Dunbogan & Laurieton -Camden Haven – NSW Australia

View of the Manning Valley

Every now and then I stare out at the brick wall that is the view from my office  trying to decide what time of day it is, and I gloomily wish for somewhere beautiful to be.  When this happens, I know it is time to pack up and leave city life for a minibreak, to take time out and get away from my desk.

Luckily I know of a few places that I can disappear to that will recharge the batteries and leave me able to bear the fast paced rat race again.

For this particular trip, I have a week and I know just the place to escape to.

Laurieton  and Dunbogan are towns that  sit in the shadow of North Brother Mountain or Big Brother Mountain to the locals, in the Camden Haven region of the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, Australia.  

Camden Haven River  – Sun setting over Big Brother Mountain

Mr 77 and I have taken a weeks leave and have driven 4.5 hours north from Sydney to visit his parents who live here.  Our goal is to relax, re-charge and have some time out from inner city living.

Dunbogan is a place that takes me back to simpler times, it reminds me of my childhood and the holidays I used to take with my parents.

Washhouse beach

This nostalgia is, in part,  fuelled by the fact that we are staying at the Diamond Waters Caravan Park, a pet friendly park which backs onto the camden haven river and has an amazing view of Big Brother mountain.

Breakwall at Washhouse beach
Thankfully, the mass tourism which has affected many of the mid north coast towns (nearby Port Macquarie and Forster),  hasn’t gotten hold here and the towns are not overwhelmed with highrise apartments and hotels, yet.

Most accommodation can be found either in holiday house rentals or the local caravan parks.

It is laid back place. People  fish off the breakwalls and bridges that span the Camden Haven inlet.  Dogs are still allowed to run on most of the beaches leash free.   The “shops” in the main street close at midday on Sundays and it is 5-10 minute drive to everything you could possibly need.  Life is well, simpler,  easier.

Local caught fresh Prawns from the Fish Co-Op

There are no westfield shopping malls, multiplex cinemas, multistorey car parks, fancy day spas or michelen star rated restaurants.  Nor are there uber cool “must visit” celebrity wine bars, microbreweries, cocktail lounges or gastro pubs to help you part with your hard earned cash.

What is on offer instead, is a rich, diverse, artistic and creative local community where small business,  boutique gourmet food producers  and artisans support each others business ventures.

On the third Sunday of each month, the local river walk market showcases the work of  crafters,  hobbyists, artists and food producers.  As you stroll around looking at handcrafted jewellery, clothing and vintage bric a brac, you can sample locally grown food and  it is a great feeling to know  that the food you are consuming is close to the source and has been lovingly harvested by the people seling it to you.

Riverside Markets


The whole region is an outdoor lovers paradise.  Surrounded by the Dooragan National NationalParks,  state forests filled with native wildlife, reserves and empty white sandy beaches  it easy to hit the beach or pack a picnic and set up camp and nature comes to you.

View from Big Brother Mountain

Our days are spent having a morning coffee, and divine macadamia biscuit,  staring out over the river at the beautiful Dunbogan Boatshed dunboganboatshed.com.  The boatshed is a family run venture that stocks local produce, serves great coffee and is the only place I know of where you can buy a beer cooler proudly boasting being “bogan”.

Coffee  is  followed by a swim at Washhouse beach, lunch is at “the park”, by the river or in one of the many vantage points around town. As we overlook the kookaburras and kangaroos coming out from the bush, or watch the dolphins swim past us, we dine on local prawns or BBQ fish, with a salad of vine ripened tomatoes and nibble on blue washed rind cheese.

View from the Dunbogan Boatshed

Dunbogan Boatshed
If it is raining or we have had enough sun for the day we shop at Bling, take in a movie at the gorgeous  Laurieton Plaza Cinema  or take a  drive into Port Macquarie to go berry picking, shopping or visit the Koala hospital.

If it is a beautiful day we head back to the beach for another swim and laze about reading.

After a week of being surrounded by nature and relaxing outdoors,we leave feeling refreshed and happy.


Whether you are a couple, family or backpacker, of it is an easy, inexpensive local holiday you are after,  the Camden Haven is the perfect place to escape the stress of city life, or the perfect place to get back to nature but shhhhhh, don’t tell anyone and we  might have it to ourselves for a little bit longer.

