The Solitary Islands Coast

The Solitary Islands Coast is a unique and naturally diverse area north of Coffs Harbour. We visited national parks and culturally important sites along the coast.

A visit to the Solitary Islands Aquarium at the Southern Cross University in Coffs Harbour exposed us to the diversity of marine life off the coast. The explanations given by the staff there gave us a deeper appreciation of the uniqueness of this area, where the warm waters of the East Australian Current meet cooler ocean currents from the south. This results in a biologically diverse area, which is protected as the Solitary Islands Marine Park, stretching 75 km along the coast north from Coffs Harbour.

Corals, anenomes, anenome fish and a hermit crab at the Solitary Islands aquarium

We stayed a few days at the Solitary Islands Resort situated right on the mangrove-lined estuary in Wooli. Despite the resort being quite busy on a long weekend, we managed to have a quiet spot for our stay. At the back of our campsite were tall flowering paperbarks (Melaleucas) and mangroves.

Great Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina), Broad-leaved Paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia), Palm Planthopper (Magia subocellata)

Canoeing along the estuary and into the mangroves we saw an array of birds, flying foxes, stingrays and fish.

Mangrove wildlife at Wooli. Clockwise from top left: Black Flying Foxes very restless in their mangrove roost, Azure Kingfisher that frequently dived into the estuary, Striated Heron (with Red-capped Plover in background), Pied Oyster Catchers

The vegetation in the Yuraygir National Park north of Wooli, was very different from the lush rainforest we had recently left behind. Instead, this is heathland with diverse vegetation including banksias and paperbarks. The associated birdlife was also quite different to what we had encountered.

Three different banksia species, and flowers of the Broad-leaved Paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia), bottom right
Noisy Friarbird

Heading south from Wooli, we were keen to find the ancient Arrawarra stone fish traps. The Arrawarra fish traps have always been used by the Garby Elders and are estimated to be between 1000 to 7000 years old! There are records of many fish traps along the NSW coast.

While in the area we also heard about a monument to a disturbing massacre of the Gumbaynngir people in the mid 19th century that occurred at Red Rock headland, just north of Arrawarra.

Red Rock headland
Monument to the Bloodrock Massacres

The plaque reads:

In memory of the victims and survivors of
Understanding their sacrifice will make us stronger

We as Gumbaingirr People have survived
many conflicts over ownership of our
traditional lands, including a
massacre where many were driven off the headland
at Red Rock (Blood Rock).

Gumbaingirr descendants,
especially women still avoid this headland.

The significance of this place
and the rebirthing of our culture
will never be forgotten
Birds at Red Rock. Clockwise from top left: Red-backed Fairy Wren, White-cheeked Honeyeater, Osprey (eating a fish it carried past us), Sacred Kingfisher.
Sunset at Wooli

Following our visit to this area, we headed south down the coast to Limeburners Creek National Park, north of Port Macquarie. See our trips page for a map of our journey.

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