Pet Porpoise Pool, Coffs Harbour

We briefly mentioned the Pet Porpoise Pool (now actually known as Dolphin Marine Magic) at Coffs Harbour in our recent blog, but it’s such a unique hands on experience when you visit this place that we thought we’d share some more photos and information about it.

The Pet Porpoise Pool is the only facility in NSW which is endorsed by the government’s regulating bodies to exhibit dolphins.  The thing that sets this place apart from other animal parks is that they actively engage and encourage visitors to have up close and personal interaction with the animals.  Every person has the opportunity to have a dolphin or seal kiss before each show … for free (you just pay for the professional photos if you chose to purchase them).  Although there is no obligation to purchase, all profits do go towards helping build and maintain new enclosures.

The park is split up into different sections as shown below.  As we visited during the school holidays, they also had a reptile show at various times throughout the day, which showed and talked about various snakes, reptile advice and first aid.  Believe this only runs during school holiday periods though.

Marine discovery presentation

This is the main deal, the thing you visit for!  This show is interesting, entertaining and informative for children and adults alike.  The dolphins and seals are the star of the show, performing tricks which showcase their natural abilities.

Dolphin Lagoon

The Dolphin Lagoon is one of two large pools which house the dolphins.  After the show you can still stay at the pool area and see the dolphins swimming around, playing with balls, jumping and spinning all by themselves, just for fun!  If they come up to the edge of the pool you can pat them and even throw the ball for them, it’s amazing to have this personal interaction with the dolphins, purely on their own terms.

Seal Shores

Seal Shores is where the Sea Lions live.  Again you can sit here for ages watching the seals playing in their enclosure.  These adorable little creatures are so playful!

Solitary Reefs

In this area you can see various species of fish, coral and other marine animals which are found within the local Solitary Islands Marine Park area.  In this area you can view the marine life from above the tank and also walk below to the underwater viewing area.

‘Plugga’ the turtle

Plugga is a Green Sea Turtle who was born in the 1990’s.  When he was rescued he was about the size of a 50c coin.  He had lost majority of one of his rear flippers and because of his injury he probably wouldn’t have survived in the wild, so he moved in to his new home at the Pet Porpoise Pool.  He’s lived there ever since and is now a happy, much much larger, turtle!

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Penguin Beach

This is home to a colony of cute little penguins and where you can sit and watch them waddling around and swimming.  They also hold penguin feeding in this area.

Many of these penguins have been rescued from local beaches in the area and due to their various injuries they couldn’t be released back into the wild.

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Swim with animals encounters

For an extra charge there are various different encounters where you can enter the water to pat and play with and learn about the dolphins.  There are more in-depth encounters you can have where you spend a lot more time in the water.  There are even ‘trainer for a day’ experiences …. this is something we’d like to do at some stage.

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So yes we recommend a visit to this park if you are visiting Coffs Harbour.  If you want an up close and more hands on experience then this is the place for you.  Entry prices aren’t cheap, but it’s probably comparable to any other zoo or facility like this.  We have thoroughly enjoyed our visits over the years and although some of the surroundings could do with an update, you can’t really fault it in any other way.

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Shark Bay exploring

First on our list was an early morning visit to Monkey Mia to see the dolphins.IMG_7803Monkey Mia is renowned for being a place where you can experience close encounters with their visiting Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins. Every morning between 7.45am – 12.00pm, there is dolphin feeding on the beach. This is run by Department of Parks & Wildlife officers and you need to be very lucky to be picked out to feed a dolphin, and strictly no touching.IMG_7800We arrived early and decided to stand on the jetty to view the feeding, we’ve fed and swum with dolphins before, so thought the less crowded jetty would give a better view and photo opportunity (it did! And we also saw turtles aswell!).IMG_7795As the dolphins are wild, there is always the chance they won’t come in for a feed. Luckily for us quite a few dolphins came in while we were there. Up to 5 mature female dolphins are offered food the first 3 times they visit each day. If they come back again they won’t be offered food.IMG_7802The dolphins are only fed a small amount of food each feeding. As they are wild animals, they want to ensure that they keep hunting for their own food and teach their young this behaviour aswell. By limiting the food offered to the dolphins they can still live as the wild animals they are and won’t become reliant on humans for food.IMG_7804

After our early start to see the dolphins, we continued on with the day and headed into the national park for a look around. François Peron National Park covers an area of 52,000 hectares. 

The park was named after François Peron in recognition of his contribution to recording Australia’s natural and social history. François documented anthropology, oceanography, meteorology and zoology during Nicholas Baudin’s 1801 and 1803 expeditions.

First we visited the Peron Heritage Precinct which included the old Homestead and also gave an insight into what life was like during the pastoral era, and how they shearers lived and worked back in the day when this was a large working sheep station.

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Such an Aussie problem!


This area also had an artesian bore open to the public. Would have loved to go in this if it hadn’t of been so cold, the wind was fearce that morning!IMG_7811One of the things we love about travelling is that you never know what you might see each day. Well this was our first encounter with a thorny devil in the wild. This little guy was sitting right in the middle of the road having a little sunbake.IMG_7824Access to the park is via 4WD only and it wasn’t the best of roads in some places, but it was certainly worth it to see the views.IMG_7827The scenery in this area is spectacular, the dramatic colours of the rocks against the ocean are certainly a sight.IMG_7829The scenery throughout the whole park was ever changing and the colours changed each way you looked.  This is another of those special places you need to visit to understand.IMG_7833One of the places to visit in the park is ‘Kraskoe’s Tank’. This was named after a one legged entrepreneur who would ride his horse from Denham to Herald Bight each week to buy pearls and collect mail. He perished trying to reach this water tank after falling off his horse and breaking his remaining good leg. How bad can your luck be!
IMG_7843One of the highlights for us was Skipjack Point. Everything we read said to take binoculars to this lookout as there is so much to see. Well they weren’t wrong, as soon as we reached the lookout we saw a shark and from then onwards we saw turtles, rays, manta rays and whales. It was amazing to see so much. IMG_7848
Our last stop for the day was a visit to Ocean Park Aquarium. This place isn’t your typical aquarium, but we loved it.IMG_7856You are taken on a guided tour around all the tanks by a marine biologist and they explain and educate you, as well as answering any questions you may have.
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We saw Nemo!

Speaking of Nemo, we found out a little bit about clownfish, go and google ‘The Truth About Finding Nemo’ …… you’ll never be able to watch the movie the same ever again!!!IMG_7866Also included in the tour is the shark feeding and informative talk.IMG_7860The whole tour goes for around an hour or so. Our guide was great, very informative and we all had a few laughs as well.

IMG_7875We even learned a few things …. eels have two sets of jaws, their ‘pharyngeal jaws’ are housed in the eel’s throat.  When the eel’s main jaws close on its prey, its second set jumps forward into it’s mouth, grabs the prey and drags it back into the throat!IMG_7880We also found out that all crustaceans shed their skin, had no idea about that either! Go and google lobster shedding its skin, it’s pretty cool!

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View from the aquarium

 The weird things you come across sometimes!

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Had to stop for traffic on the way back to town!

IMG_7892While in Shark Bay, of course we also had to go visit the Shark Bay Hotel, Australia’s most Westerly hotel!IMG_7896We also happened to be staying at the Denham Seaside Tourist Village, which is apparently the most Westerly Caravan Park in Australia!