Wow! – Seal Rocks

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Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse is an ancient landmark that’s just become the newest, must-visit local spot.

Wow! That’s the word that springs to mind everywhere we turn at Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse. What a wonderful beach and ocean views out over Seal Rocks! What a lovely lighthouse and beautiful keeper’s cottage, high on the point, that’s to be home for a day or two. No wonder that, just last month, the three cottages – head keeper’s and twin assistant keepers’ dwellings – took out the 2009 title of Best New Tourism Development on the entire Mid-North Coast.

Seal Rocks is a short drive from our neck of the woods down The Lakes Way, via the Pacific Palms string of beaches, lovely lakes and innumerable pelican and kookaburra sightings. Turn east at Bungwahl and a it’s just minutes to the gates of the lighthouse precinct – entry to your exclusive enclave. During the day, visitors may park here and take the steep walk up to the lighthouse and beach. But the cottages are off limits and, at dusk, all day trippers must quit the area … leaving keepers’ cottages guests in splendid isolation.

The head keeper’s quarters, of course, has pride of place and best views over the water, as well as enjoying the charm of the lighthouse beacon itself, just 100m or so further above. At under 7m, the Sugarloaf beacon needed to be only a quarter the height of others, like Macquarie Lighthouse, because it was able to be built so high on the promontory – which makes it very special: even a child standing on the ground can see directly into its lamp – which creates beautiful patterns in sunlight and breathtaking illuminated bursts at night.

Come the dawn and there are more Wow factors: a catamaran plies blithely between the Seal Rocks and treacherous inner Sawtooth Rocks – the scene of hundreds of lives lost in shipwrecks. Dolphins bound in its wake. Whales heading lackadaisically along slap the water with their fins. Sharks cruise. Seagulls swoop on schools of fish and dingos trot along the shoreline, hunting. The area’s under the care of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service who painstakingly restored the three cottages, then invited tenders to run them as holiday accommodation. The main cottage, sleeping up to eight, and the two others, each sleeping up to 6, have been open to guests for just 12 months. And, while non-guests are banned from visiting for parties, there’s nothing to prevent a group booking of up to 20 – a sensational spot to celebrate a special event. The dwellings have wide grassy yards surrounded by white picket fencing and covered verandas with sun lounges, outdoor dining settings and barbecues. It’s impossible to image a more romantic setting – day or night – for a celebration or informal daytime wedding on the beach. The seclusion – probably the furthest cottage is best – is just fine for honeymooners as well. (In fact, good luck with your mobile reception!)

The lighthouse at Seal Rocks

The lighthouse at Seal Rocks

The cottages are now managed by a consortium of four local identities who make guests welcome and are happy to share their local knowledge. The cottage interiors are superbly refurbished, the wide-planked hardwood floors and tall sash windows beautifully restored – and furnished sensitively with all the mod cons – plasma, DVD, wifi net, great kitchens, good showers – for a fabulous self-catered short, or longer, stay.

There are plenty of activities: fishing from beach, boat or in the lakes, snorkelling, diving, swimming and so on. Take a drive around the vast adjacent national park and discover grassy picnic spots ideal for spreading a blanket, relaxing with a book. Take a vigorous walk in the dunes, up rocky outcrops, or for kilometres along the beach. Boat Beach, next door, is where 49 whales famously beached themselves in 1992 and had to be rescued by volunteers working day and night to soothe them and return (most of) them to sea.

Note that you can’t waste water: tank supplies have to be augmented with bought water if they run out, and only one vehicle can be housed per cottage. You can unload gear, then park in a garage 100m or so away – but extra vehicles must remain in an open public parking area outside the precinct gate. Sort that out if you’re in a big group, and you’d be crazy not to book for a sensational spring or summer treat … if you can get in, that is! SRLA is the NBT.

See www.srla.com.au for tariffs and availability, email stay@slra.com.au or call 4997 6590.

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