On the South Coast of NSW there’s plenty of chances to get up and close with wildlife. Whether you dream of swimming with seals, seeing whales breach, viewing exotic animals or feeding kangaroos, check out the top South Coast wildlife experiences.
#1 Meet the Dolphins of Jervis Bay
The beautiful crystal clear waters of Jervis Bay are home to countless bottlenose dolphins. There’s a chance of spotting them while walking along the shoreline or while swimming at a beach (I once encountered some while swimming at Hyams Beach!), but the surest way to see them is on a dolphin watch cruise.
Climb on board a comfortable catamaran at Huskisson and go cruising around Jervis Bay for 1 1/2 hours. Your captain will keep you entertained with plenty of commentary, and the dolphins are fans of riding along with the boat.
#2 Go Whale Watching
If visiting the South Coast during the winter and spring months, there’s a high chance of spotting whales from the coastline. You’ll most likely spot whales migrating north during June and July, then heading back south to the Antarctic during September and October, but keep your eye out either side of these months as well!
There’s a number of great headlands from which to watch for whales. In Tathra, keep watch while following the path around Tathra Headland, with an information board showing the species of whales usually seen. Further south, stop at Eden Lookout or Short Point in Merimbula, while to the north head to Warden Head in Ulladulla, the Gerringong Whale Watching Platform or the cliffs to the north of Wollongong.
If visiting Jervis Bay, consider heading out on a whale watching cruise. These two-hour long seasonal cruises operate both in the morning and afternoon. Most magical are the cruises during the southern migration, when mothers and their new born calves enter the bay.
#3 Snorkel with Seals at Montague Island
One of the most magical wildlife experiences I’ve ever enjoyed is swimming with seals. These lively, frisky animals love to encounter humans in the water, and will frolic all around you. And there’s no need to head overseas for this experience, with the chance to swim with seals at Montague Island on the South Coast.
Located just off Narooma, Montague Island is a 20 minute boat ride away and home to the largest seal colony in NSW. Choose between just snorkelling with the seals, or also land on the island for a guided tour. The best conditions are during the morning in summertime. Book with Montague Island Adventures or Montague Island Discovery Tours.
#4 Feed the Kangaroos at Symbio
On the northern edge of Wollongong is the long established Symbio Wildlife Park. These days the park is also home to exotic animals, including cheetahs, monkeys and meerkats, but one of the most popular creatures has always been their kangaroos.
Enjoy the experience to get up close and feed the many kangaroos and wallabies that live at the park. Bags of food are available to purchase along with your ticket, although be warned that sometimes the kangaroos have already eaten plenty and are not that hungry!
#5 Or See Wild Kangaroos at Pebbly Beach
The South Coast is also home to many places where there’s a chance of spotting kangaroos in the wild. One of the best locations is Pebbly Beach, in Murramarang National Park in between Ulladulla and Batemans Bay. A photo of a kangaroo on the beach here led to rumours of surfing kangaroos!
Pebbly Beach is home to a national park campground, ideal for spotting the kangaroos when they’re most active at dawn and dusk, or it’s possible to just visit the picnic area during the day. Access is along a 8km gravel track, plus park entry fees apply.
#6 Come Face to Face with Lions and Tigers
Just south of Batemans Bay is the Mogo Wildlife Park. Rather than focusing on Australian wildlife, this zoo is instead home to the largest collection of endangered and exotic animal species in Australia, with animals in their collection including African Lions, Sumatran Tigers, Western Lowland Gorillas and Southern White Rhinos.
Open daily, there’s also the chance to get up close and personal with many of the animals. Special tours are available with advance bookings to feed the tigers and lions, or play with the meerkats. It’s also possible to pay an additional fee to feed the giraffes, with no advance booking required.
#7 Snorkel at Bushrangers Bay
If you’re instead interested in getting up close to some of the marine life that lives along the South Cost, one of the best snorkelling spots to visit is Bushrangers Bay. This marine sanctuary is located at Bass Point, part of Shellharbour, and is home to a diverse range of marine life, including grey nurse sharks, gropers, stingrays and sea dragons.
To get to Bushrangers Bay, follow the Bass Point Tourist Road to its end, where there’s a carpark next to the steps down to the bay. Note though that the road can be a bit rough. Toilets are located next to the other carpark at Bass Point, which is also the starting point for an Indigenous Cultural Walk.
#8 Learn the Story of Old Tom
Sadly, back in the early days of settlement along the South Coast, one of the key industries was whaling. Many whales were captured and killed during the annual migration past the coast. Fortunately, this practice has long since finished, and the number of whales has started to recover, with the focus now on whale watching (see above).
One of the most fascinating aspects of the former whaling industry around Eden was the involvement of killer whales, or orcas. Killer whales helped alert the whalers to the presence of whales, and helped herd them into shallower waters. In return, they expected to be fed the tongues and lips of whales.
The most famous of the killer whales was Old Tom, and when his body was discovered in the 1920s, it was preserved and his skeleton later put on display in the Eden Killer Whale Museum, which opened in 1939. Visit the museum to learn more about Old Tom and the whaling industry.
#9 Meet the Locals at Narooma
While one of the top wildlife experiences at Narooma is visiting the seal colony at Montague Island and perhaps snorkelling with the seals (see above), it’s also possible to see plenty of wildlife without leaving the town. Just head down to New Boat Ramp at Apex Park.
On any day, particularly when fish are being cleaned at the fish cleaning stations, it’s possible to spot not only pelicans and cormorants, but also a regular visiting seal and sting rays in the waters below. For further chances to spot wildlife, walk along the adjacent Mill Bay Boardwalk.