Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve

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The Eastern lookout offers spectacular views of the Solitary Islands. Explore the areas's Aboriginal cultural significance on a school excursion, or enjoy some whale watching in the heart of Coffs Harbour.

Read more about Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve

No visit to Coffs Harbour is complete if you haven’t been to Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve. Also know as Giidany Miirlarl, this precious seabird rookery at Coffs Harbour’s heart is enveloped by spectacular views from coast to islands.

Muttonbird Island is a great spot for watching birds up close; it’s one of the only easily-accessible places in NSW where the migratory wedge-tailed shearwater nests. It is also an important Aboriginal place, harbouring stories of the Dreaming and a wealth of traditional resources.

It’s a great place to take a short walk, and the unforgettable views will be well worth your effort. The best way to find out more about the Aboriginal stories of Muttonbird is on an award-winning guided Discovery tour conducted by local Gumbaynggirr rangers.

Take a virtual tour of Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve captured with Google Street View Trekker.

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Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve.


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Getting there and parking

From Coffs Harbour:

  • Follow Harbour Drive, then take Marina Drive to the waterfront and marina


  • Take Orlando Street and cross the railway line to Coffs Harbour Yacht Club

By bike

Check out the Bicycle information for NSW website for more information.

Best times to visit

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


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


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 .


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


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


20°C and 27°C

Highest recorded


Winter temperature


10°C and 20°C

Lowest recorded



Wettest month


Driest month


The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day


Maps and downloads

Safety messages

However you discover NSW national parks and reserves, we want you to have a safe and enjoyable experience. Our park and reserve systems contrast greatly so you need to be aware of the risks and take responsibility for your own safety and the safety of those in your care.

Mobile safety

Dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. Download the Emergency Plus 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).



Flying a drone for recreational purposes is prohibited in this area. Drones may affect public enjoyment, safety and privacy, interfere with park operations, or pose a threat to wildlife. See the Drones in Parks policy.

This area may be a declared Drone Exclusion Zone, or may be subject to Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) rules for flying near airports, aerodromes and helicopter landing sites. See CASA's Drone Flyer Rules.

Commercial filming and photography

Commercial filming or photography is prohibited without prior consent. You must apply for permission and contact the local office.


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.


NSW national parks are no smoking areas.

Nearby towns

Coffs Harbour (4 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.

Sawtell (12 km)

Sawtell is a beautiful town framed by beaches and a national park.

Bellingen (38 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.

Learn more

Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve is a special place. Here are just some of the reasons why:

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.

  • An island sanctuary self-guided audio tour Go on a self-guided audio tour with Matt Flanders across Muttonbird Island and discover the significance of this bustling seabird rookery. Take in the spectacular views as you stroll towards the eastern lookout and learn about the shearwaters that nest here.
  • 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 an Ecosystems at risk school excursion on Muttonbird Island, a nesting rookery for wedgetail shearwaters, for Stage 6 (Years 11-12) students focusing on Geography.
  • Muttonbirds by moonlight Join us at twilight for a fascinating exploration of Muttonbird Island and its nesting rookery for thousands of wedge-tailed shearwaters. This Stage 2 (Years 3-4) Geography excursion examines the features and characteristics of this unique place and environment. 
  • The rookery roundabout at Muttonbird Island Explore Muttonbird Island on The rookery roundabout, a Stage 1 (Years 1-2) Science and Technology excursion. Students will see an active nesting rookery for thousands of wedge-tailed shearwaters (muttonbirds) and learn about their fascinating lifecycle. 
  • Whale watching at Muttonbird Island Don't miss this free whale watching experience on Muttonbird Island, Coffs Harbour. The whales are on their annual migration, so it's a great time to see them. Our NPWS rangers can answer your queries. 
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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.

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.

Plants and animals protected in this park


  • Five pelicans stand at the beach shore in Bundjalung National Park as the sun rises. Photo: Nick Cubbin © DPE

    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 (5)

What we're doing

Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve has management strategies in place to protect and conserve the values of this park. Visit the OEH website for detailed park and fire management documents.

Preserving biodiversity

Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve strives to protect its native plants and animals from that which threatens their survival. Conservation and control measures are in operation in this park, and work to minimise impacts from visitors and introduced species. Recovery plans are implemented as required and their effects monitored carefully by NPWS staff.

Developing visitor facilities and experiences

Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve maintains its facilities and infrastructure to ensure memorable experiences. Programs to maintain, refurbish or upgrade the park’s visitor offerings are in place within this park.

Conserving our Aboriginal culture

Aboriginal culture is of great value to NPWS and the wider community, and the condition of Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve’s significant Aboriginal sites and assets is monitored and conserved. In doing this, NPWS invests in staff and contractor training and liaises with the local Aboriginal community wherever possible. NPWS review of interpretation and signage projects is ongoing.