Australian wildlife: Most popular Instagram posts and where to see the stars

There are plenty of wombats on Maria Island, but only one has a global fan base. Caught on camera one day scratching an itch by shimmying its bottom against a conveniently-positioned piece of wood, the baby wombat became the most popular post on Tourism Australia's Instagram account last year.

With 9.3 million views, the so-called "dancing wombat" has become a bona fide Internet sensation. The man who captured the footage says it was simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

"We were right next to the ferry terminal, waiting for the ferry," said Daniel Simm, co-owner of See Tasmania Travel and Tours. "There were about 100 people looking out over the beach, and I happened to look in the other direction." Spotting a baby wombat wandering along, he decided to start filming. His camera was still running when the wombat got an itch.

The dancing wombat isn't the only Australian animal to score big Internet love. All five of Tourism Australia's top Instagram posts last year featured native fauna, proving the irresistible appeal of our quirky wildlife.

Simm for one is unsurprised that a wombat bagged the top spot. "I love kangaroos myself – the relaxed way they laze around really resonates with me – but every time we post wombats on Instagram, we get a spike."

Scroll down to meet the Aussie animals that got the most views on Tourism Australia's Instagram account last year and find out where you can see our wildlife up close this summer.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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This baby wombat has some unusual moves. "There are hundreds and hundreds of wombats on Maria Island, but I've never seen one do this before," says Daniel Simms, who captured the footage.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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There are few things as adorable as a baby koala, so it's no wonder that this video of a sleepy koala mum cuddling its joey at WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, captured by @reneehowell18, was viewed 7.5 million times.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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A Hollywood cinematographer couldn't have choreographed this better. A glowing sunset provides the perfect backdrop for footage of dolphins joyfully porpoising through the water in this video, captured by @kiraleedelaporte at Monkey Mia in WA. It scored 4.7 million views.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Can you believe the size of this koala that @stateofstill captured hanging from the edge of the roof? The best bit is that this image of a koala in Victoria's Gippsland, viewed 3.4 million times, shows that local bush regeneration efforts are working.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Honeymooners aren't the only ones who love Hamilton Island, as @kellyinbrisbane showed with her shot of smooching sulphur-crested cockatoos. The image clocked 2.2 million views.

Itching to capture some magic animal antics of your own? Here are the best spots for wildlife viewing near Sydney and Melbourne.

WHERE TO SEE WILDLIFE IN NSW

I WANT TO SEE WOMBATS

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Kangaroo Valley. The tranquil town is known for its pretty main street – stop in at the heritage-listed pub for a pint – and for a range of outdoor activities including kayaking and golf. It also happens to be one of those rare spots where you are almost guaranteed to see a wombat. Best spotting opportunities are found around late afternoon at the Bendeela Recreational Area.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE

Pay a visit to Hampden Bridge, Australia's last surviving wooden suspension bridge, before visiting some of the area's dramatic waterfalls, such as Fitzroy Falls and Gerringong Falls.

I WANT TO SEE TURTLES

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The Tweed Coast. Just an easy boat ride from Fingal Heads sits a little volcanic outcrop called Cook Island, where snorkellers can expect some memorable sightings. "We have a year-round population of green turtles, as well as loggerheads and hawksbill turtles," says Tim Jack Adams of Watersports Guru. There is plenty of other marine life on display too. "We see everything from octopus to clown fish. We even had a manta ray the other day," Adams says. "And we always see plenty of bottlenose dolphins too."

WHILE YOU'RE THERE

Look beyond the area's beaches and you'll find superb restaurants – try Pipit at Pottsville – as well as magnificent hikes in the Wollumbin National Park. You can also learn more about the local indigenous culture at Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre.

I WANT TO SEE KOALAS

A koala with chlamydia in the Wildlife Hospital within the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary. Loss of habitat leads to stress which is one of the main factors that causes the disease within the koala population. 10th March 2021 Photo: Janie Barrett

Photo: Janie Barrett

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Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary. Pay a visit to the patients in the koala hospital, then stroll along the Skywalk, the canopy walkway six metres above the ground, where you can get close-up views of the koalas in their natural habitat. Still want more? Book yourself into one of the new glamping tents complete with kitchenettes, and enjoy a private tour of the sanctuary in the morning.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE

It is one of Australia's dolphin spotting capitals, but you can also hike through the lovely Tomaree National Park or take to the Stockton Bight Sand Dunes, the largest moving coastal sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, on a quad bike or a camel.

I WANT TO SEE FUR SEALS

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The South Coast. A quick boat trip from Narooma takes you out to Montague Island, famed for its colony of fur seals. Wazza Stubbs, who leads snorkelling tours for Montague Island Tours, says the experience thrills guests of all ages. "We've had three-year-olds and 83-year-olds out there," Stubbs says. "Every encounter is on the seal's terms but if you're relaxed, the seals will be relaxed. They're very inquisitive creatures and they have been known to come up close."

