When we left Bondi, we knew we needed to be in Brisbane by the 29th, since Nick’s siblings would be flying in on the morning of the 30th. So between the 26th and the 29th, we had no agenda. Panic mode commences. Just kidding. I was fine.
We knew we wanted to drive through Newcastle, the largest coal exporting harbour in the world. It’s about 2.5 hours north of Sydney. But I swear it took us nearly 2x as long because of an accident that shut down the main motorway, the M1, just as we were leaving. I blame my
poor average navigation skills for not being able to get us around it. Regardless, we made it down to the Esplanade for a late lunch on the waterfront.
Wanting to be a bit farther north, we continued on another couple of hours to Port Macquarie (pronounced Muh-qwor-ee). During the drive, I called around for accommodation and found a decent hostel through the Hostelworld app. Yes, there were times during the trip that we thought we are too old for hostels. No, we didn’t want to spend heaps (a lot) of money on accommodation during a month-long trip. Yes, we actually had some decent spots. No, we didn’t always stay at them. Yes, we have some great stories from those experiences where we did. 🙂
We got in late enough to not be able to see or do too much in town, so we had a really nice dinner (I guess this is where we make up the difference spent on cheap accommodation) and called it a day. In the morning, we headed out early, but not before stopping by the river, where dolphins are rumoured to play in the morning hours (no dice).
Port Macquarie is also know for its’ koala population and is home to a koala park and koala hospital. And to celebrate the iconic animal, a sculpture track was created to display 50 uniquely hand-painted koalas in and around the city as the Hello Koala Sculpture Trail. They are about 1 meter/3 feet tall.
I should mention, that it had started raining overnight, with a consistent drizzle, so there wasn’t much point in trying to really “do” anything, except keep moving. We had been keeping an eye on the forecast and knew we’d be running into rain during our trip (it is rainy season and we were heading north toward rainforest…), so we figured we would just knock some kilometers out of the way, if the weather wasn’t really cooperating for sunny, beachy activities.
We did stop briefly in Crescent Head, as we were considering a place to stay here on the way back down with Nick’s brother and sister. It was here that we started likening coastal towns to mountain towns. Since that’s easiest for us to make a connection with. And if you are familiar with Colorado mountain towns, we suggested Crescent Head was the Crested Butte of surf towns. Small, raw, and not quite yet overrun with money and people-at least not that you can see overtly.
Between here and Coffs Harbour, I had a little bit of time to do some research on Big Things Australia. It’s really just a collection of over 150 very large “things” spread out all over the country. Tourist attractions. Kind of like the Big Ball of Yarn, the Corn Palace, and The Green Giant, among hundreds of others, in the States. I’m sort of a sucker for those types of things (I guess anything “shiny” to keep me distracted and occupied on long road trips), and I wanted to see a few in Australia. As long as they were not out of the way, and mostly in our path of direction. Mostly. We really lucked out with a few and were able to pass right by them with very little stopping time.
And after seeing that monstrosity, I had to see more!
There are multiple websites housing various pieces of information about some, but not all of them. So, over the course of the trip, it became a bit frustrating for me trying to piece them all together on the route we were taking. I have very little patience for poor web design on important sites, so toggling back and forth between several poorly designed sites made my interest fizzle a bit. And yes, I do consider the Big Things Australia sites to be be “important.” But not to worry, there are several more big things I will reference in subsequent posts!
After that nice little distraction, we made it to Byron Bay. The Vail of Ski Towns. This lovely town is full of shops, people, restaurants, bars, cafes, people, money, and such, with pretty much just one very busy and often backed up road in and out. It’s a great place! And being such a great place means you have to book accommodation early during the summer months, or be willing to pay a steep price. Which we weren’t. Which meant we stayed out of town. Which was fine.
We stayed about 20 minutes inland at a hotel in cute little Lismore, where we were treated to a twilight show of thousands of massive (large) bats flying overhead. Nick and I first noticed some movement outside when we were listening captive to a Serial episode. Probably the one about the cell phone tower pings. Or the Nisha call. Or maybe they were both in the same episode. Anyway, we mistook the dark shadows for birds. But at a closer look, and finally moving outside to watch, we knew it had to be bats; based on the shape of the wings, and that these shadows were moving so silently and erratically. Literally, thousands flying over the hotel. Thousands. It was awesome and disgusting all at the same time. Our hosts confirmed our theories in the morning when we checked out. Apparently, they cause the farmers a lot of frustration. While I didn’t get a picture of them, I did get a picture of this guy the following morning, right outside our door:
From Lismore, we drove through the Gold Coast (see top pic), seeing cities like Miami and Surfers Paradise, and finally into Brisbane. Here, we’d be staying with some friends, seeing the sights, and picking up Tia and Jason (Nick’s sibs) from the airport.
26 December to 28 December
This stretch – Bondi Beach to Brisbane ~1077 km/669m
Total – ~1370km/851m