Areas of interest

Arakoon National Park

Aerial view of Arakoon National ParkAerial view - Arakoon National Park

The 175 hectare Arakoon National Park covers the coastal strip from Laggers Point in the north to Little Bay in the south. It is located 4km east of South West Rocks and 37km north east of Kempsey. Most forms of water sports can be experienced at Arakoon including swimming, surfing, sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling and fishing. Surf skis and catamarans can be hired on the beach.

There are excellent picnic and barbecue facilities (including some barbecue and picnic tables under cover) at both Little Bay and the Gaol. Walking tracks link Trial Bay Gaol with Little Bay Picnic Area and on to the northern end of Gap Beach. Powered and unpowered camping sites are available, there is one on site van, and there are hot and cold showers and camp kitchens. Trial Bay Gaol is an imposing historic site open daily for public visits. For further information, contact 02 6566 6168.

Goolawah National Park and Goolawah Regional Park

Beach access, GoolawahBeach access, Goolawah

Goolawah is a rustic camping reserve on the New South Wales Mid North coast, 10kms south of the seaside resort of Crescent Head. The Reserve extends from Back Beach, Crescent Head (Goolawah Beach) to Big Hill at the boundary of the Limeburners Creek Nature Reserve. It incorporates Goolawah Lagoon, Racecourse Headland and Delicate Nobby.

Goolawah contains a swathe of unspoilt beaches set amid headland outcrops of primitive character and pristine charm. There are a number of walks which delight bird watchers, native plant enthusiasts, painters and photographers. Goolawah is an aboriginal word meaning yesterday. Water and toilets are available at both Racecourse and Delicate. Dogs, under control, are welcome at Goolawah. Camping fees apply and a manager visits the area on a daily basis. 

Hat Head National Park

Aerial view of Hat HeadAerial view of Hat Head

The coastal Hat Head National Park stretches from just north of Crescent Head to just south of Little Bay near South West Rocks and covers 6445 hectares. The park features long sweeping beaches, dramatic and geologically significant headlands and Smoky Cape, the highest lighthouse in Australia.

Reserved in 1972, Hat Head National Park contains extensive wetlands which run parallel to the beaches. The wetlands are being inundated by huge mobile dunes. The higher areas of the park feature eucalypt woodlands changing to moister vegetation communities and rainforests in the gullies. The exposed headlands feature extensive coastal heaths with rainforests and palm forest lees.

Hat Head National Park provides a range of activities including birdwatching, bushwalking, snorkelling, photography, swimming and surfing. A walking track system radiating from the Gap parking area guides visitors through the mid section of the diverse coastline. Highlights include the Hat Head Trig, Korogoro Point, the Arch, the Cave and secluded Connors and Third Beaches.

Basic camping is permitted at Smoky Cape and Hungry Head, near the village of Hat Head. Both rest areas are sheltered by sand dunes and are just a short walk to long stretches of beach. Pit toilets, fireplaces and firewood for cooking are provided. Camping fees apply and there is no fresh water in the park. Further information on Hat Head National Park is available by phoning 02 6584 2203.

Limeburners Creek National Park

Point Plomer areaPoint Plomer area

This unique national park hugs the coastline approximately 10kms south of Crescent Head. Its 9,123 hectares boasts heathlands, stands of banksia and blackbutt wetlands and a remnant rainforest. Two camping areas are provided; at Melaleuca, near Big Hill, there is a primitive rest area; and at Point Plomer, the camping facilities include showers and toilets.

Day use visitors will find the picnic areas at Big Hill and Queens Head picturesque locations to enjoy a barbecue. An outstanding feature of the Reserve is the aboriginal significance of the Point Plomer to Big Hill area. The high concentration of relics, including burial sites, a fish trap and shell middens, is exceptional. A loop walk, commencing at Big Hill, embraces the scenic variety that this park has to offer including the headland and the coastal rainforest. Phone 02 6584 2203 for further information.

Macleay River

Upper Macleay RiverUpper Macleay River

The Macleay River is at the heart of the Kempsey Shire as it carves its way from the mountains of the New England Plateau to the sea at South West Rocks. It rises as the Guyra River and merges with a number of tributaries including the Apsley, Chandler and Styx. The original mouth of the river was at Grassy Head however, during the 1893 flood, a new entrance was forced at South West Rocks.

