I hope you enjoyed reading part 1 & 2, now for the final installment of the road trip with some gorgeous coastal towns.
Nelson Bay & Port Macquarie
After a relaxing few days in Bondi Beach visiting a friend, it was onward to Nelson Bay. If you ever get there, one thing you have to do is take the walk up to the Tomaree head lookout. The walk up the trail is slightly elevated, up steps and over little purpose made wooden bridges, but nothing that I couldn’t manage in my unfit pastry filled state! It was a beautiful sunny day with clear blue skies and a slight breeze that took the edge off from the heat (or maybe that was just me puffing and catching my breath!). The walk only takes about 15-20 minutes at a leisurely pace to reach the lookout, which was well worth it, the views were breathtaking. I went to Thailand last March and thought that my eyes had seen enough luscious green for a lifetime, but oh boy was I wrong! It was like being right back there, from the lookout you have 360 views of the surrounding areas and it was simply gorgeous.
Nelson Bay was only a quick stop and so the next morning it was onto Port Macquarie. After the 3 hour drive we arrived late afternoon in enough time to have a stroll down the beach at Flagstaff, it was a lovely coastline with beautiful clean beaches, probably due to the “Hey Tosser” bins located around which amused me no end! Another example of offensive British slang words having another meaning and being used in such a innocent way.
Port Macquarie, being established in 1821 as a penal settlement for secondary offender convicts, is steeped in convict-era history offering historic walking trails to take in the likes of the Flagstaff Hill and the historic courthouse, which while interesting and may float some peoples boat, it didn’t really interest us all that much and so we took in all the beautiful scenic aspects that the town has to offer instead. We visited Harry’s lookout, named after Harry Thompson, who moved there after a small lottery win. When I say moved there, what I actually mean is that he brought a caravan with his wife, got stuck on the beach and despite objections from the local council then lived there for 4 decades, becoming the caretakers of the beach! Aside from its questionable name its a great spot to grab a little picnic.
The second lookout we visited was a very short 3 minute drive down the road to Rocky beach, so needless to say the scenery didn’t change all that much! however we did meet a laughing kookaburra up close on our walk, who wasn’t phased by us one bit! Aptly named because of its territorial call and if you ever travel Australia you will find that the raucous cackle of the Laughing Kookaburra is an essential feature of the dawn chorus!
If like me you are a sucker for the sound of crashing waves and a view of the ocean, then Port Macquarie also has a great coastal walk from Town Green foreshore in Port Macquarie, winding along the coast via Town Beach, Rocky Beach lookout, Nobby’s Beach and Harry’s lookout overlooking Shelly Beach and on to Sea Acres.
The next morning we made a quick stop at Town Beach and sat with a nice hot brew (tea) to watch the surfers from the warmth and comfort of the car!
Coffs Harbour & Byron Bay
After a short hour and an half journey we arrived at Coffs Harbour to our Airbnb, a gorgeous little studio in Korora which is a great base to explore and the host Wayne was so friendly and helpful. We had contemplated ordering in as the trip was starting to catch up with us and we were beat, but we pushed on through and decided to go out for a sunset walk along the jetty.
We walked up to the Muttonbird Island nature reserve and the views as the sun was setting were simply gorgeous, as the pink hues filled the sky like candyfloss we just sat on the grass and took it all in. Once the sun had gone down it started to get a little chilly so we headed to a nearby restaurant to warm ourselves up with a couple of glasses of wine and a tasty meal of fish and chips!
The next stop on the itinerary was Byron Bay and I was quite excited because we had 3 nights there, which was much needed after the string of one nighters!
Even though the drive was 3 hours, it took us on the Pacific Highway and alongside the Richmond River, so there was some nice scenery along the way and we stumbled across the “Our Daily Bread Cafe”. Initially we drove past and I commented that it looked like a lovely little quaint church, only then I realized that it was actually a cafe. Being partial to a ham and cheese toastie we whipped round and grabbed lunch! I am huge fan of converted churches, so I was excited to see what they had done inside to maintain the original features. I have to say I was a little disappointed with the interior, it was essentially a greasy spoon cafe with an open kitchen in the large open plan space that remained mostly unchanged; so I guess you could say that they did retain its original features in some way, but it had so much potential for so much more. Side note the ham and cheese toasties were heaven sent!
