15 of Australia’s Deadliest Animals and Where to Find Them
Ever since Paul Hogan wrestled a croc on the big screen, the world has known Down Under to be home to the biggest, deadliest creatures in the world. With more than 5,000 unique species, Australia is overflowing with some of the world’s most magnificent and dangerous animals—and we’re proud of it. Here’s how to get up close and personal with 15 of Australia’s deadliest animals
Spot stonefish and lionfish at the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium
Sydney, New South Wales
Don’t look now, but that might not be a rock you’re stepping on. Owing its name to its ability to seamlessly blend in with the seabed, stonefish lay motionless on the ocean floor before ambushing their prey. Their powerful neurotoxin is fatal to humans and earns them the distinction of being of the most venomous fish known to man. And then there’s the lionfish, which turns conspicuous shades of red, white, and black before poisoning its next meal with a toxic venom second only to the stonefish. Don’t say it didn’t warn you! If you’re looking for things to do in Sydney, you can see both of these underwater assassins in person—without the risk of losing your life—at the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium, where you’ll also meet penguins, sharks, and dugongs.
Confront saltwater crocodiles at Crocosaurus Cove
Darwin, Northern Territory
Are you ready to “croc” and roll? Known for ambushing and drowning its prey—or simply swallowing it whole—the saltwater crocodile will attack any animal that enters its territory, including sharks. These killer lizards can grow up to 7 m in length and weigh up to 1,200 kg, and you don’t want to mess with them…unless you’re visiting Crocosaurus Cove. Located in the heart of Darwin, this popular attraction is home to the world’s largest array of Australian reptiles but it’s claim to fame is the “Cage of Death”. Come face to face with an 800 kg crocodile when you’re submerged inside a clear plastic cage into the crocodile enclosure. Although perfectly safe, this will be the scariest 15 minutes of your life. Too much? Try croc feeding, where juvenile crocs jump out of the water to snatch snacks off the end of your hook-less line. You can even get your photo taken holding a baby croc.
Check out cassowaries on Cassowary Tours
Yes, the cassowary! This flightless bird might look pretty, with its beautiful plumage, but in the rainforests of northeastern QLD, it’s high on the food chain. Cassowaries chase, charge, and kick their opponents, delivering a serious punch with the second of their three toes, which wields a claw up to 12 cm long. Get up close (but not too close) with Cassowary Tours in Kuranda, QLD, which runs tours to the birds’ common haunts. These experienced guides—and the cassowary’s natural shyness—make sure that claw stays far away from you.
See stingrays swim at Busselton Jetty
Busselton, West Australia
Weighing in at up to 350 kg and measuring up to 4.3 m from tip to tail, the smooth ray is the largest stingray in the world and among the deadliest. You could call it a smooth operator! These strong and nimble swimmers are usually well behaved, but will hold their ground when threatened by curling their tails in a scorpion-like manner, complete with a venomous barb. If this sounds like your kind of sea creature, you can get up close but stay danger-free at the underwater observatory at Busselton Jetty. You (and of up to 47 of your closest friends) will descend 8 m beneath the water’s surface to the observatory for glimpses of rays and 300 other marine species swimming amid Australia’s biggest artificial reef.
Dive amid box jellyfish at Yongala Dive
The Whitsunday Islands, Queensland
Quick: What’s the world’s most venomous creature? If you’re thinking a snake or a spider, well, you’re wrong. The box jellyfish is nicknamed the “sucker punch of the sea” thanks to its transparent nature and nearly undetectable sting, and it delivers the most venomous attack known to man. This news should not deter you from enjoying their natural habitat! We recommend taking the plunge with the Yongala Dive, a professionally led exploration of Australia’s largest intact shipwreck, the historic S. S. Yongala, that departs from the Whitsunday Islands. Though jellyfish have been known to swim these waters, box jellyfish encounters are relatively rare. If you do sneak a peek at one of these treacherous creatures while diving, you’ll be happy to be with experienced guides and wearing that stinger suit.
Encounter dingoes at the Australia Zoo
Descended from partially domesticated Asian dogs reintroduced to the wild upon arrival in Oz, the dingo is largest terrestrial predator in the country. In the Queensland area, a safe way to see these canines is at the Australia Zoo. Synonymous with the late Steve Irwin and his family, this popular attraction features trained, affectionate, and playful dingoes who greet visitors at daily animal encounters. Australia Zoo is your best bet to safely learn about many of Australia’s most famous species and experience tons of unique animals.
Take a Tasmanian devil tour at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
If you haven’t seen a Tassie Devil, you’re missing out. The largest carnivorous marsupial on Earth is famous for its stocky size, foul stench, and ear-piercing screech. Plus, they have the most powerful bite relative to their body size, and some believe these speedy demons can—and will—eat humans if given the opportunity. Even if you won’t be putting them on the guest list for your next dinner party, you can see them in their natural habitat at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. The largest 24-hour rescue service on the island has a unique breeding program that is helping to restore the population of this endangered species. Just be sure to leave your pitchfork and devil ears at home.
Get a peek of the platypus with Wait-a-While Rainforest Tours
We bet you didn’t know the cute-looking platypus was dangerous?! Male platypi are among the few mammals that produce venom, which they can inject into aggressors through spurs on their rear limbs. The semi-aquatic, egg-laying creature has enough poison to take out small animals. And although this semi-aquatic, egg-laying creature’s poison isn’t very potent, it can kill dogs and other small animals. They’re notoriously difficult to spot in the wild, so Wait-a-While Rainforest Tours near Cairns, which takes guests on one-of-a-kind wildlife treks—including night tours for the adventurous. These pros have been at it for more than 30 years, so if you’re eager to see the platypus in its natural habitat, there’s no one better to take you there.
