WALKING AMONGST THE FAMOUS
ROCK ART OF PORT MACQUARIE
By Dallas Sherringham
Up Port Macquarie way they have two unusual traditions that the whole world should copy.
You see, it all started when a new gigantic breakwall connecting the harbor and the Hastings River to the sea, came complete with a concrete walkway on top.
The breakwall, started in 1897, fixed the problem of navigation across the treacherous bar at the entry to the river which is beside the town beach. It was completed in 1904.
Amazingly, it was built using horse and cart style transport. Rocks were bought to the breakwall by a horse drawn trolley. As it reached the end, the horse was released and jumped in the river while the trolley continued on and tipped the rock over the end.
It was a simple, primitive way of building the vital breakwall, but it was effective. Six horse drawn trolleys carried the rocks to the river and gravity did the rest.
Well, no sooner was it finished, than locals and visitors started walked out to the point and back. Eventually, a visiting wag painted some colorful artwork and wording on a rock near the caravan park.
And the rest, as they say, is history. The breakwall is now home to one of the greatest outdoor displays of street art anywhere in Australia.
The Nrma Breakwall Caravan Park located right alongside the river is home to thousands of campers in the school holidays. And because of COVID-19, ‘Port’ was bursting at the seams during the recent school holidays when I camped there.
The walk is beautiful in sunny weather, but at sunrise and sunset it is simply sublime. Starting at the Town Green from the original convict settlement, the 3km walk is like no other in Australia.
On every rock along the entire route, visitors and locals have painted the most beautiful stretch of what is officially called graffiti but I prefer to call ‘rock art’.
There are poignant messages recording the memory of ‘Dads’, ‘Mums’, ‘Brothers and Sisters, ‘Grandparents’ and ‘Friends’. Then there are the happy messages, welcoming visitors to Port and celebrating weddings, honeymoons, love affairs and….well, you name it and it’s on a rock somewhere.
Dolphins regularly cruise near the breakwall, but during my visit it was the mesmerizing antics of jet ski riders catching waves near the rocks that caught my attention.
Along the route, there are seats where you can sit and watch the passing parade, study the success rate of fishermen or watch daring skateboarders testing their skills – and bones – at the new skateboard bowl.
Every afternoon as the sun sets over the Norfolk pines, the parade of people begins. Hundreds pour past – some jogging, some power walking, some wandering, some arm in arm, dogs galore, babies in prams and some stopping to sit on a rock and dream.
At the start of the walk is the ever popular Little Shack outdoor café where you can enjoy a hearty breakfast under a beach umbrella made from palm leaves.
And there’s still more to tell you. The walk is the start of a longer stunning 9km out to Tacking Point Lighthouse at Lighthouse Beach.
At the adjacent town beach, a sprinkle of beach umbrellas appeared each morning, taking advantage of great waves and pristine conditions.
I will return to ‘Port’ one day soon. There is a lot to be seen and enjoy in this beautiful country town by the sea.