Koala Spotting at Tilligerry Habitat in Port Stephens

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Tilligerry Habitat is a hidden treasure you might not have heard of. Located on the Tilligerry Peninsula at Port Stephens, this 9-hectare flora and fauna reserve is approximately 45 minutes from Newcastle and is one of the best spots, locally, to see a koala in the wild. It is well worth the drive if you are looking for a unique family day out in the great outdoors.

Although beautiful year-round, August and September are great months to visit as the sight and the smell of the wattle out in bloom is a real treat.

Before you leave home, be sure to jump on the Tilligerry Habitat website to download and print the Kids Activity Sheet and Bird Spotters Sheet.

On the website, you’ll also find a Sensory Walk Guide and a map. The map can be found displayed on the back door of the Visitor’s Centre and visitors are encouraged to take a photo of it to use as a guide if you don’t happen to print one at home.

Alternatively, like us, you might prefer to meander along the loop trails, most of which are gravel or pine boardwalk. It’s a wonderful spot to bring grandparents for a day out as the walks are short, flat and well-maintained. There is also a wheelchair-accessible trail. Dogs on leads are permitted in the reserve.

Park at the Tilligerry Habitat carpark, located opposite the primary school at King Albert Avenue, Tanilba Bay. The large carpark has free, unlimited parking. Although the Visitor Centre was closed in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Visitors Centre including the gift shop, native nursery and verandah café has now reopened.

As you wander along the trails to the soundtrack of frogs and kookaburras, there are lots of hidden secrets for the kids to discover.

Look out for the possum boxes, native insect houses and the Dreamtime Bridge.

Veering to the left, the trail heads along a large, sandy waterfront with intermittent steps leading from the boardwalk down to the sandy shore. There’s a great viewing platform with spectacular views across Tanilba Bay to Snapper Island and North Arm Cove.

At the viewing platform parents and grandparents can take a rest, relax and take in the view, but the kids won’t be resting when they spot the big old paperbark that has fallen down across the sand.

We spent at least half an hour here, but could have spent much longer. The kids climbed in and out the branches of the fallen tree, at one stage pretending it was a pirate ship.

There is a whimsical timber swing hanging from one of the branches that the kids loved. It made for a great photo opportunity, with the bay a stunning backdrop.

Editor’s Note: Tip from Facebook follower Jami-lee “If you go on a warm day, pack your swimmers and towels…the bay is a great safe spot for a swim especially at high tide, for kids and adults!”

A local volunteer at the Visitors Centre told us if we came to this spot at low tide we’d see hundreds of soldier crabs scurrying on the sand.

If you walk all the way to the end of the Foreshore track, not far from the viewing platform, you’ll be at Caswell Reserve. Here you’ll find clean toilets, including a disabled toilet and baby change area, and a great kid’s park with swings, a slide, a roundabout, monkey bars and lots of stepping and climbing structures.

There is also an undercover picnic area with tables and electric barbeque facilities, which made it the perfect place to stop for our packed picnic lunch.

The kids loved this area and we spent at least an hour here, playing in the playground and exploring the nearby creek before heading back to the carpark along the trails through the Habitat.

A local informed us that the best way to spot a koala in the habitat was to look for their scats (poos) on the ground and then search the trees above that area.

We were excited when we spotted the unmistakeable jellybean-shaped scats and, although we scoured the trees for quite a while, didn’t spot any koalas on the day. We were told that the koala sightings were common, however, and we decided it was a good excuse to visit another day.

Tilligerry Habitat is not only home to koalas but many species of birds, trees and wildflowers. My kids has a great time searching for, finding and marking off all the birds and trees on their activity sheet and by the end of our visit, they could identify Blackbutt, Bloodwood and Swamp Mahogany trees.

Our whole family, including Grandad, loved our morning at Tilligerry Habitat. In fact, we’ve already been back again since our first visit, for a family day out with some of the kids’ friends. They agreed it was a real hidden treasure.

Good to Know

Address: 2E King Albert Avenue, Tanilba Bay. Park at the Tilligerry Habitat carpark, located opposite the primary school at King Albert Avenue, Tanilba Bay. The large carpark has free, unlimited parking.
Ideal Age: All ages
Public Toilets: There are toilets at the Visitors Centre. There are also toilets, including a disabled toilet and baby change area at Caswell Reserve.
Water Fountain: No, bring your own drinking water.
BBQ: Electric BBQ located at Caswell Reserve.
Nearby Café: Verandah Café located at the Visitor’s Centre

Looking for other things to do in Port Stephens? How about exploring Stockton Bight, visiting Oakvale Wildife Park, visiting Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters or sandboarding in Anna Bay?

You might also like Ways to Celebrate Koala Month in September

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