Do you dive? If not, you can see what the underwater world of the Solitary Islands Marine Park looks like at the Solitary Islands Aquarium (formerly the National Marine Science Centre Aquarium) in Coffs Harbour.
The Aquarium is normally open on Saturday and Sunday only, however it opens daily during NSW school holidays. It makes a nice brief outing for a rainy day on the weekend. Treat yourself and have lunch or coffee at Pacific Bay Resort afterwards – the aquarium is located right beside the resort, after all.
It’s not big (don’t expect it to be anything like the Sydney Aquarium) but the Solitary Islands Aquarium gives a good overview of the fish, coral and other sea creatures that live off the Coffs Coast.
I found it quite interesting to see all the fish that live in the Solitary Islands Marine Park and we enjoyed the half-hour video presentation, but after about 75 minutes, we’d really seen and done everything and stood back outside.
If you have kids, you can spend a little longer as the Aquarium has an education room with fun games and activities for children.
What fish will you see?
The Coffs Aquarium is really like a window into the Solitary Islands Marine Park, which stretches north from Coffs Harbour. Because this is where warm tropical waters from Queensland meet cooler waters from the south, our part of the ocean has a unique mix of marine life.
You’ll see various members of Nemo‘s extended family but also the type of fish you can expect to catch locally such as mullet, bream and whiting. My favourite fish was the butterfly cod – it looked amazing!
A fun and educational video presentation starts on the hour every hour and there are several fish feeding sessions throughout the day. There’s also a guide who you can approach if you have any questions (which you may well have because not all the fish tanks display information about all the creatures you see inside it).
Location: The Aquarium is located at the National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour, next-door to Novotel Pacific Bay Resort – just a few minutes up the highway from the Coffs Harbour CBD.
Tickets: Entry is $10 adults, $6 children, $8 concession, $25 family (2 adults + 2 children < 16) and free entry for children under 3.
Opening hours: Every Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm and daily during NSW school holidays.
Website/Phone: The National Marine Science Centre’s Solitary Island Aquarium now has its own website with more information. Alternatively, you can call (02) 6648 3931 with questions or to arrange a group visit.