Area are on the UNESCO World Heritage List of areas with natural and/or cultural values of global significance.
Border Ranges National Park
The Border Ranges National Park is part of the shield volcano group and is home to a section of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia (inscribed in 1986 and added to the Australian National Heritage List in 2007). The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia contain the most extensive areas of subtropical rainforest in the world. It also has large areas of warm temperate rainforest and the world’s largest area of Antarctic Beech (Lophozonia moorei) cool temperate rainforest. The Gondwana Rainforests extend from south-eastern Queensland to Barrington Tops National Park (p.???), New South Wales.
The majority of the 31,729 hectare park is located in northern New South Wales, with a small portion extending into south-eastern Queensland.
Over 4,000 plant species have been recorded within the region, including over 160 species that are of major conservation significance, such as Davidson’s Plum (Davidsonia pruriens), Ormeau Bottletree (Brachychiton sp. Ormeau) and Springbrook Pinkwood (Eucryphia jinksii). Vertebrate fauna of conservation significance that occur in the region include 22 species of birds, 22 mammals, 17 reptiles and 9 frogs. Of these, a number are largely restricted to the local area, including Albert’s Lyrebird (p.???), Fleay’s Barred Frog (p. ???) and Richmond Birdwing Butterfly (p. ???).
Cane Toads (p. ???) have been recorded within rainforest in the Border Ranges National Park and pose a significant threat to the park’s native fauna. The introduced wood decaying Orange Pore Fungus (Favolaschia calocera) has also been recorded in the park and has the potential to spread rapidly, displacing the native fungi of the region.
The Bandjalang people of north-east New South Wales and south-east Queensland have strong cultural and spiritual connections to the Border Ranges region.
Dorrigo National Park
Dorrigo National Park is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, which includes reserves in both New South Wales and Queensland and contains the largest expanse of subtropical rainforests in the world.
The mosaic of soil types in the Dorrigo region supports a range of forest types, including subtropical and cool temperate rainforest. A small area of the rainforest was first protected in 1901 and the Dorrigo National Park was established in 1974, before being incorporated in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1986. The park currently protects an area of 7,885ha.
Canopy species in subtropical rainforest areas include Black Booyong (Heritiera actinophylla), Giant Stinging Tree (Dendrocnide excelsa) and Yellow Carrabeen (Sloanea woollsii), while cool temperate rainforest is dominated by Antarctic Beech (Nothofagus moorei).
The views from the elevated deck at the rear Rainforest Centre are stunning, but the rainforest floor and lower tree levels are where the bulk of the action takes place. Australian Brush-turkey, Australian Logrunner, Noisy Pitta and Superb Lyrebird rake through the leaf litter, looking for food, Australian Golden Whistler, Eastern Yellow Robin, Green Catbird and Paradise Riflebird move from tree to tree and Satin Bowerbird maintain bowers decorated with bright blue objects.
Spotlighting the park at night can be good for nocturnal animals, including Australian Boobook (Ninox boobook), Brown Antechinus, Bush Rat, Eastern Ring-tailed Possum, Glandular Tree Frog, Greater Sooty Owl, Hip Pocket Frog, Powerful Owl, Red-legged Pademelon, Spotted-tailed Quoll and Yellow-bellied Glider.
Numerous stunning waterfalls can be accessed by some of the many walks through the rainforest.
New England National Park
New England National Park was gazetted in 1931 and was incorporated in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1986 as one of the sub-tropical and warm temperate rainforest parks of eastern Australia. The current gazetted area covers 68,722ha.
The park contains the largest area of northern warm temperate rainforests in Australia. Warm temperate rainforests have a canopy height of up to 30m and predominantly grow in sheltered areas of hilly regions. The park also has patches of subtropical and cool temperate rainforest, heathland (mainly at Wrights Lookout), sclerophyll forest, sub-alpine woodland and swampland. Current estimates suggest around 1,000 plant species are found within these habitats within the park.
Over 110 species of birds have been recorded in the national park, including Australian King Parrot, Rufous scrub-bird, Superb Lyrebird, Topknot Pigeon and White-headed Pigeon.
Mammal species that inhabit the park include Brush-tailed Phascogale, Little Bent-winged Bat, Parma Wallaby, Platypus, Red-necked Pademelon, Spotted-tailed Quoll and Swamp Wallaby.
Carpet Python, Delicate Skink, Golden-crowned Snake, Lace Monitor and Southern Leaf-tailed Gecko are among the commonly encountered reptiles.
Frog fauna includes the endangered Sphagnum Frog. The male of this variably coloured species gives his guttural ‘wrocc’ call from within leaf litter or from under a patch of moss.
Of the large number of invertebrates found in the park, the velvet worm, or ‘peripatus’, is among the most curious and ancient.
Washpool National Park
The region is sacred to the Bundjalung, Gumbaingirri and Ngarrabul people, who have a long connection with the land.
From the 1800s, until the establishment of the park, the area was selectively logged for its valuable Red Cedar (Toona ciliata). As the logging industry became more automated, the increasing rate of logging placed unsustainable pressure on the ecology of the forests.
The 68,819ha Washpool National Park was formed in 1983 following recommendations from a study that identified a number of local endemic plant and animal populations and a number of other natives, which were not adequately conserved elsewhere.
Some of the fauna that the park supports includes Eastern Ring-tailed Possum, Long-nosed Potoroo, Parma Wallaby, Powerful Owl, Rufous Scrub-bird, Spotted-tailed Quoll, Stuttering Frog, Superb Lyrebird and Swamp Wallaby.
A number of feral animal species have been identified for the park, including Eastern Gambusia [Mosquitofish] (Gambusia holbrooki), European Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), Feral Cat (Felis catus), Feral Deer (Cervidae), Feral Donkey (Equus assinus), Feral Horse (Equus caballus), Feral Pig (Sus scrofa), Red‐eared Slider Turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) and Dog (Canis familiaris).
Northern warm temperate rainforests are the predominant rainforest type in this region, due to its large areas of acidic soils and the region contains some of the least-disturbed forest in New South Wales. In addition to the huge Red Cedar trees, the region is home to the world’s largest tract of Coachwood (Ceratopetalum apetalum). Eucalypt tall open forests are also extensively distributed through the region.
West Byron Wetlands
The West Byron Wetlands is part of the award-winning 100ha Byron Bay Integrated Water Management Reserve. It is a sewage treatment facility that is managed by the council, and is a leading example of environmental resource management. The site is a haven for wildlife, which includes an impressive list of almost 230 bird species, and the council are very accommodating to local birders and visitors alike, seemingly fully aware of the importance of the wetlands and other birding sites within the area as a major draw card for tourism. The wetlands combines natural wetlands and artificial ponds to treat the sewage effluent and over half a million trees have been planted in the paperbark wetland system. Once the effluent is treated and purified it is released into the nearby Belongil Creek. The township of Byron Bay is home to over 9,000 people, and is a popular tourism destination, with pristine beaches, laid back lifestyle and vibrant nightlife, nestled on the far north-east coast of NSW, 175 km south of Brisbane and 800 km north of Sydney it is a place not to bypass as you travel along the coast, despite the highway encouraging you to do so.
Barrington Tops National Park
This incredible 76,512ha area was declared as a National Park on 3rd December 1969, with the last gazetted amendment occuring in June 2010. The park contains the southernmost part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, along with a range of other habitats.
Barrington Tops National Park is located on the Mount Royal Range, the highest point (1,586 m) of which is at the summit of Brumlow Tops. The region contains significant areas of subtropical rainforest and cool temperate rainforest, around a third of which occurs at higher altitudes (>1,000 m). Warm temperate rainforest also occurs, but to a much lesser extent.
The region was the traditional home of the Biripi, Geawegal, Wonaruah and Worimi people.
The impressive diversity of animal species in the national park includes Australian Masked Owl, Eastern Pygmy-possum, Giant Barred Frog, Glandular Frog, Golden-tipped Bat, Greater Sooty Owl, Grey-headed Flying-fox, Long-nosed Potoroo, Olive Whistler, Parma Wallaby, Rufous Scrub-bird, Spotted-tailed Quoll, Stephen’s Banded Snake, Stuttering Frog and Wompoo Fruit-dove.
Barrington Tops also supports the largest mainland captive breeding program for the Tasmanian Devil. This was set up by Aussie Ark (then Devil Ark) in 2011 to help protect the species, which was once widespread on the mainland, but now restricted to Tasmania. The Tasmanian population was decimated by Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD).
Rare or threatened rainforest plant species in the national park include Craven Grey Box (Eucalyptus largeana), Rainforest Cassia (Senna acclinis), Slender Marsdenia (Marsdenia longiloba) and Spade-lipped Wasp Orchid (Chiloglottis palachila).
One of the most important shorebird sites in NSW, housing more than 2000 birds during the summer months, and the first wetlands listed under the Ramsar Convention in 1984. Located in northern Newcastle, the wetlands consists of two sections, the Kooragang Nature Reserve (Ash Island), and the broader Hunter Wetlands National Park, and the Hunter Wetlands Centre (45ha), formerly known as Shortlands Wetland Centre. Until 1985, the section of the Hunter estuary, where the Hunter Wetlands Centre is now located, had been used as a rubbish dump, reclaimed for parkland, rugby fields and the construction of a railway, and then for the agistment of horses. Over 200,000 native plants have been planted in an effort to restore the area, and today it is a haven for over 200 bird species, many of which breed on the site, such as Australian White Ibis, all four species of egret and Dusky Moorhen. Hunter Wetlands National Park is a family-friendly area with several walking and biking trails through mangroves and coastal rainforest patches, right on the fringe of Newcastle and the Hunter Wetlands Centre has numerous walking trails and boardwalks around the wetlands, as well as canoe hire and other family activities. Bird numbers swell during the summer months, when migratory shorebirds are visiting and when water becomes more scarce in inland areas, and rarities, such as Yellow Wagtail on Ash Island, have been recorded in the area.
