You love Koalas? You enjoy walks along the coastline? Well, then Port Macquarie is your destination. Only an hour flight from Sydney, Port Macquarie is especially popular among locals.
Actually, the only reason I wanted to visit Port Macquarie was the Koala Hospital -an organization trying to help injured koalas. To be honest, I didn’t expect to fall in love with this little coast town but I did. The relaxed atmosphere made me forget about the stressful big city life in a heartbeat.
Exploring Port Macquarie
Port Macquarie is not that big. You can easily explore it in one day. The courthouse, the historical museum and the Royal Hotel are the only reminders of a Port Macquarie of the 19th century. Those buildings are a nice contrast to the modern flair of this small town.
The reason I was really impressed by Port Macquarie wasn’t its history but its terrific nature. The Kooloonbun Creek Nature Park is not far from the city center. Walking there, you will pass the Anglican St. Thomas Church. Once you reach the Nature Park you will be thrilled about the beautiful paths leading through the wetlands. A very high-pitched noise followed me as I walked the path through a forest. It took me a while to realize the sounds were not from birds. I looked up and saw flying foxes hanging head first from the trees. I am not a big fan of those animals but seeing them up close and in their natural habitat was very impressive.
The esplanade of Port Macquarie
When staying in Port Macquarie I decided to combine my visit at the Koala Hospital with a stroll along the esplanade of Port Macquarie. I started out at the Royal Hotel which is located close to the sea. Following the painted rocks of the esplanade I was lead along a beautiful coastline path. It was definitely not the direct way to the Koala Hospital but the detour was worth it. I enjoyed the walk along the beaches and the stunning views.
The Koala Hospital
Unfortunately, Koalas are sometimes involved in road accidents and get hurt in the process. But that’s not the only reason they might need treatment by a vet. Sometimes they fall from the tree while they are sleeping. That might sound cute but is actually dangerous for the animals. They could get seriously injured.
The Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie has taken on the responsibility to take care of those injured animals until they can be released again. It goes without saying that this care costs a lot of money although most of the staff, including vets, are volunteers. For a small entrance fee visitors get a guided tour through the hospital and learn more about the important work that’s done here. During this tour you will of course also see the one or other cute little patient who is recovering in the outside ward and given special care by the volunteers.
By visiting the Koala Hospital I learned a lot about the nature of those animals. For example, that they sleep so much because their food doesn’t have enough valuable nutrients. I also didn’t know that there are many hundred types of eucalyptus and koalas eat only some of them. After all, the essential oils in the leaves are poisonous. Therefore a koala can only eat the ones he is able to digest. Koalas also don’t need a huge territory. They usually live close to where they were born and only change trees once they don’t carry leaves anymore. Once the koala moves on, the tree can recover and one day the koala will return. It’s also important to mention that the koala is not a bear but a marsupial. Since I learned that I avoid to call it a koala bear 😉
At the end of the guided tour I adopted one of the koalas to support the hospital. In return I got a picture of the koala I adopted. I cherish the picture and will keep it forever but even if I wouldn’t have gotten anything in return I would have supported them. They are really doing a great job at that Koala Hospital.
tip: If you are already at the Koala Hospital take a bit of time to see the Roto House too. The old manor is next to the hospital and shows what life was like here in the 19th century.
Beware: Don’t pick up koalas!
Did you know that koalas are incredibly stressed when they are picked up by humans? Thankfully also the Australian government realized that and in most states it’s forbidden nowadays. An exception are Queensland and South Australia. Sadly, tourists now and then get the chance to hug a koala anyway, even in states where it is officially forbidden. The poor animals are handed from one tourist to another for a quick photo suffering from big distress the whole time. So please don’t do that to them even if you are visiting a state where it is officially allowed.
I personally understand the urge to hug and cuddle those cute little guys – I wanted a picture with them too – but there are other ways to achieve that. In the Sydney Zoo, for example, it is possible to enter the koala enclosure together with a carer. I was allowed to stand next to the koala and had my picture taken. The whole time the koala was asleep on his tree. I don’t think he even realized I was there. And that’s how it should be. He was not disturbed sleeping and I got my photo with him.