See & do

Iconic Australian animals and where to find them on the Gold Coast

Samantha Morris | July 18, 2017

The Gold Coast is one of the most biodiverse cities in Australia with 1730 flora and 585 fauna species and a vast area of the city’s land made up of national parks, conservation parks, dam catchments and nature refuges.

The City of Gold Coast (the City) manages more than 730km of bush trails and some 13,000 hectares of natural areas and when you add this to more than 12,000 hectares of Ramsar-listed wetlands, nearly 5000 hectares of World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest, 52.8km of sandy beaches and more than half the city’s land mass covered in native vegetation, it’s little wonder the opportunities for interacting with some of Australia’s most iconic species are plentiful on the Gold Coast.

We’ve pulled together a list of some of the city’s easiest-to-spot critters and where to find them, but remember, never feed animals in the wild, don’t disturb their habitat or nesting spaces, and always observe from a distance.

Bush stone-curlew

You’ll know if you have a bush stone-curlew living near you. Their call is evocative and unforgettable. Southeast Queensland’s Land for Wildlife team describes it as “a penetrating, strident, wail, rising with a slight waver, and dropping at the end and often repeated a number of times in quick succession.” The bush stone-curlew is a relatively common, nocturnal bird and at night are often seen in open grassy areas where they’re on the prowl for insects and lizards.

Where to see them:
Pratten Park, Broadbeach

Phillip Park, Main Beach (look around the garden beds and forest edges)


The koala needs little introduction. It’s Australia’s most iconic animal as well as our largest tree-dwelling marsupial. Because koalas get all the food (and water) they need from eucalyptus leaves, chances are this is where you’ll find them, although they do come to the ground to move between trees, particularly when active in the morning or early evening. Look closely for scratches on trees with smooth bark or at the base of the tree for round, 1-2cm bullet-shaped droppings. Other signs there are koalas about are scratches on trees with smooth bark and round 1-2cm bullet-shaped droppings at the base of trees. And while koalas are all cute and furry on the surface, their call is somewhat unsettling, taking the form of bellowing (a sound which both males and females make) and sometimes including snarls, squeaks and screams. So, while you’re looking around for koalas, keep an ear out for their distinctive call.

While there’s plenty of places where you can pose for a photo with a koala in captivity, we’re lucky on the Gold Coast that there are also spots where you’ve got a decent chance of seeing them in the wild.

Where to see them:
Coombabah Lakelands Conservation Area (it’s no coincidence one of the walks is named the Koala Track).

Burleigh Ridge Park


Humpback Whale breaching (photo Todd Burrows)


Humpback whale

The Gold Coast is smack bang in the middle of the ’humpback highway’ making it the ideal place to see these gentle giants as they make their way from Antarctica to our warmer waters and back. While the region used to be a rest stop for humpbacks, Gold Coast has now become a whale nursery, meaning that female whales that traditionally gave birth further north have started to do so 1000 kilometres to the south. This is exciting news for whale-lovers. Not only can you see these whales up close on dozens of organised whale watching expeditions which run between May and November, it also means you can see whales from any number of headlands and beaches that dot the length of the City’s coastline.

Where to see them:
You can see humpback whales anywhere along the beaches of the Gold Coast, but the higher you get (think any of the city’s iconic headlands) the more likely you are to spot them by scanning the horizon for ‘blow’ (when whales expel air from their blowholes) and the tell-tale splashes of whales breaching and slapping their tails on the water.

Bottlenose dolphin

We’re lucky here on the Gold Coast that encounters with dolphins are common, especially if you’re making use of the city’s incredible beaches and waterways. Because bottlenose dolphins are so common and occur pretty much anywhere along Australia’s coastline, the best way to see one is to get out onto the water – these dolphins love harbours, bays, lagoons, estuaries and the waters around islands – but landlubbers get their fair share of dolphin sightings too, especially with a coastline as long and accessible as the Gold Coast’s.

Where to see them:
Gold Coast Broadwater

Any Gold Coast beach

A mother and it’s calf, Bottlenose Dolphins (photo Todd Burrows)


Albert’s Lyrebird (photo Todd Burrows)

Albert’s lyrebird

The Albert’s lyrebird appears to be an unassuming bird, yet it is highly sought after by birdwatchers the world over. One of the reasons why is because it is a very wary bird and it’s estimated there are only 3500 birds left in the wild. On top of that, the Albert’s lyrebird has one of the smallest distributions of any bird in Australia. Yet, here on the Gold Coast, in-the-know birders see them regularly.

You’ll usually hear this lyrebird before you see it. Albert’s lyrebirds are known for mimicking other species (especially bowerbirds, whipbirds and rosellas) often in long, unbroken calls. Winter is a great time to find them as the male will call for many hours of the day in an attempt to attract a mate during breeding season. Despite the iconic call, Albert’s lyrebirds are hard to spot. They’re well camouflaged, tend to be found in habitats with low light (think the rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests of the Gold Coast hinterland) and are shy and elusive.

Where to see them:
Lamington National Park (Binna Burra, Green Mountains Section and O’Reilly’s). I actually saw an Albert’s Lyrebird while compiling this article on the Cave Circuit trail at Binna Burra.

Tamborine Mountain (Witches Falls, Palm Grove Circuit and The Knoll section of Tamborine National Park)

Springbrook National Park (Twin Falls circuit and the walk to the Best of all Lookout)

PHOTOGRAPHY CREDIT: the stunning images accompanying this story were captured by Gold Coast wildlife photographer Todd Burrows.

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