Kennett River Koala Walk is the best place to spot wild koalas in Australia

Kennett River Koala Walk – Best Place to Spot Wild Koalas in Australia

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Wildlife was one of the main reasons why we decided to make a far trip to Australia with three little kids. We had been to Australia before and knew that kangaroos are pretty easy to spot in different regions and that you can hug and cuddle koalas in many zoos. But this time we were hoping to find some wild koalas as well. So one of the questions we had before the trip was where we could see wild koalas in Australia.

After some research we learned that Southern Australia and in particular the Great Ocean Road in Victoria has a big wild koala population. One of the best places to see wild koalas in Australia is the famous Kennet River Koala Walk (Kennett River) along the Great Ocean Road.

Kennett River Koala Walk – what to expect

Responsible travel

UPDATE – I added this paragraph after receiving a message from a very concerned local resident.

You can read all about the koalas at the Kennett River Koala Walk below, but first I want to ask you to be a responsible tourist, everywhere you go. I got a message from someone living in the area who said that tourists’ behavior at the Kennet River Koala Walk has become appalling…

So please be respectful to wildlife, nature, and also to the people living nearby. Places like this should be treasured and not ruined by tourism. However, the line between the two is very thin. So it’s up to each and every one of us to make sure that we leave no trace.

Thinking of this, I also now realize that feeding wild parrots is probably not the best idea. Unfortunately, this has been going on long before we visited and I’m afraid it will not stop immediately. We just came back from Thailand where feeding wild monkeys is extremely popular… In other places in the world people feed pigeons, stingrays, or even sharks…

This means that animals become dependent on humans and can’t take care of themselves… So if I were to visit this place again, I think I would refrain from buying bird food at the nearby store and just watch the animals instead of interacting with them… That being said – it’s also the responsibility of the local businesses to stop selling bird food and encouraging this…

Anyway, below you can read about our experience spotting wild koalas and parrots at the Kennet River. I left it unedited, the way we have experienced this beautiful and unique area.

Spot wild koalas

Kennett River Koala Walk is actually just a road surrounded by gum trees and a significant population of wild koalas. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I read that there are hundreds of koala colonies in this area, with over a thousand of koalas. That being said, it doesn’t mean that you will see a bunch of koalas sitting in every tree just next to the road. However, the odds are pretty good that you will see some. We spent about an hour in this area and counted more than 20 koalas.

Koalas are lazy animals and they spend most of the time sleeping. You may be lucky to see a koala ‘in action’. Action usually involves a short climb to reach the leaves, followed by some lazy feeding. But most of the koalas you will see will be sleeping, which makes it a bit more difficult to spot them. Once you spot your first koala it will get much easier to see more. It requires some patience and it helps if you know where to look.

Tip: look at the places between the stem and the branches, that’s where the koalas usually sit.

Koala with baby in the wild - Australia

Koala with baby

 

Feed King Parrots

There is more wildlife to see in this area too. Kennet River might be best known for koalas, but you can also find a big population of colorful King Parrots and other birds.

Most of the birds we saw where sitting in the trees right next to the Kennet River parking lot by the Kafe Koala. The reason is simple – this coffee shop sells bird food to tourists.

We bought some bird seed and in no time we were surrounded by these colorful birds. Kids were thrilled and anxious at the same time, but they bravely kept feeding the birds. I preferred taking pictures instead. The parrots are clearly used to people and they come and sit on your head (helps to wear a hat), your shoulders, and they feed straight from your hand.

Kids feeding King Parrots at Kennet River, Great Ocean Road Australia

Kids were excited and anxious at the same time

 

Luckily for us, we were there early in the morning, just before big busses of tourists started to arrive. When we saw koalas climb higher and birds stopping to eat, we realized that there were more people around than birds. We then took our car up the Grey River Road and went looking for more wild koalas.

Kids feeding parrots - Great Ocean Road Australia

Kids loved feeding the parrots

 

Walk along the Grey River Road

The best way to spot koalas at Kennet River is to take a walk along the Grey River Road. This road is surrounded by a huge eucalyptus forest, and you may know that eucalyptus leaves are the favorite diet of koalas.

The first section of the road close to the coffee shop and the parking lot quickly fills up with tourists. The good thing is that 99% of them don’t seem to make an effort and walk any further. They see some birds, wait for the guide to spot a koala for them, each take the same picture and leave.

Since we were visiting with young kids and the Grey River Road goes up the hill, we decided to take the car rather than walk further. We drove 2-3 kilometers and we were completely on our own. We parked the car next to the road and went for a short stroll looking for koalas. It’s a rather quiet road and we only saw a couple of cars pass, so it’s quite safe to walk along this road, also with kids.

As I said, we spotted so many koalas that we lost count at around 20. Some koalas were sleeping, some were feeding, and we also saw a few koalas with their babies on their back. There was one tree with 6 koalas in it! The leaves there must have been greener and tastier than anywhere else I suppose.

So if you are visiting Kennett River, make sure to walk or drive up the Grey River Road and go for a short stroll looking for koalas. Even if you come on a busy day, it will be much quieter up the hill than down below by the parking lot.

Spotting wild koalas with babies in the eucalyptus trees along the Great Ocean Road in Australia

Koala tree – I could only get 4 of them in the same picture

 

Kennett River Koala Walk location and practical information

Kennett River is located half way between Lorne and Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia. See the map below for the exact location.

