Muttonbird Island Outdoor learning space

Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve

Overview

Explore Aboriginal history and hear Dreamtime stories of Giidany Miirlarl, also known as Muttonbird Island on a guided tour with an Aboriginal Discovery ranger.

Type
Education centres
Where
Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve
Accessibility
Easy
Price
Free
What to
bring
Hat, sunscreen
Please note
  • Please refrain from disturbing the birds. This means no flash photography and always keep to the track
  • Remember to take your binoculars if you want to bird watch or whale watch

Long before the island was connected to the shore, certain Gumbaynggirr peple were the only ones permitted to venture here. They came to collect muttonbirds for food, protected for their survival by a giant moon-man guardian.

This fascinating Dreaming story and many others are explained in detail at the award-winning Muttonbird Island outdoor learning space. The display is located at the base of the western side of the island. Aboriginal Discovery Rangers conduct tours of the island, explaining its flora and fauna and narrating their Dreaming stories.

Pause here to take in the past before embarking on the short island walk. Signage along the way explains the wedge-tailed shearwater’s itinerant lifestyle, the north coast’s geographic features and the marine life that lives in surrounding waters.

For directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info

Current alerts in this area

There are no current alerts in this area.

Local alerts

For the latest updates on fires, closures and other alerts in this area, see https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/education-centres/muttonbird-island-outdoor-learning-space/local-alerts

Park info

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Muttonbird Island Outdoor learning space.

Getting there and parking

Muttonbird Island outdoor learning space is located at the base of the western side of the island.

Parking

Parking is available in and around the marina and waterfront precinct off Marina Drive, a short walk from Muttonbird Discovery display.

Best times to visit

There are lots of great things waiting for you in Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve. Here are some of the highlights.

Autumn

Take the ‘Muttonbirds by Moonlight' guided tour to find out more about the muttonbird parents' and fledglings' migratory journey to southeast Asia.

Spring

Head to the island's peak or eastern side to look for migrating whales – make sure to take your binoculars Muttonbirds will be breeding and nesting at this time of year, so look closely for them and be very careful not to disturb them .

Summer

Look for dolphins in the water and sea turtles around the marina area.

Winter

Guided tours to the South Solitary Island include a return helicopter flight and guided inspection of the lighthouse keepers' buildings and surrounds. They are only available for two weekends every year so you'll need to book ahead – check out the Precision Helicopters website to find out more about scenic flights and tours. During the school holidays take a free whale watching guided tour on the island .

Weather, temperature and rainfall

Summer temperature

Average

20°C and 27°C

Highest recorded

43.3°C

Winter temperature

Average

10°C and 20°C

Lowest recorded

-3.2°C

Rainfall

Wettest month

March

Driest month

September

The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day

404.6mm

Maps and downloads

Safety messages

Beach safety

Beaches in this park are not patrolled, and can sometimes have strong rips and currents. These beach safety tips will help you and your family stay safe in the water.

Mobile safety

Dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. Download the Emergency + app before you visit, it helps emergency services locate you using your smartphone's GPS. Please note there is limited mobile phone reception in this park and you’ll need mobile reception to call Triple Zero (000).

Accessibility

Disability access level - easy

This area is fully wheelchair accessible.

  • Wheelchair access is available from the start of the breakwall roadway

Prohibited

Pets

Pets and domestic animals (other than certified assistance animals) are not permitted. Find out which regional parks allow dog walking and see the pets in parks policy for more information.

Smoking

NSW national parks are no smoking areas.

Nearby towns

Bellingen (71 km)

Bellingen is a laid-back, tree-lined town with a New Age vibe. It's set in a luxuriant valley beside the Bellinger River.

www.visitnsw.com

Coffs Harbour (43 km)

Coffs Harbour is a coastal city on the North Coast, packed with things to do. It's surrounded by lush forests and national parks.

www.visitnsw.com

Learn more

Muttonbird Island Outdoor learning space is in Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:

Divers delight

Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve. Photo: Rob Cleary/Seen Australia

Muttonbird Island marks the southern boundary of the Solitary Islands Marine Park. The marine park protects coral reefs, mangroves, sea-grass beds, rockpools and river estuaries. It's a diver's paradise, a place where fish species from the tropical north and temperate south mingle among the reefs.

  • Eastern Side lookout The Eastern Side lookout offers spectacular views of the Solitary Islands. A short walk from the carpark, it’s a great place for whale watching in the heart of Coffs Harbour.

Giidany Miirlarl

Aboriginal Discovery ranger, Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve. Photo: Rob Cleary

Muttonbird Island is a sacred and significant site to the local Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal people, who call the island Giidany Miirlarl, meaning moon sacred place. The moon is the island's protector, guarding the muttonbirds as a food source and protecting them from over-harvesting. The island was also a ceremonial site. Find out more about the cultural significance of Gumbaynggirr Country, taste bush tucker foods and learn about traditional uses of plants for medicine and shelter on a guided tour with one of the Aboriginal Discovery Rangers.

Love nest

Wedge-tailed shearwater mutton bird in underground nest, Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve. Photo: Rosie Nicolai/OEH

The island is home to thousands of wedge-tailed shearwaters, so called for their ability to cut or shear the water with their wings as they skim across the surface. Early settlers called them muttonbirds because of their fatty mutton-like flesh. The birds spend the Australian winter in southeast Asia, travelling back to Muttonbird Island in August each year. Amazingly, the birds return to the same burrow every year. A pair of birds share the responsibility of keeping one single egg warm and then share the raising of their chick. During the day they forage for food and return to their burrow just after dusk. They depart on their annual migration in late April every year.

  • Eastern Side lookout The Eastern Side lookout offers spectacular views of the Solitary Islands. A short walk from the carpark, it’s a great place for whale watching in the heart of Coffs Harbour.
  • Muttonbirds by moonlight Muttonbirds by moonlight is a Stage 6 (Years 11-12) school excursion at Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve, which covers geography as a KLA. Experience a guided walk across the island as evening falls, to observe the daily return of thousands of wedge-tail shearwaters (muttonbirds) to their nesting burrows, where hungry partners or chicks await.
  • Muttonbirds by moonlight Muttonbirds by moonlight is a Stage 2 (Years 3-4) school excursion in Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve, focusing on HSIE. Join us on a guided walk across the island as evening falls, and keep an eye out for the daily return of thousands of wedge-tail shearwaters (muttonbirds) to their nesting burrows, where hungry partners or chicks await.
  • Roving ranger at Muttonbird Island If you happen to be near Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve these school holidays, drop by and listen to an Aboriginal NPWS roving ranger talking about the cultural significance of the island.
  • The Rookery Roundabout The Rookery Roundabout is a school excursion for Stage 1 (Years 1-2) students in Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve which focuses on HSIE as a KLA. Join us on a guided walk across Muttonbird Island, and learn about the role of the reserve in protecting a breeding rookery for the wedge-tail shearwater (muttonbirds).

Plants and animals you may see

Animals

  • Australian pelican. Photo: Rob Cleary

    Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus)

    The curious pelican is Australia’s largest flying bird and has the longest bill of any bird in the world. These Australian birds are found throughout Australian waterways and the pelican uses its throat pouch to trawl for fish. Pelicans breed all year round, congregating in large colonies on secluded beaches and islands.

Education resources (1)

School excursions (6)

Discovery Centre, Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve. Photo: Rob Cleary