Australian animal encounters – Cairns to Syndey by Campervan

The Great Barrier reef

View of the Great Barrier reef while driving from Cairns to Port Douglas
View of the Great Barrier reef while driving from Cairns to Port Douglas

As we make our way down the east cost of Australia Scotty is slowly turning into our own little Steve Irwin. Although the main animal encounter we had set out to do in Australia on the Great Barrier reef we decided to can in the end. Who knew that 1/2 day of snorkelling here could cost as much as £500…. the equivalent go a whole month of food money in SE Asia. So we have decided to fully support the call for protecting the reef by not going there and with the memory of amazing snorkelling in Malaysia and with more of the same to come, I don’t feel that its a big thing to miss. So, instead of gazing out to sea hoping to see some amazing animals, we turn inland for some truly great animal encounters.

Amazing Australian animal encounters

Here is a summary of our favourite animal encounters in Australia from the tropical North to the sunny South.

Cape Tribulation turtles – no crocodiles

Lost of crocodiles in the sea in North Australia but non in this freshwater swimming hole

As we arrived at our first campsite in Cape Tribulation safe and sound after a long day of driving we could not wait to go and check out the beach.  Although it was quite late there were a few people in the water so and Paul and the kids decided to join. Not long after going in they were urged to get out by another tourist who told us crocodiles were seen there only a short while ago. Not showing the kids how shaken we were, we made a joke about it and quickly went back to the campsite for a hot shower. The next day we moved our swimming efforts from beaches full of crocodiles to an amazing swimming hole in a river just on the other side of the main road leading up to the campsite. This was great.

Refreshing morning dip in the Cape Tribulation swimming hole

In the crystal clear water we saw lots of freshwater fish and to our surprise a fresh water turtle

Wallaby Joeys in Granite creek

Wallaby with joey in the pouch at Granite creek

Past Port Douglas we headed inland in search for free campsites and inexpensive activities. After spending the night for free on Mount Mulligan we drove into the outback where we ended up hanging out with the cutest Wallabies at Granite creek, Mareeba.

Feeding the Wallabies at Granite creek

The main building offered a fist glimpse of the some of the great reptiles Australia has to offer.  Ingrid did not want to hold the Guineapigs but could not wait to get her hands on the snakes and lizards.

Kids enjoyed holding the snakes

Scotty of course would hold and cuddle any animal he’d could.  As we walked down into the valley following the river running through a landscape full of beautiful granite boulders, gorgeous little wallabies came out to see if we had any food for them. This was a real Aussie moment for all of us that we enjoyed a lot.

Scott feeding the Wallaby and her joey
Ingrid doing some bouldering next to Dinosaur rock in the most amazing landscape full of huge granite boulders just waiting to be climbed

Cats and dogs of Townsville

We continued down south heading back to the coast again and stopped at the community caravan park at Mission beach overnight before heading further south to see some friends in Townsville.

Our campervan parked up in Townsville

Danny the van was greeted by Jessie the dogs loud barks and Scotty could not wait to go and meet them (the animals that is) 2 cats and 1 dog. Scotty was in heaven happily playing with the animals all afternoon.

A seriously competitive game of Uno

Ingrid who is less keen on big barking dogs took charge of entertainment and thought our friends and their 3 sons how to play pass the pigs and Uno.

Feeding the crocodiles at Billabong sanctuary

On recommendation of our Townsville friends Tash and Adam, we went to the Billabong animal sanctuary as we continued to travel south.


The rangers here were fantastic at relaying key facts about many of the endangered animals here to all of us and enabling close up encounters that will stay with us forever.


Who know that the endangered Cassowary is critical in spreading seeds in the rainforest and can swallow a tomato whole, that Koala means not water in aborigine because they do not drink anything at all and that they are a marsupial rather than a bear.


The Wombat encounter was my favourite of all. They look like giant Guineapigs and seem similar in temperament. Ingrid and Scott both remember the fact that a Wambat can crush a dingo with their bum and can run 40 mph if required. Scotty best moment was holding the 7 year old croc, while Ingrid was super excited that she was chosen to help the ranger get a 2m long Burmese python out of her bag of surprises.


The reptile show was Ingrids other favourite moment here and we all loved holding the snakes, lizards and the little corocodiles.



Feeding the crocs and hearing the safety talk about the crocodiles was also really interesting. It made us realise how incredibly lucky we were not to have been eaten by crocodiles during our ignorant swim in the sea at Cape Tribulation.


If you go to Billabong sanctuary on a hot day, bring swimsuits as there is a little pool where you can go for a swim to cool off.

Cows and Kangaroos at farm stay near Yalboroo

From Townsville we had 1 week to get to Brisbane to visit our good friends Laurance & Fiona, old triathlon buddies from London.


I was getting more and more nervous as we drove off the main road onto a dirt track, over the train tracks in the bush with no end in sight. Finally we found the farm where we were staying and to Scottys delight the farm had 1 kangaroo and 2 dogs and a land full of sheep and cows.

Scotty, Danny and the kangaroo

This was another place he did not want to leave. What a cosy place, with just 2 other caravans parked up on the land, a campfire with damp and freshly picked corn…I had nothing to worry about.

Sweetcorn and Dampa by the campfire

Jack, Tinkerbelle and Cockatoos at Rainbow beach holiday park

On our way down to the sunshine coast we had a break at a beautiful spot by the sea, for lunch, but again no swimming due to crocs.

Lunch cocked on the communal BBQ by the playground and the Sarina beach
Lunch cocked on the communal BBQ by the playground at Sarina beach

We had no idea that swimming in the sea north of sunshine coast is a big no no. Well, better late then never. 2 days of long drives and 1 lay-by camp night later we arrived at Rainbow beach just 1 hr north of the Sunshine coast.

