The best-known animals of Australia remain some of the most bizarre and unique in the world, and this list highlights the country’s eight most unusual and where to see them.
From marsupials that have inspired famous cartoons to tree-dwelling mammals capable of soaring hundreds of feet across the forest canopy, travelers can spot the weird and wonderful creatures that inhabit Australia on a vacation to various destinations around the country.
Whether famous and exciting, hidden from the world’s view, or thought of as an Australian myth, the following eight animals are some of the Land Down Under’s most unique species that you may be able to find during your Australia tour.
The famous marsupial that inspired the Looney Tunes character Taz is found in wild corners of Tasmania and the secluded landscape of Maria Island. It is the largest carnivorous marsupial and has become known for its bad temper and unearthly screech.
The animal, which once populated mainland Australia, has since become endangered due to a contagious and transmissible cancer first detected in 1996. The disease has devastated the population’s already low numbers.
The colony on Maria Island is the only group free of the debilitating disease and you can enjoy an opportunity to find the rare and exciting animal in its natural habitat on tours of Tasmania, one of the best places to visit in Australia.
Best Places to See Tasmanian Devils: Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park • Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary • Trowunna Wildlife Park • East Coast Natureworld • Maria Island
The platypus is one of the most distinct animals on the planet as it is one of the world’s only semiaquatic, egg-laying mammals. The animal is best known for having the bill of a duck, the tail of a beaver, and the foot of an otter. Its appearance is so unusual that European naturalists believed the platypus to be a hoax.
Male platypuses also have a venomous spur on the hindfoot capable of inducing severe pain in animals the size of a human. They are most common in the eastern regions of Australia, including the island of Tasmania, the states of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, reaching as far north as Cooktown.
Exploring the best places to view wildlife in Australia, you will have many opportunities to see the famous platypuses in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
Best Places to See Platypuses: Eungella National Park • Nymboida River • Lake Elizabeth • Mountain Valley Private Nature Reserve • Latrobe
Echidna are predominantly found in forests and woodlands, often using burrows hollowed out by other animals like rabbits and wombats. Echidnas, like platypuses, lay eggs, but are classified as mammals. Also, like the platypus, an echidna has an electroreceptive snout for hunting.
The short-beaked echidnas make homes across Australia, snacking on ants and termites. When confronted by a predator, they curl into a ball and expose the sharp spines along their backs. They can also dig into the soil or wedge their bodies into a hard crevice using their spines like spears to protect them against attack.
Echidna are found all over Australia and travelers can enjoy some of the best sightings on trips to Kangaroo Island, which doubles as an excellent place for safari tours in Australia.
Best Places to See Echidnas: Billabong Sanctuary • Tasmania • King Island • Flinders Island • Kangaroo Island
The tree-dwelling mammals have evolved from a time when rainforests covered the majority of Australia. Sugar gliders can swoop across the canopy as far as 330 feet and are the most common gliding mammals across the country’s different ecosystems, spanning wet forests and open woodlands.
These nocturnal creatures spend their time in trees, mainly around the north and eastern coasts of Australia, along with the Kimberley region of Western Australia and the northern tip of the Cape York Peninsula, one of the best adventure destinations in Australia.
Today, the clearing of natural woodland habitats for urban and agricultural development poses the greatest threat to the sugar glider, though travelers can still spot the unusual animals when exploring their natural habitats.
Best Places to See Sugar Gliders: Tasmania • Queensland • New South Wales • Victoria • Darwin
Thoughts of kangaroos typically conjure images of the familiar creature hopping across the red sands of the Outback, but the tree kangaroo represents the evolutionary timeline of the animal as it adapted from the open spaces of flatlands to survive in the tropical rainforests of far northeastern Queensland.
Tree kangaroos are the only true tree-dwelling macropods, a genus that includes common kangaroos, wallabies, and quokkas. The most significant threats to tree kangaroos remain the loss of habitat and hunting. Their forests are being destroyed in record numbers due to the high demand for various products, including timber, palm oil, and coffee.
Travelers can find kangaroos across Australia, though many specifically request an opportunity to spot the iconic tree kangaroos on curated Australia kangaroo safaris.
Best Places to See Tree Kangaroos: Yungaburra • Atherton Tablelands • Wongabel • Millaa Millaa • Ravenshoe
Although the thorny devil lizard resembles a dangerous reptile, it is one of the least aggressive reptiles in Australia and instead relies on camouflage as its main source of self-defense. The lizard was named for its thorny appearance and has a distant cousin in the American horned lizard.
It survives in the southwestern coast and dry Outback regions of the continent, preferring the sand and sandy loam of the soil to any particular climate. Goannas are the main predator of the thorny devil, which also dig up its eggs. However, the destruction of the thorny devil’s natural habitat is the main threat to its survival in the wild.
From Gibb River Road, one of the best scenic drives in Australia, to more remote parts of the Outback, you might find the curious little lizards scuttling across the sand if you stop to take a closer look.
Best Places to See Thorny Devil Lizards: Northwest Territories • Queensland • South Australia • Northern Territory • Western Australia
While famous for their distinctive characteristics, wombats have unusual features that have endeared them to the world, most notably their singular digestive system that results in cube-shaped feces.
Wombats are often considered cute, cuddly, and surprisingly strong, foraging in the night and using their rears as their main source of defense. They are the world’s largest burrowing herbivores and can be found primarily across southeastern Australia and Tasmania.
They can run as fast as people, are the closest living relatives to koalas, and are the second-largest of all marsupials after the red kangaroo. Exploring Australia’s best national parks and beyond, be on the lookout for these famous and unusual creatures.
Best Places to See Wombats: Maria Island • Wilsons Promontory National Park • Kangaroo Valley • Urimbirra • Cradle Mountain
In 2017 the Yoda Bat took the internet by storm due to its resemblance to the Jedi Master from the Star Wars saga, just in time for the release of The Last Jedi. The tube-nosed bat’s broader, rounder jaw gives the bat the appearance of an ever-present smile.
They can be found across the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, but in Australia, their habitat extends from Queensland to New South Wales. Scientists continue to study the bats and their behavior, knowing little about their diet beyond that they eat certain types of fruits and scatter the seeds throughout the forest.
These fascinating bats are an integral part of the tropical ecosystem and an iconic spectacle to keep your eyes peeled for as you plan a trip for the best time to visit Australia for wildlife viewing.
Best Places to See Yoda Bats: Queensland • New South Wales
Fancy a chance to spot these eight unusual animals in some of Australia's marvelous wilderness destinations? Then book a vacation to Oz and partake in sensational outdoor activities, from 4x4 Outback tours to forest treks, on any of our sample Australia tours and vacations.
If you would like to learn more about Oz before you go, then check out our Australia travel guide.