We arrived at our accommodation, another Airbnb booking and wow the location was incredible. We knew that it was close to the beach but it was literally on the doorstep! We dumped our bags, donned our flip flops and headed out to the beach. We walked right across the beach over to the quaint little town centre of Byron, taking in all the little stores, coffee shops and a bakery, that I was going to have to return to at least twice during our time in Byron! We grabbed some postcards at the local store and as it was already early evening, we decided to find somewhere relaxed to write the cards with a couple of drinks …….. it just so happened that I had spotted a happy hour nearby!
Balcony Bar became our nightly spot for sundowners and its perfect for seafood fans, as the happy hour is not just for drinks its also for the oysters! We sat chatting about the trip so far, our favourite moments, what we enjoyed the most as we relived it through the words on our postcards. Before we knew it, it was dark and the writing became a little sqwify, it seems we had sunk a few too many happy hour drinks and that lunchtime toastie was not enough to soak it up! On a mission to find food we literally stumbled upon Miss Margarita and the thought of tacos took over, we were sat down before you could blink! We grazed on a selection of Mexican dishes and of course given the name we had to sample a Margarita….. I mean we were at Miss Margaritas after all, it would have been rude not to! The hubby had the smoked pineapple and I had the ginger Margarita and my god they were delicious!
It suddenly dawned on us that at 10am the next morning we had booked to go on a sea kayak tour, so despite the fun we were having we had to put on our sensible heads and go back to the apartment to hit the sack! …. lord knows I get sea sick at the best of times!
We arrived bright and breezy, ok so maybe not so bright, but it was definitely breezy! We checked in for the kayak tour and the lady at the counter seemed strangely familiar; oh crap, she was the waitress at Miss Margaritas last night who saw us shitfaced! After a casual hello, followed by a smirky “how are the heads” we got to selecting our kayak and having the safety briefing. Despite the hangover I was very excited about this, as it was a whale and dolphin sight seeing tour! The group was all ready and the guide had just explained the right way to get into the water in the kayak, we watched as everyone before us nailed it; our turn, didn’t quite go to plan and we capsized (of course it was my fault!) Que the chuckles of the remainder of the group, which happened to be a group of men clearly on a stag do (I’m not sure who looked more worse for wear, them or us!)
Despite the epic fail we were on our way, it was a couples Kayak which at first we thought would be fun, and I quickly realized how hard it was going to be paddling for 3 hours and my husband quickly realized that I didn’t know my left to my right! no matter how loud he shouted the instructions RIGHT, NO NOT THAT RIGHT THE OTHER RIGHT! Oh the fun we had! Unfortunately we only saw one dolphin fin in the whole 3 hours, but it was a great experience nevertheless and watching the group of men that had laughed at us now spew their guts up with seasickness, while trying to navigate a kayak amused us no end!
The next morning I woke to slightly sore arms, ok, lets not beat around the bush they were more than slightly sore, I couldn’t even bloody wave without needing a paracetamol! We walked along the beach again over to the town and grabbed a coffee at the Byron corner store, no Starbucks or Costa here; much like the trip so far really, we were falling in love with the little independent coffee shops. It was a beautiful day so we spent the afternoon just wondering casually popping in and out of the boutique stores, until we came across a massage spa and that was just what my aching body needed and I was in shear bliss for the next 60 minutes!
It was our last night in Byron, so it was only right that we payed the Balcony Bar a final visit to take advantage of the happy hour before getting an early night ready for the early start the next day.
The drive to the Gold Cost was only an hour so we decided to make a little stop along the way at the Springbrook National Park, if you have a whole day then pack a picnic and get out your walking boots as there are several sites to see here and 5 different walking trails. We enjoyed one of the walking trails to the twin falls and you could see the skyscrappers of Brisbane in the far distance. After a few hours we were ready to head on to the Gold Coast, it was a lovely sunny day so I was eager to hit the beach!
