ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

17. Australia Road Trip - Beyond Coffs Harbour - Blood Red Rock

Updated on January 28, 2013

As Aussie as anything

Golden sand, blue sky, tidal lagoon, two blokes fishing from a tinny - This is Australia.
Golden sand, blue sky, tidal lagoon, two blokes fishing from a tinny - This is Australia.

Where are we now? New South Wales still?

Welcome to Episode 17 of my Australian Road Trip Hub. In case you can’t be bothered to start at the beginning, or you can’t figure out which one to read first, let me bring you up to speed. My name is indeed Mick (or Mike or Michael) and my companion/partner/friend/lover/fellow traveller is indeed an Englishwoman named Sheila. I am an Aussie who has lived in England for quite a few years and together we have come to Australia on what has subsequently become known as our "Grown-ups' Gap Year". So far, starting in my hometown of Sydney, we have travelled down the Southeast Coast, to Melbourne; then across to and around Tasmania; then back to the mainland and along the Great Ocean Road. We returned to Sydney via Ballarat and over the top of the Snowy Mountains, where we broke down in a really inconvenient place. Back in Sydney we swapped our little pop-top campervan for a Toyota flatbed truck with a Winnebago camper mounted on the back. The new truck is a bit of luxury for my English Rose, shall we say.

We left Sydney again in early February with Sheila's son Sam and his girlfriend Sonia who have come from London to share two weeks on the road with us. This travelogue is now following our progress as we head north up the New South Wales Coast. It’s a long trip with no real time frame… but hopefully the story will evoke a sense of what Australia is like, beyond the guide books. Oh yea, This chapter is set in a typical nowhere slice of paradise called Red Rock, NSW.

Red Rock is here

Red Rock NSW:
Red Rock New South Wales 2456, Australia

get directions

Red Rock is just another one of many beautiful, unspoilt beach hideaways in New South Wales... but it does have a dark and bloody history too.

Nothing here except serenity

From the Headland - looking south west over the village and campground
From the Headland - looking south west over the village and campground
From the Headland - looking North west over the mouth of the lagoon at low tide.
From the Headland - looking North west over the mouth of the lagoon at low tide.
From the Headland - looking North - our future lies here.
From the Headland - looking North - our future lies here.
The headland - Red Rock or Blood Rock
The headland - Red Rock or Blood Rock
From the Headland - looking south from wence we have come.
From the Headland - looking south from wence we have come.
The perfect camp.
The perfect camp.

Rain? In Red Rock?

“It never rains in Red Rock,” reckons Shorty.

I bet he’s not a gambling man though. Mind you, he is short enough to be a jockey, which is why, presumably, he is called Shorty. Curiously I find myself wondering – does have a real name or is Shorty what he always calls himself? Because there is no Mrs Shorty, or Mate-of-Shorty about to say “Hey, Shorty…” I wonder, does he refer to himself as Shorty out of lifelong habit, or perhaps he has learnt to call himself this dimunitive name as a defense against bullies and those who might unintentionally or insensitively draw attention to his shortness. I don’t know and I’m not going to ask, that would be wrong.

So Shorty is a little old guy; a widower, who lives the grey nomad lifestyle in its purest form. He is a retired Bus driver from Far North Queensland who for now, is living alone in his caravan at Red Rock. He tells me that he spends a few weeks of the year here and the rest of the time migrating up and down the length of the country, particularly between Melbourne, where his kids live, and Cairns, where he winters. At dozens of campsites in between he crosses paths with his nomadic mates, drinks a beer or two, fishes a bit, and works on his leathery tan. Shorty is one of Australia’s many characters – regular folks who have long since gone troppo - you come across them everywhere, strung out along the endless highways that vanish to points on the horizon.

We pitch our classic Winnebago-based encampment on the Red Rock campsite, which is a large grassy field tucked behind the bush-covered sand dunes that fringe a long beach. There are sandy trails through the sheoaks and banksias with bleached wood palings laid as steps to assist walking in the soft, hot sand. We are parked in a small copse of acacia with a perfect tarpauline shelter erected off the side of the truck. Beneath the tarp we have created a cool den with sarongs hung on the sunniest side to provide more shade. Our table and chairs add furnished comfort and at night the space takes on the aura of a Bedouin’s tent in the soft light of our kerosene lamps. It’s a perfect set-up and one in which we plan to spend the next three days relaxing out of the blazing heat.