WHILE YOU'RE THERE

There are plenty of ways to explore the pretty towns and villages of the South Coast, whether you opt to browse the many local markets or jump on a bike to enjoy the spectacular views along the 21 kilometre Narooma to Dalmeny cycleway. If you need more animal action, try the area's beloved Mogo Zoo.

I WANT TO SEE TASMANIAN DEVILS

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Where to see wildlife in NSW and Victoria by Ute Junker
Tasmanian Devil, Aussie Ark

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Barrington Tops. Aussie Ark, home to the largest breeding program for Tassie devils on the mainland, is located here. This is a conservation centre not a tourist attraction, but if you book a stay in the nearby two-bedroom Quoll's Cottage, a 2.5 walking hour tour of the Aussie Ark is included in the price. You will get to see hand-reared youngsters that aren't yet ready to be released into the wild, as well as free-roaming devils and other endangered species as eastern quolls and bandicoots.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE

Take a hike through the World Heritage-listed rainforests of the Barrington Tops National Park, explore the region's gold rush history on a gold mine tour, or go horse riding over the hills and river valleys that were once traversed by bushranger Captain Thunderbolt.

WHERE TO SEE WILDLIFE IN VICTORIA

I WANT TO SEE PLATYPUS

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Great Otway National Park. "We generally give people more than they expect," says Bruce Jackson of the platypus-spotting tours he guides through Lake Elizabeth Otway Eco Tours. These elusive animals are most active at dawn or dusk and the canoe trips are timed accordingly. Paddling along the lake is a tranquil experience; seeing platypus frolicking in the water lifts it to the next level. The fun isn't necessarily over when you return to land; if it's getting dark, keep an eye out for glow worms along the trail.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE

Explore some of the scenic trails winding through the Great Otway National Park, such as the easy walk to Stevensons Falls. If you prefer two wheels to two feet, hit one of the area's many mountain biking trails.

I WANT TO SEE FUR SEALS

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Tidal River, Wilsons Promontory. The waters off Wilsons Prom are home to one of Australia's richest marine eco-systems and a 2.5 hour cruise with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys gives you the opportunity to see some of its most spectacular inhabitants. Keep your eyes peeled for sea eagles soaring above the waves and dolphins leaping through them; the star attraction, however, is the island that doubles as a fur seal colony. Eight or nine thousand of these cute critters live here; they'll enchant you as they sun themselves on the rock or pirouette through the waves.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE

Seaside walks don't get much better than the 90-minute walk from Tidal River to Squeaky Beach, while the two-hour trip to the top of Mount Oberon is more challenging.

I WANT TO SEE EMUS

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Where to see wildlife in NSW and Victoria by Ute Junker
Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve

Photo: Artra Sartracom

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Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. There's something magnificent about watching emus stride across the grass, but at Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, west of Warrnambool, you will encounter plenty of other animals too. Whether you join a guided walking tour or explore on your own, keep an eye out for kangaroos, koalas, echidnas and plenty of bird life. Routes include easy-access boardwalks as well as more strenuous climbs.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE

Take a stroll through Port Fairy to admire its historic cottages, have lunch at the Basalt Wines Vineyard cellar door or, if you're ready for more wildlife, take a cruise around Lady Julia Percy Island with Salty Dog Charters to get a glimpse of the local fur seal colony.

I WANT TO SEE BROLGAS

Brolga-Lara- Serendip Sanctuary- There's a new fire station being built right next to a wildlife sanctuary and there are fears it will upset the kangaroos, wallabies and wild roaming emus.19th November 2021, The Age news Picture by JOE ARMAO

Photo: Joe Armao

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Serendip Sanctuary, Lara. Bird lovers are guaranteed a memorable experience at Serendip Sanctuary near Geelong, with 150 different species breeding or visiting here. The most exotic sightings include elegant brolgas and yellow-billed spoonbills: if you want to settle in for the afternoon, the unobtrusive hides offer prime viewing perches. Alternatively, take a stroll through the sanctuary to spot kangaroos, wallabies and emus amongst others.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE

A stroll along Geelong's waterfront offers plenty of art to entertain the eye including the Baywalk Bollards, more than 100 timber pylons transformed into whimsical sculptures. Alternatively, visit one of the area's cellar doors (Provenance Wines, Jack Rabbit and Scotchmans Hill are all good bets) or cycle along the Bellarine Rail Trail.

I WANT TO SEE KOALAS

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Wildlife Wonders, Apollo Bay. When you take a tour at the Wildlife Wonders conservation centre, you'll get issued with two essential pieces of kit: binoculars and an earpiece, so you don't miss any of your guide's soft murmurings. "It's a bit of an Attenborough effect and it lets you get closer to the animals," says the centre's Lizzie Corke. A range of natural habitats provides dwellings to animals from bandicoots in the rainforest gullies to kangaroos that roam the open plains. While you won't get to see nocturnal inhabitants such as potoroos, your guide will show you the tracks and traces they leave in the landscape.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE

It wouldn't be a trip to Apollo Bay without a stop at the Twelve Apostles and the nearby Loch Ard Gorge. Don't forget to pay a visit to the Thunder Cave.

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