The drought conditions of recent times mean that several North Coast bars have experienced reduced depth, and the lack of major flood events has resulted in a deposition of sediment. Leads and similar navigation markers are installed as a guide to safe navigation, but as always, the ultimate responsibility lies with the Master of a vessel. The main entrance approach is well marked by navigation beacons and leads as is the main channels upstream to Jerseyville, Kempsey and Stuarts Point. Navigation to Stuarts Point is not recommended to vessels over 5m due to the shallow nature of this area, however upstream of the Stuarts Point Bridge is great for waterskiing and wakeboarding.

The Macleay River estuary extends about 54 kms upstream from the ocean at South West Rocks, to the tidal limit at Belgrave Falls, about 10km upstream of Kempsey and it is navigable for most vessels. The Macleay enters the ocean through a river entrance at South West Rocks, which was first breached during the flood of 1893. Grassy Head was the site of the original river entrance and the old river channel between South West Rocks and Grassy Head is now known as the Macleay Arm. The Lower Macleay is a haven for recreational boating, with diverse waterways fronting the New Entrance area of South West Rocks.

Vessels should be monitored due to prevailing winds and indifferent holding. Currently, facilities for transiting vessels are limited however the Boatshed has recently installed new pontoons and jetties, and power and water are available. Trial Bay is considered a safe haven and NSW Maritime provides courtesy moorings for emergency use in the bay.

South West Rocks has long been considered a great trailer boat destination and boat ramps are provided at Mattys Flat, South West Rocks Creek, Fisherman’s Reach, Stuarts Point, Jerseyville, Kinchela, Smithtown, Frederickton, Kempsey and Greenhill. Most have fish cleaning facilities and toilets. Be sure to check the clearance of bridges and power line crossings beforehand, as they may restrict some tall mast vessels.

Many sailors are also keen fishermen, and they won’t be disappointed as the area is rich in a variety of fish and seafood including mullet, prawns and mud crabs, while oysters are also abundant. The Macleay is also an important habitat for the Australian Bass, which is a popular target with recreational fishermen.

The feeling of an old-time seaside holiday haven is one of the most endearing features of South West Rocks, and once ashore you will find plenty to do in a region that has it all … subtropical climate, a beautiful cove with pristine waters, eight beaches, an historic gaol and lighthouse, beautiful rainforests, wineries, access to the glorious hinterland and world-class diving.

In fact divers do travel from all over the world to experience the unique diving that is to be found in the waters off Smoky Cape. The waters are also home to Fish Rock, an islet where a number of grey nurse sharks gather. This gentle and inoffensive shark was wrongly believed to be a vicious man-eater and was hunted almost to extinction, however a viable population is still to be found in the waters around Fish Rock.

Two dive companies in the area run tours where you can swim with these “labradors of the deep” in Fish Rock Cave and the surrounding waters. The cave features a 125m tunnel through the centre, where divers can actually take a breath, thanks to an air pocket. This is truly an unforgettable experience, so contact South West Rocks Dive Centre or Fishrock Dive Centre for more information.

For those who don’t scuba dive, the waters are teeming with marine life and there are many sheltered spots where snorkellers can float in the aquamarine waters and watch the underwater world go by. There are some fabulous vantage points, such as the Smoky Cape Lighthouse, from which to spot dolphins and the area is ideal for whale-watching in season.

Visit historic Trial Bay Gaol in the Arakoon State Recreation area for a taste of our past. The gaol has a convict background, but was also used as an internment camp for men of German and Austrian descent during World War 1. History buffs will also want to spend time at historic Boatman’s Cottage.

Those of us whose idea of a holiday involves retail therapy and great food will not be disappointed as the township boasts a number of excellent restaurants and cafes, boutiques with great surf and beachwear and also a handful of those brilliant little shops full of interesting antiques, trinkets and craft items that will always be a reminder of this holiday gem.

South West Rocks has plenty of land-based attractions including a wonderful 18 hole golf course, bowling greens, tennis and squash courts, sensational bush walks through Arakoon State Recreation area and a swimming pool for those who prefer not to share their swim with the marine life.

South West Rocks offers a wide range of accommodation that will suit all budgets and traveller types.


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