This is a quick wrap up of our quick visit to the Mid North Coast and Northern Rivers area of NSW for a few days late last week.
While I am waiting to go back to work (administrative issues have prevented me from returning as soon as I would have liked) we thought we might take a few days away from the dramas of an international relocation, not having our own home to live in and camping with the in-laws, and waiting for our delayed and much travelled goods shipment (it went via Dubai from the USA on it’s way to Sydney) and get away from it all for a while.
We wandered up the coast of NSW, exploring some towns we haven’t been to before, as well as investigating possible job opportunities (Andrew still needs to find a job).
On our first day we drove up the coast along the much improved, but always under construction, Pacific Highway (now known as the M1 or A1, depending on where you are). After about 5 ½ hours driving, we landed in the NSW country town of Grafton; a place I had never visited before. It’s worth a look.
Grafton Clocktower and one of the many pubs in the background
Established in 1851, Grafton sits alongside the Clarence River and is home to jacaranda tree-lined streets (the jacarandas were originally planted in the 1870s by a local seed merchant). In spring the town puts on a spectacular display when the trees erupt in masses of mauve blossoms. During the last weekend in October and the first weekend in November Grafton hosts its famous Jacaranda Festival
(Australia’s longest running floral festival); I’d love to check this out some time (we were too late in the season this visit, as the jacarandas, although still in bloom, were well past their best).
From Grafton we drove north through Broadwater, sweet town that it is – it’s home to a large sugar mill and is the center of the region’s sugar industry (lots of sugar cane growing in the Northern Rivers area) and then on to Ballina.
I’ve heard a lot about Ballina – it’s a coastal town and well known for its relaxed lifestyle, beaches, seafood, fishing and other water sports. Ballina is also home to the Big Prawn:
Australia has a fascination with BIG things – besides the prawn, we have the Big Merino (Goulbourn, NSW), Big Pineapple (Nambour, Qld), Big Guitar (Tamworth, NSW), Big Galah (Kimba, SA), Big Lobster (Kingston, SA) and the Big Banana, which we drove past at Coffs Harbour (always a family favourite), just to name but a few!
Our last stop was Port Macquarie – this is a place I definitely want to return to for a stay of at least a few days, maybe a week! Established in 1821, Port Macquarie, like Newcastle, was founded as a penal settlement, replacing Newcastle as the destination for convicts who had committed secondary crimes in New South Wales.
Port Macquarie is an idyllic spot, sitting on the NSW mid north coast at the mouth of the Hastings River. It is home to some wonderful beaches and also to the Billabong Koala Park (I didn’t get to visit, but maybe next time), and the Koala Preservation Society’s Koala Hospital. There are also about 75 koala sculptures around the town – all uniquely decorated – fun!:
Just outside of Port Macquarie is Ricardoes Tomatoes and Strawberry farm. This is definitely worth the visit (and a great family activity if you have kids in tow). There is a little café where you can grab some lunch and also pick up some of Ricardoes own produce: rich red tangy Tomato Relish (I got some of that), delectable rich tomato Pasta Sauce and unique Strawberry Conserve, and other local products including preserved olives and olive oils, and locally-grown macadamia nuts, honey and eggs.
Besides all of this, you get to pick your own fresh strawberries – yum!:
– it was great fun!