Is Australia safe? Everything you need to know

written by Samantha Burgess May 1, 2024
Aerial view of Manly Beach, Sydney, Australia

Well-known icons like Steve Irwin and Crocodile Dundee are likely to blame for Australia’s ‘dangerous’ reputation, but fear not – Australia is safe (and super stoked to have you)

Australia ranks in the top 25 most peaceful countries on the 2023 Vision of Humanity Global Peace Index. It has low violent crime rates and very few terrorism – related incidents, is a generally safe destination for LGBTQIA+ travellers and very rarely has earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanic eruptions.

And while our wildlife has made a name for itself on talk shows, nature documentaries and various urban legends, we can assure you that most of the time, it does actually stay in the wild. We humans tend to scare off animals, so even during outdoor activities, they’re not likely to come too close.

But if you need a little reassurance, take my word for it as an Aussie writer, we’re setting the record straight – you’ve likely been misled about the great Down Under.

But first, let’s address the elephant – or better yet, the koala – in the room: our animal amigos.

Animals on land and sea: what you need to know

Two snorkelers in the water looking at a nearby whale shark, Western Australia

Spiders, snakes, and sharks, oh my!

The big three critters people ask about are snakes, spiders and sharks. And hey, we get it. They’re not exactly the cutest animals out there. So, it might come as a surprise to hear that they’re actually not as big a threat to your Australia holiday as you may think.


Spiders are actually doing you a favour by keeping the flying insect population down (such a win). They’re generally harmless, nocturnal, mostly stick outside and are labelled as non-aggressive. You’re unlikely to come into contact with the few harmful species we have in Australia as they prefer to hide away.

Hot tip to avoid an eight-legged interaction: if you’ve left shoes or a backpack outside, shake them out before putting them on.


Sure, snakes live in Australia, but so do kangaroos. And just like kangaroos, snakes aren’t usually found in cities and major tourist areas; they prefer to be in their own habitat, typically in the desert or dense bushland. They’re also not very fond of people and are even known to be shy. Our advice? If you see a snake, leave it alone and it’ll do the same.

Take extra precautions when hiking. It’s recommended that you wear closed-toe shoes and long pants. Also try to make loud stomping noises when moving to scare them off. It’s a good idea to have guide by your side, especially if bushwalking in an unfamiliar area.

Bushwalks are a uniquely Australian experience, made even more memorable with a First Nations guide who can not only talk about the landscapes but also share the stories of the people who have lived there for thousands of years.

Check out our range of Australia trips featuring guided bushwalks


Once, on a boat trip off the coast of Australia, a passenger asked the captain if there were sharks in the water. Used to this question, he told us to dip our fingers into the ocean and taste the water: “if it’s salty, that means there are sharks.” His message was simple: sharks live in the ocean.

However, we do take action to deter them or warn people about certain areas. Some popular beaches use shark nets or even fence-off areas of water to allow swimmers a stress-free dip. Others will have lifeguards who watch for potential movement and ring an alarm to get people out of the water if a shark is sighted. If you’re concerned about swimming at a beach, opt for a lifeguard-patrolled.

What about crocodiles, jellyfish and stingrays?

So we’ve cleared the air about the big three, but what about the other toothy, stingy and barbey wildlife that call Australia home?

Close up of a crocodile on the bank of a river in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia


In Australia, crocodiles are only found in the far tropical northern regions (so you won’t find one in Sydney Harbour). They like to hang out by any type of salt water, largely the ocean, rivers, swamps, billabongs (Australian term for natural pools of water) and floodplains. Authorities will monitor popular areas and work to keep them croc-free.

Always check the signs before swimming anywhere, especially in the northern regions of Queensland, the Northern Territory or Western Australia.

Jellyfish and stingrays

The most dangerous jellyfish, the box jellyfish, is found in Australia’s northern waters. Other jellyfish species that can cause painful stinging include bluebottles in the east coast regions of Australia. If you think you’ve been stung, get help from a lifeguard or first-aid professional.

Stingrays sadly have a bad reputation, but they really shouldn’t. These marine animals are not usually aggressive and only use their barbed tail if threatened. Keep an eye out for them before wading into the ocean and avoid contact with the bottom of a reef when diving.

