Pristine beaches, national parks, stunning lakes – it’s little wonder the Barrington Coast region on the NSW mid-North Coast has been a favourite for generations of Aussie families. Stretching from the mountains of Barrington Tops to the sea, the area covers destinations including Pacific Palms, Myall Lakes, Forster, Tuncurry, Tea Gardens, Hawks Nest and Seal Rocks, and is ideal for family holidays.
The twin towns of Forster and Tuncurry sit either side of the entrance to Wallis Lake. The towns are defined by their unique triple lakes system – Myall, Wallis and Smith – and the seemingly endless opportunities they afford for fishing, boating, sailboarding, paddle-boarding, and kayaking. The crystal-clear turquoise and aqua waters surrounding the many islands of Wallis Lake are particularly popular for swimming and watersports.
Forster-Tuncurry also boasts several beautiful rivers, including the Wallamba, a popular waterway for waterskiers, and a treasure trove of white sandy beaches covering 40km of coastline and including surf beaches and secluded coves, as well as ocean baths and rock pools.
Many of the towns’ beaches are patrolled, making them safe for swimming and great for young families. The most popular are Forster Main Beach and One Mile Beach, while the unpatrolled Pebbly Beach also gets the thumbs-up from surfers.
Wallis Lake is an angler’s delight – especially for flathead. Bream, whiting, and tailor are all on the menu for beach fishermen and women. Take a deep-sea charter and venture out into the clean clear waters of the Pacific Ocean and you may just haul in a catch of yellowtail kingfish, or try your hand in the estuaries and inshore reefs – the latter bound to net you mackerel, bluefin tuna or even a black marlin. If you prefer to watch, not catch, the abundant marine life, hop onboard one of the regular whale cruises (between May and November) or a dolphin-watching cruise.
Known for its stunning beaches, laidback villages and friendly locals, Pacific Palms is perfect for families. Blueys, Elizabeth and Boomerang comprise the trio of neighbouring surf beaches that attract keen boarders from all over Australia. Consistent breaks mean a suitable wave can be found year ‘round, for everyone from beginner to pro.
But you don’t have to be a surfer to chill out or indulge in adventure in Pacific Palms … Elizabeth Beach is patrolled during summer and provides the perfect oasis for families, and at Smiths Lake enjoy waterside picnic amenities, a kids’ playground, and the Frothy Coffee Boatshed.
A short drive south from Pacific Palms along The Lakes Way, the seaside village of Seal Rocks is known for its beautiful beaches and Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse. Built in 1875 on the headland at the northern end of Myall Lakes National Park, the lighthouse boasts an external staircase (one of only two in Australia) and is a great place from which to spot migrating whales as they journey along the coast.
TEA GARDENS AND MYALL LAKES
Tea Gardens sits on the southern end of the protected wetlands of Myall Lakes, an immense, freshwater system comprised of three lakes – Myall Lake, Boolambayte Lake, and The Broadwater – together covering an area of almost 6,000 hectares (14,000 acres), and surrounded by Myall Lakes National Park.
An abundance of experiences await, across diverse picnic spots like the popular boat access-only Black Oaks on the Myall River; gentle waters ripe for kayaking and boating; bushland to traverse and wildlife to meet; indigenous sites of significance to the Worimi people, like the 4,000 year old Dark Point Aboriginal Place; all manner of places to cast your fishing rod; and beautiful sandy beaches for sunning and swimming.
Enjoy a beautiful meal at the water’s edge in Tea Gardens at eateries including Tea Gardens Boatshed, Mumm’s on the Myall, and Tillermans; join the Yacaaba headland walking track; hire a kayak; take a short ferry trip across to Nelson Bay, on the southern tip of the Port Stephens peninsula, for a great day out. Tea Gardens Hotel – which has recently undergone a major refurbishment – is a great place for families to eat and stay.