Christmas holidays maybe over but summer is just hitting its peak. Baby it’s scorching hot outside! Yes, most parts of Australia have been bracing for heatwaves over the last few days and the best place to cool down is definitely by the pool or beach. If you still have some holiday break left, check out the unsurpassed beauty of Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest of New South Wales about a 2 – 1/2 hour drive North of Sydney.
These twin towns form part of the Myall Coast and the Great Lakes and are located opposite Port Stephens and Nelson Bay, which can be reached by ferry with daily trips from Tea Gardens. This is nature at its best, surrounded by spectacular unspoilt beaches, rivers, lakes, parks and reserves, this place deserves to be a great destination for all holiday makers.
Under a three hour drive makes this manageable but make sure you stop for regular breaks and refreshment. There are a few service and rest areas that you will pass or if time permits, a side trip to Newcastle is highly recommended. Newcastle has been going through a steady yet major transformation, retaining its solid working history combined with bold new architecture and developments, hopefully they wont over build the soul out of the place.
Our first stop was at the golden arches in Williamstown for a morning coffee and sugar hit, there is also a servo for fuel and other roadie essentials.
[Flashback] … A friend and myself rode this journey a number of years ago now on our trusty 250cc motorbikes heading North to the Gold Coast in Queensland. Needless to say the path of the road has changed in many areas over the years, often now by-passing small townships and places of interest that we passed through all those years ago. From time to time you can still pick up parts of the old Highway and follow it through, leaving the new Highway gets you away from the high speed tarmac and allows you to take it easy and stop if there is a town on the old route.
One such break we did was to turn off the Highway at Tarean Road and head towards Karuah. It was nice to slow down and admire the country around us, we pulled in to the Memorial Park just before the river bridge, where powerful monuments remember the lost. There are some tables and chairs for a picnic break as well as a toilet block. It is such a peaceful area, according to the history notes which are set around the park it was one of the busiest points of the old Highway, with thousands of cars and trucks belching their way through this quaint spot, thankfully no more!
The history information gives some great insights into the new bridge and how it all developed from punt crossings to ferries, then to the bridging of the wide river, remnants from the old ramps can still be seen. This kind of history repeats itself as the old road slowly headed North criss-crossing the waterways with punts to ferries to the bridges we see today. There are a number of motels and a caravan park if you plan to stop over, also local shops if there is anything you need before continuing on and rejoining the main Highway.
From Karuah and back on the Pacific Highway, it’s a ten or so minute drive before leaving the Highway to join Myall Way Road onto Tea Gardens Road then Myall Street. The Lions Club lookout before you decend into Tea Gardens is worth a stop as it gives some great views and information. If you need to stock up on supplies before heading off to your accommodation, the Myall Quays Shopping Village has a big Coles, bottle shop, coffee shop and an ATM machine as well as other businesses, you will also find a Petrol Station, Bake Shop and Pharmacy. There are also some shops in Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest.
The best way to enjoy and learn about the history of Tea Gardens is to take a leisurely walk along the Marine Drive Waterfront from the parking area at the base of the Singing Bridge, getting its name from the sounds the railings make in strong South/Westerly winds. The bridge itself is an Instagram-worthy spot, we walked across the bridge at sunset and witnessed sublime views as the sun set over the horizon with the Wyall river as a backdrop.
Although it’s a small town, it’s rich in history. Make sure to check out the following: The Boat Shed 1934, ‘Tria’, the Ripley Family home built with the winnings from a horse named Tria, Police Station and Courthouse dated 1912, Anglican Church dated 1910 and the Oyster Hut Restaurant. There is a pub, restaurants and coffee shop all overlooking the water.
Driving across the Singing Bridge brings you into Hawks Nest. Caution is required as you descend the bridge as this forms part of the Jean Shaw Koala Reserve, warnings painted on the road and plenty of roadside signage advise you to be aware of these fascinating animals, they have even been known to cross the full length of the bridge so caution is always to be taken! Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest are pleasantly quiet places, not suffering, yet, from overdevelopment and the chaos that that kind of building up brings.
We did a day trip to Nelson Bay and after an absence of some 10 years, it was hardly recognisable and we couldn’t wait to return to the peace of Hawks Nest and the sanctuary of the motel.
Jimmy’s Beach and Bennetts Beach are the two main beaches, both have pristine blue water and long stretches of powdery white sand. You can literally own your own space on these beaches, not crowded at all.
A walking trail including a picnic area is located at the far end of Winda Woppa, as we admired the views, we saw dolphins leisurely making their way up the river. This is also a perfect vantage point to witness a magical sunset where the dramatic sky reflects on the calm water and the horizon turn into a burnt and brilliant red.
Restaurants and shops are also located along the main road in Hawks Nest
Where to eat:
- Auroras Chinese Take-away (Tea Gardens)
- Mangrove Cafe (Tea Gardens)
- Waterfront Bistro (Tea Gardens)
- The Oyster Hut (Tea Gardens)
- Benchmark in Booner (Hawks Nest)
- Curries and More (Hawks Nest)
- Moon Garden Restaurant (Hawks Nest)
Available activities in the area cater for all ages such as:
- Camping in the Myall Lakes National Park or other sites (must book) www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/bookings Phone 1300 072 757
- Guided Kayak Tours
- Rent a small boat at The Boat Shed Cafe
- Day trip by ferry to Nelson Bay
- Visit the Tea Gardens Swimming Pool
- Play Tennis or Golf
- Hire a bike or surfboard
- Check out all the day trips available by visiting the Information Centre in Tea Gardens Tel 02 4997 0111
We stayed at Hawks Nest Motel 3-5 Yamba St Hawks Nest Tel 02 4997 1166, booked via Expedia. It was a very pleasant and well kept building with nice grounds and a great pool area, a matter of minutes walk to the waterfront and Singing Bridge.
We totally enjoyed our 4 night 5 day visit of these two twin towns in the Mid North Coast of NSW. I can’t wait to go back.