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Planning your next National Park adventure with the NSW Parks mobile phone app.

A personal review of the NSW National Parks mobile app – found in both the Google Play Store and the Apple Store.

Part of the appeal of going to National Parks is for the most part the beauty and scenery you’re likely to experience. For us we also like the peace and tranquility, also read remoteness. This makes National Parks great for taking a break from the “Technology” that we are so reliant upon. The downside of this remoteness can sometimes means that you have no mobile coverage, which means no access to the web. Of course when you don’t have access to the web/data, finding that information we are now so used to being able to find in an instance with the simple tap of our fingers is no longer an option.

That’s where the ‘new’ NSW National Parks mobile app comes in. I say ‘new’ because it has been around for sometime, but it seems not many people are aware of it. I have noticed more recently NSW Parks have been running a few more posts/ads about it, which is fabulous, because it’s such a shame so many don’t know about it and aren’t using it. There have been some really great updates to it that make it really user friendly and definitely one of our go-to apps and one that we recommend to friends and family.

It’s really these referrals to friends and family that got me tapping away to write this piece. After tapping away many different versions in text messages, messenger and email i finally decided to write it all down in one spot that i can refer people too, and also update into the future where i need too – and obviously save myself some time when people ask what apps do we use!

The App Store

I only have the Android version, so hopefully the Apple Store version doesn’t look too different. This is what you are looking for in the app stores. It’s also free to download which is brilliant.

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The App

The app has information on over 225 national parks and hundreds of things to see, do and places to stay, so it really is the ultimate NSW parks guide for your phone.

Screens

Offline (Download) Feature

The app has a lot of features but the one feature we love is the ability to download information before we head off, or whilst we are on the road (where we have service).

Download a park/s before you head off on your adventure and all the information you need for navigation is stored on your phone allowing you to view information and maps without internet access. You can also use the map to locate parks, trails, things to do and places to stay.

In this instance we’ve searched for Warrumbungle National Park, and you can see the “Download this Park” link – tap the link and you’ll get a confirmation screen letting you know how big the file is (this one is 7MB) and a “Download” button. Tap again and the info will download in the background and then be available for whenever you need it on the “Download” tab at the bottom of the app.

NSW NP App Park Info Screen

Marking your Favourites

Our second favourite feature is the “Favourite” feature. As we come across different parks, either from friends, blogs, instagram etc, I’ll mark them as a favourite so when we are looking at planning a trip we can see if there are favourites in the location/s we are heading. You can even mark activities etc as a favourite if you don’t want to mark the entire park.

You can see the love heart in the picture above in the top right hand corner, give it a tap and it will then appear down the bottom in the Favourites tab.

Other Features

  • Explore activities and attractions in a park
  • Plan ahead using information about distances, accessibility and facilities.
  • Locate campgrounds, caravan sites, cabins, homesteads and cottages in national parks.
  • Book national park accommodation (internet access required).
  • Use your location to find the national parks closest to you
  • Find parks all over NSW using the map or the search tool

As you can see from these snap shots the app contains an immense amount of information, and multiple ways to search and locate information as well mark it for a later time, or download for offline use.

So if you like getting out into our National Parks i highly recommend downloading this app.

If I’ve missed anything, please let me know.

** I’m not affiliated with, paid by or anything like that, i just use the app and like it.

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Skipping work for a Whale of a time ..

Last Sunday night my mate Mel from Left of the Middle Photography messaged to tell she was going whale watching on Friday down at the bay (Port Stephens). I sent the obligatory abusive messages back complaining about work and not being able to go. Monday morning at work i decided to hit the boss up for a day off and managed to talk my way into a day off. Score! So i quickly messaged Mel to tell her she would be putting up with me after all on Friday.

We were heading out with the wonderful crew on Moonshadow – TQC Cruises, departing at 10am from d’Albora Marina in Nelson Bay, about 50 minutes to the North East of Newcastle. I met up with Mel and a few other photographers and we headed for the boat.

