Picture this: you’re relaxing alongside the banks of the Manning River. The sun’s slowing dropping over the water to create one of those super tranquil movie-like atmospheres, the fish are chomping at the bit to jump on to your dinner plate and the smell of barbecue is in the air.
Camp is literally a few metres away from the water and then it hits you: this could be your new favourite spot! Sound good? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me over at the Farquhar Park Campground. I’ve got to admit, this joint really took me by surprise. I mean, I’ve heard of it before, but I just didn’t think it would be much chop, to be honest. But boy, oh boy, was I wrong.
As always, this trip started off with me spitting the dummy while working on one of the 4WDs out the back. I’d not long copped an eyeful of red dirt when I jumped under the Troopy and I decided enough was enough – it was time to replace some of that red stuff with sand! About 10 minutes later, the old box trailer/rooftop camper rig was hitched up and raring to go and it was time to figure out which gem of a place I was going to explore. Originally, I was going to head north up to Point Plomer up near Port Macquarie, but these plans took an abrupt turn when I heard a bit more about this particular campsite.
Once again, my good mate and gun photographer Matty Fehlberg tagged along for this trip. Fair dinkum, there’s nothing this bloke can’t do with a decent camera. Seriously, I heard he bakes cakes and fixes cars with that old Nikon SLR of his! Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating just a tad, but you get what I mean, right?
Okay, back to the story. You’ll find Farquhar Park is located near Taree, NSW, or, more specifically, near Manning Point.
Manning Point is a small local fishing village within the Manning Valley, which is full of attractions for the whole family. With everything from bike tracks to endless beaches, a weekend’s simply not enough. I guarantee you’ll begging for more. There are more lookouts than you can poke a stick at with Ellenborough Falls popping into mind as one of the most spectacular when it’s in full flow. Plus, there’s no shortage of national parks to explore.
But when it comes to camping, Farquhar Park Campground is right up there with the best of the best. The campsite lies at the end of Farquhar Beach, which means this is a 4WD accessible campsite only; sorry 2WD owners, this one’s not for you (this reminds me of my old mate Damo from down the pub. I tried telling him a Subaru Liberty isn’t a real 4WD, but he wouldn’t accept it until the tide got it a few years back)! Anyway, if you’re looking for the entrance to the beach, it’s at the back end of Manning Point town. It doesn’t get much easier when there’s only a handful of streets there in the first place.
Now, at high tide, there’s no beach at all, so you’ll have to time it right to access the camp, and the sand is quite hard and firm for the majority of the run up the beach, although it gets a bit soft the last few hundred metres. Just don’t pull a silly, like me, and forget to lock in your hubs, or you’ll end up wondering why the hell nobody else is having dramas and you’re bogged to the chassis! Thank Christ I had the MaxTrax in the back or it could have been a real pain in the you-know-what!
You’ll see a heap of wheel tracks darting off to the right which is pretty much the only sign that camp is over that way. A quick drive off the beach and into camp and you’ll be in pure heaven. You’re literally camping on the river’s edge, just a few hundred metres from the mouth. There are basic toilets available, but no drinking water so remember to be totally self-sufficient, especially since you’re stuck in there on high tide.
SETTING UP CAMP
If you’re anything like me, the second you pull up stumps you’ll want to unload the kayak and go for a leisurely paddle. But, being so close to the rivermouth, pick your times as the tide flows hard and fast, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that paddling against the tide is a bad idea here.
When it comes to fishing, I’d love to tell you tall tales of how a monster flatty literally jumped on the back of the kayak, paddled me back to shore and begged to be eaten with a side of greens, but it just didn’t happen. What I will say, though, is that I fed the fish all my bait and didn’t hook a single thing! A part of me thinks I should stick to 4WDing, especially since my old mate Troopy Dan landed a giant flathead up here just few days earlier.
WHAT TO BRING
There are a few things you should bring on your trip to make sure things go nice and smoothly, and your own firewood springs to mind first up – there’s not all that much to go around once you get here. Being right alongside the river means there’s always going to be a few of those blood sucking mozzies getting around but, honestly, they’re not nearly as bad as you would think, at least they weren’t during my stay, anyway. In saying that, you definitely don’t want to forget the repellent! Being a self-sufficient campground, the take-home-what-you-bring-in policy applies, so make sure you’ve got a few garbage bags with you, as well. Yeah, yeah, I know that’s a given for most of us real campers, but rubbish still gets left behind for some reason.
Most of the campsites are pretty well shaded, and wind isn’t much of a problem either, being off the main beach drag. Oh, and if you’ve got a tinnie, bring it! You can launch it straight from camp and you’ll have a blast exploring the river for the day!
Unfortunately no bookings are taken to reserve a campsite for yourself, but if you’re unlucky enough to miss out on a campsite at Farquhar Park Campground, there are two caravan parks back down the beach at Manning Point. There’s also a general store that stocks the bare essentials plus a bit of bait and tackle, too. Camp fees at Farquhar Park are a reasonable $11/vehicle per night for four, and the friendly caretaker will pop around early morning or late afternoon to collect the fee and give you a receipt.
All this hard work writing articles has got me hanging to head off for another camping trip! And, I’ll tell you what: Farquhar Park is probably going to get another visit from me very soon. As the saying goes, “We’re here for a good time, not a long time”, so make the most of it.
Farquhar Park Campground, near Manning Point, is about 105km south of Port Macquarie and 190km north of Newcastle.
Access is by 4WD only via the beach from Manning Point at low tide. Beach permits are required, contact the Manning Point General Store on (02) 6553 2665 or the Manning Valley Visitor Centre on 1800 182 733 for more information.
Camping is first-in, best-dressed. Fees are $11/vehicle/night (up to four) and are collected on site. Pit toilets are available but there is very little firewood and no water available, so campers need to be self-sufficient.
Check out the full feature in issue #101 June 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.