Coffs Coast From The Air

Welcome to Giidany Miirlarl (Muttonbird Island) in Coffs Harbour

Known to the Gumbaynggirr People as Giidany Miirlarl, or “Moon Sacred Place,” Muttonbird Island in Coffs Harbour is eternally blessed by a lunar glow that watches over this enchanting seaside sanctuary.

With breathtaking 360-degree views over the Coffs Coast, you could easily spend hours connecting with nature in this magical landscape. From Aboriginal cultural tours to birdwatching and whale spotting, Muttonbird Island promises to inspire eco-conscious travellers and adventure seekers alike.

Come for a walk with us as we explore the unparalleled natural wonders of this island muse.

Giidany Miirlarl Cultural Tour: Exploring the Moon’s Sacred Place

Many people associate Muttonbird Island with the migratory seabirds that live part-time there (more on that later), but with a cultural history that is literally out of this world, there is so much more to the island than most people realise.

Muttonbird Island, or Giidany Miirlarl (pronounced Ghee-dayn Meeral), means “Moon Sacred Place” and is a sacred site associated with the spiritual and personal identity of the Gumbaynggirr People. According to their Lore, the island is where Moon Man came to rest and heal from battle. He was carried to Giidany Miirrlarl by The Plant People, whose generosity blessed them with eternal life. Under a full moon’s light, the Moon Man still visits the island to protect the land and its inhabitants forever.

Guided by knowledgeable Aboriginal custodians, the Giidany Miirlarl Cultural Tour is a fascinating and significant cultural immersion that celebrates the Gumbaynggirr People’s historical and spiritual connection to the land, sea and animals of Muttonbird Island. You will learn more about the Moon Man and how his story relates to many other Aboriginal Dreamtime stories in the area, some stretching as far as Nymboida and beyond.

Embarking on a cultural tour is the perfect introduction to Muttonbird Island. The highly educational tour ensures visitors leave with a greater understanding and appreciation of its cultural and environmental significance.

Cultural tours are available upon request; fees may apply. To book a tour, phone (02) 6652 0927 or email the park office.

It’s crucial to respect the specific stories and traditions associated with Giidany Miirlarl, which have cultural protocols concerning gender restrictions. Before visiting the island, Aboriginal visitors are encouraged to consult with their families or Elders to ensure they adhere to these protocols and show the utmost respect for the island’s cultural heritage.

Muttonbird Island Bird Watching Paradise

As a seabird rookery, Muttonbird Island plays a vital role in the life cycle of migratory birds, particularly the wedge-tailed shearwater, commonly known as the muttonbird. Thousands of these birds return to the island between September and April to breed, creating a spectacular avian spectacle. Mating for life, they make their home in shallow burrows, laying eggs and providing food and shelter for their chicks. Visitors can marvel at these fascinating birds up close at designated viewing areas, making it a bird watcher’s paradise. Protecting the nesting birds also means staying on marked trails, ensuring this vital rookery remains undisturbed.

Muttonbird Island bird watching after dark: In Autumn, jump on the Muttonbirds by Moonlight guided tour for a new perspective on the island. You can also learn more about the muttonbird’s migratory journey to southeast Asia and marvel at the spectacle of wedge-tailed shearwaters returning to the island from a day of hunting. If visiting after dark, please go with a guide. Aside from ensuring your safety, they avoid using white light from phones or LED torches, as this affects the birds.

Whatever the season, be sure to pack your binoculars, as there is an abundance of birdlife year-round. Keep your eyes peeled for the black-shouldered kite, which manages to hover stationary while honing in on its prey. The Australian pelican, little pied cormorant, fairy-wrens, and white-faced storm petrels are also regular visitors to the island.

Best times and places for whale watching

For those visiting between May and November, Muttonbird Island offers a prime vantage point for whale watching. During May and July, Humpback whales migrate north along the Coffs Coast to warmer waters to give birth to their young. The whales then make their journey south from October to November, often coming close to the shore.

Equipped with binoculars and patience, Eastern Side Platform visitors will have the perfect vantage point to witness these majestic creatures breaching and playing in front of the Solitary Islands. The connection to the Moon’s cycles, guiding the tides and influencing marine life, underscores the importance of marine conservation and protecting these magnificent mammals.

Half-way to the Moon: Breathtaking Scenic Views of the Coffs Coast from Muttonbird Island

There is nothing quite like the view from atop Muttonbird Island. Offering panoramic views of the entire Coffs Coast, the island’s highest point features a large viewing platform that provides an excellent spot for photography and a very scenic place to catch your breath.

For romantics, we highly doubt there would be a more beautiful place to propose on the Coffs Coast! These incredible vistas, often illuminated by a magnificent sunset or the Moon’s gentle glow, will invite a moment of reflection as you appreciate and reflect on the island’s cultural significance to the Gumbaynggirr People.

When is the best time to VISIT?

From the Gumbaynggirr cultural tours to the vibrant bird and marine life, every visit to Muttonbird Island offers something unique, regardless of the season. Birdwatching is best between September and April, coinciding with the mutton bird breeding and nesting season.

Whale-watching season is from May to November, where migrating humpback whales can be seen. With warmer waters, it’s a great time to go snorkelling around the island’s base. Look out for sea turtles, dolphins and clownfish. Cultural tours run all year round. When planning your visit, it’s advisable to check forecasts and plan accordingly, as weather conditions vary.

How do you get to Muttonbird Island Coffs Harbour?

Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve is connected to the Coffs Harbour Jetty precinct by a breakwall on the Eastern side of the International Marina. From Coffs City Centre, head down Harbour Drive toward Marina Drive, arriving at the marina precinct. From the Marina car park, it is a short and accessible 5-minute walk to the base of the island, either along the paved breakwall walkway or along the marina boardwalk.

Muttonbird Island accessibility and safety tips

For the more adventurous, embark on the 500m trail up and over the island to the Eastern Platform. Be mindful that parts of the walk are pretty steep, so we suggest wearing sturdy footwear, carrying water and snacks, protecting yourself from the sun, and monitoring weather conditions.

While the path to the top of Muttonbird Island may pose a challenge for some, there are other ways to experience its beauty and cultural significance. The award-winning outdoor learning centre at the island’s base offers accessible opportunities for all visitors to learn about its natural and cultural heritage.

Muttonbird Island: a haven for the eco-conscious and culturally curious

Visiting the otherworldly Muttonbird Island comes with a responsibility to protect its fragile ecosystems and respect its cultural significance. The island is home to diverse flora and fauna, so it’s essential to tread lightly and respect this wildlife habitat. By embracing sustainable tourism practices and respecting the island’s delicate ecosystems, visitors can ensure that Muttonbird Island remains a sanctuary for generations.

So, pop on your joggers, pack your binoculars, and take a big deep breath of fresh, ocean air. We reckon a visit to the Coffs Coast isn’t complete without a visit to Muttonbird Island—a place where culture and nature intertwine in perfect harmony.