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5 places to find koalas in NSW

From their fluffy ears to their paunchy pouches, koalas are one of the most adored critters on the planet – and around 20,000 of them are thought to call New South Wales home. Here’s where to find these endearing marsupials happily at home among the gum trees — and how you can help them stay that way. Visit the famous Koala Hospital Just 4.5 hours north of Sydney on the NSW mid North Coast, Port Macquarie is home to one of Australia‘s largest wild koala populations, as well as the world-renowned Koala Hospital — so it’s a top spot to go and give back to them. Wander through eucalypt forests at Koolunbung Creek Nature Reserve and Sea Acres National Park, and you may find them snoozing in the rainforest canopy (remember to log your sightings with the I Spy Koala app so other visitors can share the joy). To be part of some globally acclaimed conservation, book a tour of the Koala Hospital, where you’ll see furry patients being treated for everything from injuries to illnesses. If you’re visiting in September, check out the Annual Hello Koalas Festival and Treasure Hunt for an unforgettable family day out that supports koala conservation. Snap a koala selfie near Sydney Finding koalas in the wild can be tricky — after all, they usually spend the day resting in the forks of towering eucalypts. For a guaranteed sighting less than an hour’s drive from central Sydney, explore Featherdale Sydney Wildlife Park or Taronga Zoo (while you’re not permitted to cuddle koalas in NSW, you can certainly get close to them). At the Australian Reptile Park on the Central Coast, an hour’s drive north of Sydney, your visit directly supports conservation because its charity partner, Aussie Ark, creates and protects wild koala habitats. And an hour’s drive south of the city centre, you can have happy snaps with koalas at the family-owned Symbio Wildlife Park in Helensburgh, bordering the Royal National Park. Hike the new Koala Country Support koala habitat protection with a trip to Guula Ngurra National Park, an easy two-hour drive south of Sydney in the Southern Highlands.Established in August 2020, the park protects 3,358 hectares of vital koala habitat — its name means “Koala Country” in the local Gundungurra Aboriginal language. If you’re an experienced hiker, lace your boots for the short but intense 3 km Mount Penang Loop Walk, where 360-degree views showcase a sprawling wilderness in which koalas are protected for future generations. Here, the koalas share their home with more than 130 important Australian species, including the endangered glossy black cockatoo and at least 20 more that are under threat, including the flame robin and squirrel glider. Find a home among the gum trees You might not sleep for 18 hours like koalas do, but you can spend the night among them at Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary. Less than an hour’s drive from Newcastle, or 2.5 hours north from Sydney, you’ll find four-star glamping tents, studio rooms and deluxe suites all set in stunning Port Stephens bushland — the perfect spot to snooze after a day spent supporting the sanctuary’s conservation work and meeting the koalas it has rescued. Start with the Sanctuary Story Walk, which spills the secret history of the koala, then head to the Skywalk for a close-up view of the charismatic creatures from an elevated platform. Round off your visit with a look through the observation window at the on-site Koala Hospital, where vets treat fuzzy friends who’ve run into trouble. Your visit helps fund the works of the Sanctuary’s not-for-profit partner, Port Stephens Koalas, which works to preserve the local wild population and its habitat. Explore a koala-friendly country town Regional New South Wales is renowned for its friendly locals — just ask the 60-plus koalas living in Gunnedah, an hour’s drive from Tamworth in the state’s northwest, where their human neighbours have planted and extended tree corridors to link their habitats and keep them comfortable. In between visiting and supporting local attractions such as the Gunnedah Cultural Precinct, Breaker Morant Drive and the Water Tower Museum, keep an eye out for koalas around the Visitor Information Centre, along the Stock Road cycling track, at Porcupine Lookout and in the river gums of Anzac Park.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. “Just 4.5 hours north of Sydney …” is a reminder of how big Australia is. Once you are out of the cities not having to worry about traffic is a real bonus.

  2. Love to get back to Australia. We did have plans to take in some Ashes cricket too at the start of 2022. Doubt that we’ll be doing that trip now.

  3. One of my big plans for retirement was to finally head Down Under and cuddle a few koalas. I’m still waiting and looking forward to those koalas.

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