Myall Lakes National Park
Myall Lakes National Park was established in 1972, but the last gazetted amendment occurred in 2009. The diverse, largely unmodified lakes, river systems, wetlands and swamps of Myall Lakes were listed under the Ramsar Convention in 1999. The site provides habitat for 12 nationally or internationally threatened bird species.
The park covers 47,599ha, although only a small percentage of this is rainforest, including dry and subtropical rainforest. The dominant rainforest type is littoral (dry) and the largest patch is located at Mungo Brush (67ha).
Rainforest plants include Broad-leaved Paperbark (Melaleuca qinquenervia), Coogera (Arytera divaricata), Cabbage Palm (Livistona australis), Magenta Lilypilly (Syzygium paniculatum), Mock Olive (Notelaea longifolia), Plum Pine (Podocarpus elatus), Rainforest Cassia (Senna acclinis), Scentless Rosewood (Dysoxylum fraserianam), Shining-leaved Stinging Tree (Dendrocnide photinophylla) and Yellow Tulip (Drypetes lasiogyna).
Over 350 vertebrate species have been recorded in the park, including 280 birds, 40 mammals, 20 reptiles and 15 amphibians. Of these the key species that utilise the various rainforest patches include Australian Brush-turkey, Australian Golden Whistler, Carpet Python, Golden-tipped Bat, Powerful Owl, Satin Bowerbird, Short-beaked Echidna, Stephen’s Banded Snake, Stuttering Frog and Wompoo Fruit-dove.
In addition to these, the rainforest gullies of the adjacent Cabbage Tree Island (viewable from Yacaaba Headland) are a valuable nesting site for the endangered Gould’s Petrel (Pterodroma leucoptera).
The area now covered by Myall Lakes National Park was occupied by the Worimi Aboriginal people and the Dark Point Aboriginal place is a sacred area for them.
Sydney & Surrounds
Blue Mountains National Park
The Blue Mountains National Park, together with Gardens of Stone, Kanangra-Boyd, Nattai, Thirlmere Lakes, Wollemi and Yengo National Parks and the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve combine to form the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. The extensive Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area covers a massive million hectares of wilderness. It supports a huge biodiversity and is dominated by eucalypt woodland. It exhibits incredible geological features, as well as being an important cultural area for six Aboriginal tribes.
The Blue Mountains National Park is a short drive from Sydney and well worth visiting for a few days if you have the time. Its sheer size (more than 247,000ha) and rugged terrain make it difficult to enjoy its full wildlife watching potential without a dedicated long stay.
Around 45% of the national park’s vegetation is dry forests, 40% woodlands, 11% heathlands and 2% moist forests and rainforests. Northern warm temperate rainforests are the dominant rainforest type, due to the park’s large areas of acidic soils.
The national park is an important refuge for over 200 species of birds, 46 mammals, 58 reptiles and 32 frogs, many of which are threatened. Some of these are Greater Sooty Owl, Large-footed Myotis, Pink Robin, Powerful Owl, Red-crowned Broodfrog, Southern Brown Bandicoot, Spotted-tailed Quoll and Yellow-bellied Glider.
The Blue Mountains National Park also conserves a huge diversity of plant communities and species. Over 1,000 species of flowering plants are estimated to occur here.
Pitt Town Lagoon
This is one of Sydney’s best wetlands, and is a great spot for a variety of birds, including waders, waterfowl and raptors. The lagoon is part of the Pitt Town Nature Reserve which was created in April 1976 and covers an area of 46ha. The lagoons mud islands, which were raised in height by around 1m in 1985 and lowered again in 2013 to make them more suitable to shorebirds, are viewable from the bird hide, and some of the large numbers of migratory waders that use the lagoons for feeding and shelter can be seen on these, although the vegetation growth on the islands, and their distance from the hide makes viewing difficult without the use of a scope. The trip to the lagoon is well worth it however, if just for the chance of seeing species like Australasian Bittern, Azure Kingfisher, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Freckled Duck, Glossy Ibis, Pink-eared Duck and rarities, such as Ruff and Wood Sandpiper. The lagoon is located within Sydney’s outer western suburbs, and is surrounded by residential housing, which makes it an easy place to travel to, but it can become busy on weekends.
Royal National Park
When first gazetted in 1879 the park was called ‘The National Park’ but was renamed with its current title in 1954. Today the park covers an area of around 16,300 hectares, rising from sea level to 300m. Situated along the coast of southern Sydney, the park is easily accessible by road and water, both of which provide access to numerous walking trails, beaches and a variety of great birding sites. Over 230 bird species have been officially recorded here, including the Rockwarbler, the state’s only endemic (see p. ???), which is best sighted along Lady Carrington Drive walking trail. Early last century, some of the former habitats within the park, including mangroves and native grasslands, were removed and replaced with cultivated picnic lawns and other open spaces, and several exotic trees species were planted. Non-native animal species were also introduced, namely fallow deer and Javan rusa deer, and populations of these remain today, causing ongoing environmental damage. The park is home to large areas of the former natural habitat however, which provide a great
chance to see a huge variety of avifauna within the Sydney area, from rainforest dwellers to seabirds and waders.
Sydney Olympic Park
Sydney Olympic Park has undergone a massive transformation over the last 30 years in an effort to turn it from an industrial wasteland, back into the thriving wetland ecosystem it once was. Tidal flows have been restored which has led to an influx of fauna back into the area. Over 200 species are now recorded here within the combination of open spaces, woodlands and wetlands. The park extends from the neighbouring suburb of Newington west of Haslam’s Creek, east to the Parramatta River, and is one of the largest urban parklands in Australia (640 ha), incorporating Bicentennial Park, Blaxland Riverside Park and Wentworth Common. The park is easily accessible by public transport and only a short distance from the Sydney CBD.
Illawarra & Shoalhaven
Budderoo National Park
Budderoo National Park is located on top of the Illawarra escarpment. The winding road up the mountain from the village of Jamberoo passes through towering rainforest with an understorey of large tree ferns.
The national park covers 7,219ha and its mosaic of soil types supports a range of forest types, including subtropical and northern warm temperate rainforest. The temperate rainforest patches support large trees, such as Brown Beech (Pennantia cunninghamii), Giant Stinging Tree (Dendrocnide excelsa), Silky Beech (Citronella moorei), Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla), Red Cedar (Toona ciliata) and Sassafras (Doryphora sassafras) dominate the canopy. Shrubs, ferns, epiphytes and vines are common.
The main patches of moist subtropical rainforest occur below Minnamurra Falls, Carrington Falls and Gerringong Falls. These species’ rich forests are characterised by a high density of subtropical species, a dense shrub understorey and a dense ground cover of ferns. Vines and epiphytes are plentiful. Tree species include Brown Beech, Cabbage Tree Palm (Livistona australis), Featherwood (Polyosma cunninghamii), Giant Stinging Tree, Red Cedar, Silky Beech and Silver Quandong (Elaeocarpus kirtonii).
While there have been few comprehensive wildlife surveys conducted in Budderoo National Park, the area is known to support a rich assemblage of bird, mammal, reptile and frog species, including Australian Brush-turkey, Eastern Whipbird, Short-beaked Echidna, Spotted-tailed Quoll, Superb Lyrebird, Topknot Pigeon and Wonga Pigeon. Platypus have been recorded in creeks in the Minnamurra Rainforest area.
Bateman’s Bay & Eurobodalla
Mimosa Rocks National Park
The 5,802ha Mimosa Rocks National Park is located on the far south coast of New South Wales between Bermagui and Tathra. The western section of the park is dominated by dry sclerophyll forest with pockets of temperate littoral rainforest, while the eastern section has wetlands, heathlands and coastal scrub.
Over 200 native animal species have been recorded in the park, including 115 birds, 39 mammals, 21 reptiles and 12 amphibians.
The Bunga Head Rainforest is only 7ha in extent. It has a low canopy (<10 metres tall) due to shearing effects of the coastal winds. The dominant canopy trees are Kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus), Lilly Pilly (Syzygium smithii), Rusty Fig (Ficus rubiginosa) and Sweet Pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum), and Bangalay (Eucalyptus botryoides) is the main emergent species.
Other rainforest plants around the park include Blueberry Ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus) and the Wonga Vine (Pandorea pandorana). The vulnerable Chef’s Cap Correa (Correa baeuerlenii) is at the southern limit of its distribution here.
The park lies within the traditional country of the Yuin people and the park’s rugged landscape is strongly connected to Dreaming stories.
The underlying geology of Mimosa Rocks National Park is dominated by folds, faults and intrusions of sedimentary rocks, such as shale, siltstone and slate. The formations have a castle-like appearance.
Mimosa Rocks National Park provides refuge for a range of animals, including Long-nosed Potoroo, a regular nocturnal visitor to Gillards campground, and Yellow-bellied Glider, Aragunnu campground is as good as any place to find these (just listen out for their distinctive cackling calls).
The national park is named after the paddle steamer Mimosa that ran aground here in 1863.
Merimbula & Eden Whale Watching
Humpbacks are found in all the world’s oceans. During summer months, populations in the southern hemisphere spend their time in Antarctica feeding. In late autumn they begin an annual migratory route to their winter breeding and calving grounds in the warmer tropical waters of the Pacific before returning south again in spring.
A strip of spectacular national parks follows almost the entire length of NSW’s far South Coast. Along the rocky coastline you’ll find perfect lookouts to see migrating whales, but for an experience that you will never forget take a whale watching cruise from either Merimbula or Eden.
Pacific Subtropical Islands
Lord Howe Island
The UNESCO World Heritage Listed Lord Howe Island group is a sub-tropical paradise, boasting the most southerly coral reef in the world. Two towering mountains named Lidgbird (777 metres) and Gower (875 metres) sit at one end of the Island.
Lieutenant Lidgard Ball, the commander of the First Fleet ship ‘Supply’, happened upon the island in 1788, while en route between Sydney Cove and the penal settlement of Norfolk Island.
