A Dog’s Life – Hawks Nest, NSW

It’s September, and it is hard to believe that this is the first family getaway since December 2019. We decided, given the challenging year it has been, that we would bring our dogs with us as they certainly deserved a break too.

Holidaying with dogs takes some consideration, first and foremost the space in your car. You might need to plan for a roof pod to store your items as our vehicle was snug with a Border Collie and Spaniel in the boot. Remember, you need room to pack their bedding, food, snacks, toys and essential doggie poop bags as they are like two extra kids travelling with you. Bringing bikes or scooters will also come in handy if you can squeeze them in.

Hawk’s Nest is located on the Mid-Coast around Myall Lakes and about 5 ½ hours North from Orange.  A friend recommended the area to me as a dog-friendly area with a super relaxed vibe for the entire family.

On our journey, we stopped into Café 2273 in Glenbrook at the bottom of the Blue Mountains. The website doesn’t appear to mention that it is super dog friendly, though take my word for it, there is an ambient outdoor area which allows you to sit at a table or take a picnic rug and set-up on the grass. The food is delicious, and I recommend the “Cluck Norris” burger or for a holiday treat the French toast with Persian fairy floss and popping candy.

In Hawk’s Nest there here are loads of Pet-Friendly accommodation places available like Reflections Holiday Parks or there are many Pet-friendly houses in the area. We chose to stay close to Bennetts Beach which is a lovely mega-long beach extending for 14.3 km with multiple entry points.  The scent of jasmine and wisteria fills the air and the children and dogs are squealing with excitement to head down the beach asap!

On first thought, you could be sitting on the set of film ‘Castaway’ as many times we were the only ones there on the stretch of beach where we entered. Looking out, it almost reminded me of Fiji without the palm trees. On the beach it is a treasure trove of shells, reminding me of my childhood.

Our dogs loved playing with other dogs off leash, chasing the seagulls as well as 4WD vehicles which can drive up some tracks leading onto the beach. There are ample opportunities to go off road and do some sand driving to really get away. The beach is generally unpatrolled except during school holidays. Life-guards set-up on the weekends although dogs cannot go into the flagged beach area. The water is the simply sparkling blue-green and as close to your dreams of a beach paradise. Although it can be rough with strong currents, so probably not ideal for young children (< 5yo)  to swim. Our boys (aged 7 and 11 years) had fun splashing about and hopping on their boogie boards.

An everyday highlight is spotting a pod of dolphins which appear not far from shore, who swim in unison and appear to be catching their own waves just for kicks. However, shark sightings are also common, so if you hear the siren go off; get out of the water immediately! The small sand-dunes on Bennetts were an added entertainment bonus; let the kids surf or boogie board down the dunes in-between swims in the ocean. Endless fun and sure to exhaust even the busiest of little people.

Jimmy’s Beach which is just around the Yacaaba peninsula and 5 mins away was like glass when we visited and is generally a safer bet for young children.

Or if you’re up for hike, head up to the Yacaaba Headland to soak up the best views of Nelson Bay and Port Stephens.

Note – Dingoes have been spotted roaming around, so do not let your dogs or children run off alone in the scrub area off the beach.

The essence of a super chilled holiday to me, is to be able to walk (or scooter) around without having to get in and out of the car. A 20-minute trip approximately over the Singing Bridge and you’ll arrive lakeside at ‘bustling’ Tea Gardens. It’s kind of like the Big Smoke in comparison to Hawks Nest but is really very charming and peaceful.

There are plenty of marine and wildlife to observe and walks to enjoy around Hawk’s Nest and Tea Gardens. Marine Drive is where you can scoot along, check-out the sculptures, grab a coffee or bite to eat. If you’re like me and love checking out local artists, there is also a lovely  not-for-profit cooperative The Gallery which is run by the artists, so you are likely to meet a few of the artists when visiting. A fortunate location, was the Tea Gardens Ice Cream shack with lolly shop next-door for my boys to enjoy while I ducked in.

