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The Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia

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by Shonavee Simpson (subscribe)
Shonavee is a freelance writer, online editor/copywriter and life-long Novocastrian. Visit her blog at and leave a comment or post a topic for discussion.
Published December 25th 2013
Hunter Wetlands Centre
The Hunter Wetlands Centre
Photo by Phillip Duncan
Courtesy of the Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia
I recently took a moment for some serious nostalgia by visiting the Hunter Wetlands Centre located at Shortland. As a kid I spent a lot of time there with my brother because it was a safe, fun and cheap way to let us run around and be maniacs. If we weren't watching the animals, dip-netting, or, taking a canoe down Ironbark Trail, we were literally just running from point to point and swamp to swamp. It's now been a solid ten years since my last real visit to the Wetlands and I have to say it has only gotten better; for instance most of the animals that live inside the actual centre itself are now alive! In a nutshell, it's one of the reasons I really adore the Wetlands – not the animal thing, the 'better than ever' thing – it's entire history is one that speaks of a passion that continually drives it toward a brighter future, and it is always getting better.

For instance, the area that is now known as the Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia was once an abandoned site with no purpose. Then, in the early 1980s, Dr Max Maddock noticed a breeding colony of four species of Egret on the site and his intense curiosity of this phenomenon, and his passion to conserve the area, has touched countless lives in the near thirty years since. Over the years the site has generated considerable interest due to the diversity and rarity of life that can be found there and the centre has kept itself going through the passion, generosity and hard-work of employees, volunteers and visitors. Today, the 45 hectare wetlands is home to over 100,000 planted trees, up to 700 breeding pairs of birds, and around 240 identified species of animals. It is a natural wonderland and has been recognised for its unique and irreplaceable contribution by the Ramsar Convention.

The Wetlands is like a recreational one-stop-spot: it's perfect for kids, families, couples, work gatherings, events and functions, school or disabled groups, weddings, Friday night drinks, water view lunch, bird watchers, animal lovers and so on - there is something here for everyone to enjoy. So, if you haven't already, here are few ideas to help you take advantage of the beautiful summer weather these holidays at Newcastle's ultimate nature locale.

Is that a pic-a-nic basket?

When was the last time you had a good old-fashioned picnic? For most people, I think it's been a while, but the Wetlands is the perfect place to reacquaint you and your family or friends with this by-gone past time. There are 45 hectares of land filled with grassy hills, sloping banks, hidden bush nooks, gazebos, and creek-side picnic areas; so make use of them this summer.

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Egret Tower
The kids have the whole property to explore, which they can do on their bikes, or there's the Children's Discovery Zone and Playground. In the meantime, the adults can enjoy the good food, complemented with serene water views, and the relaxing sounds of nature all around them. This is a quick, easy and cheap way to get away from the hassle of city life without having to go cross-country.

Get your White and Nerdy on!

Take your explorations of the land off-road in geek-chic style and take a ride on an X2 Segway with their super fun Segway Adventure Tours. A Segway (in case you never saw the Weird Al video) is a two-wheeled, self-balancing, electric vehicle which you ride standing up. It is a very different, but fun way to go site-seeing and is an especially unique experience to Newcastle.

The Wetlands themselves are quite unique, but the Segway Tours they provide every weekend are one of the only in Newcastle - this is an experience not to be missed. Bookings are essential and are $65 per person (this cost includes entry).

Friday Arvo Drinks with Friends!

Looking for a new watering hole? Then I suggest you head to the Wetlands for TGIF tie with friends and work mates. The Spoonbill café serves prawn buckets, platters and beer, while you and your mates chill out with some live tunes and water views.

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Balcony at Spoonbill Cafe
This also makes a lovely and unexpected date night for you and the better half. Just imagine: live music, drinks and seafood on a balcony overlooking the water; the sun setting over the treetops and the call of nature singing out… actually, you don't have to imagine it, you can experience this delight for yourself every Friday afternoon till 8pm.

Feeling Physical?

If you love the water, being physical and exploring the land, the Wetlands has the perfect activity for you: canoeing!

For those who are inexperienced, the Centre has guided tours which take you down the gorgeous Ironbark Trail, and leads visitors to the Wetlands Coastal Rainforest. The guided tours allow visitors to check out the scenery and wildlife from a new, more buoyant perspective. For the experienced paddler, you can hire canoes any day of the week for two hours at a time and explore the amazing water trail at your own leisure.

Guided canoe tours start at 9:30am every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month and costs $20 for kids and $30 for adults. General canoe hire is $10 per person for two hours (last hire at 2pm) and $3 per non-paddling child (must be accompanied by an adult). It is recommended you wear enclosed shoes.

Dump the Kids!

Need a little peace and quiet these holidays? The Wetlands runs regular programs which are great for kids, such as, bike safari tours, the Bush Skills Adventure program where kids can make their own bush shelters and dampers, there's workshops from outside groups – one of the most recent being a drama workshop run by Tantrum theatre, animal feeding talks where you can hold some of the animals like the resident snake and baby crocodile, dip-netting, canoeing, arts and crafts days, and so much more!

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Freckled Duck Photo by Patrick McIntyre
Courtesy of the Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia

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Spotted - A Sea Eagle's Nest!
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Meet the Baby Crocodile! Photo by Tori Gill
Courtesy of the Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia

So… if you need a little time to yourself over this summer, check out all the different programs and activities they are running for kids and enjoy some much needed me-time.


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Wedding Pews in Nature's Church
Need somewhere to book your next party? Why not the Wetlands Centre?

They now cater for:

-Kid's Parties - cost $20 per child (minimum booking of 15) and runs for two hours. The package includes a dedicated party host, guided activities, party room, and a full catered menu, PLUS parents get free entry!

-Private Functions and Weddings – there are plenty of BBQ shelters and areas available for reservation for that special event, which includes nature's own chapel, complete with pews. This is a fantastic time to book a function with the Wetlands as the sun is shining and the days are longer, and the area has unique and natural atmosphere in abundance to make your next event truly special.

-Corporate Functions and Meetings – whether it's Training Days, Conferences, Board Meetings, Team Building Sessions, or just a General Meeting, the Wetlands Centre has you covered. Have a chat with the Centre today to find out how they can design a complete package for your next function.

This is far from everything that the Centre provides and there is always something else happening at the Wetlands. There are also special events like theatre or musical shows, night activities, competitions and heaps more!

The Centre is open from 9am-4pm seven days a week (plus some night activities and events) and entry costs are $10 p/adult, $5 p/child, $25 p/family (two adults and two children), $6.50 p/concession, or, $6 for groups of 10 or more adults (there are also memberships available too).

You can find out more about the activities, programs and services mentioned, as well as special events or programs not mentioned, by contacting the Centre on (02) 49 51 64 66, by visiting their website at, by following them on Facebook and Twitter, or, by visiting the Centre itself which is located off the roundabout on Sandgate Road, Shortland.
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Where: 412 Sandgate Road Shortland NSW 2307, Australia
Your Comment
You've taken some amazing photographs - especially of the baby croc. Looks like a wonderful place to visit.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12626) 2669 days ago
I spotted a photo that I knew well and you have written a great review.
I am like you and until recently I also have not been to the wetlands and was pleased with the improvements made. Although when trying to get some good photos with mostly empty dams was not easy.


Phil Duncan
by Philip Duncan (score: 1|34) 2665 days ago
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