We started this walk at Alma Doepel reserve in Mylestom. The Alma Doepel is one of Australia’s oldest tall sailing ships at over 100 years old. She was built on the Bellinger River in 1903 by Frederick Doepel, and named for his baby daughter Alma Doepel, born that year.
The Alma Doepel, a three masted topsail schooner, sailed across the Tasman carrying timber to New Zealand. Later she was sold to Henry Jones, jam maker in Tasmania, and set a speed record transporting goods across the Bass Strait. She served as a supply vessel between Darwin in Papua New Guinea in WW2. Later, after having successfully crossed the Bass Strait 578 times, she was stripped of her rigging and used as a barge to transport limestone before being sold for scrap value in 1976. Restored, she led the Parade of Sail in the Sydney bicentennary celebrations in 1988 and was used for youth sailing adventures. She is currently berthed in Melbourne for further restoration work.
But before we could get away and leave the Alma Doepel reserve to start our walk, a passing resident stopped for a friendly chat. He told us of sand mining and floods, favourite camping sites, swimming in the Bellinger river and games in the dunes behind Mylestom, back in the days when kids ran feral all day so long as they were home by dark.
Finally, we headed to the beach, where the tide was high, for a soft sand walk to the Bellinger River mouth and back. From the tyre tracks, its clear fishermen and 4WDs love North Beach. North Beach is wild beach, with sand bars, rips and shore dumps, and all kinds of seabirds from silver gull to Brahminy kites. Spinifex grass and beach morning glory on the foredunes, then bitou bush planted to vegetate the spit after sand mining. A cairn marks the entrance of the Bellinger.
The early morning fog had burnt off and the sun was high and hot by the time we turned to walk back. Back at Alma Doepel reserve, the river offers a quick cool down dip, and the cafe across the road a welcome coffee.
Thanks to the friendly Coffs Coast Sole Sisters who walked this route with me.