Harry Thompson | Once the 'mayor' of Shelly Beach

You wouldn't read about it - well not any more perhaps – the fascinating story behind Harry’s Lookout at Port Macquarie.

The lookout boasts spectacular views from the northern end of Shelly Beach and is a popular picnic spot.  A beach sculptural park has even been dedicated to Harry's memory.

But who was he ?

While he was once referred to as the ‘mayor’ of Shelly Beach, not everybody knows the remarkable story of Harry Thompson. 

More in our What’s in a Name series:

Harry and his wife Jean made their way to Port Macquarie from Warren in western NSW after winning the lottery.  

They used their windfall (12,000 pounds) to purchase a Vanguard station wagon and caravan, setting off on their quest to see the ocean for the first time.

Legend has it they hit the coast at Shelly Beach in 1961 and kept driving along the winding bush track to the beach and became bogged to the top of their wheels.

Explore more historic place names with our interactive map.

Perhaps it was an omen – but that’s where they stayed for the next four decades.

The couple soon adopted the role of caretakers of their seaside paradise.  

Their status as ‘squatters’ was challenged by the council at one point, but such was the respect that locals held the couple in for the work they had done, a petition was organised, forcing the council to back down.

That work for which they were so highly regarded included the hand carving of 254 steps through thick rainforest and up the steep cliff face; greeting busloads of overseas and domestic tourists; and generally keeping the reserve clean and tidy.

With a brush turkey feeding at his feet and his thong tree growing strongly, Harry was featured in the Port Macquarie News in 1999 in the lead up to his 84th birthday.

With a brush turkey feeding at his feet and his thong tree growing strongly, Harry was featured in the Port Macquarie News in 1999 in the lead up to his 84th birthday.

With the lookout frequently used for weddings Harry would handle bookings.  In 1983, in recognition of his decades of service he was named one of Port Macquarie’s citizens of the year. 

In 1985 Harry was devastated to lose his wife Jean who by that time had called their caravan by the sea home for approximately 25 years.

He continued on with his work and life atop the stunning headland and even in his mid-80s he was extremely active.

“I still do repairs on the walkway and I usually do the walk (up the path he carved through the scrub) a couple of times each day,” he explained in a Port Macquarie News article in 1999.

The next year, however, he succumbed to a melanoma on his face.  Nearly 100 people gathered near his beachside caravan to say goodbye and pay their respects.

Flowers were cast into the bay by his children Neville Thompson and Robyn Johstone who recounted endless days growing up on the edge of the sea, casting lobster pots with ‘dad’ and making their way up the dirt track to catch the school bus. 

“Growing up in the caravan had its disadvantages.  There was no TV, no power and we only had a kerosene lamp,” Neville said at the time.

“But I used to go surfing every.  I lived in the water and used to go fishing with my father,” he added.

So if you haven’t paid a visit to Harry’s Lookout, do yourself a favour and while taking in the stunning scenery, spare a thought for the man who was revered far and wide for his kindness and warmth.

The story Harry was a ‘mayor’ like no other first appeared on Port Macquarie News.

Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide