Chasing Waterfalls


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Oceania » Australia » New South Wales » Port Macquarie
November 2nd 2020
Published: November 7th 2020
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Hastings Forest WayHastings Forest WayHastings Forest Way

Werrikimbe National Park, NSW, Australia
Just 4 weeks after arriving home from my last holiday, it was time to pack up the car again and head off on another holiday. Originally, I had planned to visit the Victorian High Country but with the state border closed I had to come up with another plan. This time I decided to stay in New South Wales and visit a region I have not been to before – the North Coast.

With everyone holidaying domestically, I decided to skip the camping this time as I feared I would be packed into busy campgrounds which is not my preferred type of holiday. The forecasted wet spring also helped make the decision. So packing the car was a little quicker, but I still made sure to pack my barbecue, chair and table so I would be able to cook my meals if needed. Therefore, I didn’t get away on Saturday until nearly lunch time. I took the motorways that ring Sydney to check out the new North Connex that had opened earlier in the morning. The drive to Port Macquarie was otherwise uneventful and I arrived in plenty of time to watch the cricket on television. Unfortunately, I discovered Sydney
Apsley FallsApsley FallsApsley Falls

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, NSW, Australia
was experiencing a downpour and the game didn’t happen.

On Sunday, my plan was to follow a 4-wheel-drive trip from a guidebook. I left Port Macquarie and headed inland via Wauchope and Beechwood, into the state forest. The roads were good, gravel roads for logging trucks to use, but it was still an enjoyable drive up to the Number 1 Tower Lookout as the road wound up the hills amongst massive eucalypts. The view from the lookout out towards Port Macquarie and the ocean was spectacular.

While I was stopped, I decided to let some air out of my tires as I knew the trail would get a bit rougher as the track headed into the Werrikimbe National Park. This also had the benefit of making the gravel road feel a bit smoother.

I continued on and soon entered the National Park. The park must have been hit by fires last summer and it was interesting to see the regrowth happening – green leaves sprouting out of blackened trunks. The road started deteriorating but it was a while before it got to 4-wheel-drive territory. The track became rocky and there were a couple of small creeks to
Trial Bay GaolTrial Bay GaolTrial Bay Gaol

South West Rocks, NSW, Australia
cross, but it was not difficult.

I reached the turnoff to Spokes lookout, but the access was closed off. The sign said to access via the Spokes Mountain Track 3 kilometres to the west. I headed there and turned down the track. When I reached the parking area, occupied by a couple of cars, I was confused by the sign saying it was Hoppy’s Lookout. My guidebook had Hoppy’s Lookout further west, at the end of the 4-wheel-drive section of track.

Regardless of which lookout it was, I parked the car and began walking up. I passed the owners of the cars as they came down and they warned me there were a few “ankle-turners” up there. As I reached the end of the formed path, I could see what they meant. I continued over the loose rocks, picking my way carefully. I cautiously headed out onto the rocky outcrop that provided fantastic views down the gorges and across the ranges in the park.

I returned to my car and kept driving. As I reached the end of the 4-wheel-drive section, the track where my book said Hoppy’s Lookout should be was behind a gate that required
Number 1 Tower LookoutNumber 1 Tower LookoutNumber 1 Tower Lookout

Werrikimbe National Park, NSW, Australia
a permit and key. I continued driving, not just because I didn’t want to risk a fine, but because I was hoping to have enough time after the drive through the park to visit a couple of waterfalls on the road to Walcha before nightfall.

I followed the Cobcroft Trail to stay in the park before reaching the Oxley Highway. However, after about 10km I reached a road-closed sign. Apparently, a bridge was out, presumably destroyed during the fires. While it would have been nice for there to be a sign earlier, the reason would have been because the Cobcroft Rest Area was still open. It wasn’t a total loss as this was a nice place to have some lunch and I had it all to myself. Well, I was the only person. There were a few mosquitoes having lunch there too!

Suitably fed, and fed upon, I retraced my steps and returned to the regular road that would take me through farmland to the Oxley Highway. I had flashbacks to driving through the outback along this road. Not because the scenery was in any way similar, as this was far greener than anything I saw in the
The view from Number 1 Tower LookoutThe view from Number 1 Tower LookoutThe view from Number 1 Tower Lookout

Werrikimbe National Park, NSW, Australia
outback. But because there were many cows in unfenced paddocks meaning I had to drive past slowly because you never know when they would decide they suddenly have to cross the road in front of you.

Once on the highway, I headed north-west and on to Tia Falls. The carpark was a couple of kilometres off the highway and I parked the car, grabbed my camera and tripod and began the walk to the falls. I passed a couple coming back who thought I was a twitcher who could identify a small bird. After disappointing them, I continued onto the lookout for the falls. They were really high, and the recent rains caused them to be flowing strongly. Unfortunately, the lookout wasn’t in the ideal position, so the photos were not the best.

