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Town Profile : Port Macquarie

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We arrived in the town of Port Macquarie after completing our tour of New England.  It was just before sunset so we settled in at the Port Macquarie YHA for a quiet Saturday night that turned out to be quite a social event.  We met a few people that night, including Brian, a bloke from Louisiana USA who looked very much like Anthony Kedis from The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  We ended up hanging out with him the next day at the Black Duck Brewery.


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Port Macquarie is 390km north of Sydney and is located at the mouth of the Hastings River.  The area was first explored by John Oxley in 1818 and named after the Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie.  It began as a penal settlement in 1821, replacing Newcastle as the destination for convicts from the UK.  There are two things needed to make a good penal colony – isolation and labour – and Newcastle had lost both of these elements, with farmers moving into the Hunter Valley reducing isolation and the cedar industry winding down and producing less work.


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The rugged terrain around Port Macquarie was overgrown, providing a great amount of isolation, and there were plenty of aborigines in the area who were more than happy to return runaway convicts for some tobacco or blankets.  The first man to run the penal colony loved dishing out lashings as punishment, and the penal colony soon earned the reputation of a hellish place to be.  By 1840, the penal colony was closed and Port Macquarie became a town for free settlers.  These days, it’s a popular place for retirement.


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Things to Do and See

Hello Koalas Public Art Sculpture Trail

This is the coolest and most colourful thing about Port Macquarie – it was like a treasure hunt to find all the koalas.  Many of the koalas are within the city centre and along the foreshore, but there are some further out past Wauchope and there’s one at Bago Winery too.  While you’re on the hunt, keep an eye out for the genuine Chinese Junk at the marina and the cool graffiti on the rocks of the breakwater.


Koala Trail


Tacking Point Lighthouse

South of the city centre, on a headland by the coast is Tacking Point Lighthouse.  It’s a great lookout over Lighthouse Beach and a perfect spot for whale watching.  The reason it’s called Tacking Point is because when Matthew Flinders was exploring the area, the headland was a tacking point on his map.  Unfortunately, it took scores of shipwrecks around the headland before the lighthouse was built in 1879.


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Koala Hospital and Roto House

Established in 1973, the Koala Hospital treats sick or injured koalas and educates the community about how habitat destruction and disease can affect koalas.  You can visit the koalas during the day or arrive at 3pm for feeding time.


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Nearby is the Roto House, a late Victorian house that has recently been bought and restored by NSW National Parks.  It used to be owned by the Flynn family and was built in 1890.  It’s open for display and there’s a retro café onsite.


Black Duck Brewery

We visited the Black Duck Brewery with an American guy we met at the Port Macquarie YHA, and were greeted at the entrance by a huge Great Dane called Murphy.  With the big black dog by our side, we met Al the brewer, and passed on a message from Ben at New England Brewery.


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“So busy that his customers can’t find a park, aye?” Al said. “Tell him it’s standing room only here…”


We settled at the bar with a huge line of tasting paddles for the ten beers they had on offer.  A paddle of four beers was $5 so it’s around $10 for the full range, including two special beers.  Juz’s favourite was the Summer Swallow, an easy drinking session ale with apple and banana on yeasty bread and a refreshing finish.  Dave’s favourite was the Heron’s Craic, an Irish red ale with a delicious apple pie smell and a creamy caramel flavour.


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Black Duck Brewery has been operational for 5 years.  It’s the perfect place to sit down for a Sunday session, have a beer and a delicious pizza, or take a tour of the brewery.


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Bago Vinyard and Maze

Bago Vinyard is located about 25 minutes south west of Port Macquarie, and is worth the visit, whether you’re interested in the wine or the maze.  The wines are great, and include a few varieties we hadn’t heard of, like Chambourcin and Savagnin.  Once you’ve done a wine tasting and swooned at how delicious the mulled wine is, go check out the biggest maze in NSW.


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On our way to the Hunter Valley, we deviated from the highway to pass through Tuncurry and Forster.  Regardless of which side of the bridge you are, the little parks on either end offer a great view of the bridge that spans the Coolongolook River.


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Just as the sun was setting, we made it to Cape Hawke Lookout, a platform on top of a hill that offers great views of the coast and town below.  Before we ran out of light, we drove past Lake Wallis and watched the sky change colour and reflect on the still water.


