There are 2 dive operators in South West Rocks offering daily tours to the famous Fish Rock Cave. Fish Rock is located just over two kilometres off Smoky Cape at South West Rocks. Created by a fault in the island, Fish Rock Cave runs from the deeper seaward entrance at 24 metres, 125 metres through the rock emerging into the blue, fish filled, silhouetted shallower entrance fringed by pink gorgonian corals at 12 metres. Fish Rock Cave is regarded as Australia's best ocean cave dive, and voted among the top ten dive sites in Australia. The thrill of entering the 125 metre long cave and travelling right through the centre of a small island is one dive that you will not want to miss. As well as the cave itself, Fish Rock is home to such an amazing array of marine life that you will easily understand how the island came to be named. This is a dive location that must be included in your dive itinerary! Fish Rock and nearby Green Island are critical habitat areas for the Grey Nurse shark, which lives here in large numbers all year round.
Arakoon National Park is located four kilometres east of South West Rocks. This reserve is home to Trial Bay Gaol (1886), a picturesque ruin which was built as a public works prison but was also used as a World War I internment camp. Step back in time on a self guided tour of the gaol, soaking up the history and the amazing coastal views that surround it. The gaol opened in 1886, after 13 years of construction. It must have been a strange feeling building a prison in such a beautiful setting. The prison labourers were there to construct a breakwater to make Trial Bay a safe harbour between Sydney and Brisbane. Unfortunately the scheme failed, however you’ll still be able to see the remains of the breakwater from the guard tower lookout. During World War I the gaol became an internment camp for people of German descent who were feared to be enemy sympathisers. Today, this picturesque historic ruin stands as a testament to those who lived and died here, with a museum and memorial for visitors to get a better idea of life in those days. Feeling energetic? Try the nearby Powder Magazine walking track or Monument Hill walking track. The gaol is surrounded by rocky foreshores and pleasant sandy beaches. Stroll over Monument Hill to the Little Bay picnic area, or enjoy the spectacular half-day walk from the picnic area to historic Smoky Cape Lighthouse in Hat Head National Park.
Standing high on a narrow headland, Smoky Cape Lighthouse is surrounded by the stunning coastal scenery of Hat Head National Park. The lighthouse itself is as beautiful as the views – check out its winding staircase and octagonal tower. Built in 1891, this heritage lighthouse is one of the last designed by the Colonial Architect, James Barnet. Guided tours of the lighthouse are available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1pm if you would like to find out more. Contact (02) 6566 6301. Smoky Cape is a fantastic spot for whale watching, birdwatching and picnicking, and the lighthouse can also be hired for wedding celebrations. Don’t miss the views at nearby Captain Cook’s lookout. It’s a short but steep climb to the lighthouse – be sure to wear sturdy shoes!
Visit the maritime museum
See a display of photographs, paintings, documents and historic items of the rich maritime history of the local area. Situated in the central area of town near Horseshoe Bay, the Museum is easily accessible for all to come and visit this wonderful collection of Maritime history. Unequalled historic data and information is kept at the museum. Photographs from the past, some originals, and newspaper clippings explaining the many sides of the South West Rocks maritime history are found here. Amongst the vast array of information are also snippets of early South West Rocks, including the Gaol complex and early pioneers. A section of the museum also details the history making "new entrance" to the Macleay River when unprecedented floods forged an entrance from its original site. A restored old pilot ship can also be viewed on site. Free admission but donations are appreciated to help continue funding preservation work.
There is a huge range of choice for fishing enthusiasts at South West Rocks. Beach fishing, rock fishing, river fishing and boat fishing are all available in the immediate area. If you have your own boat there are a number of boat ramps available for launching, with the biggest one being on the river and suitable for launching most size watercraft, and equipped with a good washdown area and fish cleaning tables. The bar can be dangerous at certain times of the tide and in some weather conditions so boaties must be equipped with standard safety equipment. Typical fish targetted in the area include bream,flathead,blackfish and jewfish off the rockwall on the river, beach fishing can snare bream,whiting,flathead and tailor, whilst boat and rock fishermen catch the likes of bream,flathead,tailor,blackfish,drummer,groper, snook and bonito. A local fishing charter company also runs trips for individuals and groups.