Monthly Archives: April 2014

Beachwood Café


This gem of a café is located in Yamba, a resort town on the Clarence River just opposite Iluka, the fishing village I raved about in my previous post. It’s not on the main drag, but tucked neatly away up a side street. Don’t you get a bit of a thrill from discovering something, well, just a little bit off the beaten track? And we really did stumble on this one purely by chance.P1010912

Yamba, though, was a deliberate choice. In fact, this is where I originally envisaged us staying on our road trip up the coast. Ages ago, I read that Yamba had ranked first in the 100 Best Towns in Australia, and thought “There must be something in this.” Then Cowrie Cottage in Iluka, on the other side of the river, popped up in one of my accommodation searches and I opted to stay there instead. Especially since there is a regular ferry service on the Clarence between the two locations. And the possibility of spotting dolphins on the way.P1010899

Daddy Ickle had the privilege of seeing those magnificent mammals frolic in the bow waves on our ferry trip across the river; I saw a few – way in the distance – on our return. Ickle, alas, missed out on this occasion, but actually all she wanted to do that morning was run free. It was a pretty quick journey, thank goodness, as there’s not much room for toddler antics on a small, old-fashioned ferry.P1010908P1010905

We had a gentle stroll to the beach on arrival in Yamba, but really the main reason for our trip was to find a nice café for lunch. Nothing too fancy, but not too basic either. After all, it’s not every day that Mummy Ickle turns 40. Yup, that defining moment of middle-agedom happened in Yamba, and Beachwood Café was waiting for us to celebrate in style.P1010914

We were greeted at the door and seated by a lady who later turned out to be the owner and chef, as well as front of house and author of a couple of cookbooks (the ultimate multi-tasker). Originally from Turkey, her tiny café immediately transports you to another world. There were old-fashioned roses on every table, and herbs and vegetables growing on the bank opposite. The menu is based on fresh local produce and changes every day.

I opted for slow-roast lamb, which arrived on a bed of mixed salad and leaves, with a generous smear of baba ganoush hidden underneath, whilst Daddy Ickle went for the zucchini fritters and salad. And Ickle picked and chose from each plate at will and, more importantly, sipped on her chocolate milk. The desserts were divine – oh to have been able to sample them all! After much deliberation, we selected meringue with cream and sour cherries, and Turkish dumplings with caramelised figs and cream, both drizzled with rose petal sauce and sprinkled with pistachio nuts. Feast your eyes on this!P1010916


Ah, Iluka

What a wonderful few days we spent in Iluka, a small village at the mouth of the Clarence River, just a couple of hours south of Byron Bay.P1010862

I’ve been trying to put my finger on what made this time so special, as Iluka itself didn’t immediately inspire me. The landscape is flatter than flat, and the gloomy weather meant that each day we were greeted with a dull palette of greys and faded yellows. And yet, there is so much more to this location than meets the eye.P1010891

First, Iluka is relatively unspoilt. Yes, there is a caravan park and signs for holiday rentals are dotted around, but it is still very much a fishing village. Real commercial trawlers venture out all year round returning with their catch, much of which is provided to the local fishermen’s co-operative. When we visited, there were fresh prawns, whiting, mullet, homemade fishcakes and Balmain Bugs*. And recreational fishing is a popular activity too.P1010871P1010867

There are local beaches for surfing and swimming, although some of these can only be accessed by 4WD; littlies can always go for a dip in the dedicated area by the riverside near the local playground. The village is surrounded by national park and boasts the largest remaining expanse of seaside rainforest in NSW (World Heritage-listed in 1986). There is so much to do…or so little.P1010858

Iluka is a great place to wind down away from the rat race, but still comfortably close to civilisation. Our holiday cottage was within easy walking distance of the shops, the river, and pretty much everything else. It did help that the wonderful Cowrie Cottage was a particularly welcoming and well-equipped place to stay, complete with enclosed garden and play equipment for Icklegen (and it was a bargain at the price, I might add).

We did venture a bit further afield on my birthday, but that’s another story to look forward to in due course. In the meantime, farewell Iluka, ’til next time.

*The Balmain Bug (now there’s a great name) is a type of lobster native to Australian waters.

Nambucca Heads

I mentioned in my last post that I would be writing about our holiday in a series of instalments, rather than one giant missive. So here, people, is the first of these, starting at stop number one: Nambucca Heads.P1010835

At 4.5 hours’ journey time from home, I did wonder whether Icklegen would last the distance (or me, for that matter). I needn’t have worried. She dropped off to sleep shortly after departure and snoozed for an impressively long time. We then had a decent snack and leg stretch at a playground en route, and the last part of the journey was made bearable by Daddy Ickle’s inspired idea to load some episodes of Peppa Pig onto his iPad for our backseat babe.P1010819

Nambucca Heads is located just off the Pacific Highway. In fact, it used to be on the main road north, but has been spared the traffic thanks to a bypass. What a relief that must have been for the locals and the tourists. Once a bustling port, it is now a quiet little place, or at least it is in the low season.P1010837P1010844

‘Nambucca’ derives from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘entrance to the waters’, and it couldn’t be more appropriate. The view of the river estuary from the higher slopes is spectacular and two of the town’s must-see attractions are defined by their relationship with water. The first of these, the V-Wall, runs parallel to the Nambucca River as it enters the sea. The wall is a graffiti artist’s dream: hundreds of boulders providing the perfect canvas for works of art and declarations of peace and love. Icklegen loved it. She danced along the concrete path and clambered on the rocks to have a closer look at the varying designs and bright colours.P1010840

‘The River’ mosaic outside the police station on Bowra Street is also well worth a look. Old china plates, tea cups, tiles and pottery have found new life as a plethora of water-dwelling creatures in this artwork depicting a river winding its way to the sea. Oh, and just down the high street from here, there’s a great little bakery Wild Terra where you’ll find beautiful bread loaves and French-style pastries for sale. Mmmm!

We enjoyed strolling along the boardwalks along the water’s edge, too.P1010832

Much as we appreciated our 3-day stay, I’m not sure we would return to Nambucca for a holiday, although it’s a lovely and very convenient place to stop when you just can’t face any more travel time on the Pacific Highway.

NSW Road Trip

FAMILY ROAD (1)It’s been a little while since our last post on Icklegen, but there are plenty more to come! We’ve had a busy few weeks planning, and then going on our first family road trip; in fact, our first proper holiday as a family ever! And what a fabulous time we had. I can’t wait to tell you all about it, but thought the best way to do that would be in several instalments. Otherwise, you’ll be bombarded with text and photos before I’ve even got underway.

Our plan wasn’t too ambitious: just to set out from home and follow the Pacific Highway north towards Byron Bay. Given that Byron is an 8.5-hour drive from home, we figured a few stops along the way wouldn’t go amiss, especially with a young toddler in-tow. Besides, it also provided the ideal opportunity to explore some of the coastal regions of New South Wales.

To give you a little taster of what will follow, here are a few snapshots from the various stages of our journey.P1010837

Glorious graffiti on the V-Wall at Nambucca HeadsP1010871

Iluka: a fishing village on the Clarence RiverP1010916

Birthday dessert with a difference!IMG_4979

Farmstay in the Byron Hinterland

P.S. I whipped up the blog graphic at the top of this post for free on Canva, a fantastic online tool I’ve used a few times now. It’s pretty straightforward once you get a hang of the basics and the possibilities are endless.