If you’re looking for a day trip with the family, then head to the small village of Lemon Tree Passage. Located on the Tilligerry Peninsula in Port Stephens, an hour north of Newcastle, you can go for a walk, spot koalas and go for a swim.

Although the name could remind you of citrus orchards, when we passed through, there were none to be seen. Several theories abound as to the origin of the town’s name. The first is that mysterious lemon trees were discovered growing on the peninsula’s point. Another one mentions the lemon orchard of an early resident while another notes that perhaps the native Cheese Trees were mistaken for the lemon ones. Either way, we did find a slice when we opened our package of fish and chips.

Talking of mysteries, Lemon Tree Passage Road is also subject to an urban legend which inspired the 2014 film Lemon Tree Passage (NB: This is definitely a film for after kids bedtime!).

Apart from mysteries, the town also has some very real attractions including a large playground, a koala walk, BBQ and swimming areas.

Henderson Park

Henderson Park is the main grassed area of the town’s foreshore. Here you’ll find a recently refurbished playground covered by a shade cloth. There are also BBQ facilities, toilets and a netted swimming area.

Koala Spotting Lemon Tree Passage

Spot koalas along the Mangrove Boardwalk

The Mangrove Boardwalk commences at the end of the town’s main street and weaves through the mangroves of the headland. The walk is mostly flat and accessible for prams, wheelchairs or bikes.

Koala Spotting Lemon Tree Passage

Koala Spotting Lemon Tree Passage

At the end of the walk is where you are most likely to spot a koala.

Koala Spotting Lemon Tree Passage

Tips for koala spotting:

  • Go koala spotting early in the morning or in the evening. These can be the best times to spot them as they’re more active.
  • Look in all the trees. Koalas sleep in different kinds of trees, not just eucalyptus.
  • Looks for signs of activity like scratches or shredded bark on trees, koala droppings, etc . This indicates that a koala has been nearby.
  • Listen for koala noises! During the summer breeding season, males and females call out for each other.
  • Adjust your spotting to the temperature. On hot days, koalas sit higher in the trees to catch the breeze or in thick shady trees. If it’s cold, they can be spotted in a sunny spot or in the fork of a tree.
  • Check where there’s been sightings on the Port Stephens Koala Sightings Map.

We were fortunate enough to spot one when we visited but, if you do miss out, you may be able to spot some at the Tilligerry Habitat in Tanilba Bay.

If you feel like a longer walk, keep walking along the Lilli Pilli Walk. It extends the previous trail to follow the peninsula beside the Tilligerry Creek waterway.

After a walk, take a swim. The netted swimming area is unpatrolled by lifeguards but the water is very calm and there is a small beach for sand play.

Koala Spotting Lemon Tree Passage

Notes before you go:

  • There is ample parking for both cars and boats.
  • The boat ramp at Lemon Tree Passage allows access to the waters of Port Stephens. If you do want to hit the water but don’t have a boat, there are tinnies, cruisers and houseboats to hire through the marina.
  • Although there are takeaways in town, if you did want to get BBQ or picnic supplies, the nearby town of Tanilba Bay has a supermarket.
  • Bring swimming gear if you feel like a dip.
  • Bring insect repellant. Mosquitos often blow over from Bull Island just across the channel.