The Road From Brisbane To Sydney
Thursday 8th February 2018
As mentioned previously, after exploring Queensland, we originally wanted to drive all the way to Sydney but found that the Christmas holidays meant most cars were booked or no rental companies had any cars they wanted to end up in Sydney. So we hopped on the short flight to Brisbane to drive the Gold Coast from there.
We stayed overnight in one of the worst accommodations we have had the misfortune to find. Not filthy which was a plus but very rundown, dated and a total shambles at breakfast. We left hurriedly and after a drive around the city began the almost 1000km drive to Sydney but with days to get there we knew we could factor in plenty of stops.
The first was Surfers Paradise - and you could see why. The sand was so white and squeaky soft - we marveled at the clear water and more blue sea dragons and also at the coastline - a weird combination of seaside meets city skyscrapers.
We had a walk and watched the swimmers and surfers, it's a truly endless stretch of beach like so many of the beaches we've seen in Australia. We trooped back to the car and headed to our next destination.
We stopped in at Byron Bay and had a super lunch in a backpacker bar/accommodation (Aquarius), where we became very confused about the time as there's an hour's difference between Queensland and New South Wales.
We had a drive about, a wander, (I tried hard to spot Chris Hemsworth, Byron Bay resident but sadly to no avail) and then sat in the traffic to get out of Byron Bay! It's a cool place with a noticeably different vibe, very surfery and laid back and we would have enjoyed a night or two there. Just as we were heading away though Nikki unbelievably spotted a koala in a tree!
I didn't believe him at first but I parked up and incredibly - he was right! Up in a tree by the roadside, somehow - he had spotted a koala!!! Unreal!! We took some pictures and felt extremely lucky to have seen a koala in the wild before heading off again.
We really just picked places on the map to stay in and our accommodation for the first night on our road trip was Coffs Harbour.
We loved the little high street, teeming with restaurants of all varieties and a great view out over the harbour. The accommodation was excellent and after a great night's sleep we decided to explore the town a little before our departure.
We walked up Muttonbird island, so called after it's nesting birds and really would recommend the short, but steep walk to the top. The view is simply spectacular and when you walk down the other side to see the waves crashing over the rocks it really is something else. You could stand here for hours and never be bored, it was just fantastic. We also walked out down the pier and watched a family of boys all jumping off into the waves below. It's a small town but with an interesting history which we really enjoyed reading on our walkabout.
After a delightful bacon sandwich (the Galley - check it out if you're ever passing by) we rather unwillingly headed to the car to move on, we had all really liked Coffs Harbour but we had Sydney to get to!
The next stop on our journey was Port Macquarie, what a lovely little town this was although the sound of cicadas was deafening even in the town!
We stayed in a motel with a pool and the girls enjoyed a splash around whilst I got on with laundry (this travelling life isn't all glamour!) and we headed off the next morning with a special start to our day.
We had discovered that close by was a koala hospital. Let those words just sink in a moment. Koala. Hospital. We couldn't think of a cuter sounding place so we decided we had to visit.
It's very small but incredibly well run and with a small info centre to the side, a little shop and then the koala clinic where there is a viewing window, a huge board that details the patients and the enclosures where the koalas are kept. The centre runs an extremely popular volunteer programme and Darcy has already decided she will be applying one day!
The ladies in the shop also explained that the noise of the cicadas was at an unusually high level which occurs every few years due to some natural phenomenon. It was absolutely deafening and you had to shout to be heard over them!
There are different enclosures at the Koala hospital, some of which are screened off so that some koalas are limited to their human interaction so that they may be rereleased after their treatment but there are some permanent residents, most of whom are blind and unable to survive in the wild.
We learnt a lot about koalas and about the dangers of bushfires, and how they are trying to get the population raised in the wild. There used to be healthy numbers of koalas but they were hunted knots to extinction by European settlers. Fortunately hunting is now banned and the numbers are slowly improving.
We headed off stopping in at the Roto house as we left. A house originally belonging to a wealthy family that had been left to the community and had exhibits and was decked out in authentic items for the period. It was really interesting to see how the wealthy would have lived during this period and we really enjoyed wandering through the rooms.
We set off to find our next stop for the night, with no accommodation we often do walk-ins or sometimes stop in a McDonald's for their free "wi-fry" and a milkshake whilst we search local bookings.
