Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Port Macquarie Days

Although I spent time in Sydney, Gunnedah and Melbourne during my recent visit home to Australia, most of my time was spent in Port Macquarie. It is here that my parents, Gordon and Margaret Bayly, and my younger brother, Tim, and his family live.

Back in 2008 I wrote about Port Macquarie in this post, which you're welcome to check out. What I'll briefly say here is that Port Macquarie is located on the New South Wales mid-north coast and is about a 5-hour drive north of Sydney. Situated on the Hastings River, the town has a population of around 41,000. For most of the year (with the exception of the summer holidays around Christmas) Port Macquarie is a quiet place, owing largely to the fact that the busy Pacific Highway bypasses the town about seven kilometres inland.

The area around the Hastings River (Aboriginal: Doongang) has been home to the Birpai Aboriginal peoples for tens of thousands of years. Traditional Birpai life changed forever with the mapping and naming of the area by Surveyor-General John Oxley in 1818. In 1821 Port Macquarie was founded as a penal settlement for convicts sentenced for crimes committed in New South Wales. The region was opened to free settlers nine years later.

Port Macquarie was declared a municipality in 1887, but – and now here's an interesting fact – the town never progressed as a port owing to a notorious coastal bar across the mouth of the Hastings River. South of the river, over twenty shipwrecks occurred in the Tacking Point area before a lighthouse was designed by James Barnet and erected in 1879.

Above: Dad and Mum in front of their home in Port Macquarie.

My parents relocated to Port Macquarie from my family's hometown of Gunnedah in 2002. Last year they moved from Swallows' Ledge, overlooking Port Macquarie's Town Beach, to the "independent living" section of a local retirement home. They are very happy in their new digs – which, in keeping with the bird theme, we've named Ibis Villa, owing to an Australian White Ibis we saw walking stately around the garden during the last couple of days of my stay (above right). My parents home is often visited by kangaroos (below), and it affords some beautiful sunset views! Altogether it's a lovely place to live.

Above: With my brother Tim – March 29, 2014.

Right: My lovely nieces Layne and Sami – March 23, 2014.

On Friday, April 4, I visited with Tim and his wife Ros an area just south of Port Macquarie known as Diamond Head. For images of this beautiful coastal spot, click here.

Above and below: Two views of Gordon Street, Port Macquarie's main thoroughfare.

Above: Town Beach.

Above: This is the spot at the south end of Town Beach where my parents and I would come most mornings of my stay with them. The view of the sea that we had when sitting on the golden sand beneath these trees can be seen at right. This picture also shows the spot where Mum and I would swim – just in front of and to the right of that rocky little island.

Above: Dad took this photo of Mum and I swimming in the diamond sea!

Above: Dad, sitting at the south end of Town Beach. The rock platform that I love so much is just a little ways further along the beach.

Above: Situated above Town Beach is a number of relatively new buildings, including Swallows' Ledge, pictured at far left, where my parents lived from 2007-2013.

Located on the ground floor of the building at right is a great little cafe called The Milk Bar. That's where I'm pictured at left, enjoying a vanilla milkshake – a favorite drink of mine from my childhood, and one which I only ever indulge in when visiting Australia! Why? Because you just can't beat an Australian vanilla milkshake!

Above: The Port Macquarie Observatory, home of the Port Macquarie Astronomical Association.

Above: At the north end of Town Beach is the mouth of the Hastings River. There's a walkway along the river's southern break wall that takes you all the way into the main business/shopping area of Port Macquarie.

Above: Port Macquarie's historic Royal Hotel.

Above: The popular Fig Bar and Restaurant, located on the ground floor of 17-19 Horton St., Port Macquarie.

Above: One of Port Macquarie's famous Norfolk Island Pine trees reflected in The Glasshouse. Located in the center of Port Macquarie, The Glasshouse comprises a 600-seat theatre, rehearsal/performance studio, an art gallery, conference facilities, heritage displays, and a Tourism Information Center.

Above: On May 7, 2014, the legendary Petula Clark will be performing at The Glasshouse. As I noted previously, I'll unfortunately miss this show – but my parents will be attending! I hope she sings "Every Word You Say," which has become my favorite track from her latest album, Lost in You.

5/25/14 Update: To read my mum's review of Petula's concert, click here!

Above: My parents with a number of their Port Macquarie friends.

When in Port Macquarie I was happy and honored to be contacted by two former students from my teaching days in Goulburn.

Above: With Briody and her family. I last saw Briody and her husband in Sydney in 2008.

Right: With John, whom I hadn't seen in over twenty years.

Both Briody and John were students of mine in 1992, when I was their fifth grade teacher at Sts. Peter and Paul Primary School in Goulburn. It was wonderful to catch up with them in Port Macquarie and hear all about what they're doing now.

Above: A picture from 1992. I'm with Briody and John and other students after the performance of an Easter play I'd written and which "5B" staged for the school community. From left: James, Briody (as Mary Magdalene), me, Tom (as Jesus), Bernard, John (as a Roman soldier), and Bernice.

Above: John as Bastian Balthazar Bux in the play I wrote based on Chapter XXII ("The Battle for the Ivory Tower") of The Neverending Story, and which 5B performed for the school community in 1992. Behind him is Katrina, playing the sorceress Xayide.

For more images from my teaching days in Goulburn, click here.

Back now to the present . . . and Port Macquarie! On my last night in Port – Monday, April 14 – I went out to dinner with my family to the Hot Wok Chinese Restaurant, which is where Mum and Dad are pictured above.

Above: Layne, Sami, and Sami's boyfriend Connor at the Hot Wok – April 14, 2014.

Above: With my brother Tim – April 14, 2014.

Left: Mum with her two beautiful granddaughters Layne and Sami – April 14, 2014.

Above: After dinner we enjoyed coffee and dessert at Ibis Villa. From left: Mum, Tim, Dad, me, Sami, and Connor – April 14, 2014.

Above: Sunset over the Hastings River, Port Macquarie – April 14, 2014.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
On Sacred Ground
Diamond Head
Like Persephone of Myth (2011)
Christmas in Australia (2010)
Town Beach (2010)
Swallows Ledge (2009)
Port Macquarie (2008)
North Brother Mountain (2008)
Ellenborough Falls (2007)
Everglades Exhibition (2007)
Boorganna (Part 1)
Boorganna (Part 2)
Billabong Koala Park (2007)
Last Days in Australia (2007)


brian gerard said...

What a great post! And, a remarkable place

Terry Nelson said...

It looks like paradise compared to Minnesota. What a beautiful place - lovely family.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Thanks, Brian and Terry!