Interesting facts about Dunbogan

Local Legend – 3 brothers mountain. (source NSW National Parks and Wildlife)
The local Aboriginal people tell a Dreamtime story of how the mountains became Big, middle and little brother mountain.  As is tradition the  story has has been passed down through many generations. The telling of the legend is a creative act so no two tellings are the same.
There were 3 brothers who lived near the Camden Haven River. As part of their initiation, they were required to live alone in the bush for several months. After being in the bush for a while they began to worry about their mother and father, so the youngest brother (Dooragan) volunteered to go and check up on them. Just as he left the camp he saw an old witch but paid her no attention. He told his parents about her when he reached them, and his father gave him a special boomerang, and told him to quickly return to his brother’s camp to warn them that the witch would try to kill them.
The youngest brother headed back to his brother’s camp but did not make it there until first light. The witch was at the camp when he arrived. He asked the witch what she had done to his two brothers, and she replied that she had eaten them and would eat him too. Before the witch had a chance to do anything, the youngest brother hit her on the head with the boomerang and split her in half. He buried half her body in the river and half in the sea. Then returned to his brother’s camp and gathered up their bones. He buried their bones where the North and Middle Brother mountains now stand, then went to where the South Brother mountain now stands and died. That night a mountain rose up where each body lay to mark the tragedy. The mountains were then named after the Three Brothers.

The Three Brothers Mountains are a spiritual place for Aboriginal people, who feel a connection to their country and their ancestors when they go there. The mountains are visible from all around, and the local Aboriginal people believe that the mountains protect them.

Coincidentally, ‘Three Brothers’ was also a name given to the three mountains by Captain James Cook as he sailed past in 1770, without any knowledge that the local Aboriginal people referred to them in such a similar way.

Hollywood Connections

The Hollywood star and comedian Bob Hope and his script writer, dancer, musician, singer and co-comedian crash landed in the area in 1944 and whilst stranded gave a performance to the residents of Laurieton.

What to do there ?

  • Swim, surf, paddle or wade at Pilot head, Washhouse or Northhaven beaches.
  • Stop in and have a coffee at the Dunbogan Boatshed.  Not only can you stock up your fishing gear, you can  hire Kayaks, Boats and Pontoons to explore the Camden Haven waterways.  They do guided  Kayak tours on Thursdays and  you can grab a delicious cup of local produced peak coffee, macadamia biscuits and cheeses made at neighbouring Comboyne.   The view is amazing  from the deck as you nibble on your macadamia or ginger cookies and if you have littlies you can feed fish off the deck   – Visit their Website – dunboganboatshed.com/.
  • Drive, or if you are fit enough,  walk up to the summit of  North Brother mountain for spectacular views towards Port Macquarie and south to Forster.
View from Big Brother over Laurieton & Dunbogan
  • Walk around and look up into the trees to try and spot the resident Koala.  If you are more adventurous you can arrange to do a tandem paraglide.
  •  Get back to nature and go fruit picking.   Visit Ricardoes Tomatoes (& Strawberries) 221 Blackmasn Pt Rd, Blackmans Point http://www.ricardoes.com  or pick your own Blueberries at Ticoba 224 Herbert Gill Road Comboyne Ph: 6550 4313 or 042743 9781.
  •  Drive winding country roads to  the Lorne Valley Macadamia Farm  1181 Lorne Road, LORNE via KENDALL  NSW  2439 where you can visit and try macadamia inspired meals.
  • Visit the Laurieton Plaza Cinema to take in a movie.  On some Sundays they have discounted films.
    • Visit the Riverside Walk Markets on the 1st Sunday of each month.  The markets are a mix of local producers,artisans,growers  as well as the usual recycled bric a brac clothing.
    • Go Wine Tasting at the nearby Cassegrain and Bago Vineyards
    • Take a day trip up to Port Macquarie to get friendly with our national icon and visit the Koala Hospital
    • Take a picnic out to Diamond Head beach and dine with the local Kangaroos.
    •  Walk down Memory Lane at the  Laurieton Museum which is in the old School of Arts building.

    Where to Stay ?

    Getting there

    By Car – It is a 4-4.5 hour drive north along the F3 & Pacific Highway from the  Sydney CBD to Laurieton.

    By Train  – you can catch the Countrylink train from Sydney/Newcastle which will take you to Taree or Kendall, but you will need to pre-arrange transport options (which are limited) from there.

    By Bus – You can get a bus try either Greyhound Australia and Premier Motor Services. NB The buses will usually drop you at Kew so you will have to pre-book a taxi or transport to take you the 20 minutes the rest of the way.

    By Plane – Fly with Qantas LinkJetstar or Virgin to Taree,  Port Macquarie, or Newcastle  airports.  Either arrange a shuttle service such as Coast Connections  or arrange a hire a car to drive.

     From Port take the coast road or Pacific Highway south and enjoy the 30 minute  drive.  From Taree it is 1 hour north along the pacific highway (take the kew turnoff). From Newcastle it is a 2 hour drive north (take the kew turnoff)

    Getting Around on Public Transport

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