We hit the road and stopped at the most random services that was shaped like Ayers Rock and had a stall selling a selection of golly dolls - something we are not accustomed to seeing in the UK anymore!
The map board and local attractions outside however it proved invaluable as we discovered that close by were some huge sand dunes that people slide down so we decided to pay a visit.
We got out and began the walk. These sand dunes were massive - close to 100 feet high - but it was burning hot, we'd clocked the temperature in the car at 42° and the sand was scalding to walk on.
We were absolutely stunned by our surroundings. Pure white banks of sand for miles. Blindingly bright and blisteringly hot these sand dunes were just an incredible feat of nature. And totally obscured from view off the main road, we would never have ventured this way if we hadn't read what was here.
We made it to the top although it was challenging and I was very out of breath! It was hard work!! Sadly we had nothing to ride down on - but you could imagine if you had a little body board or even a big sheet of card you could have some serious fun (and probably some serious burns) sliding down these.
The view from the top was just spectacular. Forest on one side and then huge dunes stretching out for miles ahead and beach far off to the left. It was really breath taking, and despite the pictures we took, nothing transferred as well to the pictures as it did in real life.
We trudged down and began the walk back to the car, at this point realising that we really were quite underprepared and we're desperately thirsty and without water. We knew it wasn't a long walk back to the car but suddenly it seemed much longer than the walk out with the sun beating down on us and an awareness that we were very much alone out here.
We reached the car and as soon as we hit the first shop we dived in for much needed water!! As I parked up a local man warned me I would face the wrath of the local police and possibly get a ticket for my parking - why? Because I had parked on the opposite side of the road. Apparently in Australia you must only park on the side you are driving on! I took the risk but heeded the warning as I soon noticed that indeed all cars face the way they should when parked on streets in Australia.
The drive continued and we made it to the next place we had pinpointed for a stay.
We originally wanted to stay in Caves Beach but soon realised it was out of our budget, we enjoyed the drive around though before finding somewhere more in budget and family friendly even though it was back the way we'd come - we were willing to make the journey. And I'm so glad we did! We stayed in Charlestown in a super Air BnB which even had an upstairs!
We all had a moment of realising how much our "needs and wants" have changed since leaving the UK and on our future house wishlists. We really were excited at this space - it had two bathrooms which is such a luxury and the stairs felt extra special as we are usually in flats or even just one room!
I headed out to the local mall to get a few groceries and really liked the area. We decided to have a quiet day and mooch about the shopping centre the following day however given that it was five days until Christmas Day the mall was - as you would expect - absolutely rammed! With barely any Christmas shopping to do and feeling a little bewildered by the hordes of shoppers on their Christmas missions we again had a moment of realising our Christmases will never be the same. We have realised how over the top we have become at Christmas and how the spending becomes addictive and uncontrolled. The fear and panic of not having bought enough food/presents/decorations etc is overwhelming and I can honestly say we haven't missed any of it. I love writing Christmas cards and I love decorating our home and I really was desperate to smell a real Christmas tree but actually those things are more important to me than the stacks of presents I usually buy and the worry about who I've got to remember and dashing around like a mad thing trying to see everyone.
I think everyone on this side of the world has it better in some ways - you get your summer holidays over Christmas so you can spread out seeing family or going away or having people over, you have those long lazy summer days to do all of that.
Having said that I can't imagine having Christmas and summer at the same time. I look forward to summer as much as Christmas and the thought of having to wear a bikini at Christmas is just hideous!!
We grabbed some lunch in the absolutely mobbed food court before making our way home. However we hit a snag because there was a power cut. And the fancy apartment we were staying in was all electronic keyless entry. There was nothing to do but wait. Our host tried different solutions but nothing worked and when I questioned why there wasn't some sort of procedure for this he looked completely baffled and explained that there hadn't been a power cut in the seven years he'd been running the building! Us Brits are a bit more used to them I suppose!! We sat on the floor in the corridor and played a new game we had (by chance) picked up in the mall and waited for power to be restored. Fortunately it wasn't very long and we got into the cool air-conditioned comfort of the apartment.
We set off on our last drive to the city centre, seeing the kilometre signs to Sydney now in the 100s after beginning at close to 1000km was thrilling! We could see glimpses of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as we drove in and we were all quite excited about what lay ahead and the prospect of Christmas in Sydney!