For a few years when I was a kid we spent our summer holidays on the north coast of NSW, at Stuarts Point. It was (and still is) a beautiful spot that few people have heard of. Beside the Macleay River it’s a short stroll across the bridge (the same one I broke my arm on when I was 8) and through the sand hills (now covered with vegetation but then just sand) to one of the most beautiful, long white stretches of sand in NSW.
As we lived in western Sydney we didn’t often get to the beach, but even back then on holidays we spent more time at the river than the ocean. Possibly because it was closer, possibly because the beach was not patrolled, though most likely because it was more fun. We swam, ran round and round jumping off the bridge into the water and back up again, fished, and water skied.
I don’t thinks it’s just my memory and nostalgia turning those times into idyllic holidays, they really were magic times for us kids. The one thing I do remember that wasn’t so good was the length of time it took to get there. Back then the Pacific Highway was only one lane each way in most places, and even then many people headed up the coast for their holidays. What takes 4-5 hours now (without traffic) used to take us all day, and with four kids in the back of a station wagon it was probably less fun for mum & dad than it was for us!
So in the interests of preserving the sanity of a few parents (and probably their kids), here’s a few good reasons to head west instead of to the coast:
- Less traffic. Sitting on my verandah with a glass of wine 3.5 hours and 300k after leaving home I read there were traffic jams 23km long on the Pacific Highway heading north on boxing day. The same day we travelled this way.
- Fewer people. You can always find a seat in the beer garden at the pub, a shady spot to sit quietly and read, or even a quiet spot out on the water.
- Water sports. Water skiing is much easier on a lake or river than the ocean, fishing is a breeze, and jet skis don’t seem to come this far west. Though the surf probably isn’t as good
- Less traffic. Once you get out here, getting around is easy. Small towns have fewer cars so far fewer traffic jams and less time sitting, sweltering in a hot car.
- Easier parking. Fewer cars means easier parking. Usually right where you want to go.
- Nicer people. While I love the beach, it seems that especially in summer the locals resent visitors being there. I remember graffiti over the gateway at Maroubra Beach when I lived there that said “Locals only”. Despite repeated calls to the local council nobody came out to remove it. Out in the country we have partied, and even stayed with, people with only just met.
- Starry skies. Less light means the stars are brighter and more visible. You can still even see the milky way clearly and easily.
- Wide open spaces. Even country towns have a sense of space, with wide streets and not far to travel until you are in open countryside. You never feel hemmed in.
- Wildlife. I know there are lots of birds by the coast, some of which you don’t see inland, but how often do you see kangaroos, emus and wombats wandering past your verandah?
- Did I mention less traffic? After finally getting to your destination you’ll need the two weeks or so to calm down again after the stress of the road. Only to turn around and sit in traffic all the way home again.
So there you have it. My top ten reasons for heading west. I’m sure there are lots more and would love to hear about your favourite places – either on or away from the coast. Where do you go for your holidays?