Central Coast: Wineries, Walks, & White Sandy Beaches

Central Coast: Wineries, Walks, & White Sandy Beaches

The northern section of the NSW coast had indeed been impressive – endless long stretches of white sand, wildlife sightings that we hadn’t expected, quaint towns – even our ventures inland had yielded unexpected treasures. Could the central part of NSW’s coastline possible compare ? In short – absolutely !

Our travels of late.

Nambucca Heads was our first stop. Widely considered one of the nicest spots on the coast, we’d wholeheartedly agree. The viewpoints and coastal hikes offered amazing perspectives – we had the added advantage of some local area insights from Adrian and Darrell, a couple of like-minded travellers we had met earlier during a stop over in Denham, Western Australia. Wonderful to reunite with them, and as is often the case in these kinds of connections, the more you sit and chat, the more you find you actually have in common. It was Adrian and Darrell who are purchasing a new Sprinter van with a professional conversion, so our visit was timely giving them an opportunity to look closely at our specifications and ask us questions as to design options.

Nambucca Heads
Relaxing on the deck with Adrian and Darrell, Nambucca Heads.

Just south was another interesting part of the coast we’d not previously explored- Trial Bay , South West Rocks, and Hat Head; great beaches, an historic gaol/jail and one of the prettiest lighthouse lookout/hikes we’ve enjoyed so far.
Port Macquarie gave us the opportunity to catch up with another old kindergarten “alum” – Julie, and husband Greg joined us for a drink at a nearby pub and gave us some great pointers on the area, both having lived here most of their lives. Wonderful to catch after such a long time !

South West Rocks.
South West Rocks.
South West Rocks, Trial Bay.
Hat Head National Park.
Us, Hat Head National Park.
Another reunion with a kindergarten alum – Julie ( and husband, Greg ) , caught up with them in Port Macquarie where they live. Wonderful to reconnect after so many years !
Town Beach, Port Macquarie.

From Port Macquarie the M1 took us south to Newcastle but we did manage pit stops in Nabiac and Beuladelah, the latter town where we managed to cross paths with my brother and his wife who were returning home to Temora from Queensland. Great to have an impromptu and somewhat unexpected catch up ! Our general preference is to take the side roads when there is a viable option to the motorway and  conveniently there was a coastal road south towards Newcastle – hugging the road around beautiful Lake Macquarie one passes Toronto ( yes, there’s one in Australia ! ), Foster/Tuncurry, The Entrance, and Nelson Bay all popular beachside communities and just starting to get busy with the impending arrival of summer holiday hordes.

We managed to cross paths with my brother ( Ian ) and his wife ( Anne ) once again on our Australian “lap”. They were returning from a short trip to Queensland and we connected in Beuladelah.
Bennett Head Lookout, Forster.
Seal Rocks, Myall Lakes National Park.
Seal Rocks.
Felt I had a good handle on NSW geography, but did not know we had a “Toronto” ! A nice little town on pretty Lake Macquarie.
Lakeside, in “Toronto”, Australia.

Newcastle, a city best known for its industry and port, and long in the shadow of more glamorous Sydney just to the south, surprised us both. Yes, coming in from the north you see its gritty port, train lines, massive bridge  and industrial area, but go further south and Newcastle reveals its picturesque beachside and lakeside communities, historic downtown and some dramatic beach and cliff side walks. My image of the city has been reformed!

Bar Beach, Newcastle.

What are the odds ? We camped beside this couple in far North Queensland and bumped into them again camping in Newcastle. He, an Aussie, she from Germany. Nice to reunite !
I had known that during WW2, Japanese midget submarines shelled Sydney harbour but was not aware they also attacked Newcastle. No real damage and no deaths during the attacks.
Bogey Hole is a pool, cut from rock, on the edge of a cliff. Seemed it would be pretty easy to get swept out to sea ! Look closely and you can see the chain link barrier around the pool. No one swimming that we could see !

Just west of Newcastle lies the Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s premier wine producing regions, no visit to Newcastle being complete without a short detour west to enjoy its offerings. Unexpectedly quiet ( being just outside high season ), we generally had the wineries to ourselves providing ample time to sample the local fare. Cheese tastings, and even beer tastings, just added to the allure.

Thomas Wines was one that Lois really liked. The host was amazing and since it was a quiet day we had the place to ourselves.
Most serendipitously there was also some beer tasting in the Hunter Valley ( it’s not all wines ! ).
Cheese tasting, too !

View over the Hunter Valley from Thomas Winery.

A final bonus (for what was already a great travel week ) was the opportunity to catch up with the Bowyer family. Long time friends from Kelowna, they were in Australia doing a tour of the east coast and with some modest schedule juggling we were able to connect briefly just north of the Hawkesbury River. Wonderful to sit, relax, enjoy a beer and compare notes with us heading south and they heading north to many of the places we’d just been. 

