The ultimate locals guide to the Raymond Island Koala walk

Seeing a koala in a zoo or a wildlife park is top of many people’s lists of things to do when they visit Australia. These amazing creatures feature on many tourism campaigns and are one of the top draw cards for people who are going down under. But what if you could see them in the wild in Victoria and for free?

Yep, I said for free. That already is an amazing and rare word used for seeing Koalas but it is completely possible and easy when you visit the Raymond Island Koala Walk in East Gippsland Victoria, Australia.

Raymond Island on the Gippsland Lakes is one of those not well-known Gippsland attractions but with a colony of over 200 koalas, it is fastly becoming a tourist mecca.

iInformation board at the start of the Raymond Island Koala Walk
An information board to start your walk on Raymond Island

Locals have known about this hidden gem on the Gippsland Lakes for many years, and now it is becoming a very popular trip from Melbourne for all people who want to witness these amazing creatures doing what they do best…being cute, sleeping high in the trees and happily posing for the perfect photos!

Where is Raymond Island, Victoria, Australia?

Raymond Island is located on the Gippsland Lakes in the East Gippsland Shire. To reach Raymond Island, you need to catch the Raymond Island Ferry from Paynesville. Paynesville is the closest large town to Raymond Island, approximately 3 and a half hours from Melbourne.

Raymond Island is a residential island and is one of the best places to see wild koalas in their natural environment. The residents of Raymond Island seem to live in sync with the Koala habitat of the island’s forest.

How to get to Raymond Island

To get to Raymond Island, you must travel 243 km east of Melbourne on the Princes Highway. When you get to Bairnsdale, follow the signage and travel 18km on the Bairnsdale – Paynesville Road. It will take around 4 hours from Melbourne.

You can catch a train from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station that will take you to Bairnsdale. From Bairnsdale, you must catch a local bus service to Paynesville. There are around 5 buses a day servicing the route between 10 am and 6 pm. For more information, look on Public Transport Victoria website 

Catch the Raymond Island ferry

Raymond Island is accessible by ferry from The Paynesville Ferry Terminal. The Paynesville Ferry takes around 5 minutes to transport you to the coastal island. You can take your car, truck, motorbike, bike or just yourself when you ride the ferry over to Raymond Island. The ferry to Raymond Island runs every 20 minutes or so each way, from Paynesville to Raymond Island and Raymond Island to Paynesville.

People lining up to catch the Raymond Island Ferry
Visitors catching the Paynesville to Raymond Island Ferry

The Raymond Island Ferry is free for pedestrians and is approximately $13 per car for the short ride over from Paynesville.

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Raymond Island Ferry times

Planning your visit to Raymond Island around the Raymond Island Ferry timetable is always a good idea. A return ferry ticket is needed for Raymond Island from Paynesville.

Where can I stay when visiting the Raymond Island Koalas?

We recommend that you stay in Paynesville if you want to spend more time exploring, although there are some accommodation types on Raymond Island.

There are plenty of Paynesville accommodation options. You can stay at Paynesville Caravan Park for a budget option or up to a luxury option at Captains Cove Paynesville. Accommodation can be found for every budget in the area. An apartment is another great option for people wanting the comforts of home.

Are there Raymond Island camping facilities:

There are no camping facilities on Raymond Island but there are plenty of houses you can rent for a weekend or a week if you like.

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A Local Guide to the Koala Trail on Raymond Island

Once across the water to Raymond Island, there is a marked 1.3 km Koala walk through the natural environments around the island. There is an information board in the park adjacent to where the ferry docks; it is easy to see when you arrive.

Raymond island koala walk board
You can enjoy a BBQ and then head off to find some Koalas

You can buy a little information booklet for $2, giving you fun and informative facts as you walk. It works on an honour system, and the money goes to help the koalas.

How do I find the Koala trail on Raymond Island?

You will see markers on rocks and signed posts, even painted koalas on the ground leading you in the right direction. While it is a good track, it is gravel in some areas, so be careful with wheelchairs and prams.

You start off in the residential streets of the Island, walking up the roads that are lined by mostly holiday houses and residential properties. The Koalas can be spotted anywhere on the Island with a gum tree. The walking distance is just over 1km in length each way.

How long do I need to do the Koala walk?

It is up to you. The walk can be done in as little as 30 minutes, depending on how many Koalas you see and how long you stay to look at these amazing animals.

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Where is the best place to see the koalas in the trees?

At the back of the township, the path will lead you into some dense vegetation area with plenty of gum trees. It takes a few minutes for your eyes to start to recognise the koalas but once you do you will see them everywhere.

A koala relaxing in a tree on Raymond island
The Koalas are pretty sleepy, during the day

Some of these amazing native Australian animals were high in some of the trees, some low, but they were everywhere. You can watch a dozen koalas lounging around, sleeping their days away in the native trees. It is such a great experience to see them in their own habitat, looking so comfortable.