Swim with sharks at the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary
Manly, New South Wales
Sharks have a reputation for being among the deadliest animals on earth. You’ve seen the movie Jaws, right? The great white is the most dangerous of all, with no known natural predators other than the killer whale. The great white shark is the king of the sea—which is why there are none in captivity. They can be encountered in the wild, of course, but we don’t recommend seeking them out. Instead, we’d opt for their less deadly cousins, grey nurse sharks. At Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, you can donate to the cause of preservation and research with their Shark Dive Xtreme while swimming with a colony of sharks and other sea creatures. You can also explore Shark Harbour, where sharks, sea turtles, and divers swim overhead, beyond the domed glass ceiling of their oceanarium.
Find freshwater crocodiles at Billabong Sanctuary
The freshwater crocodile is relatively small compared to its saltwater cousins, and considered less dangerous, but that doesn’t mean we want to come face to face with one in the wild! Freshies can still measure up to 3 m from end to end and weigh roughly 100 kg. When cornered, these creatures will put their razor-sharp teeth and lightning-fast reflexes to work, inflicting unforgiving bites in the blink of an eye. Spend an afternoon an afternoon learning more about crocs at the Billabong Sanctuary, which oversees crocodile-breeding colonies across their two hectares of backwater. The staff are passionate about conservation and awareness of endemic animals and their habitats, so you might actually leave feeling a bit of compassion for these crocs.
Meet the inland taipan at Ballarat Wildlife Park
Ballarat East, Victoria
Think the black mamba or the king cobra is the most venomous snake on Earth? Think again. Because it inhabits remote regions of Australia, the inland taipan rarely attacks humans and isn’t considered as “deadly” as many other snake species. But once you learn that a single strike packs enough venom to slaughter 100 full-grown men—and that it can change colours—you might believe otherwise. This agile reptile attacks with precision, and its potent poison specifically targets warm-blooded beings by first paralysing the nervous system, then clotting every drop of blood in the body. Make a new best mate at Ballarat Wildlife Park, home to the inland taipan and plenty of other deadly snakes. And while you don’t want to get too close to the taipan, you can have a meet-and-greet with Pablo, the park’s boa constrictor.
Spy blue-ringed octopi at Royal National Park
Sydney, New South Wales
Measuring a mere 12 to 20 cm when fully grown, the blue-ringed octopus might not look like much, but just one sting from this iridescent sea dweller is deadly. Containing a toxin that’s 1,200 times more powerful than cyanide, the venom first causes breathing difficulty for its victim, and it only gets worse from there. So, while you might not want to get in the water with these camouflaged creatures, if you’ve got a set of eagle eyes, you could catch a glimpse of them in the rock pools inside the Royal National Park, just one hour from Sydney CBD. Did you know that good old “Nasho” was the first official national park in Australia and is one of the best activities in Sydney’s vicinity. And even if you’re not able to spot these toxic terrors, you can still enjoy sweet Sydney tours through the park’s sprawling seaside location.
See the eastern brown snake and common death adder at the Australian Reptile Park
Somersby, New South Wales
When it comes to creatures both lethal and limbless, Australia has an incredible selection. The eastern brown snake is the second-most-venomous in the world, responsible for more deaths by snakebite than any other species in the country. And the common death adder, another of the world’s most sinister serpents, has longer fangs than any of Australia’s other snakes. To see these slithering predators and tons of other exotic creatures, check out the Australian Reptile Park in Somersby, NSW. Founded in 1948, this hands-on zoo has a reputation for extraordinary animal interactions and thrilling wildlife shows. And since Somersby is a two-hour drive from Sydney, attractions and activities in the Harbour City are just a quick day trip away.
Witness the wedge-tailed eagle in flight at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Gold Coast, Queensland
If you’ve ever seen Alfred Hitchcock’s famous film The Birds, you know that not all creatures with wings are well meaning. Well, the wedge-tailed eagle puts those sparrows and crows to shame. With a length of up to 1.06 m and wingspan that can reach 2.84 m, the high-flying “wedgie” is the largest airborne predator in the country and the only bird on Earth known to attack hang gliders. These feathered fiends can climb upwards of 1,800 m, where they soar for hours without a single flap of their wings. Lacking any natural predators, they feast on cats, possums, and koalas, and sometimes team up to take down kangaroos or drive goats off steep hillsides—yes, goats. See what these birds are capable of at the Gold Coast’s Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can witness wedge-tailed eagles in action as they perform a free-flight show exhibiting astonishing acrobatic manoeuvres.
Enjoy a gripping python encounter at Moonlit Sanctuary
Contrary to popular belief, this non-venomous snake doesn’t crush its captives to death, but rather squeezes the life out of its prey (which includes everything from cats to bandicoots) without breaking a single bone. Growing to an average length of 2.7 m, the semi-arboreal python swallows its prey whole after asphyxiation, then spends days—or even weeks—digesting its meal. Next time you’re faking a sickie and looking for things to do in Melbourne, take a walk on the wild side at the nearby Moonlit Sanctuary. Located at the top of the Mornington Peninsula just 65 km southeast of the city, Moonlit Sanctuary’s python presentation is second to none. You can even opt for some supervised cuddling with a constrictor. Aww!
From snake selfies to crocodile fishing, our country is absolutely chockers with animal encounters that will have you living on the edge—without quite going over. Hey, if you’re going to live in a place that’s infamous for its deadly animals, you might as well own it. Take advantage of these awesome activities and impress your friends with the tales.