Port Macquarie’s North Shore puts on a show!
Difficulty – Easy, General Beach Driving
Gear Required – 4WD, Tyre Gauge, Air compressor, Recovery Boards AND OR Snatch Strap/ Recovery Points
Track Inclusions/ Features (Descriptive) – Vehicle Ferry, Soft Beachfront Driving, Dirt Road, Light Corrugations
Points of Interest – North Shore Beach, Queens Head, Point Plomer, Big Hill Beach, Delicate Nobby
Things to Do – Beach Driving, Swimming, Surfing, Beach Fishing, Short Walks, Wildlife Spotting
Need to Know – National Park Entry Fees Apply at $8 per vehicle unless you have a National Parks Pass. Additionally, a beach permit is required to access North Shore Beach, you can get this permit from Port Macquarie information centre, the Mid Coast 4wd store or general store at North Haven. An annual permit will set you back $62 or a 30-day pass can be had for $31 at the time of writing. The permit covers access to 11 beaches Nambucca local areas. The last fuel stop is Port Macquarie or Crescent Head
Track / Trip Length - South to North for best journey. Distance approx 35-40Kms. Suitable for a day trip, overnighter or extended stays
How to Get There - 4½ hour drive north of Sydney (400kms) via the M1 Pacific Motorway to A1 Pacific Highway
Best Time to Go - October- April, Avoid peak periods where possible, Whale Migration (Heading South) August-Late October
Getting There Is Half the Fun
Looking for that East Coast getaway without the hassle? After setting off on this trip you’ll soon realise the journey is just as good as the destination. You’ll get that surreal feeling as the city quickly fades away in your rear-view. Adventure is served up on every bend with hotspots along the way: Northshore Beach, Point Plomer, Big Hill Beach and Delicate Nobby to name a few.
Within a stone’s throw north of the Port Macquarie CBD, you’ll come across the man-made canals of Settlements Point. The Hastings River, which supports many prestigious homes and docked vessels, is as luxurious as it gets - but we came for the action and that all takes place on the other side of the river. Heading across is made simple as the Settlements Point Ferry runs 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. You’ll get your rig across for a fiver and it certainly saves going the long way around. The ferry holds roughly 20 vehicles per trip but just be wary - it doesn’t operate on the 4th Wednesday of the month. In that case, the Hastings River Ferry further upstream might be the best option.
Once she docks, a quick turn right and a 700m beeline will see you practically run straight into the beach entrance. It’s a perfect spot to air down and you can really hear that beautiful widespread beachfront calling your name.
The North Shore Beach itself is tidal and quite soft, so it pays to have your wits about you. 15psi was the perfect tyre pressure for the Prado in this instance but it’s always good to be prepared with recovery gear for these kinds of trips just in case. You never know when your Plan A will turn into Plan B.
A low or outgoing tide will always be the best conditions. If the tide is heading out and you get stuck, you know you have time to recover your vehicle before the tide comes back up to that level.
Beachsafe is a great website to check out accurate Australian beach conditions, showing tide, swell and wind forecasts for this area.
There are plenty of exits along the 11km stretch of beach that run back to the desolate Management Track (an old unpaved mining road which runs parallel to the coastline). As you punch your way up to the northern end of North Shore Beach you’ll reach Queens Head, which is massively popular for swimming, surfing, fishing or even a great spot to stop for lunch and enjoy the views. A convenient exit at the top of the beach will guide your journey north to Point Plomer.
Right On Point
The first of five campgrounds heading north towards Crescent Head is one of my favourites - Point Plomer. Encased within the Limeburners Creek National Park. Here you’ll find wide-open grassy campsites, beautiful native flora and fauna, the golden beachfront of Barries Bay and the spectacular Point Plomer lookout which is just a swift 600m walk from camp. For the early birds, the eastern sunrise is certainly worth catching! From here, you’ll also lay your eyes over Back Beach - a tucked away swimming location in the area, easily accessible by foot or a short drive.
Point Plomer comes across as a very family-friendly area, with ample space for the kids to enjoy bike riding, sports and paddling activities, but be aware the beaches in the area are unpatrolled. On such a cool summer night we took the opportunity to put our fire pit to good use and cooked up some cracking burgers to rest our appetites.