It really was a great week for connecting with old friends. Here, near the Hawkesbury River, we met up with good Canadian friends (the Bowyers) who were travelling Australia in a motorhome . A short, but sweet, rendezvous !

Till next week ( and Sydney )…….

On To New South Wales

On To New South Wales

It felt almost like we were returning home, crossing into NSW from Coolangatta. I say “home” in the sense that NSW is my home state, where I was born and raised, though not of course our home now. While it’s probably the state that both Lois and I have travelled most extensively in already, there are definitely many parts we haven’t seen and a few places we simply love returning to.  

Our route of late.

With the weather already hot heading into the Aussie summer and us still being quite far north ( remember, north means hotter in the southern hemisphere! ) in the coming weeks we expect to be exploring and spending much time on this beautiful coastline with its world class beaches while poking inland here and there where local attractions provide interesting diversions.

Farewell Queensland, here comes New South Wales. First stop, Byron Bay.
Ominous smoke clouds as we approached Byron Bay.

First stop was trendy Byron Bay, where we had an old friend to visit and some area beaches to enjoy. Leanne and I started kindergarten together and, while we have kept in touch over the years, the tyranny of distance has generally kept us far apart. We’d promised to connect on this trip so it was wonderful to finally make it happen. She’s in a neighbourhood close to the beach just south of Byron – the long beach walks were amazing !

Byron ( as it’s widely known ) is famous for its beaches (among other things).
Byron’s famous lighthouse, sitting right at the easternmost point of Australia.
Stunning view of NSW coastline from the lighthouse.
Parked up ( we only just fit ! ) at good friend, Leanne’s house just south of Byron.
An ominous looking day as we walked the beach near Leanne’s.

Beyond Byron we meandered down the coast over the next few days via stunning Lennox Head, Ballina, Urunga and Coffs Harbour – all of which we knew of – as well as a couple of days between Iluka and Yamba, both places neither of us had visited  before. We can see why so many people end up retiring in these parts, they really have it all. The sea life, bird life, mammals and reptiles we saw around Iluka were especially impressive – far more than we expected in one place ! And the coastline – stunningly beautiful for as far as the eye could see.

Approaching Lennox Head. Coastal drive was spectacular.
Beautiful Lennox Head, just south of Byron. We sat and watched the surfers at this beach for ages.
Iluka World Heritage Rainforest Walk. We saw an amazing amount of wildlife here.
Yours truly, Iluka.
Coastline near Iluka. Saw tons of wildlife on the walk – whales, dolphins, kangaroos, lizards and sea birds.
A monitor, Iluka Rainforest.
Coastal bird, Iluka.
Dolphins at play. We saw many all along the coast.
Kangaroos at the end of the rainforest walk, Iluka.
Lizard, or goanna ? Yamba jetty.
Yamba beach.
Kayak surfers, Yamba, the object of some curiosity from a pod of dolphins.

As luck would have it, pretty Grafton – just inland – was in the middle of its annual Jacaranda festival and made for a very enjoyable detour. Row upon row of these beautiful trees all blossoming in lavender! Another (brief) inland diversion we’d much anticipated was the Dorrigo National Park and its rainforest waterfall walks. The walks did not disappoint but a reptile encounter did cause a moment of panic- a few minutes into the walk I almost stepped on a red-bellied black snake resting beside the track. Venomous, yes. Generally deadly, no. As they said to me, “If you are going to get bitten by a venomous snake this is almost certainly one you’ll survive ( there are others you won’t ! )”. En route to Dorrigo one passes historic Bellingen, a prettier town you’d struggle to find. A ton of history, beautifully restored buildings and a nascent cafe culture all wrapped in a very “granola” vibe ( British Colombian’s, think Nelson ! ).

Pretty downtown Grafton, famous for its Jacaranda trees.
Sunset, camping in Grafton.
Grafton, driving a Jacaranada-lined street. We were fortunate to arrive in the city just as their
Jacaranda festival was in progress..
Shocked to realize how close we were to the snake…!
Waterfalls, Dorrigo National Park.

Classic old department store in Bellingen, kept in immaculate condition.
Typical of many great spots we found to sit and enjoy lunch or a morning coffee. Woolgoolga Beach, just north of Coffs Harbour.
Woolgoolga, near Coffs Harbour. The coast goes on like this for miles.

Our travel week ended in Coffs Harbour, another ( and larger ) of the many coastal towns we got to enjoy.  Famed for its beaches, jetty, Big Banana, and generally gorgeous views, hilly Coffs ( we were reliably advised ) is the only place where the Great Dividing Range actually comes right to the sea ( it’s somewhat inland elsewhere on Australia’s east coast). A little bit of trivia you may not have known !

Coffs Coast Regional Park.
Pretty Coffs Harbour.

Till next week….

Gmail Problems Again – Ughhh !

