If the idea of pristine beaches all to yourself, wild kangaroos relaxing nearby, good fishing and a bit of history thrown in appeals to you, then here’s your happy place.
South West Rocks is a seaside hamlet situated on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. It offers a relaxed low-key pace with stunning beaches surrounded by National Parks that offer panoramic coastal views and lots around to see and do.
Location: South West Rocks is located 454 km north of Sydney via the Pacific Highway and Plummers Lane. The town of Kempsey is 40 km away. Here’s a map
Population: Just over 5000 residents, however it is growing steadily and during holidays the population swells.
Industry: The area has a long history of commercial fishing, dairy and beef production. Tourism is also important to the area.
When to Go
The climate is sub-tropical, so the weather is never too cold or too hot. Average temperatures in summer months (Dec – Feb) 20-27 C. In winter (June- August) temperatures range from 12-20 C. The weather is never really a deciding factor of when to go to South West Rocks, but holidays may be.
Driving around the town it seems about half the houses are holiday lets. While this means there’s plenty of accommodation, it also means the population explodes in holiday seasons.
If you can visit in the off-season, you’ll have a quieter time and most of the beaches to yourself.
Getting There and Around
There are several options to get there:
Once there, you’ll find public bus services in and around South West Rocks. Check here.
Top Tip: If you can, have a car. It will help you get the most out of the area as most bus services don’t go to tourist destinations or National Parks.
Things to Do
Trial Bay Gaol – Established in the late-1800s the Gaol housed prisoners who were sent to help build public works, including the breakwater. Later, during World War I it became an internment camp for Germans. Now it is a reserve in the Arakoon National Park. Located on a rocky headland it offers stunning views, an interesting history and spooky night tours. There are campgrounds on the coastal fringes of the reserve. Kangaroos roam freely among visitors and campers.
Smoky Cape Lighthouse – More than 20 ships and several lives were lost in the area before some bright spark suggested that a lighthouse might be handy. A short drive into Hat Head National park takes you up to the lighthouse where you the views will leave you amazed. There are a couple of displays about the history, but it’s really all about the views.
Top Tip: It’s very windy, so don’t wear your flippy skirt up there.
Fishing – Estury, beach and deep-sea fishing are all popular around these parts. Bream, snapper, flathead, whiting and trevally are just a few of the species you could land. There are numerous charters available, many are very reasonably priced.
Top Tip: Straight from a local, “the best bait is chicken breast marinated overnight in garlic and oregano.”
Top Tip: To fish in NSW you will need a fishing licence. They start from $AUD 7 for a three-day licence. You can buy your licence at the newsagents in town.
Beaches: Spoilt for choice. Explore them all. Many allow camping, and 4WDing, but many prohibit dogs.
Movies: The Roxy Cinema is really the community hall. The screen is up on the stage and the audience sit on beanbags, deck chairs and seats furnished with crocheted cushions. The latest films are screened and a decent price and there’s even a bar and snack kiosk.
National Parks: There’s no shortage of National Parks in the Macleay Valley. The hardest part is choosing which ones to visit. Check here for details.
Beachside Markets: Second Sunday each month. You’ll find local art, crafts and produce.
South West Rocks is a small town, so the food options are a bit limited.
Country Club: A bit out of town. Very good seafood and Asian food. They offer $10 lunch specials. The only downside is that it feels like a hospital cafeteria, but probably the best food in town.
The Pub: Overlooking the beach. Excellent fish and chips, rubbish pizza. It gets busy, especially on the weekends.
Thai On the Rocks: OK, but I’ve had much better. The food lacks oomph as if they’ve toned it down for Western pallates.
Malt and Honey: A good, dog friendly café. Great coffee and light meals. Service is a bit slow.
There’s a small shopping centre with a big Coles, but here’s some inside info:
IGA – For a paddock to plate experience, the local IGA stocks local grass-fed beef.
Fish Co-op Just out of South West Rocks is Jersyville. Here you’ll find the Mcleay River Fish Shop. Daily fish and seafood are delivered straight from the trawlers at good prices. The catch determines what is in stock.
Where to Stay
There’s a good range of properties to choose from depending on your needs and budget. Here’s an easy way to start your search.
Horsehoe Bay Caravan Park – Right on the beach and across the road from the pub. Who could ask for more? You’re within a quick stroll of anything in town.
Trial Bay Campground – Although there’s no shops, pubs or restaurants within walking distance, it has beautiful views, fishing and loads of kangaroos.
Holiday Let – There’s something for everyone here.
Crescent Head – Golf – At less than $40 for six holes, including clubs, right on the coast, you can’t go wrong.
Kempsey – If you’re into country music, you’ll like the Slim Dusty Centre. Then head to the RSL – A great spot for a meal. The bistro overlooks the mighty Macleay River and the food is the best I’ve ever had at an RSL.
Nambucca Heads – Oyster farms abound here. Head to one for the freshest oysters you’ll ever have.
Gladstone – Markets – Held the third Sunday of the month from 9 am. The market is popular, but not too crowded. You’ll find beautiful foods including jams, bread, garlic, cured meats, craft and excellent coffee. The markets are held in a beautiful setting along the river.