Bush to Beach – Macleay Valley NSW

Bush to Beach Adventures are a Great way to Spend a weekend in your local area whether you are into the toughest tracks in your area or just out for a drive the things you can see between the two are so diverse it will amaze you and have you coming back for more. On the east coast of Australia, we are so lucky we have the absolute best of both worlds where the Great Dividing Range meets the Sea. Offering deep rainforest streams to the bluest of oceans with some of the best campsites in Australia and you need a 4×4 to explore a lot of this rugged land.

Our travels started from Coffs Harbour Nsw, heading south out of Coffs, we headed for Taylors Arm and The Pub with No Beer. Being only early the pub wasn’t open so we cruised up the road a little more to Collombatti Trig Lookout. Collombatti Trig offers 360 degrees’ views of the Macleay Valley a few hundred meters above the valley floor, on a good day you can see from Crescent Head along the coast to Mt Yarrahapinni. There are also great views over the western Mountain ranges to the west and Kempsey to the south.

After you have soaked up the breathtaking views from this cracker lookout you have a few options either back track to the Pub which offers free camping across the road and a cold beer or meander down to the base of the valley back and roll through Kempsey into South West Rocks to Grab a bite at the local watering hole.

After a well needed steak and a beer you can take a short drive down the blacktop to Trail Bay Gaol. A strange feeling building a prison in such a beautiful area. The goal took 13 long years to build and finally opened in 1886. During their stay the prison labourers were there to construct a breakwater. Unfortunately, the scheme failed, however you’ll still be able to see the remains of the breakwater that was being constructed to make safe harbour for passing ships from within the gaol from the guard tower lookout. During World War I an internment camp for people of German descent were sent here as they were feared to be enemy spy’s and were deemed unsafe. Still standing this historic ruin is a testament to those who lived and died here with a small fee you can get a real idea of what it was like back in the day with so much great history within the walls there is a museum and guided tours.

Feeling fit? there are plenty of marked walking tracks that are within the surrounding national park and camping around the base of the gaol. If not jump back in the car and explore south west rocks!

Down the road a short while more Standing proud on a needle thin headland is Smoky Cape Lighthouse. this lighthouse is one of the last designed by the Colonial Architect, James Barnet. Built in 1891 standing the test of time battered by the harsh coastal weather it is still protecting ships up and down the coast from the harsh headlands today. Smoky Cape headland was so named by Captain Cook after he saw Aboriginal fires burning there in 1770. Guided tours of the lighthouse are available.

Smoky Cape is a fantastic spot being surrounded by the stunning coastal scenery of Hat Head National Park. It is ideal for a stay overnight at the lighthouse keepers’ cottage. Don’t miss the views at nearby Captain Cook’s lookout keep your eye out for the odd whale or two and don’t forget the rest of the coastal wildlife.

There are also great camping areas at the base of the headlands with beach access to miles of pristine beach driving to be had. Permits are required for the beaches in the area. see National Parks and Wildlife for local alerts and track closures.

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Article & images by Tom Chivers

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