Red Rock has a five kilometre beach to the south of its eponymous headland and another golden strand of similar length disappearing in the sea mist to the north. There’s a big tidal lagoon behind the beach and a broad creek that flows into the sea past mangroves and pandanus palms. It promises to be a languid few days where we can hangout on the near deserted beach, take cycle rides around the quite streets lined with empty, out-of-season holiday homes, or explore some of the bush trails in the forest behind the lagoon

Shorty had one just like it.

Shorty came up to us and introduced himself – “Gooday, I’m Shorty…” - when we were setting up camp. He thought that our truck was actually his old Toyota/Winnebago.

“Had one just like it,” he says, “drove it all the way round a few years ago.”

So me and Shorty get to chatting and it transpires that he used to own and drive the only bus that plied the 600 odd outback-miles between Karumba and Cairns in Far North Queensland. This is, in itself, a useless piece of information, but it just so happens that I rode in that very same bus back in 1982, after 'jumping ship' in Karumba to escape from a job like a prison-sentence on a fishing boat in The Gulf of Carpentaria. It was no ordinary bus ride, more a trek across 800 kilometres of dry and dusty outback tracks. And this fellow, little Shorty, was at the wheel.

“Yea, I remember a couple of deckhands leaving Karumba on the bus,” says Shorty.

As sweet and on the ball as he is, I find it difficult to accept that he can actually remember me and my two ship mates slinking away from that mad job on the Carpentaria prawn beds all those years ago... but then, why not? I’d like to think he remembers. Later that afternoon, I grab a couple of cold tinnies and visit Shorty in his Caravan where he shows me a photo of his old Winnebago-on-a-Toyota - it looks almost identical to ours. He then shows me his photos of the West Coast: various spots from Broome to Perth. He even writes down a list of must see places for when we finally make it over there, though that prospect seems like an impossible journey, parked here in the heat of Red Rock in north central New South Wales

“They call me Shorty cause I’m short.” He tells me.

I can’t help grinning like a fool, but he only stands about five foot tall, has a full head of white hair, skin like a sun-tanned lizard and is dressed in nothing more than a translucent pair of baggy old salt-bleached, skin-thin speedos. He may be old and short, but I am nevertheless awestruck in his presence.

• • •

Once we are done roaming the beach and sloshing about in the crystal clear creek, we spend the super-hot afternoons and evenings sitting under the tarp, playing cards, drinking beer and gradually sinking into the first phase of that wonderful state known as Troppo. It is a subtle change for me, but for the visiting son, Sam of London, it is more dramatic. He has stopped using hair products and has just sauntered off to the shower block wearing only his underpants.

Somebody's ideal beachhouse.
Somebody's ideal beachhouse.
Love heart on a blood gum
Love heart on a blood gum
Shadows on Blood Rock
Shadows on Blood Rock

Thunder Down Under

“It never rains in Red Rock.” I wouldn’t bet on it Shorty. The storm we watch is erupting in the mountains down near Dorrigo, about 40 miles south, but it is one of the most dramatic lightning shows I have ever seen. Forks are scribbling across the black sky like apocalyptic graffiti and the barely audible rumble of the thunder must be what the Western Front sounded like when heard from as far away as Dover. That particular storm doesn’t hit us, but the rainy aftermath does. Torrential is hardly an apt description. It tips it down for two days in Biblical proportions. We are soon confined to barracks as our tarpauline shelter is fit for little more than storing our flip flops which eventually float away in the torrent. Endless games of cards consume us while other campers pack up and flee the deluge.

The rain eventually ceases on the afternoon of the third day so we take a long bush walk on the muddy trails while thirsty mosquitoes bleed us dry. The next morning it is time for us to head back to Coffs Harbour as Sam and Sonia have a plane to catch. Sheila and I, on the other hand have roads to drive, sights to see and a little old man called Shorty to inspire us to keep on road tripping.

Australia has a Black history.
Australia has a Black history.

Post Script:

The red rocks of the headland are an Aboriginal sacred place – the scene of a massacre by the white settlers when whole families were driven to plunge to their deaths off the jagged cliffs – we were never taught this history when I was in school. Red Rock is also called Blood Rock.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • saltymick profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the comment Earnest... hey you're gonna wince at my car experiences if you read these Hubs, I think. Pure incompetence.

    • earnestshub profile image


      8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Ok I started here on the 17th hub, but that is where I wanted to go first, thanks for the clear titles.

      I enjoyed this little part of the trip and will be back for more.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)