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12 Ways to experience the magic of Tourist Drive 12

Beginning at Crescent Head, Tourist Drive 12 follows the meandering Belmore River through lush farmland to South West Rocks, highlighting some of the Macleay Valley Coast’s best coastal attractions and scenery along the way.

1. Get your caffeine hit

Every road trip begins with great coffee start your journey, stop off at South Kempsey Corner Store for your caffeine hit then onto locally made Akubra to buy an iconic hat for your time on the road. 

2. Soak up the ‘70s vibe at Crescent Head

Begin your journey at Crescent Head, a laid-back village known for having one of the few official surfing reserves in Australia. Grab a coffee and watch the waves peel off the point or climb Little Nobby to look out for whales.

Waiting for a wave in Crescent Head

3. Stop for farm-fresh veggies along the Belmore River

Follow the beautiful Belmore River Road out from Crescent Head towards Gladstone. Be sure to grab some change to take advantage of the little farm gate stalls selling eggs, condiments and seasonal produce.

4. Discover the cafes & galleries of Gladstone

Listed as a Creative Community on the Arts Mid North Coast Trail, Gladstone is a little village that punches above its weight when it comes to cafes, galleries and boutiques. Don’t miss the Gladstone Hub for artisan gifts, art, healthy food and great coffee.

Old Lodge Riverfront Cafe

5. long lunch in frederickton

Take a quick detour and cross the river from Gladstone to Smithtown to find the Nestle Milo factory and savour lunch overlooking the Macleay River at the Garden Bar & Kitchen in Frederickton. Or if you prefer to grab a bite and keep travelling, then Fredo’s Pies & Cafe is the perfect place to stop – Home of the famous Crocodile Pie for over 20 years! 

6. Walk the short Korogoro Track at Hat Head

At Kinchela, take the turn off to Hat Head, where you can get your legs moving on one of the most stunning headland walks on the coast – the short yet challenging Korogoro Track. Afterwards, cool off with a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters of Korogoro Creek.

7. Pick up some fresh seafood

Follow the road along the Macleay River (where you’ll find more farm gate stalls full of fresh produce) towards South West Rocks, stopping in for fresh, locally caught seafood at the Macleay River District Fishermen’s Co-operative outlet in Jerseyville. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to watch fisherman unloading their morning haul.

Garden Bar & Kitchen

8. bird watching

Take in in the wealth of bird life at the Boyters Lane Bird Hide on the way into South West Rocks. Built on an old dairy farm, the bird hide is placed within a tranquil area of rehabilitated bushland, mangrove and saltmarsh. Stroll along the recently built walkway, read the information board and be sure to being your binoculars!


SUP, dive, fish and swim at one of the many South West Rocks spectacular beaches.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding with South West Rocks SUP at back Creek

10. Experience Trial Bay Gaol

No visit to South West Rocks is complete without a visit to the world-class attraction of Trial Bay Gaol, which is located within beautiful Arakoon National Park. Ramble around the ruins and be sure to say hello to the site’s ubiquitous kangaroos!

11. learn the local dunghutti culture

Marrgaan Cultural Experience offer visitors, locals and groups the chance to approach wellness from a holistic perspective, something that is central to the local Dunghutti culture. Please contact them directly for private or bespoke cultural experiences. 

Marrgaan Cultural Experience

12. Take in the views from Smoky Cape Lighthouse

Ascend the steep staircase to Smoky Cape Lighthouse in Hat Head National Park to be treated with magnificent 360 degree views of the surrounding coastline. This is also your best chance of spotting whales between May and September.

Best places to eat & drink in Crescent Head

Best places to eat & drink in Gladstone

3 Days in & around South West Rocks