There are some beautiful areas to visit along the NSW coast, and sometimes it’s hard to decide where to go next. We were thinking of Crescent Head (we’ve stayed there before, and liked the caravan park) but opted to try somewhere different. A quick Google brought up the Top Tourist Jacaranda Caravan Park at North Haven, midway between Sydney and the Queensland border and 25 minutes south of Port Macquarie. It looked inviting, so that’s where we went.
Good decision! Yvonne Smith, at reception, went out of her way to help us find a suitable site for a larger van. (Here’s a tip from Neville Smith, park owner: “If possible prior to your arrival to let reception know the overall length of your van – starting from the tow ball & ending at the spare tyre. This helps the park staff to give you the most appropriate site for your van.”) We were instantly taken with the amenities and camp kitchen. I said to fellow traveller Carol: “I love this amenities block – it has such a homey feel to it. And a hair dryer! How civilised!” We both agreed that although it wasn’t one of the most modern we’d seen, it was one of the nicest.
As well as a hairdryer, there is a full-sized bath, a baby bath/change area, disabled facilities and shower curtains. Lovely.
Another night, someone using the camp kitchen commented that it was one of the best kitchens he’d used… small, but well equipped with BBQs, cookware, tea making facilities, fridge and a TV set. It’s obvious that Yvonne and husband Neville take pride in their caravan park.
The Jacaranda park is nicely positioned: 5-600 metres from the beach; across the road from the river and about a kilometre and a half from a post office/newsagent and video mart/convenience store. It also has a pool and play equipment for kids.
A ten-minute drive takes you to Laurieton, with a good selection of shops and restaurants, and a great fish co-op (Laurieton Riverside Seafoods) where we bought prawns and barramundi for a couple of recipes we were trying out. (The fish co-op also sold yummy salt and pepper squid and chips… terrible for the waist line, but so nice!) There’s also a craft store, Peg’s Place, that sells just about anything you’d need. I stocked up on wool and a couple of patterns for knitted toys for the two latest grandchildren – something to do on lazy afternoons or evenings. I’ll show you the results in a later travel diary!
This was a good week to just kick back and relax; the weather was beautiful every day. We spent some time on the beach and a morning in Port Macquarie, and drove up to the lookout just out of Laurieton: not to be missed, according to the locals… and they were right. It’s easy to see why people choose to settle in this little slice of heaven.
And it’s easy to see why so many people, like us, love to travel around the country in a caravan, Motorhome or 5th wheeler. There are so many beautiful spots that have you thinking: “I wouldn’t mind settling down here!” I think over the past 7 years or so that we’ve been doing this, we must have found dozens of places like that.
We were cooking damper when Bob and Sue drove into the park with their Regal van and settled into a drive-through spot opposite us. We persuaded them to be guinea-pigs and come over after dinner to try a slice or two. Well, Bob managed to work his way through three slices, so we count that as a success!
After five pleasant days in North Haven, we packed up and headed off for Coffs Harbour. Would you believe that about an hour into trip we passed our friends Richard and Denise from the UK (see Travel Diary Week 3), cycling energetically along the road on their tandem bike, heading north on their long trip to Cairns! Of course we gave them a toot and waved as we passed.
We checked into the Harbour City Holiday Park in Cairns; a terrific base for travellers wanting to see more of the area. It’s so close to the cafes, bars and shops in the centre of town – and like a lot of people who stay in this park, we headed 150 metres up the road to the impressive Coffs Ex-Services Club, with its excellent brasserie, for the first-night-in-meal. Yum.
Sue pointed us at several different sites we could use, and we chose one with a concrete slab and handy to the amenities. She warned us that it was likely to be a bit noisy for a few hours at night, since there was a car rally at the Showground next door! Actually it proved to be quite interesting, since a number of the cottages and camp sites had been booked by competitors, and we were able to check out some of the cars. Here are the second place-getters, who were in a cabin close to our site:
As soon as we settled in and had a bit of lunch, we headed up to Mullaway, just north of Woolgoolga, to pick up our Viking Kayaks from Karen and Col at the Skee Kayak Centre. Our previous kayaks were the sit-in type, whereas these Viking Kayaks were ‘sit-ons’. The paddler is likely to get wetter and therefore a bit colder, so we also took the opportunity to buy some thermal pants. We also said an enthusiastic ‘yes’ to Karen’s offer to go for a quick river paddle from Red Rock the next day to try them out!
Karen is a licensed kayak still water trainer, and had some handy hints for paddling for hours at a time without getting too tired – but it all takes a bit of practise. “This is a bit like learning to drive a car,” I told her after half an hour or so. “While you’re focusing on getting one thing right, you forget to do something else!” (E.g. get the hang of shoulder rotation – move from the waist, not the hips; keep knees slightly outward for balance; sit with your back straight and well-supported by the back rest… while remembering to use your feet on the rudder to steer!)
On Saturday night we caught up with Judy and Doug, our neighbours at the Hawks Nest park. They live in Coffs Harbour, just a few streets away from where we were staying, so we went over for coffee and a few drinks and to admire Doug’s collection of plywood boats. And naturally we exchanged plenty of traveller’s tales! Doug had some interesting information about handling fish – he was a Fishcare Volunteer with NSW fisheries for 8 years. Doug tells us that tests have shown that fish can get rid of the hook themselves fairly effectively. (“Well, Doug,” Rob said, “If the day comes that I should ever actually find a fish on the end of my line, I’ll remember that!”) Here are Doug’s tips on handling fish:
- Return unwanted fish to the water quickly and with minimal handling
- A wet rag towel to grip the fish will lessen damage to the slime layer on the scales which acts as an infection barrier
- A swallowed hook should not be retrieved with disgorging tools unless easily accessible. Better to snip the line at the lips.(Barbless hooks help here)
- Trophy fish shouldn’t be suspended by hook and line while being photographed. Better to cradle with both hands.(Stretched gills bring tears to fish eyes).
Sunday ushered in another gorgeous day, and we were keen to try the kayaks out again, so we drove south to Sawtell to put them in at Boambee Creek Reserve that has a handy little beach to launch the kayaks.
And that brings us to the end of Week 4. We’ve done so much already, and we have months and months ahead of us on the road. Sigh. What a wonderful prospect!