We arrive at Surfers paradise, a great self catering apartment with lovely decor and a balcony off the bedroom to enjoy the beautiful river views. The Gold Coast also had a QT hotel (same brand as we stayed in Sydney and Melbourne) our budget didn’t stretch to stay there a 3rd time but I was keen to see the interior, so as we were peckish we decided to head over to have breakfast there before hitting the beach. I wasn’t disappointed, the QT was a unique as the others, but this one had more of a beach vibe going on and a retro VW camper van parked at the valet!
We spent the afternoon lazing in the sun, I relived a little of my youth and started collecting some seashells, I still have them I just haven’t decided what to do with them yet! The water was so clear and despite how busy it was, the beaches were surprising clean. After a few hours baking in the sun, we built up quite a thirst, so we headed over the road to where all the shops, restaurants and bars where and found a Hard Rock Cafe with a roof terrace. We sat drinking cocktails while planning the next few days activities and watched the sun go down.
One of the activities we had booked was a 4 hour jetski safari, which sounded like fun touring the mangroves. Turned out that we were the only people that had booked onto the tour so we got a private tour which was great! We had the safety briefing, and at that point I should of been dubious, but I just thought that it was one of those things that had to be done.
The tour consisted of us following the guide along the route, problem was that the guide had his pedal to the metal and my husband took great delight in doing the same, while I was clinging on the back for dear life! I could just hear the chuckles from my husband, he sounded like a teenager, so he obviously couldn’t hear me yelling in his ear to SLOW DOWN! Don’t get me wrong, I am one for a good time and a little fun and I didn’t want to spoil his fun, seen as it was obvious that he was in his element, but Jesus Christ my knuckles were white and my thighs were clenched so hard that there was no way I was walking tomorrow, there was no way in hell I could sustain that for 4 hours!
The tranquil tour of the mangroves I had imagined had very quickly been taken over by a death ride, wherein I couldn’t see a bloody thing because the salt from the water kept clouding my sunglasses, so I ended up with my head buried in my husbands shoulder praying for it to be over! One silver lining of the tour was that we stopped half way at one of Australia’s only beach bars, funny because I thought that beach bars in Australia would be 2 a penny, but apparently not! I was able to get a cider to calm my nerves and have an hour to relax before the torture continued. Tipplers bar was great and had some friendly wallaby’s that came to say hello, they had obviously been used to being fed by the guests as they were not shy in coming right up to you and your dinner! Word of warning watch out for the crows, we were distracted by the Wallaby and a cheeky crow swooped in and nicked our sandwich! We think that he was in cahoots with the Wallaby!
The trauma of that afternoon left us; rather me, quite exhausted so we had a quiet night in watching the sunset from the balcony, followed by a movie and takeout!….what a day!
It was another day lazing at the beach as that night we had planned a night out on the town. We had heard about a show called Draculas caberet, dinner and a show with a difference, so we thought, well why not, it would be a good way to kick off the evening. Wow, what a strange show, ok let me start from the beginning. We were led into a room and the shows prelude began, we were in a grave, the room was very cold with a family looking down on us from above. Great start, that built up the atmosphere and we had no idea what to expect next. From there we were led to the bar and served blood bag cocktails and canapes with lots of interesting characters in costume around us and we were clearly in Dracula’s domain! The best part was to come, we were summoned to take the ghost train to the show, a ghost train, how fun! It was a short ride but definitely a novel way to enter the theater and just like on theme park rides there was a jump scare and a flash of the camera!
Settled in our seats the overly rude waitress (all part of the act) comes to take our order and of course all the drinks are themed and they arrived in little coffin bottles! The food was surprisingly good and very tasty, the theater was now full and ready for the show to begin. Cue the host to the stage, a Dracula drag queen and the show was hilarious, think puppets, obscene lyrics, sexy outfits and urrrrrm blacklight! (I will just leave that one with you!) It wasn’t quite what we were expecting, as we thought it would be a Dracula show, but it was more a horror themed comedy, nevertheless it was such a scream!
We ended up getting home at 4am the following morning, I know, behave, you are not in your 20s anymore, but we had such a great night; shots lead to dancing and more dancing and more drinks, then of course finished off nicely with a burger king. Unfortunately the next day we were paying for having such a good time with the hangover from hell. There was only one cure; pancakes! Needless to say the rest of the day was pretty much a write off!
