Just three hours’ drive north of Sydney, Pacific Palms offers gorgeous beaches, calm lakes and a relaxed vibe that makes it perfect for a family holiday
Driving north up Australia’s east coast along the Pacific Highway, there’s no shortage of tourist towns — Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Forster amongst them. But families looking for a quieter, more relaxed holiday destination should have Pacific Palms on their radar. Hemmed by national parks, beautiful beaches and the largest coastal lake system in NSW, Pacific Palms is a place of incredible natural beauty. It’s not somewhere you are likely to come across by chance. Turn off at The Lakes Way, just north of Bulahdelah, and follow the signs along the twisting eucalypt-lined road. Soon you will find yourself in Pacific Palms, which was named after the majestic cabbage tree palms that are abundant throughout the area, encompassing the coastal hamlets of Blueys Beach, Boomerang Beach, Elizabeth Beach, Smiths Lake and Seal Rocks. There is a special charm that draws people to ‘the Palms’, and it has a vibe that can’t be found anywhere else on the coast. It’s the kind of place that, once you visit, you will wonder why you didn’t come sooner.
Where to eat
The bistro at The Pacific Palms Recreation Club (colloquially known as The Recky), on The Lakes Way at Elizabeth Beach, is a great choice for families, as you can dine outdoors on the shore of the lake for either lunch or dinner. The village of Blueys Beach has the greatest concentration of dining options in the region. Check out Huey’s at Bluey’s pizzeria, and dine al fresco at Kembali Café, which serves Indonesian dishes including nasi goreng, plus excellent fruit smoothies. It’s the closest you will get to being in Bali without getting on a plane. [email protected]’s, located at Moby’s Beachside Retreat at Boomerang Beach, has an extensive menu, including buttermilk waffles and bacon and egg rolls for breakfast and burgers, steak and barramundi for lunch and dinner. Kids will love the milkshakes and Retro Spider – ice-cream served in a tall glass with a soft drink. Pacific Palms Bowling Club at Smiths Lake has a bistro serving dishes such as fish and chips, bangers and mash and salt and pepper squid for lunch, as well as a dinner menu from 5pm with classics such as steak with chips, salad or vegetables, chicken parmigiana and a roast of the day, plus an all-day pizza menu. Smiths Lake Bakehouse also offers a variety of baked goods.
Where to stay
Booking a holiday rental is often the most cost-effective option for families who want more space and the freedom to self-cater with all the comforts of home (including a washing machine!). Pacific Palms suits this demographic to a tee, with literally dozens of holiday homes available throughout the area. Pacific Palms Holidays offers properties to suit any size family, group or budget. They include self-contained apartments, villas, character-filled timber cabins, charming beachfront cottages and contemporary multi-storey homes with views over the ocean, games rooms, large entertaining decks and pools.
Bluey’s Motel is conveniently located in the heart of Blueys Beach village, just a 200m walk from the beach. With ten refurbished rooms decorated with bright and colourful paintings by local artist Nicole Bramble, it has the feel of an old-school motel, with a stylish, modern design.
Tiona Holiday Park, just north of Elizabeth Beach at the edge of Booti Booti National Park, offers powered and unpowered campsites, a range of cabins and 14 lodge rooms. The pet-friendly Park sits on either side of The Lakes Way, with Seven Mile Beach on one side and Wallis Lake on the other. As well as being a wonderful place to watch the sunset, the lake is shallow for the first 200m, which is great for little kids. There’s also a nature-based playground with a repurposed wooden boat, a TV room beside the reception area, and a pool.
Where to play
Without doubt, the area’s biggest drawcard is its beaches. You can check out a different stretch of sand every day if you like, with offerings including Blueys Beach, Elizabeth Beach and Boomerang Beach to the north, and Sandbar, Cellito Beach, Number One Beach and Boat Beach at Seal Rocks to the south. It’s also known for its lakes, and you can go kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, water skiing, boating and fishing at Wallis, Smiths and Myall Lake. You can also go hiking in Wallingat National Park, keeping an eye out for wildlife such as wallabies, kangaroos, goannas and echidnas. See the tallest tree in NSW, The Grandis, on the western edge of Myall Lakes National Park, and admire the view from Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse at Seal Rocks. You can spot whales cruising by during their annual migration, from June to November, while dolphins are a common sight year-round. Around 20 minutes’ drive north, the twin towns of Forster and Tuncurry have plenty of shops to peruse. Kids will love rolling down the sand dune at One Mile Beach, swimming at the natural rock formation, The Tanks, and enjoying an ice-cream in town. You can also learn to hang ten with Great Lakes Surf School, go ten pin bowling and play putt putt golf and laser skirmish at Forster Entertainment Centre, and hit the waterslides at Big Buzz Fun Park at Diamond Beach. Indoor play centre Forster Kids Spot and Great Lakes Cinema at Tuncurry are great for rainy days.