We live close to Australia and have been doing an increasing amount of birding over there, but we are still learning where the best spots are. Australia is a big country!
Atherton Tablelands, North Queensland
We got over 100 species here in a day birding with guide Doug Herrington, staying in Daintree at Red Mill House. The place is alive with birds, including many species of Honeyeaters, and you can find Red-winged Fairy-wren in the hedgerows. It is possible to see Cassowary nearby, and make sure you do a river trip.
A trip up Mt Lewis is the place for the Golden Bowerbird, but watch for leeches on the track! The road is gravel but okay for 2WD vehicles; the biggest danger is trees falling across the road.
Broome, Western Australia
The Broome Bird Observatory, about 15 km outside of Broome, is one of the best locations in Australia for waders. Tens of thousands of birds are there most of the year round. The bird observatory does wader tours, as well as mangroves and inland lakes tours.
With the incoming our outgoing tides, many waders can be observed from the Cairns Esplanade. There are also honeyeaters in the trees along the Esplanade (with Torresian Imperial Pigeon in summer), and there is shelter from the frequent showers. Information on the common species is provided on panels at several observation points, and you are likely to come across other birds. Expect to see Pelicans, Great Knot, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Grey-tailed Tattler, Terek Sandpiper, Greater Sand Plover, Far Eastern Curlew, Whimbrel, and more. Also check for Mangrove Robin beside the mangroves on the northern-most point of the Esplanade.
Capertee Valley, Blue Mountains
It is said to be one of the best birding locations in Australia. Capertee Valley is about 3 hours drive from Sydney, and it is best to stay somewhere closer (eg Lithgow) if you plan to be there early for birding. Download the IBA Map & Guide to Birdwatching. Once you get into the valley there are signs at the 19 locations, but there is still no guarantee that you will see all the birds listed! The Regent’s Honeyeater is still very hard to find.
Centennial Park, Sydney
Centennial Park isn’t far from downtown Sydney, about 30 minutes walk from Central Station. There is nice parklands and lakes with a good selection of urban birds. Lachlan Swamp (roughly in the middle) has a colony of bats and you may find Tawny Frogmouth in the trees. Barn Owl and Powerful Owl also roost in the trees, if you know where to look or find a friendly local who knows where they are. Don’t expect any unusual birds, but it is a pleasant parkland environment in downtown Sydney.
Chiltern Trail, North Sydney
A less well known spot, but excellent for Honeyeaters and other woodland birds. It is part of the Great North Walk, and you can walk for 200km+ to Newcastle, but the kilometre or so between Chiltern Road and Mccarrs Creek Road is fine for birding. This location is in North Sydney – also check out nearby Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park.
Kakadu, Northern Territory
Kakadu National Park is very large and has plenty of birds (and crocodiles). Fogg Dam is only 45 minutes drive from Darwin and is a great starting spot. Yellow River is a good spot for taking a cruise on the Billabongs.
Royal National Park, Sydney, NSW
This is a popular spot about 45 minutes south of Sydney. There is an entry fee per vehicle for the day. One of the best birding spots is supposed to be Lady Carrington Drive. You can’t drive down, but you can walk or cycle the trail. We spent some time on the northern and southern ends of Lady Carrington Drive, which begins near the visitor centre and car park. We saw Lyrebird in two separate locations.
Serendip, Geelong, Victoria
This is a good site to visit about 30 minutes drive west of Melbourne, near You Yangs and Werribee. Entry is free, but opening hours are 9 am to 4 pm which may be a bit short for some people. There are animals and birds in cages, but also plenty of wild species in the surroundings including parrots and lorikeets. The wetlands were dry when I visited, but this should only be a temporary glitch and normally it would be a good site for waders.
Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney, NSW
This is a great birding spot within easy reach of downtown Sydney by train. There are good wetlands (make sure you take the mosquito repellant), some tidal areas that get the arctic waders in summer, and honeyeaters in the trees.
Werribee Treatment Plant, Melbourne, Victoria
This is a great site for waders and you could easily spend a full day looking around the various ponds. It does require a permit and key for entry (though you can get close by driving down Point Wilson Road to the coast). It is best to find a local birding guide to take you in and show you around. There was a Red-necked Phalarope amongst the many waders when we visited and the area is a good spot for Striated Fieldwren and for ducks and other waterfowl. The You Yangs and Serendip are also nearby for bush birds.
You Yangs, Little River, Victoria
This is a good site for woodland birds near Werribee. Entry is free and there is good parking and wide relatively flat trails for birds. Good spots are around the visitor centre (start of Turntable drive), up at the Turntable lookout, or at the Toynes Road carpark on the east. Honeyeaters, Thornbills, Treecreepers, Raptors, etc. Due to the recent drought the undergrowth is sparse and seeing birds is relatively easy, but the number of birds is fewer than normal.