South West Rocks is a sleepy little coastal town untouched by the industrialisation of modern-day suburbia. A five hour drive north of Sydney, and a short drive from Coffs Harbour or Port Macquarie, it feels like being in a pleasant version of a David Lynch movie: surreal and somehow familiar.
Smoky Cape Lighthouse As we drive up a windy path climbing up the coast, the shore pans outward like a curtain. We have reached Smoky Cape Lighthouse, one of the few still operational lighthouses on the East Coast. We walk up the pathway and see a trio of kangaroos grazing the bushland. To our surprise, one is carrying a little joey in its pouch.
We soak in the picturesque views, seeing puffs of smoke in the distance. The friendly caretaker tells us that these are in fact whales, and that they can be seen in plain sight when the waters are clean, venturing in as far as the naked eye can see if they feel so adventurous. I think to myself that I wouldn't mind living in the shoes of the caretaker, and take note of the dreamy cottage accommodation offered there, available for small groups who care to spoil themselves, with tours of the lighthouse also available at designated times.
Trial Bay Gaol Heading closer to town, we visit Trial Bay Gaol, a no longer operational gaol converted into a museum. We learn that it housed convicts mainly in the first world war, used to construct a breakwater for the safe docking of ships. As we walk down to the shore, we see pleasant spots for caravaneers, and a lulling beach that seemed to hold so much history in its rocky grounds. I take some local advice of other beaches in the area, particularly Hat Head and Crescent Head, which offer a marvellous surf for the locals.
Fredo's Famous Pies We head back to Sydney, taking one last stop at a curious tucker shop on the Pacific Highway that is extravagantly painted, a trend seemingly consistent in Fredericktown. We venture in to find an exotic assortment of pies, including wild boar, kangaroo, and crocodile.
Opting for the adventurous option, I choose the crocodile pie, washing it down with a ginger beer. It has the texture and taste of chicken, with a hint of fish, and gets me wanting more. Dwindling in the grassy side alleyway whilst wolfing down our pies, we talk to fellow tourists, recounting their memories of the Mid-North Coast. It was certainly an worthwhile experience, and for a roadtrip, I feel the Mid-North Coast offered a leisurely banquet for the eyes and the soul. All in all, a good place to settle into retirement.