There are few places that you can catch a glimpse of these furry little cuteballs but Smiths Creek Reserve outside of Sydney is one of these places.

Remember: Extra research on the safety and conservation of koalas is needed before embarking upon this trip. Head to KoalaTracker and SavetheKoala for everything you need to know and remember to tread quietly and carefully at all times.


  • Easy access by train
  • Incredible wildlife
  • Opportunity to help track koalas and keep them safe

The Lowdown

Koalas and NSW are 2 things you don’t often hear together. Koalas and Sydney definitely aren’t. But a little bit of Googling and there’s records of them being seen within the city limits. Having previously only seen them in Queensland and Victoria, the idea of seeing them in our own backyard was way too exciting to leave unchecked.

Using KoalaTracker and SavetheKoala we found a number of old records from 2015, mostly concentrated on a small patch of Gum Forest near Campbelltown; an area called Smiths Creek Reserve. It’s only 250m wide and around 3km long. A bit different to the usual Koala haunts. With no recent sightings, we were going to have to cover as much forest as possible and check every tree!

Smiths Creek Reserve Butterfly_v2 matthew pearce koala spotting

Armed with cameras and binoculars we set out. It didn’t take long to realise this is a special place. King Parrots flew back and forth over our heads, Eastern Rosella sat like Christmas decorations in the trees and a Grey Goshawk shot through the jumble of tree branches like a bullet, sending smaller birds scattering for cover. Only half an hour in and my day was already made!

For the next few hours, we criss-crossed the reserve, staring intently into trees, scanning through binoculars and doubling back on ourselves whenever we reached the swollen creek running through the middle. In the thicker parts of the forest the non-avian life was equally as impressive. Daytime moths, swallowtail butterflies and even a Red Bellied Black Snake were all ticked off as we made our way around.

Smiths Creek Reserve Butterfly_v2 matthew pearce koala spotting

With rain showers moving in and out, decreasing supplies and expectation for a Koala on the decline we started making plans to head home. Heading out of the south end of the reserve we found a large information sign:

“Koala habitat regeneration.” So they are here! But where?

One more look… these trees are ideal.

Three of us, all with necks craned upwards, scanning every single tree in sight.

More Eastern Rosella, a Currawong, Australian Magpie. KOALA!!

There it was, snacking on gum leaves, sat in a fork of the tree, doing what Koalas do. Only 1 hour from Sydney city centre. Something we didn’t think was possible.

Before we’d got back to the train, we’d added our sighting to KoalaTracker and SavetheKoala. Both amazing crowdsourced solutions for tracking our precious NSW population and informing conservation. So get out there, get spotting and get uploading.

Essential Gear

  • Shoes and clothing suitable for the weather
  • Binoculars will help to cover more ground
  • Camera for the abundant wildlife

How To Get There

Trains regularly depart Sydney CBD to Leumeah Station. From there you can enter Smiths Creek Reserve from the North and criss-cross until you reach the South, catching the train again from Campbelltown (pssst… we spotted our Koala in the very southern end).

Google Maps directions 


  • Walking
  • Bird watching
  • Koala spotting

Skill Level

  • Beginner

Distance Covered / Elevation Gain

The Reserve is only around 250m wide, 3-4km long and generally flat. The network of trails though mean you can still clock up the k’s. The trails are generally wide and well drained.


More adventures for the animal lovers

Get Your Herp On // An Intro To Snake Spotting

Swimming with Seals // Montague Island (NSW)

Finding a Pecker in the Woods // Barrington Tops (NSW)