Seal Rocks is a small, sleepy and rather isolated beach town south of Forster-Tuncurry and 310 km from Sydney. Its fame rests largely on its beautiful lighthouse and the sense of isolation it enjoys. The very ordinary dirt road which separates the town from the main road (Lakes Way) has kept development at bay and there is a strong feeling that the locals are very happy with this barrier to excessive development.
Despite resistance to the upgrading of the connecting road change seems inevitable as there are some very real attractions: unspoilt surfing beaches, a noted diving spot, idyllic picnic areas, the nearby Myall Lakes National Park and, most notably, the spectacularly beautiful Seal Rocks lighthouse - officially known as Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse - which overlooks an unspoilt beach and the group of offshore rocky outcrops which give the area its name.
Things to see
Great Lakes Visitors Centre, Little Street, Forster - tel: (02) 6554 8799, or toll free: 1800 802 692.
Seal Rocks Village
The jagged and dramatic Seal Rocks are reached by driving to the eastern end of the small township. However, there are a couple of convenient roadside stops along the way which offer excellent views over the ocean, beach and shoreline. The view from the parking area opposite the general store/post office is particularly impressive.
Yagon Camping Area
The branch road adjacent the general store will take you the 3 km to the Yagon camping site within Myall Lakes National Park.
Lighthouse and Seal Rocks
Follow the main road to its end, park your car and walk through the gate. It is a few hundred metres to the lighthouse and lookout. Just before you reach them, you will pass a spectacular sea cavern where the ocean surges through a tunnel it has carved at the base of an enormous rock wall.
The lighthouse was built in 1875. Before its conversion to mains electricity in the 1960s, one of the lighthouse keepers wrote a detailed account which recalls a time when the beacons and their keepers were vital to shipping around the coast:
'There is an old saying amongst sailors to the effect that more wrecks occur near lighthouses than on unlighted parts of the coast. There are several reasons for this. The most important are that lights are placed where shipping hazards are the greatest and where sea traffic is high.'
No doubt he had his own area in mind when he made this observation as some twenty wrecks have occurred about Seal Rocks since the lighthouse was established. As recently as 1985 the Catterthun, bound from Sydney to China, sunk with a loss of 55 lives. However, it is unknown how many were wrecked before the lighthouse went up. The anchor of the steamer, the Rainbow, which sunk offshore in 1864, is located just outside the general store. Its boiler can be found on Boat Beach.
A sign within the grounds declares: 'The Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse is built on the point of land bearing that name. The 44-foot (14-metre) tower of brick and cement was erected and apparatus installed at a cost of $19,000. The light, which is 258 feet (79 metres) above high water, came into use for the first time on 1 December, 1875.
'The main white flashing light, visible at sea from a distance of 22 miles (35 km) was originally of 122,000 candle power, but was increased to 174,000 candle power on 1 April, 1923. The light is produced by a kerosene vapour burner with the optic, from where 16 equidistant powerful rays are slowly revolving ranging far over land and sea.
'In addition to the main light, a green subsidiary light of 150 candle power is set at a lower altitude. This green light, visible from a distance of only 3 miles (5 km) is designed to alert close cruising vessels of imminent dangers.
'Sugarloaf Point lighthouse (Seal Rocks) is operated by a staff of three trained lightkeepers and is one of 56 manned lights in use on the Australian coast.'
It is not possible to enter the actual building but the access path leads you to a spot within metres of the lighthouse and its outbuildings.
A subsidiary path leads you around the buildings to the lookout over Seal Rocks, a collection of rocky islets which are home to the northernmost colony of Australian Fur Seals. During the summer breeding months the seal population on the rocks is considerable and they can be seen easily from the mainland, though binoculars improve the view.
There is a camping reserve adjacent Seal Rocks Beach with on-site vans.