Some practical tips:

  • Visit as early in the morning as possible. The birds will still be hungry and there will be less tourists. After 9AM the parking lot fills up with tour busses doing the Great Ocean Road.
  • Buy some bird seed at the coffee shop or bring some with you. For our kids feeding the parrots was a much more memorable experience than seeing the sleeping koalas.
  • Wear a sun hat if you are not comfortable with parrots sitting on your head.
  • You may want to bring binoculars for spotting koalas, but it’s not a must. We saw plenty of them from a rather close distance.
  • Don’t forget your camera with a good telephoto zoom lens. I use Canon 70-200 f4 IS USM for all my wildlife shots.
  • About 5 km up the road you can find a beautiful picnic area Grey River Reserve. We haven’t visited at night, but apparently this area is famous for glow worms. So if you bring a torch you may spot some.
  • Where to eat. Kafe Koala serves good fish and chips for lunch.
  • Where to stay. There is a camping ground nearby, and there are plenty of accommodation options along the Great Ocean Road. We stayed in Lorne, which is a popular town along the GOR, just 30 minutes away by car.

Kennett River Koala Walk is not the only place where we saw wild koalas in Australia, but it was the most accessible one. It also had the biggest number of koalas by far. If you are visiting the Great Ocean Road, don’t miss the Kennet River. It’s just a short stop along the way and so worth it!

Have you been to Australia? Feel free to share your best tips and locations for spotting the wild animals. You can do so by leaving a reply below. Thank you!

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Best place to see wild koalas in Australia #koala #Australia #wildlife
 

Comments

  1. I am a resident at Kennett River and am wondering if it would be possible to remove this article?

    The wildlife in our area have become so reliant on feeding from tourists, it is beginning to crest unnatural habits for them. We have over 200 tourists visit our town each day and leave rubbish everywhere, venture on to our private properties, harass the wildlife, park illegally and don’t bring any economic value to our area.

    We understand that it may be exciting to view these animals but please realise the devastating effect these activities are actually having on flora, fauna and community long term. We do believe that if this was happening to the extent it is in your towns, you would feel the same sentiment.

    1. Author

      Hi Elenore, thank you for stopping by on our blog and I’m really sad to hear that tourism has such an impact in your home town. It’s not just there – believe me. We see it everywhere we travel and unfortunately it’s not going to change anymore… There are simply millions and millions more people traveling now than there were 10 years ago…
      It would be very naive to think that me removing this article will have any influence on the number of tourists coming to see koalas or their behavior.
      When we visited Kennet River Koala Walk, it was already a popular place with multiple tour busses stopping there as part of their Great Ocean Road tours. In that short time we were there, we saw at least 4 big busses and a whole lot of minivans. Just a few private cars like ours…
      Needless to say, that local companies organizing those tours aren’t the ones reading blogs like this one…
      What I can do, however, is update my article and try to encourage those people who read my blog to be responsible tourists. I will definitely do that.
      I’m afraid that if you and the local community want to see any serious improvement to the current situation, you’ll have to talk to the local authorities, city council, even the owners of the café that is selling bird food… I think they are the only ones who have the power to actually change anything.
      And in the meantime I will add additional information in my article, but as I said – I think only a very small part of the visitors going there will actually ever read this…

  2. Heading to Melbourne next month Jurga so this is a super useful post! Planning a trip on the great ocean road so we will definitely stop at Kennett river!

  3. Great post. Love the photos of the parrots on your kids head! They must have loved it. Also the photos of the koalas are great. As an Aussie I still have to get to the Great Ocean Road, so will add this to my list for that trip.

    1. Author

      Thanks, Lisa. Yes, kids had a blast with the parrots.

  4. Great post, we often take our kids up the great Ocean Road, and recently happened upon a Koala crossing the road on the way to the Cape Otway lighthouse. Next time we might have to do a detour to Grey River Road.

    1. Author

      We saw quite a few koalas along the road around Cape Otway too. It seems that they love that area. Grey River Road isn’t really a detour from GOR – it’s just a turn right off the main road. Give it a try and let me know how it was!

  5. Great post, we visited Australia this year and had a recommendation to stop at Kennet River- it was fabulous! I must say, your photos of the parrots is significantly more dignified that our attempts!

    1. Author

      Thank you, Hazel. I think we were lucky to be there early in the morning when the parrots were still hungry. They were much less active later on when more tourists arrived and stayed in the trees more.

  6. I’m in love with that sleepy koala!! I would definitely do this if I’m ever in the area – thank you! 🙂

  7. We saw koalas here too! We first tried to drive up Grey River Road and after a little while of driving our not so rough and tumble rental car on the gravel road decided to turn back. But we did get a great view from one of the hills so it was worth it. We did just hang out where most of the other tourists are. It was such fun, though. The birds were hilarious too. Loved it!

    1. Author

      Strange, we didn’t find the road to be so bad at all and we also just had a regular size rental. Anyway, one could just walk a small part of the road too, I think it’s still a more special experience to see ‘your own’ koala rather than stand under the same tree with 20 other people :). Either way, you are right, this place is fun to visit, no matter which way you choose to do it. Thanks for sharing your experience, Sarah!

  8. Cuteness overload! Australia is worth a visit just because of them! 🙂

    1. Author

      They do look cute, but I wouldn’t try to cuddle one in the wild. 🙂

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