The last leg of our 15,000 km trip. Fifteen fabulous weeks.Continue reading Whyalla to The Sunshine Coast
With the horrific bushfires burning for months in NSW and Victoria and other areas of Australia, we plotted our route home staying away from the most affected areas. It was eerie traveling through vast areas of countryside so black and in some cases still smouldering.
Having said our sad farewells to family and friends in Brisbane we headed south. (Friends now also include the lovely Dr Lawrence Lee and all his wonderful staff who we got to know very well over the 5 months. If you have a detached retina go see him, he is fantastic.)
The first night we stopped at a free camp, ‘Beardy Creek Rest Area’ near Yarrowford, NSW. Wind so strong the trees were horizontal, thunder so loud it shook the van, lightning like the midday sun, and hail like snow.
When we came to Byron Bay four days ago, we weren’t sure what to expect. Prices are quite high, especially for accommodation, but the town is colourful and alive, I found it a real joy just to stroll down the streets. There are lots of international back packers around, a few buskers, lots of young families and some grey nomads. The beaches are beautiful, the water amazingly blue and crystal clear, the best we have seen so far and glorious to swim in. Our caravan park on Clarkes Beach was very pleasant. A few too many bush turkeys though. One young guy was yelling at them because they had just eaten all his bananas.
Hello again! yes, so soon, I know. This is what happens when I get carried away doing stuff, I forget to tell you about it.
We left Coffs Harbour on the 26th Feb, half an hour north is the town of Woolgoolga. This is the type of town that makes me love Australia. It has the highest Punjabi Sikh community in rural Australia since the 1940’s when they came to farm bananas. Every year in April is a Curry Festival which attracts local food and produce stalls from every nationality as well as lots of curry, then there are Bollywood Markets on the beach twice a month filled with music and free bollywood dancing lessons. Of the two Sikh temples in Australia, the first was built in Woolgoolga in 1969. Apart from its rich multicultural community, it boasts some wonderful beaches and fabulous views along the coast. We are definitely timing our next visit with the curry fest and bollywood market, fantastic!
North from Woolgoolga we headed to Lake Arragan Campground in Yuraygir National Park. The last two kilometres are dirt road. The first thing we notice, apart from the carpet of pot holes on the road from all the rain, are all the kangaroos, so many kangaroos, and they have no fear of humans. Each camp site is separated by trees and shrubs making it quite private, and each has a concrete fire pit. Wood can be purchased in the nearby town. There are drop toilets but not showers. The beach is 50 metres away and lake about the same, the two are separated by a small section of sand which gets covered during King Tides. Drinking water is available at the entry to the park.
Not far up the beach we found a wonderful natural rock pool to relax and cool off in. There was an abundance of fish life in it, they seemed to be attracted to my red toe nail polish which was pretty funny.
Sitting watching a fire at night is so special, and very relaxing especially when listening to the sound of the waves on the beach. It has the added benifite of keeping the mozzies away. I tried some differnt settings on my camera to capture the flames. Tim made the most delicious damper in our camp oven on the coals, so yum!
We had some unwanted pests at the camp site. Firstly an invasion of ants which we sorted out quickly. The other were cane toads at night, creepy things. Brought back memories of growing up in Brisbane. Not that we saw many until the 70’s, after that they seem to double in number every year.
There are some fabulous towns nearby. These are the ones we visited.
Brooms Head, we would definitely come and stay at the caravan park some time, the camp sites are right on the beach front under pine trees, quite idylic. It has a surf beach and a lagoon. Tim walked through the lagoon at low tide to get some photos, we came back at high tide for a swim.
Minnie Water, Wooli and Diggers Camp are all very small towns on the coast surrounded by the Yuraygir National Park. Yuraygir National Park runs along the coast for 65km making it the longest stretch of undeveloped coast line in New South Wales.
Minnie Water consists of a general store and the surf life saving club. An endangered species of Emu lives along the coast in these parts and is known to frequent the beach at Minnie Water. Every road we drove along had signs warning that the emues were active and to watch for them. We didn’t see any for days and then we saw a daddy with his five chicks and two other adults in a cane field. It was so exciting.
Wooli is a sleepy little town on a long narrow spit separating the The Wooli Wooli River and the coast.The river is apparently a fishermen’s paradise with an abundant amount of crabs and fish. It is also home to some amazing plump oysters which we feasted on for lunch (thank you Graham Nash for the tip). We also saw an fabulous home made, off road, RV. The guy used a ladder to climb to his door.
