At the top of many a travellers list is going out into the wild to spot the local fauna in its natural habitat. This is particularly true of Australia, where there happens to be a whole host of unique animals out in the wild.
One of the most sought after encounters is the koala. As koalas live in a particular habitat, they’re not as easy to find as kangaroos or kookaburras. You also need to be careful when hunting for koalas. We wouldn’t want you aggravating one of the infamous drop bears.
Where is the best place to see wild koalas in Australia?
The standout place for spotting wild koalas in all Australia is Kennett River. At Kennett River you’ll find the Great Ocean Road Koala Walk, or Kennett River Koala Walk depending on how you are inclined.
Kennett River is a tourist hotspot. Many tour groups are heading along the Great Ocean Road that stop here daily. Unfortunately, this results in a lot of poor behaviour by tourists. This has an impact on the animals that live here. In an ideal world, visitors would try to keep the noise down, not get too close to animals, and not feed them.
What is the Great Ocean Road Koala Walk at Kennett River?
The walk begins near Kafe Koala, which is a well-placed cafe that serves a choice of food and drink. This makes it a pretty good pit stop for those travelling along the Great Ocean Road and stopping to take in the sights.
The Great Ocean Road Koala Walk heads up Grey River Road. You can find wild koalas almost from the outset. There are eucalyptus trees right by Kafe Koala, where you can also buy bird food to attract the wild birds to you. These vibrant birds will land on you, so wear a hat if you’re not particularly fond of that idea.
You can drive along the Great Ocean Road Koala Walk, so if you’d rather give your legs a rest then you have options. Parts of the walk can be steep, but they do open up some excellent views as you ascend. There are also some steep drops at the edge of the road, so be careful where you’re walking. Remember to keep your eyes on the road if you decide to drive.
Where is the Great Ocean Road Koala Walk?
You’ll find Kennett River and its famous koala walk around halfway between Lorne and Apollo Bay.
The drive from Melbourne is around 3 hours or 165 kilometres, so you’ll probably want to make a day of it. Many visitors stay nearby, at Lorne and Apollo Bay. There is accommodation on-site in the form of a campsite and caravan park, or you could choose to continue to Port Campbell.
How do you spot wild koalas?
Given that koalas are extremely lazy, you can’t spot them by looking and hoping to see one move.
Although there is usually at least one koala near Kafe Koala, if you want to find more you’ll need to head further along the koala walk. You’ll also find it a bit harder to get a clear shot of the koalas closest to the cafe, as you’ll be beneath them.
Along the trail, you need to check out the eucalyptus trees. This whole area is full of these trees so they’re quite easy to spot.
Then, you’ll want to look for the ‘joints’ of the trees where the branches branch off. This part of the tree gives the koalas a platform to rest on. It also prevents them from falling whilst they’re asleep.
If you do spot a koala, there are likely to be others nearby, perhaps even in the same tree.
You’ll also likely see other visitors along the trail. They may be able to help point you in the direction of some wild koalas that they have already spotted. Once you’ve found one or two, they’re much easier to find. I managed to find six different wild koalas along the walk, taking around 30 minutes.
What is the best time to spot a wild koala?
Koalas are nocturnal creatures; to improve your chances of spotting a wild koala you should look early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
This is because we humans don’t see particularly well at night when the koalas would be most active. It is also cooler early in the morning and in the evening. Given that koalas can spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping, the chances of catching one awake is pretty slim.
The tour groups passing through tend to set off from Melbourne, so generally won’t reach Kennett River until after 10 am. Once they arrive though, you’ll notice the koalas tend to climb higher into the trees. To avoid the hustle and bustle of the tour groups, you can head up Grey River Road where the large groups won’t be disturbing the wildlife. You’ll notice that birds tend to stay near Kafe Koala where there is food to be had.
Tips and Tricks
- Get there early to avoid the crowds of tourists and tour groups.
- There is bird feed on-site that you can buy. This will attract the King Parrots to land on you.
- You used to be able to see wild kookaburras come to Kafe Koala to be fed, you may still be able to.
- If you can’t find any koalas near Kafe Koala, head along Grey River Road where you should be able to spot some.
- If you want to take photographs you’ll likely need to zoom in.
- Don’t try to touch the koalas. They live here and it is important that they feel safe from harm.
- Bring a hat and sunscreen. You can get food and drink at the cafe if you forget to bring your own.
- Most tour companies will stop here if you’d prefer to cram all of the Great Ocean Road in together.