It was an absolutely glorious day, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the port was almost like a lake – perfect conditions to be heading out of the heads in search of whales. The trip out of the port really is spectacular. As you exit the marina, you turn to the right and start to head for the heads passing a number of little bays/beaches along the way.

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Looking out to the heads.

As you go around the point you pass the Marine Rescue base, keeping sailors and boats safe out on the water.

Just before you exit the port you pass Tomaree Headland, where you can see some of the original fortifications made to protect the mainland from invasion during WWII.

The WWII gun emplacements and related structures on Tomaree Head were established from 1941 and form part of the remnants of a system of defence for the protection of Newcastle and Port Stephens – important enough to warrant its establishment as a separate fire command. It includes sites that were developed for heavy gun emplacements, light weapons and machine gun pits, torpedo tubes, search light stations, No. 20 Radar Station RAAF, barbed wire and stake defence, a command post and barracks and other miscellaneous buildings.

Once you’ve exited the heads you get a fabulous view of the spit and out to Shark Island and the old Port Stephens Lighthouse.

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The old lighthouse
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Looking back to the 3 beaches.

It wasn’t too long after exiting the heads before we spotted our first whale!

We spent the next little while following this little pod up and down the coast.

It’s always so hard to cull photos – so apologies in advance LOL

As we were traveling along with them we realised there was baby calf

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That little tiny light grey bump – that’s the baby calf nawww
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With the flick of a tail they disappear beneath the water.

As we headed back into port we detour via the seal colony. They were far less interested in than we were of them.

As often happens we were escorted through the heads by some dolphins.

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Dolphin escort.

Due to the depth of the port there is no heavy industry or big commercial activities, however there is a strong fishing fleet.

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One of the fishing fleet coming home.

We arrived back at the marina just before 1pm, with enough time to jump off and grab some hot chips, before we head back out again – yes we were doubling up and doing two whale cruises.

It took us a little longer to find a whale on our afternoon cruise, but none the less we did find some.

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Whale Tails, both thrilling and disappointing at the same time
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The ever wandering Albatross

It was a tail kind of afternoon …

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The slick / footprint of the whale helps to track where they might pop up next.

We had turned to make the trip home when in the distance we saw this little dude absolutely playing up a storm.

The captain made a beeline for him.

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Hello there

Thankfully he hadn’t worn himself out before we got there.

and to finish off a short video taken on the morning cruise.

thanks for stopping by.

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To Boat Harbour for Whales

The weather has been almost perfect this weekend – for a winter weekend, and its been a cold one this year! With winter cabin fever feeling like its taking over we headed north about 45 minutes to the edge of beautiful Port Stephens to Boat Harbour.

From the easternmost end of Ocean Parade in highest part of the suburb, adjacent to Tomaree National Park there are striking views of the coastline. On a clear day it is possible to follow the coast southwards to the horizon, well beyond the City of Newcastle (our home). It’s a popular spot for whale watching in the winter as they migrate north and today was no exception.

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The path leading out to the point was quite busy when we arrived.
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The view looking south, at the furthest point of the rocks you can see the magnificent Stockton Sand Dunes rising out of the landscape.
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The sea was rough but not wild like it can get here.

We had barely made it to the top of the walking trail and started to look out into the blue abyss before we saw what we had come searching for – a whale!

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Our first spotting for the day.

Quite a few pods passed by quite quickly and all on the move, not too much splashing around and certainly no breaching.

Then the pause, so i went hunting around for a few shots whilst we waited (and hoped) for the next pod/s to make their way past.

I always love the sea mist on the coastline, but find it hard to capture and even harder to edit. I was quite happy with these ones considering i had my 100-400mm lens on.

As i was hunting through the view finder for mist compositions the views of the Stockton Sand Dunes came into view, and i had to take some photos. The ripples and rises of the dunes are so clear. The two people standing on the rocks in the first picture provide some scale.

