Monday is the day my new friend Anna and I decide to head down to the beautiful town of Bellingen. She has a life long friend up from Sydney, and part of their ritual is a visit to this lovely town. I am introduced to Giulianna in the car as they pick me up on the way – another chatterbox! Oh dear – poor Anna is not going to get a word in today!
We stop along the way at Bruxner Lookout near Coffs Harbour – the highest point in the region – a new walkway bridge suspends out over the canopy of trees and rainforest below, with sweeping views of the coast.
Into the quaint little town of Bellingen, famous for its café’s, restaurants and olde world shops.
I spot a cute little Fiat ‘cinquecento’ and have to take a photo, memories of Italy come flooding back to me. One day I’m going to own one, they are adorable.
Morning tea is spent in a bookshop café, while listening to a local busker playing hymns on a saxophone – quirky. A long lingering browse through the museum uncovers some interesting facts about the area’s past and it’s logging history. We then weave our way in and out of numerous arty shops, with Giulianna intent on purchasing something for each of her grandchildren. I don’t have that obligation yet, so am happy to browse. Into another shop full of old curios, with gasps of “ooh, my nana used to have one of those”, or “remember these?” – collections of everything from electric jugs to old hair clips.
Lunch in the local tavern and back home, with a stop off at the Old Butter Factory for a browse and another coffee.
I can tick off another ‘must see’ place on my agenda. Next day is spent at beach number five on my beach crawl – Safety Beach. Another secluded beach with a picturesque inlet, another picnic lunch and a swim.
Once again I am invited out to lunch with the ladies group from the previous week. This time at the ‘Rustic Table’, a popular restaurant in Woolgoolga that offers live music three nights a week. I get to try goat meat for the first time, and I am impressed. Not ‘gamey’ like I expected, milder than lamb and a soft light texture. I will definitely brave it next time I see it on a menu.
That evening I return to the sex club (C-ex club, but I like my version of it), to sit in on a session of Texas Hold-Em Poker in the hope of learning to play. I was getting the gist of the game, until the compere started on about ‘blind’s up’ and ‘blind’s down’ – with me gazing over at the windows wondering what they had to do with the scheme of things! And then ‘300’s and 600’s’ – I completely lost the plot at that point. So my ‘Poker Face’ was one of dumb ignorance I’m afraid – sorry Lady Gaga! Might need a bit of research on the rules of the game before I try it live again.
I am nearing the end of my housesit, with three beaches still to explore. I set out on Friday and cover all three, all south of Woolgoolga – Moonee Beach which is mostly a vast inlet and quite a walk to reach the beach, but has a lovely grassed picnic area.
Then onto Emerald Beach and a quick visit to the caravan and camping ground – we had a camping holiday there when my girls were toddlers, got rained out and had to retreat to a cabin to stay dry. I have a very cute photo of my youngest at age one, standing inside a painted concrete pipe that formed part of the playground – it was still there so of course I sent a photo to both daughters for a bit of nostalgia.
Emerald Beach has an enticing headland that drew me to explore it. I was glad I made the effort, from there I had commanding views of the lighthouse on Split Solitary Island and one on the mainland, as well as some spectacular wild wave breaks into gullies below the headland.
Last beach on my beach crawl was Shelly Beach – another quiet little village and unspoilt beach. I enjoyed one last swim on this beautiful coastline.
Saturday was my book signing day at the little bookstore in the village – Magpie Books. Possibly the neatest, cutest and most well stocked secondhand bookstore I’ve ever visited, and sells vinyl records as well. Run by a delightful guy named Andy, who was incredibly obliging of me, even setting up a gazebo on the lawn beside the shop to shelter me.
Started off slow, but thanks to Anna and her daughter turning up for support – it turned out to be a very successful day, thanks to them knowing every person that walked by, and reeling them in. All told I sold eleven books, which is an excellent effort for such a small town. And Andy informs me he has had numerous enquiries, due to a small piece in the local newspaper about his ‘visiting author’ – so has requested I post him more copies to sell.
Anna and I take ourselves off that night to another quaint coastal town – Sawtell – to view the “Flicker Fest”, a short film festival evening. Those who have been to these kind of festivals will know that they are a mismatch of quirky and weird films from all over the world. This one was no exception. We left the theatre wondering how that last choice made it through the selection process – it was awful.
The following morning is sadly the end of my housesit. I do a thorough clean of the house, pack my car, leave a thank you note for the owner, say goodbye to Peppa the cat (who has finally warmed to me after being hand fed tidbits of meat in a strictly vegetarian household – she now sees me as her friend) and I head back down to the Rustic Table for a last goodbye to Anna and the town.
My ‘Must Do’s’ for Woolgoolga
1. The beaches – from Red Rock in the north to Moonee Beach in the South
2. Bollywood Markets – first and fourth Saturday of each month – beachside park
3. Local markets – second Saturday of each month – beachside park
4. Whale Watch Headland – for spectacular views and whale spotting in season
5. Wander up to Woolgoolga inlet and see the shipwreck remains of ‘Buster’
6. The Rustic Table restaurant – fabulous food, live music and themed nights
7. The Beach House café for coffee’s and light meals – lovely garden area
8. The Seaview Tavern for cheap week night meals and entertainment
9. Bellingen and Bellingen Markets – third Saturday each month – quaint little town
10. Visit ‘Magpie Bookstore’ – a booklovers paradise – www.magpiebooks.net.au