The weather, the sun and the sea

Now that we’ve covered the wildlife, there are still a few things you should know about staying safe in Australia.

A wide shot of a beach path and wavy beach with crystal blue waters and white sand, Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, Western Australia

Water safety: riptides and ocean swimming

A rip current, or a ‘rip’ to Aussies is the term used to describe the motion of water as it returns to the sea after coming ashore. This water is often fast-flowing and may take you out to sea if you get caught in it.

How to be safe while ocean swimming:

  • Read the signs at the entrance to the beach
  • Swim between the red and yellow flags
    In Australia, this means it’s the actively patrolled area of the beach where lifeguards are scheduled to watch over swimmers and look for dangers. Lifeguards will only put up flags if there are no rips present so you can swim safely and freely
  • Know what a rip looks like
    Look for water that has a deeper blue or brown colour with little to no breaking waves
  • If you get caught, don’t wear yourself out by trying to swim back
    Instead, stay calm, float on your back and signal for help
  • If you’re a strong swimmer, swim parallel to the shore to get out of the current

Bushfires, flooding and cyclones

The risk of bushfires, also known as forest fires, is greater during the Australian summer months (December to February); however, governments take active precautions to prevent bushfires as well as enforce fire safety. While it’s unlikely a bushfire will impact your trip to Australia, check the alert level in the region you’re visiting before going out into the bush to hike or camp, especially during summer.

The Australian tropical cyclone season typically runs from around November to April and generally impacts only the northernmost parts of Australia. This time of year is also known as the wet season when there are more monsoonal rains, thunderstorms, high humidity and warm to hot temperatures. Many tourist services in the northern regions of the Northern Territory will even close until the dry season (May to October) starts back up again.

Flooding is another natural process in some areas of the Australian ecosystem and can be very beneficial to the environment. Flooding mostly affects the low-lying floodplain regions of Queensland and New South Wales. It’s unlikely your plans will be affected by flooding.

Let the experts lead the way on a small guided tour

Sun safety

Did you know that around 18% of Australia is desert and has some of the highest levels of UV (ultraviolet) radiation in the world? In other words, the sun is really strong in Australia. So, you’ll likely need to be proactive to reduce sunburns and sunstroke when travelling to Australia.

From a young age, Aussies are taught to be sun smart by the phrase: ‘Slip, slop, slap, seek and slide.’ It’s short for: slip on protective clothing, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and slide on sunglasses.

Two women sitting in the sun smiling while wearing broad-rim hats, Red Centre, Australia

Don’t let the sun ruin the fun, here’s how to be sun safe in Australia:

  • Use SPF30+ sunscreen (or higher)
    Apply 20 minutes before going outside. If possible, try to buy reef-safe sunscreen and reapply every two hours after swimming, sweating or towel drying
  • Don’t just rely on sunscreen
    Also ensure you’re covering up with clothing, hats, and sunglasses and staying in the shade where possible

The myths, exaggerations and tall tales

We, as Australians, probably enjoy our label as a country with some of the toughest wildlife a little too much. And while there are people who live and work alongside animals in the wild (think farmers, researchers and park rangers), most of us live a pretty cushy life in suburbia with only a daddy long-leg spider to shoo away every so often.

However, when we travel and are asked about all these deadly and dangerous creatures, there’s no doubt that we enjoy getting reactions from people. We even relish it enough to tell some tall tales about rabid koalas (a.k.a. drop bears) threatening us from the trees.

A koala munching on gum leaves in a tree, Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia

Have we convinced you yet?

Hopefully, your fears have been quashed and you’re ready to hit the waves at Bondi Beach or gaze up at mighty Uluru. And hey, while you’re in town grab a killer latte in the laneways of Melbourne or say hello to our adorable quokka friends in Western Australia’s Rottnest Island.

If you’re still in need of a little convincing, why not look over our incredible Australian itineraries, where one of our friendly local leaders will guide you through everything from walks in secluded rocky gorges to award-winning vineyards in South Australia, even snorkelling with tropical fish at the Great Barrier Reef.

What do you say? Ready for a stunner of a tour Down Under?

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