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Stockton Bight sand dunes in the Worimi Conservation Lands.

Created thousands of years ago, they are the largest moving coastal dunes in the Southern Hemisphere and the dunes tower as much as 40 metres above the sea level. The Worimi Conservation Lands include over 25km of coastline – most of stunning Stockton Beach, which curves 32km from the Hunter River at Newcastle to Buribi Point in Anna Bay, Port Stephens. Behind the dunes is a forest of blackbutt and smooth-barked apple gums, with paperbark pockets.

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Stockton Bight sand dunes in the Worimi Conservation Lands.
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Moon spotting in the daylight

And finally in the distance along Stockton Bight we saw another couple of pods approaching. Capturing whales with the dunes in the background was an absolute highlight and a shot i hadn’t really considered so i stoked.

Closer they came …

come on, keep comingĀ  …

Can you imagine being the guy in the sea kayak or the fishing boat!

and closer they came …

and with the flick of a tail they were gone, and so it was time for us to go as well.

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Wave of the tail to say goodbye

What an awesome way to spend Sunday afternoon. Thanks for stopping by.

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Drone over Water .. or not?

After a lovely family lunch we headed south to catch up with our good mate and mad photographer Mel from Left of the Middle Photography. Mel has recently joined the drone craze and has been a lot more adventurous then i have been game to be, so we figured we’d laugh about it together and try a few more things!

After a few location changes due to wind and airspace usage we settled on Blacksmiths Beach in Lake Macquarie.

I haven’t really messed around with many of the settings so today, i decided to see how i would go using the manual settings on the camera

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First shot – not so good, the highlights on the waves are blown out badly.

The next batch are still a little blown out but not as much.

I’m flying with the DJI Spark, which is an awesome little piece of gear, and it was the size that drew me to this one, so i could pack with us when we hike and travel, however the downside is doesn’t RAW files for photos, which mean the photo files are less forgiving, so getting it right in camera is really important.

You can see with these two the sky is quite blown out which is a shame because the waves are awesome!

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Looking north back towards Newcastle

I haven’t been real keen on getting my little Sparkie out over water, so Mel’s challenge for me today was to get it over water. This was about as close as it got so if over the high tide line counts i passed.

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Nature’s own version of lace
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Even got a bit fancy with a 3 image panorama.
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The people help to give some perspective, and this was shot at probably the highest i’ve been about 75m.
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Someone was digging for a very long time!

I definitely feel a little more confident with the drone so here’s hoping for some good weather, spare time and legal airspace to get it up in the air again soon.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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Dolphins off King Edward Park

With the truck still at the car dealership getting its gearbox fixed our weekend plans had taken an unexpected turn, so we headed into King Edward Park, which is known for one of the best views in the city and also for its whale and dolphin watching vantage point.

The whales seem to be a bit quieter this year, or maybe we just haven’t had the same amount of time to stare out into the blue abyss hoping to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures cruising their way north for warmer waters.

Almost as soon as we pulled up we spotted a pod of dolphins playing in the waves. I grabbed my camera and shot off a few frames, thinking they would disappear pretty quickly.

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Dolphin Wave
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Dolphin Surfing

Whilst we were fixed on the dolphins we heard a plane, which isn’t that unusual as the park is on the flight path for the airport but this wasn’t a commercial jet – it was Matt Hall – famous Red Bull Racer. The Care flight chopper also decided to join in the fun.

The dolphins were still frolicking up and down the beach so i managed to get a few more shots and some video footage.

They were having so much fin chasing the waves, jumping and diving out the back of them.

We were sorry to see them finally swim off about an hour later.

This little guy had been sitting on the telegraph pole keeping an eye on us for a while.

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It’s possible he was watching for food, not us LOL

As the wind started to pick up, and the end of sunlight for the day was approaching we headed for home only to be greeted by these two beauties outside the front door.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by.