One of my fondest travel memories was visiting a beer garden in Germany frequented by deer – we drank steins, they nibbled grass – it was great. So when I read that the John Forrest Tavern and its beer garden of friendly kangaroos near Perth, Western Australia was probably the best place to see kangaroos in Perth, it immediately became a trip must-do.
We first visited back in 2017 and since that date, the roos and the pub have become TikTok famous with staff member @Cardqueenkatie showing her daily life at the pub full of roos – including Matt the Kangaroo, his brother Richard and more. so, if you’ve been wondering how to see the John Forrest Tavern Kangaroos – and meet Matt and the rest of the mob, read on.
And, if heading out to the kangaroo pub isn’t enough fun, we’ll also give you some suggestions for some other great places to see kangaroos in Perth.
A Sad Update
In 2022, the local council around the John Forrest Tavern agreed that the Tavern should be closed and knocked down to build a car park. It closed at the end of May 2022. Which sucks.
So unfortunately, you can’t visit the roos there any more. You’ll find a few other places later in the post to see roos near Perth (click here to head straight to that section), but sadly, the Tavern is no more.
Most people who visit John Forrest National Park about 30km east of Perth, Western Australia, are there to hike in the gorgeous greenery or to try and spot some of the 91 species of bird that live there (or maybe the 10 types of frog).
Some people are here to visit the two waterfalls in the grounds or explore the old train tunnel that’s also in the park…but when have we ever done what everyone else does in a destination?
We were here because a schooner with Skippy was too good an opportunity to miss.
Making a Morning of It
The John Forrest Tavern (and the park it’s in) are about a 36-minute drive away from central Perth.
It’s very close to the Swan Valley wine region and so we started our day with a drive around the food and wine loop checking out the wineries and pretty countryside before rolling up to the pub around the opening time of 11 am.
It seemed a bit early to go in the pub so we sat in the car for a bit – and then all of a sudden, boinging across the car park came a mum kangaroo with her hopping toddler behind her.
We looked to where they were going and realised, the mob were already here. There was about 15 of them lying under the trees. There were mums snoozing baby heads sticking out of pouches, baby legs sticking out of pouches, lounging roos, bouncing roos, great big boy roos.
I was already as happy as a clam and decided that yes, it was probably THE best place to see kangaroos in Perth.
At this point, I realised that the pub beer garden had a gate. With so many roos outside, I wondered whether these were the main attraction and we didn’t need to go in the pub proper, but as we peered over the fence, we could see more roos, hanging around the tables.
Figuring it was past noon somewhere, I was at the bar faster than you can say mine’s a Carlton Dry.
What’s The John Forrest Tavern Like?
If you read reviews of the pub online, they can be less than glowing. The fact that the pub is a bit basic seems to be a theme and it is but, it’s charming because of it.
Let’s face it, its a basic Aussie pub in the middle of nowhere. It doesn’t need airs, graces and frills to do its job.
The beer was cold, the staff and other customers were really friendly and the toilet was attached to the building, not a hole six feet down the garden that you need a snake stick to visit, so it worked for me.
Plus did I mention the beer garden is full of ROOS!
I visited before Katie arrived at the pub and made it quite so famous, I’m thinking it’s probably a bit busier now than when I went but the inside looks just as old school.
Will You Get Close to the Roos?
We took our drinks outside and sat at one of the benches closest to the roos. Every so often the door to the bar would open and another kangaroo would hop out from inside the pub.
It seems that the fact that the garden has a gate doesn’t matter.
If the roos want to come in they just come in the front door like the rest of us, and hop around the pool table until someone sends them into the garden.
Star of the show though was Manky – an enormous male who was stationed outside the kitchen door like a bouncer. He only had eyes on one prize – entering the kitchen.
I admit at first I was a bit scared of him – male roos are about human height when they stand upright and all muscle. If the guy at the gym that grunts and throws the weights around had fur, he would be a male kangaroo. You do not want to tangle with a grumpy one.
