Red Rock: The real reason this coastal town got its name
On a blushing coastline of northern New South Wales you’ll find the idyllic seaside town of Red Rock.
There’s one road in and it leads right to the edge of the Corindi River, its turquoise waters and golden sands peppered with bird and sea life.
You won’t find cafe scenes and busy carparks here. There’s merely a bowls club and small caravan park.
But what this tiny town lacks in amenities, it makes up for in natural beauty.
It’s home to 220 residential dwellings, many pastel-trimmed fibro holiday homes of yesteryear.
For most of the year, Red Rock is a sleepy hamlet with its population of 500 swelling only during peak vacay periods.
Red Rock’s headland is composed of 300 million year old red jasper, but it’s believed this piece of coastal crust gets its name from the Bloodrock Massacres during the 1880s.
During the devastating event mounted police chased many innocent Gumbaynggirr people from their creek campsite and off the headland to their death. It’s said the river flowed red with blood.
For thousands of years, the Gumbaynggirr people occupied this stretch of land on the mid-north coast, between the Nambucca and Clarence rivers. The Gumbaynggirr were people of ceremony and renowned as “sharing people” by neighbouring nations thanks to their abundance of food and other resources. They were one of the largest coastal Aboriginal nations in New South Wales.
Red Rock is occupied by the Garby Elders, a tribal group who inhabited the country between Moonee and Wooli and inland to the banks of the Orara River. Descendants still call the area home today.
The headland remains an extremely sacred site and a place for reflection for its elders. Descendants, especially women, to this day avoid the site. A memorial on the walk up to the coastal crown reads: The significance of this place and the rebirthing of our culture will never be forgotten.
Glimpses of whales playing on the horizon can be seen in migratory months.
Down a flight of stairs, you’ll arrive at Little Beach where the ocean meets the estuary that wraps around the front of Red Rock caravan park.
The burnt earthen rock against teal frothy seawater is a great post-breakfast spot to let the kids run amok before the tide comes in and it’s time to retreat.
The tide makes for good fun with floaties. Jump in and let it carry you inland to the entrance of the caravan park or out toward the river mouth depending on the time of day. You can also paddle across to the large sandbar to pump yabbies or enjoy the birdlife.
A few times we’ve hired double kayaks from the caravan park shop and paddled up the Corindi River. The shop ladies will point out the best and safest routes to take.
The scenery is peaceful. Sometimes you’re the only souls on the water. Stingrays glide past with the occasional wave, while white-bellied sea eagles monitor your moves from the treetops. Do your arms a favour and choose your times with the tide.
If solid ground underfoot is preferred, the Yuraygir coastal walk follows the river north some 15km to Wooli. It’s a moderate hike, taking about six hours to complete, but you don’t have to trek that far.
A short boardwalk stroll from Red Rock’s boat ramp will lead you to an odd yet quirky garden gnome display in the middle of bushland where folk have gathered gnomes over the years. There is even a letterbox where the kids can write a letter and “post” it to the gnomes. On quick inspection inside, however, it appears the postie has left this letterbox off his list for some time. It is filled with hundreds of folded letters.
We walk as far as Jewfish Point, a ceremonial area for the Gumbaynggirr people, a place for “Saturday night dance and the Sunday market” and a place where “the brolga learned to dance”, according to elders. A midden was excavated here in recent times, revealing ochres and radiocarbon dates of more than 3000 years old. Artefacts belonging to the traditional owners are unearthed along the riverbanks and coastlines from time to time.
In 2008, a family unearthed a small stone pierced with a hole in it – believed to be a sinker – they found on the beach at Red Rock. They removed the object and not long after the family who removed it fell ill. Local elders believe the illness resulted from taking and keeping the artefact. Eventually it was returned to the original site.
The caravan park is tucked behind the headland. On arrival you’ll be greeted by friendly American expat Geoff and his Australian wife, Kylie, who have managed the park since 2003.
While we have camped here many times, these days, with kids in tow, we like to enjoy the glamping tents perched right on the estuary bank, purely because there’s less stuff to bring … or is there?
Inside the tent is a hotel room, only draped in canvas. You have your own veranda to watch sunsets, play boardgames and enjoy the wildlife that calls. At tent number five we were even able to fish from our back door.
You won’t find jumping pillows or crowded swimming pools here as bigger parks are known for, but you have the river on one side and ocean on the other.
At night, stars blanket the sky like you won’t see on much of the east coast and the ocean will sing you to sleep.
I first visited Red Rock as a baby. Toes dipped in the estuary in a baptism that decades later would see me bring my own children here in what has become a yearly tradition.
Each year our holiday grows by a day or two, because it’s never long enough.
GETTING THERE: Load up the car for a road trip. Red Rock is 40km north of Coffs Harbour, New South Wales.
STAYING THERE: Red Rock caravan park is at 1 Lawson St, Red Rock.