In part to celebrate our 30th Anniversary, we took the opportunity to escape from the city and head 2.5 hours north into the Hunter region and Port Stephens, a vast shallow harbour over two times the size of Sydney’s harbour. Early September always brings a blast of early summer warmth to the coast, and bang on cue, it didn’t disappoint. Mid 20’s and blazing sunshine all week, so where better to hang our hats than coastal cool Bannisters at Soldiers Point. This perfectly formed and located hotel (with a terrific Rick Stein restaurant attached) is a little slice of paradise set on a vast bay with far-reaching views out towards the ocean.
It’s the abundant birdlife that immediately grabs your attention in and around Port Stephens.
To where, in fact, bear with me, I can transport you right now…in sound that is. Take a listen to these audio grabs (you may have to scroll down a bit on the page for the link), it’s heaven.
The melodious flutey carolling from the Australian Magpies that can go on for many minutes, particularly early morning as the sun rises and the sea breeze kicks in.
I guess it’s best described in Denis Glover’s poem ‘The Magpies’ as quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle… listen to this then try it! https://wildambience.com/wildlife-sounds/australian-magpie/
The ear-piercing screeches from the dazzling Rainbow Lorikeets. https://www.soundsnap.com/tags/rainbow_lorikeets
Then of course there’s one of our most iconic birds, the Laughing Kookaburra, a kind of overly large fluffy Kingfisher that cackles and chuckles away as the sun rises and sets – and would steal a sausage or two if you happened to be holding one… (long story, but it happened). https://wildambience.com/wildlife-sounds/laughing-kookaburra/
The sunrises here are something else. The inky dark blue with Venus rising in the east gives way to vivid oranges and purples as the sun tips over the horizon – accompanied of course by the raucous bird calls and, if you’re lucky, spotting the odd dolphin or three in the shallows.
Out at the headlands lies impressive Mount Tomaree, the matching volcanic remnant to Yacaaba Head that separates the calm of the bay from the roaring Pacific. There’s a steep switchback walking trail to the top that has, in some sections, almost vertical metal stairs to heave you up towards the summit. But it’s so worthwhile as the panoramic views take in the vast shallow harbour on one side and the deserted beaches and islands on the other, and over towards the spit of sand that connects Fingal Bay with Shark Island.
Can’t imagine why after over 30 years living in Sydney we haven’t been up here. It’s a real slice of paradise.