Our cuddly icons have a new home among the gumtrees – the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary.

High in the eucalyptus trees, Australia’s iconic marsupials laze and munch their favourite fragrant leaves. But to see koalas in their natural habitat, you would think they haven’t a care in the world. But they do. 

The 2019/20 bushfires ravaged much of the east coast’s koala population. Which is why Port Stephens has just opened a multimillion-dollar sanctuary to protect and help rehabilitate our beloved ‘drop bears’ – a classically Aussie term for a mythical beast that is the opposite of the koala. 

This new facility, which is a collaboration between Port Stephens Council and Port Stephens Koalas, offers a raft of activities where visitors can learn about the animals.

The state-of-the-art sanctuary has a dedicated hospital with four intensive care units, treatment rooms and holding pens. Visitors can watch the vets at work through a huge viewing window.

Stop for a snack at the Fat Possum Cafe.

The sanctuary is home to a number of koalas which have sustained injuries from car accidents or bushfires. But the team at the Koala Sanctuary in Port Stephens aims to help as many of the marsupials return to the wild as possible. 

During the day, meander through the park to learn about these lovely creatures which are near extinction. 

The 250-metre Sanctuary Story Walk is an immersive educational experience that tells the story of the koalas through stunning sculptures. 

Venture up to 10 metres in the air on the Newcastle Airport SKYwalk and viewing platform where you will ‘eyeball’ koala in their own habitat in the treetop canopy. 

Visits are self-guided at the moment, but post-COVID they are planned to be tailored educational tours with local guides focusing on the rehabilitation of koalas and what they need to survive in the wild. The onsite Fat Possum Cafe sells bites to go, as well as souvenirs.

Glamping balconies at the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary accommodation.

The fantastic aspect about this new facility is guests can stay overnight. 

There are four-star glamping tents which come with their own mini-bar, kitchenette and sweeping views over the sanctuary. The spacious tents are air-conditioned and can sleep up to four people. There are also studios and one-bedroom suites.

Set among eight hectares of bushland, the retreat is nestled on the edge of the magnificent One Mile Beach and Worimi Conservation Lands sand dunes. It may be secluded but the property is still close to the hustle and bustle of Port Stephens if you want to explore the local area.

Drive: The sanctuary is a 45-minute drive from Newcastle; and about five hours from Canberra.

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