Australia's greedy collection of top drawer beaches is the envy of the world. In fact, Oz has so many magnificent stretches of sand that it can afford to give some over to animals. Around the country, there are beaches where it's often possible to spot magnificent marsupials and cute critters mooching around – and whether whale-watching from the dunes or hanging out in the breaking waves with roos, these are some of the top spots for beastly beach encounters.
Pebbly Beach, Shoalhaven, NSW
Only in 'Straya Photo: Alamy
Kangaroos are keener beach bums than many of us imagine, and they'll come out for a hop along the sand in several quiet coastal locations. Cape Hillsborough near Mackay in Queensland is an excellent case in point. But the best known, and repeatedly photographed, beach roos are to be found on Pebbly Beach inside the Murramarang National Park. The rumour that they can be spotted surfing, however, is a complete myth. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au
Tangalooma Beach, Moreton Island, Queensland
Wild dolphins swim up to the shallows near the jetty every evening, eager to receive the fish doled out by guests at the Tangalooma Island Resort. But this is a ritual that has built up over three-and-a-half decades of trust building between the resort owners and several generations of dolphins. The actual feeding is something of a circus, but the little on-site exhibition telling the story of how the bond developed is delightful. See tangalooma.com
Hamelin Bay, South-West WA
The greater Margaret River region has plenty of fine beaches, but Hamelin Bay – handily acting as a rewarding break along the Cape To Cape Track – has entertainment awaiting in the shallows. This is where stingrays have hung out for years, aided immeasurably by locals who have been feeding them on the sly. They're pretty tame, and are generally fine with people stroking their backs.
Lilico Beach, Devonport, Tasmania
There are several spots where little penguins can be observed scuttling up the beach – Phillip Island in Victoria is the most famous and most crowded. But of Tasmania's several options, Lillico Beach arguably feels the most wild and intimate. The tiny waddlers can be watched from a simple viewing platform in the dedicated coastal reserve, with rangers and volunteers on hand to give information as required.
Mon Repos, Bundaberg, Queensland
A loggerhead at Mon Repos. Photo: Alamy
Australia is blessed with oodles of reef-adjacent beaches where a short swim will take you out to see coral and turtles. Heron Island in Queensland, or Turquoise Bay on WA's Ningaloo Reef are two fine examples. But seeing turtles on the beach itself is more of a rarity – except at Mon Repos, where loggerheads lug their way up the sand to lay and hatch eggs. The Mon Repos Turtle Centre conducts viewings, and does the educational schtick. See parks.des.qld.gov.au
Long Beach, Coffin Bay, South Australia
Emus enjoy a dip at Coffin Bay. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Coffin Bay on the Eyre Peninsula is best known for its oysters, but it's otherwise pretty empty and that means that the emus can merrily strut around like they own the place. The big birds leave their footprints in the sand all across the area, but the first place to look for one sauntering in the shallows should be Long Beach, just before the National Park entrance. See coffinbay.net
75 Mile Beach, Fraser Island, Queensland
A dingo on the run at 75 Mile Beach. Photo: Krista Eppelstun
Fraser Island's main beach isn't exactly quiet – planes and helicopters land on it, while 4WDs use it as the primary highway. If you want to spot wild dingos, you're generally better off parking up and walking inland. But the beach is so long, and with so many entry points, that the golden doggies will wander out often enough. Keep a keen eye open for them, especially in the early evening when the traffic has died down. See visitfrasercoast.com
Cable Beach, Broome, WA
Cable Beach's famous sunset camel ride.
The sheer size – especially with the gigantic tides - provides a major part of Cable Beach's appeal. A pearling industry hotspot has become a resort town on the back of it. But it's the proximity to the outback that make Broome special, and the camels gamely trundling up and down the beach have become a reminder of that. Red Sun Camels is one of several operators operating the tours. See redsuncamels.com.au
Logans Beach, Warrnambool, Victoria
A southern right whale breaches just off Logans Beach, Warrnambool. Photo: Glen Watson
There are plenty of fine whale-watching opportunities in Australia, although most involve heading out on a boat. Between June and September in Warrnambool, however, you can regularly see giant southern rights from the sand. The bay is a popular nursery for mama whales to raise their calves, and if you want the best views, head up to the wooden viewing platform installed on top of the dunes. See visitwarrnambool.com.au
Little Parakeet Bay, Rottnest Island, WA
A smiling quokka on Rotto. Photo: Getty
In all honesty, you can pick pretty much any of Rottnest Island's beaches and have a good chance of seeing a quokka. Geordie Bay – a popular yacht mooring site – gets plenty. But the more secluded Little Parakeet Bay also gives you white sand eye candy and decent snorkelling straight off the shore. Watch out for the photogenic little marsupials sniffing around your bag as you return from a swim, though. See rottnestisland.com
David Whitley has been a guest of Tourism Australia, Australia's state tourist boards and the Tangalooma Island Resort.
See also: Australia's ten most fun islands