Feeling starved of water and sea air, our 4-day itinerary was mainly beach time but there is plenty to do if you want to adventure around the region. You can hire kayaks and sup boards from Ezy Kayaks or hire bikes and ride around the area on one of the many routes which begin and end at the Tea Gardens Visitors Centre.

You can jump on a ferry from Tea Gardens (which run several times a day) over to Nelson Bay for a day trip to enjoy a shark and ray encounter and wander the marina, with many lunch options and really good gelato.

A major highlight for us were the sand dunes at Dark Point, where you can discover a playground to surf and slide down. Boogie Boards are a must! Just follow Mungo Brush Road (from Beach Road, Bennetts Beach) for around 18 minutes in the car and turn right at Dark Point. Note: You will need a Parks and Wildlife permit which is $8 for the day which can be purchased at the Hawks Nest newsagency or visitor centre. Dogs sadly are not welcome here.

What do you do when the weather changes? Ensure you bring some games up or hit the So-Lo warehouse just down from Lovey’s IGA on the corner. It has loads of craft type items you can buy to entertain the little ‘uns. If you fancy catching a film, the closest cinema is an hour’s drive away in Nelson Bay.

My Recommended places to eat:

The Benchmark on Booner  bar and grill know how to feed families with generous servings of food. There is a huge selection of items on the menu from oysters to classics and grill items as well as some serious burgers and pizza.

We chose to stop in for lunch and ordered the Benchmark Works burger, the Snitty Burger and the kid’s cheeseburger (with the thickest meat pattie I’ve seen in a kid’s serving) hit the spot. As a family tradition we rate the chips wherever we go and they got a 4/5! Coffee is not bad and there is a Dog Friendly courtyard too.

Phone: 4997 2980

Open: Breakfast 8am-11am – Lunch 12- 2:30pm – Dinner from 5pm

Pizzas all day from 11am

Where to find them: 100 Booner Street, Hawks Nest

Tillermans is a café/restaurant which served a superb breakfast and presentation was beautiful. Coffee was probably the best I could find around Hawks and Tea Gardens area. They serve lunch as well. Peter and Kerry Hodges have also run two-week food, wine, language and relaxation tours to Dordogne region in France, and although that is on hold presently due to Covid, I am sure that they will continue welcoming their guests to their converted farmhouse close to the town of Bergerac in future.

Phone: (02) 4997 0138

Open: Thursday – Saturday from 8:30am – 6pm and Sunday from 8:30am – 3pm.

Where to find them: 77 Marine Drive, Tea Gardens

Hook and Cook is by far and away one of the most delicious fish and chips I have enjoyed in a while tastes extremely fresh and not overcooked in oil. Grab a table outside or sit across the road looking out onto the Myall lake. I also love the Tea Gardens kombucha served here. Dogs can happily sit outside in the sun. while you are eating.

Phone: 4997 1899

Open 7 Days from 11am till 7pm.

Where to find them: 71 Marine Drive, Tea Gardens

Tea Gardens Boatshed serves delicious food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, not bad coffee with a relaxed service; my tip is to beat the crowds by arriving early at a meal-time and to secure a table.

Phone: 4997 0307

Open: Coffee, cake and sandwiches – All day 7am to 3pm

Breakfast from 7:30 – 11am

Lunch from 12 – 2:30pm

Dinner on Friday & Saturday from 5:30pm.

Where to find them: 110 Marine Drive, Tea Gardens

Fish Coop, Tea Gardens

If you want to eat in at your accommodation, it is a must to stop by the coop and enjoy the local Tea Gardens and Kuruah oysters, delicious sweet prawns and fresh fish. Amazing quality and reasonably priced.

Phone: 4997 0606

Open: 9:30am-3:30pm Tuesday – Friday and 9:30am-2pm Saturday, Sunday and Monday

Where to find them: Marine Drive, Tea Gardens


Amorette Zielinski

Amorette is a Mum of two boys who often keep her flying by the seat of her pants and a wife to a man who is so much fun to share life with; never dull! Friends often call her a ‘connector’ because she loves putting like minded people together curating experiences for them.

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