A Great Lakes retreat comes to the rescue as holiday disaster looms for Tim Elliott.
So there I am, driving at 100km/h down Mooney Mooney Bridge with my wife and children, when I hear a strange pinging sound above my head. Before I can speculate about the meaning of this comes a much louder sound, that of three surfboards being wrenched from the roof of the vehicle.
Looking in the rear-view mirror, I see the boards doing cartwheels in midair before slamming onto the tarmac. It's horrible. Awful. We're lucky we haven't killed anyone, my wife says. We're lucky the boards didn't get run over, I say. My nerves are shot. Now I really need a holiday. A Seal Rocks holiday.
The serenity! Positioned 275 kilometres north of Sydney in the Great Lakes region of the Hunter, the snoozy little fishing village of Seal Rocks is one of those iconic north coast destinations, a sentimental favourite for uni students, campers and surfers. Thanks to its remoteness and its partly unsealed access road, the town has remained enviably undeveloped. The locals, all 131 of them, jealously guard their isolation. On entering town, a sign painted on the road reads: "Save Seal Rocks The Last Frontier".
This time we aren't camping. Instead, we've hired a modern three-bedroom house known as Lot 3. Many Seal Rocks houses (there are only 70) are old and wooden and dilapidated. Lot 3 isn't one of those. It's a super-groovy designer house made with rammed earth, steel and glass. It sleeps 10 people, with a bunk room and two double rooms, one of which is in a separate pavilion. Children and adults can always find a space to themselves, either in the grassy yard, which backs onto a national park, or in the main living room, which is cleverly divided by a pot-bellied stove. It's also a short walk to Beach Number One and Boat Beach, which, with their predominantly still waters, are ideal for children.
And then we ate After that unfortunate business with the surfboards, I'm keen for a lazy dinner and 16 beers. On our first night, we head out of town to the nearby Pacific Palms Recreation Club. The Recky is stunningly situated, right on the foreshore of Wallis Lake, and you can watch the passing pelicans from the picnic tables. What the club gains with its location, it on this occasion squanders with our meals - the prawns are watery and the salad limp. On the upside, the beer is cold, and my kids love their fish and chips. (Well, mainly the chips.) The second night we stay in, barbecuing fresh snapper and drinking mango daiquiris.
The deal maker Seal Rocks is the second most easterly point in Australia. It has a lighthouse perched above the bushland, a shag carpet of brush and littoral rainforest that rambles down to the deserted beaches. The first two beaches you come to are the north-facing Number One and Boat Beach. Around the corner, further south, is Lighthouse Beach. Further south again are Treachery and Yagon, both of which have excellent surf. (Caution: the dirt access road is murder on the suspension.)
Stepping out I spend most of the weekend surfing and teaching my eldest daughter to surf. We also clamber over the headland at the north end of Treachery. We go for walks, eat ice-cream; we kick a ball and collect shells. My wife reads. The kids do Slip'n'Slide in the backyard. By the end of the weekend, I've almost forgotten about the surfboard disaster. Until the drive back, that is, when I use an extra occy strap. Can't be too careful.
Lot 3 at Seal Rocks
Address Lot 3, Thomas Road, Seal Rocks.
The verdict Stylish, contemporary home set amid coastal bushland.
Price $950 for Friday and Saturday night.
Getting there Seal Rocks is a 3½-hour drive north of Sydney. Turn off the Pacific Highway two kilometres north of Bulahdelah on to The Lakes Way. At Bungwahl, take Seal Rocks Road.
Perfect for An active family getaway in deluxe comfort.
Wheelchair access Yes.
While you're there Have a beer at the Pacific Palms Recky, dine at Mobys Beachside Retreat (at nearby Blueys Beach), walk to the lighthouse, whale watch, surf and sleep.
Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.