Saturday 17th March to Sunday 25th March
Sydney to Port Stephens
We’ve now started the lap of Australia and, due to some crazy weather, we haven’t travelled too far up the East Coast.
We set off from Sydney in Saturday’s crazy traffic driving north over the Harbour Bridge to our first stop-off; North Curl Curl Beach. I love drone photography and I had to capture one of Sydney’s most famous rockpools for my own collection. It did not disappoint. The only downside was the feeling when my drone disconnected entirely from the controller over the sea. I’ve read stories of people’s drones disconnecting and literally falling out of the sky. Luckily, after frantically bashing the return to home button, the drone reconnected and I could carry on flying.
Our destination for the day was The Entrance, a town with a huge lake on one side and the sea on the other. It’s most famous for the daily pelican feed although we didn’t know what time it started. We also had no idea where we would be sleeping.
We arrived at 3pm to find the pelican feed started at 3:30pm. It was full of tour bus tourists but we managed to get a seat on the back row. I’m glad we didn’t end up on the front row as the volunteers who feed the pelicans were chucking fish literally on people. The pelicans were going crazy; beaks and wings everywhere.
The plan changed as we didn’t need to return to The Entrance so the next day we aimed for Newcastle. Our first night was spent at a service centre with numerous trucks and other campervans.
The drive up to Newcastle only took an hour or so. It was so strange to see signs for Gateshead, Jesmond, Hexham and Wallsend. The originality of this area’s first settlers was plain to see.
Some travellers of the East Coast may miss Newcastle completely as it is still a very industrial port. However, Lonely Planet had recently recommended Newcastle as a top place to visit and I’d read that things were on the up with street art, craft brewers and surf beaches.
There were no campsites in Newcastle so we stayed just over the port entrance in Stockton, at the southern end of the Stockton sand dunes. We were easily able to get across to Newcastle with the five minute ferry only costing around $2.
My first impressions of Newcastle weren’t great unfortunately. The temperature was close to 40 degrees and, being a Sunday, most places were closed. Worse still, there were so many places under refurbishment and, with the development of light rail, the place felt like a huge construction site. I think there was some disagreement about the train services so the train tracks have just been ripped out altogether. We did find a craft brewhouse which helped with refreshment.
The following day we returned mainly to check out the Bogey Hole, Australia’s first ocean pool, and Newcastle Ocean Baths, Australia’s largest ocean pool. The Bogey Hole was cut out of the rock by convicts so that a Lieutenant could have his own personal baths. The waves were huge coming into the pool so we didn’t quite fancy getting in. Some people were holding onto the fence to see whether they were strong enough not to be swept away by the swell.
As the sunset, we walked towards the Newcastle Ocean Baths along South Newcastle Beach. Again, lots of construction fences but no work being carried out. There was a sign that I found funny proudly stating that ‘this area was redeveloped in 1910’. I think that area needs modernising pronto!
The Ocean Baths were much calmer and full of people despite being a Monday at 7pm. I had all my drone gear but we still managed to get a quick swim in. The water was warm and surprisingly not that salty meaning we left feeling refreshed and clean. If you spend more time around the beaches, I can definitely see the attraction of Newcastle!
Moving on, we drove about forty five minutes up to Port Stephens. Luckily we had been offered a place to stay for free in Lemon Tree Passage by a lovely couple, Christine and Terry. We managed to swap our van for eight days in their RV complete with toilet, shower and gas cooker. On our way, a massive stone struck the windscreen leaving a huge crack which will mean it will need replacing.
With the weather quickly turning very English for about four days, we bunkered down in the RV as no exploring could get done in the rain. Cue lots of card games, homemade G&T’s, Netflix and me finally getting my non-edited photos under 1,000.
The good weather returned at the weekend which meant we did everything possible in just two days. This included sandboarding in the largest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, spotting wild dolphins in the bay aboard a catamaran and climbing Tomaree Mountain for stunning views. The area is also known for its wild koalas and we managed to spot our first at Tilligerry Reserve.
We now plan to spend the next two weeks moving slowly up to Byron Bay. Again many travellers make a beeline for Byron Bay but we’re told this coastline is beautiful and well worth a look