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Go on Emu Safari at a luxury farmstay in Coonabarabran

Looking for a regional NSW travel experience that’s both unique and luxurious? Allow us to introduce you to The Emu Hive...

Emus are curious creatures.

On the one hand, we’ve been aware of them our whole lives. They’re among the most well-known members of Australia’s wildlife. There’s an emu on our Coat of Arms, for crying out loud.

On the other hand, most of us know very little about emus.

And as it turns out, there’s a reason for that: the emu farming industry is surprisingly small, particularly when you consider the many benefits emu farming can provide. 

Mark and Wendy Osmond, owners of The Emu Hive in Coonabarabran, are looking to change that. And they’d like you to come along to their beautiful farm to learn how.

Door-to-door service 

Mark, our host for the weekend, pulls up to our Sydney home in a beautiful Mercedes. He’s here to pick us up for a private charter that will take us six hours from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Our destination for the weekend? The Emu Hive, located in in the Warrumbungle Ranges near Coonabarabran.

The Emu Hive is a fully off-grid emu farm that Mark and wife Wendy have called home for over three years after deciding to make a tree change back in 2017. The farm is presently home to over 50 emus and half a dozen alpacas, as well as a private observatory with a 9.25-inch computer-driven telescope.

We arrive at The Emu Hive on Friday evening after a pleasant drive over the Blue Mountains and north through Capertee, Mudgee, Gulgong and Dunedoo. The private charter service takes all the hard work out of getting to the farm, though Mark and Wendy also offer self-drive pricing for those happy to forgo the charter and make their own way to Coonabarabran.

Upon arriving, we check into our private accommodation for the weekend, a luxuriously appointed yurt-style lodge that Mark and Wendy recently finished building. Entering the yurt is a true knock-your-socks-off kind of moment.

Luxury here is an understatement; the spacious living area, located in the centre of the lodge, has a stunning vaulted ceiling and features a huge comfy lounge, fireplace and reverse cycle air conditioning. There’s Wi-Fi and Foxtel for those looking to unwind after a long day without losing their creature comforts. Around the perimeter of the yurt are three bedrooms (including a master bedroom with ensuite) – meaning the lodge can sleep up to six people (three couples) – plus kitchen, bathroom and dining room. 

Speaking of the dining room, we hear a knock from Wendy. It’s time for dinner.

We feast on a delicious home-cooked meal prepared by Wendy. On the menu tonight is Moroccan spiced chicken with artichokes, chickpeas, sour cream, lemon and baby spinach; for dessert, it’s a lime, coconut and ginger cheesecake. It's a home-cooked meal, but it would not look out of place at a high-end restaurant. It's certainly a wonderful welcome to the weekend ahead.

Outside of the yurt is a huge deck with spectacular views of the property, not to mention a lounge setting, BBQ and – best of all – a huge spa. Throughout the day, the farm’s resident emus are known to walk right up to the deck to say g’day, but we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to enjoy that, because now it’s time to look to the sky…

Gazing at the stars

Our bellies full from dinner, we hop into the resort’s dedicated golf carts – they’re on hand for your personal use for your entire stay at The Emu Hive – and make our way 200 metres up the farm to Mark and Wendy’s own residence, outside of which sits their private observatory.

Coonabarabran, in case you weren’t aware, is known as the astronomy capital of Australia due to its pristine air, high altitude and low humidity, all of which make for fantastic stargazing. The Warrumbungles themselves are home to Siding Spring, Australia’s premier optical and infrared observatory, and many other nations also maintain observatories in the area. Mark and Wendy weren’t astronomy aficionados when they first arrived, but they certainly are today.

Mark, whose passion for (and knowledge of) our Solar System is both infectious and enlightening, controls the telescope via his tablet. On his say-so, we peer into the eye piece and witness Jupiter surrounded by four of its moons; another tap of the tablet and we’re looking at an astonishing view of Saturn, its famous rings on full display. We cannot help but gasp; we've seen pictures of Saturn for most of our lives, but seeing the real thing is mind-blowing.

The viewing continues as Mark directs us towards Mars, Neptune, and various nebulae. Mark himself spends much of his leisure time looking at nebulae, and the observatory is fully equipped for long-exposure astrophotography. In fact, if you’d like to book a charter to catch something in particular, you can call the resort and Mark will let you know the best time to visit and help you arrange everything.

After half an hour of wondrous stargazing, we emerge from the observatory and turn our heads and eyes to the sky. It’s a clear night, and so far removed from the city lights we can make out the dusty band of the Milky Way above us. A shooting star appears. Mark points us towards Jupiter and Saturn, mere lights in the sky from here, and it’s strange to think we were peering at those tiny dots in remarkable detail just moments earlier.

