After having a swim at Shelley Beach in Ballina (see Bucket List #37) I headed south to Coffs Harbour. This stratch of the Pacific Highway has changed so much since I used to travel it on a regular basis in 1977 and 1978. With the new M1 Motorway cutting its way in a more direct route and bypassing the towns along the way, it is a much quicker and safer trip.
I travelled the new road where I needed to but I called into all the little beachside towns and villages along the way. I had been in to some of these but many I had not as I had previously gone as quickly as possible between Ballina and Coffs Harbour. When I first moved to Ballina to work and live I still had a girlfriend in Coffs Harbour and so most weekends to start with I used to return to Coffs. I would leave work as soon as possible and go straight to her parents place at the Jetty in Coffs Harbour. They lived behind the Pet Porpoise Pool and when I would get there my girlfriend and her mum and dad, and sometimes the brother, would be sitting in the lounge watching TV. When I arrived and after the formalities of saying hello were over the mum would say to her husband to turn the light off. This was for our benefit. The mum figured that as we hadn’t seen each other all week we would want to kiss and cuddle on the couch without being too obvious under the glare of the lights. It seemed a bit weird doing that in front of her mum and dad but they were very nice people and I suppose they thought that was less harmful than us going off somewhere by ourselves.
I called into the villages of Evans Head, Woody Head, Iluka and Angowrie before staying overnight at the Maclean Showground on the banks of the Clarence River. Maclean is a pretty little town with a narrow winding road that meanders between shops in the business centre. It proudly claims to be “The Scottish Town in Australia” and capitalizes on the large number of early settlers in the valley that arrived from Scotland. Every telegraph pole in the town has been painted a different tartan at the base and the town also hosts the Maclean Highland Gathering over the Easter weekend.
After leaving Maclean I drove out to Brooms Head to have a look around and then headed back inland to the City of Grafton. I had also worked here back in the day. From here it was south to Corindi Beach, Red Rock, Arrawarra, Arrawarra Headland, Mullaway, Safety Beach and Woolgoolga before stopping with friends at Sapphire Beach just north of Coffs Harbour. A lot of the beachside villages haven’t changed much. They can best be described as “sleepy” and whilst a lot are very similar they each have their unique character and drawcard for the thousands of tourist, mostly from Victoria, that make the yearly pilgrimage to the Coffs Coast.