Koalas are magnificent marsupials native to Australia. And though you’ve probably only seen these elusive creatures in captivity, there are plenty of places where you can get up close and personal with them in the land down under.
Are you looking for places to see koalas in Melbourne or regional Victoria? Sure, you could go to one of the Melbourne Zoo’s, but we have rounded up some places that you can see these fascinating animals in their natural habitat that aren’t too far from the centre of Melbourne.
When we think koalas, we think cute and cuddly. Getting a look at these iconic Aussie animals are high on the wish lists of locals and overseas visitors alike. They can be seen and sometimes patted or held in Melbourne’s zoos and wildlife parks, but nothing beats seeing our koalas in the wild. There are several places around Melbourne and throughout Victoria where this is possible.
Koalas spend most of their time in the treetops nestled in the forks of trees and can sometimes be hard to spot amongst the branches. However, persistence and a keen eye will get your reward. Binoculars are not necessary, but you might take them along for a closer view. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open. Koalas are generally thought to be quiet animals. In fact, they make deep grunting sounds, particularly if they are stressed or unhappy.
Koalas have become endangered in New South Wales, so unlike kangaroos trying to see a wild koala near Sydney is pretty hard when compared to Victoria, South Australia and even Queensland. We’ve not had too much luck with the completely wild areas (having only seen them in Tucki Tucki), but you can try and get lucky there are several spots. If you don’t manage as a backup, there are places you can see rescued or semi-wild koalas in sanctuaries.
Raymond Island Koala Trail
Wild koalas in residential streets, who would have imagined. In the unique environment of Raymond Island, you can find koalas in the treetops above people’s homes. A large information board at Ferry Park is covered in interesting koala facts, which details the 1.2 km koala trail. Raymond Island is a short ferry ride from Paynesville, which is in the Gippsland Lakes area. It is around a three and a half to four-hour drive from the Melbourne CBD. It’s an easy afternoon out from Lakes Entrance or Bairnsdale. Click here for further information about Raymond Island.
Although not quite as close to Melbourne as our other recommendations, we included this option because it really is one of the best places to see koalas. Although it takes 3-4 hours to reach Raymond Island from Melbourne, it will prove a rewarding road trip as it is home to over 200 koalas. Located within the Gippsland Lakes system, you can reach Raymond Island via a short ferry ride from Paynesville – around 300km from Melbourne CBD.
From the mainland or Paynesville village, it is only a few meters across Wollaston Bay to the Island. With a ferry, you can easily be transferred, but more about this in the section Arrival.
Since the koalas in Victoria were threatened with extinction at the beginning of the 20th century, some animals were brought to Raymond Island: a green island without any major dangers, which is perfect for reproduction.
As you arrive at Ferry Park, you will be greeted with a large information board that shares fascinating koala facts as well as the route for the 1.2km Raymond Island Koala Walk. You can also purchase a factual booklet, with all proceeds going towards the protection and sustainability of the koala population.
The walk is ideal for the entire family as it takes only 30 minutes to complete. However, allow much longer for the numerous photo opportunities you’ll need to capture the koalas snoozing above. The walk is open to the public from 6:40 am to 10 pm.
As you make your way back to the ferry, keep your eyes peeled in the township, as it’s not uncommon to see koalas crossing the street or perched on pavements on Raymond Island.
Where can you even find the animals on Raymond Island?
Everywhere – just keep your eyes open and peek into the treetops. But you will have the most luck along the Raymond Island Koala Trail.
The trail is a 1.2-kilometre long circular walk, which first leads you through a village and then through a small section of forest. Especially along the forest, we found again, and again koalas sitting, sleeping, yawning or sometimes even climbing in the trees.
Some of them were hiding far up in the treetops. Others lay only a few centimetres above our heads on a branch and looked at us drowsy. One thing you can believe us: The cute little animals don’t let anything upset them.
The trail also leads you along the water and a few small beaches. If the weather is good, you can let your legs dangle into the sea and enjoy the great atmosphere of this wonderful Island.
Cape Otway Lightstation
On Lighthouse Road heading for the Cape Otway Lightstation, I spotted my first in the wild koala. It was not hard to find. I saw it from the car as we passed. Pick a safe parking space on the roadside before craning your necks to the treetops. The Cape Otway Lightstation is in the Great Otway National Park. Travel from Melbourne on The Great Ocean Road, which is recognised internationally for its spectacular scenery. Click here to download the park notes and a map. Cape Otway is around a two and three quarter hour drive from the Melbourne CBD. It is only 20 minutes from Apollo Bay.
