South West Rocks
South West Rocks is a perfect escape for a seaside holiday, with beautiful sandy beaches and splendid national parks. You’ll discover intriguing colonial heritage too - the 1886 Trial Bay Gaol and the 1891 Smoky Cape Lighthouse. And one of the world’s best cave dives is just 2km off the coast.
The small town is at the mouth of the Macleay River on the Macleay Valley Coast, which is on the mid NSW North Coast. The surrounding towns such as Kempsey, Gladstone and Crescent Head are all within easy reach. The drive north from Sydney is five hours and south from Brisbane 5h 40min.
You’ll find plenty of accommodation options, from beachside campgrounds and holiday parks to a lovingly renovated guest house, a hotel and motels. In both Arakoon National Park and Hat Head National Park are campgrounds where you can pitch a tent or park your camper trailer or caravan.
The rich heritage is fascinating. The historic ruins of Trial Bay Gaol are on the cliffs above the sea. Taking 13 years to build, it opened in 1886. In the First World War it was an internment camp for people of German descent living in Australia. Near the gaol is Little Bay Beach, a great fishing spot.
For spectacular views, visit the Smoky Cape Lighthouse. One of the oldest lighthouses in Australia, Smoky Cape is a vantage point for whale watching between May and November. It was designed by distinguished architect James Barnet, who designed the General Post Office in Martin Place, Sydney.
The Smoky Cape walking track in Hat Head National Park begins at Captain Cook's lookout and winds through one of Australia’s largest remnant littoral rainforest, home to swamp wallabies, swallow-tailed butterflies and epiphyte orchids, which grow on trees. Other enchanting walks include:
- Rainforest walking track, Hat Head
- Jack Perkins walking track, Hat Head
- Powder Magazine walking track, Arakoon
- Bridle trail, near Trial Bay Gaol, Arakoon
For thrilling scuba diving, Fish Rock Cave runs 125 metres through a small island. You’ll see an amazing variety of marine life, including endangered grey nurse sharks – the sharks are harmless to humans. Both the Fish Rock Dive Centre and the South West Rocks Dive Centre offer cave dive tours.
Check out the events calendar for a fun range of activities, from arts to a triathlon. There is an 18-hole golf course at South West Rocks Country Club and delicious places to eat, including pubs and cafes. In the pretty reserve by Horseshoe Bay Beach are picnic tables and barbecue facilities.