Manky though wasn’t bothered about us – he only cared about the magical nirvana he’d obviously decided was the John Forrest Tavern kitchen.
There was a child’s seat barricading his path but, if he wanted in, he just moved it – or apparently some days he just hops over it (I’d have paid good money to see that).
During the time we visited he hopped into the kitchen about three times hoping no-one would notice him….funnily enough, considering he’s enormous, they did and chased him out.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sight of a massive kangaroo being pushed out of a pub with a crisp box in my life!
Manky Was Also the Famous Australian Sexy Roo!!!
Manky made the news a while back for his interesting lying pose getting him the nickname of the ‘seductive kangaroo’ – mind you, considering the size of him, I wouldn’t take the mickey out of him too loudly!
This may lead you to think that the roos here are tame – they aren’t. They have nothing to do with the pub itself other than making the garden their personal playground.
Yes, the staff have named them – we also met Dribbly when we were there – and they do feed them special roo kibble but these are most definitely wild animals.
Sadly, as I update this in 2021, Manky has passed on, but his crown of alpha roo has been taken by the brothers Matt and Richard. But rather than trying to get into the kitchen, Matt particularly seems to think he should be spending his time behind the bar, rather than in the garden or outside the pub. As you can see (thanks to @Cardqueenkatie for letting me add this)
That’s why I think that if you’re looking for where to see kangaroos in Perth, the John Forrest Tavern is a must do. You can really get up close to a completely wild group.
If you’re not keen on going to the pub though, scan down a bit as there’s a list of other places where you can spot kangaroos in Perth coming up below…but first
What Other Creatures Visit John Forrest Tavern?
Kangaroos aren’t the only wild visitors…we got to see parrots and ducks and, there’s also a bandicoot that appears on occasion but we weren’t lucky enough to meet him.
If we hadn’t had a car we could have sat having a few beers and watching the animal antics for hours but, I felt bad drinking beer while The Boyfriend was on soda and so, we left after about an hour to head back to town for lunch with a bunch more marsupial memories to keep us happy.
I say more memories because this wasn’t the first time I’d met cute animals in pubs during my Perth trip – we’d met quokkas on nearby Rottnest Island.
There are also pubs in Sydney with cats, dogs and a particularly fabulous cockatoo. Seems like drinking with critters is the done thing here, which begs the question, does anyone know where I can find a bar full of wombats?
How to Get to the John Forrest Tavern
The easiest way is by car. It’s about 36 minutes drive from Perth. Note, you will. have to pay a National Park entrance fee of $12 if you come in by car. This is valid all day though so, you can either go and explore other cool things in the park, or visit one of the other National Parks in the area.
As I said when we visited we combined it with a drive around the Swan Valley which works well if you don’t want to go wine tasting but want to check out the area anyway. Also nearby is Caversham Wildlife Park if you want to make an animal-themed day of it.
It is also possible to get public transport to the Tavern – google maps will tell you otherwise but google maps lie!
If you want to find the route don’t put the John Forrest Tavern into the directions, just put in John Forrest National Park. It will then find you a route to the entrance hut and the Tavern is about a ten-minute walk from there.
This was our original plan to visit the park, but we had to be back in town for a set time and the timings didn’t quite work.
If you want to try it though the journey sees you getting on the Midland line train at Perth central station, stay on it for 25 minutes until Midland, then get on a number 320 bus.for 16 minutes to just by the park entrance (the 322 also goes here).
The Tavern is about a 30-minute walk inside the park from the bus stop.
Where Else to See Kangaroos in Perth?
John Forrest is the best place I’ve seen roos anywhere in Australia so far, but if you don’t want to go to the pub or can’t get that far out, there are a few other places to see kangaroos in Perth – including one right in the middle of Perth CBD.
If you don’t really have time to leave Perth town city centre, this is your best bet for trying to spot kangaroos in Perth – and is one of our top fun things to do in Perth.