Kennett River Koala Walk
This 45 minute combined drive and walk runs along Grey River Road, Kennett River. It includes a 30-minute walk in the Otway rain forest. The drive is on an unmade road. The koalas tend to rest through the day and become more active towards the late afternoon. There are hundreds of koalas in the Kennett River area, making this a great place for sightings. Kennett River is part of the Great Otway National Park. Click here to download the park notes and a map. Click here to download the Koala Walk brochure. Kennett River is around a two-hour drive from the Melbourne CBD.
Kennett River is a small coastal town and river on the Otway Coast in Victoria, Australia. The town is located 174 kilometres west of Melbourne, directly on the Great Ocean Road.
The area is known for its beautiful views of the coast, the Great Otway National Park, and surfing.
If you want to see wild koalas, you are sure to get your money’s worth here – in a one to a two-kilometre wide patch of forest on the Grey River Road, which branches off the Great Ocean Road, they sit in the eucalyptus trees and smile or sleep. Beautiful animals!
In the small settlement of Kennett River on the Great Ocean Road, there is a road lined with eucalyptus trees.
With a little luck, you can see wild koalas there. One can hardly miss the road because there are numerous tourists on the spot. But at the time of our visit, they were more interested in the cockatoos and parrots, which were walking tamely on the ground and can be fed with food from the nearby café.
Therefore we could dedicate ourselves to the search for the koalas alone and saw two in the trees on the Kennet River Koala Walk.
Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve
As well as koalas, keep an eye out for kangaroos, wallabies, emus, echidnas, and various birds. Several walks are crossing the reserve, which picturesque Tower Hill Lake surrounds. Koala sightings are not guaranteed, but you are not likely to be disappointed with your trip with so much to see. Click here to download the Visitor Guide and map. Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is at 105 Lakeview Road, and Tower Hill is just 15kms from Warrnambool, which is around a three and a quarter-hour drive from the Melbourne CBD.
French Island National Park
The Island is home to a colony of around 1,500 koalas. Koalas from French Island are disease-free and are often used to restock populations on the mainland. Click here for the park notes and maps. French Island can be accessed by a 10 to 15-minute ferry ride from Stony Point, which is an hour and a quarter’s drive from the Melbourne CBD. Ring (03) 9585 5730 for ferry details and timetables. The ferry docks at Tankerton Jetty near the Ranger Station. There are a variety of short walks and rides commencing at the Tankerton foreshore.
A 1500 strong koala colony awaits at French Island National Park. There were so many koalas on French Island that some were moved to boost numbers in Kinglake National Park, which lost many of its koalas to bushfires.
To get there, drive just over an hour from Melbourne CBD to Stony Point. It’s then a short 10-minute ferry ride to the unspoiled landscapes of French Island.
All walks commence from Tankerton foreshore, where the ferry drops you off and will lead you through untouched bushland. Whether you opt for a full day walking track or a short hike, you will be treated to scenes of snoozing koalas or curious joeys peeking from the treetops.
If you can’t face returning to the city and fancy a little longer in the serene surroundings, you can stay overnight on French Island at Fairhaven Campground. Fairhaven campground is approximately a 5km walk from the ferry terminal, located in the stunning dunes behind the beach and offering an unforgettable sleep under the stars for FREE. Pitches must be booked in advance as there are only six, but there is no fee to camp with the koalas.
Werribee Gorge State Park
As well as koalas, the park is home to Eastern Grey kangaroos, swamp wallabies, echidnas, platypus, wedge-tailed eagles and Peregrine falcons. There are a number of walks available in the park, but some are suitable only for the more experienced hiker, so check the park notes before setting off. With over 500 million years of geological history on display, the scenery in the park is amazing. Click here to download the park notes and a map. Werribee Gorge State Park is around 50 minutes from the Melbourne CBD and is 8km west of Bacchus Marsh via the Western Freeway and Pentland Hills Road to Myers Road.
Thanks to over 500 million years of geological history, Werribee Gorge is one of the most spectacular gorges near the city and, better yet, one of the best places to see koalas in Melbourne.
Situated 8km west of Bacchus Marsh, Werribee Gorge State Park is a 50-minute drive from the CBD. Between the rugged terrain and untouched woodland, there is a wealth of wildlife, including wallabies, echidnas, Eastern Grey Kangaroos and of course, koalas nestled in the eucalyptus.
Very little has been done to pave or gravel walkways around the park to protect the natural landscape, so not all hikes are family-friendly. However, there are plenty of picnic areas and rock pools for paddling if you head along the Short Circuit Walk to Meikles Point Picnic Area or Quarry Picnic Area.