Dramatic volcanic sea-cliffs, rainforest with many rare native plants and a diversity of land and seabirds make this a unique and compelling place to visit. Although considered part of the state of New South Wales, its distance offshore makes it very difficult to access other than by air.
Across the entire summits of Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower, the rainforest (cloud forests) consist of a dense growth of small trees and an abundance of bushes palms and tree ferns rarely exceeding 4 metres in height. Epiphytic ferns, lichens and orchids cover almost every available trunk and branch. Ancient flowering plants like the Island Apple (Dysoxylum pachyphyllum), Lord Howe Tea Tree (Leptospermum polygalifolium subsp. howense) and Mountain Rose (Metrosideros nervulosa) grow readily in the mountain mists.
As with many remote islands, the fauna of Lord Howe Island has been negatively impacted by human disturbance and the associated introduction of feral animals. The introduction of the Black Rat (Rattus rattus), which was most likely to have occured in 1918 following the shipwreck of the SS Makamba, has caused much destruction to the local fauna. The House Mouse (Mus musculus) had already invaded the island some 58 years earlier.
When Captain Cook sighted Norfolk Island in 1774, little did he realise that human history here dated back to the Polynesian seafarers 700-800 years previous.
The first British settlement was established in 1788 and hoped to make use of the island’s natural resources, including the Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla) and ‘harakeke’ or New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax). Much of the island was cleared for agriculture with the rich volcanic soils helping to sustain the fledgling colony of New South Wales.
In the winter of 1790, at least 172,000 Providence (Solander’s) Petrels (Pterodroma solandri) were slaughtered in four months to feed the island’s increased population following the shipwreck of HMS Sirius.
Along with these early settlers came the introduction of feral animals, such as the Polynesian Rat (Rattus exulans), Feral Pig (Sus scrofa), Feral Goat (Capra aegagrus), European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and Feral Cat (Felis catus), which have all had a devastating impact on the island’s wildlife and continue to be a major threat.
Norfolk covers approximately 35km² and has a population of nearly 1800. Nearly 120 species of birds have been recorded here, including 17 Australian endemic species or subspecies (only eight are confirmed as still extant). The island group has two native reptiles, Lord Howe Island Skink (p. ???) and the Lord Howe Island Gecko (p. ???). There are no endemic mammals or frogs.
In addition to its vertebrate fauna, the island has a large number of endemic invertebrates, including around 30 moths, 65 beetles, up to 70 land snails and the 150mm long, 17mm wide Phillip Island Centipede (Cormocephalus coynei)
Around 50 endemic plant species have been described.
Capertee Valley is located north of Lithgow and south of Mudgee, with the township of Capertee to the west and Glen Davis and Glen Alice to the east, along the western edge of the Wollemi National Park. The valley houses a variety of habitats, from open farming pasture and native grasslands, to grassy woodlands of White Box, Yellow Box, Blakely’s Red Gum and Mugga Ironbark. The valley is the world’s widest enclosed valley, surrounded on all sides by rugged sandstone formations, and the world’s second largest canyon (after the Grand Canyon). It is recognised internationally as an important bird area and as one of the world’s top 50 birding spots. Over 240 bird species have been recorded here, including the endemic Regent Honeyeater Anthochaera phrygia, which breeds within the valley and has suffered major decline, leading to a conservation status of critically endangered. The Capertee Valley Regent Honeyeater Recovery Group was established in 1993, and a recovery project has been running since 1994, involving the planting of over 100,000 trees and shrubs in an attempt to create wildlife corridors that link areas of box-ironbark woodland, critical habitat for the Regent Honeyeater, and other bird species. Key focus areas have included the property of “Junjira” on Rylstone Road and along Crown Station Road.
The town of Lake Cargelligo, located in the central west of NSW, is situated on the lake of the same name. The lake covers an area of 1,440 hectares and has a volume of around 36,000 megalitres, making it the largest natural inland lake system in NSW. The current name of the lake is an abstract of the local aboriginal word ‘Cudjallagong’, which means lake, and the lake was a popular meeting place for the tribes, and many artefacts are found along its shores. It was also a place where they could obtain red and yellow ochres, which are an important part of their culture, used for many purposes, including painting and ceremonies. The region is an essential Australian birding destination, with the total list of reported species numbering almost 240 species, with sightings coming from a range of sites and habitat types. The town’s sewerage treatment plant is a major wetland refuge for a large part of the year and a popular stopover point for summer migrants, but the grasslands, woodlands, natural wetlands and, of course, the lake itself support a huge range of species. The lake is also a popular tourist destination for angling, water-skiing, canoeing, boating and camping, and can be a busy place during peak holiday times, although part of the lake has been declared a bird sanctuary.
Nestled in the remote north-western corner of NSW, at the eastern edge of the Barrier and Grey Ranges and west of the Darling River, corner country is one of the ultimate destinations on every outback traveller’s bucket list. The first Europeans to explore the region was the explorer Charles Sturt who stayed near Milparinka in 1845, followed by Burke and Wills in 1861. Gold was then discovered in the 1870s, which led to the establishment of Milparinka and Tibooburra, the latter named after the Aboriginal word for ‘heaps of rocks’, with Tibooburra becoming the major town in the area. To the north and west lies the Sturt National Park (named after Charles Sturt), which, before its proclamation as a reserve in 1972, was split into five separate pastoral properties. The park is the largest in NSW, covering an area of 344,000ha. At the junction where the borders of NSW, Qld and SA meet (marked by the Wild Dog Fence), lies Cameron Corner, named after the surveyor John Cameron, who surveyed the region (including the Qld border) in the 1880s, and a place where visitors have the opportunity to stand in three different time zones at the same time. Further west it continues over the Mundi Mundi Plain and meets the sandy Simpson Strzelecki Dunefields, and to the north-east lies the Channel Country. Although the species count for the area is only around 145, it is a case of quality over quantity with most arid zone birding, and corner country is no exception. A definite go to place in NSW (and adjoining border area of Qld and SA) for species like Australian Bustard, Budgerigar, Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Diamond Dove, Gibberbird, Grey Falcon, Grey Grasswren and Inland Dotterel.
Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is a landlocked territory within the state of NSW (although the territory also has a coast port located at Jervis Bay, on the NSW mid-south coast), 274 km south of Sydney, 675 km north of Melbourne and 140 km from the NSW coast.
The territory is generally referred to as Canberra, and is Australia’s largest inland city, and its capital. It is bordered by Australia’s tallest mountain range, the Snowy Mountains, to the south, the ephemeral Lake George to the north-east, and the Great Dividing Range to the west.
The territory is home to Australia’s parliament buildings and many politicians (including one of the residences of the country’s prime minister). The parliament buildings are open to the public (under strict security control), who can join one of the guided tours that provide information about the origins of the political system in Australia, the history of spectacular, modern building and sit in on parliamentary sessions. The building was officially opened by her majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1988 and cost over $1.1billion to construct. The spectacular flagpole, which reaches a height of over 80m, supports a 12.8m by 6.4m Australian flag.
Each year Canberra hosts many public events, perhaps the best known are the annual Floriade (mid-September), which is a 30 day floral festival that celebrates the arrival of Spring, and the Balloon Spectacular (mid-march), which is one of the world’s premier and longest running Hot air balloon festivals. The Balloon Spectacular attracts exhibitors from around the globe, who adorn the skies above with a diversity of balloons of different colours, shapes and popular characters.
Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve
Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve, and the adjacent Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve, is located in the Canberra’s north, along the the border with NSW, and contains the critically endangered Yellow Box and Blakely’s Gum Grassy Woodland, as well as dry sclerophyll forest, natural watercourses and artificial dams. The reserves surround the fully-fenced Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, which has been cleared of feral predators and herbivores in an attempt to provide a protected area to rehabilitate and reintroduce species that once thrived in the area, before the influence of European settlement. Currently the sanctuary covers an area of 485 ha, but it was announced in June 2017 that it will soon be increasing to 1200 ha. The first species to be reintroduced to the Mulligans Flat area was the Brown Treecreeper Climacteris picumnus, which had disappeared from the area in the years prior to its release in 2010. As well as excluding feral predators, the reserve provides a place for continual study of the impacts of fire and native herbivores on the environment, and both of these are excluded from certain areas only, to provide long term comparisons with areas where they occur. In addition to its abundant birdlife, over 160 species have been recorded here, the reserves and sanctuary are home to numerous endemic mammal and reptile species, and guided twilight mammal tours are conducted three nights per week (looking for Eastern Betting and Eastern Quoll), which can also provide an opportunity to spot some of the local nocturnal birds, such as Australian Owlet-Nightjar, Barn Owl, Bush Stone-Curlew, Southern Boobook, Tawny Frogmouth and White-throated Nightjar.
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
The word Tidbinbilla comes from the aboriginal word ‘Jedbinbilla’, which is the name given to the place ‘where boys become men’, referring to the initiation ceremonies that took place on the ranges. Tidbinbilla is part of the Australian Alps national parks; the Tidbinbilla Valley is home to grasslands, forests, woodlands and Wetlands, areas of which are protected within a feral predator-proof sanctuary and, as you rise up the mountains the habitat changes to subalpine forests with wet fern gullies and cool mountain streams. The Australian Alps are National Heritage listed, designed to protect the region’s natural and cultural values. Several native bird species found on the reserve are either introduced or descendants of introduced birds, including Australian Shelduck, Brolga, Emu, Freckled Duck, Magpie Goose and Musk Duck. In addition to the prolific birdlife, Tidbinbilla is home to many mammals, reptiles and amphibians. With breeding programs in place to protect the Northern Corroboree Frog, Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby and Tasmanian Bettong. Echidnas, koalas, platypus and wombats are also found here.
Victoria is Australia’s smallest mainland state, covering an area of 227,544km², however, it is the second most populous state behind New South Wales. The total protected wilderness area of Victoria is quite low, with nearly 17% set aside in national parks and other reserves.