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Information & Accommodation

The public transport system around Port Macquarie is operated by Busways and the network covers the city and outer suburbs.  However, if you stay at the Port Macquarie YHA, you will be within walking distance of the city centre.  If you need to travel further, there are buses that travel on nearby Park Street and Gordon Street.


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Animal Attraction : Kuranda Wildlife Experience

Despite the rain, we drove the Troopy over the Macalister Range and arrived in Kuranda village for a very special day with the local wildlife.  The Kuranda Wildlife Experience is the ultimate ticket for animal lovers and is a fantastic way to meet unique, beautiful and interesting animals from Australia and around the world!


Kuranda Koala Gardens

Our first stop was the Kuranda Koala Gardens, but don’t be fooled by the name – they have much more than just those cute, cuddly balls of sleeping fur.  They had a variety of turtles, bearded dragons, kangaroos, pythons, and even freshwater crocodiles!



The first highlight was watching the wombats – the fussy female was paired with her second potential mate, who was on heat that morning.  We had never heard such a strange hissing/growling noise come from a wombat before!  She was resisting all advances and as she scurried away, the male wombat was hot on her heels.  Later that day, we mentioned it to one of the keepers and she said that the female brings it upon herself, because she often tries to get his attention, and then runs away!  What a tease!


The wombats at Kuranda Koala Gardens from Our Naked Australia on Vimeo.


The second highlight was feeding the swamp wallabies.  These creatures were absolutely adorable and very friendly.  As you offer food, their little paws reach up and hold onto your hand.



The third highlight was visiting the new glider enclosure at feeding time.  There are two varieties on display, the squirrel glider and mahogany glider.  Both are just as cute as the other, but their feeding habits are a little different.  While squirrel gliders prefer to munch of fresh fruit and vegetables with only a little sip of nectar, mahogany gliders prefer their sweet cocktail over fruit and veg.  Another interesting fact that we learnt was that mahogany gliders were thought to be extinct for over 100 years and were only rediscovered in 1989.


Kuranda Wildlife Experience


Just before moving on to the next experience, we decided to cuddle a koala and get a souvenir photo.  Alternatively, if koalas aren’t your thing, you can hold a snake instead, but with our fabulous reptile experiences in Alice Springs and Darwin, we thought the koala was the right choice… although he doesn’t seem to understand what ‘happier and with your mouth open’ means.




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Birdworld Kuranda

All feelings of anticipation and excitement were replaced with angst and trepidation when we were shown the “stolen property” tub on the reception desk at Birdworld Kuranda.  It was full of bracelets, buttons, ear rings, Barmah Hat badges and anything else small and shiny that the birds can pry off you with their burly beaks.   Juz promptly de-accessorised…


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Once we walked through the door we were presented with an aviary large enough to house trees, a small waterfall and a pond.  We walked out onto a platform at the top of the aviary and were greeted with the pleasant aromas of tropical fruit that had been served to the birds for breakfast.  There were three colourful macaws perched nearby, as well as a couple of Alexandrine Parrots and Eclectus parrots having a morning meal.


As we did a lap of the aviary, we got to know the inhabitants – there was a small aviary full of little finches, huddles of green-cheeked conures, a white-faced heron in the trees, streaks of colour as rainbow lorikeets sped past, a few mandarin ducks and black swans in the pond, and even an intimidating cassowary.  Despite their danger factor, these huge birds are endangered due to being hit by cars and the destruction of their habitat.



Once we returned to the platform, the Alexandrine Parrots set their sights on our poor, defenceless pen.  With a big red beak, the parrot effortless cracked the shaft and deformed the push button, and we knew that if Dave let go of the pen, it would never survive.  At this point, Juz spotted a juvenile fig parrot sitting on the wire of the fence surrounding the platform and gave it a brief rub on the back of its neck before a sharp peck said it was time to go.


On our way out, we got to meet Cobbler the Cockatoo and then swung past the Troopy for a new pen before hitting up our next destination.




Kuranda Wildlife Experience


Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

Established in 1985, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary works to increase butterfly numbers by protecting the offspring.  In the wild, only 1 or 2% of eggs laid survive to adulthood while at the Sanctuary, their success rate is 60-80%.


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There are 8 species of butterfly in the aviary, as well as the Hercules moth – the world’s largest moth.  All of them are native rainforest species which is why the aviary has been designed to replicate their habitat.  With 1500 beautiful butterflies, including the iridescent blue Ulysses butterfly and the big Cairns Birdwing with its bright green and yellow colours, it was easy to stop and become mesmerised by the quiet fluttering of colour all around.


