9th April to 15th April
New Italy to Springbrook National Park
Wow these weeks are getting jam-packed. The East Coast of Australia can be travelled in less than a month but there’s so much to see and do, we’re taking two!
This week we headed to Byron Bay for four nights. This is the one place we couldn’t afford to free camp; there are signs everywhere saying that fines could exceed $3,000. We settled on the Discovery Parks campsite as we only had to pay for three nights instead of four. It worked out a bargain for the area at $37.50 a night. The only downside was that it was a 2km walk into Byron itself.
I was quite excited for Byron Bay but, given this place is world famous, I thought it would be packed full of rowdy dreadlocked backpackers. I thought it would be full of little shops selling dreamcatchers, incense and psychic readings. How wrong I would be.
The drive up from New Italy took us through Ballina at around 8am. The worst thing about getting up with the sun is forgetting that everyone else is at work so we got stuck in rush hour traffic! We took a break from the stand-still traffic to admire Ballina’s Big Prawn.
The coast road from Ballina up to Byron Bay was what this road trip is all about. We had the windows down, the music blasting with the bright blue sea down on our right.
Our first stop in Byron Bay was the Cape Byron Lighthouse and the most easterly point of mainland Australia. As always, I was really jammy and managed to nab a parking spot right at the top of the headland under the lighthouse. Luckily too our NSW National Park pass covered the parking fees of $8 which you have to pay even if you’re there for five minutes!
After a chilled first night, we decided to spend our time in Byron Bay as though we were on holiday and had money to spare (if only). We hopped from the Beach Hotel to the Balcony Bar to Main Street Burgers, had healthy smoothies at Combi, ate pizzas at the Treehouse, bought clothes and spent a fortune at five star Byron at Byron.
We planned to catch the farmer’s market menu at Byron at Byron where you could have two courses for $49. Once we were there, we really didn’t fancy it so settled for $18 nuts and olives followed by sirloin on the bone which we shared. The hotel resort is set in rainforest with an infinity pool and boardwalks down to the remote beach. If I could, I would have stayed here for weeks.
Byron Bay was nothing like I thought it would be. It was far more upmarket, laid-back and ‘cool’. The vibe was good.
After all that spending, we started to feel bad so managed to arrange a housesit perfectly positioned on the Gold Coast; a Saturday, Wednesday and then another Saturday.
We therefore started to make our way north bringing our time in New South Wales to an end for now. However, it wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to the apparently infamous hinterland town of Nimbin. Recommended by so many people, there was no way we could miss this.
A sort of mecca for those in search of the ultimate hippy town; free love and cannabis. Nimbin shot to fame back in the 1970’s after the world famous Aquarius festival was held here. Many hippies stayed on opening organic food stores, smoking cannabis and protesting nearby logging.
In the end, we were a little disappointed as it seems all geared up for tourism now. Within the first ten minutes of arriving, I’d been offered drugs (all sorts) by three shady looking people. The original hippies still had their dreadlocks but were ageing badly. Probably due to the much harder drugs now being used. In my opinion, Nimbin didn’t live up to its name and even most of the stores sold random tourist tat. There are of course a few decent places but we were done in less than an hour. Maybe if we’d gone on a backpacker trip it would have been better but I guess we’ll never know.
We crossed over into Queensland on the Saturday and up to Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast for our housesit. Again, we found ourselves stuck in traffic but this time it turned out to be for something worthwhile. I knew the Commonwealth Games was still on but didn’t realise we’d stumbled upon the men’s road race before it had even begun. We abandoned the van and set ourselves up to watch a few laps. I think the back-runners of Jamaica and Bermuda got more of an applause than anyone else!
Our final day of the week was spent in Springbrook National Park, around 40km inland, chasing waterfalls. I could tell straight away that we’re heading towards the tropics. The rainforest is different around here with so many palm trees. It was perfect.
Next week we’ll be exploring more of the hinterland behind the Gold Coast including Lamington National Park and Tamborine Mountain before heading back to the sea.