High on the bucket list of most visitors to Australia is to see a Kangaroo. And if that Kangaroo is in the wild, so much the better!
An obvious thought then, is .. “we are going up to the Blue Mountains, can we see one there?”
While it is possible to see a Kangaroo in the Blue Mountains, you do need to have a plan and some insider knowledge and that’s exactly what you are going to get in this report.
First up you should understand the point that Kangaroos like a bit of space around them. The Blue Mountains itself tends to be heavily wooded and Kangaroos tend not to like being so restricted. They like to be able to move quickly and freely if they need to. Hence, you are more likely to find them in more open areas rather than say, going on a bush track through dense forest.
Kangaroos in the Blue Mountains
First up, lets have a look at your target species.
There are 4 different species of Kangaroo’s in Australia – Red, Eastern Grey, Western Grey & Antilopean.
But there are also Tree Kangaroos, Walleroos and Wallabies, often lumped in with the Kangaroos.
In fact there are over 50 different species in this Macropod family!
In the Blue Mountains the three most likely to be seen are Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Red-necked Wallaby & Swamp Wallaby. There are other possibilities, but the chances of them are slim.
The Eastern Grey Kangaroo is a grey-brown colour and tends to stand quite erect as apposed to the wallabies. The belly is paler and you should be able to see a dark tip to the tail.
They tend to be found in mixed groups or “mobs.” Grassy woodland areas and clearings tend to be favoured. They rest up during the day under trees and undergrowth, feeding a bit and then becoming more active in the late afternoons and evenings.
The Red-necked Wallaby is also a grey brown colour with a paler belly, but is distinguished by the Rufus shoulders and hip area. There is also a white stripe on each cheek and some black on the top of their head.
Another clue here is the solitary nature of the species. You’ll tend to find them by themselves or in a pair. If you see more than 3 it’s more probably the Eastern Gray, but the distinguishing features should provide you with an identification.
The Swamp Wallaby or Black Wallaby is slightly smaller and dark brown to black in colour. They are a bit more thick set and shaggy. Just to confuse you they also sometimes show a pale cheek stripe.
They are very much solitary and when disturbed they will move quickly away through the bush keeping their head and tail quite low.
(Many people would argue that this low profile characteristic may well be the explanation of many of the sightings of the infamous Blue Mountains Panther, a creature reported throughout the area for many years but never positively identified. We hope to do an article on it here one day. )
As the name suggests you often see Swamp Wallabies in Swampy areas, though they are not restricted to this and can be found in Grassy Woodland , Heath and Rainforest.
There are two other slim possibilities – Euro or Common Walleroo and the Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby. However you would probably need to be well off the beaten track to find these.
P.S The Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia by Menkhorst & Knight is the very best guide book if you are at all interested and doing a bit of travelling around. It’s brilliant and covers every possible Mammal here. Click the cover for current Amazon pricing.
Frank Knight is the illustrator and he also did the number 1 Bird Field Guide. You can read about that in our comprehensive Blue Mountains Birds article.
The name “Kangaroo”
There used to be a fairly common story that the origin of the name Kangaroo meant “I don’t know” in Australian Aboriginal.
The old story was that James Cook in 1770 had asked about the name of the animal when he stopped for extensive repairs to his ship in Far North Queensland. The person he asked didn’t understand what he was talking about and replied with a word that meant “I don’t know.” The word stuck.
You can still read this story on many websites and I’m sure it’s still retold by many tourist bus commentators across the country, even though the truth has long since been made clear.
Part of the confusion was that the word Captain Cook recorded in 1770 “gangurru” was very different to the word Captain King recorded in Sydney in 1820. One of them had to be wrong they thought, so a humorous story emerged to fill the gap!
Of course people at the time also failed to understand that the Aboriginal people had over 250 different languages spread across the vast land. They were masters of oral tradition and most could speak several of these languages.
So, present thinking is the word we use today, Kangaroo, comes from “gangurru” in the northeast Aboriginal language of the Guugu Yimidhirr people.
Kangaroos in the Blue Mountains Hot Spots
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Jenolan Caves Cottages
Run by the Jenolan Caves, these cottages are 8 kms from the famous caves themselves, but the grassy areas around them have attracted a mob of Eastern Greys. The advertising on the website claims that they can “always be seen.”
So if you are heading out to the Jenolan Caves as part of your Blue Mountains experience, this could be the place to see them.
Note – The Cottages are some way from the Caves area and the main accommodation and dining areas of Caves House complex. It is also over an hours drive from Katoomba to the Jenolan Caves and the road is pretty steep with lots of tight curves near the end. Do your research.
Another very good chance to see Kangaroos in the Blue Mountains is at Euroka Clearing, Glenbrook. This is actually inside the National Park so you will need to pay a small per car entrance fee.
There is a campground here, so if you are set up for camping this can be an excellent spot.
The Kangaroos here were actually introduced to the area some years ago and while the numbers fluctuate it is reliable.
In fact if you decide to take a tour with one of the several tour operators who advertise Kangaroo Viewing, they will probably bring you here.
Early Morning and later Afternoon are the best times, though there is some chance to see them there during the day as well.
Glenbrook is the first village in the Mountains proper, so if you are leaving Sydney very early you could be up there at a reasonable time. Glenbrook has some excellent cafes for breakfast afterwards. Or, perhaps you could drop in at the end of the day if you are heading back to Sydney.