Victoria, is also the most southern mainland state, and shares a border with New South Wales to the north and South Australia to the west. The entire southern boundary is coastline with the Bass Strait separating Victoria from Tasmania and the Tasman Sea to the south-east.
The state was initially part of the Colony of New South Wales following european arrival in 1788. The first settlement was established in Port Phillip Bay in 1803. In the 1850’s there was a gold rush across many areas of the state that lasted a few decades. Timber logging began around the same time to meet the needs of a growing population and industry and still occurs today in the bioregions being discussed below.
Despite its size, Victoria has a diverse climate with highest annual rainfall being over 1900mm in the Otway Ranges to under 300mm in the dry inland.
There are 11 IBRA Bioregions in the state with the Murray Darling Depression making up nearly 30% and the Furneaux only 0.2% (approximately). Ecosystems within the bioregions range from alpine to rainforests, tall forests, grasslands, woodlands and mallee.
The South East Coastal Plain bioregion has just over 240ha of rainforest in many small patches around the very eastern part of the Gippsland Lakes system but has limited public access.
The state contains approximately 200km² of rainforest (0.55% of Australia’s rainforest) comprising both cool temperate and warm temperate rainforests. These rainforests are scattered across four bioregions (Furneaux, South East Coastal Plain, South East Corner and South Eastern Highlands). The most southerly extension of warm temperate rainforest in Australia can be found at Wilsons Promontory, the southernmost part of the Australian mainland.
Mallacoota is situated on the south west side of a large inlet that consists of two large lakes (Top and Bottom Lake), and at the point where the river systems of Genoa and Wallagaraugh Rivers, and the Maramingo Creek converge, before opening into the Tasman Sea.
The waterways are, however, very shallow and not able to cater for an industrial port. This combination provides 320 km of shoreline that is relatively unspoilt, attracting both people and wildlife. As the narrow entrance closes off periodically, an ocean boat ramp has been built at Bastion Point, allowing boats year round access to the sea (as well as a good place to see Eastern Reef Egret). The shallow water makes the area a magnet for many waterbirds, waders and shorebirds and various breeding colonies have been established in some of the more secluded areas, where human access is limited.
The inlet and rivers are surrounded by mountain ranges to the north-west, and the combination of temperate rainforest, eucalypt woodland, grasslands, heathlands, freshwater rivers and creeks, brackish lakes and marine beaches provide a diversity of habitats which combine to make the area a birding paradise. There are options in almost all directions from the main street, which provide easy access to key birding sites along the surrounding cliffs and beaches, lake and riverboat cruises or bushland walks through heathland/bushland and around the lake – there are even White-headed Pigeons nesting on buildings.
The town population of around 1,000 throughout most of the year increases to around 8,000 in summer, due to its holiday appeal, so book ahead if going during peak holiday seasons.
The region was severely impacted by the catastrophic bushfires on 2019-20 and some parts will take a while to recover.
First Europeans to sight the promontory were the explorers Bass and Flinders in 1798. The promontory is the southernmost part of the Australian mainland.
Around 500,000 visitors each year make the drive to “The Prom” ( Wilson’s Promontory National Park).
Only a small percentage of the total park area of 49,049ha is rainforest. Warm temperate rainforest covers just over 1,100ha and cool temperate rainforest only 142ha. The warm temperate rainforest that occurs here is the most southerly distribution of this rainforest type in Australia. The largest patches are tucked in behind 5 Mile Beach (445ha) and near Sealer’s Cove (208ha).
The dominant warm temperate rainforest trees are Lilly Pilly (Syzygium smithii) and Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) which grow upwards of 25m. Other plants include Blanket Leaf (Bedfordia arborescens), Musk Daisy-bush (Olearia argophylla), White Elderberry (Sambucus gaudichaudiana) and a variety of ferns including tree ferns, Fishbone Water Fern (Blechnum nudum) and Weeping Spleenwort (Asplenium flaccidum).
Approximately 300 animal species have been recorded in the park, including approximately 220 birds, 40 mammals, 17 reptiles, 11 amphibians and four freshwater crayfish. Fauna that are likely to be found amongst the rainforest include Bassian Thrush, Brown Gerygone, Brown Thornbill, Crescent Honeyeater, Crimson Rosella, Eastern Whipbird, Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey Fantail, Olive Whistler, White-browed Scrubwren, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo (Zanda funerea), Agile Antechinus, Common or Bare-nosed Wombat, Victorian Smooth Froglet and the endemic Lilly Pilly Burrowing Crayfish.
The area is spiritually significant to the local indigenous people with shell middens dating back thousands of years, behind many beaches.
During World War II, Wilsons Promontory was used by Australian and New Zealand commandos as a training ground for guerrilla warfare.
The Otways were opened up to settlement from the 1870’s. With the abundance of towering Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans), logging and milling grew rapidly. Many relics of this era such as boilers and tramways can be found in the area. Logging ceased on public land in 2008 but there are still numerous private plantations throughout.
Great Otway National Park was declared in 2005 incorporating a number of former reserves, including Otway National Park, several state parks and state forest, with 2010 being the last gazetted update. The park covers an area of 103,203ha, located alongside the world-famous Great Ocean Road. Cool temperate rainforest makes up 6,403ha of the park with the adjacent Otway Forest Park another 624ha.
The Otways are the most westerly distribution of cool temperate rainforest in Australia. This is dominated by Myrtle Beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii) and Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon), with emergent Mountain Ash in some parts. Fallen orange beech leaves along the tracks look like rainforest confetti.
The Otways contain an extensive network of walking tracks from the spectacular short rainforest walks at Maits Rest and Melba Gully to the multi-day 100km Great Ocean Walk along the region’s scenic coastline.
The region supports a huge diversity of native fauna and flora, including a number of threatened species such as Powerful Owl, Long-nosed Potoroo, Southern Brown Bandicoot, Swamp Antechinus and the endemic Otway Black Snail.
A stroll along the Madsen’s and Maits Rest walks after dark will be a delight on any visit to the Otways due to the ‘magic’ of Glow Worms, the larvae of the Fungus Gnat (Arachnocampa spp.).
The Otway Ranges are part of the traditional lands of the Gadubanud people.
The Yarra Ranges are approximately an hour east of Melbourne and sometimes referred to as the Central Highlands. The ranges are important to the wellbeing of Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, as the headwaters of the Yarra River are protected catchments providing most of Melbourne’s water supply.
On the way to the Yarra Ranges from Melbourne, you pass through the Yarra Valley, famous for its wines.
A significant part of the Yarra Ranges was badly burnt in the ‘Black Saturday Fires’ of February 2009, including almost wiping out the town of Marysville in one day. Fortunately, Marysville has been rebuilt.
The Yarra Ranges National Park was established in 1995 consisting of 77,231ha of primarily forested mountainous areas. It is positioned between Melbourne and the Victorian Alps and is a major tourist destination.
The flora of this area is diverse from the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans), the world’s tallest flowering plant with some growing to at least 100m, to the tallest free-standing moss, Dawsonia superba which can grow up to 600mm looking like a miniature pine tree. Myrtle Beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii), Southern Sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum) and Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) are the dominant cool temperate rainforest trees, with a range of smaller shrubs, tree ferns, epiphytes, ground ferns and mosses living below..
Iconic fauna like the Australian King Parrot, Central Highlands Spiny Crayfish, Common Wombat, Powerful Owl, Southern Greater Glider, Superb Lyrebird and Swamp Wallaby live within this area. The area forms part of the limited habitat for Victoria’s faunal emblem, the Leadbeater’s Possum, a nationally critically endangered species.
Port Phillip Bay
Phillip Island is located in Western Port Bay, connected to the mainland via a road bridge from San Remo, and was home to Aboriginal tribes before European settlers used the island for grazing. In 1927 a fauna reserve was established by the State Government at Swan Lake to protect the Short-tailed Shearwater (muttonbird), this was followed by the first reserve for the Little Penguins in the 1930s, and later, in 1955, this reserve was expanded by the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and areas were fenced off and a concrete viewing platform was installed for the public. In 1985 a landmark decision was made by the Phillip Island Penguin Reserve Committee to buy back the Summerland Peninsula and create the present reserve, which is run by the Phillip Island Nature Park. Several other areas have since been protected, including Cape Woolamai, Churchill Island and other sections of the coastline that are deemed to be important habitat for visiting shorebirds. Nearby islands include Churchill and French Islands, both of which are surrounded by tidal mudflats and shallow water, which forms important feeding areas for waders, and foraging grounds for White-bellied Sea-Eagles. The islands face out to the Bass Strait which enables viewing of Albatross and other seabirds from high vantage points and days of good winds. The area is now designated a Nature Reserve, and an important part of the Western Port RAMSAR Site.
Murray & Mallee Country
Hattah-Kulkyne National Park
Established in June 1960, the park covers an area of some 48,000 ha of typical mallee country, with large expanses of low scrub and open woodland, on generally poor sandy soils.
The freshwater lakes contained within the park are seasonally filled from the Murray River-Calka Creek system and form part of the Murray River floodplain, providing a essential refuge for birdlife during the hot summers, during which they can keep water, even during extended dry periods.
There are 602 ha of freshwater meadows and 553 ha of permanent open freshwater. The lakes provide natural flood-mitigation for the region. The lakes are also popular as recreational destinations, with boating, fishing, canoeing among just some of the activities that take place here in addition to wildlife study.
The Hattah-Kulkyne lakes are listed as Ramsar sites under the Convention of Wetlands, with the major goal to maintain the regions ecology through conservation. The lakes provide feeding, nesting and breeding habitat for around 50 waterbird species, including 18 that have been known to breed here, almost all of which are classed as Threatened within the state of Victoria, including Freckled Duck, Little Egret, Pied Cormorant and White-bellied Sea-Eagle.
Tasmania is an island state that is separated from the mainland by Bass Strait. It is also the southernmost Australian state. Including King and Flinders Islands, as well as over 200 other small islands, Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state (68,401km²).
