Walk on the wild side of coast

By CRAIG McTEAR

SOUTH Solitary Island provided the perfect place yesterday for a walk on the wild side.

More than 90 lucky people soaked up the atmosphere and the unique history of this magnificent, isolated landmark in the middle of the ocean off the Coffs Coast.

The Tolhurst family of Coffs Harbour were among many who will probably never forget the adventure, which marked the 40th birthday of the NPWS.

Brian, his wife Irene and their teenage children Alex and Jarek sent in as many entries as they could to gain seats on the special promotion, which was supported by the Coffs Coast Advocate, the NPWS and Precision Helicopters.

Irene took the congratulatory phone call from ranger Tom Denman, and the family had been excited all week about their trip.

"There's a lot of history to the island. We went on a whale-watching trip four or five years ago and got to go around the island," said Brian, whose family has a long association with Coffs Harbour.

"I remember as a kid seeing the lighthouse flashing."

The Tolhurst's and local media shared a helicopter for the five-minute flight to the island, and we were instantly greeted by an army of raucous gulls and their strong stench on arrival.

Brian, who is also a Forests NSW wildlife ecologist, described the island as a 'pretty amazing' place.

"You can get the sense of how remote it is, but also how close it is to the coast," he said.

"The view from the island is one you don't get to see." The hour-long tour took in the old lighthouse keepers' cottages, the now ramshackle gantry which was once used to lift supplies and people onto the island, and the lighthouse itself.

And just to cap it off, a pod of whales turned it on for those of us who were privileged to make the memorable trip.



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