Amenities and cold showers are on offer. While in the summer months this can be quite refreshing, it could be a different story in the winter months and you may want to pack your portable hot water showers during extended stays.
All up there is room for over 100 campsites, they are offered up as an open plan and cannot be booked in advance. Even though we visited during the school holiday period, there was still plenty of areas available to set up for the night.
Facilities include large communal guest areas, unpowered sites suitable for tent, trailer, camping from a vehicle or even large groups. A boat ramp is on hand for launching and retrieving down on the beachfront as well as picnic tables and waste facilities. Basic consumables like firewood and ice are available for purchase at the campsite office, as well as fire pits for hire.
This place is a nature lover’s paradise and abundant with varied wildlife. It’s not uncommon to come across squirrel gliders, koalas, tiger quolls and maybe even the odd ground parrot here and there. On our encounter, we were lucky enough to sight a couple of friendly kookaburras, various other birdlife and a shy young dingo.
Winter is popular for spotting humpback whales as they migrate up towards the warmer waters of the Queensland coastline between May and July to breed. Keep an eye out for them on their return journey back down to the Antarctic region between August to late October.
This is one of the best spots in the area to witness this migration, pods of dolphins and green turtles are also regularly sited from the lookouts and surrounding areas.
More Than Meets the Eye
Melaleuca Campground at Big Hill is another awesome beachfront location, with the highly regarded 1.4km Big Hill rainforest walking track, a must-do for the birdlife inspired or someone looking for a good vantage point as the whales migrate past each year.
Just further up, Delicate Campground can often be confused as the Point Plomer overflow in peak times, but it’s actually quite an attraction on its own. Being just out of the Limeburners Creek National Park into the Goolawah Regional Park, it’s one of few beach camping areas in northern NSW that permit you to bring your dogs - great news indeed for your furry friend! Cracking surf conditions with four-point breaks nearby and the Delicate Nobby rock formations heading off the beach have been considered world-class attractions.
Just across the track is Waves Campground. Although they don’t allow dogs, they have an array of facilities including powered sites, a small surf shop and hot showers to name a few, all available at the lowest cost in the region since the park was taken over by new management three years ago.
Delicate Nobby and Beyond
Point Plomer Rd is a mostly unpaved track heading 17km north to Crescent Head. It can become quite dusty and corrugated which is why it’s best to leave your tyres aired down from the beach until you reach the tar road, keeping the comfort levels up and your spine in-tact.
Sadly, you’ll have to re-join the bitumen at Racecourse Headland and there’s ample space for airing up tyres here but be warned - that stunning backdrop can be quite a distraction!
From here it’s a cruisy drive into Crescent head where the activities continue. Crescent Head is known for its beautiful beachside community. The white sand, long slow wave breaks of Killick Beach are attractions for many, perfect conditions for longboards and even hosts the popular annual Malibu Classic.
The tidal Killick Creek is a great sheltered swimming location, popular for families with young children when the tide is timed right.
Even if you aren’t Tiger Woods, you will have a tee-rific time at the casual golf course offered by Crescent Head Country Club. Get the sea-breeze in your hair as you tee off high up from the headland on this short but sweet course with just 6 holes, still giving you plenty of time to get the swing of things.
From start to finish this is trip has everything we love about the East Coast. It’s one that’s suited for all timeframes, whether it’s just a one-nighter, quick weekend getaway with the family or an extended trip to take in all the surroundings.
The journey is what really enhanced this trip for us, it just wouldn’t be so memorable without the ferry trip across the Hastings, 11kms of beautiful wide-open beachfront and so much to see and do along Point Plomer Rd as you venture your way up to Crescent Head. It’s certainly up there with one of our top picks on the East Coast. Be sure to check it out for yourself!
Blog by @aaronoffroader fb: aaronoffroader
If his name hasn’t already given it away, Aaron lives and breathes off-roading. Catch him scouting for Australia’s next best, off-road gems in his TJM Equipped 2018 Toyota Prado Kakadu and sharing his experiences on our 4x4 blogs