The Welcome walk

Hunter Wetlands National Park

Overview

One of the great short walks of the Hunter region, The Welcome Walk takes you through the Hunter River estuary and is great for birdwatching or walking with children.

Where
Hunter Wetlands National Park
Distance
1km one-way
Time suggested
20 - 40min
Grade
Grade 2
Price
Free
Opening times
The Welcome walk is always open but may have to close at times due to poor weather or fire danger.
What to
bring
Sunscreen, hat, drinking water
Please note
  • Remember to take your binoculars if you want to birdwatch.
  • This walk takes you to the Schoolmasters House, which today is used as a base for the Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project (KWRP). The KWRP undertakes conservation projects in the Hunter estuary and has an extensive volunteer program.

Did you know mangroves are excellent fish nurseries? That there is a plant called sea celery? Or that saltmarsh is classified as an Endangered Ecological Community? You can learn all about these issues and more on The Welcome walk in Hunter Wetlands National Park. Walking along the raised boardwalk, you’ll meander above the saltwater wetlands of the Hunter River estuary, maybe spotting a fish or two or crabs.

This short walk is ideal for walking with children. You can set your own gentle pace, peeking and pointing at the wildlife and exploring the intricate world beneath you. Birdwatch as you go – there will be plenty of water birds about – and check out the interesting grasses and aquatic plants within the saltmarsh ecosystem.

You’re bound to get some great photos any time you visit, but many say this walk is at its best in spring, when delicate cream-coloured flowers adorn the mangroves.

Take a virtual tour of The Welcome walk captured with Google Street View Trekker.

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/walking-tracks/the-welcome-walk/local-alerts

Park info

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about The Welcome walk.

Track grading

Grade 2

Learn more about the grading system Features of this track
  • Time

    20 - 40min

  • Quality of markings

    Clearly sign posted

  • Gradient

    Flat

  • Distance

    1km one-way

  • Steps

    Occasional steps

  • Quality of path

    Formed track

  • Experience required

    No experience required

Getting there and parking

Get driving directions

Get directions

    The Welcome walk is in the Ash Island precinct of Hunter Wetlands National Park. To get there:

    • Cross the Ash Island Bridge off the Pacific Highway at Hexham
    • Turn right onto Schoolhouse Road
    • Park at the information shelters, where the walk begins.

    Park entry points

    Parking

    Parking is available at the starting point for The Welcome walk.

    Best times to visit

    There are lots of great things waiting for you in Hunter Wetlands National Park. Here are some of the highlights.

    Autumn

    With the weather mild, now is the time to get those bicycles out and ride the paths around Ash Island.

    Spring

    Pack a picnic to eat at Scotts Point or Riverside Park This is also the time you'll see the cream flowers of the mangroves .

    Summer

    This is the best time for birdwatching at Stockton Sandspit, as many of the migratory birds are here feeding. Make sure you're there at low-tide.

    Weather, temperature and rainfall

    Summer temperature

    Average

    20°C and 25°C

    Highest recorded

    42°C

    Winter temperature

    Average

    10°C and 18°C

    Lowest recorded

    1.8°C

    Rainfall

    Wettest month

    March

    Driest month

    November

    The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day

    283.7mm

    Facilities

    Drinking water is not available in this area so it’s a good idea to bring your own.

    Maps and downloads

    Safety messages

    Bushwalking safety

    If you're keen to head out on a longer walk or a backpack camp, always be prepared. Read these bushwalking safety tips before you set off on a walking adventure in national parks.

    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

    Assistance may be required to access this area.

    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

    Cessnock (111 km)

    Some of the finest wines in the world are created in the Hunter Valley and its towns, gourmet food is acclaimed and luxury, boutique accommodations are matched by the most beautiful natural scenery.

    www.visitnsw.com

    Charlestown (61 km)

    Charlestown lies just 12 km south of Newcastle. It's a key town centre at the northern end of Lake Macquarie.

    www.visitnsw.com

    Newcastle (23 km)

    Newcastle is a harbour city surrounded by amazing surf beaches that are linked by a great coastal walk, the Bathers Way. The walk from Nobbys Beach to Merewether Beach takes about three hours and is a great way to explore the city.

    www.visitnsw.com

    Learn more

    The Welcome walk is in Hunter Wetlands National Park. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:

    All-ages adventure

    Stockton Sandspit lookout, Hunter Wetlands National Park. Photo: Susan Davis

    The action all starts at Riverside Park. Here, you'll find a picnic area and paths leading off around Ash Island. They're all flat and wide, so perfect for getting kids on their bikes for some fresh air. Take a walk through the wetlands and identify different species of birds. Head to the deepwater jetty and do some fishing. There's quite the underwater bounty around here and, whether your spot is the jetty or the river foreshores, you can haul in flathead, whiting, tailor and bream.

    • Rainforest walk to Riverside Park Rainforest walk to Riverside Park, near Newcastle, is suitable for walking or cycling and crosses Ash Island, ending by the river where you can fish and birdwatch.
    • Riverside Park The family-friendly Riverside Park, near Newcastle, is the perfect base for cycling, walking, fishing and birdwatching on Ash Island.
    • Scotts Point Way to Riverside Park trail Enjoy an easy walk or bike ride along the river on the Scott Point to Riverside Park trail, Ash Island, as it takes you past excellent spots for fishing and birdwatching.

    Early evidence

    World War II Radar Station, Hunter Wetlands National Park. Photo: Susan Davis

    Get a taste of some of the area's history. From the picnic area at Riverside Park, you can walk through the Kooragang City Farm precinct and find the ruins of the farmhouse and dairy built by William Milham, who ran a property here with the first European owner of Ash Island, AW Scott. Also on the island is a heritage-listed World War II radar 'igloo'.

    • Rainforest walk to Riverside Park Rainforest walk to Riverside Park, near Newcastle, is suitable for walking or cycling and crosses Ash Island, ending by the river where you can fish and birdwatch.
    • Scotts Point Way to Riverside Park trail Enjoy an easy walk or bike ride along the river on the Scott Point to Riverside Park trail, Ash Island, as it takes you past excellent spots for fishing and birdwatching.

    Feather bluster

    Sunset over Hunter Wetlands National Park. Photo: Susan Davis

    The Hunter River and its estuaries are home to a number of habitats - freshwater wetlands, mangroves and coastal rainforest among them - making the area a haven for birdlife. More than 200 species of birds live here or pass through on their migration. Head to Stockton Sandspit, where shorebirds - plovers, oystercatchers and curlews, to name a few - roost and feed on the mud flats. Along the river foreshore, you'll also likely see pelicans, spoonbills, black swans and, sweeping over the water searching for fish, sea eagles and swamp harriers.

    World-class wetlands

    Wetlands, Hunter Wetlands National Park. Photo: Susan Davis

    Hunter Wetlands National Park makes up part of the Hunter Estuary Wetlands Ramsar site (the Ramsar convention recognises wetlands of international importance). This peaceful area is important for many species of birds, including 45 that migrate internationally. The green and golden bell frogs, both threatened species, breed in the freshwater lagoons. The mangroves here also provide maternity roosts for tiny bats, including the eastern free-tail bat.

    • Rainforest walk to Riverside Park Rainforest walk to Riverside Park, near Newcastle, is suitable for walking or cycling and crosses Ash Island, ending by the river where you can fish and birdwatch.
    • Riverside Park The family-friendly Riverside Park, near Newcastle, is the perfect base for cycling, walking, fishing and birdwatching on Ash Island.

    Education resources (1)

    School excursions (2)

    Welcome Walk, Hunter Wetlands National Park. Photo: Susan Davis/NSW Government