The major forest type in Tasmania is eucalypt forest (76%) but there is a diversity of other habitat types throughout the state, such as buttongrass plains, alpine herbfields, rocky beaches, coastal scrub, wetlands and beautiful underwater environments. Tasmania also has the highest proportion of rainforest to any other forest type of any state, with 20% of native forest being rainforest (7,000 km2).
Although it has a small land mass, compared with mainland Australia, proportional to any other state a considerable amount of Tasmania is protected. The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service manages 823 reserves (about 29,000 km2) which cover over 42% of Tasmania.
With a small population of just over 515,000 it is easy to get away from the cities, towns and people to explore the wilderness areas which are never far away.
Hobart is Australia’s second driest capital city (after Adelaide), despite areas on the west coast of the state receiving an annual rainfall of 2,800mm. With nothing but ocean for thousands of kilometres to the west, oceanic storms and heavy rains blown in from the Indian and Southern Oceans drop large amounts of rain along the mountainous west coast, before it reaches Hobart.
Subsequently, almost all of Tasmania’s rainforest occurs on the west coast. This area, with its giant trees, ancient ferns, mosses and endemic species and, in many cases, threatened rainforest, is considered of such significance that the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was added to the UNESCO world heritage list. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area covers 15,800km², or almost 20% of Tasmania through the Tasmanian southern ranges, Tasmanian west and the Tasmanian Central Highlands bioregions. Some of the remaining six bioregions contain rainforest particularly in the north-west.
Bass Strait Islands
King Island is located within the Bass Strait, around halfway between Victoria and mainland Tasmania, and is 64 km long and 24 km wide. Access to the island is by plane from either Burnie, Launceston or Melbourne. Apart from the introduced California Quail, Common Pheasant, European Goldfinch, European Greenfinch, Indian Peafowl and Wild Turkey, most of Tasmania’s endemics occur here, including Black Currawong (King Island subspecies), Black-headed Honeyeater, Dusky Robin (King Island subspecies). Green Rosella (King Island subspecies), Scrubtit (King Island subspecies), Strong-billed Honeyeater, Tasmanian Scrubwren (King Island subspecies), Tasmanian Thornbill (King Island subspecies), Yellow Wattlebird (King Island subspecies) and Yellow-throated Honeyeater. Other notable species of the over 110 recorded on the island include Cape Barren Goose, Fairy Tern, Hooded Plover, Orange-bellied Parrot, Little Penguin, Short-tailed Shearwater, Silvereye (King Island subspecies) and Superb Fairy-wren (King Island subspecies), and once was home to the now extinct King Island Emu.
The island was named ‘Maria’s Eylandt’ by explorer Abel Tasman in 1642. A sealing operation was commenced on the island in 1805, followed shortly after by whalers and then in 1825 a penal colony was established at Darlington to house convicts whose crimes were of a lesser nature than the serious offended that were sent to MacQuarie Harbour. The early convicts lived in timber huts or tents while permanent buildings were being constructed. Although the initial occupation was short-lived, with the colony closed in 1832, it was reopened in 1842 and more buildings were constructed to house the almost 500 convicts, political prisoners and government officials. Several of these structures remain today, including the mess room, chapel, barn and hop kiln. Although the island is recognised as an Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property, it is a haven for bird and mammal fauna and many species were introduced to the island in the 1970s as a safeguard against their extinction on the mainland, an activity that led to the island being dubbed Tasmania’s Noah’s Ark. The Cape Barren Goose is now very common here. The total bird species list stands at around 125 for the island, and all of Tasmania’s endemics have been recorded here. The world’s largest surviving marsupial carnivore, the Tasmanian Devil, was recently introduced to the island in 2012 as a safeguard against the potential extinction of the species on mainland Tasmania, due to the deadly Devil Facial Tumor Disease, and is also readily observed.
Hobart & Southern Region
There are several good birding sites in Tasmania’s capital city, Hobart, but the short drive and ferry trip over to Bruny Island is well worth it. Bruny Island is divided into two main sections, North Bruny Island and South Bruny Island, which are connected by a narrow isthmus called The Neck. The entire island is around 100 km in length, and most roads are narrow and winding. The north is drier than the south and has large areas of open pasture. The south has large tracts of forest, including rainforest, and contains the South Bruny National Park. South Bruny is the main birding part of the island and all of Tasmania’s twelve endemic species can be found here in a relatively short birding trip. Radiata Pine is a significant weed species on the island that is a threat to the natural vegetation and more than 100,000 pine plants are thought to be growing on the island. Radiata Pine outcompetes the native plants and are a major bushfire risk. The Tasmanian Land Conservancy is working with local landholders to control the risk and has set up a bird conservation fund to assist in protecting critical natural habitats for Tasmania’s 12 endemic bird species, all of which are found on Bruny Island.
Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park
Although the total bird species recorded for Cradle Mountain National Park is not huge (just over 75) compared to other Tasmanian megaspots, ten of Tasmania’s twelve endemic species can be seen here, the only exceptions ar the Forty-spotted Pardalote and Black-headed Honeyeater. The area of almost 64,000ha was gazetted as a Scenic Reserve in 1922 and in 1971 it was declared a State Reserve, and in 1982 the park became part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Cradle Mountain National Park gives the visitor a taste of the rugged beauty of the broader Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, with the jagged contours of the mountain, old growth rainforest, smaller stands of beech and pine forests, and extensive heathlands and buttongrass meadows. Located at the northern end of the larger Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Clair National Park, Cradle Mountain rises to just over 1500 metres above sea level, and can be a challenging environment if not properly prepared for its changeable climate. The popular glacial Dove Lake is 950 metre above sea level. Much of the park is largely undisturbed and, in addition to birds, many endemic mammals, reptiles and invertebrates can be found here. The park is home to the iconic Tasmanian Devil (the world’s largest living marsupial carnivore), both Australian monotremes (egg-laying mammals), the Platypus and Short-beaked Echidna, and the iconic Bare-nosed Wombat.
Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park
Wild and rugged are ways this National Park is often described, yet a cruise along the Gordon River can be tranquil, peaceful and a magical experience. For the adventurous, the rivers can be an experience like no other, with kayak trips that can last for weeks. The Franklin and Gordon Rivers form the heart of this park. A legal and conservation battle through the 1970’s and 1980’s to preserve the Franklin River and stop a proposed hydroelectric power scheme are what really put this part of the world on the map. With snow-capped peaks, long expansive beaches and everything in between, unfortunately most of the park is impenetrable, yet what can be accessed will provide an unforgettable experience. The inaccessibility to much of the region is likely a factor in the survival of the Huon Pine (Lagarostrobos franklinii), which still stand in the forest, where many, if not most, of their relatives were historically logged. The rivers provide access into the 4,463km² of remote wilderness. The water trickles from the mountaintops, crystal clear as it cascades through the rapids and becomes deeply stained from vegetation as it collects tannins on its way to the sea. The high rainfall causes everything to be wet for much of the year, providing the perfect environment for moss, lichens, liverworts and fungi that thrive in the rainforest environments. These dense environments provide cover for a diversity of rainforest creatures, including the three large carnivorous marsupials: Eastern Quoll (p. ???), Spotted-tailed Quoll (p. ???) and Tasmanian Devil (p. ???) that hunt in the forest at night, whilst all of Tasmania’s bats hunt through the forest above them.
Southwest National Park
An extremely large National Park encompassing a diverse range of habitats, including snow-capped mountains, heathlands, sedgelands, buttongrass plains, beautiful beaches and dense rainforest, the Southwest National Park provides access to the most remote regions of the state.
Bordered by the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Hartz Mountain National Park and the ocean to the south, the park is home to 20% of Tasmanian flora, 118 endemic species and Tasmania’s most famous flora and fauna, Huon Pine (Lagarostrobos franklinii), Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) and Tasmanian Devil.
A large part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the park was a scenic reserve in 1968, becoming a National Park in 1971 and covers approximately 6,182km², making it the largest National Park in Tasmania.
Best accessed by air from the North (Strathgordon), the South (Cockle Creek) and the west (Melaleuca) or by sea (Port Davey), the vast majority of the park is inaccessible. For those who venture into the park via the South Coast Track or the Arthurs Traverses, the remoteness does have some dangers, as the weather is highly changeable and often inhospitable. Cold temperatures, strong winds and rain (2,000mm per year) are the norm, whilst it may be sunny in the morning it can quickly turn to rain, sleet or snow by lunchtime, so visitation to the remote areas of the park requires sufficient knowledge and preparation.
You can experience the magic of the park from your vehicle, driving west of Maydena via the Gordon River and Scott’s Peak Roads which were built as part of the controversial Middle Gordon hydro-electric power scheme, but now provide a scenic, yet winding drive that provides access to numerous walks and amazing scenic viewpoints.
Melaleuca is the last known breeding location of the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot. The area is only easily accessed via the air (90 minutes from Hobart), with charter flights operated by Par Avion (see www.paravion.com.au) subject to weather and demand. The location can also be accessed by the sea, via Port Davey (see www.tasmanianboatcharters.com.au/port-davey-overview/), or on foot via the South Coast Track, considered one of the most difficult walks in Australia. Melaleuca lies with the Tasmanian World Heritage Area and has been protected since the 1930s. The Orange-bellied Parrot migrates to the Australian mainland in autumn and winter, returning to breed at Melaleuca in spring
Tarkine is considered one of the most extraordinary places in Tasmania, yet remains unprotected. The area is made up of a variety of tenures and contains a National Park, State Reserves and Conservation Areas amongst others.
Loosely bordered by the Arthur River, the Pieman River and the Murchison Highway, the region is filled with some of the largest patches of ancient cool temperate rainforest in Australia, some of which sits on Tasmania’s most extensive basalt plateau. It includes myrtle dominated rainforest dating back to Gondwana, but also eucalyptus forest, dry sclerophyll forest, buttongrass plains, sand dunes containing aboriginal middens, long, beautiful empty beaches, magnesite and dolomite cave systems, rivers and forest covered mountains.
