24 Hours in South West Rocks

Boasting jaw-dropping beaches, world-class fishing and diving and a host of hiking trails, South West Rocks is a haven for nature-lovers. It’s also home to the Trial Bay Gaol, a unique attraction that draws visitors from all over the world. One day is simply not enough to explore the wonders of this sun-soaked village, but it’s a great place to begin.

Greet the Sun

Start your day right with a sunrise paddle boarding session at Back Creek with SWR SUP, where you can glide above stingrays, dolphins and a variety of fish. Warm up afterward with a coffee and breakfast from one of the many cafes in town, then saunter across the road to Horseshoe Bay. Climb around the smooth granite headland or walk over the grassy hill and you’ll find yourself staring out at the calm waters of Trial Bay.

Explore the Gaol

Take a drive to the Trial Bay Gaol, an eerie ruin with a five-star view that was built to house prisoners who were brought to the area in 1886. During World War 1 the gaol was used once again as an internment camp for local German residents who were suspected (almost always falsely) to be conspiring with the enemy. It hasn’t been used as an active gaol since, and is now a historic ruin with a well-curated museum and intriguing displays that will delight visitors of all ages. Refuel with morning tea from the nearby Trial Bay Kiosk and Restaurant.

Family inside Trial Bay Gaol_South West Rocks_Macleay Valley Coast
Family exploring Trail Bay Gaol
South West Rocks Stand Up Paddlebord_with bridge in background_South West Rocks_Macleay Valley Coast
Stand Up Paddle Boarding at Back Creek

Walk the Trails

There are several walking options that head out from the gaol through Arakoon and Hat Head National Parks. Be prepared to marvel at magnificent granite formations, ocean vistas around every corner and ever changing greenery. If you’re feeling fit, tackle the challenging 10km Trial Bay to Smoky Cape Trail, or the shorter family-friendly walks from the gaol to Little Bay or Monument Hill. Have your camera ready to capture the area’s ubiquitous kangaroos at Little Bay while you enjoy a catered picnic! 

Smoky Cape Lighthouse

Keep your walking shoes on and drive up to Smoky Cape Lighthouse to climb the long stairway to some heavenly views. Book a guided tour to see inside the lighthouse and learn more about its history. There are also several short walks from here to the Green Beach and Gap Beach – both are well worth the effort. Than back into South West Rocks for your pick of lunch for the day! 

Smoky Cape Lighthouse_South West Rocks_Macleay Valley Coast
Smoky Cape Lighthouse

Birdwatchers Delight

If you’re into bird watching, Boyters Lane Bird Hide is a must. Located just outside South West Rocks on an old dairy farm, the bird hide gives you the chance to spot a huge variety of wetland species in a beautiful setting. You can sit inside the bird hide or wander along the two kilometres of built walkways. Check out the helpful information board to learn more about the native and migratory birds in the area.

Feast on Seafood

After a jam-packed day in the outdoors, make a bee-line for the Seabreeze Beach Hotel for sundowners and a seafood platter or if you fancy a pizza then Pilot Pizza is your go to. Taste the reason why South West Rocks is known as a fishing haven and enjoy fresh oysters while sipping on the hotel’s extensive range of craft beer on tap. Round it off by walking down the road to Chillati and reward yourself with home-made gelato – you deserve it! Wind down with a movie at the Roxy Cinema, a gorgeous village theatre that shows arthouse and mainstream flicks year-round.

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