Coolart Historic Area and Wetlands
Look carefully as you move around Coolart throughout the day, and you may spot a koala, although they are not prolific here. Do not despair if you don’t find a koala, as there is much more to see and do here. The wetlands are rich in birdlife which can be viewed from a bird hide.
The easy walking tracks pass through coastal woodlands, wetland areas, lagoons and the formal gardens surrounding the historic homestead. Click here to download the park notes and a map. Coolart is on Lord Somers Road, Somers on the Mornington Peninsula, around an hour and a quarter’s drive from the Melbourne CBD.
Brisbane Ranges National Park
The koalas you may sight in the Brisbane Ranges National Park are descended from stock drawn from French Island and Phillip Island in 1957 and 1977. They are more often seen in the northern section, near Reids Road. In addition, you might come across Eastern Grey Kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, possums or sugar gliders, so keep your eyes peeled. Click here to download the park notes and map. The northern section of the park can be accessed by Reids Road, Balliang via Bacchus Marsh and is around an hour and a half’s drive from the Melbourne CBD.
When searching for koalas in Melbourne, one of the most popular places is Phillip Island, 90 minutes South East of the city. Phillip Island can be done on a day trip, depending on where you are in Melbourne. However, it is more popular as a weekend getaway.
Although slightly overshadowed by the hugely popular penguin parade, Phillip Island is also home to a wealth of koalas, which can be admired at the Koala Reserve.
The Koala Reserve offers the unique opportunity for visitors to be immersed in the koalas’ natural habitat as you stroll along treetop boardwalks, offering face to face encounters if you’re lucky. There is also the opportunity to experience a ranger-led “Koala Eco-Explorer Tour”, which offers insight into the koala way of life behind the scenes.
The Koala Reserve not only guarantees a koala sighting but, more importantly, within their natural habitat – enjoying the gum trees and snoozing until sunset as they would in the wild. The bushland boardwalks also allow a glimpse of more Australian icons such as possums, echidnas, snakes and wallabies.
Located in the picturesque Yarra Valley only an hour from Melbourne, Healesville Sanctuary is not only home to many of Australia’s most captivating species but also koalas roaming freely.
Like the set up on Phillip Island, there are allocated boardwalks for visitors to explore the bushland at “koala level”, allowing visitors to get up close with the charming creatures.
Healesville Sanctuary also provides the perfect setting to catch a guaranteed glimpse of other endearing animals such as kangaroos, platypus, wallabies, dingoes and emus.
The sanctuary is open 9 am-5 pm, seven days a week. Tickets are $38 for adults and $19 for children under 16. However, children can visit for free on weekends and during school holidays. You can also book a specific koala experience.
Cape Otway, Victoria
Another beautiful place with a koala guarantee is the Cape Otway Peninsula. Only a few kilometres west of Kennett River, you can reach this small, little-visited paradise Cape Otway.
Everyone who drives along Australia’s world-famous Great Ocean Road also passes Cape Otway – most of them just pass it.
Not too many tourists find their way to Cape Otway, as the detour to the western tip of the road does not scream for visitors as loudly as the other, far more famous places along the Great Ocean Road.
One more reason to have a closer look at this small, shy, somewhat remote paradise.
The Cape Otway belongs to the Great Otway National Park and is the southernmost tip of the Great Ocean Road region. A 14 km long, partly paved road leads directly from the Great Ocean Road to Cape Otway.
The drive itself is an experience in itself: first past and over many green hills, then plunging into the middle of the temperate rainforest of the Great Otway National Park with an endless number of huge eucalyptus trees.
No wonder that this is a true and almost undisturbed paradise for koalas. Nowhere else in Australia are there more koalas to be seen in the wild. During the hot summer months, the shade of the forests offers a wonderful change. The beautiful rainforest, as well as the coast, invites many small and big walks.
At the end of Cape Otway, the oldest lighthouse on the Australian continent awaits you. Since 1848 the Cape Otway Lightstation has been warning ships of the dangerous coast, where in former times, ships were smashed and sank in rows.
Cape Otway lies between the Southern Ocean and the Bass Strait. Nearly all ships from Europe passed here on their way to Melbourne. So this headland and the lighthouse were often the first things the immigrants of Australia got to see.
The lighthouse is 90 m high. From up here, there is a fantastic view over the rugged rocky coast. From June to October, whales can also be observed.
You can also check here: 9 Places To See Koalas In The Wild, 9 Places To See Koalas In Melbourne And Around, Where Can You See Koalas, Where To See Koalas In The Wild, The 11 Best Places To See Wild Koalas In Australia.