Protection of the region has been debated since the 1960’s and continues to be debated today, with significant sections of the area still open to logging and mining (gold and tin) on certain tenures. Although some protections have been given, removed and denied, the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) has recommended that the area should be considered for World Heritage status.
The region contains a significant number of aboriginal sites and the remnants of a mining industry, with Corrina being the only settlement that remains. Corrina offers river cruises along the Pieman River, where patches of Huon Pine (one of the best boat building timbers) remaining in the region can be seen, whilst the Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Crayfish (Astacopsis gouldii) lives beneath the surface and Tasmanian Devils (p. ???), which remain free of the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease, continue to inhabit.
Occupying 984,377 km2, South Australia is located in the centre of the mainland’s southern coast. It shares a border with all of the mainland states and the Northern Territory.
South Australia’s capital city, Adelaide, is home to over 1.3 million people and 75% of the state’s population is located in Adelaide, mainly due to the extreme environments that are found elsewhere throughout the state. The city is located on the river Torrens, which starts in the Mount Lofty Ranges, and was named in 1836 after Robert Torrens, who was responsible for the European settlement established in Adelaide that year.
South Australia has the innocuous honour of being home to the highest temperature ever recorded in Australia, 50.7 degrees Celsius at Oodnadatta Airport in 1960.
The largest salt lake in the world, Lake Eyre, is found in outback South Australia and it’s dry bed is 15 metres below sea level, the lowest point in the country. The Lake Eyre Basin covers some 1.14 million km2 and has been a key feature for the survival of Aboriginal settlement in the region for around 40,000 years, and continues to be a place of major cultural significance for the people that live within it. Lake Eyre is an ephemeral salt lake, as are the rivers, creeks and floodplains that flow into it, and only contains water after periods of significant rainfall, most of which is attributed to northern Australia’s monsoon rains, which can take up to 10 months to reach Lake Eyre, although much of it is lost to evaporation along the way. When the lake fills with water, thousands of waterbirds arrive at the area to breed there, although this boom can be short-lived as the bountiful supply of food and water can disappear as fast as it appears.
South Australia has a rich German history, as many of the first settlers to the state were from there, and their cultural and religious influence can be seen in areas like Hahndorf and the Barossa Valley, as well as north in southern NT at Hermannsburg where a Lutheran mission was established in 1877. Hermannsburg was also home to Albert (Elea) Namatjira, perhaps Australia’s most celebrated Aboriginal artist, and the first Aboriginal person to become an Australian citizen in 1957.
The reserve is privately owned after more than 2,400 people and organisations helped buy Gluepot Station in 1997. It has been operated by BirdLife Australia since and is considered an internationally significant reserve as the largest area of intact mallee in Australia (54,390 ha). It contains large populations of many threatened flora and fauna species, including 6 nationally and 17 regionally threatened birds, and has seen limited fire damage in recent years. The reserve contains around 190 bird species, making it a mallee megaspot, including the endangered Black-eared Miner and the Malleefowl. The area also contains casuarina woodland, with some of the older trees providing hollows for breeding birds, while the ground litter provides a great food source for ground-foraging species. Gluepot Reserve protects 95 biodiversity sites (the most of any equivalent Australian land area), which are annually monitored to record the diversity of fauna a flora within them, while areas impacted by bushfire are also monitored to track the biodiversity recovery process. The site is Birdlife Australia’s longest running bird monitoring project, as well as being utilised by several universities and research organisations for their research projects. Feral pests and noxious weeds are also controlled and monitored.
Murray River, Lakes & Coorong
Coorong National Park
The Coorong National Park was established in 1966 and covers an area of just under 47,000 ha (470 km2) on the Younghusband Peninsula and stretches for around 130 km. The region is of enormous cultural significance to the Ngarrindjeri people, and the name Coorong comes from the Ngarrindjeri word Karangk, which means ‘long neck’ and describes the long stretch of sandy dunes that separate the shallow saltwater lagoon and freshwater soaks from the Southern Ocean. Over 240 bird species have been recorded here, including large numbers of migratory waders that make an annual trip from Alaska, China, Japan and Siberia, arriving in Australia during our summer and returning back to their breeding grounds in autumn. The Coorong is a protected bird habitat under the CAMBA and JAMBA covenants and is recognised as a ‘Wetland of International Importance’ under the Ramsar Convention of 1975. A number of Australia’s threatened bird species breed on the Coorong, including the Hooded Plover and the Malleefowl.
Australia’s third largest island, 145 km long and 50 km at its widest point, Kangaroo Island was named by English explorer Matthew Flinders in 1802 after he thought the island to be uninhabited by humans, and the tameness and abundance of the Western Grey Kangaroos. In addition to the kangaroos, the island is home to around 250 species of bird, including Glossy Black-Cockatoo, Rock Parrot and Western Whipbird, which are all at the extremities of their respective ranges.The island was also once home to Dwarf Emu (also known as Kangaroo Island Emu) Dromaius novaehollandiae baudinianus, although the species has been extinct since around 1827. Indian Peafowl (introduced) are also reported infrequently on the island. The island has been isolated from the mainland for around 18,000 yrs and much of the flora and fauna has evolved to be unique to the island, and more than one third of the island is now dedicated to national and conservation parks, which were established to protect the many endangered animal species that occur on the island. The critically endangered Kangaroo Island Dunnart is just one of these species. The island is also home to localised endemic bats, frogs, snakes and lizards, as well as the most accessible breeding colony of Australian Sea Lion. Kangaroo island supports around 4,850 people and has a thriving tourism culture.
Flinders Ranges & Outback
Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, accessed via Flinders Ranges Way and Brachina Gorge Road is home to the rare Grey Falcon and Short-tailed Grasswren, along with around 140 other bird species, including Australian Hobby, Black Kite, Black-eared Cuckoo, Brown Goshawk, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Common Bronzewing, Crested Pigeon, Elegant Parrot, Emu, Galah, Grey Butcherbird, Grey-fronted Honeyeater, Little Button-quail, Little Corella, Little Eagle, Shy Heathwren, Southern Boobook, Southern Scrub-robin, Stubble Quail, White-backed Swallow, White-eared Honeyeater and White-plumed Honeyeater.
Strzelecki Track and Innamincka Regional Reserve
This long and dusty, gibber track winds through the heart of the Strzelecki Desert for 475 km between Lyndhurst (south) and Innamincka (north). The Strzelecki Track is considered to be a perfect place to start if you are new to remote area driving as it offers outback scenery without the challenging drive. That said however, there are plans to seal the road to improve the safety of the increasing number of commercial road trains that travel along it to service the Gidgealpa and Moomba oil and gas fields.The traditional owners of Innamincka were the Yandruwandha and Yawarrawarrka people, who lived on these lands for thousands of years, and considered the area to be sacred, with its bountiful wildlife, rich plant life and precious water providing a place where their communities could thrive. Over 200 bird species have been recorded along the track and in the reserve, some of which can be found in large congregations around the few areas of permanent or semi-permanent water. Others occur either in small numbers or generally rare, such as the Letter-winged Kite, and may not be sighted easily or are seasonally absent from the area. A good excuse to spend longer on your trip or travel through the region more than once.
Western Australia is Australia’s largest state, covering an area of more than 2,500,000 km², or nearly a third of Australia’s entire land mass.
Mining for iron ore, gold, diamonds and many other minerals especially in the Pilbara region and eastern Kimberley is big business in the state employing over 130,000 people in 2019.
Further into the Kimberley, some of the most identifiable and spectacular landscapes of Australia can be found such as Purnululu (Warrumbungles) National Park, giant Boab trees growing alongside red dirt roads and amazingly picturesque waterfalls.
From the southern coast to the tropics, the vastness of Western Australia covers wet forests in the south, to deserts, to monsoon plant communities in the far north. In fact, most of its eastern inland region is desert, over 750,000 km² of the state is occupied by the Great Victoria, Great Sandy, Gibson and Little Sandy Deserts alone. The Western Australia coastline is almost 13,000km in length (plus an additional 7,800km of island coastlines).
The state contains 26 IBRA Bioregions and has eight of the country’s 15 national biodiversity hotspots (the most of any state or territory), five of which occur in the south-west while the South West Australian Floristic Region is one of the original 25 Global Biodiversity Hotspots.
Despite its large size, there is only a mere 70km² of rainforest recorded across the state. Around 1,500 rainforest patches have been documented, which range from a few canopy trees that are struggling to hold on, to larger patches of over 200ha. The majority of these rainforests are scattered across two bioregions (Dampierland and Northern Kimberley) in the state’s north. The southernmost extension of Monsoon vine forest in Western Australia can be found in patches on coastal dunes near Broome.
Due to the patchy nature of rainforest communities in the state, they were not recognised as being present until the 1970’s. There are other areas of rainforest outside of the two bioregions featured here, that contain small patches. Some of these rainforest patches can be found in Purnululu National Park, at El Questro Station and in protected gorges elsewhere.
Broome & The Kimberleys
Broome Bird Observatory
One of the most popular (and the best) birding destinations for seeing migratory waders in Australia is the Broome Bird Observatory (BBO). The BBO was established in 1988 and is ideally located on the shores of Roebuck Bay, with uninterrupted views of the tidal mudflats, and bordered by grasslands, tropical woodlands, salt marshes, acacia shrublands and mangroves. It is operated by Birdlife Australia and staffed by wardens and volunteers and is self-funded through the workshops and tours that they provide. The region is home to over 325 bird species, including 55 species of shorebirds, and the annual shorebird migration (late March to late April) is the most spectacular time to see around 100,000 migratory shorebirds as they depart for their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere. After leaving Australia, there first stopover point is China, some 6,000 km and 6 days away. The BBO itself has a total list of over 210 bird species, including 22 of Australia’s 24 species of raptor. The town of Broome is a popular tourist destination, famous for its beaches, including the 22 km long Cable Beach, pearling industry and dramatic tides. It is home to around 14,000 people and is the gateway to the incredible Kimberley region of northern WA.