What else can I see on Raymond Island?

Raymond Island has abundant native flora and fauna just waiting for you to uncover. Don’t be surprised if you spot a kangaroo, an echidna, rainbow lorikeets, and black swans and listen for the kookaburra’s laugh.

You can also see some scar trees showing evidence that the Gunaikurnai people inhabited this island and the Gippsland Lakes for thousands of years.

What do koalas on Raymond Island eat?

Of the 600 types of eucalyptus trees, koalas are fussy eaters, much like kids and limit their diet to 2 or 3 different types.

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How did Koalas get to Raymond Island and who looks after them?

The Koalas were first introduced to Gippsland Island in the 1950s. Overpopulation and lack of food now plague the Raymond Island Koalas. With the population around 300, that’s 250 more Koalas than the island can handle. There have been recent numbers of deaths with Koalas dying from starvation, bracken poisoning and dog attacks.

a kola in a tree on raymond Island
Once you spot one Koala, you will see many

This is being fixed by the volunteers who work there, with some koalas being relocated and the opening of the Raymond Island Koala and Wildlife Centre. The Koala Wildlife Centre has recently moved off the island to the mainland to look after more koalas. During the last 12-month period, the centre treated 52 koalas in need. Recently, with the change of location came a change of name to Waterholes Wildlife Sanctuary.

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How big is Raymond Island?

Raymond Island is approximately 6.4 km long and 1.8 km wide and is located a few hundred meters from Paynesville in the Gippsland Lakes.

Who are the Traditional Custodians of Raymond Island?

The Gunaikurnai are the traditional owners of Raymond Island, which they call Gragin and have a strong connection to the country here. Raymond Island sits on the Gippsland Lakes Reserve in Tatungalung Country and is jointly managed by Parks Victoria and the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation. 

Can you get to Raymond Island other than the ferry?

If you have your own boat or you have a kayak, you can use them to get to the island. Unfortunately, if you do not have these, you must take the ferry from Paynesville to Raymond Island.

Do you have to pay for car parking in Paynesville?

Spaces to park your car at the Raymond Island ferry terminal are limited, so it is best to ensure you get there early or have an alternative place to park. You will find a large parking lot behind the local Foodworks store that is free of charge and to gain access to the terminal you just have to walk through a small arcade to the esplanade.

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FAQs about the Raymond Island Koala Walk

This amazing walk on one of the most beautiful islands on the Gippsland Lakes is free, but it can only stay that way if we all look after the island itself. A few frequently asked questions about the Raymond Island koalas are answered easily by people visiting the island all the time.

Is it okay to cuddle a koala on Raymond Island?

No, not. Do not try to touch these wild animals. While these guys look cuddly, the koalas on Raymond Island are wild and used to having no physical human contact. If you do try to handle a koala you are likely to get seriously scratched, and there is no medical assistance until you reach Paynesville.

What should I take with me on the Koala walk?

There are no shops on Raymond Island, so you should take everything you need, including water, snacks, and sunscreen in the warmer months.

When is the best time to do the koala trail?

Koalas are nocturnal animals, so the best way to see them active is later in the afternoon before sunset. If you cannot spend that long on the island, you can see them easily throughout the day, but they may just not be moving too much.

I’m looking up, but I can’t see them

A hot tip for anyone visiting Raymond Island who has trouble spotting koalas in the trees is to look on the ground. Strange, I know, but what goes up must come down, and at the bottom of the tress you will find Koala poo. Yep, it’s a great way to find the koalas if you have trouble spotting them high up in the trees.

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Top tips for visiting Raymond Island

You need to know a few things before you arrive on Raymond Island.

Are there shops on Raymond Island?

There are no shops or restaurants on Raymond Island, but there are a couple of free BBQs that you can use to cook. We can’t always guarantee their cleanliness, but if you can, you can clean them off with the supplies you take over with you and have a great BBQ.

Street sign on Raymond island
Even the street signs have Koalas on them!

Summer months and school holiday times are the busiest, and you may have to wait to use the BBQ as well. It is always a good idea not to bring very complicated meals to cook in case the BBQs are not working or many people are waiting to use them.

*If you don’t want to take food with you from home or you have to drive a long way, you will find plenty of cafes in Paynesville and a large IGA where you can purchase the basics, but they are a little more than what you would pay in larger towns. If you need a larger selection of products, it may be best to stop in Bairnsdale at Woolworths or Coles.

Can I picnic on Raymond Island?

You are always more than welcome to bring a blanket and a picnic. Most facilities are at the ferry drop-off, and it is advisable to have your picnic there before starting the koala walk.

