From possums to platypus, all the best animals come out in the evening. Australia’s charismatic and cute mammals are generally pretty dozy in the heat of the day and prefer to save their best for dawn, dusk or the dead of night. The same goes for our birds, including the much-loved little penguin.
The great thing about doing your sightseeing early or late in the day is the strong possibility that you will have the place to yourself (and your new furry or feathered friends). And at sunset and sunrise your photographs will look great. Photographers call the hour after dawn or before dusk ‘golden hour’.
All of this means that if you want the best chances of seeing our native wildlife, you’re better off staying the night in a quiet and picturesque location in regional Victoria. Try these totally wild experiences to get you started.
Wombats, emus and kangaroos at the Prom
Wilsons Promontory National Park is one of the best places in Victoria to get up close and personal with wildlife. The animals here are used to people and can be viewed at close quarters. Go glamping at Tidal River's Wilderness Retreats, stay in a cabin or unit, or pitch your own tent. If you take an evening stroll in the grounds, you’ll definitely see wombats grazing, and further afield at the Prom Wildlife Walk (pictured above) you’re guaranteed to see emu and kangaroos.
Platypus at Lake Elizabeth
Lake Elizabeth is a haunting place in the early morning mists. Created by a natural landslide in the 1950s, the lake is dotted with drowned trees which add to the magical atmosphere. Go platypus spotting from the trail that loops around the lake or take a canoe tour with Otway Eco Tours. Stay the night at the nearby campground or in comfort at the nearby town of Forrest. Qii Lodge and Pennyroyal Cidery are good local options.
Glow worms on the Great Ocean Road
Go for a night hike in the hinterland off the Great Ocean Road and enter an exquisite lightshow. The glow worms are actually the larvae of the fungus gnat. There are good colonies of glow worms at Melba Gully and Maits Rest (due to reopen in November 2019). Stay at Johanna River Farm for Melba Gully or Apollo Bay Cottages for Maits Rest.
Grampians Spotlight Walk
The Grampians - particularly the area around Halls Gap - is famed for its day walks. Halls Gap is also a good spot to see koalas, but stick around at night and you can meet possums, gliders, owls, bats and other nocturnal wildlife. Go on a spotlight walking tour with Grampians Personalised Tours and Adventures and stay on a budget at Grampians Eco YHA or splash out at DULC.
Kangaroos and koalas of Cape Otway
The Conservation Ecology Centre at Cape Otway is home to a wildlife rehabilitation and research facility. Go on a guided dusk walk to see kangaroos, koalas and other wildlife in their natural environment. You can even stay on site at the Great Ocean Ecolodge.
Little critters at Cape Conran
Stay under canvas within a stone’s throw of the beach at Banksia Bluff Campground or rent a timber cabin. Either way, you are truly going back to nature at Cape Conran Coastal Park. Take a headtorch out after dark and look out for little marsupials such as bandicoots and potaroos and bigger ones such as wombats and wallabies.
Mount Buffalo moths and kestrels
Mount Buffalo National Park near Bright is home to an impressive cast of animals. In the summer, huge numbers of migratory bogong moths visit. Go to the Horn at dusk and see these big moths emerge in their thousands. If you’re lucky you might see kestrels swooping in to feed on them. During the summer holidays, park rangers run free guided spotlight tours in the Eurobin Creek area. See possums, gliders, bats, wombats and more! Stay at GG's by the River in Eurobin, Lake Catani Campground in the park itself, or at architect-designed Nine Steps at the foot of Mount Buffalo.
Little Penguins on Phillip Island
The evening commute of the little penguin has become Victoria’s most famous night-time wildlife show. Take your seat in the stands at the nightly Penguin Parade (pictured below) and prepare for cute overload as the little seabirds return home after a busy day's fishing. Continue the natural theme by staying at Five Acres Farm Stay or Phillip Island Nature Resort.
Mutton birds, Cape Woolamai
Another little bird comes home every evening to Phillip Island – and even though they are extremely noisy and approximately one million strong, they are little noticed by the tourists. While the penguins get all the plaudits on the other side of the island, short-tailed shearwaters (also known as mutton birds) fly in to their colony at Cape Woolamai every night between September and April.
Moonlit Sanctuary, a wildlife sanctuary on the edge of Melbourne, is a great place to see nocturnal animals such as potoroos, quolls and pademelons on a night time tour. After your visit, stay on the Mornington Peninsula at Haven Red Hill or ultimate luxury at Woodman Estate.
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