Paradise on the beaten track

Ian Bellert — 27 January 2023
The trip from Newcastle to Taree on the mid north coast of NSW can take two hours.

Caravan World thinks two weeks is a much better option with some of NSW’s best beachside caravan parks to stay at and enjoy. 

If you are heading north on the Pacific Motorway, it is very easy to bypass this stretch of coast. This region has arguably the best caravan parks for a beachside holiday to match anywhere on the coast. Not convinced? Read on as Caravan World recently checked it out. 

Newcastle to Stockton

First stop was Stockton Beach Caravan Park. If the friendly greeting on arrival was anything to go by, this was going to be a nice stay. Nestled right beside to the busy Newcastle Harbour and the southern end of Stockton Beach, this NRMA Park is meticulously maintained and clean. The amenities are capable of handling the big crowds in summer school holidays with a massive kitchen complete with plenty of preparation benches, sinks and fridges. An entertainment room has plenty of space to lounge around as well as a large TV, a pool table and Sega games consoles. The large amenities block with toilets, showers and laundry is also in tiptop condition. Gary the maintenance guy buzzes around the place, happy to help, chat or fix anything not up to his high standard. It would be a place to book ahead, like many of the places visited. Since Covid has released us, parks are brimming with happy holiday makers out and about, many breaking in their new vans. 

As the park is right beside the harbour, there is always a massive coal ship coming in or out and the ever-industrious tugs channelling a path through the waters. You can swim on Stockton Beach and take in the views all the way up to Anna Bay. If the nor'easter is up, have a splash in the tiny beach at the end of the break wall on the city side. Apart from breathing in the fresh sea air and taking in the views, a walk along to the break wall reveals remembrance plaques and dedications to lost loved ones dotted along the wall. A lovely place to connect and reflect. 

Stockton is a nice village with a few beautiful cafes, a majestic looking pub (The Gladstone) and the ferry across to Newcastle. A millionaire’s row of developed houses commands the beach front, but the place is also littered with mining cottages and red brick houses which have seen better times. Palm trees, picnic areas, a cafe (Whispers on the Wharf) and a dedication to Dave Sands, an Australian champion boxer with a range of titles in the 1950’s, feature at the park near the ferry wharf. Anyone who can win titles across multiple weight classes for as long as Dave Sands did deserves honouring. 

Stockton Beach Caravan ParkStockton Beach Caravan Park

Stockton to Nelsons Bay

The drive from Stockton to Nelson Bay is forty minutes but there are plenty of tourist places of interest to take in. (See the breakout box).

With the number of tourist attractions around Nelson Bay, it is a bustling place. There’s a wide range of clubs, pubs, restaurants and cafes. In midsummer the place would be packed. 

Birubi Point Cemetery is a fascinating find. With the backdrop of Stockton Beach’s sand dunes and views to the sea, it is well worth a visit. It's poetic with the millionaire row of houses perched right atop of it, that the old sailors still get the best place to rest.

The next bay along is Fishermans Bay and it's easy to see why the fish would be plentiful there. A lovely, sheltered spot surrounded by Melauca scrub. The drive around the Anna Bay region is well worth exploring. 

Nelson Bay is blessed with beautiful scenery and plenty of options to un-hitch. In town there’s Halifax Holiday Park, Shoal Bay Holiday Park and further out of town is Fingal Bay and Ingenia Holidays at Soldiers Point. There are plenty more to choose from. If you are a beach lover, our pick is Ingenia Holidays One Mile Beach. Given the popularity of the region for tourists, it's highly recommended you book before you arrive. It is easy to see why people would book their favourite spot years in advance.

A quiet retreat

If the relative hustle and bustle of Nelson Bay has you pining for somewhere off the beaten path, then the short backtrack and drive into Hawks Nest has a trove of options. The Tea Gardens Hotel on the Myall River is as good a spot to stop for lunch, or dinner or for a break, as any. It’s a bright modern place opposite a tranquil view over the Myall river. Heading over the impressive concrete box girder bridge known as “Singing Bridge” to Hawks Nest is a lovely drive. Its name derives from the mournful sounds it produces when the wind whips through the rails. Hawks Nest has all the facilities you need to stock up and a great spot to have a sausage roll from Kelly's Famous Bakehouse. The ‘Do Not feed the Dingos’ warning signs have been painted by local art groups but carry an important message: seriously, don't feed the dogs. 

Our destination for a bush retreat is Dee’s Corner, in the Myall Lakes National Park. The road to camp is bitumen all the way. It's not often you can find places to pull up that have the ocean one side and lake the other. This strip has plenty of choices. Boomeri Campground is another spot to recommend to caravaners. Good sized areas to pull into, with toilets available and an atmosphere that says: relax and exhale. 

