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Meet the icon: Port Macquarie

Discover the wildlife of New South Wales

Meet the icon: Port Macquarie
Image: Getty

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Fly above New South Wales on a clear day, and you might just grasp the diversity of Australia’s most populous state. From the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean and crescents of yellow sand, to bands of vibrant green national parks, Port Macquarie is a serious showstopper in this part of the world.

And hidden across this unfathomably vast region — in every nook and cranny — is some of the planet’s most interesting and experiential wildlife encounters: from the beautiful to the downright bizarre. Where else can you float among giant manta rays, swim with wild dolphins, pad along a golden beach atop a camel, and spot Humpback whales migrating along the coast from May to November. If you’re lucky you may even spot Migaloo, the albino whale.  

The coastal city of Port Macquarie lies under the radar but it could well be regarded as a unofficial hub of outdoorsy escapades and wildlife experiences. Plot a course here and you could horse ride along wild, empty beaches on your first morning, chase the tails of dolphins on a boat trip and spot sea eagles darting from tree to tree along the Hastings River. Spend a day looping around the walking trails of the Kooloonbung Creek Nature Reserve and you’re in for close encounters with an astonishing number of bird species flitting through mangroves and the bush; and the Billabong Zoo Koala and Wildlife Park always goes down a treat with its snow leopards, red pandas and giant saltwater crocs.

The Koala Hospital should be on your to-do list. This scientific research and education centre and rehabilitation facility cares for koalas. Free tours are run every day around the treatment rooms, intensive care units and recovery yards, and visitors can walk among the permanent exhibits and view procedures in what is a real eye-opener for any animal lover. 

Meet the person behind the icon: Sue Ashton, Volunteer at the Koala Hospital

So, the Koala Hospital, what’s it all about?
The Koala Hospital provides authentic, memorable and safe experiences for visitors. Tourists are educated about koala facts; the plight of wild koalas in Australia; and they’re entertained by our guides and the koalas on permanent exhibition. The afternoon tours include feeding some of the animals which ensures tourists can see the koalas awake and active and learn a little about their individual personalities.

What does the Koala Hospital mean to you?
Expect a moving, emotional experience. I’ve always loved animals, particularly the koala, so the Koala Hospital seemed like an obvious place to work.

What makes it so iconic?
It’s the only hospital in the world for koalas. It was established over 45 years ago and has grown from a one-room clinic to a facility with koala yards, a clinic, retail shop, small koala museum and it is run by over 160 volunteers. Visitors get to see wild koalas up close: about a metre away. They can hear their stories and the reasons why they can’t be released. Plus, there’s the chance to continue their relationship with one of the koalas they’ve seen at the hospital by ‘Adopting a Wild Koala’.

Tell us something unexpected:
All of these services and experiences are free!

Like this, try these…

Wild dolphin swimming at Port Stephens
Swimming with dolphins is one thing. But swimming with wild dolphins in the open ocean blows everything else out of the water. Stop by this sheltered harbour and book one of these extraordinary tours, armed with a snorkel and guided by divemasters who know everything there is to know about these fascinating mammals.

Whale watching at Jervis Bay
Pass through this beachside town from May to October and there’s a good chance you’ll spot migrating humpback and southern right whales frolicking offshore. You could hop on a boat trip, but Jervis Bay’s headlands provides dozens of vantage points, from the Shoalhaven Heads in the north, to Bawley Point in the south.

Check out kangaroos and bird life in the Blue Mountains
The eucalyptus forests of the Blue Mountains are a wildlife haven: spot mobs of kangaroos snoozing in the shade or feasting at sunset; and with 250 recorded bird species, keep your eyes peeled for parrots, the superb lyrebird and the satin bowerbird flitting through the canopy.

How to do it

Fly to Sydney with Singapore Airlines from £765pp return. Singapore Airlines offers four daily flights from London Heathrow and five flights a week from Manchester with seamless connections via Singapore. singaporeair.com