And then there’s Tidbinbilla. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, a forty-minute drive from Canberra, is home to a wide variety of native animals and birds including emus, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, platypus and wombats. In several recent visits I’ve seen emus, kangaroos, platypus, pelicans, and best of all a pair of brolgas, the quite spectacular native crane. Walking trails range from a fifteen-minute easy walk to an eight-hour hike.
Canberra is an easy highway drive about two and a half hours from Sydney. You will need a car in Canberra to see the best of it. You’ll also need at least a map, and preferably a GPS, and you’ll still probably get lost. But do persevere. It really is one of the best places to see wildlife without having to travel thousands of miles into the outback.
The east coast, south of Sydney, from Ulladulla to Eden is Canberra’s coast. From Canberra you drive there along the Kings Highway. People who live in Canberra come to one of the hundreds of beaches and small communities between Ulladulla and Eden for weekends and for their vacations. Many own summer homes here. In the summer months it will be busier, but you’ll still be able to find endless stretches of golden-sand beaches like Broulee with very few people on them. And if you hang around a bit you’re bound to see lorikeets at The Muffin Shop at Mossy Point.
Guerilla Bay, a two-hour drive from Canberra, or four hours from Sydney, is one of my favourites. There’s a surf beach good for boogie boarding on one side, and across a narrow tidal causeway leading to an island, there’s a calm beach and rock shelf to explore. If you’re inclined you can climb to the other side of the island and fish from there.
If you really want to see koalas in their natural habitat get yourself down to the Great Ocean Road, on the south coast in the state of Victoria. This whole stretch of coast is worth seeing anyway, and is one of Australia’s top tourist drives. Drive about twelve miles west from the town of Apollo Bay and turn left onto Otway Lighthouse Road. Otway Lighthouse Road is about six miles long. I can’t tell you exactly where, but maybe about half way along you’ll see koalas. Don was driving, and I was peering through the windshield thinking how are we ever going to see koalas through all the leaves in the trees. How will we ever know where to stop? A parked car was our clue. There were four koalas in the trees right beside the road and clearly visible. We watched them for a long time. They were completely unconcerned by our presence. On the return journey we saw another four, including a baby, in a different location.
Now we’re going clear across the country to Western Australia and the Perth region. About 260 miles from Perth and a forty-minute drive west along South Coast Highway from Denmark you’ll come to the Valley of the Giants and Tree Top Walk. It’s open every day except Christmas Day, though occasionally it can also be closed during extreme weather conditions. The giants in the valley are Tingle trees. They are a rare species of eucalyptus that only grows in this one small corner of Western Australia. They are up to four hundred years old and grow to over one hundred and ninety-five feet tall. The treetop walk allows a view of the top of the trees and the surrounding country. The sheer size of the trees is breathtaking. The people on the walkway in the photo give an idea of the scale.
Approximately eighty-three miles northwest of the Tingle trees via the South Western Highway you’ll come to the Diamond Tree. If you look closely at the photo you’ll see there is a little hut in the very top of the tree. It was built as a lookout for observation of bush fires, although it is no longer used for that. It’s a Karri tree, which is another species of eucalyptus found only in this part of the world, and it is one hundred and seventy feet high.