Every day our dedicated team strives to engage and inspire visitors to protect marine animals and their ocean environments through education and unique experiences.
Dolphin Marine Conservation Park is a multi-award-winning marine wildlife park situated on the NSW Mid North Coast in Coffs Harbour, midway between Sydney and Brisbane. We are only an hour’s flight from Sydney with direct flights from Melbourne and Brisbane and other major regional cities. Coffs Harbour airport is just 10 minutes away. Our park overlooks Coffs Creek and is close to Coffs Harbour’s popular Jetty precinct.
On Boxing Day in 1970, our marine park opened as a rescue and rehabilitation centre for native marine animals, and we continue this work today. We have a Rehabilitation Licence issued by NSW – Office of Environment & Heritage – National Parks and Wildlife Services and work closely with NSW Parks and Wildlife Services.
We are licensed to display the animals we care for by the NSW Government – Department of Primary Industries and meet the requirements to hold the bottle-nosed dolphins in our care.
We care for marine animals that have been brought to us as a result of an injury or illness that prevents them from being released back to the wild.
We are home to many marine animals including Indo-Pacific bottle-nose dolphins, Australian sea lions, a colony of little blue penguins, green sea turtles, freshwater turtles, and a variety of local fish species.
We’re active participants in the Australasian Species Management Program and have successfully bred more than 14 Australian sea lion pups at the park. With fewer than 8,000 remaining in the wild, Australian sea lions are endangered and Dolphin Marine Conservation Park is proudly contributing to their survival.
Check out our #SealTheLoop conservation program which raises awareness of the dangers of fishing line entanglement, one of the biggest killers of turtles, seals and other marine wildlife. Every year our team members volunteer and collect hundreds of kilometres of discarded fishing line, nets and other fishing gear and plastic rubbish. If it wasn’t for this program, this rubbish would end up in our oceans and kill marine wildlife.
Jack Evan's Pet Porpoise Pool
Jack Evans established one of the first marine mammal facilities in Australia at Tweed Head in the mid-1950s and eventually opened the Jack Evan’s Pet Porpoise Pool at the mouth of the Tweed River in 1961. The Jack Evan’s Pet Porpoise Pool quickly became an iconic attraction in the fledgling Gold Coast region and was the career starting point for Coffs Pet Porpoise Pool founders Hec Goodall and Greg and Spencer Pickering, the two brothers volunteering at the Jack Evan’s Pet Porpoise Pool in their early years.
The Sixties - Getting Started
Seeing an opportunity for a similar, independent venture in Coffs Harbour, based around a vision of rescue, rehabilitation and education of marine life, Hec and a number of friends and local Coffs Harbour businessmen set about establishing the Coffs Harbour Pet Porpoise Pool.
Joinned by Greg and supported by the government and Coffs Harbour Council, Hec and the team began construction on the Pet Porpoise Pool in 1968 with the park first opening on Boxing Day of 1970 with semi trained dolphin called Droopy, two emu chicks and four kangaroos rescued from floods – already the park was becoming an animal refuge.
From its inception, the visitor experience was interactive, educational and entertaining/fun and while the early days saw non holiday periods attracting only 30-50 visitors per show, the park was packed in holiday times.
The Seventies - Settling In
Two Pacific Bottlenose (Tursiops truncatus gillii) dolphins came to the park in the early 70s, one rescued and one from Marineland on the Gold Coast. They were soon joined by a female Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) and her suckling calf who were rescued after a stranding at low tide in a lagoon in the Nambucca River; they were badly sunburnt and brought to the park for treatment. Their names were chosen from their situation as Sandy and Buck. Today Bucky (now almost as old as the park at 40+) is our star of the show and proud father of Zippy (born June 1988), Bella (born July 2005) and Jet (born December 2009).
At a similar time, a Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga leonine) pup, Sophie, was rescued near Coffs Harbour with a very extensive shark bite on her flank and was unable to be released. Although she grew to be a very big girl, she was never aggressive and shared a pool very peaceably with subsequent leopard seal rescues in later years.
To assist with the care of the increasing number of animals at the park, Hec and Greg were soon joined at the Pet Porpoise Pool by Greg’s brother Spencer. A third Pickering brother, Robert, would later join the team as the maintenance manager at the park.
Throughout the mid 70s more rescued seals were introduced to the park and the facilities and pools expanded to accommodate the growing number of marine animals at the Pet Porpoise Pool. These new arrivals included Leo, a Leopard Seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) which was a species of seal which were generally regarded as un-trainable. Despite this however, Leo learnt numerous natural and show behaviours and quickly became popular with visiting crowds.
In the late 70s Buttons, another baby Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphin, was rescued from Hat Head creek – she was frantically swimming around her dead mother who had choked on an eel. Buttons made history by being the first dolphin calf to be successfully bottle-fed using a special formula mixed with mashed fish. The older dolphins took a great ‘parental’ interest in the baby Buttons and she was also exceptionally affectionate with people, perhaps because of her early experience and being hand raised. Buttons had her first calf, Zippy in June 1988. Zippy still performs with Bucky today and continues to delight in playing ball/catch with visitors during his free time.
The Eighties - Branching Out
Throughout the 80s many marine animals were rescued, received treatment and returned to the wild when they were fit, continuing to follow the initial vision of rehabilitation and release wherever possible. As the Pet Porpoise Pool reputation for rescue and rehabilitation grew, staff were often called on to identify or attend sighted or stranded animals on beaches up and down the NSW coast. This response cumulated in the mid 80s when staff from the Pet Porpoise Pool attended a mass whale stranding at Crowdy Head and assisted National Parks and Wildlife Services and other volunteers in the successful release of numerous animals.
