This is a country rich in history and folklore, not to mention one with a plentiful variety of ecosystems. Therefore it’s no surprise that strange creatures are hiding in every nook and cranny – from swamps to highways and everywhere in between.
So, if you’re off on a road trip Down Under, which fantastic beasts should you be on the lookout for? Here we present three of Australia’s most terrifying creatures and where you can find them. If you’re brave enough, that is.
The drop bear
Where to find them: New South Wales
Bears are cute and cuddly, right? Not this one. Drop bears differ from everyone’s favourite bear, the koala, in that they’re, er, not very nice. Worryingly, the drop bear is reputed to “actively prey on humans”, according to travel firm Expedia’s excellent online guide to mythical creatures around the world.
Some folk tales have it that drop bears only target naive, gullible tourists visiting Australia for the first time, but how a bear would be able to distinguish a tourist from an Aussie is beyond us. Meat’s meat, right?
But seriously, this carnivorous beast is not to be trusted. Drop bears are said to lurk in treetops, launching themselves on unsuspecting humans when they least expect it. So where to find this mythical beast? Well, New South Wales is your best bet, with most drop bear sightings being reported here. Head to amazing nature spots like the Royal National Park and the Blue Mountains National Park. While it’s (very) unlikely you’ll bump into a drop bear, amazing scenery is actually guaranteed.
Where to find them: Campsites all over Australia
The Australian Grim Reaper. Yikes. Australians don’t do fantastical beasts by halves, do they? The website Australian Mythocreatology gives the carkit – which presents as a demonic-looking figure dressed in full-length coat, hat and carrying a whip and a bucket – a ‘danger ranking’ of 93, which it designates as “mega”. So, y’know, watch out.
For more than 200 years, explorers, hikers and squatters have reported seeing the terrifying carkit appear at campfires when they’re settling down for the night. While the beer bottles pop, the campfire food is slowly cooked and the folk songs begin to play, all seems well under the starry, starry night. That’s until the carkit appears, completely unexpectedly, and whisks one of them away, telling the unfortunate traveller: “It’s time to kick the bucket.” Ouch.
Where to find a carkit? Well, its preferred hunting ground is Australia’s campsites, so keep your eyes peeled…
Where to find them: The waterways of Victoria
Off on holiday to stunning Victoria? Keep your eyes open for a shape-shifting creature hiding in lakes. The bunyip ticks all the boxes: it’s evil, it lurks in swamps, and it kills. Kills children. Children!
The mythical bunyip (which means means ‘evil spirit’ in the Wemba Wemba language) is an important part of Australian folklore, with stories about the aquatic creature going back hundreds of years to Aboriginal origins.
The problem with bunyips is you never know what form they’re going to take. Accounts have variously described the water monster as dog-like or serpent-like. Others say it’s like a starfish. Some say it’s more like a human, but with a long neck and bird-like face. While its form is contradictory, its modus operandi isn’t: this beast waits in rivers and swamps for children to pass by, before launching itself at them and having supper.
Don’t worry though, on a trip to Australia you’re more likely to come across a crocodile than a bunyip – although that’s hardly a comforting thought…