Road trip with lighthouses #2: Coffs Harbour and surrounds

Smoky Cape Lighthouse, Hat Head National Park

10 October 2012

We started off early for Coffs Harbour, with a side trip to South West Rocks and the Smoky Cape Lighthouse.

But first, we made a short stop at Ricardoes, a tomato and strawberry farm at Blackmans Point, not more than 18 km, I’d estimate, from Port Macquarie’s CBD.

Strawberries at Ricardoes

I’ve never seen strawberries grown this way (but then I’ve not been to any farms in Aussie): the plants are grown in a network of domestic downpipes, maybe 90mm in diameter, set at 5 to 10 degrees from the vertical. Holes for the plants are drilled into these pipes, horticultural sponge is stuffed into the holes, and the plants are grown in the sponge.

Strawberry flower

Strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa)

The plants are watered hydroponically: a roaring success! The foliage is rich and the fruits are luscious.

Strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa)

Strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa)

The Smoky Cape Lighthouse (S 30°55’23” E 153°05’15.73″) is about 85km from Port Macquarie and 108km from Coffs Harbour. The closest township is Arakoon, about 3km from South West Rocks. The lighthouse is in the Hat Head National Park.

Smoky Cape Lighthouse, Hat Head National Park

Smoky Cape Lighthouse

The lighthouse was exhibited in 1891 and is still active today. The keeper’s cottage is now a B&B.

Smoky Beach North, Hat Head National Park

Smoky Beach North, Hat Head National Park

The steep ascent to Smoky Cape Lighthouse

Fancy a stay? The beaches are unspoilt and the views are magnificent. Keep in mind that the light is the highest in Australia (128m) and you’ll have a bit of a climb to find your bed. The accommodations (lightkeeper’s cottages) are to the right of the picture. The closest beach is accessible via a steep trail from the Captain Cook Lookout (0.8km). Add to that the distance from the cottages and you’ll be climbing/descending at least a kilometre every time you want a swim.

Extra dollop of coolness: there’s plenty of whale watching during the migration season.

Smoky Cape Lighthouse

Smoky Cape Lighthouse

An ultralight aircraft flying around Smoky Cape Lighthouse

This strange little aircraft happened to be flying around the lighthouse and the surrounding headland at the perfect time, i.e. when I was there to photograph it. 🙂

We got to Coffs Harbour in the late afternoon, found our service apartment and didn’t leave again until the next morning.

11 Oct 2012
The weather closed in with overcast and rain amid dire predictions of thunderstorms and gale force winds further south. Some planned activities had to be shelved in favour of grocery shopping, cooking, and lazing about. We did drive to southern arm of Coffs Harbour, at the end of the Jordan Esplanade, for a squizz at the scenery.

The driver of the car in front of us pulled up, emptied a bag of prawn bits out of a window and moved on a few metres. The gulls mobbed the pile and had breakfast. Here’s one of them:

Silver Gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae)

Silver Gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae)

Silver Gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae)

Off the beach in front of us, surfers were braving the elements.

Surfing at Coffs Harbour

Surfer at Coffs Harbour

The weather wasn’t much better at the grower’s market in central Coffs, but there were interesting sights and sounds. Here’s Queensland-based musician Dave Johnson, whose digeridoo fusion music I liked enough that I bought a couple of CDs.

Dave Johnson / Didgera at Coffs Harbour

Dave Johnson / Didgera at Coffs Harbour

Other lighthouse-related posts:

Road trip with lighthouses #1: Port Macquarie and surrounds
Road trip with lighthouses (and birds!) #3: Crowdy Head

Seaside Lights
Seaside Lights: Kiama

Useful sites:

Lighthouses of Australia, Inc.

Date: 10-11 October 2012
Camera: Pentax K-5
Lens 1: Pentax smc DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ED AL [IF] WR
Lens 2: Pentax smc DA L 55-300 mm f/4-5.8 ED
Ambient light only.
Conditions: various
Hand-held only.
Cropping and resizing in Irfanview.

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