April 2012 Sandra and I headed up to the mid-North Coast of New South Wales to celebrate her birthday weekend. Leaving home we drove up the M1 motorway [formerly known as the F3] for the first leg of our journey.
Although only a distance of about 350 kilometres which would take about four hours we took our time breaking the trip at a couple of places. The first was at Karuah in the Port Stephens district for a cup of coffee and then at Taree for lunch.
I had wanted to stop at Foster as I had never seen it, but missed the turn off. Not long after we spotted, walking along the side of the road, an aboriginal man who was totally naked and being well endowed much to my wife’s pleasure. Not long after two highway patrol cars with lights and sirens blaring passed us at high-speed on the other side of the highway – no doubt responding to a call regarding the nature of the fine specimen going on “Walk-about”. I’m certain the fine men of the law would have taken good care of their charge, probably photographing him face on and in profile and cataloguing him with an appropriate serial number…
Located on the Manning River, Taree was first laid out as a town in 1854 as a centre for agriculture, although oyster farming is a substantial part of the town’s growth. Today it has a population of around twenty thousand.
After lunch we left the town crossing over the Martin Bridge which was opened to traffic in 1940 and continued along the Pacific Highway [A1] towards Port Macquarie which was only about an hour away – some 85 kilometres.
We turned off the A1 onto the Oxley Highway [B56] and encountered some major road improvements under construction. There is no railway station at Port Macquarie. The railway runs through the town of Wauchope which is also located on the B56 and buses run from the station to Port Macquarie a distance of nineteen kilometres. The airport is located west of the city some four kilometres away.
We had booked our stay at the Observatory Hotel located on William Street opposite Town Beach – a very beautiful spot.
I actually used one of these photos on the cover of the anthology of poems written by me and my mum: Poetic Whispers
The hotel comprises a mixture of serviced apartments and rooms with ensuites and enclosed balconies. We opted for one of the latter with a view of Town Beach.
From the beach it is a good twenty-minute walk along the front to the town. Once off the beach the path follows the edge of the Hastings River estuary. The path is lined with boulders and large rocks which are painted by individuals as tributes to “lost” friends [mostly surfers] or in celebration of happier days.
The path passes a large caravan site which is neatly laid out with roadways and lighting. The path itself is also well-lit at night and leads into the town.
At the bottom of Horton Street is the Royal Hotel which dates back to 1841. It was burnt down in 1886 and rebuilt a year later. The building has undergone extensive alterations and has been restored to its original appearance.
The bar and restaurant offer beautiful views of the Hastings river and it was a good place to stop and enjoy a coffee or a drink [we frequented it more than once].
The top end of Horton Street is the main shopping high street with numerous shops, banks, real estate agents, cafes, and the Port Central shopping mall.
Port Macquarie was named in honour of Governor of New South Wales Lachlan Macquarie in 1818 when the area was discovered by the explorer, John Oxley. Three years later it was established as a penal colony. By 1823 the first sugar cane to be cultivated in Australia was planted at Port Macquarie and several years later as convicts began to be sent to Moreton Bay free settlers were encouraged to take up residence with the promise of good pastoral land, abundant timber resources and good fishing grounds.
Today it is a destination for retirees and is best known for its numerous beaches and luring waterways.
Looking through a few of the brochures obtained in the hotel’s reception we read about the small village of Kendall located a few kilometres away named after Henry Kendall who was a resident from 1875 – 1882. But the reason we wanted to get there was the recommendation we had been given of the Beetroot’d Café and Deli, where the speciality of the house was everything beetroot – including the dessert.
It was certainly a popular eatery, so much so that when we arrived they had ‘sold out’ of most of their fare. We were lucky to share a can of lemonade, and have a sandwich melt each – and no beetroot to be seen!! To say we were disappointed is an understatement; for an establishment to advertise itself in tour guides in the hope of attracting visitors to one’s establishment one would think the owner/manager would ensure sufficient stocks of food and beverages to satisfy lunchtime customers?
Perhaps if we ever do venture there again we might get a better meal!
We returned to our hotel via Kew along Ocean Drive and passing through the settlements of Lakewood, West Haven, North Haven and stopping at Bonny Hills where the beach was so inviting we had to walk along before setting off again. A sign pointing to a lighthouse tempted us to make a detour. Unfortunately the road was closed at our approach and rather than doing a U-turn headed to the beach area to view the light house from there.
Originally built in 1879 the Tacking Point Lighthouse is the third oldest in Australia.
The next day we set off to visit Wauchope and the working museum at Timbertown. Wauchope began its existence in 1836 with a principal economy based on timber which was transported out by rail. Today it is better known for organic farming, wine making and tourism.
The Timbertown Heritage Village is located on the outskirts of Wauchope along the Oxley Highway [B56] and is certainly worth a visit. http://www.timbertown.com.au/ – I shan’t describe it here and will let the photos and the website speak for themselves.
For our last night at Port Macquarie we dined at the Town Green Inn in Horton Street and enjoyed one of the best pizzas ever.
We enjoyed our stay. The weather helped and it was warm enough for a dip in the sea at Town Beach, but the indoor pool at the Observatory Hotel was more enjoyable.
There is certainly a lot to see and do; such as the Foreshore Markets held on a Saturday at Westport Park, where having walked there from the hotel a good half hour distance my wife decided she had taken a fancy to a large framed print. I was obliged to walk back to the hotel to fetch the car as no way was I going to carry it all the way back.
The print is a reproduction of the theatrical poster of the movie The Sheltering Sky A romantic drama set in the Sahara Desert in 1948 starring Debra Winger, John Malkovich and Timothy Spall, and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.
We returned to Berowra via Foster having missed it on the way up; a pretty place – perhaps worth a visit another time.
RLB – Tomewriter