We have now been “Down Under” for a whole week! We’ve covered a lot of ground, and driven just over 1000km in our trusty van, Sheila but it doesn’t really feel like we have spent a lot of time on boring roads. We have detoured to rainforests, quiet shores for fishing opportunities, various shopping outlets, back into the towering cities and of course to many beaches. One thing that is constant however, is the heat. It’s very VERY hot down here.
Newcastle was our first major stop, and in hindsight, it was pretty cool and breezy down there, but at the time I thought it was magnificently hot and perfect sunbathing weather. We spent the daytime on the beach and in the evening we wandered into the town which was fairly quiet as it was a Sunday, and found ourselves in a bar with a cider and a beer in hand. We then spent the night doing exactly what this leg of our trip was all about; camping on the beach to the sound of the waves.
Our next point of call was Port Macquarie. I think this is a spot that is potentially often missed by tourists who don’t have long on the coast as I wouldn’t say there’s a lot “to do”. It’s a place that I’m glad we did stop at though as the views were just beautiful.
James spent the day fishing with his newly purchased rod whilst I took myself on the 9km Coastal Walk. If you should find yourself in Port Macquarie, don’t miss this. It was a little tough especially in the heat but even those that aren’t too fit could manage some of the smaller sections that the walk is split up into. I started at Lighthouse Beach named accordingly after the lighthouse sat at its peak and walked my way North through a rainforest, a nature reserve, over beaches and rocks as well as a park and a few Whale watching piers.
Not that we hate each other just yet, but it was lovely just wandering along the coast on my own. I had time to myself to walk at my own pace, stop and appreciate the views and the sounds and the wildlife and also contemplate my own thoughts and reflect on our adventure so far. It was peaceful.
When I arrived at my destination, after an encounter with a friendly lizard (or two if I count the one that joined me on my lap at a toilet stop) I arrived at Oxley Beach to find James getting very wet on the rocks as the tide was coming in.
The hippy paradise of Byron Bay was somewhere on my bucket list, and for good reason. It was quite the backpacker zone and travellers of all ages swarmed the beaches and the town itself. It was quirky, colourful, friendly and energetic – everything I aim to be! The shops varied from surfer clothing, swimsuits and thongs (James didn’t realise this is what flip flops were referred to by Aussies and found this more hilarious than necessary) to vintage clothing boutiques and aboriginal art markets. Team that with it being a stones throw from the beach and home to a selection of bars, I’m not sure what there is to dislike! I think I could quite happily live as a hippy in Byron Bay for the rest of my days wearing baggy colourful kimonos and showcasing dreads in my hair.
We didn’t stay as long as I might have liked however because it soon became very clear that it was a place where backpackers had to spend a lot of money to get by. It was a fortune just to park up and sleep in the van, let alone somewhere that we could use a toilet without being sneaky in a cafe. If we were holidaying or better still, living here, it would be brilliant, but for those on a tight budget this place is not your friend! For this reason we didn’t stay overnight in the area but moved further north to Gold Coast. I was very excited to find out we camped out on the seafront just minutes from the hotel that is currently home to the evicted Celebs from “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here!” as well as Ant and Dec! Although I saw absolutely no one famous, I did take the obligatory selfie.
Travelling further inland (towards the celebrity jungle actually!) we found ourselves high in the hills with our ears popping on our drive up to Mt Tamborine. The weather was getting noticeably warmer as we headed further up the coast, and the fact we had headed inland now only further contributed to this.
We ventured into the rainforest and walked through the treetops on a skywalk suspended 30m up. For me, this was a pretty big deal. I don’t do heights, and I don’t do spiders, and this walk promised both. I found that I was actually quite fearless in the trees and wondered if this new stress free and adventurous life was having a positive impact on my mental health. I wasn’t half as scared anymore, and even when faced with a pretty sizeable spider I just walked a little closer to take a photo and didn’t run and scream as I have definitely been known to do previously. Granted, the eight legged friend wasn’t too close and we were in an open space, but I still call this a triumph.
The rainforest and the small town close by provided us with a lovely day and yet another ice cream (this week has been full of them) before we headed a little further north to find a suitable spot to park up for the night.
The stop that marks our seventh day on the road was a good one. I’ve already shared tonnes of pictures on Facebook and Instagram of our day, but I can’t miss out mentioning our trip to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which is on the outskirts of Brisbane.
The whole day was a stereotypical “I’m travelling around Australia” experience. We held koalas, saw dingos, snakes and platypus and took the obligatory selfie with a kangaroo. As an animal lover I was in my element at this place, but I’m sure that even people that aren’t all that keen on animals usually could have still had some fun.
The sanctuary was all open and the koalas lived in trees in little “enclosures” that had no fence or walls around them so they seemed to wander quite freely with the little movement that they did. I was certain I had found my spirit animal.. they sleep 18-20 hours a day and when they’re not sleeping they are often eating – bliss.
This perfect end to the week was finished off with a wander around (and some dinner from) the Friday Farmers Market, and an evening spent in their gardens for their Free Friday Night cinema. This week was The Muppets so we sat amongst mainly children and enjoyed the film under the stars.
2 weeks left in our little van, but still a lot of ground to cover! Not hit a kangaroo yet(came close) nor have we been challenged to a camper race – but there’s still plenty of time for that.