Rub noses with a kangaroo, allow a giant python to coil and slither around you or let birds precariously perch on your head. See man-eating sharks, gigantic humpback whales, crocodiles, tigers and timid penguins. These are just a few choices for wildlife viewing in and out of captivity around the Gold Coast.
They are not so much a worm but more like a spider, building intricate webs illuminated only at night. You can see these rare creatures on an organised glow worm night tour to Natural Bridge or at O’Reilly’s in the World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park.
Natural Bridge, in Springbrook National Park, has Australia’s largest population of glow worms; they cover the ceiling of a cave and illuminate it as bright as a Christmas tree. Pickups are available from most Gold Coast accommodation locations or you can self-drive. Please don’t swim at either locations to assist the protected worms.
If a night tour is not an option you can see glow worms at Cedar Creek Winery on Tamborine Mountain. Two chambers linked by tunnels take you through to view a healthy colony of these endangered little creatures measuring a maximum length of just three milimeters.
David Fleay Wildlife Park
Nestled amongst the mangroves slightly in from Burleigh Beach, David Fleay Wildlife Park is a hidden wildlife treasure. The park, formed in 1951 by Dr David Fleay, continues today under the auspices of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service for everyone to enjoy nature in a quiet and intimate setting.
Boardwalks lead you to a range of Australian wildlife. There are koalas, pademelons, dingoes, rock wallabies and the unique Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroos, along with fierce salt water crocodiles and cassowaries, the third tallest and second heaviest living bird.
In the nocturnal house see endearing Australian animals like the bilby, the mahogany glider—once thought to be extinct yet ‘rediscovered’ in 1989—and the Julia Creek dunnart, a tiny insect-eating marsupial with razor-sharp teeth and nimble jaws. There are daily wildlife shows, talks and encounters.
Did you know—David Fleay holds the claim to fame of being the only person to be bitten on the bottom by the Tasmanian Tiger, now classified as extinct.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Only a block and a half from a sweeping golden Gold Coast beach, you’ll find Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s here you’ll discover many Australian animals up close, have chattering parrots sit on your head and have the opportunity to visit the hospital for injured wildlife. There’s Toohey the owl, Jessie the Wedge Tail Eagle, wild lorikeets, friendly kangaroos and one of our favourites, the reptile show.
Sea World Penguins and Deep-Sea Creatures
If marine animals tick your boxes, head to Sea World. The enclosures for viewing wildlife allow you to become face-to-face with man-eating sharks as they cruise the world’s largest man-made lagoon system, penguins living it up in their own little Antarctica on the sunny Gold Coast along with the polar bears, dolphins and seals.
Don’t forget the ‘Creatures of the Deep’: a brand new attraction to Sea World which leads you through the past and present of the ocean and its most mysterious creatures.
With its thrilling rides and adrenalin pumping activities, Dreamworld also has a quieter side and it’s here you can meet the tigers on Tiger Island and watch them play and cavort with their keepers. These grand big cats are only part of the wildlife display: there are koalas, kangaroos and the fiercest of crocodiles on planet earth.
Top tip—Keep an eye out for group park entries to make a good saving on the holiday wallet.
From June to November each year, you can experience these majestic giants of the deep as they make their way up and down the coast from Antarctica for their annual migration. Humpback whales are known to love human interaction and a day out on the water will often afford you that special magic moment with these gracious marine mammals, be it a tail slap or a breech.
Whale watching tours operate from groups on larger viewing vessels to smaller boat charters including yachts and catamarans.