We travelled to Port Macquarie over the school holidays. This has been our first blog since returning home from our stint on the Follow The Sun Relay.
One could say we were spoilt for choice in winter in Port Macquarie. There is no question that their clean and uncrowded beaches are a draw card for visitors in Summer, but what is there to do around the Port Macquarie region in Winter? Let us tell you….loads and loads, that’s what!
PORT MACQUARIE KOALA HOSPITAL
The Port Macquarie area is home to over 2000 Koalas and the Koala Hospital rescues and cares for ones that have been injured on the roads or in bushfires 24 hours a day every day of the year. They take koala patients from south of Sydney, as far north as Lismore, and as far west as Moree and down to Dubbo. This is NOT a place where you will get to cuddle a Koala. Their stories are posted by their enclosures so you don’t have to do a tour if you don’t want to, however, the tours are FREE OF CHARGE (run by volunteers) at 3pm everyday when the koalas are fed. Our guide explained to us how most of the koalas came to be in their care and how they nurse them back to health, rehabilitate them and then return them to the wild. Those that can’t be released back become permanent residents. The tours are very educational and you do get quite close. We even got to see a vet working on one of the koalas in the clinic.
BAGO MAZE & WINERY
Kids just love getting lost don’t they? Well Bago Maze is one serious maze. Exceeding our expectations that’s for sure. It’s the largest hedge maze in NSW with over 2000 metres of pathways! It’s about a 30 minute drive from the heart of Port Macquarie. The last section of road to the Winery is dirt but an easy dirt road no 4WD necessary. The kids loved the treasure hunt in the maze and I must admit it did take Mum and Dad a while to work out how to get to the end, its quite challenging, but don’t worry, there are emergency exits throughout. When finished we indulged in some wine tasting and a local cheese platter under the pergola which is perched on a hill overlooking the vineyard and the 2 metre high maze. There is plenty of room for the kids to run around if they aren’t worn out by the maze. We bought some local honey and relishes while the kids enjoyed an ice cream.
OLD BOTTLEBUTT TREE
This is the hidden gem of the area. A tree. A VERY big tree. 'Old Bottlebutt' is a grand and ancient Red Bloodwood tree, the largest of it’s kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Being over 200 years old and more than 16 metres in diameter at it’s base, the Old Bottlebutt tree in Burrawan State Forest is IMPRESSIVE and the main feature on the easy 600 metre loop walking track that meanders through thick lush rainforest. There are a couple of footbridges over creek crossings and when you reach the tree there is a hardwood timber viewing deck with seating. The only sound you will hear out there are the birds and the sound of your feet on the path. Suitable for all fitness levels however not wheelchair or pram friendly. Your journey begins and ends at the Burrawan picnic area in Wauchope. Oh and be warned, you might want to slap on the Aerogard for this stop.
Now this is no Taronga or Australia Zoo but what it is, is a fantastic non crowded 10 acre regional Zoo of Australian and Exotic animals with a lot of hands on access to kangaroos, emus, wallabies, and birds. They have cheetahs, Fennec Foxes (sooooo cute!), penguins, crocodiles, lions, meerkats, monkeys, quolls, red pandas, wombats, dingoes, emus and our favourite…the snow leopards. You can even do personal encounters with the snow leopards, cheetahs and meerkats. It’s a well set out Zoo and the animal areas are well cared for. You can go underground to view the wombats in their environment and the huge croc can also be viewed from an underwater chamber or above ground. The park contains picnic barbecues, gardens, and billabongs covered with water lilies and full of koi carp. We chose to eat at the Zoo Café the day we visited and it was absolutely yummy! It really is a great day out with children and not a lot of walking like the bigger zoos.
If you want an adventure that is truly unique and memorable, then enjoying a Camel Safari on beautiful Lighthouse Beach is a must. What a great experience! The cameleers are very knowledgeable. We were allowed to take photos with our camera and phones whilst up on the camel. Because it was whale season we had an added bonus of getting to see whales having fun in the ocean from our elevated view. The trek goes for about 20-30 minutes on the soft golden sands. There were about 5 camels (Dromedary camels) and 2 people per camel, with a number of guides walking along with us just in case the camels decided to be naughty, which thankfully they weren’t. They really are funny animals, the kids kept laughing at their facial expressions. Take off and landing was quite tricky and we didn’t want to face plant the sand so we made sure we listened attentively to the cameleers instructions. Adults are $35 and kids ranged from $25 to $15.
Just a 20 minute drive from the heart of Port Macquarie to nearby Wauchope, is Timbertown, a re-creation of an 1880-1910 working timber settlement set amongst towering Tallowood and Blackbutt trees. Timbertown is quite a unique attraction that offers some history into how people lived in the early days. Two of their buildings are original buildings, both being churches. You can take a ride on a genuine steam train with open carriages around the perimeter of the 87 acre property.
There is so much to see and do at Timbertown, from getting up close and personal to farmyard animals, to roaming through buildings such as a school and saddlery, ride the miniature railway, whip cracking, penny farthing bike, watch the blacksmith in action he is very entertaining and interacts with the kids, pan for gold, however, I must say, our highlight was watching the incredible live Bullock demonstration and the Clydesdale horse and carriage ride. The bullock team is the only one of it’s kind in Australia, possibly the world. Watching the bullocky use very few commands to get his team of bullocks to stop and turn all whilst pulling a huge tree trunk across the paddock was quite remarkable. This is how our country was built.
If you are interested in Australian history then you will love the nostalgic feeling this place oozes. A really good family outing but be sure to call ahead first to see if the Bullock team is operating as they are in the process of getting a new bullocky and are running minimal shows. School holidays is the time to see Timbertown at it’s best.
TACKING POINT LIGHTHOUSE
This historic lighthouse overlooking the Pacific Ocean was built in 1879 and is still in operation today. The ruins of the original lighthouse keeper’s cottage have also been preserved. Be sure to read the history boards as the tales are fascinating. As it was whale season we were able to see whales breaching relatively close by from the viewing platform. The views are magnificent and a photographers delight. It was such a nice spot we decided to get some hot chips and stay for sunset. There are also stairs (many stairs) down to Lighthouse Beach if you want a stroll along the beach.