Wrecks on the Beach
In 1972 heavy seas forced two car ferries and the old Sydney Harbour showboat, the 'Koondooloo' onto the front beach at South West Rocks. They will eventually be totally destroyed by the sea but there are still remnants of the vessels to be seen on the beach, but only at low tide.
Trial Bay Gaol
The most important historical site in the area is the Trial Bay Gaol (it is located to the east of the small settlement of Arakoon) which has a museum as well as beautifully preserved ruins. It is under the control of the National Parks and Wildlife Service who have maintained it in superb condition. There is a self guiding brochure available which leads the visitor through the points of interest.
The prison was built between 1877 and 1886 to house 'good conduct' prisoners. It was built out of grey granite which was quarried on the site and is characterised by its hexagonal structure with three cell blocks actually radiating from the main entrance. Its primary purpose at this time was to house cheap labour to help with the construction of a 1.6 km breakwater around the bay. The project was not completed and the prison closed in 1903. In fact in 1903 the breakwater had only reached a little over 300 metres and a storm that year reduced it to little more than a pile of rubble.
It was reopened in 1915 and used to intern Germans during World War 1. The anti German feeling at the time had led to the rounding up of innocent Germans. Although life was hardly pleasant the Germans established their own band, turned part of the gaol into a tennis court and one visitor described the nights as being more like a pleasant beer hall than a prison.
There is a monument to all the Germans who died while interned at Trial Bay. It is signposted and is located on the cliffs to the east of the prison. The prison was closed permanently in 1917 and the movable parts of the building were auctioned off in 1922.
Trial Bay Gaol is open from 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. For more information contact (02) 6566 6168.
Arkaroon State Recreation Area
This recreation area, which includes Trial Bay Gaol, was established in 1965. There is a good camping area which is located below the gaol and there are a number of excellent walks ranging from the short (Little Bay to Gap Beach takes about 45 minutes) to a long and quite difficult walk along the coast from Trial Bay to the Smoky Cape Lighthouse. This means that these walkers can then continue into Hat Head National Park. For more information contact (02) 6566 6168 for bookings in the camp.
Smoky Cape Lighthouse
Smoky Cape Lighthouse is on the edge of the Hat Head National Park. It is signposted 'lighthouse' from various points on the road into South West Rocks and is well worth a visit. Perched on the top of a cliff it offers wonderful views to both the north and south and heartstopping views to the waves and rocks which are far below. The first European to site the headland was Captain Cook who, in 1770, named it Smoky Cape Range. The lighthouse, coach house, stables and the lighthouse keeper's cottage were designed by the Colonial Architect James Barnet and completed between 1889 and 1891. The lighthouse is built in a distinctive octagonal shape and the cottage has been located in a shelf cut into the rocks on the headland.
Hat Head National Park
Hat Head village is located in the heart of Hat Head National Park 32 km north-east of Kempsey. The area is characterised by excellent surfing beaches and good fishing. It is also noted for the whales and dolphins off the coast and the many coastal birds who live in the heathland flora which characterises much of the area. Hat Head National Park is 6445 hectares with camping facilities at Smoky Cape and Hungry Head. For information about booking into either destination contact the Kempsey Tourist Information Centre, Lachlan St (Pacific Highway) - tel: (02) 6563 1555, fax: 6563 1537, toll free 1800 64 2480 or the Port Macquarie District National Parks and Wildlife Service Office on (02) 6584 2203.
Fish Rock Cave
For divers Fish Rock Cave, which is located 2 km off the coast from South West Rocks, is regarded as a true diving highlight. It is recognised as one of the largest ocean caverns in the southern hemisphere. The cave which is 120 metres long is characterised by coral, live cowry shells, trumpetfish, wobbegong sharks, black cod and stingrays. There are also good dives available at places named The Pinnacle, Colorado Pass, Shark Gutters, The Bombie, Black Rocks and Green Island. Contact the local tourist information office for more details or: (i) Fish Rock Dive Centre at 328 Gregory Street, South West Rocks. Telephone: (02) 6566 6614. (ii) South West Rocks Dive Centre at 100 Gregory Street, South West Rocks. Telephone: (02) 6566 6474.
On the way from Kempsey, on a delightful bend in the river, is the tiny hamlet of Jerseyville. It was named after a Governor of New South Wales who also happened to be the Earl of Jersey. Today it is nothing more than a few houses but there is a particularly beautiful old house on the far side of the river.
Rocks Real Estate, 15 Livingstone Street, South West Rocks 2431 publish a 'South West Rocks Holiday Accommodation' guide which lists a large number of apartments, flats, houses and holiday accommodation which is available in the local area. It is well worth getting a copy if you are intending to stay in the area for an extended holiday. Contact them at (02) 6566 6999.
L.J. Hooker, 2 Gregory Street, South West Rocks 2431 publish a 'South West Rocks Holiday Accommodation' guide which lists a large number of apartments, flats, houses and holiday accommodation which is available in the local area. It is well worth getting a copy if you are intending to stay in the area for an extended holiday. Contact them at (02) 6566 6313 or for bookings 1800 045 570.
Raine & Horne, 1/11 Prince of Wales Avenue, South West Rocks 2431 publish a 'South West Rocks Holiday Accommodation' guide which lists a large number of apartments, flats, houses and holiday accommodation which is available in the local area. It is well worth getting a copy if you are intending to stay in the area for an extended holiday. Contact them at (02) 6566 6116 or for bookings 1800 621 647.