Manning Valley and beyond – NSW

3 September to 16 October 2011

Manning Valley covers a huge area from the sea into the mountains.  This time around we covered the following places – Crowdy Head, Harrington, Taree, Wingham, Manning Point, Old Bar, Diamond Beach, Black Head and ventured out to Gloucester.

When we drove into Crowdy Head we were lucky to see paddle surf boarders out on the waves, what an awesome sight.  Crowdy head is a small town and with a smattering of houses a light house, a fish co-op and a surf club.

We didn’t stay at Crowdy Head but went bush once again and stayed at the Crowdy Gap Camping Ground.  It was fairly isolated, we had 2 nights by ourselves and 2 nights when other campers came in.  A couple of days of beach fishing where we only caught ourselves, a day of rain and on pack up day the wind was howling, great fun trying to get the awning down, Barb nearly turned into Mary Poppins!!

We had a few nights at Harrington.  As you drive in from the highway it is all new estates and when you hit town it has all the old world charm.  We went for a walk out onto the break wall, you can see Manning Point on the other side then walked out to the beach.  The bike paths were good here and we managed to get in a fairly decent ride.  We rode up to the lookout, this got the hearts pumping then out to the new estate stopping at Harrigan’s Irish Pub for a refreshing drink before heading back to the van.

We went away from the coast for a couple of days as we wanted to see The Legendary Ellenborough Falls, recorded as the second longest single drop waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere at 200 metres.  We ended up staying at the show grounds in Wingham.  When we arrived there was a farm expo on so just lucky enough to get a patch of ground to set up camp, no water but at least we had power and we had entertainment for a couple of hours from an “old” country band, nearly got the earplugs out!  The show grounds were very basic and old but cheap and the gate was locked between 5.00pm and 6.00am so confined to the van.  So much for hitting the town!!  We had a lovely drive out to Ellenborough Falls via Tapin Tops National park, the scenic route stopping at all the picnic spots and lookouts on the way.  Our first stop was Potoroo Falls Picnic Area.  We tried to walk to the falls but when we got to the creek, it was too fast flowing, wet and slippery so we turned back.  We didn’t want to end up in the drink, the water was freezing.  The next stop Dingo Tops Rest Area.  We had a look around then off to Rowley’s Rock.  A very strenuous walk straight up the mountain, Barb had a small asthma attack, the view was worth it though.  Called into Blue Knob Lookout, climbed the fire tower up a very rickety ladder then had morning tea.  Finally arrived at Ellenborough Falls.  We did the easy walks first out to the viewing platform then to the lookout at the top of the falls.  From there we went to the Knoll lookout opposite the falls before tackling the walk to the bottom of the falls.  641 steps and we felt each one, especially on the way back.  We didn’t know who was going  to end up carrying who, luckily there were lots of seats along the way to rest.  Once again well worth the effort.  Had a picnic lunch then back to Wingham.

From Wingham we headed for Manning Point where we were to meet up with Chris & Linda, again.  They had to head back to Brisbane for a few weeks and this was their last stop.  Their original stay at Manning Point was about a week but they ended up staying 6 weeks.

We all booked in for a week and guess what…. we ended up staying 5 weeks, Chris and Linda 4 weeks this time.  The caravan park owners Allan and Lyn were very hospitable and we got on famously, so much so that we had tea together every night, Barb and Allan trying to outdo each other in the culinary stakes.  We had some very memorable nights around the camp fire and new friends made.  Another reason we stayed so long was that Lyn made an offer for us to stay over the school holidays that was too good to refuse, thanks again Lyn.

The caravan park at Manning Point sits between the beach and the river so a couple of good spots for fishing, not that we faired very well.  We had some glorious days and some very wet days but we have managed to keep ourselves amused and occupied the whole time with fishing, walks,  country drives and a 12km cycle on the very bumpy and pot holed Manning Road.  Barb did catch a shovel nose shark just under a meter long.  She tried to get the hook out of it’s mouth and was very upset when it bit her on the finger….. apparently a lot of dancing, hand shaking and a few words said but what would you expect putting your finger in a sharks mouth.  No camera so no photo.

Friends Gayle and Ron called in to see us on their way to Philip Island to see the bike races.  They stayed overnight and when they were here we went for a walk to the beach and spotted a couple of whales frolicking in the distance doing amazing breaches.  We also saw a pod of dolphins.  Gayle was very impressed.

We decided that while we were at Manning Point we would do a drive to Gloucester Tops and Barrington National Park and stay overnight in the car.   Our first destination on the way was to the historical Monkerai Bridge.  Got there and it has been closed down and in bad disrepair.  Walked out onto it and took photos, a bit disappointing especially with the write up it was given.

Next stop was Gloucester Tops Camping ground in the Barrington Tops National Park, crossed 5 fords to get there, the water was crystal clear and very beautiful.  We continued on to the other side of Barrington Tops National Park and linked up with Forest Road Tourist Drive 29 stopping at all the walks and lookouts.  At the Honeysuckle picnic spot the walk though the forest was amazing as the trees were covered in thick moss and looked beautiful.  The Firs pine plantation was very eerie driving into, the photos don’t do this spot justice.  Next we drove up and through the Dingo Gate, the gate and fence is to keep the dingos in the National Park.  The view was spectacular here over the Upper Hunter Valley.

We found a site to set up camp for the night.  Got the fire going. walked down to creek and said hello to the other campers.  They were a bit surprised to see us turn up.  Had tea (make mental note – do not have curry or bake beans for dinner when sleeping in a confined area!!), then early to bed as it was bloody freezing, should have had another blanket!!

Next morning we started to head back to Manning Point and stumbled across Copeland Tops State Conservation Area, not shown on any of our maps so we called in for a look.  It turned out to be an old gold mining area so we decided to do one of the walks which seemed to be all uphill.  Very nice walk though.

Stopped at yet another Lookout on the way back to Gloucester and as we pulled into the parking area a man was doing a painting of the area and it looked very impressive, Barb took a photo of him with the scene as a backdrop.  Had to stop at Gloucester and buy some of their famous sausages.

We are off to Forster on Monday to get some work done on the van and of course explore.