Aussie wildlife is different to all other wildlife around the world. Australia is one of the mega-diverse nations of the world.
Many of our mammals, birds and reptiles live nowhere else.
One thing worth knowing is that Australia is mostly desert, and the wildlife has adapted to that. The climate is unpredictable over most of the continent. Most of our animals live in a 'boom and bust' cycle - so in the boom (a wet year) they will be plentiful, breeding like crazy, doing really well; but in the bust (the drought) they will be hard to find.
Some part of Australia will be in a 'boom' at any time, it's just a matter of finding out where that is.
MAMMALS (the furry ones):
Our mammals are mostly nocturnal (night-time active). So the best time to see them is very early morning, and at dusk. They are mostly marsupials - they carry their young in a pouch. Marsupials are quite different to the other mammals of the world in many respects. Some are highly intelligent (kangaroos, wombats). Some see in full colour. They have the most advanced mammary glands in the world. Some have complex social structures. All are gentle and harmless, unless they are cornered or injured.
The most famous mammals of Australia are the kangaroos and koalas. Here's a little summary on where to see some of the most popular Aussie mammals:
Kangaroos - can be found anywhere in Australia BUT they can be hard to find if you are only out in the daytime. Kangaroos eat grass, so they need areas with open grassland or farmland. They are most numerous along the east coast, but don't occur close to big cities. So try to get out of the city if you want to see them - usually you only have to travel about an hour out to get to a region that has kangaroos living wild. Don't expect to see many kangaroos in the desert, Red Centre or Outback - it's too dry. You might be lucky if you're there in a boom, but most of the time they are thinly spread in the desert. Kangaroos are not all that numerous in the Top End either (Darwin, the Kimberley, Cape York) but you will see wallabies around Darwin.
Koalas - only live naturally along the east and south coasts. Their distribution is patchy, and they are now on endangered species lists. Melbourne and Victoria are the best places to see them in the wild. Northern NSW and southern Qld are also good, but they are in serious decline there, so you need to do some research first. The great thing about koala watching is that you can see them in the daytime!
Wallabies - are small kangaroos. They live all over Australia, but like kangaroos, won't be seen in big cities. Many prefer the thick forest. Some species are solitary, like the Swamp Wallaby of Victoria & NSW; some are social, like the Agile Wallaby of Northern Territory & Qld. Like kangaroos, in hot weather they are only active at night-time, early morning and dusk.
Wombats - there are 3 species, but only one is commonly seen. The "Common Wombat" lives in Tasmania, Victoria and NSW. On the mainland it is mostly nocturnal, so you will usually only see them if you stay out at night. In Tasmania you can sometimes see them in the daytime. The other two species of wombat - the Southern Hairy-nosed and Northern Hairy-nosed - are terribly rare and you are not likely to see either. The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat is critically endangered and only has about 130 individuals still living. The Wombat Foundation is fighting hard to keep the species alive.
Platypus - live in all the healthy east coast rivers, so you could see one anywhere from Qld to Tasmania. Mackay, Qld has the best wild platypus viewing I've ever seen. Hire a car or get a wildlife tour out to Eungella National Park and spend some time on the bridge there. Tasmania also has some great platypus viewing tours and opportunities. Platypus are usually pretty shy, so expect to stand quietly for 20 minutes beside a river at dusk and dawn to see them.
Echidnas - live all over Australia. They have adapted to every Australian environment. Raymond Island, Victoria has the best wild echidna viewing I've ever seen. I hear Kangaroo Island, SA is good too, as is the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. You won't see echidnas if it's too cold or too hot - so in summer look for them at night. In winter they hibernate, so don't expect to see them.
Australia has one of the most exciting and diverse birdlife of the world. Many species occur nowhere else. In some ways, birds replace mammals in Australia because they can cope with the heat and dryness of the desert better than mammals.
In terms of numbers of bird species the best places to go are: Cape York QLD, East Gippsland VIC, Melbourne & Werribee VIC, Murray Riverland VIC SA, Capertee Valley NSW.
Parrots & Cockatoos - occur everywhere in Australia. There are around 70 species. The deserts are sometimes the best place to see them, especially around billabongs (waterholes). The open forests of south-eastern Aussie are also really good for seeing parrots. The northern rainforests and Top End are not fantastic for parrots - they are there, but are so hard to see in the thick canopy.
Emus - are dry-country specialists. You will see them wild throughout the southern half of Australia, from NSW to Victoria & SA, and through to the Red Centre. Mungo National Park in south-western NSW is the best place I've ever seen for emus. The Flinders Ranges in SA are good too.
Lizards - We've got a lot of fabulous lizards! New skinks are being named all the time, its hard to keep up! We have around 250 species of skinks, plus monitors, geckoes and dragons. Being reptiles, of course, the best places to see them are where its hot and dry ie. the Outback. Look for regions with lots of native vegetation. But there are lizards everywhere - in the tropics, in the alpine regions, in the southern wet forests.
Snakes - We also have some great snakes. Gorgeous pythons in the north, stunning elapids in the south. Don't worry about them, just be sensible. Don't touch any snake ever. Give them space and they won't bite you. Carry a roller bandage if you are bushwalking, and revise the snake bite protocol before you come. You won't need it (in my whole life - 44 years of bushwalking in areas where snakes live, I've never even been threatened by a snake).