Learn about koala conservation by visiting the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary. This new facility officially opened on 26 September and supports the long-term rehabilitation and preservation of koalas.
Australia’s beloved koalas have had a pretty tough time lately and this joint venture between Port Stephens Council and Port Stephens Koalas is a place where people can visit and observe sick, injured and orphaned koalas receiving care.
Nestled among 8 hectares of bushland near One Mile Beach and Worimi Conservation Lands and dunes, the Sanctuary is a 45-minute drive from Newcastle. If you have time, there are beautiful beaches nearby to enjoy before or after a visit with the koalas.
Visitors to the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary can plan a day trip to spend a couple of hours or make it an extra special visit and stay overnight in one of the 4-star glamping tents within the grounds!
This is a peaceful and picturesque location with plenty of natural habitat for the koalas and other native wildlife. We spotted a kookaburra and beautiful rainbow lorikeets during our visit.
Our family was keen to visit the Koala Sanctuary during its opening weekend. Koalas have been a point of focus at our house since the devastating fires. As well as raising money for koala conservation, we’ve been reading books about them (Koala Lou and the new Tippy and Jellybean are favourites). With all this buildup, we couldn’t wait to visit the Koala Sanctuary and see these fluffy marsupials.
We had a pleasant drive to One Mile and there are many signs along the perimeter of the Koala Sanctuary so it is easy to spot as you drive along Gan Gan Road. There is ample parking and the grounds are spacious and peaceful. There is a reception building which houses the ticketing area, Fat Possum Café, retail kiosk and public toilets.
Ross was our friendly and informative guide and was a true wealth of information about the Sanctuary itself and also koalas in general.
Our visit started with a meander along the Sanctuary Story Walk. This is a 250-metre long pathway that tells the story through larger than life sculptures and signs about “Kasey”, a locally rescued koala who was nursed back to health. Younger children will enjoy being able to get up close to these beautiful art sculptures.
Kids and adults alike will learn about the dangers that koalas face such as loss of habitat, cars and disease. One of the sculptures provides an opportunity to “feed” the oversized koala from a real eucalypt branch.
Another sculpture was created in the precise location of a fallen tree struck by lightning.
Nestled along the Story Walk are the 20 glamping tents where you can stay overnight in style which cater for two to four occupants. Two of the glamping tents are wheelchair accessible with reserved parking out front of the tent.
Each tent comes with lovely furnishings, ensuite and bushland views.
In addition, overnight guests receive a Sanctuary Tour and early morning Koala Feeding encounter as well as unlimited access to the Koala Sanctuary. There are also Deluxe Studio Rooms and One Bedroom Suites available if glamping isn’t your style.
The Koala Hospital is a brand new facility where visitors can look through a purpose-built viewing window as veterinary staff care for sick and injured koalas (depending on treatment times). Although there were no koalas currently in the hospital, we did spot an incubator which has been donated by the John Hunter Hospital.
The Newcastle Airport SKYwalk and viewing platform is a 225 metre long elevated platform surrounding the koala habitats. This walkway is wide and easy to manage and provides a tree top perspective so you can more easily spot koalas.
There are several educational signs along the SKYwalk that provide some really interesting information about such topics as the digestive system, sleeping habits, fur, climbing features and geographical adaptations of koalas. We saw several koalas in the trees within this area and even viewed one koala being administered some daily medicine.
It was heartbreaking to hear some of the stories of how these koalas came to be living within the Sanctuary. However, it is heartwarming to know that they receive the best care possible and can continue living a safe life where they might otherwise not have survived.
Eila is a koala rescued from the Mambo bushfires in December 2019. She sustained burns to her hands, feet, chin and chest while protecting her baby who suffered minor burns and was released after a few weeks in care. Eila received treatment under sedation for her extensive burns and much to the amazement of her carers, a joey was discovered in her pouch. Eila is in long-term rehabilitation due to the extensive damage to her pads and claws. This is just one of many stories about these amazing koalas and their carers.
One of the highlights for us was hearing a mating call from one of the male koalas. I had no idea koalas could be so loud! He certainly wasn’t a shy fellow and it was pretty incredible to be so close to such a koala from a vantage point among the trees.
We finished our visit with a browse and some purchases at the retail outlet. There were some unique souvenirs as well as grab and go snacks and drinks.
A visit to the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary is a great opportunity to see koalas in their natural habitat, learn a little (or a lot!) more about them and assist with their preservation at the same time.
Good to Know
Location: 562 Gan Gan Road, One Mile NSW
Open: 7 days 9am – 5pm (last admission at 3:30pm) SKYwalk closes at 4pm
Cost: General admission $25. Child $14 with kids aged 3 and under free. Concession $17
Family pass $65 (2 adults and 2 children). Annual pass $80 adult $45 child.
Janice is a proud mum to two energetic girls who love spending their time dancing, exploring and just plain having fun. She followed her heart and relocated from overseas to Australia thirteen years ago. After six years in Sydney, Janice and her family made the decision to return to her husband’s hometown of Newcastle and with the amazing lifestyle Newcastle has to offer, they feel grateful to call this place home. She is passionate about embracing lifelong learning and making lasting memories with loved ones.