Mitchell River National Park
Mitchell River National Park was gazetted in 2000. The national park covers 115,300ha on Ngauwudu (Mitchell Plateau), with the Mitchell River flowing through the park.
The greater northern portion of the Park is within Wunambal Gaambera people’s exclusive possession native title and the Uunguu Indigenous Protected Area (IPA).
The journey to get to Ngauwudu and the park along the Gibb River Road, from either Derby or Wyndham, is an experience within itself. You pass many landscapes like those in tourism brochures or framed on gallery walls. Watch out for small patches of monsoon rainforest as you drive slowly along the usually corrugated dirt road (unless the grader has just been through).
The monsoon rainforest patches support a range of plants including figs (Ficus sp), Lime Berry (Micromelum minutum), Black Plum (Vitex acuminata), Mango Bark (Canarium australianum) and Native Witch-hazel (Turraea pubescens).
A stop in this patch of rainforest offers opportunities to see birds such as Pacific Emerald Dove, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Rainbow Pitta, Rose-crowned Fruit-dove and Torresian Imperial Pigeon. Other diurnal fauna include Rough Brown Rainbow-skinks. A night walk to this patch may locate nocturnal mammals like Golden-backed Tree Rat and Grassland Melomys searching for food. The endemic Rough-scaled Python may also be encountered looking for mammalian prey.
This area has vast cultural significance to the Wunambal Gaambera people. The iconic Punamii-Uunpuu (Mitchell Falls) has significant Wunggurr values for Wunambal Gaambera people. Ngauwudu (Mitchell Plateau) is rich in the renowned Wanjina and Gwion art.
Mornington-Marion Downs Wildlife Sanctuary
Mornington-Marion Downs is Australia’s second largest non-government protected area, covering almost 600,000 ha (nearly 6,000 km2) of the central Kimberley Bioregion, and around 210 species of bird have been recorded here, including the threatened Gouldian Finch, Purple-crowned Fairy-wren and Red Goshawk. The sanctuary is identified as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by Birdlife International. The neighbouring properties of Mornington (350,000 ha) and Marion Downs (250,000 ha), that form the sanctuary, are owned by the non-profit Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC). The properties lie within the catchment of the Fitzroy River, with its deep gorges, and share a mix of tropical savanna woodlands and grasslands. The sanctuary also contains part of the King Leopold Range, with its rugged sandstone escarpment and Livistonia Palm Forest within the gorges, and the Kimberley’s largest wetland, Lake Gladstone, is located in the north-west. In addition to its wonderful birdlife, the sanctuary is also home to a great diversity of other fauna groups, including Ghost Bat, Northern Quoll and Spectacled Hare-Wallaby (mammals), and Freshwater Crocodile and Kimberley Crevice Skink (reptile). Indeed the sanctuary is home to 38 mammal, 88 reptile and 22 amphibian species.
Indian Tropical Islands
Christmas Island is a small tropical island in the north of the Indian Ocean. It is closer to Indonesia (490km south-west of Jakarta) than Australia (approx 2000km to the south-east). It was first sighted on Christmas Day in 1643 by Captain William Mynors of the East India Company and so-named. The island is popular amongst tourists for its annual crab migration, involving millions of red crabs (normally November or December), which is not to be missed. Enormous Robber Crabs are also found here. As with many island environments, the local endemic fauna is extremely sensitive to introduced animals, the diseases they bring and habitat loss.
The accidental introduction of the highly invasive Yellow Crazy Ants (Anoplolepis gracilipes) to the island has reduced Red Crab numbers, which has, in turn, significantly altered the composition and diversity of the rainforest ecosystem. The Christmas Island Pipistrelle has dramatically declined in numbers, mainly due to habitat loss and the impact of introduced species and is now presumed extinct. The explosion in Yellow Crazy Ant numbers has likely accelerated this decline. Other introduced pests include the Black Rat (Rattus rattus), Common Wolf Snake (Lycodon aulicus capucinus), Domestic Cat (Felis catus) and Giant Centipede (Scolapendra morsitans).
The national park protects over 62% of the island’s area and contains tropical rainforest dominated by Common Putat (Barringtonia racemosa) and Grand Devil’s Claws (Pisonia grandis) and containing the endemic Christmas Island Spleenwort (Asplenium listeri), Screwpine (Pandanus elatus) and Lister’s Palm (Arenga listeri).
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Located within the Indian Ocean 2,900 km north-west of Perth WA, this group of 27 coral islands has numerous uninhabited islands with empty beaches, pristine waters and incredible birdlife. Of the 70 or so species recorded on the islands, there are 39 bird species that are known to breed there, although the only endemic bird is the Cocos Keeling Buff-banded Rail Hypotaenidia phillipensis andrewsi, a subspecies of the wider-ranging Buff-banded Rail. The wetlands of the remote and isolated Pulu Keeling National Park, on North Keeling Island, are of international significance to migratory shorebirds, which stop there to replenish their fat reserves, during their exhaustive annual migrations. The first European documented as sighting the islands was Captain William Keeling of the East India Company, who sailed past as he was returning from Bantam (Dutch East Indies) in 1609, but European settlement did not commence on the island until 1827, when Scottish trader Captain John Clunies-Ross brought his family to live there after visiting the islands 2 years prior. The Clunies-Ross family kept charge of the island for a further 150 years until the lands were purchased by the Australian Government in 1978. The main islands are Home and West Islands, with the airport located on West Island. The islands are home to a population of around 600 people, with Malay, Australian and Indonesian counting for the highest proportions of ancestry.
The Northern Territory lies in the centre of Australia’s north and occupies an area of 1.4 million km². It is the largest of Australia’s two mainland territories, the other being the Australian Capital Territory. The Northern Territory has a population of just under 250,000 people and around 27% of these people are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.
The Territory’s capital city, Darwin, is located on the northern coastline, named in 1839 after Charles Darwin, the famous English naturalist, although it was not proclaimed as a city until 1959.
Prior to European settlement in 1869, the Darwin region was home to the Aboriginal people of the Larrakia language group, who lived off of the land and from the sea, as well as traded with south-east Asia.
The tropical climate and ‘small’ city atmosphere makes Darwin a popular tourist destination.
Similarly, Australia’s largest monolith, Uluru, is located in the Alice Springs region of the Territory’s far south. This giant sandstone structure rises to a height of 348 metres above the surrounding ground (863m above sea level) and has a perimeter distance of 9.4kms. Uluru is sacred to the Aboriginal Anangu, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (APY) people and forms part of the traditional belief system of one of the oldest human societies in the world. Climbing Uluru was banned in 2019.
The landscape of the Northern Territory ranges from the arid deserts of its southern regions to the lush tropical wetlands and monsoon vine forests (rainforests) in the north.
The Northern Territory contains 20 bioregions. The largest of these are the arid desert bioregions of Tanami (229,811 km2), Great Sandy Desert (112,587 km2) and Simpson Strzelecki Dunefields (105,747 km2).
The Northern Territory’s 105 reserves protect 146,967 km2, including around 2,600 km2 of monsoon vine forest.
The Northern Territory’s Kakadu National Park is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List of areas with natural and/or cultural values of global significance. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is also on the list.
Darwin & Surrounds
Buffalo Creek and adjacent Lee Point are on the northern edge of the larger Casuarina Coastal Reserve and the long unspoilt beaches and estuary mudflats are an excellent place for waders, particularly in summer when the migrating birds arrive from the northern hemisphere, and rails, such as the Chestnut Rail, which is quite common. The dense mangroves are also home to numerous specialist bird species, including Mangrove Gerygone, Mangrove Golden Whistler (rare), Mangrove Grey Fantail and Mangrove Robin. The waters are also home to large Saltwater Crocodiles and box jellyfish, so caution needs to be taken, and marine Flatback Turtles nest on the beaches.
The area is also very popular anglers and weekends and holiday periods can become very busy.
The coastal reserve has extensive dramatic coastline, which glow spectacularly as the sun sets, and relics of military action during World War II can be found throughout the reserve. Dariba Nunggalinya (Old Man Rock) is a sacred site for the local Larrakia Aboriginal people, which can be seen at low tide, and the area should not be accessed.
A new bird-watching hide has been constructed (2016), nestled in the monsoon vine-forest along the coast on walking track midway between Lee Point and Buffalo Creek, which provides a wonderful place to watch many of the more than 210 bird species that have been recorded in the area. Some rare vagrants turn up here from time to time, such as the Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus, which was recorded here in 1998 and again in 2010. While Blue-tailed (Elegant) Imperial-Pigeon Ducula concinna has been sighted as a vagrant in close forest around Darwin in 1993 and again in 2012.
Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve
The Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, located 69km east of Darwin near the township of Humpty Doo, and between the Adelaide River and Mary River floodplains. The reserve forms part of the traditional lands of the Wulna people
The protected wetland is a haven for birdlife, with over 220 species recorded here. The wetlands are located within the Adelaide River Floodplain and are a permanent water source for the region’s wildlife, and a vital refuge as other smaller lagoons and waterways dry out.
The 2.2km long dam was constructed by the RAAF Airfield Construction Squadron in the 1950s to provide water to irrigate the local rice fields of Humpty Doo, although the farming of rice was short-lived in the area. The importance of the dam to waterbirds and other wildlife was recognised shortly afterwards and the dam was declared a Bird Protection Area in 1959, before becoming established as a conservation area in 1982. In 2005 the wider Adelaide and Mary River Floodplains were recognised as an Important Bird Area and, in the same year, the traditional owners were given joint management (with the Northern Territory Government) of the conservation reserve. In May 2009 Fogg dam was declared a heritage site.
The conservation area now covers an area of 1,569ha. Although the area of monsoon vine forest that is protected within it is quite small, the site is a must for anyone who wants to get easy access to a site that has a rich number of rainforest species.