We retire for the night already feeling like we’ve experienced an entire weekend’s worth of fun. But it’s about to get better, because tomorrow we’re going to meet the stars of the show: the emus.

Hello, emus!

After a restful night's sleep in the comfy lodge, we step onto the deck into the early morning sunlight, coffees in hand, to find that someone – or, rather, something – has already gotten a headstart on the day.

Peeking up at our balcony with curious eyes is one of the farm’s resident emus. He’s not alone for long – seven or eight others are trotting towards the lodge, keen to meet the new guests who have come to visit their farm.

The emus hang out with us as we eat our breakfast, and we’re just finishing our last bites when Mark pulls up in his buggy. “I see you’ve already met some of my friends,” he says. “Now it's their turn to eat – would you like to feed them?”

We very much would, so we hop in our carts and make our way over to Mark and Wendy’s side of the farm where all 26 of the farm’s adult emus await, ready for their breakfast – a feed of crushed grain. We meet Johnny (so named because his eyebrows look like those of John Howard), Bart (because his hair looks like that of Bart Simpson), and a host of others.

Emus, Mark tells us, aren’t particularly demanding creatures when it comes to food and water – cows, for example, can consume up to 70 times more than an emu. It’s just one reason that emus make for such an efficient farming solution.

After the feed, Mark and Wendy take us into the incubator, where emu eggs are collected and kept warm for seven weeks until it’s time to hatch. In nature, the father emu would normally sit on the eggs for those seven weeks; at The Emu Hive, Mark and Wendy take care of that part, turning the eggs over three times a day and tracking each egg’s progress it until it’s time to bring another life into the world.

While Mark’s showing us the incubator, Wendy re-enters the room with a newborn chick, wrapped in a beanie and nuzzled up against her neck. It’s just a few days old. Outside in the barn, in a fox-and-eagle-proof enclosure, a group of chicks up to four months old grow and play until they’re ready to join Johnny, Bart and the other emus roaming freely around the property.

Later, Mark and Wendy lead us into the paddock, and we get up close and personal with the emus. Johnny and Bart are particularly confident – that’s Johnny pictured at the very top of this page. Being so close to these friendly and curious creatures is certainly a unique experience, and one we will never forget.

The experience continues

The stargazing and Emu Safari are just two of the activities that form part of Mark and Wendy’s Emu Hive Charter. We’re only visiting for the weekend, but The Emu Hive also offers 3-day, 4-day, 7-day and 10-day charters, not to mention the self-drive options. You can book via phone or get in touch via the Emu Hive's contact page.

On Saturday afternoon, we make our way along Coonabarabran’s Solar System Drive, taking fun photos with each of the scale-model planets until we reach “the sun” – aka Siding Spring Observatory.

We then take a peek inside the observatory, which comes complete with a cafe and museum, before heading for a quick jaunt to Whitegum Lookout with its stunning views towards the exposed volcanic spires and lava domes of the Warrumbungle Ranges.

Those who are staying for three days or more may wish to do some more exploring in the Warrumbungles, and there are plenty of hiking trails that are worth visiting if you’re so inclined.

Alternatively, you can return to the farm and spend your time soaking up the peace and ambience from your lodge deck, or driving around the farm at your leisure on your personal golf carts.

After another delicious home-cooked dinner by Wendy on Saturday night – this time Asian-style salmon fillet with bok choy and mushrooms and some delectable chocolate brownies – we say goodnight to our hosts and soak up the peaceful night sky from the comfort of the hot tub before heading inside for a wine and a game of Scrabble (the board game is also included in the lodge) before hitting the hay.

Back to Sydney

On Sunday it’s time to farewell our new emu friends and make our way back to Sydney, but Mark and Wendy offer the option of one more stop along the way as part of the charter: a lunch at Vines at Hollydene restaurant, a scenic winery / restaurant located at Jerrys Plains in the Upper Hunter Valley.

We chose “Yes please!” for that option and cannot recommend Hollydene highly enough – its delicious seasonal menu, great wine and beer and lovely views over the vineyard make for a great end to the trip.

What’s more, Vines at Hollydene has a special offer for Probians who stay at The Emu Hive: they’ll provide a free bottle of wine for those who enjoy lunch at the restaurant, plus discounts on any other bottles of wine you may wish to purchase from the winery.

Would you like to stay at The Emu Hive? To book, call or text Mark Osmond on 0450 511 580, or visit The Emu Hive website for further details.