What does a kangaroo enjoying a belly scratch and a moving tribute to our fire fighters emblazoned on Sydney Opera House have in common? They're Australia's most popular Instagram posts this year according to Tourism Australia. Tourism Australia's official Instagram account boasts 4.4 million followers, up to 100 million impressions each month and is the world's most popular global tourism brand on Instagram.
While Australia has striking landscapes it's our wildlife that makes the most engaging content says Susan Coghill, Tourism Australia's chief marketing officer. In fact, TA's second most double-tapped post this year of that belly scratching roo was picked up by none other than Oprah herself – proof of the power of social media. "Australia's wildlife is always a crowd favourite and the cheekier the pic, the more likely people are to take notice. Some of our best performing posts of all time have been of koalas hugging, kangaroos having a belly scratch and photogenic quokkas," Coghill said.
TA's followers, she said, go crazy for anything unexpected. "This year, a blue whale spotted off Sydney's Maroubra coast and glowing bioluminescence at Jervis Bay have featured as some of the most surprising and best loved content. Images and landscapes that have a pop of pink and purple also consistently perform well. Whether it is the pink of our majestic salt lakes, a stunning sunset or jacaranda trees in bloom."
Here we present Tourism Australia's ten most popular posts for 2020 (thus far) and where you can capture a similarly inspired Insta-worthy snap of your own.
Sydney Opera House
This stirring image of the Opera House lit up to thank our brave firies was TA's most popular post this year (468.1k likes). Capture your own striking image at Badu Gili, a seven-minute animated projection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art that graces the sails of the Opera House nightly.
Beach going roos
It's about as Aussie as you can get – kangaroos at the beach. At Pebbly Beach on the South Coast of NSW eastern grey kangaroos love nothing more than to soak up the sun and sand and don't mind posing for photos either. In WA you'll see them lounging on the white sands of Lucky Bay (a 40-minute drive from Esperance) while in Queensland you're guaranteed to spot roos and wallabies on the beach at Cape Hillsborough, near Mackay.
Snap the perfect #QuokkaSelfie
Australia is home to some of the world's cutest animals but none more photogenic (or Insta-famous) than the quokka. Quokkas are naturally curious so you don't need to approach them or offer food to snap a selfie with them. Simply get down to their level and wait for them to come to you. Apart from a small colony on the mainland, quokkas are only found on Rottnest Island in Western Australia where these tiny relatives of wallabies are found in abundance. Remember it's illegal to touch or feed quokkas so keep a respectful distance and use a selfie stick for the best photo.
Jervis Bay is famous for its white sand however its beaches (like this one pictured) can be even more wondrous at night. Due to a natural chemical reaction plankton can become luminescent and emanate a blue glow. This unusual natural phenomenon can occur at any time of the year but is more common in spring and summer when the water is warmer, while the presence of red algae may also indicate a higher chance of bioluminescence at night. Bioluminescent plankton can also be seen in the Whitsundays Queensland, Port Lincoln South Australia and Lauderdale Tasmania.
This adorable penguin duo pictured on St Kilda's breakwater was TA's fifth most popular Instagram post of the year (250.1k likes). You can also see a daily sunset penguin parade on Summerland Beach on Phillip Island when fairy penguins come ashore in groups.
OK while it'd be tricky trying to replicate this popular snap of Chris Hemsworth cuddling a koala there are plenty of places to see these adorable sleepy heads. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world's first and largest koala sanctuary just outside of Brisbane is home to more than 130 koalas and you can hold one any day of the week. Other places to cuddle a koala include Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast, Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park in South Australia and Cohunu Koala Park in Western Australia. Alternatively have breakfast with a koala at Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney or Wild Life Sydney Zoo.
Australia's natural spas
Who needs a day spa when Australia offers a spectacular choice of natural spas, hot springs and fresh watering holes like this beauty found not far from Kiama NSW. Other places for a memorable dip include the Champagne Pools on Queensland's Fraser Island, the Cardwell Spa Pools in Tropical North Queensland, Noosa's Fairy Pools or the Wyadup Spa in Margaret River, WA. If you prefer your rock pools bubble-free, try the unnamed pools at Whalers Way on South Australia's rugged Eyre Peninsula, Elephant Rocks near Denmark, Western Australia and the pools at back beach, Blairgowrie on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula.
North Stradbroke Island
Curious 'roo on Straddie, Queensland. Photo: Mark Fitzpatrick/Tourism Australia
North Stradbroke Island ('Straddie' to locals) charms with its retro, laidback vibe. And there are plenty of kangaroos, like this curious fellow, hopping about, ready for their close-up.
Australia's east and west coast sees tens of thousands of migrating humpbacks annually -not to mention a solid smattering of southern right and blue whales. In fact Australia has the world's longest whale watching season. Many, like this humpback pictured off the Gold Coast, also like to put on a show. Whale watching hot spots on the east coast include the Whitsundays, Hervey Bay, the Gold Coast, Sydney, Port Stephens and the Sunshine Coast, where you can even swim with humpback whales. In Western Australia, Albany, Augusta, Busselton, Fremantle and Broome.