Diggers Camp consists of two roads and a handful of houses, that’s it. The beach is lovely but they warn of sharks and rips. However it has a fabulous lagoon. We were there at low tide so it was shallow but lovely to spend time in, a stingray swam past us. There is also a natural fresh water spring on the beach to rinse off under after a swim. The Boorkoom Camp ground is there and would be a great place to stay. We didn’t choose to stay there as it warned the roads in could be rough, but we found they had less pot holes than the road into Lake Arragan.
Maclean is in the opposite direction to the other towns we visited, north of the Yuraygir National Park and it is a lot larger. It is surrounded by lush fields of sugar cane and is another one of those towns that makes me love Australia. ‘Due to the large number of early Scottish settlers, Maclean calls itself Australia’s ‘Scottish Town’. Australia’s oldest free Presbyterian church still holds services for the descendants of the early settlers, and there is a large Scottish cairn constructed from rocks from around Australia and Scotland in the Herb Stanford Memorial Park, overlooking the river in Taloumbi Street. Maclean’s Scottish heritage is further celebrated with Gaelic street signs, tartan painted power poles and the availability of typically Scottish cuisine – such as haggis – at the local pubs. Visit during Easter to be a part of the century-old annual Maclean Highlands Gathering and Highland Games. Maclean is also well known for its river fishing and its easy access to coastal national parks and holiday resorts’.
The Maclean Show Grounds would be a nice place to stay. It is on the Clarence River and has a wonderful view of the Harwood draw bridge which was built in 1966, and replaced the last ferry crossing on the state highway system of New South Wales. Although the showgrounds has limited spaces it is grassy, there are about 4 powered sites, several unpowered, drinking water, shady trees, a dump point and is very close to town.
And so our visit to Lake Arragan in the Yuraygir National park came to a end. We packed up and headed north to Byron Bay. On the way we stopped at Yamba, having met a young Canadian family at Minnie Water who settled in Yamba a year ago, it sounded too good to drive past with out taking a look. Wow, what an amazing place. We will definitely be back to stay there. Incredible rock platforms along the coast, beautiful beaches, places to snorkle, walking tracks. The town is lovely, not large, but not small either. Lots of al fresco dinning, coffee shops, local art. I am constantly blown away by these amazing places, just sitting there waiting for us to find them.
We are now in Byron Bay, a first for both of us, I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
Take care, Cheers for now
Helen and Tim
Hello again! This post is a little late as we left Coffs Harbour four days ago. So let me take you back to the last post when we left Trial Bay Campground on the 16th February. A rat chewed the wires in our car engine, we travelled to Coffs Harbour with no air con, no cruise control and the engine thinking it was over heated. Tim and the NRMA man work out the car was safe to drive and it only took a day for the Ford Service people in Coffs to have it fixed. The mechanic had previously worked in Sydney and saw 3 or 4 rat chewed engines a month, so he knew what to check and how to fix it. Our first day in Coffs Harbour was idyllic. The sky was blue, the weather warm, we went swimming at the beach, I got the washing done while Tim took the car to Ford.
The views from the camp site over Trial Bay and out to the Pacific Ocean are beautiful. The ocean side has spectacular coastal views with its rugged rock walls and beautiful blue water. We saw a turtle swiming not far out.
We left Toowoon Bay seven days ago and travelled north to Diamond Head Campground in Crowdy Bay National Park, just south of Port Macquarie.
I should add here, that unlike Victoria, there are fees for entering NSW National Parks. Around $7 a day per vehicle, regardless of if you are just picnicking for an hour or camping for a week. We bought an annual pass for $45 and it paid for itself in the first week, it’s worth considering if you are thinking of travelling to NSW.
We saw some BIG THINGS on our way. A big Mosquito at Hexham, A big Oyster at Taree (that looks more like a clam witha big grin and even bigger teeth), A big Axe at Kew (it was replaced recently as termites ate the last one), and A big bowling ball at Lake Cathie.
Toowoon Bay Holiday Park is on top of a cliff with amazing views over a rugged coast line and the Tasman Sea. Cargo ships, waiting to go into Newcastle Port, line the horizon. The waves were gigantic our first few days here, apparently due to a king tide and some unseasonal rough weather. A few hundred metres from the caravan park is a Surf Life Saving club with a patroled beach, an easy walk for a pre dinner dip. We had great fun riding our bikes along the beach at low tide. On our last day the local beaches were closed due to bluebottles. There were thousands scattered on the beach. As they dry out in the sun they puffed up like clear blue dumplings. They made an incredible popping sound as we rode over them, there was no way to avoid them as there were so many.