1. St Kilda Penguins and Rakali. Inner suburban St Kilda has a wonderful population of wildife! The breakwater near St Kilda pier is home to a colony of Little Penguins, which can be seen from public viewing areas after dark most nights. I believe the first chick of the season has already been sighted. For more go to: http://stkildapenguins.com.au As a real bonus, while you’re there you might see the Rakali – a sort-of Aussie otter. These gorgeous water mammals live in a few places around the city but are rarely seen because they mostly come out after dark. I’ve seen one in East Gippsland during the day once, and it was so exciting! Don’t let the old name “Water Rat” fool you – they are nothing like a rat really, they are big, glossy and very exciting to watch. I believe that the study group welcomes volunteers to come out and help survey them. This would be a great school holiday project for older kids. Go to: http://www.rakali.com/
2. Tower Hill, one of my favourite places. Tower Hill is an example of how people can recreate a beautiful natural landscape. A marvellous painter, Eugene von Guerard, did a painting of Tower Hill in the 1850’s before it was cleared for farming. His work was so detailed that it was used in the 1960’s to revegetate the park. You wouldn’t believe it now. Forest full of koalas and birds now grows where there were bald hills only 50 years ago. See: http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/tower-hill-w.r for details. Make sure you pop in to Worn Gundidj Natural History Centre – they have lots of information and beautiful local artworks to see and buy. I particularly love their local textile range. The designs are magnificent, and not found anywhere else. http://www.worngundidj.org.au/
3. Echidna Walkabout’s Great Ocean Road 3 day tour. At this time of year you can see the coastline as it really is: wild, free and untamed. It’s easy to imagine ships wrecking on the reefs and rocks 200 years ago. Wildlife loves it at this time of year. Stand at the Twelve Apostles on dusk and look out for Little Penguins coming ashore way down on the beach below. We’ve even seen wild Brolga once on a trip at this time of year. http://www.echidnawalkabout.com.au/en/tours/gor
4. Deen Maar Indigenous Protected Area and Eumeralla Backpackers. I visited this wonderful place last year for the first time and can’t wait to get back. There is so much wildlife on this, the first of Victoria’s Indigenous Protected Areas, that it confirms my belief that Australia’s indigenous people are still the best land managers in Australia. Congratulations go to the Gunditjmara People who are managing the site. The best way to explore this area is to stay at Eumeralla Backpackers, and arrange a visit from there. The managers there are lovely, and really helpful. http://www.moyne.vic.gov.au/page/Page.asp?Page_Id=480&h=1
5. Possums! Most of Melbourne’s city parks have a population of Common Brushtail Possums. They come out at night, or just on dusk, and scamper around the grass like little wallabies. They are adorable, and I think, a must-see for any visitor to Melbourne. What’s great too, is that seeing them is free! All you need to do is walk down to the closest park to your hotel and walk around a bit. If it’s really dark it would help to take a torch/flashlight. Don’t touch them – they are wild animals with sharp teeth and might accidentally bite you. Council asks that you don’t feed them, and there’s no need to – they will bounce around you quite happily if you stay still. Interestingly, though they are called Common Brushtails they are no longer very common in natural bushland. You are much more likely to see them here than most natural areas.