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Where are the Best Places in Melbourne to See Wildlife (in the Wild)?

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by Lyndsey V (subscribe)
I'm an ecologist and writer based in Melbourne, Australia. Also visit me at www.instagram.com/victoriafloraandfauna/
Published November 7th 2018
Melbourne is a city famous for its cafés, trendy laneways, arts culture and sporting events. It might not seem like the obvious place to go wildlife watching. Yet Melbourne is also a city of parks, beaches, nature reserves and – on its outskirts – beautiful areas of forests, woodlands and grasslands. We're lucky that in many of these places there's also plenty of wildlife who also call Melbourne home.

Here are some suggestions of places in Melbourne where you have a good chance of spotting wildlife in the wild, particularly if you are quiet and patient. There are places close to the city centre and places further out at the edge of Melbourne's urban sprawl. They are all free to visit, and the animals are also free to come and go as they please.

wildlife, animals, Melbourne, walks, parks, nature, australian native animals, bushland, urban ecology
Kangaroos are just one species of native wildlife to see on Melbourne's outskirts


Wildlife Spotting Tips
The key is to be patient, quiet and persistent. The more time you spend outside in nature, the more chances you'll have of spotting animals. Sit quietly, walk quietly and listen.

Respect our wildlife and their habitat. This means not disturbing animals in any way, especially don't feed them or try to touch them, and don't damage their environment. Don't leave litter or trample plants – make sure you stay on tracks. Lizards and other reptiles use rocks and logs for habitat so leave these alone. For our marine wildlife, don't let any litter enter our waterways – this includes fishing line, hooks and bait bags.

Grey-headed Flying Fox Colony
Yarra Bend Park is just a stone's throw east of the city centre, yet is home to one of Melbourne's most remarkable wildlife sights. Thousands of flying foxes call Yarra Bend Park home, with numbers rising to tens of thousands in the summer months. Snoozing during the day, at dusk the flying foxes stretch their wings and then take off in huge numbers, filling the sky above with their silhouettes before travelling across the suburbs to feed. Watching the colony depart for their nightly foraging expedition is amazing, especially considering that Melburnians can witness this spectacle so close to the centre of the city. This endangered species is an ecologically important pollinator and seed disperser.



Where: Bellbird Park, off Yarra Boulevard, Kew
When: The best time is at dusk in the summer months. Parks Victoria also run free day tours at certain times of the year.

Read more here.

Little Penguins
The penguin parade at Phillip Island is famous, but did you know there is also a Little Penguin colony at St Kilda breakwater, right in Melbourne's inner suburbs? Melburnians are incredibly lucky that these penguins live so close to the city. Visiting the colony is free, but considering the highly urban nature of their environment, it's very important that everyone does the right thing to protect them. This includes staying at least three metres away from the penguins, keeping off the rocks of the breakwater, and not using flash photography.

EarthCare St Kilda is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to looking after the penguins. The organisation has volunteer penguin guides on hand to answer visitor's questions.

Also keep your eye out for Rakali, the cute native water-rats that also live at the breakwater. With webbed hind feet and a long tail with a white tip, Rakali feed on marine critters like crabs, worms, mussels and fish - look for their feeding platforms containing the remains of their meal such as shells!

Where: St Kilda Pier, Pier Road, St Kilda
When: Best viewing time is 30 minutes after sunset

Read more here.

Kangaroos
The most iconic of all Australian animals is, of course, the kangaroo, and although they might not be hopping down the centre of town there are plenty of places to see them in Melbourne's outskirts. The Eastern Grey kangaroo live in groups called mobs, and prefer grassy woodland and forest habitats… as well as parks and golf courses! They are more active at dawn and dusk, so these are good times to look for them.

In Melbourne's east, reliable places to spot kangaroos include Cardinia Reservoir Park, where there is a dedicated 'Kangaroo Viewing Trail', and Lysterfield Lake, both in the outer south-east. In Melbourne's west, Woodlands Historic Park near Melbourne Airport is another good kangaroo spotting location.

Where: Nature reserves with grassy woodland and forest, such as Cardinia Reservoir Park, Lysterfield Lake and Woodlands Historic Park.
When: Any time, but they are more likely to be active early in the morning and towards dusk

Read about more places to see them here and here.

wildlife, animals, Melbourne, walks, parks, nature, australian native animals, bushland, urban ecology
Kangaroos at Lysterfield Lake Park


Lyrebirds
Superb Lyrebirds are incredible mimics, and to see a male lyrebird singing and dancing and putting on a mating display is one of nature's delights.

Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges is one of the most reliable places to see these marvellous animals. On a drizzly winter's morning, walking quietly around the trails of the forest is the best chance that you'll have to spot one. It's important to be quiet and patient. Listen for a clear voice singing various different bird songs from the undergrowth – this is a sure sign of a lyrebird. The walking trails leaving from Sherbrooke Forest Picnic Ground and Grant's Picnic Ground (in eastern Sherbrook Forest along the appropriately-named Lyrebird Track) are fairly reliable spots for at least hearing – if not seeing – lyrebirds.

wildlife, animals, Melbourne, walks, parks, nature, australian native animals, bushland, urban ecology
A lyrebird dashing through the undergrowth at Sherbrooke Forest


Further to Melbourne's north, Masons's Falls near Kinglake is another good lyrebird spotting location.

Where: Follow the trails from either Sherbrooke Forest Picnic Ground, Sherbrooke Road, Sherbrooke, or Grant's Picnic Ground, Monbulk Road, Kallista.
When: Any time of day, but I've had more luck on cool rainy winter days, especially early in the morning

Read about more places to see them here.

Echidnas, wallabies, bandicoots… oh my!
Other Australian native mammals are somewhat more elusive than the kangaroo, especially within the greater Melbourne area. But it's still possible to spot certain species in the larger, less disturbed and more forested nature reserves and parks on Melbourne's fringes.

For example, the large bushland remnant at Cranbourne Botanic Gardens in Melbourne's south east is a good spot for seeing echidnas, swamp wallabies and the southern brown bandicoot.

wildlife, animals, Melbourne, walks, parks, nature, australian native animals, bushland, urban ecology
A wallaby at Cranbourne Botanic Gardens bushland area


Echidnas are probably the most common of these animals that I've seen during various bushwalks around Melbourne, including at Langwarrin Flora and Fauna Reserve, Braeside Park and the Dandenong Ranges National Park.

wildlife, animals, Melbourne, walks, parks, nature, australian native animals, bushland, urban ecology
An echidna hiding in the bushes at Langwarrin Flora and Fauna Reserve


To see possums (the cute ringtail possum, and the larger brushtail possum)… check the powerlines and fences in your neighbourhood at night!

Birds (other than penguins and lyrebirds!)
Melbourne is full of bird life. The sorts of birds that you might see will depend on the habitat you're in. Try and get your hands on a pair of binoculars before you head out. Good places to start bird watching are wetlands where it's often easy to spot a range of waterbirds, including Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands and Karkarook Park in Melbourne's south-east, or Cheetham Wetlands and Point Cook Coastal Park in the south-west. Closer to the city, Albert Park Lake is a particularly good spot to see black swans.

wildlife, animals, Melbourne, walks, parks, nature, australian native animals, bushland, urban ecology
An inquisitive black swan at Albert Park


Many of Melbourne's parks are great for spotting other bird species, including parrots, birds of prey, and woodland birds. Right in the heart of the city is Royal Park, a popular place for birdwatching and renowned for its range of bird species, including (on occasion) the endangered swift parrot. Other places to take your binoculars include Yarra Bend Park, Braeside Park, Banyule Flats Reserve and Yan Yean Reservoir Park.

BirdLife Australia has a great website all about birds, including a list of Melbourne's best birding sites.

wildlife, animals, Melbourne, walks, parks, nature, australian native animals, bushland, urban ecology
What's that in the tree? A Tawny Frogmouth pretending to be a branch at Braeside Park


Melbourne Underwater
Melbourne might not have the Great Barrier Reef, but there is still plenty of wildlife to see underwater. The best way to see our marine life is to grab a snorkel and flippers (and a wetsuit for most of the year!) and go for a swim.

Rickett's Point Marine Sanctuary in Beaumaris is one of the most accessible places for snorkelling and has a variety of marine habitats including seagrass, rocks and sand. It's a reliable place to see Fiddler Rays (also known as Banjo Sharks) and Port Jackson Sharks, as well as an assortment of fish and other marine creatures. Another great location close to the city is Jawbone Marine Sanctuary in Melbourne's west, another good spot to see Fiddler Rays and other critters like Stingarees.

wildlife, animals, Melbourne, walks, parks, nature, australian native animals, bushland, urban ecology
A banjo shark/fiddler ray at Rickett's Point Marine Sanctuary


Other good snorkelling spots are a little further afield from Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula. Several piers are great spots to snorkel under to see the marine life. These include Portsea Pier, a great location for spotting the Weedy Seadragon, Rye Pier, where you can follow the underwater information signs of the Octopuses' Garden trail, and Blairgowrie Pier, a colourful underwater world of sponges, nudibranchs and other marine life attached to (and living among) the pylons. Blairgowrie Pier is also a reliable spot to see the incredible annual Spider Crab congregation, which starts in about May each year – truly one of Melbourne's spectacular and unique wildlife experiences.

wildlife, animals, Melbourne, walks, parks, nature, australian native animals, bushland, urban ecology
Spider Crabs at Blairgowrie Pier


Tip: The Port Phillip Bay taxonomic toolkit is a great website for discovering what lives in the bay.

What other 'wild' places do you know of that are good for wildlife spotting around Melbourne?
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Fabulous article, Lyndsey - a well deserved Gold!
by Elaine (score: 3|5597) 6 days ago
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