How often have you driven, parked and then walked to one of Newcastle’s beaches? A dozen or so times? But, how often have you flown in a helicopter along the coastline, or jumped on a boat and headed out between the heads? Well, this is your sign to do exactly that.
Aero Logistics Newcastle and Coast XP have teamed up to create a ‘Ride and Fly’ package with a 10-minute scenic flight over Newcastle and a 2-hour boat ride to chase seals, dolphins and whales.
Coast XP launched in 2018. Their custom-built boat ‘Atmos’ allows for unobstructed 360° views for up to 20 passengers (there’s even a toilet and plenty of vomit bags if you forgot your sea legs!).
We picked the perfect day to head out with CoastXP, sunshine and a little breeze. Atmos launched from Honeysuckle at 9am and went straight out through the heads where after just 10 minutes we saw our first animal, a huge long-nosed male seal. He was sunbaking on a navigation buoy – very cute.
We watched him for a moment and then made our way out to calmer water. It was a bit rough, but Troy our Captain told us to keep our eyes up because you never know what you might see.
Out in the calmer water, we came across a mother humpback and her baby. Their tails came up and out of the water a couple of times and then they disappeared. That’s when Troy told us whales can hold their breath at the bottom of the ocean for eight minutes…
But we found another, and this time the whale breached – I almost missed it because it happened so fast! It was incredible to see a 40-tonne animal launch itself out of the water.
We saw a second whale breach and Troy said some of them looked like they were heading north to do what mother and father whales do, but they’re much like humans – some of them plan their holidays well, and others are late.
The whales we saw were late!
We bobbed around for a while and along came a huge pod of dolphins who were following the current. They were beautiful to watch, but we had to leave them behind after they found some bait fish to chase.
Then it was back into the harbour and off to the next part of the adventure.
There are a couple of hours to spare between the CoastXP tour and the helicopter so we grabbed lunch at Honeysuckle and then drove out to Mayfield East to the base which takes about 15 minutes.
The base on the Hunter River has grown in size over the years, often used to house helicopters used for firefighting over the summer months.
Our pilot Peter had just returned to Newcastle after flying helicopters in Townsville for a few years. He took us out to the Robinson R44 Raven that was waiting on the tarmac.
The helicopter ride was an awesome experience. We took off along the river and went over Newcastle and the surrounding suburbs before going over the coastline and flying along the beautiful beaches.
We saw a couple of whales splashing about in the ocean before circling back over the port where coal was being shovelled onto ships. Then it was back down to land.
It was such a wonderful way to experience Newcastle. I’ve lived in the Hunter Valley my entire life but I have never seen it from above or seen whales and seals frolicking in the ocean around it.
Local or visitor, I would highly recommend you ride and fly to see Newcastle in all its glory.