1. Crescent Head to Bellbrook
Spend three days making memories immersed in nature as you discover the best of the Macleay Valley Coast beaches and hinterland.
Stay: At the Med in Crescent Head. Its central location means the village and beach are just a short stroll away. Great food, airy rooms and cabins and surf-themed murals by local street artist, Indo, are also a drawcard.
Alternatively, bring your caravan or tent and book early to score a place at the popular Crescent Head Holiday Park, which is situated right beside the famous Crescent Head Surfing Reserve.
Day One: Village Vibes
Perched below a towering headland, the village of Crescent Head is best explored on foot. Wake early to watch the sun rise from the dramatic vantage point of Little Nobby before venturing further up over the golf course to take in the view from Big Nobby. Once you arrive at the water tower, look for a bush track off to your left that leads down to the breathtaking Goolawah Beach (known as Back Beach to locals). Walk to the car park before taking the road back to the village. Finish up with a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters of Killick Creek.
Enjoy a simple seaside breakfast and coffee from The Point Café while you watch surfers gliding along one of the longest waves in Australia, then wander along the business strip to browse the handful of creative coastal boutiques offering a variety of beach-inspired women’s fashion.
If you’re feeling active, grab your board and tackle the waves (beginners can book lessons and hire boards from On Point Surf School or via the Surfaris Surf Camp). If surfing’s not your jam, have a hit of golf at one of Australia’s most picturesque courses (warning: the view may be distracting!). If not, join the locals and spend the rest of the afternoon floating in Killick Creek at high tide.
Round the day off with afternoon cocktails at Pandanus followed by a delectable three-course dinner at Lumah.
Day Two: Back Road Adventure
No visit to Crescent Head is complete without taking on the scenic Point Plomer Road, where you’ll be rewarded with dazzling beaches around every corner, accessible headland walks and cool cafes hidden in the bush. Stop for a surf check at Racecourse beach, where you can also take a short walk around the grassy headland and discover tidal pools.
Grab a coffee, smoothie or healthy breakfast from Surf Fuel Café at the beautiful Waves Campground. Across the road, you’ll find Delicate Nobby Beach, a secluded spot for snorkelling that also happens to be dog-friendly.
Stop for a surf or swim at the gorgeous Big Hill Beach and wander along the 300m rainforest trail around the headland. Drive onward to Point Plomer and meander through the campground to park beside the beach, keeping a look out for the area’s resident pod of dolphins. On your way back, stop in at the Bush Kitchen near Big Hill for a lunch of wood-fired pizza in a delightful outdoor setting complete with a fire pit and kids’ playground.
Head back to the village and finish your perfect day with dinner at The Med’s highly reviewed restaurant, CH Dining.
Day Three: Up-River Exploration
All beached out? Time to pack your canoes, fishing rods or paddle boards and head up-river for a real adventure!
Before you set off, satisfy your coffee craving and stock up on picnic supplies at the South Kempsey Corner Store. While you’re in Kempsey, visit the Slim Dusty Centre, where you can peruse an intriguing display of Slim Dusty memorabilia and learn about the life of Australia’s biggest country music star. Pick up brochures for heritage hinterland walks at the Kempsey Visitor Centre and drive out to Willawarrin, making sure to look in at the historic Willawarrin Hotel.
Further along, stop at the heritage-listed village of Bellbrook and discover the town’s rich timber cutting history, exemplified by the over 100-year-old Bellbrook Hotel.
From Bellbrook, follow Slim Dusty Way to find the house the Aussie legend grew up in, ‘Homewood Farm’. Press the button at the information sign in front of the house to hear Slim talk about his memories of living in the Macleay. On your way out, stop to pick up some fresh produce at the road side stall outside Nulla Nulla Farm.
Leave civilisation behind and be enchanted by the upper reaches of the wild Macleay River (interestingly, it’s the second fastest flowing river in the southern hemisphere when in flood). Drive up to Blackbird Flat and picnic or barbecue on the river’s serene banks. Spend the rest of the day swimming or put the kayaks in to explore the river and soak up the silence, or try your luck at bass fishing.