8 Places To See Koalas In Melbourne and around
Looking for places 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.
Facts about Koalas
While the iconic kangaroo is easy to find bounding across the countryside, spotting koalas in Melbourne takes a little more research and a lot more patience.
Koalas are notoriously drowsy creatures. They sleep for 20 hours a day due to their nutrient-shy diet of eucalyptus, which provides enough water for survival but very little energy to leave their perch.
Alongside their sluggish characteristics, koalas are naturally camouflaged by the grey gum trees they reside in. This again can make them difficult to spot as they hide high in the trees, but thankfully Victoria’s koala population is thriving.
From Gippsland to the Great Ocean Road, a short road trip from Melbourne will have you in awe of these cuties in no time.
Related: Where to see kangaroos in Melbourne
Best way to spot koalas
When searching for koalas in Melbourne, there are two important factors – when to look and where to look.
When to look: As mentioned, koalas are only active for a few hours a day. This is usually at dusk or dawn, so time your koala quest during this time.
Where to look: Remember to look up. Koalas will be found securely nestled in the fork of eucalyptus trees, often with their head tucked away from the wind, snuggled up asleep. Search for the grey tufts of fur in the forks, and you may even spot a joey who stays with its parent until 12 months old.
One advantage of spotting Koalas in Melbourne is that due to the temperate climate of Victoria, the koalas are much larger and fluffier. They can grow up to 14kg in comparison to their Northern relatives who have thinner fur and only weigh around 8kg.
8 Places you can see koalas in Melbourne (or just outside)
Now you know where to look, when and what to look out for here are the best places to find koalas in Melbourne and the surrounding areas. Like we mentioned, you can always head to the Melbourne zoo to see koalas, however if you are looking for koalas in their natural habitat you will need to venture out a little.
1. Warrandyte State Park
Warrandyte State Park is the closest National Park to Melbourne; reachable within a half hour’s drive from the CBD. If you head to the park via Warrandyte Road, then Pound Road you will reach Pound Bend Reserve – a hub of easy walking trails, picnic grounds and…koalas!
If you have time, enjoy the Pound Bend River Walk which is around 3.5km, taking 1.5 hours to complete at a pleasant pace. The trail starts at the picnic area, before leading you to the historic Pound Bend Tunnel which is a result of gold mining in the 1870s.
As you follow the track upstream, watch your step on the slippery rocks but also keep an eye on the treetops as koalas are known to frequently lounge here.
The park is free to enter, and the public can access it 24 hours a day.
2. Kennett River
Not only is Kennett River one of the best places to see koalas near Melbourne but it is often considered the koala capital of Australia. Kennett River is around 2 hours from Melbourne CBD and is one of the many koala prone spots along the Great Ocean Road. (Which by the way is a great day trip from Melbourne).
As you head off Grey River Road, you will come to Kafe Koala which is open from 7 am to 7 pm. Grab a coffee here to fuel your koala spotting skills. The Kennett River Koala Walk isn’t officially marked; there is little signage or fanfare – simply a road lined with towering gum trees and dozens of koalas.
It’s also one of the best places to witness the rarity of koalas on the ground as they waddle from the trees into the neighbouring holiday park.
As a tip, for an unforgettable stay along Great Ocean Road stay at the Kennett River Holiday Park or somewhere close by. Not only are you guaranteed to wake up to these fluffy friends sleeping overhead but also vibrant native birds such as King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas.
3. Cape Otway
Around 45 minutes along the Great Ocean Road from Kennett River, you will enter further koala territory as you drive towards Cape Otway Lighthouse – the oldest lighthouse in Australia.
If the stunning scenery isn’t guaranteed to make you slow down, the towering gum trees will as koalas are renown for sheltering in the area. Make sure to pick a safe spot to park up before admiring the dozy furballs enjoy their lunch.
Alternatively, situated within Cape Otway National Park is Bimbi Park camping ground which offers the opportunity to “camp under koalas.” It offers idyllic surroundings for koalas and camping enthusiasts alike, allowing you to fall asleep admiring the Australian icons before making the 3.5-hour drive back to Melbourne on the Great Ocean Road. Check their latest prices here.
4. Phillip Island
When searching for koalas in Melbourne, one of the most popular places is Phillip Island, 90 minutes South East of the city. 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 a behind the scenes insight into the koala way of life.
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.
Following your walk is the interactive visitor centre with friendly staff on hand ready to answer all your koala questions. The Koala Reserve is open daily from 10 am until 5 pm, and tickets for adults are $13.20 with children 15 years or younger at $6.60. For an extra saving, combine the Koala Reserve ticket with a penguin parade ticket for an even more memorable day trip.
5. Healesville Sanctuary
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 9am-5pm, 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.
6. French Island National Park
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 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.
7. Werribee Gorge State Park
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.
To protect the natural landscape very little has been done to pave or gravel walkways around the park, 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.
8. 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 the island 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.
As you arrive at Ferry Park, you will be greeted with a large information board which 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.
Now you know where to see koalas in Melbourne!
Although it takes a little more effort to find koalas in Melbourne, just venturing out a little guaranteed to be worth it. Nothing beats witnessing these enchanting animals in the wild, munching on leaves or lolloping from one branch to the next. Let us know in the comments how your koala quest goes or if your favourite spot isn’t on the list!