PORT Stephens is at the forefront of efforts to preserve Australia's koala population, particularly that which calls the local area home.
Opened in late September 2020, the $10 million Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary offers a home to ill and injured koalas, as well as providing first class treatment and care.
The sanctuary is a collaboration between Port Stephens Council and volunteer group Port Stephens Koalas and it has proved to be a win for conservation and tourism in the region.
Koala populations across Australia have been affected in recent years by drought, fire and disease, particularly chlamydia, which can cause infertility and permanent blindness.
Everyday care for the koalas brought to the sanctuary is provided by a group of dedicated volunteers.
In the months since its opening, the Sanctuary has welcomed tens of thousands of visitors who enjoy an educational and immersive experience at the centre.
This article appears in the Port Stephens Easter Holiday Guide, which is out now. You can read the whole guide online here.
Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary spokesperson James Cook said the educational elements included at the site helped visitors understand the current plight of the koala in the wild.
"One component is what we call the Sanctuary Story Walk," he said.
"It's a 250m meandering pathway, which tells the story of koala through nine artistic koala sculptures that we've had specifically created for that site.
"Some are located high up in the trees, others are on the ground. Each of the nine story points tells a particular aspect of the koala. We really want people to understand the information so they've got a good understanding of what they are, what they do and why they do it."
Visitors are offered suggestions of how they can help assist a koala if one happens to climb down a tree into your backyard, through establishing different types of fencing, and what to do if one is found injured.
Moving further into the Sanctuary, you can view the $2.3 million Koala Hospital. While the public can't go into the hospital itself, there is a viewing window through which you can see vets and carers tending to koalas that are in the Sanctuary for rehabilitation at various times of the day.
"That's a really wonderful opportunity to look in and get a sense of how we assist koala when they are brought to us and are provided with first class care and rehabilitation," James said.
You can also experience the Newcastle Airport Skywalk and Viewing Platform, a 225m elevated boardwalk that takes you 30 feet into the treetop canopy and allows you to come eye to eye with koalas who now make their home in the Sanctuary.
"Each of the koalas that lives here have their own story and visitors get to read the stories on signage boards throughout," James said.
The Sanctuary has its own cafe, the Fat Possum, and a retail store on site. If you would like to contribute to the work of the Sanctuary, there are opportunities available to adopt a koala and help fund the eco conservation work that is underway.
Visit the website at portstephenskoalasanctuary.com.au to book tickets or find out more. The Sanctuary is open daily, 9am-5pm.