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There are several stations around the aviary that function as both a feeding platform and a place to lay eggs.  Each station has a few dishes that are filled with a special nectar formula and topped with a white lid to attract the butterflies.  They used to put honey in the dishes before they realised that the honey was fermenting in the heat and causing the butterflies to get drunk!  The stations also have particular plant clippings which act as hosts for the butterfly eggs.  Each butterfly has a particular plant they lay their eggs on to ensure the survival of their caterpillars, and having these particular plants at designated stations makes collecting the butterfly eggs much easier.


The eggs are taken to the laboratory where they are cared for until the caterpillar hatches, grows up and turns into a butterfly.  Depending on the species, the caterpillar munches for around 20-30 days before they transform into a chrysalis (cocoon) and stew for between 10 and 30 days, before a butterfly emerges and is released into the main aviary to live a short life that lasts between 10 days and a few months.  The more they flutter, the shorter they live – that’s why some of our photos are a bit blurry – butterflies don’t live long and have to get sh*t done!


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Our Kuranda Wildlife Experience was absolutely magical.  We got to see a wide range of animals, from mammals and reptiles to insects and arachnids.  Each experience was interactive as we got up close and personal to koalas, wallabies, parrots and lacewing butterflies.  We even got to meet some fellow Melbournians – Rob and Belinda – who were visiting Cairns on holiday.


Tickets for the Kuranda Wildlife Experience are $46 dollars for adults, $23 for children.  They can be purchased from any of the three attractions.



Happy snaps with the koala!

Urimbirra Wildlife Park



Urimbirra Wildlife Park is located only 5 minutes north of Victor Harbor and is the home for over 400 Australian animals, like kangaroos, koalas, snakes, lizards and birds.  There are also farm animals like chooks, rabbits and guinea pigs and you can get up close and personal with most of the animals.  They also have a kiosk and souvenir shop onsite and you are welcome to bring a picnic lunch to cook up on their electric BBQ and enjoy it in the Park.


Urimbirra is an aboriginal word meaning ‘to preserve’ or to ‘take care of’, which is very appropriate. The Park was opened in 1975 by the local council and went private in 1992.  It sits on land with a rich Aboriginal history, which is evident in the canoe trees on the property.



The first thing you’ll see as you walk through the park is the range of birdlife, including devious rainbow lorikeets.  The emus are curious creatures with eyes that are bigger than their brains.  They are the second largest bird in the world and can be a bit intimidating, but the ones at Urimbirra are tame enough to hand feed and peck at the folds of skin in your hand as you offer them food.  The cassowary, on the other hand, is a little more aggressive and was separated by a fence, and for good reason.  They are known to jump and kick your guts with their long and strong legs, usually aiming for disembowelment.  The young cassowary got a little upset when Juz called it Testicle Neck.


The Park’s echidna was an active little guy who was busy licking up the ants that were scurrying around his food plate before marching around his pen and diving into his burrow.  The wombats were a little more sedate but came out for lunch.



The Park also breeds lizards, snakes and tortoises.  The Reptile house has a variety of lizards and snakes, including the Tiger snake, which causes the most deaths in Australia, and the Brown snake, which causes the most bites in the state.



The Crocodiles

We made it to the crocodile enclosure just in time for the feeding.


Fresh water crocodiles range from 1.2 metres for females to 2.5 metres for males.  They have a longer, more slender snout which is perfect for gliding through the water to catch fast little creatures like fish.  They pose minimal threat to humans but if approached, they might close their eyes, which makes them look like they’re sleeping, but they’re actually protecting their eyes from danger and are ready to ‘defend’ themselves and deliver quite a bite. Andy, the onsite handler, has been bitten a few times. He said that flesh wounds aren’t too bad, but if they hit a bone then it really hurts. Ouch!



Salt water crocodiles eat larger animals like duck and geese, but once they reach 3 metres long, they’ll attack anything, like cows and horses.  They are much faster in the water than on land, prefer murky water so they can ambush their enemy, and usually kill larger animals to defend their territory.  They are very aggressive and are definitely a danger to humans.


The Koalas

We had the opportunity to touch and pose with these guys.  Their fur is thick and soft but a little wiry and they were mostly oblivious to the hands that reached out to pat them.


