The Best Places For Wildlife Encounters on the Cradle Coast
There are endless chances to spot animals in the wild on the Cradle Coast – head to nearly any beach at dusk to spot little penguins coming home, keep an eye out for platypus at quiet waterways or spot lumbering wombats in national parks. But for a closer encounter and more informative experience there are some top spots you should add to your itinerary as you explore the North-West.
Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary
Established in 1979, Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary is a privately-owned wildlife sanctuary, where native Tasmanian fauna and flora thrive. Situated in Mole Creek, less than an hour’s drive from Devonport, the sanctuary houses the world’s largest heritage population of endangered Tasmanian Devils and also has a great range of marsupials, birds and reptiles on site.
The primary goal for Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary is wildlife conservation, education and rehabilitation. Centrally set among varying alpine, forested, and coastal regions, Trowunna provides a haven of 65 acres for native transient Tasmanian wildlife looking to travel through what are sometimes hostile environments.
With natural vegetation including giant eucalypts and acacias you will see kangaroos, pademelons, wallabies, potoroos and wombats roaming around the sanctuary at their leisure. Bird species that you can view include goshawk, falcon, honey eaters, wrens and rosella to name a few and all nest within the sanctuary’s forest. Other wildlife consists of quolls, bandicoot and bats mainly seen at night.
Trowunna has daily interactive tours with group and private bookings welcome. Facilities include the Devil Education and Research Centre, a gift shop, parking, toilets, picnic tables and disabled accessibility. They also offer Devil, Wombat and Quoll Workshops for career development or personal interest.
The sanctuary is located at 1892 Mole Creek Road, Mole Creek and is open 9am-5pm everyday apart from Christmas Day. There are daily interactive tours at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. For more information visit the Trowunna website or call (03) 6363 6162.
Wings Wildlife Park
For a fascinating mix of native and exotic species, head to Wings Wildlife Park, located in Gunns Plains, 23km south of Ulverstone, on the banks of the Leven River. Time your visit to make sure you are there for the Tasmanian devil feed at 1pm daily, koala presentation at 11am and 2.30pm, meerkats at 11.30am and 3pm and reptiles at 2pm. You can also feed the trout and kangaroos.
Other animals you can see at the park include wombats, wallabies, quolls, sugar-gliders, wedge-tail eagles, marmosets, monkeys, bison, camels and much more.
Most native animals at Wing’s Wildlife Park have been rescued following injury and are released into their natural habitat when rehabilitated. Those unable to be released stay in their care for the remainder of their lives.
Group bookings, guided tours, encounters, catering, camping and backpacker accommodation are available. Wing’s Wildlife Park has a cafe open for lunch, snacks, drinks and ice-creams plus you can browse in the gift shop.
The park is located at 137 Winduss Road, Gunns Plains and is open 10am-4pm everyday apart from Christmas Day. For more information visit wingswildlifepark.com.au or call (03) 6429 1151
For a close encounter with the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, the state’s most iconic native animal, head to Devils@Cradle.
In the perfect location to combine with a trip to the national park, Devils@Cradle can be found just on the edge of the world heritage area, where it conducts conservation and breeding programs for the species. Visit the sanctuary during the day to get to know more about these extraordinary animals. In the Visitors Centre check out the educational displays where you can look into a devil’s den from the comfort of the indoors.
For an even more intimate encounter join an experienced tour guide who will walk you through the sanctuary and share information about the devils’ lifecycle and the current threats they face. If you are planning a longer stay in the area visit of an evening to observe the amazing night time antics of the animals being fed. The mainly nocturnal species is far more active at night, so the sanctuary uses environmentally sensitive lighting to allow visitors to experience a rare opportunity to see Tasmanian devils in a group feeding situation.
Located just 500m before the Cradle Mountain Lodge or National Park at 3950 Cradle Mountain Rd, Devils@Cradle is open 10am-4pm everyday apart from Christmas Day. For more information visit devilsatcradle.com or phone (03) 6492 1491.
Cradle Country Adventures
For an animal experience with a difference why not experience a horse-riding tour in three unique Cradle Coast locations: Kimberley (near Sheffield) in the beautiful Mersey Valley, Cradle Mountain in the Vale of Belvoir Conservation Area and Bakers Beach (Narawntapu National Park) with Cradle Country Adventures.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or experienced – horse-riding gives you the chance to live it up outdoors in the quintessential Australian experience. There are half-day, full-day and multi-day rides to choose from, with some rides taking in parts of the Tom Quilty endurance riding course and the 480km Tasmanian Trail from Devonport to Dover.
Gaze at the brilliant landscapes, taste fine produce, smell the wildflowers and campfire damper and hear the stories behind the three amazing locations. There are creek crossings, log jumps and varying terrain and it’s likely you may spot platypus, wombats, kangaroos, wallabies or echidnas during your ride.
Cradle Country Adventures also offer accommodation at two locations – the shearers quarters at Kimberley or the historic homestead at Bakers Beach. For more information visit cradleadventures.com.au or call 1300 656 069.
Narawntapu National Park
Only about a 35-minute drive from Devonport, and roughly one hour from Launceston, the national park stretches from Bakers Beach to Greens Beach on the mouth of the Tamar River.
Narawntapu has been dubbed the “Serengeti of Tasmania” for good reason – it is one of the best places to view free-ranging wildlife in the state. The park boasts a rich array of easily observed animals that come out around dusk to graze on the grasslands of the park, especially around Springlawn, including Forester kangaroos, Bennetts wallabies, pademelons and wombats. If you are lucky you may also see Tasmanian devils, eastern and spotted-tail quolls, platypuses and echidnas. Though still wild, most animals are used to the presence of humans, and can be approached quietly for observation and photography. But make sure not to feed them as it can make them sick.
Many species of birds call the park home, including honeyeaters, green rosellas and black cockatoos. Water birds flourish on the shores and lagoons at Springlawn. A bird hide offers the ideal spot for birdwatching and photography. The beaches nearby provide habitat for a variety of coastal birds including oystercatchers, gulls and terns. The park is also the feeding ground for the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle and white-bellied sea eagles are often seen gliding overhead.
Penguins in the wild
With a town called Penguin you can be guaranteed that the region is a prime spot to see the real thing. This quaint seaside village is a lovely place to explore during the day – have lunch in one of the cafes, relax in Hiscutt Park, take a photo with the Big Penguin or go shopping in the undercover market on Sundays – but it’s also one of the many beaches where you can see the world’s smallest penguin return after a day of fishing in Bass Strait.
Also known as fairy penguins, they are only around 30cm in height and weigh in at just a kilo. For a more comprehensive insight into the lives of the cute creatures two great locations are the Lillico Beach Conservation Area, a 10-minute drive from Devonport, and the Burnie Penguin Observation Centre, just behind the Makers’ Workshop visitor information centre on the edge of the city.
During the day you can head to either colony and take in the coastal sights from the viewing platform and boardwalk while learning about the penguins from the interpretive information. But time it to be there later in the day and that’s when they really come to life, both with knowledgeable volunteers and the little penguins themselves, as they come ashore about dusk, waddling their way up to their nests where their chicks are waiting to be fed.