Day 1 - Outdoor Immersion
Nature enthusiasts will be spoiled for choice in South West Rocks, whose waters attract fisherman and scuba divers from all over the world. If you prefer to stay dry, the region also boasts some of the best walking trails on the Macleay Valley Coast, not to mention the world-class attraction of Trial Bay Gaol.
Scuba Dive Fish Rock
The 125-metre long Fish Rock Cave is the only true ocean cave dive in Australia and home to a staggering array of wildlife. Enter the world of wobbegong and grey nurse sharks, black rays and giant cuttlefish and be amazed by huge anemones and colourful coral that abounds in this unique eco-system. Scuba diving expeditions can be booked through the South West Rocks Dive Centre or Fish Rock Dive Centre.
With deep coastal waters on the edge of the continental shelf, South West Rocks offers a high-class fishing experience. Land yourself a snapper or huge marlin (one of the largest caught was 160kg!) and celebrate your catch with your mates or family on an organised fishing charter. Several operators in town offer both deep sea and river fishing charters that guarantee an experience you’re not likely to forget.
Hiking in the National Parks
South West Rocks has a range of trails for bushwalkers ranging from easy to challenging. Some of our favourites include the 10 kilometre trail from Little Bay to Smoky Cape Lighthouse, which detours to the beautiful Gap Beach (there is also a track to Green Point). Shorter walks include the Monument Hill Loop and the Bridle Trail near the Trial Bay Gaol. Birdwatchers will also love the Boyters Lane Bird Hide, a perfect place to spot wetland birds in a rehabilitated dairy farm.
Step back in time and soak up the fascinating history behind the old Trial Bay Gaol, which took 13 years to build and opened in 1886 to house prisoners who were constructing the Trial Bay harbor. The gaol also includes a museum, and visitors have the option to take a guided tour while enjoying some of the best views on the coast. Or learn the local Dunghutti culture with a cultural immersion experience with Marrgaan.
If you can squeeze any more into your day, wind down with sunset drinks and a seafood platter from the Seabreeze Beach Hotel.
Day 2 - Stuarts Point, Grassy Head and Yarrahappini
Start your day with a view to remember from the top of the 498-metre tall Mount Yarrahappini, situated within Yarriabini National Park. On your way down, stop in at The Pines picnic area to read about the significance of Yarriabini to the local Dunghutti and Gumbaynggirr people and walk the lush 300m loop that begins at the picnic area and winds through old growth rainforest.
Emerge from the national park and take the turn off to Grassy Head, stopping for a yummy lunch at the Hot Myrtle Kitchen, a delightful café housed in a little cottage surrounded by bush. From there, take a two-minute drive to the beach at Grassy Head, where you can amble around the headland and find your own tidal rock pools. One of the quietest beaches in the Macleay Valley, Grassy Head is no less beautiful. It’s calm waters and golden sands are perfect for families and fishermen.
Top the day off by visiting the quiet riverside village of Stuarts Point. Cross the quaint timber footbridge and through the sand dunes to access the beach or take the easy walk all the way to Grassy Head to see the former mouth of the Macleay River. Another option is to hire kayaks and fishing rods from the Stuarts Point Holiday Park and explore the mouth of the river. If you’re lucky, you might catch your dinner! If not, get stuck into a feast of fish n chips from The Point Café and Take Away.
Day 3 - Gladstone, Hat Head and Frederickton
Grab some breakfast and make a bee-line for Hat Head to while away the morning floating in the turquoise waters of Korogoro Creek. Don your snorkel and marvel at the tropical marine life that abounds on this part of the coast. If you’re feeling energetic, take on the challenging yet rewarding walk along the Korogoro Walking Track and find your own private patch of sand along the way.
After soaking up the sun in Hat Head, drive to Gladstone and explore the village’s attractive art galleries and specialty shops, most of which are conveniently situated along Kinchela Street. Don’t miss the latest exhibition at the Macleay Valley Community Art Gallery and be sure to look for artist Deb Broughton’s studio on Barnard Street to view her striking paintings, many of them inspired by the Macleay Valley Coast landscape.
Tuck into a divine lunch at the By the River Café, which you’ll find behind the quaint Old Lodge Gallery, looking out to the river. Alternatively, savour one of the best high teas around at The Old Bank or wander across the road for a delicious home-made icecream or lunch from Steam & Cedar. Take your time wandering around the Gladstone Hub, where you’ll unearth an eclectic bunch of passionate artisans selling lovingly created wares. Health food store Whole & Happy also hosts creative workshops, so check their Facebook page beforehand to book in and create your own masterpiece. Workshops often include essential oils, macramé, basket weaving, kombucha and many more.