So much water so close to home. So say the Hastings Valley Mountain Bike Riders, the custodians of the Jolly Nose Mountain Bike Park that exists just 20 minutes’ drive south of the beachside town of Port Macquarie. With that geographical image alone, one can instantly picture the shape a day there might take.
Wake early for the sunrise – glorious on this side of Australia, where the sun rises over the ocean; drive through the relaxed, gradually awakening surrounds of Port Mac, perhaps with a coffee in fist; arrive at the MTB park, release the hounds (the bike) and hit the tracks, aggressively pedalling, knees pumping at full tilt, veering around your own personalised selection of routes. There are over 50km worth of them to choose from.
Many ride styles are on offer and both the thrill-seeking fulfilment of a fast-paced gravity track and the drawn-out pleasures of a cross-country romp are enhanced by the scenery.
IMAGE CREDITS: Stuart Lyall Photography, Matt Cramer, Daniel Tran.
Riders patronising this park find themselves within Queens Lake State Forest. This is forest in the proper sense – dense and fragrant, painted in dappled light, textured and atmospheric. Not only are there forest sections, both temperate and tropical, but there are trails through wetlands and regularly spaced, neat plantations.
Riders make their way along dedicated, specially constructed trails and fire tracks. Precise care has been taken that there are paths for all skill levels, so there’ll be something for you whether you consider yourself a beginner or a modern day incarnation of Evel Knievel five Red Bulls deep. There is an established carpark, easy-to-follow signage and downloadable online maps.
As with so many trail networks around Australia, this park is the brilliant result of dedicated volunteers, who – realising the potential of the terrain which they find at their disposal – spend their available time collaborating with the local powers that be. When the powers are accommodating and open to ideas, and also see the potential of the land in question, riders Australia-wide have cause to celebrate. Such has been the trajectory of Jolly Nose; HVMBR, in collaboration with the council and NSW forestry authorities, have utilised available assets in a way that deserves applause. The park has really kicked off in the last few years, officially launching in 2017 and continuing on a steady, over-achieving path from there, playing host to numerous exciting events reserved for the best of destinations.
BACK TO THE BEACH
Of course you could easily, subjected as you are to insane levels of enjoyment, find yourself riding, head-down, through the night like a courier charging post-haste across the steppe with a life-changing letter tensed between his sweaty fingers – but we see the ideal day reverting to the beach. In need of a rinse and feeling overheated, you could – after exerting yourself silly at the MTB park – make the short drive back to the beach and straight into the water. Attempt to exercise some self-discipline and get out of the car first!
You are spoilt for choice; there are 17 gorgeous beaches vying for your attention. White sand, rocky outcrops, pines standing tall on green headlands, surf breaks curling around points, secluded bays with calm, steady waters – take your pick. Perhaps Flynns Beach tickles your fancy, with its family-friendly, patrolled shores and shaded tree-side picnic spots; or maybe you’d rather take to the surf breaks at Town Beach, Rainbow Beach or Lighthouse Beach; or then again maybe you’d rather experience something more closely approaching tropical island solitude at Oxley, Shelley or Wash House Beaches.
Unlike some shorelines in more southern locales, glorious to the eye but unable to follow through with the temperature, Port Macquarie – being positioned on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales – is both beautiful and conducive of conditions pleasant for swimmers. The waters and sun are warm without either being overwhelming – just perfect for you to experience that perfect burst of refreshment.
To put it into numbers, the mean maximum temperature in September is 20.4, in October 21.8, November 23.2 and December 24.7, peaking in February at 25.9. As for water temperature, in September it lingers around 19 min to 21.5 max, rising in February to around 23.7 min to 27.7 max.
What you do the following day – after winding down that night at any number of restaurants and restoring your vital juices either in lux accommodation or in the BlackWolf tent pitched beachside and scraped gently by casuarina leaves – is completely up to you. There are ample choices. Perhaps it’s the same MTB thrills over again. Or perhaps you opt instead to paddle out in a kayak, take one of the many hikes either along the coast or within the hinterland, carve it up on a long board like an old timer, or even go paragliding. Whatever you do, the sun will be out and you’ll be smiling.