Back in the car, we depart Smoky Cape Lighthouse and follow the tourist route to Trial Bay Gaol, South West Rocks best known tourist attraction.
Out the front of the Gaol entrance is a huge free carpark.
This time, I decided to go and have a look at the inside of the Gaol. On paying my entrance fee, I went walking around this old Gaol that was built in 1886. The Gaol was originally constructed to house prisoners who were to build a breakwater to provide Trial Bay with protection from easterly and northeasterly gales, this was a failure!
During World War I, the Gaol became an internment camp for people of German descent who were feared to be enemy sympathisers. It was the first public works prison in Australia - Closed 1903.
I walked around the ruins, climbed the tower, went to the Museum, saw some Kangaroos inside the ruins - that was all. I was really disappointed at what I had seen. I know it's ruins, I just thought the Museum would be much larger. I thought the price was too much for what was on offer.
There are Guided tours of Trial Bay Gaol. Toilets are on site. There is a small gift shop.
OPEN 9am – 4.30pm
open 9am – 6pm (NSW Christmas school holidays)
closed on Christmas Day
ADMISSION FEE IN 2013
Adult $7.50 Concession $5.00 Family (two adults and two children) $20.00
Looking out to sea from the car-park, we saw many Whales, most of them quite a distance out to sea, but one was very close to shore! At last, I had seen a Whale in the wild this year!
South West Rocks does have some very nice beaches and it's also where the Macleay river enters the ocean. The tide must have been out, because a family was playing cricket on the sandy river bed.
We were at Horseshoe Bay, the most popular beach in the town, and is located at the end of the main street. It's patrolled by lifeguards during the summer holidays. Horseshoe Bay and Front Beach are the best areas for swimming and usually free of rips. Surfing, AND Back Beach receives the biggest waves and usually has beach breaks.
Horseshoe Bay is where the Kiosk and the Beachfront Caravan park is located.
As this is a popular holiday destination, in high season it pays to book. Prices are on the high side!
There we were, intently gazing into the rock pools at Trial Bay, when I heard a noise and turned around. Lo and behold, less than 100 metres away, was a Humpback Whale! So, for the next half hour, Lorraine and I watched an eventually saw about 20 of them in different parts of the bay, though none ever as close as the first.
Later, when we walked around the back of the rocks, we noticed several different types of birds and insects.
I was in the national park area below the old gaol when I came across a bush. Nothing grand, just a small one about three metres by about eight; yet here on this bush I came across an extraordinary number of insects, some of which I've pictured here.
I learnt, for instance, that the blue and back bee is called a cuckoo bee and leaves its eggs in the nest of other bees, notably the one with the black and blue tail section also pictured.
There were butterflies and wasps I'd never seen before and, if I ever get them identified, I'll paste them on another page.
One of the things people do around here is head a short distance south and climb to Smoky Cape Lighthouse from where there are splendid panoramas north and south. I once rode my bike up here; trust me it is steep.
Be prepared for the wind up here also. As with exposed places anywhere it absolutely rips through when a strong wind is about. All these shots were taken on such a day.
The lighthouse, first proposed in 1886, was for the safety of the increasing coastal traffic on the colony of New South Wales' northern seaboard. The reason for the light was to help guide ships to the Macleay River entrance which can be very difficult at times.
The light itself was completed in 1891 and is unique in many ways.
With the dismissal of the renowned James Barnet, responsibility for future lighthouses passed to the Engineer-in-Chief for Harbours and Rivers. This marked the end of a lighthouse representing 'architectural excellence'. From here on most would simply regarded as engineering projects with less and less regard to aesthetics.
The other is the unusual feature of having a octagonal tower. This was because it was easier to cast the tower and construct it.
The material used to cast the tower was concrete with local granite aggregate.
A Mr Oakes won the contract to build the lighthouse complex but died during construction and the work was completed by his executors.
The tower is divided into two storeys, with iron floors and staircases and the crown is typical Barnet being granite voussoir blocks supported on moulded granite cantilevers. The balcony sports an ornate gun metal railing stamped with Queen Victoria's mark.
The apparatus consisted of a first order lantern and lens system that still is in use today.
The lantern revolved, turned by a clockwork winding mechanism consisting of cables and weights.
In 1912 the original Douglas burners, equipped with 6 concentric wicks, were eventually replaced by Ford-Schmidt incandescent mantles fuelled by kerosene vapour.
In 1962 the motors were converted to mains electricity and the roller pedestal was replaced with a thrust bearing model powered by an electric motor. There is a small aperture below the balcony that once held a a subsidiary red light to cover Fish Rock.
Around 1988 the light was automated and has since been demanned but the complex consists of the tower and annexe, the headkeeper's residence and assistant keepers residences as semi-detached cottages, a coach house and stables and it can be used as accommodation.
As a result of the Commonwealth Lighthouses Act of 1911 this light was transferred in 1915 to Federal control because of its status as a coastal light.
My advice here is to take the guided tour. This is one of the main tourist attractions of the North Coast of N.S.W. and it's now run by the National Parks and Wildlife.
Trial Bay Gaol opened in 1886 as a works prison and utilised in World War One as a German internment camp, closed in 1918.
There is much history that has been left in pictures and stories that make this a worthwhile stop on your holidays. It's extraordinary to thing that there were tennis courts and serious tournaments held on the courts right beside the sea below the gaol.
It is located in the Arakoon National Park just 5 kilometres east of the town.
Open 9.00 - 4.30 daily
Gaol and museum entry; Adults $7.50 Concession $5.00
Family 2 Adults and 2 Children $20.00
Self-guided tours of the gaol are also available between 9.00am -4.00pm daily
Visitors can camp or use the barbeque’s and picnic areas, tour the gaol and museum, go swimming or bushwalking .