It’s strange how we can travel a stretch of highway time and again, yet so often miss hideaways that sit just off the main roads as we hurry from one city to another. For me, that stretch of road was on the Pacific Hiway between Sydney and Brisbane. I have travelled that road several times, but never had the chance to drop in on the beaches and bays along the way.
I had heard about a place called Bluey’s Beach, just north of Newcastle, and on my previous attempt to stop here, my travelling companion, a massive storm, forced me to keep on driving. I now had an opportunity to take a more liesurely drive down to Sydney to deliver a car to my son. I took a week off work and slowly made my way south.
While I had covered this distance often in a semi-trailer on an overnight run, because there were a few things I needed to fit in and it was two days before, just after dark, I drove into the little village of Tuncurry looking for a motel to stay the night. I checked out a couple in Tuncurry and over the bridge in the twin town of Forster before continuing on down to Bluey’s Beach, some twenty kilometres south. Here, Vodafone fails badly, and so having some internet work to do I was forced back to Tuncurry and settled on the first place I had looked at. It was a small motel with small rooms, but big enough for me to spend the night and was well priced for a short stay.
After an early start I made my way down by the river where the early folk were going about their morning routines. The council workers were busy cleaning and clearing after the people who has spent the last evening in the park. There were joggers and walkers and those who just seemed out for a stroll. The river was pristine and sparkled under the rays of the early morning sun. All in all, it was a pleasant atmosphere.
I decided a nice breakfast in the sun was in order and I crossed the bridge into Forster to hunt down a cafe in the main street. The town centre is reached by doing a U-Turn at the first round-a-bout and then slipping down a narrow street on the left. The street is one way with shops and cafes spilling out onto the footpath, bathing the scene with a friendly ambiance.
At this time of the morning, the narrow street was shaded and it was impossible to find a table in the sun. I selected a cafe and settled down to choose my order. Coffee was a given but the food selection did little for my appetite. I finally chose pancakes and was soon served up a lovely looking dish.
Sadly, that was the best it got. The first taste was dry and super sweet. Even the syrup did little to moisten the pancake mix but I struggled through wishing I’d stayed with my usual mundane poached eggs on toast. The coffee was nice tho, so all was not lost
With no plans for the day, other than to make my way south towards Bluey’s Beach and I wandered out behind the shopping strip to where the river made its way out to the ocean. What a tranquil scene….. the breeze, just barely kissing the water, smudged the reflections and shadows under an impossibly blue winter sky. Such a pretty scene hidden away where so few would ever see it.
Back on the strip I checked out the shops, many of which were just opening their doors for the day’s trading. There were stands to be wheeled onto the footpath and cobbles to be swept. It was here I ran into a reluctant stranger. You may recall my “100 Strangers” project where I am making a point of meeting strangers from all walks of life and writing a small piece on who they are. Well “Tracy” was my first stranger on this day. We chatted a while and I explained my quest. It was then that she became shy and asked to remain anonemous. While this gave her an aura of mystery, I believe it disqualified her from the project. We agreed on a fictitious name of Tracy and she happily allowed me to shoot a few photos of her going about the morning chores.
From Downtown Forster I headed up to the Forster Town Beach. This beautiful stretch of sand ran out beneath the seawall towards the headland from the cafe and surf club at the northern end. I was beginning to rue the choices I had made for my breakfast after seeing the fare available here and the veiw from the tables.. I stood and watched people being people while a whale watching boat, loaded with eager nature lovers headed out to sea in search of that plume of spray as a whale breached and gasped a breath of air.
My meanderings took me south to Second Head where a rocky shore mixed with the sands across the wide bay. Standup Paddle Boarders made their way out past the out crops, maybe searching for their own inshore whale. A broad pathway wound its way along the forshore and there were more than a few out taking in the morning air.
The rocks along the bay had an almost tesselated structure, as if they had been stacked in rows, one apon another where sea birds rested and preened their feathers in the cool morning breeze.
The next stop at Bicentennial Park reunited me with the whale watchers, albiet these were onshore spotters who seek the elusive spray plumes through powerful binoculars before radioing the boat with directions to get them close. I wonder how long it will be before these jobs are taken over by the drones that are beginning to fill the skys these days
From the road to the shore, there are boardwalks that take you through woody scrub where the air is filled with bird song and if if you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of a robin or wren.
One of the sites of this area is the Dune. This massive wall of sand, falls to the sea much like a flowing waterfall, and indeed, more than a few surf this wave on boogie boards or simply just roll their way to the bottom.
At ElizabethBeach, a short but steep walk took me to the look out at the top of the headland. Here a two storied structure provides a grand view from way north to way south. From here the size of the dune is given its true perspective.
I passed by some of the bays as the days was getting late and soon found myself on Bluey’s. By now the wind had freshened and the onshore breeze was bringing in some larger swells from the Pacific Ocean. There were rock buttresses here that stood firm against the waves as the tossed their spray in frustration at not being able to drive on inshore. High on the headland the tall tower of a lighthouse at Seal Rocks stood proud against the sky line.
From Buey’s Beach, it is necessary to head inland around Smith’s Lake and, craving a coffee as I sometimes do, I followed a sign to Frothy Coffee on the waters edge across the bay from the Sandbar. This hard to find gem was well worth the wrong turns I took on my way. Broken signage provided ambiguos directions as I navigated my way through suburbia until, quite unexpectedly, I came upon a blue shed set right on the edge of the lake. The deck was built out over the water and it was a very pleasant hour spent sipping coffee and watching the occaisional fisherman as they cruised passed on the lake. Across the water you can see the sandbar which, is a narrow strip of sand that cuts Smiths Lake off from the sea.
From Smiths Lake I headed further south to Seal Rocks where I found a set of rocks that may well have given this place its name
I followed Kinka Road, past Boat Beach, to it’s end where I took to walking up the path towards the lighthouse I had seen earlier in the day from Bluey’s Beach. The path was wide and for a time I wondered if I was headed the right way as the direction I was headed seemed to have the lighthouse over my left shoulder and falling away behind me. Slowly the track began to swing around and soon enough the lighthouse was dead ahead again. I was hurrying now as the signage had said the grounds closed at sunset, and the sun was getting perilously close to the horison behind me.
I passed a bunch of sugar loaf rocks, seperated from each other by deep and narrow cuttings that had been weathered away by the sea over the ages. Behind me the sun began to burn the horison as it dipped ever so slowly towards night. I hurried on and arrived at the precinct with the shadows casting long and low, but the lighthouse, sitting atop the headland, was still bathed in the soft evening light. Ahead of me was a steep path with a few steps to ease the way. It was a breathless climb. With time running out, I was determined to get some sunsets shots before they closed the facility.
I stayed at the top, watching the light slowly fade as the sun cast it’s final rays of the day across the land. I was joined by a group of backpackers who climbed the stairs around the lighthouse tower to get a better view. Finally, the light gave way to darkness and we all trooped back down to the buildings below.
The old keepers quarters have been renovated to be able to take overnight tourists. My back packing companions, it seemed, would be staying here this night and so I set off along the dark pathway, retracing my steps to my car.
It had been a long day and I made my way back out to the main road to look for a place to rest my head for the night. The next day would take me into Sydney where I would meet up with my son and deliver his car before flying back to the Sunshine Coast and the grindstone that earns my daily bread…Ah well….