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We love the North Coast of New South Wales. Over the years it seems that we have almost explored every little nook and cranny along this coastline. However, there is always another spot that we haven’t visited. One of these being Hat Head, that we discovered is one of the must see places on the Macleay Valley Coast, west of Kempsey in New South Wales.
The Macleay Valley Coast is located on the mid north coast of New South Wales. It stretches from the surfing mecca of Crescent Head in the south, to sleepy Grassy Head in the north. The gateway town to the coastline is Kempsey, famous for Akubra hats and the birthplace of Slim Dusty.
It has been a firm favourite of ours since our children were young, with many family holidays spent at South West Rocks and Crescent Head. But there are more cool little places to explore along this coastline.
This secluded and tranquil beach is located on the northern end of the Macleay Valley coast. Grassy Head is accessible from Scotts Head to the north or from Stuarts Point in the south. It is a very pretty drive in along Stuarts Point Road off the main M1 highway.
The beach here is one of the most attractive ones I’ve seen, with a grassy headland on the southern end, hence the name Grassy Head. We scaled the headland for views back over the beach to the north, and towards Hat Head National Park to the south.
There is a Holiday Park located alongside the beach set amongst natural bushland with plenty of shady trees. Otherwise there is a picnic/BBQ area adjacent and a lookout at the end of the pathway to the beach.
Further south of Grassy head is where the Macleay River runs adjacent to the ocean at Stuarts Point. The fishing village of Stuarts Point is quiet and slow-paced. Other than fishing or boating there probably isn’t much more to do in this place, as pretty as it is. We decided to walk across the long timber footbridge over the river, so we could walk through the sand dunes to access the beach.
Around 5 kilometres south of town we arrived to an even quieter fishing village at Fishermans Reach on the Macleay River. Here there were many jetties jutting out into the river, boats and yachts moored, fishermen launching their tinnies and prolific birdlife. This town comprises of fishing huts and weekenders, with few amenities or services.
Located near the mouth of the Macleay River, South West Rocks is approximately 40 kilometres from Kempsey. This coastal holiday town boasts a bounty of fabulous natural attractions, such as gorgeous beaches, spectacular national parks and one of Australia’s tallest lighthouses, too.
We spent many Christmas School Holidays here with our two kids when they were young staying at Horseshoe Bay Caravan Park. We were spoilt for choice when it came to pristine beaches. There’s Horseshoe Bay Beach, Front or Main Beach, Trial Bay Beach and the secluded Gap Beach at Smoky Cape.
If you’re into bushwalking and uncrowded beaches they are plentiful in Arakoon National Park and Hat Head National Park, near South West Rocks. We highly recommend a visit to the Smoky Cape Lighthouse, one of the oldest and tallest lighthouses in Australia. Smoky Cape is a great vantage point for whale watching between May and November.
South West Rocks covets a rich heritage with the historic ruins of Trial Bay Gaol strategically located on the cliffs above the sea. Taking 13 years to build, the gaol opened in 1886 and was an internment camp in the First World War for people of German descent living in Australia.
The gaol is open to the public for a small admission fee and we thought worthwhile visiting. The scenic old ruins form a background for the kangaroos that graze on the lawns surrounding the gaol. So there are plenty of Instagrammable photo opportunities!
There are a variety of places to camp in South West Rocks and Trial Bay. We stayed at Ingenia Holiday Park on the Macleay River, only a short walking distance into town. When our kids were young we stayed at Horseshoe Bay Holiday Park that is ideally located on the rise overlooking the safe little bay. Trial Bay Gaol campground near Trial Bay Gaol is right by the beach and perfect for a family camping holiday.
From the lighthouse at Smoky Cape you can see the 16 kilometre expanse of pristine beach towards the prominent Hat Head National Park. Hat Head is a tiny little town located 33 Kilometres from Kempsey and 27 kilometres south of South West Rocks. Our drive in took us along and across the scenic Macleay River and through lush pastures of dairy farms.
We discovered Hat Head to be a natural paradise with the tidal Korogoro Creek meeting the sea at the bottom of the headland. This creek is great for fishing, paddling, swimming and young families with calm shallow waters and little sandy beaches.
There is a timber footbridge that spans the creek that we walked across to access the Hat Head National Park and some of the magnificent bushwalking trails.
We stayed here for five days at the Hat Head Holiday Park, that is adjacent to both the beach and the creek. It is a large caravan park that has a variety of caravan and camping sites, as well as cabins. The best sites are located on the creekfront because they are grassy, shady, roomy and offer nice views of the creek. The holiday park is also pet friendly.
We spent our days relaxing by the creek, walking along the long stretch of beach and exploring nearby Hat Head National Park.
There are a number of hikes such as:
The beach at Hat Head is stunning. It is patrolled on weekends and public holidays by the local Surf Club. The southern end of the beach is protected by the headland and we found to be very safe for swimming.
Heading north along the beach it goes for as far as the eye can see. Perfect for a long beach stroll on a blue sky day.
One of my favourite little surfie towns ever, is the amazing coastal town called Crescent Head. Byron Bay eat your heart out, because this place packs a punch! It boasts an abundance of trendy cafes, coastal-chic boutiques, a country club with views to die for, and of course, the near-perfect waves the place is renowned for.
Located on the southern end of the Macleay Valley Coast, 21 kilometres from Kempsey, Crescent Head has a crescent-shaped grassy headland. One side creates the perfect right-hand point break for surfers and the other side is fringed by Goolawah Nature Reserve and a 10 kilometre expanse of beach.
Killick Creek gently enters the ocean near the main surfing beach, Killick Beach, and is popular for swimming, paddling and fishing. The shallow waters of the creek are very popular with families of little ones.
There is a Surf Club that patrols Killick Beach on weekends and public holidays. They also boast a great little cafe where we grabbed a coffee and watched surfers “hang ten”.
We stayed at the Crescent Head Holiday Park that offers both beachfront and creekfront caravan sites. But there are many other types of accommodation in town for those who prefer staying in a hotel or holiday unit/home.
The Caravan Park is located right in the middle of the village and adjacent to the headland, creek, beach, children’s playground, surf club and picnic area. The Crescent Head Country Club is also nearby, that offers a six-hole golf course with commanding views of the coastline, and a tennis court and bowling green.
I can assure you that the Macleay Valley Coast is worth putting on your next caravan or camping holiday wish list. This magic little piece of the New South Wales coastline is a real gem!
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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