Macleay River Trail

The Macleay River rises a considerable distance inland within the Great Dividing Range east of Uralla. The river travels some 300 kilometres south east to reach the ocean at South West Rocks and is said to be the second fastest running river in the world. In its upper reaches it passes through some rugged landscapes and gorges creating spectacular waterfalls in the Cunnawarra and Oxley Wild Rivers National Parks. However it is its lower reaches on the Mid North Coast that have generated a series of historic river townships with the largest being Kempsey as well as other at Frederickton, Gladstone, Smithtown and Jerseyville. South West Rocks at the mouth of the river along with the nearby Trial Bay Goal are today popular tourism destinations.

Here are our Top Ten ways to discover and experience the Macleay River and its history today.

Upper Macleay

Latitude -30.7191151815°
Longitude 152.191727721°

The Upper Macleay is perfect for those wanting to get away fishing, camping, kayaking or just to enjoy the river largely unspoilt. Fresh and clear streams, local wildlife, mountains and valleys abound. Fishermen whether experienced or novices will revel in the marvellous natural environment of one of Australia’s most exiting sports fish, Australian Bass.

Bellbrook

Latitude -30.818234°
Longitude 152.5082713°

About an hour upriver from Kempsey is the historic village of Bellbrook. The road follows the Macleay River and there are a number of spots where the traveller has spectacular views of the river making its way through the valley. Although rather unassuming from the outside the Bellbrook Hotel is quite fascinating inside with many of the original features and much of the historic charm carefully retained. This village is classified by the National Trust as a heritage village and is easy to explore with a self guided tour. It is also the location of the childhood home of Slim Dusty http://www.kempsey.nsw.gov.au/heritage/pubs/walks-in-history-bellbrook.pdf

Riverside Park

Latitude -31.0826879°
Longitude 152.8417238°
  • Eden Street,
  • Kempsey, NSW
  • 2440

Right in the heart of Kempsey you will find Riverside Park. There is a children’s playground, toilets, BBQs and covered tables with shade. There is also a boat ramp and land based fishing options. You can stroll along the riverside walk which has interpretative signage of a Maritime Walking Trail showcasing much of the rivers early history. The park and trail extends under the towering Kempsey bridge to link with the commercial area of Kempsey.

Kempsey Riverside Markets

Latitude -31.0826879°
Longitude 152.8417238°

On the first Saturday of every month the banks of the beautiful Macleay River in Kempsey come alive as Riverside Park is transformed into a colourful and bustling market place, reminiscent of the trading and commerce of the past. It provides a relaxed picturesque setting for locals and visitors alike to browse and mingle; to listen to local musicians, select fresh local produce, see live demonstrations and sample a variety of food stalls.

Macleay River Bridge

Latitude -31.0698443577°
Longitude 152.884891762°

For years the bridge into Kempsey has been a major landmark. Now If you take the bypass of Kempsey you may not realise it but you will travel on the longest bridge in Australia. The Macleay River Bridge crossing the Macleay River and its floodplain is 3.2 kilometres and was opened in 2013.It is a modern solution to an age old problem in the area of the flooding of the Macleay River.

Gladstone

Latitude -31.0234382°
Longitude 152.9484657°

Gladstone remains a largely intact river town with close links to the development of the Macleay River valley. From its wharves, passengers and freight destined for Austral Eden, the Belmore River, Kinchela and Kinchela Creek, and other lower river areas were landed or despatched many of its historic buildings are still in place and a walking tour is available.  Gladstone today has built on its heritage  and reinvented itself with galleries, cafes unique shops and a very special arts market on the third Sunday of every month.

Jerseyville

Latitude -30.9245717°
Longitude 153.0368716°

From Gladstone drive the road to South West Rocks which meanders along the Macleay River in a magnificent scenic drive before reaching another historic river town, Jerseyville. Yet again there is another great heritage walk with many examples of its historic connections to the river including the old puntman’s cottage , the old punt ramp and the wharf.

South West Rocks

Latitude -30.8851449°
Longitude 153.0409547°

In South West Rocks there are so many reminders of its history and connections to the river as you explore the Boatman’s Cottage, Pilot Station, Signal Station Flagstaff and the nearby Smoky cape Lighthouse. For more information the local VIC and a small Maritime Museum are located at the Boatman’s Cottage.

Give them a call on 6566 7099 or download the heritage walk here.

Trial Bay Gaol

Latitude -30.8791520701°
Longitude 153.072163403°

Trial Bay Gaol in the Arakoon National Park was established in 1876 as an experimental public works gaol, housing inmates building the local breakwall. The gaol closed in 1904 but was reopened during World War 1 to house 550 German male internees. Now a  museum open 7 days a week  it tells the stories of these two very different but interesting periods. For  more information on Trial Bay Gaol, give them a call on 6566 6168 or view their website here