Our view of the beach and the cockatoos at rainbow beach holiday park campsite

As we parked up, a cockatoo welcoming committee came to greet us. Luckily we had kept some of the animal feed from Billabong! On the way to the pool for a quick dip after the long drive, Scotty did the rounds greeting all the dogs on the way. Jackie, Jack & Ringo, Tinkerbelle, Boo and many more.

Digging on Rainbow beach Aussie style

On the way to the beach the next day, Scotty did the doggy rounds again making sure he got a good lick from all of them before starting the day in a great mood.

Evening walk on Rainbow beach

Surf and pelicans in Maroochydore bay

Pelican at Maroochydore beach

Maroochydore beach, our next stop just south if the sunshine coast was recommended to us by Jack and Ringos owner, and Im glad we took his advise. The campsite is located just where the river outlet meets the sea and is surrounded by 3 beautiful beaches. 

Swimming in the lagoon by the campsite at Maroochydore

One lagoon like bay perfect for smaller kids, one with some smaller waves and lots of kite surfers and one real surfer beach.

Scott bodysurfing on the big Maroochydore surf beach

To Scotts disappointment this campsite did not allow dogs, but the pelicans hanging out but the shore provided enough entertainment, as did the big waves on the surf beach.

This life guard kindly lent Ingrid his bodyboard

Brisbane with friends, bikes and chicken

On the bikes in Brisbane

Next stop was with friends in Brisbane. It was great staying in a house with all mod cons for a few days and Ingrid and Scott had soo much fun playing with Emma, Ben and all of their toys.

Kids having fun dancing about

We helped feed the school chicken that they were looking after that particular weekend and that was our animal encounters box ticked. As Fiona and Laurance are old Triathlonbuddies of Pauls, we also had the great advantage of access to lots of bikes and spent 2 days peddling round the lovely city of Brisbane.

Byron Bay camping with bush turkeys and stink bugs

Just 2.5 hrs south of Brisbane is the famous surfers paradise and hippie centre of Byron bay.

Scott enjoying a bit of meditation on the rocks of Byron bay

We stayed in Suffolk beachfront campsite in south Byron to avoid paying the “paradise tax” of main Byron bay itself. Lovely little campsite on the beach with huge waves and a nearby sacred aboriginal saltwater pool.

Sacred Aboriginal pool close to our campsite in Byron bay south

For the first time since arriving in Australia, Scott did not approve of the animals on offer here. Tiny stinkbugs were following us around and creeping up on us whenever we were sitting outside and the big bush turkeys, just as cheeky as the seagulls on the Brighten beach, did not win his approval either.

Panning for gold at free campsite Fossicking grounds in Uralla 

After 10 gorgeous days on the coast and having paid the expensive camp site fees that go with it, we were eager to get back into the bushland and free campsites again while continuing our journey down to Sydney. Paul as usual had found some interesting spots for us to explore so while heading for a stargazing session in Warrambungle he had booked 2 days later we found our favourite campsite of all.

Camping at Uralla Fossicking area

Fossicking ground in Uralla. To us Fossicking was just a name, but as we boiled our eggs in empty soup cans over our camp fire the next morning, we saw the fossicking pros hitting the river.

Campfire at Fossicking grounds Uralla

1 hr later we had joined them with Scotts bucket, spades and some plates we were panning for gold ourselves and collecting little gold specs in a tiny glass jar.

Paul and the kids panning for gold and in the background the real pros

To Scotts delight we also managed to find an empty wildlife park with koalas and Ostriches on the way to our next stop.

Ostrich at Gunnedah wildlife park

Glorious galaxies and planets at observatory in Warrumbungle 

That evening the forecast storm never came and so we have the most beautiful evening in Warrumbungle observatory looking at Neptune, Saturn, Venus and more plus 2 other galaxies over 200 million lightyears away. This was our best educational trip so far on our journey and we all enjoyed it.

One of the planes on the worlds largest virtual solar system drive – Uranus in Binnaway

Ingrid absolutely loved seeing the planets and finding out about them and Scott was thrilled to be looking out into space and other galaxies far far away.

Spider encounters and camping in Sydney

On our last drive to Sydney we stopped over in Lake Liddell and then finally hit the last campsite of our trip. Sydney Lakeside holidaypark just north of Sydney.

Breakfast at Sydney lakeside holiday park Narrabeen

We had planned to do Sydney for the last 4 days of our trip after dropping the van of but accommodation is too expensive here, a room in  hostel is $100!! So in the end we decided to keep the van and stay at a campsite just north if Sydney to make the time here a cheap as possible.  This is the most urban campsite so far and there are not many animals …whales and fairy penguins we have yet to see…but Ingrid finally caught sight of a big hunter spider…in the shower!

Afternoon swim in the saltwater swimming pool

There is a great saltwater pool here and some adjacent rock pools we have explored and a couple of gorgeous beaches as fellas a really cool smash play area in the campsite itself.  We spent 1 day walking around Sydney and another half a day before dropping off Danny and heading into the Blue Mountains.

One of many great public areas and parks in Sydney

On our last day here we  visited an amazing spider exhibition at the Australian museum and got some great facts, cool  spider moves and up close views of the most deadly spiders in the world.

Ingrid and Scott doing the spider moves at the spider exhibition at the Australia museum
South american banana tarantula

Im glad we didnt meet either of these huge spiders during our time in Australia. Wait a minute, I forgot that these ones live in South America….!


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