This small island, in the middle of the Swan River, is home to about five kangaroos that live in a kangaroo sanctuary at one end of the island.
They’re fed by a ranger twice a day, but otherwise, hop around their fenced off area to their heart’s content.
They aren’t that easy to spot though, we only managed to find two of them the day we went.
Heirisson Island is very easy to get to from the centre of Perth, there are regular buses or you can even walk.
Home to wild kangaroos this park also has other attractions such a large Motor Museum. They say the roos can be tricky to spot – but, if you don’t manage to see any then you can go to the Caversham Wildlife Park.
Located in Whiteman Park this wildlife park is full of Australian animals – including roos – and has a kangaroo feeding area where you can get up close to them.
It’s open from 9-5.30 every day except Christmas Day and costs $30 to get in.
For transport details (car and bus/train) to both places, check out the Whiteman Park transport page.
Yanchep National Park
This large park is best known for its koala spotting boardwalk which lets you walk past eucalyptus trees stuffed with sleepy fat-bottomed fluff buckets – however, head outside this fenced area and you’ll usually spot a few kangaroos hopping around as well.
The Chocolate Drops shop in the tearooms also does a nice line in chocolate in the shape of Aussie animals!
Yanchep is about 40 kilometres north of Perth and best reached by car as you need to head into the park to find the animals.
The nearest bus stop is about 3km away. There is a Park Entrance fee at Yanchep at the time of writing it costs AU$15 to drive into Yanchep National Park.
You’ll find kangaroos and wallabies in their Australian Bushwalk exhibit.
I haven’t been so I’m not sure if you can feed them, but in most Aussie zoos I have been too, the roos are hopping freely around their enclosure.
They also have a heap of less Australian animals too.
It costs $32 to get in for an adult. It’s open every day of the year from 9-5 and very easily accessible by public transport. See more here.
How to Spot a Kangaroo in the Wild
It’s not always that easy if they’re not moving – they tend to be most active around dusk or dawn, so they are going to be your best opportunities to spot them.
The rest of the day, look for the shade or shadow wherever you are. We were once driving up a road in the outback and spotted them huddled in groups literally in the shadow of telegraph poles as it was the only shade.
If you’re driving to an area to spot roos, be very careful around dusk and dawn, or at night as the roos can be attracted to car lights and jump out into the road – and they are fast, and big and heavy – it doesn’t always end well for either of you if you hit one.
If you’re driving in proper outback Australia, it’s best to stay off the road at night for that very reason if you can.
Ever Wondered What Noise Kangaroos Make?
Here’s the answer…
So, what’s the most fun pub you’ve ever visited on a trip – I’d love to hear about it (and probably add it to my list of must-sees). Let me know in the comments.
What to Read Next
Talking of fun pubs, did you know that you can visit, and stay in, the pub that featured in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. It’s in Broken Hill, NSW – check out our guide to fun things to do in Broken Hill if this is on your list of place to travel to.
If you like our kangaroo pictures, you’ll love the wombat pictures over at our post on Sleepy Burrows Wombat sanctuary.
Or, maybe dingoes are your thing – in which case you’ll want to see what happened when we went and cuddled dingoes at the Bargo Dingo Sanctuary just a short drive from Sydney.
And last, but definitely not least, if you’re travelling to Port Stephens, a couple of hours north of Sydney, there’s a place where you can swim with dolphins in the wild – ie they choose to come to you, rather than the other way around. If that sounds like something you’d like to check out, take a look at our post on the Port Stephens Dolphin Swim here.
Who Writes Differentville?
My name is Helen Foster and I’m a journalist and author living in Sydney.
My travel articles have been published in titles including The Australian, Body & Soul at the Sunday Telegraph, RAC Horizons, Jetstar magazine and more.
I like the weird, the wonderful and anything that makes me jump and down with glee like I’m about three. That’s what you’ll find here.
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