14 September, 2020

Top 5 Tassie wildlife experiences

When we think of Tassie wildlife, one animal seems to spring to mind before all others—the iconic Tasmanian devil. And while these playful (if occasionally feisty) marsupials are indeed impressive to behold, the truth is that there is a rich diversity of animal species here, many of which can be found within wildlife parks, wildlife sanctuaries and zoos throughout the state. Here are our top five best Tassie wildlife experiences for where best to experience these stunning and unique creatures.

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

‘Bonorong’ derives from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘native companion’—and there are certainly plenty of those on offer here, including Tasmanian devils, koalas, wombats, native birds, echidnas, emus and quolls.

Tawny Frogmouth, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
Experts in camouflage, the Tawny Frogmouth - Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary (Image: Tourism Tasmania & & Rob Burnett)

As its name implies, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Brighton (30-minute drive north from Hobart) is not a zoo, but rather a large-scale rescue service. Operating 24 hours a day, the keepers here bring aid to thousands of suffering animals every year, with the aim to eventually re-introduce them back to the wild.

Wombat at Bonorong Wildlife Park
A cute and cuddly Wombat at Bonorong Wildlife Park (Image: Tourism Australia & Graham Freeman)

For visitors, the sanctuary offers intimate animal encounters, night tours and hand-feedings. See some rather peckish devils devouring their snacks and take a few selfies while patting the cuddly wombat and koalas. There are over 80 free-roaming kangaroos that you can hand-feed with complimentary food provided on entry. Be sure to time your visit with one of their daily guided tours.

Hand-feed kangaroos at Bonorong Wildlife Park
Hand-feed Bonorong's inquisitive kangaroos (Image: Tourism Tasmania & Rob Burnett)

2. Platypus House

In the wharf shed opposite Seahorse World, you can see the world’s only two monotremes—the platypus and the echidna—on display for your viewing pleasure at Platypus House. Located in Beauty Point which is a 40-minute drive north of Launceston. 

Platypus House
Platypus House (Image: Tourism Tasmania & Southern Cross Television)

Take a tour of the facility with a friendly guide, witnessing the majestic platypus feed and play in the trickling ponds and the spiky but gentle echidnas waddling through their gardens. You'll hear about the biology and behaviour of these two fascinating mammals.

Platypus at Platypus House
One of the namesake residents (Image: Tourism Tasmania)

Entrance also includes viewing the Interpretation Centre and a 15-minute film in the small theatre. Select a souvenir from the gift shop and enjoy a coffee from the café overlooking the beautiful Tamar River.

echidna at Platypus House
The other adorable inhabitants at Platypus House (Image: Tourism Tasmania & Southern Cross Television)

3. Tasmanian Devil Unzoo

You read right—Tasmanian Devil Unzoo in Taranna (90-minute drive south-east of Hobart) is the first of its kind in the world, a revolutionary project that flips the traditional zoo concept on its head. There are no barriers or cages to be seen here; instead, the animals are encouraged to interact freely with the environment. Combining up-close animal encounters, wildlife adventures, a Tasmanian native botanic garden and dazzling Tassie artworks, this is one attraction you won’t want to miss.

Tasmanian Devils at Tasmanian Devil Unzoo
The keepers here are dedicated to preserving the Tassie devil population (Image: Tourism Tasmania & Alastair Bett)

The keepers offer interesting Tasmanian devil presentations every hour or so where you can come face-to-face with these wonderful little marsupials. You can also embark on the Devil Tracker Adventure, a fully-guided four-wheel drive tour through farmland and native bush to see firsthand how Tasmanian devil numbers are being tracked and monitored. Accompanied by knowledgeable guides, you’ll help monitor the progress of the local population of healthy wild devils, observe recorded devil activity and record the latest findings.

Tasmanian Devils at Tasmanian Devil Unzoo
Come nose-to-nose with these oft-misunderstood creatures (Image: of Tasmanian Devil Unzoo)

Along the trails you can hand-feed friendly forester kangaroos and meet a wonderful array of native birds, including galahs, rosellas and frogmouths, in Tasmania's only flight show. You'll also meet endemic quolls and pademelons and walk among wild honeyeaters and wallabies.

Tasmanian Devil Unzoo
Tasmanian Devil Unzoo (Image: Tourism Tasmania)

4. Bicheno Penguin Tours

What could possibly beat seeing a bunch of these feathered cuties waddling ashore at dusk to nest? The nightly Bicheno Penguin Tours offer a rare and thrilling chance to watch the fairy penguins (also known as the little penguin) emerge from the ocean and head for their homes.

fairy penguins at Bicheno Penguin Tours
The insanely adorable fairy penguins at Bicheno (Image: Tourism Tasmania & Paul Male)

Established by bird-loving Bicheno locals to protect the penguin population, the tour brings you up close to the penguins without disturbing their nightly journey. Tours operate daily around dusk except on Good Friday and Christmas Day. Penguin numbers vary seasonally with the greatest numbers seen from September to January — keep an eye on their web site for up-to-date forecasts. Tour bookings are essential.

penguins at Bicheno Penguin Tours
Watch in awe as they make their nightly pilgrimage ashore (Image: Tourism Tasmania & Alastair Bett)

5. Tasmania Zoo

Saving arguably the most popular for last, the state's only fully-accredited zoo in Riverside (15 minutes out of Launceston) remains a firm favourite for families visiting Tasmania. Tasmania Zoo is an ideal family destination, featuring a variety of activities including barbecues, picnic facilities, children's play area with swings, and an onsite café and gift shop.​

Tasmania Zoo
Tasmania Zoo is located in Riverside, 15 minutes out of Launceston (Image: Tourism Tasmania & Sarajayne Lada)

Set amongst extensive natural bushland, the zoo exhibits Tasmania's largest collection of rare, exotic and native species, including the world's largest private devil breeding program. You can enjoy hand-feeding the native Australian animals like wallabies, wombats, kangaroos and the domestic animals like sheep, cattle, goats, alpacas and miniature ponies. You will also see over 80 species of birds, from fairy penguins to swift parrots to macaws.

sugar glider at Tasmania Zoo
The miniscule but no less marvellous sugar glider at Tasmania Zoo (Image: Tourism Tasmania & Dan Fellow)

The edge that this zoo has over its contemporaries is its ‘Jurassic Swamp’—home to over 40 life-size dinosaurs, which can be seen up close in an amazing ‘super-sized’ guided tour experience, perfect for all ages. Step back in time and tread among these giants which once ruled the land, including the fierce velociraptor and the mighty tyrannosaurus rex! 

Jurassic Swamp at Tasmanian Zoo
Kids will love getting up close to some prehistoric predators at Jurassic Swamp (Image: Tasmania Zoo)


Information included in this blog is correct at the time of publishing. Please contact individual operators for further information.

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