Just 3.5 hours from Sydney, North Haven is a little slice of coastal paradise just waiting for you to cruise on up for the weekend.
[ADVERT]Play hooky on a Friday so you can reach North Haven by late afternoon, or at least in time to catch the famous Friday night meat raffle at the bowling club. Scoff you may, but you'll be feeling chuffed when you're throwing your free T-bones on the barbie on Saturday night.
Besides, mixing it with the grey-haired set at the bowlo is fun – these guys are living the dream. Bowls, raffles, cheap drinks – not to mention retirement in one of the most idyllic towns on the mid north coast.
Take a drive up the mountain in nearby Dooragan National Park and take in the 180-degree views of the wider Camden Valley area, from North Brother Mountain. You'll get a sense of the vast Camden River that pours in from the sea at North Haven, before pulsating through Laurieton, Dunbogan and Kew.
From morning 'til night, the Camden River takes center stage in North Haven. There's a new boat ramp in the middle of town and the shops open early, so you can grab a latte and take it with you on that 7am fishing trip (though maybe that's a city chick thing?).
Fish from the break wall at dusk and you might pull in a mini sized bream as I did, while watching a pod of dolphins enjoying the last hours of daylight as they careen in and out of the water. Yep, just another day on the river.
The leafy Wall Reserve protects the waterfront from development, so there's plenty of room to park, have a picnic, cast a line or stroll along to mouth of the river. Walk into town at twilight and you'll be rewarded with a palette of glowing pink and orange smeared across the sky, promising another fine day tomorrow.
Once you're fished out you can sample the waves at Grants Beach, with 3.5 kilometres of coastline on the doorstep of North Haven.
But the fun doesn't stop there. If you have two wheels you can roll all the way from the beach along the river, through town and beyond. I'd recommend a bicycle, but don't want to discriminate against rollerbladers, rollerskaters, skate boarders, scooterists, pram pushers and the like.
The point is there's a great path that hugs the river and will take you all the way to Dunbogan if you're keen. It's a great way to explore. After all, what's a holiday without a bike ride? Just mind the bridge on Ocean Drive – it's a tight squeeze, so you'll need to give way to pedestrians coming the other way (or rollerskaters).
Head into town for dinner and you won't be disappointed by a meal at Oasis by the River. It's not quite fine dining, but it was a fine surprise birthday dinner for moi. I found myself perched outside under fire lanterns, savoring a bottle of local wine and indulging in three courses – all delicious.
North Haven is 20 minutes south of Port Macquarie and pretty close to heaven.