Turn off the Pacific Highway, a three-hour drive north of Sydney, or under two from Newcastle, and the countryside rucks into purple hills and green valleys dotted with black pointillist cattle. Gum trees are a silver sheen against the sun. The road gets narrower, snaking through eucalyptus forest, and you can feel your urban bother peeling away. Then you round a bend, the ocean is a blue explosion through your windscreen, and you've arrived in the sleepy enclave of Seal Rocks.
Just a few dozen houses and a camping ground comprise Seal Rocks, leaving all the attention directed towards its two sweeping white slashes of sand, forest-draped headlands and blue ocean outlooks. The village lies at the eastern end of Myall Lakes National Park, whose coastal lakes and wetlands teem with wading birds. Expansive beaches hereabouts are barely marked by a footprint. Fifteen minutes uphill walk from Davies Cottage, past massive sand dunes, is Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse, with views and fresh breezes so splendid you'll want to return for a daily dose of exhilaration.
Davies Cottage overlooks Sugarloaf Bay – the beach is just a two-minute skip down the road – and surely has the best view in Seal Rocks, showcased from its expansive deck, which has loungers, a sizeable dining table and even a discreet open-air bathroom where you can shower as waves boom, or gaze at the view even from the dunny. In winter, you might spot whales plunging past. The cottage was built in the 1950s but feels chic and modern, having been fully restored by NSW National Parks at the end of 2020. It has three bedrooms, an indoor bathroom, and an open-plan lounge, kitchen and dining area. It sleeps six.
The cottage is nicely appointed, and thought has gone into the pleasant furnishings and colour scheme, though you shouldn't expect a wow factor, which is rightly left to the magnificent location beyond the windows. For the moment, everything is close to brand new, so you'll enjoy shiny saucepans, untangled window blinds and unscratched walls. There are many nice touches and details, from a supply of card and board games to a rack of sharp kitchen knives and a washer-drier, though it's hard to imagine anyone using the ironing board.
The Mid-North Coast is a tangle of headlands, lagoons, lakes, rivers and cliff-ringed bays best squinted at from Cape Hawke and Whoota Whoota lookouts. Two nearby national parks, Wallingat and Booti Booti, protect abundant Aboriginal sites, bird species and rare stands of littoral rainforest. Surfing, paragliding, fishing, kayaking, mountain biking and hiking are among the options. The nearest town is Forster, a 40-minute drive that might take you all day if you stop off at various extravagant beaches along the way.
Come well prepared for self-catering, since Seal Rocks has only a half-hearted general store plus a decent coffee van, and the nearest restaurant is a 20-minute drive away at Smiths Lake. The cottage's terrific deck and large barbecue set encourage informal outdoor dining. The kitchen is very well supplied (including microwave, oven and induction cooktop) and you shouldn't want for anything except a salad spinner unless you're an aspiring MasterChef contestant looking for a sous-vide. Bring drinking water, since the house is supplied only by rainwater tanks.
Davies Cottage, 57 Kinka Road, Seal Rocks. From $1400 per week (minimum one-week stay) plus $8 per day park entry fee. Phone 1300 072 757, see nswparks.info/davies
Davies Cottage encapsulates the Aussie indoor-outdoor beach lifestyle, and is wedged into one of NSW's most spectacular headlands. If you're after a slow-lane escape from urban stress, this is a magnificent spot.
The view from the deck over a gorgeous scimitar of sand is mesmerising, and sunsets always sumptuous. Get the beers and chilled cocktails ready.
The cottage has no air-conditioning, so you'd best hope your stay doesn't fall over an extreme heat event.
Brian Johnston was a guest of NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, see nationalparks.nsw.gov.au