By the mid 80s, the Pet Porpoise Pool also became home to three New Zealand Fur Seals (Arctocephalus forsteri), Willie, Reggie and Sam, and two Californian Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus), Dusty and Salty, when their old home at Mt Manganui Zoo, New Zealand, closed. This was the start of a long tradition that continues to this day of the Pet Porpoise Pool taking and housing in unwanted animals from other parks and zoos.
Towards the end of the decade, Dr Bill Dawbin, a scientific adviser to the International Whaling Commission and an internationally respected academic lecturer, began using the Pet Porpoise Pool as a base whilst conducting studies on Humpback Whale populations on the east coast of Australia. Dr Dawbin’s work was instrumental in helping whales become protected in Australian waters.
The late 80s also saw massive changes in NSW legislation in regards to the display of dolphins, requiring larger, deeper pools, forcing the closure of the other two parks housing dolphins in NSW. Despite lacking the required larger pool, the Pet Porpoise Pool was granted a special conditional licence due to the important rehabilitation and research work the park had done in the past, under the understanding that a larger pool would be constructed in the future.
The Nineties - Growing Up
In the early 90s planning began for the development of the required deeper dolphin pool however issues with the water table close to the surface of the ground caused design problems that would take engineers most of the decade to solve.
The early 90s also saw the Pet Porpoise Pool become home to a number of Australian Sea Lions (Neophoca cinerea) who were due to be destroyed after the closure of their old home at Marineland in Adelaide in South Australia. From the time that these seals arrived, they began to breed and the Pet Porpoise Pool now has one of the most successful breeding records for this endangered species of all the facilities in Australia.
In the mid 90s a female Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphin was cut free of entanglement in the Tweed River and released back where it was hoped she would be able to relocate her pod and resume a normal life. However, eighteen months later she was rescued again, with fifteen kilos of fishing line and cunjevoi wrapped so tightly around her body and tail that she could barely move. Dubbed Calamity, she was given intensive care at the park and once recovered, she was eventually introduced to her new dolphin family at the Pet Porpoise Pool. Calamity quickly bonded with Buck and Zippy and pairing with Buck, Calamity later gave birth to Bella in 2005 and Jet in 2009.
The end of the 90s and early in the new millennium also saw the development of a Social Responsibility focus, leading to strong partnerships and ties to charities such as Make-a-Wish (Bronze Supporter), Camp Quality, and the Star Light Foundation which continue to this day, along with many others.
With the construction of the new pool complete, Pet Porpoise Pool founder, Hec Goodall was finally able to retire after nearly 40 years of service with the company, his continued involvement one of the conditions of the special licence until the deeper pool was finished.
The new millennium also saw the continuation of breeding programs for most of the species at the park with the successful birth of numerous dolphins, sea lion and penguins over the decade. Many of these offspring have been sent to other facilities within Australia to participate in national and global breeding programs and ensure the continued diversity of captive populations.
Today, the park continues to evolve and grow with exciting new animal exhibits planned for the future as the Pet Porpoise Pool – Dolphin Marine Conservation Park moves forward into the new millennium. We continue our important rescue and rehabilitation work with a dedicated marine animal hospital planned for the park in the near future.
- Australian Traveller – Top 10 things to do in Australia
- Trip Advisor – 2015 Winner Certificate of Excellence
- TV Week Logies – Nomination for ABC3 series of “Blue Zoo”
- APAC Insider Business Awards – Best Dolphin & seal swimming encounters
- Trip Advisor – 2014 Winner Certificate of Excellence
- North Coast Tourism Awards – Gold
- NSW Tourism Awards – Bronze
- Trip Advisor – 2013 Winner Certificate of Excellence
- North Coast Tourism Awards – Silver
- NSW Tourism Awards – Finalist
- Trip Advisor – Certificate of Excellence
- 2011 Attainment – NSW Office of Environment & Heritage through the Sustainable Advantage Program –Bronze Partner
- 2010/11 Awarded – Zero Footprint for Waste to Landfill 2010/11
- 2011 Winner of: The NovaSkill Collaborative Workplace Achievement Award
- 2010 Winner of the ‘Hall of Fame’ Coffs Coast Business Sunny’s Award – Tourism Attraction/Activity
- Mentored and judged submissions
- 2009 Winner of the Coffs Coast Business Sunny’s Awards – Tourism Attraction/Activity
- Retired from writing tourism award submissions and took up mentoring tourism businesses to enter
- 2008 Winner of theQantas Australian Tourism Awards – Tourist Attraction
- 2008 Finalist of the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards – Tourist Attraction
- 2008 Winner of theNSW Tourism Award for Tourist Attraction
- 2008 Finalist of the NSW Tourism Award for Tourist Attraction
- 2008 Winner of theMid North Coast Tourism Award for Significant Attraction
- 2008 Winner of theCoffs Coast Business Award for Tourism, Hospitality & Recreation
- 2008 Finalist of the Employer of the Year in the NSW Training Awards
- 2008 Winner of theEmployer of the Year in the Mid North Coast Training Awards
- 2007 Finalist in the Australian Tourism Awards for Tourist Attraction
- 2007 Winner of the NSW Tourism Award for Tourist Attraction
- 2007 Winner of the Mid North Coast Tourism Award for Significant Attraction
- 2007 Winner of the Coffs Coast Business Award for Tourism, Hospitality & Recreation
- 2007 Winner of the Coffs Coast Business Award for Employee of the Year
- 2007 Winner of the Local Region Business Award in Tourism and Accommodation
- 2007 Winner of the Local Region Business Award for Business of the Year
- 2006 Finalist for the NSW Tourism Award
- 2006 Winnerof the Mid North Coast Tourism Award for Significant Attraction
- 2000 Encouragement Award in the Prime Ministers Access Award