A Long Weekend at Koala Shores (Port Stephens)

A Long Weekend at Koala Shores (Port Stephens)

Our exploration of NSW continued with a 4 day visit to Koala Shores, which is beautifully located on the shoreline of Tilligerry Creek in Port Stephens. We chose Koala Shores for two main reasons: firstly, it promised good fishing opportunities (specifically around the oyster farms); and secondly, it’s known to have a small population of koalas – possibly Katie’s favourite animal.

We took a leisurely drive up on Friday morning, and were thankfully allowed to check in a little ahead of schedule. After unpacking the vehicle, we did our usual exploration of the park, and (of course) spent some time on the jumping pillow. We then headed out on a quick evening stroll along the wooden walkways of the Tilligerry Creek Koala Walk. Despite not being a large patch of land, it was fantastic to weave through the trees with expansive water views in the background. Sadly, we didn’t manage to find any koalas, but the kids loved the walk non the less.

The next morning we headed out for a mini-adventure on the Stockton Beach dunes. Stockton Beach is a part of the Worimi Conservation Lands, which meant we needed to purchase a beach driving permit, which we did at the Metro Service Station in Williamtown. We then dropped our tyre pressure, and drove onto the beach at the Lavis Lane entry. This put us straight into the Recreational Vehicle Area, and straight into the fun. Stockton Beach is more than 22kms long, and offers 350 hectares of thrilling dune driving, so there is more than enough space for everyone to have a good time.

The beach was relatively quiet at 9am, which meant we had the majority of the recreational area to ourselves. We took turns at tackling the steeper dunes, and then headed off to explore the beach. We drove north for a short while, before deciding to go in search of the local shipwreck. When we found it we jumped out of the car to stretch our legs, and the girls took the opportunity to collect some shells on the beach.

From the wreck we headed further south to check out the beach campsites, in preparation for potential future trips. The camps were well maintained, located directly on the sand, and each one had their own small fire pit. The only downside was that they were relatively close to each other, although not as bad as some other sites in Australia.

Since it was nearing lunchtime we decided to call it a day and headed back to the Lavis Lane entry (or exit in this case). And that’s where our journey ended. Someone had gotten themselves badly bogged entering the beach, and another vehicle was trying to winch them out…up a hill. Between them, these two vehicles had completely blocked the entrance, and created a buildup of well over 50 vehicles, who had proceeded to block both sides of the road amidst their impatience to get onto the beach.

We sat on a dune and watched the uphill winch, as well as several other attempts, fail. Thankfully, a more experienced 4x4er then walked over to assist, and dug them out. With the entranced cleared we waited for another 15 minutes as the mess of cars slowly thinned, rushing onto the beach far too close together, almost causing multiple accidents. Eventually an annoyed tour guide took control of the situation, and managed to get the queue organised onto one side of the road, so we were finally able to exit the beach.

Back at the cabin I set up my kayak in preparation for an afternoon on the water. I launched from the campsite’s ramp at 3pm, and proceeded to paddle across Tilligerry Creek, where I quickly discovered that my sounder wasn’t receiving a signal from the transducer. After fiddling with it for a few minutes, in the middle of the channel, I beached on Stuart’s Island where I checked all of the connections. Since everything appeared to be fine, I paddled off, frustrated, while doing some research into possible causes on my phone. Thanks to Google I worked out how to do a hard-reset of the system, which sorted out the issue.

Having lost close to 30 minutes, I got down to targeting bream on fly around the oyster racks. When this proved unsuccessful I headed up Bob’s Farm Creek in search of some flathead. However, despite finding some promising water and structure, I still couldn’t find any fish. As the sun was starting to dip towards the horizon, I started heading back towards camp, fishing the shallows around Stuarts Island on route. This proved to be a good move as I immediately started getting bumps on a small Crazy Charlie. I changed flies to a larger Clouser as I rounded the tip of the island, and promptly hooked into a beaut of a flathead. Since I was already on route home, I decided to keep the fish for dinner – something I don’t normally do.

Back at the cabin I quickly discovered we didn’t have any filleting knives, or ingredients with which to cook the fish. Sharon thankfully offered to shoot off to the local Woolies, and was soon back with a bag of (secret) ingredients and a “knife”. I say “knife”, since there weren’t many options so she bought the best she could, which was certainly not meant for filleting, or cutting.

I headed down to the fish cleaning station at the waters edge. Strangely, it was located in the middle of somebodies campsite, which meant I hacked a fish to pieces using a blunt “knife”, as two shocked campers looked on.

With 2 less than perfect fillets in hand, I got down to cooking some popcorn fish for starters. Much to my surprise, Emma absolutely loved it, which left me brimming with pride.

The next morning was all about family fun on the bikes. We saddled up and rode to a nearby bike track. This was a high trust moment for us as it involved letting Katie loose, on her own, on the roads, for around 1km, as we were all on our bikes.

Sadly the track was a bit soft for the kids, so we did a few short loops before heading to the skate-park to ride a bit on the smaller ramps. As expected, this resulted in a fall for Emma, which cut this fun short. Thankfully we managed to distract her by heading to a nearby park for a quick play on the slides.

Back at the villa I headed out for an afternoon fish. The wind was howling, so most of the fishing was done using my lightweight spinning gear, throwing soft plastics around. I had most of my success in deeper water around the edges of weed beds, but only managed to pick up a few small flathead. On the plus side, this meant I didn’t need to embarrass myself around the campers with another failed filleting attempt.

And as quick as it started, our trip was over. The next morning was spent cleaning the cabin and packing up. There was of course time for a quick play on the jumping pillow. And we made use of a nearby firehose to spray down the car after it’s time on the beach. Despite not having seen any koalas, or caught many fish, it’s definitely a venue worth returning to. The cabins were comfortable, the fishing opportunities looked promising, and there was plenty to do for the kids, and all only a few hours from Sydney.