Regulars readers with “Gmail” email accounts will recall that, some months ago, we had an issue with Gmail’s spam filters. Seems the good folks at Gmail periodically adjust the spam filter sensitivity ( if that’s the right terminology ) and as a result readers who have Gmail accounts for their email ( almost half of you ! ) will have seen our last weekly blog go straight to their “Trash/Junk” folder. Sadly this seems to be an occasional problem I just cannot eliminate but I am trying to determine if it is something in the blog I post that is the issue ?Meanwhile, when I notice it, I’ll continue to send out a one-off blog like this with no real content, no images and no video other than a link ( below ) to last week’s blog that “Gmail” subscribers did not get in their Inbox. I’ve also included a link to the current blog ( this week’s ) in case it happens two weeks in a row !

As always, should you notice the blog is not there in your Inbox as usual each weekend simply log into our website ( www.OneEndlessRoad.com ), scroll down to “Recent Posts” and there you’ll see whatever you may have missed.

S.E. Queensland – Farewell To The Sunshine State

S.E. Queensland – Farewell To The Sunshine State

Funny how we’d no sooner done a one-off blogpost on van living and a Sprinter van review ( just last week ) than we met up with fellow travellers who are themselves about to trade their camper trailer in for a new Sprinter – needless to say all that information proved quite timely ! More on that later.

Our route during this blogpost.

Alas, back to where we left off on our last travel blog – leaving Biloela we’d come in to the coastal part of South East Queensland after some less than exhilarating drive time further west and were very happy to see the scenery change up and feel those beautiful coastal breezes again, the days further west having started to become uncomfortably hot. Great to be back in the Sunshine  Coast area and after a few days in the north end ( Noosa and Cooroy ) swung down to Dicky Beach to spend the rest of the week with my brother, Tim, and his family. Bit of a bonus there since two of his three kids (and their own small children) were visiting so got to enjoy spending time with them all. The beauty of visiting with your own accommodation is you can be there but also be out of the way ! Just to be more or less stationary again for a bit was certainly nice after the long distances we’d driven in the past month.

Some nice silo art near Biloela, just before the Sunshine Coast.
Delightful old Imperial Hotel in Eumundi. Went to Eumundi for its famed Wednesday market – it was so busy we could not even find a park ! Consoled ourselves with a drink at this classic old Eumundi pub.
Beach at Noosa. A perfect day….hot, sunny, no wind and no crowds !
At the beach.
Lois, Sunshine Beach, Noosa.
Latte time- near Maroochydore, Sunshine Coast.
View to Noosa from the hinterland.
Caught up with Tim’s kids ( and their wives and kids ) while in Dicky beach.

South of the Sunshine Coast was the seaside community of Sandgate where we got the chance to try yet another form of camping – the first time we’d ever stayed at what was more or less a yacht club. The variety of camping venues in Oz continues to amaze and delight us – a really nice stay, right on the water, all facilities and just 3 groups camping with a neighbourhood “fish and chips” shop an easy walk away just along the sea front.  Bliss !

Yet another varied camping experience – yacht club in Sandgate. Right on Moreton Bay..
Coastal walk, Sandgate.

Continuing south we skirted around Brisbane this time and drove directly to Australia’s famous Gold Coast ( Surfers Paradise ). Could not believe how much it had grown and how crowded it was, certainly the Surfers Paradise area at least, traffic as we drove through was just insane. We’d been very much looking forward to seeing the famous Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and to a visit with my old school friends, Matt and Judy, who lived near Coolangatta at the quieter southern end of the Gold Coast, just north of the NSW border. They’d recently bought a unit right by the beach – their beautiful slice of paradise away from the hustle and bustle further north ! Lots of fun doing beach walks, making dinners and generally reminiscing. I’ve always felt  it’s the great thing about catching up with old friends – while  the gap between visits may be long and the physical distance between us significant, we still always seem to pick up right where we left off last time we were together. And when I say long, I mean long – Judy and I started kindergarten together.

Traffic, entering the Gold Coast from Brisbane.
Finally, relaxing with Matt and Judy at their home near Coolangatta.
Judy and Lois, returning from a beach walk.
Lois and Judy
Sunset walks on the sand , Kirra beach.

Just before leaving Matt and Judy, and indeed the state of Queensland, we had one famous sight we’d both wanted to visit and which neither of us had seen before : the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Home to all manner of Australian wildlife it draws visitors from around the globe. We had of course seen many of the animals in the wild while travelling, but certainly not all ( thankfully some of our many venomous snakes, especially ). Well worth a visit.

Queensland’s famous Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
Kangaroo, with an itch !
The koalas were priceless.
They are so adorable.
One of the beautiful birds.
A little learning while visiting – easy to confuse the two terms. Either way we have lots of venomous snakes in Oz !

Next week we cross into New South Wales – my home state and where we arrived in Oz back in January. Lots to explore !

Till next week….