They Call It Paradise

They Call It Paradise

If I knew nothing else about British penal colonies of 18th and 19th Century in New South Wales, except their locations, I would conclude that the primary method of punishment used by the British was: Place prisoners in an idyllic location, but make sure they can’t enjoy it.

The Hastings River Near Settlement Point

Port Macquarie was a British penal settlement from 1821 until free settlers demanded their slice of paradise in the early 1830s. Then the penal settlement was moved further north to another “torturous location”.

Settlement Point

We set up our van in a small holiday park near Settlement Point, on the Hastings River. This is not the site of the 1820s Port Macquarie “Penal Settlement”, but is only 5 kilometers north-west of it and just as idyllic.

We especially enjoyed wandering through the newer developments set on reclaimed land, divided by man-made canals.

Houses on the canals tend to be large, with  private boat “garage” and jetty

Note the small lighthouse and linking Jetty, to the right of the house (pictured above) and in the photo below.

The Small Lighthouse and Jetty – We’ll return here soon
Moorings on Hastings River

Day 1 we peddled into the CBD to explore. Near the cruise wharves we spotted what looked like a Chinese Junk and investigated.

Junk Material (authentic Chinese Junk) on left, a smaller river cruise boat on right

Yes, you can take a cruise on “the junk”. We decided on the “Fish & Chips Lunch Junk Cruise”.

Junk Material with its Captain preparing the deck (behind the plastic curtin)

The Junk Captain, Sean, is a comedian. He begins his comedy routine as he welcomes you on board. But you may need to have some understanding of Australian humour to “get” his patter.

Captain Sean appointed a First Mate, because as he will tell you, his is amongst the most arduous of jobs.

Captain Sean and his newly appointed First Mate

Ordering lunch on board is also part of the comedy routine, as is appointing a tour member to collect lunch. I was appointed the collector, because I was deemed to be “the least unco person on board” (In case you don’t know, unco means uncoordinated).

But what exactly does “collecting lunch” mean?

It just so happened that the Junk motored around to where we saw the small lighthouse in the new development area. A bloke in a red shirt was waiting on the jetty, holding two bags. I was given my final instructions.

Standing on the Junk’s front deck, with boat hook in hand, I “collected” lunch, while Captain Sean kept the Junk from hitting the lighthouse jetty.

“Boat Hooking” Lunch for all onboard

The food now secured, Sean slowly maneuvered the Junk into this attractive canal, so we could dine in peace.

The Drain (with small lighthouse and entry for Junk Material at far end)

The Drain!?! Why call this attractive canal a drain? Apparently it’s all about who is responsible for its maintenance. The Council is responsible for a drain and will therefore maintain it, but not if it’s a canal. Really??? Well that’s what Sean told us or as I remember it…. Perhaps Captain Sean was “having a lend of us”?

View of Port Macquarie CBD from Junk Material

Choose your favourite water excursion and book at one of these wharves.

My favourite bird flying over, as we return to the cruise terminal.
This is really my favourite “Bird” – Maggie at the Pilot Boatshed Museum
St Agnes Catholic Church and Town Clock
Ridges Hotel and Beach House Pub (with striped awning)

Lunch in the covered outdoors at the Beach House Pub is very pleasant (formerly the Royal Hotel established in 1840). With good value offerings and a 180 view of the river (almost), it’s worth going there.

View from the Beach House Pub’s outdoor dining

A few kilometers south of Port Macquarie is this attractive lighthouse.

Tacking Point Lighthouse, built in 1879

The winter sky at Port Macquarie was at times spectacular and not always easy to capture.

Paddling to get home before the storm – Hastings River
Sunset over The Hastings
Boathouse on The Hastings at Sunset

“Orange sky at night is shepherds delight”. Hmmmm, this orange sky led to the coldest winter morning we’d experienced in 2016.

Despite varying weather conditions and a few small technical issues along the way, we had a fabulous four-week adventure and this was a fitting end.

Sundrenched Hastings River

Thank you for reading the various episodes of our 2016 Winter Odyssey. But please stay tuned, there will be a sparkling new adventure soon.

  • charlotte1954
    Posted at 16:29h, 14 September Reply

    Fsntastic photos and commentary as usual Alistair
    My favourite photo was the Paddlers on the Hastings.
    The junk looked like a bit of an adventure

    • alistairstravel
      Posted at 17:18h, 14 September Reply

      Thanks Charlotte
      The Junk was a lot of fun. The sun, the clouds, the river and the paddlers all came together in an unusual way for that shot. I did think such a high contrast scene was all too difficult, but pleased I tackled it and surprised how well it turned out.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: