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Published June 20th 2022
Port Stephens is located one hour north of Newcastle, in the Hunter region. It is blessed with white sandy beaches, aqua-blue water and an abundance of natural beauty. Native wildlife also love to live in Port Stephens, with koalas living in the wild in pockets around the area. As you drive through the streets of Salamander Bay and Soldiers Point for example, you will see bright signage on the side of the road to warn you to slow down, in case a koala is on the move. It is important to heed the warnings as there are only 250 koalas estimated to be in the Port Stephens colony, so every single one is important for their survival.
Although you may be lucky to see one in the wild, the best place to see them is at the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary and Hospital, so you can support their survival at the same time. Keep reading for more info, as well as other areas in the region...
Help save these beautiful Australian icons. Image: Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary website
The Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary is a new facility at One Mile, which opened in September, 2020. There is an entry fee to get in, which goes directly to the koala hospital, and then you can walk along the elevated wooden platforms and learn about the koalas who live there temporarily (while they get better) or permanently (if they can't go back into the wild). The walk is about 1 kilometre in length and is designed for all ages and abilities. Visitors can also look into the viewing window of the koala hospital. This venue is the best place to view them and take photos, as the elevated walkways take you up close to them in the canopy. You can also stay at the facility and go glamping! See here for details.
Koalas are treated at the hospital, get better and then go back into the wild. Image: Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary website
Tilgerry Habitat is located at Tanilba Bay in Port Stephens. It is a 9-hectare flora and fauna nature reserve which is home to koalas living in the wild and over 100 species of birds. It is run by volunteers and a donation to have a look around is greatly appreciated. When you get there, stop in at the information centre and pick up a map and chat with the volunteers about the latest sightings (also check out their Facebook for tips). See here for details and here for an article about the reserve.
Oakvale Wildlife Park is located at Salt Ash, which is on the main road into the Port Stephens region (look out for the signage at the Lemontree Passage roundabout). If you have young children, then spend the morning at this venue and feed the farmyard babies and explore their property. They have a wide range of native and exotic animals, which includes koalas. See here for details. For a full article on what to do there, see here.
Koalas are notoriously hard to find in the wild as they camouflage in so well to their surroundings (see photo below), so the best way to see them is at one of these venues - which also puts money back into their welfare. I think that we all agree - we simply can't lose these cute Aussie icons...
This koala looks like he's having a hard day! Image: Tilgerry Habitat Facebook