A keen eye can spot koalas in eucalyptus forests even when zooming along the Bruce Highway (the coast’s main artery) but for closer and more leisurely viewing the best place to go is Magnetic Island. The near-sure-bet spot to see these lethargic marsupials is the 2.8km forts walk that leads through eucalyptus forest to WWII vestiges and gorgeous views of the Coral Sea. Walk slowly and look in tree crooks. Once you’ve found one koala and know what to look for, the others become easier to spot.
The worst time to see a kangaroo is when it’s leaping in front of your vehicle so, while you’re pretty much guaranteed to see the country’s most famous animal around sunrise or sunset along roadways, hope it’s not while you’re driving! These are the best times of day for strolling the mainland’s farmlands and open outback where kangaroos are often even more common than humans.
About 30km north of Mackay, a long, curvy road leads west out of the flatland s and to the high cloud forests of Eungella National Park. Here, just off the road between the tiny towns of Eungella and Broken River, is one of the best place s in the world to view platypus, the notoriously reclusive but famous monotrem e (egg-laying mammal). You can spy platypus from a viewing platform where you’re most likely to see several, or try your luck on nearby streams. The best viewing times are near dawn and dusk, and around the breeding season in August, but it’s possible to see them at any time.
Every year from July to early November thousands of humpback whales cruise into sheltered Hervey Bay on their migration to the Antarctic. Young calves often accompany their mothers and the whales tend to visit the bay in groups of two to up to a dozen. This all means that the conditions for whale watching are spectacular – expect to get quite close, see spouting and possibly even breaching. It’s a not-to-be-missed experience of a lifetime.