Day 21: The Newman family road trip has begun.
Master Four has been counting down the sleeps as though he’s waiting for Christmas.
As we loaded up the wagon with all the regular family road trip paraphernalia we chose to leave the car DVD player behind. This trip is about getting back to basics, enjoying the entertainment waiting to be discovered all around us, if only we would slow down long enough to see.
First stop Urunga. A tranquil town with more than a handful of secret treasures to be discovered.
We filled our hungry bellies at the busy, buzzing Pomegranate Café in Urunga.
Dad and daughter duo Geoff and Jess took time out from the lunch rush to treat us to a fresh local feast. The pakora was a delicious display of colourful fresh vegetables in a light chickpea and rice flour batter flavoured with Indian spices. The only disappointment was that I had to share some with the kids.
We overheard regular ‘Tommy’ exclaim that his was the best burger he had tasted since the 1970s. Poor bloke has waited four decades for a decent bun!
And the macaroons. The. Best. Ever. Miss Two kept the whole pretty purple lavender variety all to herself.
It’s the kind of café they don’t just know your name, but also your coffee order, and they make it before you even ask from beans freshly roasted up the road in Coffs Harbour.
Heading north we found our cabin at Bellinger River Tourist Park sitting by the side of the river, perched high up on stilts to allow the floodwaters to wash underneath without fuss when required – and providing a spectacular view up and down the waterway.
A lovely place to plop down in a chair on the banks and throw a line into the river to catch dinner. You could pause here for quite a while. But don’t just take my word for it. There’s a testimonial on their website from a visitor who comes all the way from Queensland and stays 10 weeks at a time.
With the kids having ‘bagsed’ their beds we headed back into town for some more fun.
Set by the sea at the mouth of the Bellinger and Kalan rivers, Urunga is home to around 3000 lucky locals who have either lived here ‘forever’, moved up to retire or spent a holiday here and forgot to head home.
Cooled by the afternoon sea breeze we meandered, scootered and pram-pushed along the boardwalk, stopping to point out schools of fish passing by underneath us and soak up the view which delighted at every turn. At the very end of the boardwalk we were rewarded with an exuberant display by a humpback whale. Right time, right place.
And this is a place close to my heart. My dad spent his early childhood in Urunga and learnt to swim in the river by this very boardwalk.
The boardwalk has quite a history. The original footbridge was built in the late 1890s and was only two planks wide, with no handrails. I’m glad I wasn’t wrangling a pram and a pre-schooler back then.
As we paddled our feet in the pristine waters we worked up another appetite. Lucky then that dinner was just a short hop, skip and a jump into town, right across the road from our lunch venue in fact.
The Tuscan style Embers Restaurant turns out rustic, flavourful pizzas from their hand-built woodfired oven. Embers takes local produce to another level – not only is the seafood sourced locally, the herbs are picked fresh from their own courtyard garden. The deep red tomato sauce is slow cooked for days to allow the full flavours to develop, and the slow fermented dough is hand-rolled to order. This is pizza made slowly, and eaten quickly.
When asked about his favourite part of the day, Master Four admitted it was our friendly waitress Kelly, closely followed by the homemade ice-cream she dished up at the end of our delicious meal.
Another pizza followed us home, as did a cheeky bottle of red. Once the kids are in bed you will find me enjoying both, sitting on the veranda and soaking up the last crimson colours of the day reflecting off the river.