Dee's Corner

From bush to beach

Unfortunately, on this trip the Bombah Point ferry was temporarily out of action. The very short crossing (about two minutes) connects to Bombah Point Road which takes you through farmland to Bulahdelah, providing a 20-minute trip back to the M1 motorway. There is a new Big4 Myall River Holiday Resort at Bulahdelah which opened in March 2020. Perched on the Myall River it has a range of sites with the picturesque views to the river and the range in the background. 

The Lakes Way turnoff is about 10 minutes up the road. The road traverses the Koolonock Range as you make your way to the coast. While it is twisty and steep, it has a few well positioned lay-bys where you can safely pull over and let vehicles pass. Take it steady. The drive is easy and very scenic. As you drive through the shadows coming down to Seal Rocks, the beach appears like a light at the end of the tunnel. Once you pop out, the beach greets you and it is a visceral experience. The first view of the cutaway bay and its sheltered beach is as good as any, anywhere and is literally breath-taking. 

Reflections Seal Rocks Holiday Park is tucked up and directly across from Number One beach (it is called that for a reason!). With an array of van sites, beach front cabins and meticulously maintained grounds, it is a must stop place. Like all the places, make sure you book ahead. If you want a place to reset, Seal Rocks is that place.

Heading north, the stretch from Seal Rocks to Forster Tuncurry is home to a lot of caravan parks. Pacific Palms Caravan Park at Elizabeth Beach is very well positioned, with a very short stroll to the beach. At the southern end is “Palms Walk” which gives a tranquil and cooling respite from the summer heat. Tiona is a large park perched perfectly between Wallis Lake and the Pacific Ocean.

Seal Rocks

The region is a mix of natural beauty and built to purpose building, be it for holiday makers, flush retiree’s or locals holding onto paradise. Unless you love crowds, Forster Tuncurry should be avoided during the holidays. 

Diamond Beach, to the north, holds true to its name. The beaches along this strip of coast are beautiful. At the southern end of the strip is Diamond Beach Holiday Park, and like many parks, the trend to have cabins or villas beach side has pushed prime caravan sites back a touch. It is easy to see the economics of it. 

The Big4 Happy Hallidays is close to the beach and a base to unhitch and soak coastal living at its best. There are a lot of facilities and activities to enjoy for young and old. The headland at Black Head is a perfect picnic spot with extensive views north along Diamond Beach and out to sea. It also has a whale watching platform and the sea-pool below round off a place that is well worth a visit.

The final stretch

After heading briefly back onto the M1 motorway it's time to round out the trip via Old Bar and its surrounds. Lani’s On The Beach is a treasure chest for holiday-goers as it is blessed with a location right on the beach. It has great amenities including a pool and the Blowfish Street Food cafe is right outside the park. Old Bar itself is a bustling village with supermarkets, cafes and restaurants servicing locals and tourists. A very pleasant place to spend a few days.

While you are there, close by is Wallabi Point and its seemingly abundant coastal beautifulness. Wallabi Point Coastal Cafe serves great coffee and it’s worth grabbing a bite to eat at, while you take in the scenery. A short drive further takes you to Saltwater. An area steeped in indigenous history with information boards, amenities for picnics and a backwater estuary system to enjoy, it is a tranquil place to spend time in. The loo’s have local Birubi language signs; Djiyagan for women, Bingai for men.

Saltwater Beach

Alongside the Manning River’s outlet to the sea is Manning Point and there’s a choice of parks to stay at. The caravan parks have beach access and are very well laid out and great amenities. The Manning River is a lovely sunset spot with plenty of birdlife and good fishing. The adventurous can take their 4WD onto the beach (permit required) and try your luck catching dinner. It has very soft sand so reduce your tyre pressures before you drive onto the sand.

Harrington beckons on the other side of the Manning River and the loopback from Manning Point takes 40 minutes. Harrington has plenty to offer with cafes, a protected estuary for a splash, surf beaches and rainforest walks. Harrington has two caravan parks with the pick being the Discovery Park Harrington due to its proximity to the town, beaches and break wall walks. The Harrington Hotel is a 15-minute walk away. It is a great place to unhitch and spend some time exploring. Crowdy Head is just up the road and has an ocean facing beach or the protected back beach. Both perfect places to laze away a day or two. 

The coastal strip from Newcastle to Taree offers something for everyone in terms of places to see, stay and things to do. Seal Rocks Caravan park and Lani’s On The Beach at Old Bar should be on your must-visit list. Though there’s hundreds of other options. Next time you're heading north from Sydney or coming down the coast, take some time to explore the region. You won’t be disappointed. 

Places of Interest: Nelson Bay


Mid north NSW coast destinations travel new south wales