Hawks Nest , Great Lakes

Cartoscope's detailed tourist map of the Great Lakes region is perfect for exploring Hawks Nest, Tea Gardens and the surrounding Myall Lakes area. Buy online (for a nominal postage and handling fee) by clicking the link to the right, or pick up from local visitor information centres, tourism operators, service stations, motels and caravan parks.

Imagine a slice of coastline with ten offshore islands, 50km of dazzling white beaches, amazingly diverse wildlife, Sahara-like sand dunes and rugged headlands; not to mention vast, tranquil wilderness lakes joined by riverways to a pristine harbour triple the size of Sydney Harbour: its real and its right here in the magnificent Hawks Nest/Tea Gardens region.

The twin towns of Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens lie on the northern shore of Port Stephens sandwiched between the major tourist destinations of the Great Lakes and Port Stephens regions. The towns are the gateway to the two areas and offer the best of both; nowhere else on Australia's Pacific Coast is there such concentrated geographic diversity.

Most of the resident dolphins of Port Stephens, Australia’s Dolphin Capital, are found in the northern waterways adjacent Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest. Beyond cruise vessel waters, every morning up to 30 mammals leave the port, swim around Yacaaba - the port's towering volcanic north head - and disperse along exquisite ocean-side Bennetts Beach. A treasured sight of nature is dolphins frolicking in the surf and catching waves beside humans.

Beyond the dolphin activity, lie ten islands; three of these are the largest islands along the NSW coast. Rainforested Cabbage Tree Island is the only breeding site in the world for the rare and bizarre seabird, the Gould's Petrel, which land on the island every spring and breed on the rainforest floor. For humans, setting foot on this sensitive island is not permitted, so be content with fishing and diving the emerald waters. Several islands make up the nearby Broughton Group.

The largest of the islands has walking tracks and dazzling white beaches. The Looking Glass Isle has two tunnels through its centre; a world-class dive site.

Back on land, Hawks Nest village is home to perhaps the healthiest "urban" koala colony in the country. Between 10 and 20 koalas move around the leafy village and are part of a colony which extends north into the Myall Lakes National Park. They can be seen anywhere in Hawks Nest; even in trees in the shopping centre.

But there is much more than koalas and dolphins! The twin towns lie between two RAMSAR sites (Wetlands of International Significance with virtually the same importance as World Heritage). Corrie Island and Myall Lakes National Park have 280 bird species, the same number as Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. There are a particularly large number of raptors, and this is where Hawks Nest gets its name.

The Myall Lakes National Park preserves 10,000 hectares of vast tranquil lakes; superb for houseboat hire, fishing or wilderness canoeing. Spectacular sunsets cast a glow on the surrounding ancient paperbark trees, creating mirror-like orange reflections on the still waters of Myall Lakes. Graceful Black Swans and thousands of other water birds form silhouettes. On the shore, look out for goannas and dingoes often sighted close to the lakes. Beyond the rainforest walk at Mungo Brush, 10,000 plus hectares of sand-plain vegetation and Sahara-like dunes are preserved. About half of the 50km of magnificent wilderness beaches are 4WD accessible, the others are set aside for walkers and solitude.

Walking tracks link all of the geographic features of the Myall Coast; a favourite takes you to the top of the volcanic Yacaaba - north head of Port Stephens - for a view of the entire coastline, port, islands and lakes.

Whether it is fishing, walking, surfing, island hopping, diving, or doing nothing at all, the biogeographic diversity of the Hawks Nest/ Tea Gardens area has something for everyone. All forms of accommodation from four and a half star to wilderness camping are available with the associated variety of dining. Stay for a day or a month in this wilderness getaway.

Hawks Nest is in the region of Great Lakes
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