These days, koala numbers are dwindling due to death by cars and dogs, whereas back in the day, their main threat was the dingo.  Check out our post on the Koala.


The Kangaroos

Urimbirra have a variety of kangaroos, like Eastern Greys and Kangaroo Island roos.  They are super friendly if you had a bag of feed so make sure you get one when you pay for your ticket to get into the park.



They also had an albino kangaroo that was fenced off with the Tammar Wallabies.  This poor fella looked a little sad because the other kangaroos would beat him up.  He’s been sectioned off for his own safety.  Urimbirra also breed albino peacocks, which are native to Sri Lanka, and only 1% survive, which means they get one every two or three years.


The albino kangaroo - separated from the rest because it gets bullied.


The Snake

Also known as the Inland Carpet Python, this cute little Murray Darling Python was brought out so everyone could have a good look at his beautiful scaly skin.  These non-venomous snakes are usually found in eastern Australia and feed on small mammals, birds and lizards.  They are popular as pets because they’re not very aggressive.



The Essentials

Urimbirra Wildlife Park is open every day from 10am to 5pm.  Entry to the park is $12 for adults and $6 for kids.  Because the park is privately owned, all fees go towards education and maintaining the park.    Koala shows are at 11am, 2pm and 4pm, while the croc feeding is at 1:30pm and the snake petting is at 4pm.


Phone: 08 8554 6554
Website:  www.urimbirra.com.au


Juz overrun by kangaroos - friendly buggers!


Koalas sleeping

Wildlife : The Koala

Common Name: Koala

Scientific Name: Phascolarctos cinereus


Alternative Names: Koala bear, monkey bear, tree-bear, drop bear, native bear.  The name ‘koala’ comes from the Aboriginal Dharuk word gula, which means ‘doesn’t drink’.  The scientific name is derived from the Greek words for pouch and bear, which it’s species name is latin for ash-coloured.


Location: These furry guys are usually found along the coast in eastern and southern Australia in eucalytpus forests.  There are no koalas in Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.


Fast Facts:

  • It doesn’t matter what you’ve heard – koalas are NOT BEARS!  They’re a marsupial and their closly related to the wombat.
  • They only eat eucalytpus leaves.  Even though Australia has over 600 varieties of Eucalypts, koalas are choosy and only like about 40 of those varieties.  The leaves are 50% water so they don’t drink much unless there is a drought.  Because their diet provides very little nutrients, they sleep about 75% percent of the time to conserve energy.
  • Koalas mate once a year, gestation lasts for just over a month and when the joey is born, it is hairless, blind and only an inch long.  It then crawls into the pouch and stays there for about 6 months to drink milk and grow.  To ween babies of milk, the mum’s make a sort of baby formula made out of eucalytpus leaves called ‘pap’ and feed it to the baby FROM THEIR ASS!  The mamma koala poos out the puree and the baby eats it… gross.
  • They can live as long as 17 years. The population of koalas has decresed by 90% in the last decade due to destruction of habitat, attack from suburban pets and cars.
  • The southern koala is bigger than koalas from the north and they have a shaggier coat to keep it warm in the winter.
  • Koalas are social animals that live in communities. The male koala marks his territory with secretions from a gland on his chest.
  • They prefer to be in trees, but when on the ground, they can move quite fast for a short distance.


Cuteness Rating: don’t let their cute teddy bear appearance lull you into a false sense of security


Danger Rating: they’ve got sharp teeth, long claws, and if you give them the chance, they could probably mess your face up.

Our Encounter


Teddy’s Lookout, Lorne

We were heading back to the car along a forest path after checking out the view from Teddy’s Lookout when we hear an animal growl.
The first thing that came to mind was a vicious warthog with blood red eyes snorting steam from its nostrils, ready to run us over and impale us with its sharp tusks.  The sound was also similar to the call of the Tasmanian Devil – terrifying and ugly.


Then we remembered that koalas make that terrifying, ugly sound too, so our eyes shot into the trees.  Sitting lazily in a tree about 20m ahead of us was a big one, just hanging out in the afternoon sun.  He kept his eye on us for a while, then got bored, did a great big yawn and kept munching on some gum leaves.



Cape Otway

On the way to the Lighthouse, there is a forest of gums.  It’s not too hard to spot them; there is a koala sitting in nearly every tree!  Many are bundled up asleep on a branch, but there are a few who are awake and trolling the trees for a decent leaf.