It is the colours that I can’t get over.
Turquoise overlaps soft sea green, the water rippling gently, undulating over the sandy bottom. It is entirely clear, as translucent as glass, so much that the occasional large blue jellyfish that floats past is as observable as if it quivered in your cupped hands. Jai and I paddle confidently; after a few blows (read: splashing wars) and rhythmic differences we fall into a steady thwack as our paddles sluice through the water, exploring the sandy inlets and meandering off cuts that make up the Nambucca River, salty and clean. We had just broken our fast at The Boatshed Café, perfectly situated on the river near the centre of Nambucca Heads, the water lapping the shore mere metres away from where we enjoyed pesto poached eggs and salt and pepper mushrooms. The café, which is bubbling with a steady flow of patrons enjoying the dappled sunlight and ambient morning, is joined to The Boatshed part in more then just name – on the other end of the building stands Rob and the former Beachcomber Marine, where you can hire a boat, kayak or paddle board to while away a few precious hours on the water that flows lazily outside the back door. Which Jai and I did with glee, climbing aboard a double kayak where two hours skipped by as quickly as an outgoing tide.
I can’t tell you how well we both slept in Jagundami Guest Retreat, the enormous bed even room enough for two Amazonian sisters. The total silence is almost unnerving at first – there is no jangle of traffic to act as background white noise. Judith has thoughtfully provided for every amenity, and as we share a morning coffee with her on the shady veranda I am struck by her wonderful energy and enthused passion for life. Her studio brims with her gorgeous oil paintings and botanical draws, and soft jazz croons in the background. I have decided I would quite like to be her best friend. Not to be stalkerish or anything…but the place (and Jude) are so worth the stopover.
There has been something about Nambucca that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, the town’s point of difference that sets it aside from other towns along the Pacific Coast. Finally we realised what it is, and it seems so simple; the gorgeous thing about Nambucca is the coast combined with the wide, slow moving river. A sleepy river culture, married to the salt tinged coastal feel, where women and men line the boardwalk after work as the sun slips on her golden veil, casting fishing lines into the mouth where the river meets the sea. The Nambucca Valley feels like the best of all worlds; river, coast and country melt into one seamlessly, as organic and Australian as anything else.
This again was proved as we drove 20 minutes to Bowraville, population 2,500, our hair still wet from our marine explorations, where we suddenly feel transported to a deeply country aspect. The town feels like it should be part of a Western set; the wide sleepy saloon street is pockmarked by quaint shop faces, their retro styling as charming as the Jacaranda that weeps lilac amongst the rolling green hills. Housing a post office that dates 114 years old the township is one of the oldest in the area, having been built on the timber industry, in particular the logging of cedar, which first began in 1840 and of which Bowraville proudly established itself as capital in Nambucca. Charmingly, those whose occupations required them to log the timber bore the official title ‘cedar getters’. Of course.
For such a tiny town the heritage is well listed, boasting not one but two museums; a military museum and a folk museum, the latter housing an old church within its centre. It is here that the Boatshed Café’s barista confided that her parents had been married, the wedding party trooping through the museum to hear the happy couple exchange their vows. Quite mad and deeply moving.
It is in Bowraville, where you feel everything should be sepia coloured, that we visit The Mad Hatters, a garden tea café owned and operated solely by Cherie O’Donohue seven days a week, the tranquil gardens a perfect stop over and a long standing dream of Cherie, who had always dreamt of turning her spacious garden into a café to relax in. The only way to describe it is zen; it is a place to escape.
Cruising back to Nambucca via the Tourist Drive we check in to Marcel Towers, our room on the top floor practically kissing the estuary’s horizon, a delicious salty breeze accompanying that wonderful vista. According to Terry and Penny who have owned the hotel for 15 years, there is wonderful snorkelling to be had right across the road in those very waters, where a shy angel fish has made its home next to the green buoy, and octopus can often be seen. It turns out however I am more beached whale then bond babe when it comes to snorkelling, and prefer to sit in the shallows and watch the tides swing by. However, Marcel Towers readily lend their snorkels and kayaks for all patrons who so feel inclined, and it is well worth the effort.
Jai and I then amble down the V-Walk, a legendary promenade whose bordering rocks have all been legally graphitized by visitors and locals alike. You can spend hours looking at all the different signs; proclamations of love and history, of family holidays and memorials, moments of magic enshrined in blazing colour with the azure sea as backdrop. We even paint one of our own, and if walking down, do keep your eyes peeled for ‘Bean & Jube do the Bucca’!
We settle at the V-Wall Tavern, whose wide verandas give the perfect vantage for watching the water turn inky in the dusk, the gum tree’s silhouettes against the indigo water and mandarin sunset simply breathtaking. Again, it’s the colour, that saturating Australian colour which takes the day away just as it started it. Please, for me, order the locally caught yellow fin tuna, grilled in lemon and pepper and served with roasted chats. It is divine and something to live by. As is the sign emblazoned above the bar; ‘Life’s a beach – enjoy the waves!’