With over 300 recorded bird species, Coffs Coast is a veritable bird lovers’ paradise.
In Coffs Harbour, great places for bird watching are the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden, the Coffs Creek Walk and of course Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve, which is the largest and most significant breeding site for wedge-tailed shearwaters (muttonbirds) in NSW. Thousands of muttonbirds travel return from South-east Asia to their home on Muttonbird Island in late August every year to breed and raise their chicks over summer. Interpretive displays on the island explain the birds’ lifecycle and habits.
Dorrigo National Park features the excellent Walk With The Birds boardwalk, a 200 metre boardwalk high up in the subtropical rainforest where you will encounter a wide variety of birds. Educational information panels help you identify birds and recognise bird calls.
Coffs Coast’s many national parks, state forests, reserves, bushland and coastal dunes are all excellent places to go bird watching. Among the many species you may spot or hear are brush-turkeys, catbirds, egrets, ospreys, sea eagles, little terns, many types of honeyeaters, jacanas, wompoos, lyrebirds, noisy pittas, logrunners, lorikeets, pied and sooty oystercatchers, whipbirds, bowerbirds, cuckoos and boobook owls.
If you’re interested in birds, make sure to download a copy of the informative online publication Bird Routes of Coffs Coast, which suggests good places to go bird watching and explains what species you may encounter. The brochure, together with a comprehensive list of all the bird species found on Coffs Coast, are available in our e-brochures section.
Kangaroos & wallabies
Coffs Coast is home to a large population of grey kangaroos and various wallaby species. Good coastal places to go and spot kangaroos include the Safety Beach Golf Course just north of Woolgoolga, Look At Me Now Headland at Emerald Beach, 15km north of Coffs Harbour, and Hungry Head just south of Urunga. Inland, visit Dorrigo and Bellingen Valley National Parks to see kangaroos and wallabies. Parma and swamp wallabies may be spotted during an evening stroll in Bindarri National Park. And just remember that the best time of day to see wallabies and kangaroos is at dusk and dawn, when they tend to come out to eat.
Possums, quolls & pademelons
Possums are quite common residents of Coffs Coast. Red-necked and red-legged pademelons are among the mammals that are roaming around Dorrigo National Park during the daytime. The grassy picnic areas around the visitor centre are visited by pademelons for grazing almost every afternoon. To see ring-tailed and brush-tailed possums in their natural habitat, visit Dorrigo National Park just after sundown. Similarly, an evening stroll in Bindarri National Park with a good torch may result in the spotting of spotted-tailed quolls, red-necked pademelons and brush-tailed and ring-tailed possums.
Bongil Bongil National Park, stretching from Sawtell in the north to the Bellinger Valley in the west and Repton in the south, has one of the state’s largest koala populations. There are various walking trails throughout the park to go for a wander. In Coffs Harbour, koalas are also regularly spotted around Coffs Creek and in the Botanic Garden. Set out early, before the sun comes up, bring a torch and be quiet, and you may be lucky enough to spot one of Australia’s most favourite mammals.
Coffs Coast has several colonies of grey-headed flying foxes, which are also often referred to as bats or fruit bats. Classified as vulnerable, they are a protected species. One colony is located on Bellingen Island, right in the centre of the town of Bellingen. They often hang low in the trees in clear view. Although you may see them at any time of the year, there’s a special charm to them between October and January, when the mothers are nursing babies. To get there, cross the river in the town centre, follow the road and turning into the first street on the left. Other colonies may be found at West Coffs Harbour and the Botanic Gardens at different times of the year.
One of Australia’s most elusive and intriguing animals, the platypus, is regularly spotted in some of Coffs Coast’s hinterland rivers. However, some people who have made special trips out to these places have also come back unsuccessful, so just remember that sightings are not guaranteed. Possibly your best bet is Platypus Flat. This is a spot in the Nymboida River at Nymboi Binderay National Park, 25km north of Dorrigo, with access via Bostobrick or Cascade. The best time of day to spot a platypus is very early morning or late afternoon.
Dolphins, whales & turtles
When you’re on Coffs Coast, it’s worth paying close attention to the coastal waters. Whether you’re on a headland, beach, breakwall, jetty in a boat out at sea, you’re likely to see the occasional turtle, dolphin or whale pop its head or fin above the water. Bottle-nosed dolphins roam our coast and surf our waves, and are even regularly seen a little way up some of our rivers on incoming tides. A good place to spot turtles is from the historic jetty or the middle breakwall in the harbour of Coffs Harbour. Humpback whales pass Coffs Coast on their migration north from late May to July and again on their way south from August to early November. Watch them from a headland or take a whale-watching cruise from the Coffs Harbour International Marina.
Reptiles & amphibians
There’s also a large number of interesting reptiles that call Coffs Coast home. Dorrigo National Park conserves reptiles such as the land mullet, carpet and diamond pythons, lace monitor and the rare southern angle-headed dragon. A variety of frogs, lizards and snakes can also be found along Coffs Creek and in the Botanic Garden. And visitors to Coffs Coast have reported that early morning breakfasts at some of our seaside accommodations are extra special thanks to the regular visit of water dragons that roam around our parklands.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service conducts regular educational walks, talks and tours guided by an expert Discovery Ranger. The tours take place mostly during school holidays, but are as interesting for adults as they are for children. Contact the NPWS office at Dorrigo National Park on 6657 2309 or the Coffs Coast Visitor Information Centre on 1300 369 070 for further information.