Australia is not just about surfing, beaches and kangaroos. You will be surprised at the variety of wildlife this continent has to offer. Here is a list of the Top 10 YHA hostels with unique opportunities to experience Australian animals.
If you're visiting South Australia, popping in to Port Lincoln YHA is a must. This hostel is consistently rated as the best in Australia by YHA’s guests, and we’re sure you’ll agree! But visitors don’t come just to see the hostel; they come to get up close with some of the ocean’s fiercest predators – the Great White Shark. Port Lincoln is known as the shark cage diving capital of the world. You can also swim with blue fin tuna or the playful sea lions – far away from the sharks of course!
Fremantle Prison YHA, just 30 minutes from Perth, is a great base for exploring the nearby Rottnest Island and its famous residents – the quokkas! These are a very cute marsupial – similar to a small wallaby.
Over in Victoria, have an unforgettable stay at Phillip Island YHA. The island is home to the world-famous Penguin Parade, where you can watch the colony of little penguins emerge from the sea each night. Whilst on Phillip Island you can also see the colony of Australian fur seals and go on a tree top walk through a Koala Conservation Centre.
At the Grampians Eco YHA Hostel in Halls Gap, you’ll love staying in this small town located in the Grampians National Park. Hostel guests frequently see kangaroos and wallabies in the hostel garden, and sometimes an emu or two. The Grampians region is home to abundant native animals and birds, including possums and sugar gliders who come out at night.
Who could resist the chance to stay at Port Stephens YHA with its beautiful Balinese-style bungalows and resident koalas? Koalas are shy at the best of times, so you have to be lucky to spot them. But believe us - they do live in the hostel’s trees! Port Stephens is just a few hours north of Sydney and is a great location to watch the pods of dolphins that live in the area. It’s also perfect for whale watching during the migration season.
Pittwater YHA is 30km north of Sydney and is located within the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. This hostel can only be reached by ferry or water taxi. The National Park is home to possums, wallabies, goanna and kookaburras; all of which are spotted frequently from the hostel verandah or during bushwalks. Hire a canoe to explore Pittwater and get the chance to see some of the aquatic life as well.
Heading north into Queensland, stop in at Hervey Bay YHA. Hervey Bay is the starting point for tours to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. Fraser Island is home to many native birds and animals, most famously the dingo. It’s also a great place to watch the humpback whales who call Hervey Bay home from August to November each year.
Next stop is Magnetic Island YHA, the only hostel we know of with its own wildlife sanctuary. Here, you can cuddle a koala, wrap yourself in a python or hold a lizard or small crocodile. There are also guided Sea Kayak tours to beautiful bays to see dolphins, turtles, coral reef fish and sea eagles.
Up in the tropics, base yourself in the Cairns Central YHA where the unique fauna of the north is ready to meet you. Start with the Cairns ZOOm, a bird and small animal zoo in the city. The experience of Aussie birds flying right past your head is amazing. From Cairns, you can also go on tours to the Great Barrier Reef, where you can find Nemo and his aquatic friends. Another must-do tour is into the Daintree rainforest where you will see crocodiles in the wild and, if you’re lucky, a cassowary. A short day trip into the Atherton Tablelands is a good way to see platypus and tree kangaroos in the wild.
Over in the Northern Territory, stay at Darwin YHA and book your place in the Cage of Death – a swim with a large saltwater crocodile. After that, explore the Kakadu National Park, home to one-third of Australia’s native bird species, crocodiles and other native fauna.