“The sweet nostalgia of my seaside holiday home”

By Katrina O’Brien

It could have been the discreet sign on the other side of Bulahdelah on the Pacific Highway, two-and-a-half hours north of Sydney, as the cars sped towards 100 again; or perhaps the steep curvy up-and-down road through ancient State Forest trees that said we were almost there. But really, it was the thin, slightly broken, and always temperamental, threadbare blinds that really told us we were on holidays at our home away from home on Blueys Beach, on the NSW coastal region dreamily named Pacific Palms.

We’d been coming this way for years – the first time for me was as a student crashing my parents’ holiday at nearby Boomerang Beach – but it wasn’t until we climbed the rickety stairs of this home with no fences and the “gone fishing” sign, with two tiny kids in tow, that we knew we’d found the holiday home for us. And each September, we’d return to this home that held us within its snug, familiar embrace.

It was a classic Australian holiday home by the most beautiful of beaches. There was mismatched collected crockery – including designs my grandmother once owned – a gnarly climbing tree, a chest filled with games with missing pieces, those well-worn barely there blinds and a long, wide balcony out front for beach towels, boards, sand-filled sun shelters and fishing rods, with bougainvillea pink wrapping it in love. It had two blue dive-into lounges that had the marks of grand final footy BBQs gone by, and a dishwasher that lulled us to sleep each night with its rhythmic hum. There was also a little kitchen and a couple of beds out back where mum and dad bunked in when they’d come up for a few days.

This place, with its visiting kookaburras and sketchy track direct to the beach, was bliss. I remember sitting in “my spot” on the corner of that blue worn couch one day when the kids were at their cousins’ rental down the road, book in hand, cup of tea in the other and a million (actually probably multi-million) dollar view out towards Seals Rocks beckoning, saying to my mother: “This is my favourite spot in the world.”

It was the stunning beaches of Pacific Palms that first pulled us in. There was Blueys, where at one end surfers stand atop a steep viewing point to make a call and calculate the risk. (Known to be a little sharky, my husband loves that there’s no battles for waves here, but he’d need at least one other surfer out there as an alternative food source in order for him to dive in.) Then, at the southern end, there are cows that casually cling to lush green hills and epitomise that jewel of a blend of coast meets country. (Legend has it a cow named Bluey once fell off these very cliffs to give this little part of the world its name.) Nearby northward is Boomerang, the surfer’s paradise, with pure white sand that stretches for miles while the pristine (and patrolled) whale-loving Elizabeth Beach, five minutes’ drive north, is a refuge for when the swell is a little too big at Boomers or Blueys.

Joe, then 11, and Rosalie, then 9, snuggle up on the well-worn couches of their treasured Bluey's holiday home. And those blinds!

Yes, it was the beaches that seduced us back each year, but it was also, undeniably, the familiarity and loveliness of that beautiful holiday home.

When we stepped inside we were on holidays: no working out who was taking which bedroom, how to work the oven or where to store the fishing rods. This place was ours and welcomed us each year like a treasured old friend.

A few Septembers ago, we had a year off from our annual trip up north to take the kids to the birthplace of their grandparents (Italy), and when I went to rebook for the following September, I couldn’t. The inevitable had happened: the homeowners had renovated the bathroom – so no more dodging that clingy shower curtain in the tiniest of spaces – and took the home off the rental market to understandably keep this pot of holiday gold for themselves.

When we returned to beautiful Blueys last summer with our now uni student children, we stepped it up to stay in another home, complete with a silent dishwasher, gorgeous Bali daybeds and even Wifi. We loved it, of course, yet as we walked to dinner (always Huey’s at Blueys pizza) and looked up to see the painted balcony of our old holiday home where our beach towels once hung, we all couldn’t help but feel a little collective pang of love and longing.

Yet I know it won’t be too long before our new home feels like ours. And I’ll happily claim it, as there really is something truly special about opening the door to a home that’s already embedded with warm memories, and where that feeling of “yes, I am on holidays” comes rushing in, in one joyous instant.

The fine print

How to get there
The easiest way to get to Blueys Beach is to drive, three hours north from the heart of Sydney, along the Pacific Highway or one hour and 45 minutes from Newcastle. Otherwise, from Sydney, train it from Central to Newcastle and catch the 150 or 151 bus to Pacific Palms (it stops at the Pacific Palms Visitor Information Centre.)

When to go
Shoulder seasons are best for surf breaks and fewer crowds. Average temperature-high in November is 23 degrees; in February it’s 26 degrees (and the water temp is a glorious 23 degrees). 

What to pack
Yoga gear. You cannot beat a morning yoga class upstairs at the Elizabeth Beach Surf Life Saving Club; visit Yoga Heart Healing. Take walking shoes for treks through nearby Booti Booti National Park.

This year it was Benee’s Stella & Steve.

Where to stay
Find a selection of homes at Pacific Palms Holidays.

Insider tips
Wallis Lake in nearby Forster is a must-visit for fishing. (Recommended two-hour boat hire: Blue Peter Boat Hire.) And always pop in to Vinnies, across the road for fabulous finds; 134 Little Street, Forster.) Finally, do not miss the Friday night meat raffle at the Pacific Palms Recreation Club


Katrina O’Brien

My life in travel

Favourite childhood holiday
“Travelling to Condobolin (in the centre of NSW) each year with my family to see relatives. There was always something to entertain us: new puppies from the farm, trail bike riding, my cousins getting up to mischief.”

My vacation vibe
“It’s a toss-up between walking holidays (walking the Larapinta Trail in 2019 will always be a highlight) and chilled breaks by the beach in a favourite holiday home.”

On my bucket list…
“Sicily, Italy.”



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