There are boat ramps at Kempsey, Frederickton, Smithtown, Gladstone, Jerseyville, Stuarts Point, Fishermans Reach and at the New Entrance, near South West Rocks. Most types of water sports can be enjoyed and the river is one of the last strongholds of the native bass, popular with freshwater anglers. Small boats and canoes can be hired to explore the river.

Trial Bay Gaol

Trial Bay Gaol was built as an experiment in penal reform. The gaol was constructed by contractors starting in 1877 and the first wing was completed in 1886 when the gaol was first occupied. The second wing was completed in 1900.

The construction of the gaol was the culmination of the ideas of two men. E.O. Moriarty, Engineer in Chief for Harbours and Rivers, wished to see a breakwater constructed from Laggers Point to provide a safe harbour for ships using the Macleay River. The second member of the duo was H. Maclean, Sheriff and Acting Inspector of Prisons, who wished to establish a Public Works Prison of reform. The Gaol fulfilled the aims of both men; it was the first Public Works Prison in Australia with much more lenient conditions than other institutions and the prisoners were employed on the Public work of constructing the breakwater.

The gaol closed in 1903 but reopened in 1915 to hold German internees and prisoners during World War I. Today the "Gaol" attracts approximately 70,000 visitors annually and houses a museum which traces the history of the prison and the surrounding area.

Several films and TV mini series including Great Expectations, Eliza Fraser, Always Afternoon and Adam’s Woman have been made in and around the gaol using the beauty of the area as a foil to the imposing granite walls of the prison.

Trial Bay Gaol is open to visitors each day of the year from 9am to 5pm (closed Christmas Day) and entry fees apply.

Additional information can be obtained from Arakoon National Park - Ph: 02 6566 6168

Visitor information centres

There are two visitor information centres in the Kempsey Shire which are open seven days per week for your convenience. They are closed on Good Friday and Christmas Day.

Kempsey Visitor Information Centre

Pacific Highway, South Kempsey
(PO Box 3078, West Kempsey NSW 2440)
Open 9am to 5pm Mon to Fri; 10am to 4pm
Sat, Sun & Public Holidays
Ph: 02 6563 1555
Fax: 02 6563 1537
Freecall: 1800 642 480
Email -

South West Rocks Visitor Information Centre

Ocean Drive, South West Rocks NSW 2431
Open 10am to 4pm daily
Ph: 02 6566 7099


Whether it’s freshwater, estuary, beach, rock or blue water fishing that appeals to you, there’s no better place to try your luck than in the Macleay Valley. The warm water currents attract a whole range of aquatic life and the close proximity to the continental shelf makes the ocean off this coast one of the best fishing grounds on the eastern seaboard for the blue water fisherman. Easiest access to the open sea can be found at the entrance to the river at South West Rocks, at Fisherman's Reach near Stuarts Point and the creeks at South West Rocks, Hat Head and Crescent Head.

The outside fisherman can expect good catches of Snapper, Jewfish, Morwong, Pearl Peach, Trevally, Teraglin, Pig Fish, Tailor, Flathead, Cobia, Dolphin Fish and the popular Harpuka Cod. Spotted Mackerel (snook) can be caught from December to May and Spanish Mackerel from late January to early April. January and February sees the game fisherman pursuing the mighty Marlin in these waters and, throughout the year, other prized fighting fish can be caught. Three Charter boats operate from South West Rocks and from Stuarts Point.

Beach fishermen can catch Bream, Tarwhine, Jewfish, Flathead, Whiting, Mullet, Tailor and Dart. Many of these fish, as well as Drummer, are also caught from the headlands and rocky outcrops that are dotted along the Macleay Valley Coast.

The river, estuaries and back waters are a fisherman’s paradise with Blackfish, Bream, Whiting, Tailor, Mullet, Flathead, and Jewfish caught downstream of Kempsey. Small fishing boasts can be hired adjacent to the entrance of the Macleay River at South West Rocks. The native bass, or perch as they are known on the coast, are also caught in the Macleay River and its tributaries. The river is recognised as one of the last strongholds of the Australian Bass in NSW and some excellent catches can be expected from October to April.

Additional Information can be obtained from:

  • Trial Bay Deep Sea Fishing Charters - Ph: 02 6566 6612
  • Sport Fishing Charters - Ph: 02 6566 5298
  • Stuarts Point Fishing Charters - Ph: 02 6569 0337
  • Leisurecraft Marine - Ph: 02 6566 6192

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