Catriona Rowntree travelled 2.5 hours north of Sydney
to Tea Gardens, a quaint township on the mid-north coast of New South Wales
. With roughly 3000 permanent residents, the hidden treasure is often missed by holiday makers as they drive over Singing Bridge or stop at Hawks Nest, the more popular neighbour.
Tea Gardens is a great destination for art and food enthusiasts. Marine Drive has cafes, galleries and bric-a-brac stores, along with the art walk that embraces local talent.
Tea Gardens is perfect for a day trip, and can be accessed either by car or ferry.
Port Stephens Ferry
The Port Stephens Ferry operates three times daily between Nelson Bay (on the peninsular of Port Stephens) and Tea Gardens. The one-hour trip is the most popular way to reach Tea Gardens. Constructed in 1948 with two levels and 150 seats, the classic timber ferry is an artwork in itself.
Myall Riverside Art Walk
The art walk is a community project established in 2003 and continues to be developed by local artists. Art installations are located in a trail along the waterfront at Marine Drive, with a few over in Hawks Nest. The installations donated by local artists vary from murals, sculptures and mosaics and all have relevance to the local environment and community.
New additions to the project are unveiled and celebrated on the last Saturday of October at the Myall Riverside Art Festival. The latest addition, a War Mural, is to be unveiled this year, and is a collaboration between the Art Walk Committee, local public school students and RSL members.
Myall Riverside Art Festival
The festival is a family-friendly event with a large variety of stalls, stage entertainment, river activities, games and competitions for children.
This year's festival will be held on the last weekend and will feature exciting events such as camel rides, a dragon boat blessing ceremony, a visit from a Newcastle Knights player, a landscape painting competition and circus performers. It will also have its usual fun attractions such as the River Parade sail past, line dancing performers, live bands and a vintage car display.
Nicole's Art Gallery and Café
On the banks of the Myall River, Nicole's is a cafe with an adjoining art gallery. It showcases beachy and aquatic art with a local edge, as well as local photography.
Cat lovers enjoy the cafe's feline theme with quirky black cat illustrations on all menus and signs even the bathrooms! There is a small shop specialising in cat-themed items such as stationery, bags and T-shirts.
The award-winning cafe is in a courtyard garden with water features including bird baths and fish ponds. Nicole's is well known for home-baked cakes, in particular their lemon meringue pie.
Related: Andrew Johns' north coast NSW