Look at me now!
Take your camera to Look At Me Now – its the perfect selfie spot! It is also a good spot to catch the sunrise while sharing the grassy headland with photogenic eastern grey kangaroos. In season, you can see whales from here, bird watch, or spot the surfers at Emerald Beach.
The headland is a deeply significant site to the Gumbaynggirr people. Caves on the headland are rain increase sites, and ceremonies were held here. Interpretive signage on the headland share the Yuludarla creation story of how the sea was made. The two sisters in the story now sit back to back, one facing south and one facing north, as Split Solitary Island. An axe factory was located nearby, but destroyed by sand mining last century.
The headland has been called Look At Me Now since at least 1885, where the name appears in a newspaper report of a fearsome sea monster. And no, it’s not named for the insta-selfie. While the Coffs Coast Advocate records in 1933 that the headland was “so named because it was the signal station for the exchange of messages between Solitary Island and the mainland”, I prefer this story which the Geographic Names Board also credits with the name.
It is recorded that an abo. on one of the coastal stations was presented by the super with a clean white suit as a Christmas gift. Jacky was overjoyed when he rode out in company with a number of stockmen and jackaroos. He commenced capering with his steed, exhibited his knowledge of horsemanship, concluding each venturesome performance with the proud remark, ‘Look at me now.’ His exultation had an untimely sequel. In endeavouring to give a flying leap over a ditch on a headland near Woolgoolga his horse landed in the centre and threw the rider into the slushy and treacherous quagmire. Jacky emerged bespattered with mud from head to foot, his holiday outfit presenting a woeful spectacle. Jacky, was silent, but a chorus went up from his associates, ‘Look at me now.’ For many years after the headland bore the designation of Cape ‘Look At Me Now’.Daily Examiner Grafton, 9 April 1934
Graves on the headland
This beautiful place hasn’t always been so idyllic. In December 1886 two ships, the Keilawarra and Helen Nicoll, collided in the night between the Solitary Islands, with the loss of 48 lives. Two bodies were found on the shore – look for their grave markers near the path.
Contained in a little fenced area nearby is the grave of Sarah Dammeral, wife of George, who raised their 8 children at the Signal Station. Sarah died in childbirth age 43 and is buried with her 10 year old son who died of appendicitis in 1888. George Dammeral lived to a ripe old age, his ashes were scattered at sea.
Facing the ocean on the Moonee Beach side of the headland is a third memorial for a six year old lost at sea.
Signals and lighthouses
Mr Dammeral arrived at Look At Me Now in 1884 to operate the South Solitary Island Signal Station. It was a 24 hour job, relaying message between the South Solitary lighthouse, ships at sea and the mainland, as well as sending weather reports. Sensibly, Mr Dammeral did the day job and left his daughters to operate the morse code light all night. Dammeral’s daughter Maud enjoyed a love affair with the lighthouse keeper Harry, sending coded love letters across the waves.
Protecting the headland
This grassy headland is an Ecologically Endangered Community, and includes kangaroo grass (Themeda australis) and rare and threatened plants such as Ziera prostrata which is found on only four Coffs headlands, so please stay on the path.
It’s hard not to notice the large population of kangaroos. Surely all those ‘roos feeding can’t be good for an endangered themeda community? Studies done over four years show that while the themeda grass is indeed much shorter and less dominant as a result of the grazing intensity of the macropods, the floral diversity of headland has benefitted.
After seeing off a development of a resort on the headland in the 1960s, the Coffs Harbour Council proposed a controversial ocean sewer outfall at Look at Me Now Headland in 1987. Great numbers of locals rose up to defend the green headland and the Solitary Islands Marine Park waters. Some 5000-7000 people confronted police, marched and ultimately were successful in protecting this space. Look at Me Now headland was included into Moonee Nature Reserve in 1995.
The kangaroos of Look at Me Now headland
Sadly, it’s not all a good news kangaroo story. Housing development on the east coast causes habitat fragmentation, cutting the kangaroos off from other grazing areas and corralling them on the headland. The health and welfare of the headland macropod population has suffered as a result – they may look cute on instagram, but these are actually crowded, unhappy, sick and hungry roos. Wildlife corridors and habitat are critical to their wellbeing.
Look At Me Headland is part of the Solitary Islands Coastal Walk. If walking to Red Rock or Sawtell is a step too far, head for Emerald Beach and enjoy a coffee at Surf Street Cafe.