We have moved north after a month house sitting and holidaying with relatives in Nelson Bay, NSW. There’s nothing better for a Nomads heart than having the chance to catch up with friends and relatives along the road.
In the 1940’s the Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay area hosted WWII troops and installations in abundance and the Halifax Holiday Park in the middle of the two towns has a name that is a historical reminder of that time. We stayed there with a beach on both sides and a headland that hosted a delightful coffee shop. Our son and daughter in law and her dad all enjoyed a week of delightful nothingness looking at the water and walking long distances to drink coffee at shops we hadn’t visited before. We rode bikes and swam.
We are grateful that a man called Geoff Winkler built this place… He was a WWII flyer who brought a Handley Page Holiday bomber back to Australia in 1946. It had survived 51 war missions and he called her Waltzing Matilda. He flew his wife and children and 20 passengers out from England, taking three weeks to get home and when he opened Australia’s first caravan park at Nelson Bay. He called it Holiday after his plane.
On the viciously steep Tomaree Headland which I had climbed with family and friends, one of whom was 80 years old, we saw the remains of old gun emplacements and were lucky enough to be there for one of the rare open days when we were able to go inside the mountain and see where the soldiers had lived when they manned the installation.
We left the area reluctantly after all our exertions, waving goodbye and not knowing when we will see everyone again. But now we are happy again… We have moved to one of our favourite places, Johns River which is about four hours north of Sydney; about 30 kilometres north of Taree.
This is an area of peace and greenness. We are set up at the historic Johns River Community Hall where we will be volunteers helping our friend Chris Bawn, a Bendigo Bank manager, install a new kitchen in the old building. Chris’ father before him had been devoted to the hall and we have enjoyed many garden expos and markets here over the years, loving the jolly no-nonsense community members who work together to keep everything ship shape.
The Johns River area was first documented in 1820 when John Gyles, Commissioner John Bigge and John Oxley explored this part of the coast. It has the volcanic South, Middle and North Brother Mountains as its main features and sits astride the Pacific Highway. The Biripi People named the mountains after three dreamtime brothers who died during an initiation ceremony after meeting an evil spirit here. Their souls still watch over the area to this day.
We have been exploring Diamond Head in Crowdy Bay National Park, which is about 45 kilometres south of Port Macquarie and 35 kilometres north east of Taree. It lies in the shadow of the three Brother Mountains on a stunning coastline and beside beautiful Watson Taylors Lake. Diamond Head is at its heart and long deserted beaches reach out of sight. There is good camping for vans and tents right along and wildlife galore.
The bush walks are diverse and the eroding cliff lines make for stunning photos. Kylies Beach was wonderful as was Diamond Head beach. Silent Paperbark forests are thick and mysterious in the swampy areas along the coast. Parrots flitted like feathered jewels just missing us. Sort of giving us the birdie version of the finger as they tried to see who could freak the tourists out most, by almost hitting them.
There are Blackbutt forests with Scribbly bark and Mahogany trees. Kangaroos were grazing in the camping areas and we saw a stunning yellow and black Goanna. I was glad he didn’t play the parrots game… He seemed to have more manners thank goodness. The fishermen along the beach had big smiles on their faces. There was a cool breeze otherwise it would have been a hot day so we lapped it up, lay on the beach and read a book.
Once the kitchen rebuilding starts there will be none of this laziness. Brains will be wracked to figure out the best way of doing things, cupboards and ovens and sinks will be loaded on a truck at their storage place on Middle Brother Mountain and there will be cutting and nailing and painting… So we are getting ready by doing very little until the work begins. Do you enjoy volunteering? We have volunteered around Australia. Helping to paint the tail of the jumbo jet in the Qantas museum in Long Reach, volunteering with Home and Community Care in Hughenden Qld and weeded community parks among the more enjoyable stints we have had. I’m sure Johns River Hall will be a blast.
Have you ever explored this part of NSW? What did you love about it?