The next day, and our final day in the Gold Coast we took the 30 minute drive to Currumbin wildlife sanctuary. and I finally got to experience what I had expected to experience on Kangaroo island; feeding the kangaroos! It was amazing, we saw little baby joeys all tucked up cozy inside the pouch and were surrounded by kangaroos. We spent the whole day at the sanctuary, there was plenty to see and lots of live shows going on throughout the day, I recommend going to see the crocodile show if you can, that guy is huge! We ended the day with drinks on our balcony watching the sunset and it was just perfect.
Cairns & Port Douglas
We collected our rental car upon arrival at the airport and headed down the palm tree lined streets to our hotel, The Riley Crystal Brook, a beautiful hotel with a distinct bright and airy beach vibe, just a short walk from the harbour. It was early evening by the time we checked in and unpacked, so we went for a walk to see what the town had to offer, grabbed a bite to eat and got our heads down to get a good nights sleep before the 5am alarm for our Great Barrier Reef trip.
6am we boarded the boat ready to head out to explore the Great Barrier Reef, and to say that we were excited was an understatement! My husband got his PADI open water certificate just before we came on this trip, and I have always enjoyed any scuba experience I had in the past, so this was set to literally blow all that out the water! We were briefed on what could sting, bite or scratch, essentially just don’t touch anything and your fine! We anchored and were ready to go, initially I have to say I was surprised because all the pictures you see of the reef are bright and full of colour, but actually when you scuba the colour saturation goes as you get deeper, so all the tones were muted and dulled down. Nevertheless it was another world down there, well I guess it actually is isn’t it, but you know what I mean! It was so calm and I have never seen so many different types of fish. We were mesmerized watching the sea plants swaying back and forth with the current and seeing how the fish lived within the coral was just amazing. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see a nemo (clown fish) which was on my list, but seeing the giant clams made up for that, the name certainly rings true, they were bloody huge! After our scuba we still had time to snorkel and that’s when you really see the reef in all its glory. I didn’t realize how close to the surface the barrier reef actually was and snorkeling you can really get up close and see all the vibrant colours. If you have a limited budget I would recommend just snorkeling, it is quite pricey to scuba and you do see just as much snorkeling, plus you get to see all the beautiful colours without saturation, not to mention you don’t need to worry about running out of air!
We had such a great time on the reef tour that we booked to go again the next day but to a different reef, I was determined to see a nemo! We initially planned to only snorkel on this one, but when we got there and realized that we would be the only 2 people on the scuba trip we decided to go for it and enjoy it being just the two of us. It was brilliant, because of my husbands certification, the instructed stayed near enough to us if we needed him, but let my husband lead me so it was a great experience for us both. Guess what, this time we saw a nemo!
It had come to the last day of our Australian adventure, and with a little energy left in us we wanted to make the most of it and try to squeeze in seeing another town. Just a short 1 hours drive, and a very beautiful drive I might add, with more palm trees than you can shake a stick at, was Port Douglas.
We arrived and headed straight to 4 mile beach, kicked off our flip flops and strolled, not the full 4 miles mind you but a good walk! At one end was a lookout point, from which you could see the whole 4 miles of the beach as it curved around the bay, lined with an abundance of palm trees, and with the backdrop of the beautiful mountains in the distance, which made for a pretty spectacular view.
It was a hot day so we drove to the town centre to find a spot to eat, and found ourselves in an unlikely place; a social club called The Tin Shed. It was a far cry from the fancy last day meal we had planned, but it had a terrace with gorgeous views that overlooked Dickson’s Inlet and the mountain range so we were sold. I highly recommend the king prawns, I’ve had many a prawn in my time but none that tasted this good!
I wish we had planned more time at Port Douglas because it was just a gorgeous little town. Full of quaint boutique shops; one of which I brought my agate candle holders and so many seafood restaurant options with daily fresh fish, it was the perfect spot to stay a couple of nights……maybe next time!
Phew I am exhausted from just typing this; I did warn you that it was a long old trip!
Coming soon in 2020………Stay tuned for blogs on the beautiful interiors I experienced along the way, which will be posted in the World of Interiors section.
Now time to plan the next adventure……Canada here we come!