The sea crept into the darkness with each surge, bathing stones beneath the headland on the ‘secret’ beach – which now hung like a time rip in the midnight zone between worlds.
I was in a cave at the end of a beach, a beach that’s been labelled Australia’s ‘best secret’. However, as often happens, word is out and it’s not such a secret anymore, although it’s still relatively unknown and very beautiful. Pandanus trees line enclosed hills, which roll onto ivory-coloured sand, translucent water and a rock pool that’s like a wonderful lagoon when the tide is right.
The beach is Whites Beach, located in northern NSW and its cave harbours a dark story I heard via a local whisper. Oral history indicates that it may indeed be true, and although it’s not a nice story, perhaps it should be remembered. I’m sure the cave remembers…
In the 1850s, a great number of Aboriginal people were murdered in Ballina. Some managed to flee north to this beach and its surrounds where they hid in caves, were found and saw the last light of day. I hadn’t heard of this heinous story when I visited the place just the other day, nor had my friend who was with me.
It was high tide and spying the cave in the corner, I scaled some rocks, carrying my iPhone, while my friend swam towards it with his GoPro. It’s a small, beautiful place and we didn’t feel any darkness apart from the waning light. Inside the rocks glistened with seawater in the sheltered gloom, while next door a smaller cave frothed and spat across the handsome coastline.
A few years after the massacre, two Arakwal Aboriginals, Harry Bray and his wife Clara, lived in a shack on the beach further up. Thankfully times had changed, they lived peacefully and the beach became known as Brays Beach. In 1894, a journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald described the area as having “graceful bangalow and cabbage-tree palms, tree ferns, immense cycads, figs, and, apparently endless species of tropical plants.”
Yes, it’s a beautiful place that’s important to Aboriginal history/heritage, a place that mostly locals visit. And while, as a devout member of the ESS (Etiquette of Secret Spots) I can’t tell you exactly where it is, you’ll find it if you really want to..