Estuarine Crocodiles occur in the park, so always be CROCWISE and obey all signs. Pedestrians are not permitted to walk along the dam wall. Biting insects are also prevalent and can spread disease, including Ross River Virus, Barmah Forest Virus, Dengue Fever and Zika Virus.
Howard Springs Nature Park
Howard Springs Nature Park was the Northern Territory’s first reserve, declared in 1957. Prior to then the site served as a recreation area for Australian and American WWII service personnel; the weir was constructed in 1944 to improve access to the waterhole for swimming.
This park provides easy access to lush monsoon vine forest that is just a short drive from the state’s capital city of Darwin. Permanent water is present within the rainforest, although it is surrounded by savannah grassland and can be affected by fires from time to time.
This small (283ha) reserve is home to around 175 bird species, including Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus), Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Rainbow Pitta and Shining Flycatcher.
Thirteen mammal species have been recorded in the park, including Agile Wallaby, Black Flying-fox, Common Brush-tailed Possum, Little Red Flying-fox, Northern Brown Bandicoot and the critically endangered Northern Quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus).
Of the fifteen amphibians recorded here, notable species include Copland’s Rock Frog (Litoria coplandi), Green Tree Frog and Roth’s Tree Frog.
The park is also home to 34 reptile and 17 fish species. Look in the large pools for Barramundi (Lates calcarifer), Arafura File Snake (Acrochordus arafurae), Mertens’ Water Monitor (Varanus mertensi), Northern Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina rugosa), Northern Snapping Turtle (Elseya dentata) and Yellow-faced Turtle (Emydura tanybaraga).
The park is located within the traditional homelands of the Larrakia people and the park contains one documented sacred site. The park’s permanent natural spring emerges at the head of an area of monsoon vine forest and would have no doubt been of significant importance to the local Aboriginal people. The water flows year round, but slows during the dry season.
Litchfield National Park
Litchfield National Park was gazetted in 1986 and is perhaps most famed for the incredible 1 to 4 metre tall mounds constructed by some the park’s smallest inhabitants, the Magnetic (or Compass) Termites (Amitermes meridionalis). These mounds are all oriented in the same direction, with the wide, flattened walls facing east and west, in order to receive the warmth of the morning and afternoon sun and the north, south and top edges are kept thin, to minimise heat retention. Other conspicuous invertebrate structures that are visible in the park include the enormous mounds of the Cathedral Termite (Nasutitermes triodiae) and the ball-shaped leaf nests of the Green Tree Ant colonies.
The park covers an area of approximately 145,600ha, most of which is sandstone plateaus, melaleuca woodlands and alluvial plains, but it also contains an area of monsoon rainforest. It is part of the Wagait traditional Indigenous lands and is important to the Koongurrukun, Mak Mak, Marranunggu, Warray and Werat Aborignal people.
Around 180 birds, 52 mammals, 80 reptiles and 22 frogs have been recorded in the park.
In addition to the incredible fauna, the park features stunning waterfalls, crystal clear swimming holes and numerous walking tracks. Florence Falls is a spectacular twin waterfall surrounded by monsoon rainforest and is a great spot to enjoy the local wildlife and cool off with a swim.
Estuarine Crocodiles occur in the park, so always be CROCWISE and only swim where permitted and signposted.
Scrub typhus is transmitted by microscopic bush mites on grasses and bushes, so sitting on bare ground or grass is discouraged.
Kakadu & Arnhem Land
Kakadu National Park
Kakadu National Park lies at the junction of four Northern Territory bioregions: Arnhem Coastal, Darwin Coastal, Arnhem Plateau and Pine Creek. It is listed as a World Heritage Area with natural and/or cultural values of global significance and is Australia’s largest Terrestrial national park, covering 20,000km². The National Park was declared in three stages between 1979 and 1991.
Kakadu includes the traditional lands of a number of Aboriginal clan groups and the name Kakadu comes from the extinct local Aboriginal language, Gaagudju, which was spoken initially by the Gaagudju People and later by the Amurdak, Bininj, Giimiyu, Gundjeihmi and Umbugarla peoples. They have lived on this country for more than 65,000 years.
The habitat within the park is diverse, including coastal mangroves, rugged rocky sandstone escarpments, rainforests, open forests and woodlands and lowland wetlands. Depending on the availability of water the monsoon vine forest (rainforest) in Kakadu is either wet or dry and ranges from tall (over 30 metres) in the stone country to deciduous thickets in the coastal areas, which are often only two or three metres in height. The various habitats support around 281 species of birds, 77 mammals, 132 reptiles and 27 frogs.
During the ‘wet’ season (November to April) huge amounts of water fall on the park, causing many of the watercourses to break their banks and form huge floodplains and turn trickling waterfalls into breathtaking cascades. The local aboriginal people recognise six seasons: Gudjewg (December to March), Banggerreng (April), Yegge (May to mid-June), Wurrgeng (mid-June to mid-August), Gurrung (mid-August to mid-October) and Gunumeleng (mid-October to late December).
Nhulunbuy, or Gove as it is also known, is a remote community on the Gove Peninsula, northern Arnhem Land. It is home to the Yolngu people, with members of the 16 clans belonging to either the Dhuwa and Yirritja moieties. The local culture is celebrated at the important Garma Festival, which takes place at the Gulkula Yolgnu Ceremonial site in August each year. The festival involves visual arts, crafts, ancient storytelling, educational programs, dance and music. The township has strong ties with the Rio Tinto alumina mine that employs many of the local residents, but the region is a growing tourist destination with many activities, services and resorts to entice visitors to the area. Its remoteness and location makes it difficult to access by road (best by air), but that also makes it an excellent birding location, with up to 200 species recorded there, and the site of some rare vagrants, such as the Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus, which was recorded here in February 2015.
Katherine & Surrounds
Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park
Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park covers an area of 295,000ha. It is the traditional home of the Jawoyn people and the name of the park translates as ‘Cicada Place’ in the Jawoyn language.
The western section of the park surrounds a stretch of the Katherine River and spectacular views of the river and surrounding area can be obtained from the walking trails and viewing platforms along the top of the gorge.
The climate in the region is tropical, with two distinct seasons: the ‘dry’ season (May to October), has average monthly rainfall of between 1mm and 33mm, although up to 166mm has been recorded toward the end of the end of the season. The ‘wet’ season (November to April) sees large amounts of rain falling on the region. The wettest month is January, with over 265mm falling on average and a record high of 732mm.
The park contains patches of monsoon rainforest. It is mainly restricted to sandstone gorges, usually in areas
protected from fire and associated with more permanent water.
Some 206 birds, 44 mammals, 78 reptiles and 25 frogs have been recorded in the park, as well as a huge number of invertebrates.
Around 1,400 plant species have also been recorded in the park, 19 of which are endemic to the park and 58 are not recorded in any other Northern Territory Park.
Weeds, such as Gamba Grass (Andropogon gayanus) and Mission Grass (Pennisetum polystachion) and feral animals, mainly Feral Cat, Cane Toad, Water Buffalo, Pig, Horse, Donkey and Cattle, pose a significant threat to the park’s native fauna and flora.
Alice Springs & Surrounds
Alice Springs, known as Mparntwe by the traditional owners (the Arrernte Aboriginal people) is a remote town in the centre of Australia.
In modern history the region was explored by John McDouall Stuart in 1862, who mapped the inland between Adelaide and the north coast of Australia for potential white settlement. He was followed by the Overland Telegraph Line, and a telegraph station called Stuart was located in what is now known as Alice Springs.
In 1929 the rail linked Adelaide with Alice Springs and in 2004 it was extended to Darwin. Alice Springs is now a major regional centre and supports a population of over 25,000 people.
The town and nearby surrounds has numerous excellent sites for birding and many arid zone species can be found here if you know where to look, in fact around 230 species have been recorded here. The local birders are more than willing to point you in the right direction and there are several local bird guides that if you are willing to pay for their local knowledge and get them to take you to the best sites for the more elusive species. On paper Ilparpa Ponds (Alice Springs Waste Stabilisation Ponds) is the birding megaspot of the southern NT, with over 200 species recorded there.
Mac Clark Conservation Reserve
Mac Clark Conservation Reserve (-25.109871, 135.427139) is situated south-east of Alice Springs via Santa Teresa and is perhaps the most reliable place to see the world’s only nocturnal raptor, the Letter-winged Kite. The populations of this species fluctuate dramatically with the rainfall of the regions or, more correctly, the abundance of the Long-haired Rat, their favoured prey. The rats breed rapidly to take advantage of the increased food supply that results from large rain events and their range and numbers increase significantly, likewise those of the Letter-winged Kite. Gibberbird, Inland Dotterel and Orange Chat are also to be found here. The park can only be accessed by 4WD. The nearby Old Andado Station Homestead (-25.380412, 135.440293) is a reliable place for Eyrean Grasswren and allows camping.
Uluru & Surrounds
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
The Anangu people have been the traditional custodians of this region for many generations. Their complex system of beliefs known as Tjukurpa encompasses law, religion and the relationship between people, plants, animals and the landscape.
The region lies some 450 km south-west of Alice Springs via National Highway A87 and Lasseter Highway (State Route 4). Yulara is the main centre and has accommodation, fuel, supermarket, medical and banking facilities. The world’s largest monolith (Uluru) and the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) are a short drive from here.
Accommodation, food, fuel and drinks are also available at Erldunda Roadhouse. All of these sites offer great birding, so take your time and have a look around all of them if time permits. Over 150 species have been recorded in the park, such as Banded Whiteface, Bourke’s Parrot, Crimson Chat, Dusky Grasswren, Inland Dotterel, Princess Parrot (rare), Singing Honeyeater and White-fronted Honeyeater.
Australia is a beautiful and rugged country where you may encounter potentially dangerous wildlife, stinging plants, expansive remote areas and temperatures that can create major health issues. There are several ways you can ensure your safety while visiting Australia’s wild places. Find out how to stay safe and enjoy your holiday here.