The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - ESCAPE - WORDS: KIRI TEN DOLLE

Long be­fore the sea­side town of Sawtell was given that name, the Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple called the re­gion Bongil Bongil, or ‘a place where one stayed a long time’, for its plentiful sup­ply of food, an­i­mals, birds and fish. Af­ter a four-day es­cape to dis­cover the town that holds my hus­band’s name, we were hooked.

Sawtell, 6km south of Coffs Har­bour, lies be­tween Boam­bee and Bonville Heads and is bounded by a rail line to the west.

Huge her­itage-listed fig trees form the back­bone of the main street, now a foodie haven with restau­rants and cafes spilling on to the side­walks.

But its ul­ti­mate draw­card is spec­tac­u­lar turquoise beaches and es­tu­ar­ies I al­most don’t want to tell you about.

Per­haps why this sunny town by the sea car­ries the tagline The Best Kept Se­cret in its tourism ma­te­rial.

Af­ter the four-hour drive from the Gold Coast, we grab a quick coldie at Sawtell RSL.

The jovial bloke on the front door spots my hus­band’s sur­name on his li­cence and jokes “Mate, you’re roy­alty around here with a name like that”.

It wasn’t un­til we got home that we learned he is a down-the-line de­scen­dant of Oswald Sawtell, the de­vel­oper who bought the land for 500 pounds in the early 1920s and saw its po­ten­tial as beach­side vil­lage.

Ossie, as he is known to the lo­cals, sub­di­vided the farm­land, now the town’s cen­tre, into 500 blocks and sold them for 10 pounds ($20) and up 100 years ago. The av­er­age home for sale in Sawtell when we vis­ited is up­wards of $700,000.

In 1927 the town was of­fi­cially gazetted as Sawtell af­ter Ossie him­self.

Today the town swells with tourists dur­ing peak sea­sons with ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions aplenty. We stay in a two-bed­room ocean villa at Big4 Sawtell Beach car­a­van park with views of the lay­ers of teal es­tu­ary, blonde sand dunes and ocean. Ac­cess to the wa­ter is a few steps down a forest path from our door.

The Big4 is just a stroll from the main street and of­fers all the crea­ture com­forts you’d ex­pect, with var­i­ous ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions de­pend­ing on whether you want to camp or glamp.

The rocky coast­line and pools along the es­tu­ary are per­fect for the kids to play. My only re­gret was not bring­ing a tube to float along with the cur­rent.

Fish and yab­bies swim be­tween our an­kles and at low tide you can walk across to the beach on the other side.

On the south of Bonville Head­land you’ll find the Sawtell Me­mo­rial Rock Pool. The ocean pool, built in 1962, is the only one of its kind in the re­gion.

Surfers en­joy the swell on the south­side while the head­land it­self makes for an en­joy­able walk with its breath­tak­ing views.

If you visit early enough you might catch the cof­fee van for your morn­ing cup of joe.

Sawtell’s bounty of food op­tions re­mains a draw­card for vis­i­tors, al­beit in the way of trendy shopfronts these days.

We eat our way around the cafes and restau­rants along the main drag dur­ing our four-day vay­cay. For brekkie, we couldn’t go past the home­made sour­dough crum­pets with whipped cin­na­mon ri­cotta at Cafe Treeo on First Ave.

Other high­lights in­cluded happy hour at Lime Mex­i­cana and Open Air Pic­nics, which al­lows you to or­der a fully catered pic­nic bas­ket on­line (48 hours no­tice re­quired) to match your oc­ca­sion — ro­man­tic pic­nic for two, af­ter­noon es­cape or cel­e­bra­tion.

With food op­tions vary­ing from graz­ing plat­ters to sal­ads and sand­wiches, you can also se­lect your food choices and add-ons

such as a tra­di­tional wicker bas­ket, cush­ions, flow­ers, games, even a por­ta­ble speaker for your tunes.

The pic­nic gu­rus rec­om­mend South Beach, or “Southies”, for the ul­ti­mate spot to roll out your rug and watch the golden sun set over the hori­zon.

There’s plenty of touristy things to see and do on the Coffs Coast. Our itinerary is as packed as our Nis­san X-Trail.

In town, you can catch a film at the his­toric Art Deco cin­ema.

There are also cro­quet lawns, bowl­ing greens and a golf club to take a swing at.

Swap your club for a pad­dle and SUP your way up Boam­bee Creek. Grab your snorkel and head for the bay at the south­ern end of Sawtell Beach, or head to the boat ramp off Lyons Rd for ac­cess to Bonville Creek.

Throw a line in with good fish­ing spots at Boam­bee Beach, Boam­bee Creek mouth and South Beach.

You might reel in some black­fish, whiting, flat­head and bream, but Sawtell’s laid-back beachy vibes will have you hook, line and sinker want­ing to re­turn.

The writer was a guest of BIG4 and Nis­san.

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