You can have a picnic in other parts of the island, like Gravelly Point Beach (where you can get amazing views over the Gippsland Lakes), but you must take your rubbish to the nearest bin and ensure it is not private property! Remember to pack some paper towels in case.

Are there toilets on Raymond Island?

 The toilets are located in a small park opposite the ferry jetty on Raymond Island. There is a disabled toilet available.

Hire a bike and see the Koalas.

A bike hire business has been new to Raymond Island in the last few months. Toy can hire a two or four seater bike to ride around and spot koalas.

a 4 seat bike used to explore the Raymond Island Koala Trail
Hire a bike and explore Raymond Island Australia.

A 2 seater bike is $30 while a 4 seater bike is $40 to hire. The Ratmond Island Koala Trail bike hire is a fantastic idea. Bikes can be hired at the start of the trial, you will see them sitting at the front of a house.

Do I need a car to visit Raymond Island?

You don’t need a car to do the Raymond Island walk, but you can take your car to explore other parts of the island. The beach at the other end of the island has a nice, calm sandy section where people hardly go so a paddle there is easy and a great way to dip your toes into the Gippsland Lakes system.

Can I walk the whole island?

Being a small island, you could walk around it, but it is not recommended. In the area where the majority of locals live, you will find some paved roads that are easy to walk on, but once you venture off, you will find most are dirt roads with a small shoulder section that is only suitable for one car at a time.

Raymond Island beach path
The whole island is worth exploring, but you will need a car

The South Raymond Island Foreshore Walk may be the better option if you would like a longer walk of the island. The first section is a boardwalk, which is very family-friendly and great for kids. The rest of the 4.7-kilometre loop walk incorporates some bushwalking and water edge walking.

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Are there other places on the Gippsland Lakes to see?

The Gippsland Lakes are one of Victoria’s premier destinations, although they have gone largely undiscovered by even Victorian for many years. If you stay in Lakes Entrance, Raymond Island is a great afternoon activity.

Places to see around Raymond Island:

  • Mitchel River Silt Jetties – 15 minutes
  • Metung Village – 30 minutes
  • Nyerimilang Heritage Park – 40 minutes
  • Lakes Tyers – 1 hour
  • Nicholson – 20 minutes
  • Nungurner – 25 minutes
  • Buchan Caves – 1 hour 15 minutes

*If you are travelling through Johnsonville from Bairnsdale, you will see a sign for the orchard just past the 60k sign as you enter the town. If you have time, pop in for some amazing locally-grown stone fruits. The Farm is only open during summer and has limited opening hours.

Koala facts

  • Koalas live between 13-18 years of age
  • Koalas have tough skin on their feet and long, sharp claws to provide grip when climbing.
  • Koalas are usually between 60-85cm in height
  • Koalas in southern Australia are bigger than their northern counterparts
  • Eucalyptus leaves are the only thing that Koalas eat
  • Koalas eat 2.5 pounds of food a day
  • Koalas sleep for 18 hours a day
  • Koalas only live in Australia
  • It’s estimated there are less than 80,000 koalas left in Australia
  • Cats and dogs kill 4000 Koalas a year
  • Australia has cleared 80% of the koala’s natural habitat.

There are so many things to do in Gippsland, but a visit to Raymond Island is one that will stay in your memory forever. Seeing Koalas in the wild is an experience like no other, and when you visit Raymond Island you will get an amazingly wonderful day out as well.

Currently, there is work to upgrade the Raymond island koala trail to make it easier and more accessible to catch a glimpse of these amazing koalas in Australia.

We hope this article from us here at Explore Victoria has inspired you to embark on your adventure in Victoria, Australia, from popular caravan parks and pristine beaches to drives along the Great Ocean Road. Enjoy weekends away on the Mornington Peninsula and discover the cosmopolitan charm of Melbourne, Victoria, with a range of experiences for every traveller who wants to visit Victoria.

Whether you’re drawn to the rugged beauty of the Grampians, the cultural richness of Ballarat, or the autumn colours of Bright and Northern Victoria, there’s no shortage of hidden gems waiting to be discovered in Victoria.

Even if you love exploring Gippsland or driving the Great Alpine Road, Victoria has something special for you, and there is so much more for you to discover. If you are looking for more incredible and best places to visit in Melbourne or more travel in Victoria destinations, Explore Victoria has some more articles below for you to check out. Expand your horizons and get out and about in Victoria, Australia, for an unforgettable experience. 

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Author Bio

Bec Wyld is the creative force behind the words, blending Explore Victora with a touch of wanderlust. With an innate ability to tell a story that resonates, Bec invites readers on a journey through her home of Victoria Australia. Beyond the keyboard, Bec works in Aged Care helping people to live a better life. With a pen in one hand and on the road in front Bec is on a quest to inspire those looking to explore Victoria through words, images and lifestyle