I feel this could be a perfect spot for Kangaroo spotting but the guys from the Megalong Tea Room told me “not very often.” It is a beautiful area to visit though, to give you a view of the escarpment from the bottom. You also pass an excellent patch of rainforest on the way down into the Valley that makes it onto our popular list Top Bird Watching Spots in the Blue Mountains.
Past Mt Victoria and down the amazing Victoria pass you’ll soon be in much more open country as you head west and your Kangaroo sighting possibilities get much better.
Driving into Lithgow, before you get to the town, check out the hill behind the Graveyard on the right near the Donnybrook Hotel. I’ve often seen Roos here in the evenings as they come out from the tree line to graze.
After Lithgow is Marangaroo and the large Lithgow Jail, or Correctional Centre. It’s on the right heading West. There are plenty of Roos there, usually grazing on the well kept grass.
Featherdale Wildlife Park
Ok, not quite in the Wild, but this small zoo has a lot of fans and plenty of great reviews.
It’s a bit more “Hands On” than Taronga Zoo but you can get up close to Kangaroos and Wallabies and a whole lot more.
It’s located near Blacktown on the way to the Blue Mountains and quite a few of the organised Tour Groups have a quick stop here on their way to the Mountains. There is of course an entrance fee and there are a range of additional activities available.
Kangaroos & Golf Courses
Golf Courses are like magnets for Kangaroos. Especially if they are adjacent to the bush. The low cut grass, the easy access, shade and means of escape all adds up to the possibility of roos.
As already discussed, Kangaroos tend to chill out during the day, sleeping and a bit of feeding. Late afternoon and into the evening they will usually become more active and move onto feeding grounds.
The Greater Blue Mountains area has several great Golf Courses. (You can get full contact and location details about these in our Blue Mountains Golf Courses article.)
Leura Golf Club
Blackheath Golf Club
Wentworth Falls Country Club
Springwood Golf Club
I’m awaiting confirmation from them about Kangaroo sightings but I’ll update this when I hear back from them.
They are probably not worth a specific trip to check out, but if you were staying nearby one of them, it would be well worth asking about.
Further afield I know these three courses have regular sightings and I’ve seen photos of kangaroos from them.
Lithgow Golf Club
Portland Golf Club
Oberon Golf Club
The old Lawson Golf Club is another possibility, however this is extensively used as an off leash dog park, which tends to deter the roos.
Note – Please don’t jump the fence and wander around a golf course, especially if it is in use by golfers. You can usually see quite a lot of a course from the outside fence anyway and if you do want to get a closer view, visit the clubhouse and have a chat to the staff. A couple of the courses mentioned have excellent facilities including bar and dining areas.
Ask your Accommodation
While we have assembled and shared as much inside information as we can in this guide there is always more to be had. One suggestion we make is to always ask your accommodation provider. They should know what’s about and what’s possible in your area.
We also suggest you do this as soon as you arrive. With the Morning and Evening “hotspots” for Kangaroo viewing, you don’t want to find out the next day that you should have had a wander round somewhere in particular the night before.
Safety around Kangaroos
While Kangaroos can seem to be very placid and peaceful creatures they can pack a punch. Especially the larger males. You can usually tell the males, they will be the ones watching you, and watching the mob. They are also built a bit differently with a more powerful chest structure.
Try not to get between a large male and his girls. Try not to get between a mother and her Joey. Another warning sign to listen out for is their alarm call which is a guttural cough noise and then a growling warning. This can sometimes be accompanied by a scratching or thump of the chest.
If you do get threatened by a big Kangaroo the best current advice is to crouch down and back off immediately. Try and get a tree or bush between you. Don’t try and frighten them off, they will just see this as a challenge and are more likely to attack. Standing up tall and waving your arm is not a good idea.
There are only a handful of kangaroo attacks in NSW each year, but these can be nasty and I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of the claws on those powerful legs.
Driving & Kangaroos
If you are driving further out west around Lithgow and beyond, be aware of Kangaroos on the road. They often feed on the grassy verges of roads especially at dusk and sunrise. Wildlife is often drawn to the side of roads by the runoff from rain that accumulates there. 1 in 40 casualties on NSW roads are caused by collisions with animals ; kangaroos, wombats and stray cattle in particular.
A startled roo can bolt in any direction and are very unpredictable. Also, if a roo suddenly crosses the road in front of you at speed, be aware there may be another one or two coming up behind. It’s often the second or third that causes the collision.
Note – Current advice from Transport NSW, is not to swerve if a roo suddenly appears. Cars hurtling off the road due to sudden avoidance swerves are far more devastating. Travel at an appropriate speed and avoid dawn and dusk if possible. Nothing puts a dampener on your dream holiday like bowling a Kangaroo on a country road.
If you are driving out west, also encourage your front seat passenger to help out by being a lookout. It really helps to have an extra pair of eyes.
Organised Tours to see Blue Mountains Kangaroos
There are a few tourism providers who do organised tours to see Kangaroos in the Mountains.
I have had no personal experience of them, but you can get a good feel via their online reviews.
In Summary – yes you can see Kangaroos in the Blue Mountains, but it might be a little more tricky than you first thought. If you do your research before you get here, be prepared to possibly stay overnight instead of just a quick Day Trip, then your chances are much improved.