Have you heard of The Salty Dog Village, Coolongolook? Having trouble pronouncing Coolongolook? Don't worry, that's not really important. The main take away here is that this food stop is right on the highway on your travels north of Sydney. There are no detours from your route in order to get a beautiful meal in a tranquil setting, you literally turn into this driveway right from the Pacific Highway. This is the perfect roadside stop for any hungry, weary traveller. The choices are extensive, and everything hits the mark.
This roadside stop is actually a collection of eateries and a gallery, set on acreage, in a peaceful rural setting. Salty Dog Seafood Cafe and Gallery is the original building on this property. (Disclosure, my family calls it The Salty Dog Village partly inspired by their Facebook tag and partly because it's a collective of cafes under the original Salty Dog Cafe, though it's not formerly signed as this.) The woodwork gallery Rustic Reproductions sits adjacent to the cafe and is well worth a browse. The gallery is set in a rustic, converted chapel and it is brimming with beautifully restored furniture, homewares and original artworks. Rustic Reproductions also do custom pieces.
Salty Dog (as it's affectionately called) is known for its seafood, which is delicious. Despite the rural setting, it is very close to the coast so, fresh fish is very accessible. You'll find fish, oysters, prawn cutlets and calamari on offer, subject to availability. Though they specialise in seafood here, you will find plenty of options for the non-seafood eater. Salty Dog also has a breakfast menu, if you happen to be passing through here in the morning. I know you might be sceptical ordering your morning coffee and eggs from a seafood place, but there is nothing fishy about it. The coffee is good and the breakfast food is delicious. On top of this, there are also sweets and treats. There is an undercover outdoor seating area, but, don't let winter turn you off - there is a roaring fireplace to keep you warm. If the weather permits, you can soak up the sunshine at one of the benches on the grass. The cafe has a rustic rural charm. Timber and tin dominate the aesthetic here, yet they go together like butter on bread. Yellow and green checkered stain glass windows frame the brick fireplace that is set into the tin wall. The tables are uniquely shaped wooden slabs surrounded by colourful chairs. Salty Dog Cafe is open 6 days a week from 10:30am - 3pm with extended trading on Friday until 8pm (closed Tuesday) and also provides take away options.
Unearthed Cafe dining area - Salty Dog Seafood Cafe & Gallery in the background.
Just a step to the side from Salty Dog lies Unearthed - Good Mood Food - Cafe. The character of Unearthed is a similar rustic-charm with semi-outdoor yet undercover seating. Unearthed features reclaimed wood and timber aesthetic in a kaleidoscope of colours. The square wooden tables resemble floorboards, with the oddly painted strip, and the wooden chairs don a complimentary style. Underfoot you will discover beautiful brick flooring that enhances the country charm of this cafe. Vines wrap around the support beams and, on a sunny day, pink and yellow light dances across the cafe through the checkered pink and yellow stained glass windows. Unearthed offers an array of food that really does put you in a good mood. It's healthy, it's wholesome and it's delicious. You'll find burgers, lasagne, wraps, salads and even falafel. Many meals here can also be made gluten-free. Like Salty Dog, Unearthed provides a breakfast menu to get you going (or, keep you going with your travels) that offers staples of raisin toast, bacon and eggs, breakfast burgers and a big breakfast. My coffee here has always been good and there are also juices and kombucha to consume. There are freshly baked cakes and other delightful desserts to discover. The food here is also able to be taken away so if you are unable to finish your meal (they are generous portions) or, if you are tempted by a treat but have no more room to eat, just take it away! Unearthed - Good Mood Food - Cafe is open 7 days a week from 7am - 2:30pm.
The last but not least of this trio of eateries is Platform Pies and Patisserie. This cafe is uniquely laid out in a red, restored first class train carriage, a reminder of the old red rattler that used to transport commuters around Sydney. There is limited undercover seating at this one, however, choose anything to take away and nab a seat in the sun. You'll find homemade, fresh pies including fan favourites; curry, peppercorn and chunky steak, and you will also discover specials such as Chunky Steak with Jalapenos and Cheese. Specials and availability may differ daily. There are also sausage rolls and a variety of vegetable rolls to choose from. Satisfy your sweet tooth with freshly baked goodies. You can even enjoy a caffeine kick here. Open 6 days from 8am - 3pm (closed Tuesday).
I have been coming to Salty Dog Cafe since its conception in 2009, and have watched - and enjoyed the fruits of their labour - as the establishment has expanded into the village it is today. As the venture is set amongst grasslands there is plenty of room to stretch those cramped legs or wear out the kids and canines, to get them sleeping on the next leg of your journey. Salty Dog is wheelchair accessible and dog-friendly (but please, pick up after your pooch and don't let them run amuck). There are also accessible toilets for all cafe patrons.
Next time you find yourself travelling north and feeling peckish, pull into The Salty Dog. You'll notice the "Salty Dog" sign from the highway. Enjoy the solace from your journey in the countryside, surprisingly peaceful even though it's located on the highway. You cannot see the cars and trucks from the seating as the cafe and gallery buildings act as a barrier. Instead, your outlook is the stunning Australian bush. Salty Dog is located 20 minutes north of Bulahdelah and south of Nabiac. You have to slow to 80km's on this section of highway which means that entering the property from the highway is not impossible and you won't fly past and realise it's passed before you notice it. There really is a variety of food options here to please even the fussiest travellers, making it the perfect pit stop to refuel and recharge on good, homemade food.