When we started to plan our Christmas holiday with André few months ago we knew two things: we wanted (A) to go on a road trip and (B) on New Year’s Eve to be in Sydney. Regarding everything else we were pretty flexible, within our limited budget, of course. So this trip was as much about the journey as about the destination and we enjoyed every almost every minute of it. During the 8-days road trip from Brisbane to Sydney and back:
… we drove 2535 kilometers, many times choosing tourist drives and scenic routes; did some serious beach hopping along the coastline, found some gem towns and some very boring ones, but do not worry I will not tire you with the latter ones; did some bush walking and city strolling; saw some interesting animals, did some wine tasting and found the best ice cream (so far in Australia); also did some serious waiting so that we can greet 2014 under the Harbour Bridge. And, as usual, when we are on the road, we listened to too many Queen songs too many times and took loads of photos and diary notes. And now, to share our experience, I am starting this entry and during the next couple of weeks I will be adding a new stop of our trip every day. I am so excited to start another challenge, similar to the advent post, and to relive the best moments of our NYE road trip. Hope you join us on this journey and share your own experience or even questions about the places we visited.
Also hope that you are half excited as I am, and will be back tomorrow when the journey starts with discovering Byron Bay! xox
Day 1 – Byron Bay
Our first stop of our NYE road trip was Byron Bay, which normally would be about 2 hours drive from Brisbane. But since we wanted to escape the highway in the hope of seeing some nice views whenever we could, we went through Kingscliff, Pottsville and Ocean Shores, which added another 30 minutes to our trip. We were not prepared for the heavy traffic though, which delayed us with an extra hour at least. Having said that, this was the only time when we faced seriously jammed roads. From this point onwards it was always the opposite lane, which was packed with cars and we kept blessing our luck.
Finally we arrived to Byron Bay early afternoon. Given that the place is a surfing mecca and meeting place for alternative cultures since the 1960’s, I was not surprised by its free spirit style and holiday-on atmosphere. After strolling around the town, which offered the temptation of loads of nice shops (especially sports and beach wear), we headed to Cape Byron, the easternmost point of the mainland of Australia. Long time ago the area of Byron Bay was a whaling station. And up until today this part of the coast is famous for whale watching. Which is as exciting as it sounds, except that the Humpback whale migration happens between June-November. Still, I was not discouraged from constantly being on the lookout for some dolphins at least. At a point I thought I saw one, so quickly I took a photo. Just after zooming in the picture I realised that it was only a piece of rock. How disappointing… but maybe next time.
We walked along the shore reaching the lighthouse, which together with the eternal view from there, were the highlights of that day. Besides some nice beaches, we found lush greenery with water dragons, bush turkeys and some great rainforest tracks. Which reminds me of the fact that here I still was not entirely in traveller-mode and did not choose my shoes properly. So at points, not to ruin my favourite sandals completely, I ended up walking barefoot.
Day 2 – Coffs Harbour
We woke up in the sleepy village of Federal, which offered some tranquility and great rainforest tracks nearby. But instead of going for some hiking near the Minyon Falls we continued our journey. Our first stop was Lennox Heads, where we found a nice beach as well as a lookout with a great view. Our second stop was Yamba, an old fishing village with some more sandy beaches. Late afternoon, as soon as we saw the Big Banana (one of the big weird things of Australia), we knew that we were getting close to Coffs Harbour.
Once we arrived to Coffs, which is said to have offer the most liveable climate within Australia, we straight away headed to the harbour. We walked along the promenade, which greeted us with some beautifully crafted mosaics, many inspired by the sea, and loads of seagulls, hunting for some leftover from the nearby fish and chips shops.
Visiting the Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve was one of the highlights not only of this day but also of our entire road trip. The area is pretty unique and serves as a home base for the muttonbirds, which come here to find love, to mate and to nest before they return to South Asia for the Australian winter. You can just walk across the island, which is about 1 km long return, and offers a walking pavement all the way long. We were lucky enough not only to get a bird’s eye view of the harbour but also to catch another amazing Australian sunset.
Day 3 – Nambucca Heads
The next morning found us in Nambucca Heads, which seemed just too unique and beautiful to leave behind before spending a good few hours there. While searching for the best beach of the area we followed a local’s advice (our Airbnb host) and headed to Shelly beach, and fell in love with it straight away! I am not sure if it was the cosy size of the bay, the sturdy rocks along the shore or the various blue shades of the sea, but the feel of this beach has reminded me so much of a beloved Gozo bay, bringing back loads of nice memories of the Mediterranean.
Just few minutes from the beach there are two not-to-be-missed points, with some picture perfect views. One of them is the Rotary Lookout (picture below), the other one is the Captain Cook Lookout, from where we could also see Shelly beach from top.
The mosaic sculpture – outside the police station on Bowra Street – was another great surprise of Nambucca Heads. Dolphins, fish and an octopus emerge from concrete waves, as well as grandma’s favourite teacups and even a porcelain rabbit! The unique sculpture, called the ‘The River’, tells the swirling tale of how the river winds from the mountains of the Great Dividing Range, through towns and farmland until it meets the sea.
Day 4 – Crowdy Bay
Leaving Nambucca Heads behind, we kept travelling south, passing Port Macquarie and finally reaching Crowdy Bay. During almost the entire trip we booked our lodging via Airbnb, the only exception was Crowdy Bay, where we stayed at the National Park’s camping area (near Diamond Head). Although sleeping in a tent is not my ultimate type of accommodation but, occasionally, I do find it a fun and unique experience. Plus I know how much André loves camping, which gives me an extra incentive. Just seeing his face while we were cooking dinner in front of the tent was totally worth all the discomfort moments, like the lack of a proper bathroom or the too stiff “bed”.
Also the proximity of nature was just magic! Waking up in the middle of a forest does give a special kick for the day! Especially when a kangaroo joins you for breakfast. We also had a little visit from a water dragon, which kept wandering around the camping area, searching for…who knows what…maybe food or some good company.
Although the name would suggest that the place is filled with loads of people, Crowdy Bay was one of the most tranquil beach I have ever visited. The area is perfect for 4W-driving and thanks to the little hills around fans of paragliding would find their treat as well. The couple of hours we spent on this beach also fulfilled another dream of mine – walking on a beach where you do not really see the end of it, while long, white waves are caressing your feet. Hmmm I cannot say that I did not love it!