Returning to the car, I had to make a decision. It was 5pm and it was going to take a couple of hours to return to Port Macquarie because the highway is not high-speed as it winds its way through mountain passes. I figured I was close to the other falls and was going to be driving back in the dark anyway, so I drove
Hastings Forest WayHastings Forest WayHastings Forest Way

Werrikimbe National Park, NSW, Australia
on to Apsley Falls.

I was glad I did. The carpark and picnic areas were well appointed, but the falls are the stars of the show. There was so much water flowing, and they were the loudest waterfalls I’ve visited in Australia. The lookout near the carpark was nice and close, but the stairs down for the best view were closed. But I could see a walking track led round to a lookout on the far side of the gorge, so I quickly headed there. I had to walk back above the falls to cross the river on a suspension bridge. The track then followed the gorge around to the lookout directly opposite the falls. I spent some time there taking photos. They probably would have been better if taken in the morning because the sun was setting behind the falls.

With that done, I headed back to the car and started driving back to Port Macquarie. The drive was slow going, but it gave me an opportunity to use my driving lights. Many of us with modified 4-wheel-drives spend a good chunk of money on our lights, but rarely get to use them. So when we do,
Hoppy's LookoutHoppy's LookoutHoppy's Lookout

Werrikimbe National Park, NSW, Australia
it’s enjoyable. Driving the winding road at night and in the light rain that had started also kept it interesting. But eventually I arrived back at Port Macquarie around 9pm, tired but satisfied with a great start to my holiday.

The next morning, I left Port Macquarie and had all day to drive up to my next destination – Byron Bay. I hadn’t really planned it out, but I knew the drive wouldn’t take me all day. So I set about exploring by taking the tourist drives instead of the multi-lane highway. The first one took me from Kempsey to South-West Rocks, and the drive was really nice, especially along the Belmore River Right Bank Road which followed the river closely.

To my delight, one of the sights on the tourist drive was the Trial Bay Gaol near South-West Rocks. I had seen it on a tv show a few years back and at the time I thought it would be interesting to visit. So I was very glad I had decided to take the tourist road. The gaol was built at the end of the 19th century to house prisoners working to build a breakwall and make
View from Hoppy's LookoutView from Hoppy's LookoutView from Hoppy's Lookout

Werrikimbe National Park, NSW, Australia
Trial Bay a safehaven for shipping. But the local granite took a lot of hard work and by the time it was built, and the breakwall suffered multiple setbacks, shipping technology had moved on and the safehaven was no longer needed. The gaol was later used to house German residents during World War 1 and was decommissioned shortly after.

As I arrived at the gaol, it began pouring rain. Fortunately, it didn’t last long and by the time I finished watching a short video in the museum, it had stopped so I was able to explore the gaol freely. The rain began again just as I finished, so I waited it out before embarking on the nearby walk up to the German Monument to those who died during the unjust imprisonment of WW1. I then headed back to the car and continued driving north.

I took another tourist drive through Macksville and Nambucca Heads, but only stopped to have lunch by the river. From there it was back onto the new multi-lane highway that took me up to Byron Bay. All in all, it had been a pleasant start to the holiday.


Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25


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View from Hoppy's LookoutView from Hoppy's Lookout
View from Hoppy's Lookout

Werrikimbe National Park, NSW, Australia
Tia FallsTia Falls
Tia Falls

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, NSW, Australia
The gorge at Tia FallsThe gorge at Tia Falls
The gorge at Tia Falls

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, NSW, Australia
Suspension bridge at Apsley FallsSuspension bridge at Apsley Falls
Suspension bridge at Apsley Falls

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, NSW, Australia
Apsley FallsApsley Falls
Apsley Falls

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, NSW, Australia
Gorge below Apsley FallsGorge below Apsley Falls
Gorge below Apsley Falls

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, NSW, Australia
Apsley FallsApsley Falls
Apsley Falls

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, NSW, Australia
Cells at Trial Bay GaolCells at Trial Bay Gaol
Cells at Trial Bay Gaol

South West Rocks, NSW, Australia
Cells at Trial Bay GaolCells at Trial Bay Gaol
Cells at Trial Bay Gaol

South West Rocks, NSW, Australia
Cells at Trial Bay GaolCells at Trial Bay Gaol
Cells at Trial Bay Gaol

South West Rocks, NSW, Australia
The failed breakwallThe failed breakwall
The failed breakwall

South West Rocks, NSW, Australia
Cellblock at Trial Bay GaolCellblock at Trial Bay Gaol
Cellblock at Trial Bay Gaol

South West Rocks, NSW, Australia
Current inmates of Trial Bay GaolCurrent inmates of Trial Bay Gaol
Current inmates of Trial Bay Gaol

South West Rocks, NSW, Australia
The German MonumentThe German Monument
The German Monument

South West Rocks, NSW, Australia
Little BayLittle Bay
Little Bay

South West Rocks, NSW, Australia
Little BayLittle Bay
Little Bay

South West Rocks, NSW, Australia
Powder MagazinePowder Magazine
Powder Magazine

South West Rocks, NSW, Australia


12th November 2020

Back roads
Thank you for taking us along on these back roads. I enjoyed your explorations and your photos are marvelous.

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