A young woman sitting on the grass quite close to a foraging wombat

Amazing Animal Encounters In Shoalhaven

by Julie Jones

Animal-lovers are flocking to the south of Sydney, with good reason! Check out these amazing animal encounters in the Shoalhaven region. They’re accessible and they’re perfect if you’re travelling on a budget, too, as most don’t charge admission.

1. Kangaroo Valley

Kangaroo Valley (about a two-hour drive from Sydney) is a popular destination for city slickers looking for a slow-paced weekend away. The relaxed lifestyle of the Shoalhaven region town also suits one of Australia’s most elusive furry friends, the wombat.

At dusk the large population of wombats that call the local campground home, emerge from their burrows to graze on the grass. Although wild, they are accustomed to visitors and happily go about their business while ignoring the paparazzi-like attention they attract.

You can see the wombats wandering around without even leaving your car, or you can take a walk/wheel along the road. It’s not sealed and is quite rustic but should be manageable for most wheelchair users for a short distance.

Keep an eye out for the kangaroos who also pop in to the campground for a twilight snack around the same time. Amazing animal encounters galore!

A wombat on the grass, one of the amazing animal encounters in Shoalhaven
The wombats of Kangaroo Valley are used to being the center of attention.

2. Jervis Bay

More than 100 Bottlenose dolphins call the pristine waters of Jervis Bay home. Jervis Bay Wild offer a wheelchair accessible vessel, Port Venture, to make spotting them available to everyone.

Once onboard the boat, you’ll want to head for the best viewing deck at the front of the vessel, as it’s equipped with a wider than usual gangway and a ramp. If you fancy cooling off in the boom net, there’s even a hoist available for transferring from a wheelchair into the net. A ramp leads down to the lower deck where the boom net is located, and an accessible bathroom is available for changing out of wet swimmers if needed. 

Contact Jervis Bay Wild in advance to book the hoist and to ensure your accessibility needs can be met. Some larger wheelchairs, particularly power chairs, may be too wide to fit through the doorway to the upper deck.

A young man in a wheelchair enjoying the accessible viewing on Port Venture, Jervis Bay
Jervis Bay Wild offers an accessible opportunity to see Bottlenose dolphins in Jervis Bay.

3. Pebbly Beach

Many Australians are blasé about seeing kangaroos in the countryside but there’s something special about seeing them on a beach. Pebbly Beach in the Murramarang National Park is a lovely spot for a picnic – and if you’re lucky you could  see the kangaroos grazing on the grass or hopping along the beach.

Many of our native birds also call the national park home, and they’re not shy. It leaves you wondering who is watching whom.

These are amazing animal encounters not to be missed if you’re visiting the Shoalhaven region.

4. Bendalong

Seeing stingrays in the wild is one of the most amazing animal encounters you can have, especially when snorkelling or diving is not required. The small Shoalhaven region town of Bendalong is a 45 minute drive from Huskisson and it’s where you can wade into the shallow water to see the stingrays.

Fishermen’s scraps keep the stingrays returning to Boat Harbour Beach and it’s now a popular spot with tourists. Before heading down to the beach, stop off at the Bendalong Tourist Park to pick up a small packet of bait to help attract them.

This activity is best suited to travellers with their own beach wheelchair or with a wheelchair with off-road tyres to make it easier to get to the water. Access is relatively easy using the boat ramp to get onto the beach and the sand is fairly compact down to the water’s edge. The stingrays swim in the shallows so they are easy to spot even from the shoreline, but for the most interactive experience you need to be in the water. Parking and accessible bathrooms are located close to the boat ramp.

A stingray in the water at Bendalong in the Shoalhaven region
Get your feet wet for the best animal encounters in Shoalhaven.

Seeing animals in their natural environment is a privilege so please respect their space. Remember there are no guarantees with sightings, which is why it makes it even more exciting and special when you do spot them. 

This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits magazine. You can subscribe here.

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