Before leaving Queensland to travel south through New South Wales , we drove about 1.5 hours west through Nerang and on to Canungra. That gave Ian a few shivers down his spine as he recalled his jungle training there in preparation for Vietnam. Hard to believe it is 50 years since conscription was legislated, and his birth date was on one of the marbles pulled out of the ballot box – a life-changing moment for Ian and our many veteran friends. That was the fourth National Service scheme in Australia – will it ever happen again, we wonder?
Onwards to visit our friends Bob and Noreen in Beaudesert; a pleasant drive, and great to see them settled happily into their new home and Bob toiling away building a rock garden.
We also visited Byron Bay, famous for being hippy, happy and a bit alternative. It was all of that, and we enjoyed wandering the streets and having lunch on the beach alongside surfers, whale watchers and the many other tourists.
So it was decision-making time – what route would be best to get us to the Blue Mountains? Sounds simple BUT the difficult thing about our first caravanning visit to this coast is choosing where to stay! We have been to so many well located, beautiful places with friendly locals and services but we could return next year and stay in completely different locations and have just as good a time. Quite a novel experience for us as our less populated home state of WA often has long stretches between great spots to stay.
Our first choice was Evans Head. We completed our normal ‘settling in’ process in record time having spotted the local Illawong Hotel beer garden less than 50 metres away – a nice shady spot on a hot day!
It was school holidays here in New South Wales so lots of families were camping to enjoy the sun, surf and fishing. We planned a successful one day circuit following back roads up to Ballina for lunch and then west to Alstonville and south through Woodburn back to Evans Head. Overall this whole area was great to explore although we could have done without the marauding midges that attacked Ian and made life very miserable.
Next basecamp was Urunga on the Coffs Coast, where our favourite walk quickly became the boardwalk from the river right out to the sea.
We decided to brave Sunday in Coffs Harbour and it was frenetic but fun! The Sealy Lookout, about 8 kms past the Big Banana (don’t ask) explained their marketing slogan ‘where the mountains meet the sea’.
Headed down to the marina for a coffee. Considered trawling the hundreds of stalls at the local markets but decided we were a bit over them, so we walked across to Muttonbird Island to see the sanctuary developed to protect the shearwaters from their animal and human predators.
We had intended to eat fish and chips at the Fisherman’s Co-op but the queue was soooo long that we headed over to the Fishing Club where we had a late and very mediocre lunch (and still queued). That’ll teach us to change our minds! However the view was to die for, the sun was warm and the wine was cool so all was not lost.
Next stop was Tuncurry and the neighbouring town of Forster where our van park opened onto the beach. Great spot for following the foreshore to the rockpool and then walking back into town to pick up prawns fresh off the trawler for lunch!
Then it was down to the Central Coast, travelling through bushland and hills to The Entrance, famous for its many pelicans. Cool and windy, but we wandered along the beach happily and found the original swimming baths.
Next stop the Blue Mountains – Ian was last here when he was 16 and Ginny has never seen this beautiful region, so we’re excited!