The Way of the Child …

There are a lot of of activities for families to enjoy along the Waterfall Way. It’s a great way for families to explore together; finding out about birds, animals and plants. Travelling from the ocean to the high tablelands, you can observe mini-worlds in the rock pools, watch dolphins in the sea, paddle along a tranquil river, walk through a shady rainforest, look for possums, bats and stars at night, and find out where milk comes from. Take the opportunity to join one of the holiday programs that give families a chance to discover new places together.

A new story a new journey

Waterfall Way Coffs Coast has a wealth of beaches to enjoy and it’s also a great place to go out to sea to watch the whales in the Solitary Islands Marine Park. Humpback whales migrate up and down the coast between June and November. They travel north to breed inside the Great Barrier Reef and return south with their calves to spend summer in the Antarctic. Humpback whales can grow to 16 metres long and weigh up to 45 tonnes but they can still launch themselves from the water and land with a giant splash. This is called breaching and may be done many times in succession. They come close to the coast here and there are some good lookouts from headlands but you’ll have a better chance of seeing whales from one of the boats that offer whale watching tours from Coffs Harbour.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service also runs whale watching from the viewing platform on Muttonbird Island using powerful viewing scopes and binoculars. Join a group, and the Parks staff can tell you about whales and their behaviour. While whales are a big reason to visit the coast, there are some fascinating little creatures to see here too. With a life cycle that every child wants to know about, butterflies are as beautiful as they are interesting. Discover how a caterpillar changes into a chrysalis and then into a butterfly, and enjoy walking through the colourful clouds of butterflies from all over Australia. These butterflies live indoors in a protected environment so you can see them whatever the weather.

Waterfall Way If your family is looking for some active adventure on the water, then a canoe trip on the Bellinger River is a fun way to explore a new environment. Paddling along the river, you’ll see the world from a new angle. From the canoe you can watch for turtles and jumping fish in the water, koalas in the trees and eagles in the air. Stop for a swim in the river or find a quiet picnic spot on the bank. Another great place for a family picnic is the Glade Picnic Area in Dorrigo National Park. It’s just a 1km walk through the rainforest from the visitor centre or you can drive and park close by. This clearing in the forest has tables, barbeques, toilets and grassy areas where the children can play. Brush-turkeys with their red heads and yellow wattles are frequent visitors here too. There are a lot of other birds living in the rainforest and you can look for them along the Walk with the Birds boardwalk and the Satinbird Stroll that start from the picnic area.

While you can see and hear the birds during the day, most of the animals are active at night. Explore the rainforest after dark on a guided nocturnal walk to look for possums, bats and insects that feed at night. You’ll need to bring a small torch, walking shoes and warm clothes, and book the walk with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. For a real change of pace you can experience life in the bush – away from television, mobile phones and computer games – at a wilderness retreat. Children and adults can find out more about native plants and animals, explore bush trails, try bush tucker and spend the evening under the stars telling stories around a camp-fire.

Waterfall Way If you ask your kids where milk comes from, do they answer, ‘from the fridge’? Perhaps it’s time to take them on a farm stay where they can help feed the pig, collect the eggs and milk the cow. As well as getting to know the farm animals, it’s a chance to meet native birds and animals around the farm. In the Walcha area, the gorge country is a wonderful wildlife habitat and you may see brush-tailed rock-wallabies feeding in the evenings. Experiencing the Waterfall Way with children is a great way to share discoveries and experiences that will become stories and memories for years to come.

“For many kids, nature has become alien. So many are hooked on the techno world these days.  There is a need to help awaken young people’s sense of connection and belonging to the natural world, to foster an understanding of respect and responsibility for all other living things.  Expanding our senses and observation skills can develop awareness and a greater appreciation of nature and oneself.  Learning to read the concentric rings of nature is like dropping a pebble in a pond, with conscious awareness and a few learned techniques we can create as few ripples as possible. There are ways to unlock the secrets to learning the language of the forest. Nature mirrors back to us how we are feeling, if we are still inside ourselves, we get to see more animals and birds: wallabies grooming, birds singing their base line songs – we get to see nature in a more relaxed way –  not always hearing bird alarm calls but experiencing things coming towards  us rather than running away. Nature itself is the greatest teacher and the earth is the real university.”  Rosemary Yates, Mt Hyland

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