A great place to see restoration of fisheries, shorebird, frog and rainforest habitat.
Walk, cycle, picnic, fish, birdwatch, discover the past.
By car, bike or on foot:
Kooragang Wetlands (Ash Island) is accessed via Ash Island bridge, 100 m east of McDonalds on the Pacific Highway at Hexham (12 km west of Newcastle). From Sydney, take the F3 north to the end of the Freeway. Turn right towards Newcastle and travel 7.5 km along the Pacific Highway until you reach the Ash Island Bridge.
By public transport:
Train: From Hexham Station (on the Hunter Line), travel 2.5 km east along Pacific Highway to Ash Island Bridge.
Bus: Hunter Valley Buses 140 (Newcastle Station to Raymond Terrace), ask the driver to stop at Ash Island Bridge.
If you would like to get in touch, feel free to contact us!
While exploring Kooragang Wetlands please:
- Keep to roads, walking and cycling tracks.
- Take your rubbish with you.
- No fires, no camping.
- Keep this habitat healthy.
- No dogs, in accordance with National Parks and Wildlife Service dog policies. People with disability may be accompanied by a trained assistance animal, such as guide dogs, in areas open to the public. Click here for a list of regional parks with dog walking areas.
- Report sightings of less commonly seen wildlife eg. frogs, snakes, birds.
- Report any vandalism.
Vision and action
Ecological restoration for a healthier estuary continues through the Hunter Estuary Program of Hunter Local Land Services.
Main areas of restoration activities to date have been at Ash Island (780ha), Tomago Wetlands (800ha) and Stockton Sandspit (10ha). These sites overlap Ramsar wetlands and adjoin a major port and industrial complex. Current restoration is taking place at suitable sites across the whole estuary.
Best available information is used to improve habitat by protecting riverbanks, managing water flows, conserving saltmarsh, managing weeds and feral animals, using sustainable grazing methods to manage kikuyu pasture and revegetating areas of the floodplain using local native plants. Tied to the habitat work is the creation of opportunities for education, recreation, tourism and research to promote appreciation and wise use of wetlands.
Links exist with other wetlands, including Hexham Swamp, Hunter Wetlands Centre and Kushiro Wetlands in Hokkaido, Japan, through a sister wetlands affiliation. Migratory bird habitat is protected under treaties with Japan, China and South Korea.
Volunteers play a large part in helping to restore native vegetation of the Hunter estuary. Since 1995 over 200,000 trees and shrubs have been planted. If you have time, come along to one of our volunteer days. All are welcome.
For more information, head on over to our Get Involved page.
Experience and explore the wide open spaces along 15 km of boardwalks, cycleways and walking tracks.
For more information, check out our Recreation page.
Ecological studies by researchers and students from various universities and agencies help monitor and guide the rehabilitation at Kooragang Wetlands. A library is maintained for public use.
Natural resource managers can learn about sustainable care of the environment from Aboriginal culture. Hunter Local Land Services, in partnership with both the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council and Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council, have developed the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management Plan for the Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project (KWRP), which further integrates both traditional and contemporary Aboriginal culture with the project’s objectives.
Over 200 species of birds live in or visit the Hunter River estuary. Smaller birds can be heard, if not always seen in the mangroves and rainforest areas. When coming to Kooragang Wetlands Ash Island to birdwatch, call in at the Information Centre to hear of any recent unusual sightings and/or to report your own findings. The Hunter Bird Observers Club has produced a birding route guide for Ash Island (printer-friendly version). This tells you the best places to go if avian adventure is your aim. About 45 of these species are shorebirds and 34 species are migratory shorebirds spending from August to mid-April in the estuary. They can sometimes be seen feeding at low tide searching on mudflats and saltmarshes and gathering on roosts at high tide. In April they return to Siberia, northern Asia and Alaska to breed.
Fish and Prawns
Schools of tiny juvenile fish swim into the saltmarsh areas with the incoming tide. Look out for them in the tidal creeks and shallow pools.
Species found in the Hunter estuary include sea mullet, luderick, school prawns, flathead, tailor, bream and goby.
Fifteen species of frog, including the endangered green and golden bell frog, have been recorded on the island.
KWRP has enhanced existing swales and ponds used by frogs generally, as well as constructed ponds providing ‘stepping stones’ and established special features to improve habitat for bell frogs.
Mud is home to many creatures—crabs, worms, snails and other molluscs—which feed on the debris found there and in turn are food for fish, birds and other animals. At low tide, if you are very still, you can see crabs grazing on algae and debris.
About 10 species of crab are found on Ash Island, the most striking being the purple-clawed semaphore crab and the red-fingered marsh crab.
Look for footprints in the mud — what has been looking for food here?
Ash Island is home to a large range of butterfly species, and offers food plants for 87 species. Kooragang Landcare Volunteers have revegetated an area next to the Rainforest Track with local native plants known as food plants for butterfly larvae. Butterflies of Ash Island, a booklet containing stunning illustrations and interesting facts, has been produced by volunteers to capture the beauty of butterflies on the island.
Saltmarsh grows in areas where tidal flushing is less frequent and is important for fish and crab production and shorebird habitat (roosting and feeding). Saltmarsh is classed as an Endangered Ecological Community (EEC).
Mangroves grow where there is frequent tidal flushing and make an excellent fish nursery habitat. At this latitude, only two mangrove species grow in the estuary: the grey mangrove and the river mangrove. Differences between these two mangrove species relate to their size, shape and inclusion, or exclusion, of pneumatophores (for respiration).
Through KWRP, rainforest remnants are being connected and expanded into a corridor across the island. As you walk along the corridor look out for a variety of flora, including ash tree (after which the island is named), red cedar and endangered vine (white cynanchum). As you walk through these remnants watch out for colourful butterflies, snakes and thorny vines, and listen for small birds.