For the last 10 days we’ve been living it large in the great outdoors aboard our campervan De Lorean. We’ve clocked up almost 1,500 kilometers blasting along the Pacific Highway and down the various detour roads from Sydney to Brisbane. We’ve visited some great places and seen some spectacular coastlines. We alternated the driving day-by-day with the passenger being in charge of navigation & the music. Here is a little overview of the places we camped at:
From Sydney we travelled north and had lunch in Newcastle, once it was an industrial town but it’s really quite pretty now. We arrived at Port Stephens mid-afternoon and visited the main town: Nelsons Bay which is quite upmarket with quaint streets, shops & cafes. Port Stephens is a stunning bay which stretches more than 20km inland. We camped at a fairly expensive site at Shoal Bay which is the next beach along from Nelsons Bay. Port Stephens is the dolphin capital of Australia and we started our day with a cup of tea at a lookout cafe, unfortunately we didn’t see any!
A few hours drive north of Port Stephens we arrived at Port Macquarie; once a place of hard labour for convicts who reoffended although now it’s a very holiday focused little town. It’s positioned at the entrance to the subtropical coast and there were some spectacular beaches and views. The town is in a great location with a huge beach and forests to either side. We stayed on the edge of a National Park which turned out to be a couple of hours drive although it was only a few kilometers away (didn’t realise we had to go all the way around the bloody National Park!). The campsite was as basic as they come (we literally just parked on the beach) the stars were unbelievable at night and the milkyway was spectacular proving the main source of light. It ended up being a freebie as the owner never arrived to take our money off us the following morning …admittedly we did set off pretty early! ;-)
A surprise highlight of our camping trip; it’s a pretty little town with an amazing beach. Our campsite was only $22 and it was really nice, it even had a really nice pool! We had a really good day on the beach and would have stayed an extra night but the weather took a turn for the worse so reluctantly we moved on the following morning!
On our way to Byron Bay we stopped at Ballina - a pretty little town that did decent fish and chips on the beach (although they had no idea what ‘curry sauce’ was!). We arrived at Byron bay which we’d been looking forward to ever since we planned our trip. Unfortunately during our stay the weather was bloody awful so we didn’t see it in all it’s glory. We stayed for a couple of nights at a cheapish campsite then decided to upgrade and went to a campsite right in the town for another couple of nights. Our second site was by the lighthouse which we visited one afternoon in between the rain showers. We drove to the hippy town Nimbin on a cloudy day; it’s a crazy little place where weed is legalised. After parking De Lorean in the centre of town we were quickly surrounded by locals offering to sell us mushrooms, magic cookies, bags of weed etc (we didn’t buy any!). We had drinks, cakes, a few games of backgammon and explored the hippy shops which were mostly selling herbs, precious stones and bob marley tees. Byron bay was a nice place, it’s just a shame we couldn’t enjoy a few days on it’s famous beach!
In between Byron Bay & Brisbane is the Gold Coast and the tourist mecca Surfers Paradise. We stayed about 20km down the road at Coolangata. It was a super cool little town just a few streets off it’s beautiful beach. We stayed for 2 nights and had consistent sun (at last!). After more than a month out of the sun we were practically starting from scratch with our tans but we definitely got some colour at Coolangata. By coincidence the Quicksilver Pro Surfers 2011 competition was being held just a few hundred meters from where we were sun bathing so yesterday we spent the afternoon there. It was really cool with skate comps, people chilling watching & swimming with the pro surfers and loads of food & drink freebies (great when you’re on a budget!). On our way to Brisbane we visited Surfers Paradise, everything we’d read made it sound awful but we actually really liked it! It had great shopping and a really nice vibe. The surfers shops were great and I bought more stuff than I probably should have!
So now we’re in Brisbane. We’ve dropped off De Lorean (feels like we’ve ditched an old friend) and now we’re at our hotel - Neil can give you our impressions of here in his next blog once we’ve explored a little more tomorrow.
The journey’s been great and we’d recommend a campervan to anyone who visits Australia, it’s such a lovely way to see the country. We’ve discovered so many places we wouldn’t have done otherwise and really got a feel for the scale of Australia. We went with the campervan company ‘Spaceships’ not only because of it’s name but also it had a really cool bed system - you open the boot and put up an awning and the bed hangs half out of the back of the van. There were loads of companies to choose from (Wicked campers, Auto Barn, Juicy etc) but if you’re going to do this - get a spaceship: in the night it gets ridiculously hot and if our bed wasn’t half hanging out then it would have been unbearable! Plus it had a dual battery system so we had a fridge that could stay on overnight & TV + DVD player! For food we’d stock up our fridge and mostly ate cereal for breaky, crisps & apples for lunch and then pasta or pitta wraps for tea. We got a huge wine box that kept us going which we’ve only just finished this evening! The only downside to De Lorean was she was very thirsty on the old fuel, every day we were driving we put about $50 of petrol in her!
Anyway we’re heading back to Sydney tomorrow night after a great time on the road. We’ve got a pretty hectic agenda planned and it’s Mardi Gras next weekend so watch this space!
P.S I wrote this last night but I’m sending it today as we had no internet. Today we met up with Felicity & Mayes who we met in SE Asia and they gave us a tour of Brisbane (their home town) - thanks guys! Neils next update will contain the photos but I’ve attached a quick snap of us all to this post.