For reasons I cannot start to explain I have so far failed to write up my first Australian road trip and so, while it is rather late, I thought I would make an attempt so there is some record of this momentous event.
December 2015 and Lauren was coming over to join me for my first Christmas in Australia. As part of her holiday we planned a road trip to Brisbane. Two days up, a day there and then two days back getting us home in time to complete the final arrangements for our Christmas in the sunshine.
Safari Bear has accompanied me on all my major adventures from my trip to Nordkapp in Norway, the most northerly point of main land Europe, to the edge of the Sahara Desert in Morocco, and so as he had arrived in Australia with Lauren it seemed only appropriate that he should be part of this journey as well.
Saturday 19th December
Packed and ready to go, we headed north out of Sydney with a view that we wouldn’t make our first stop until well past Newcastle. From the Pacific Highway our first detour from the main roads was towards Mungo Brush and the ferry across the lakes blocking our way towards Seal Rocks.
On the way we saw a sign which just needed to be investigated further – The Tallest Tree in NSW! The Grandis, Eucalyptus grandis (flooded gum), near Bulahdelah, New South Wales. Circumference: 10.07 metres. Height: 70.5 metres.
Next stop was Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse at Seal Rocks. Readers of my blog will be aware of my fascination with these buildings and will not be surprised to know that this was the first of many visited on this trip.
In fact, while we made many stops and detours on the way, out next location was another lighthouse, this time Smoky Cape Lighthouse in Hat Head National Park. It was while here that Lauren had her first sighting of wild Kangaroos. A small group were grazing in the picnic area near the car park.
Lauren had found all our accommodation via Airbnb.com which meant that not only were we staying somewhere different each night, each location was somewhat unique. Our first night was spent at “Nestled in the Treetops” in Valla, a truly magnificent house up in the hills completely away from the world.
Distance traveled : 700km
Sunday 20th December
Before continuing our journey we took a short detour to Valla Beach in order to take our Christmas family photo. It was already extremely hot that morning and so we got a few odd looks from the locals. This wasn’t meant to be taken too seriously although many people seemed too.
From Valla we followed the coast road as much as possible through Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga before heading inland to Grafton and following the Clarence River back towards Byron Bay.
At Woolgoolga we stopped to admire the Sikh temple.
A short stop at Byron Bay confirmed immediately we needed to go back and spend more time there. Plans were made to come back on Tuesday before we headed to our overnight stop Tugun. Having dropped off our bags we took a drive to Gold Coast – not a place we will be rushing back to.
Distance traveled : 440km
Monday 21st December
Today is all about Brisbane.
In many ways Brisbane is all about its river of the same name, but what amazed us was just how quiet it was – I guess having become so used to the continuous hustle on Sydney’s harbour a waterway with so few boats seemed very strange.
We parked the car under South Park and surfaced next to the Christmas Market and a short walk from the famous “beach” which was packed with kids of all ages having a brilliant time. Crossing the river via the Goodwill Bridge near Queensland’s Maritime Museum, we walked up through the Botanic Gardens and past Old Government House which is now part of Queensland’s University of Technology.
This part of Brisbane is full of magnificent old buildings, some still used for the purpose with which they were constructed, others converted for modern needs but retaining their original facades. One such building I wanted to visit was the Commissariat Store Museum, but unfortunately it is closed Mondays! One for another day.
The Museum of Brisbane was not only open but extremely interesting and so we sent a good couple of hours out of the heat learning the history of the city and surrounding areas.
Tonight’s accommodation was in the Mullum Hills, Wilsons Creek, back towards Byron Bay and near the small town of Mullumbimby – remembered for its magnificent name!
Distance traveled : 268km
Tuesday 22nd December
We had promised and so it was to be ….. An early start saw us back in Byron Bay.
First we headed for Cap Byron Lighthouse before the crowds descended. The views out over the bay were truly magnificent. Breakfast next and then a long walk around the town looking through the eclectic mix of shops. A friend of mine, Steve, had traveled to Byron Bay back in the late 80’s and had said then there was little more than a back-packers hostel and pub – how times have changed. An amazing town with an a great atmosphere. Having visited I can understand why it is so popular and has been been for so long – although I’m not sure I could exactly explain it if anybody asks.
Having had wonderful weather for out trip so far, it decided to change as we arrived at Tacking Head Lighthouse and so this was a very brief visit – just enough time to tick the lighthouse off my list and take a few photographs.
Our final stop of the day was Port Macquarie and so a steady drive in grotty weather was the order for the afternoon.
Distance traveled : 755km
Wednesday 23rd December
There were two sights we wanted to see in Port Macquarie. First was the Koala Hospital, the nearest either of us have been to these lovely creatures, and the second was Roto House which happened to be right next door. The house was occupied by the same family from when it was built until 1979 and houses a fascinating history of the family, their life and expansion of the area.
Time for one final lighthouse, this time at Crowdy Head, before heading home.
Distance traveled : 440km
A trip to remember …… first of many I hope!