Coolangatta, on the Gold Coast, was our final port of call in QLD before crossing the NSW border, which literally runs down the middle of the main road. I had packed Paul’s speedos in the hope that he would slip them on and sprint along the sand in a nod to the iconic Coolangatta Gold Ironman event but he seemed a little reluctant!
Instead we enjoyed a more sedate walk along the very squeaky sand before saying our final goodbyes to QLD.
Our first overnight stop in NSW was at the Yelgun Rest Area, which has been the rest area with the best facilities so far. There was a playground, barbeques, toilets, seating, plenty of parking and a 24 hour Driver Reviver van with plenty of tea, coffee and biscuits as well as access to a pot of hot water if you asked nicely! It is right next to the highway so can be a little noisy but this really didn’t bother us.
We were quite excited about the standard of rest areas to come but soon discovered that a number of free camps listed in Camps 5 (Camps 6 is the more recent version) between here and Sydney had been closed – some apparently due to flood damage, or that their status had been altered to day-use only and not overnight camping. As a result some days we overshot where we had planned to stay and ended up reaching Sydney sooner than expected. In hindsight we could have slowed down and seen a bit more of this region of NSW or even travelled inland rather than along the coast.
Before stopping overnight at Grafton Showgrounds ($20) we called in to Byron Bay for a look around. It really is a beautiful spot with some pretty amazing real estate. The beaches were stunning with plenty of people in the water. We were surprised by the number of wicked camper type vehicles in the town and heard that there have been issues with people camping where they shouldn’t and as a result being moved on by rangers. It was very busy when we passed through with lots of traffic and pedestrians all over the road. It wasn’t quite peak season and imagine that it would get packed over the summer holidays.
Grafton is located in the Clarence River Valley and as well as being a pretty place with lots of beautiful Jacaranda trees, it also has a rich history. Grafton bridge is very interesting (it’s a double-decker) and is just one of over 40 sites that can be visited on the town’s heritage trail. If you love a bit of history and are in the area then I recommend that you stick around for a few days, rather than the fly by visit we paid.
When we reached Coffs Harbour we headed straight to the Big Banana for the obligatory photo. What we hadn’t realised was that you could spend a whole day here. There are rides, a water park, ice skating, a theatre and puppet show amongst other things. Some of the activities were a little expensive and the kids opted to spend $5 on a toboggan ride.
As a rule I generally avoid confrontation when I can but on this day my patience was tested by a fellow Mum. It wasn’t my finest moment but for a short while I morphed into an irate woman who may have even had smoke billowing from her ears!
Emma wanted to go on the toboggan but couldn’t go by herself, so I jumped on with her. When we reached the top we all stopped as there was another family in front of us, with small children, who were taking their time. All good – until the woman behind me bashed into the back of us and yelled “what’s everyone stopping for?” I laughed it off, as did the family in front who said “This could be a slow ride, you might want to give us a head start”. I laughed again and told them to take their time. We gave them a bit of a start and then headed off, going as quickly as the kids felt comfortable. Well, the woman behind us obviously didn’t get the hint, came right behind us and then didn’t like having to slow down part way through the ride. She started yelling “why is everyone going so slow, it’s supposed to be a toboggan ride not a snail ride!”
Poor Emma who was already nervous was a little upset by now, thinking she was doing it wrong. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but we carried on and I was whooping and yee-haing the rest of the way down trying to make it fun.
Well, at the end of the ride I sent the kids off to Paul and then waited for my friend to reach the bottom. When she had hopped off I approached her and profusely thanked her for making my children’s one and only tobogganing experience, for which they had paid for with their own money, such a positive and enjoyable one. I also thanked her for yelling at all of the kids who were giving it their best shot.
Funnily enough she didn’t say a word, not a word. Not so easy to yell at a crazy eyed, wild haired, smoke blowing, psycho mum – obviously!
Being so hot under the collar, clearly the only thing that could cool me down at this time was a choc-dipped, frozen banana!
From here we headed down to the waterfront where we made some lunch and checked out the jetty. What a beautiful spot. The jetty was very busy with lots of people jumping into the beautiful blue water. Typically it wasn’t long before the boys ripped off their shirts and started to join in. Emma had wisely put her bathers on under her clothes and made sure she didn’t miss out on the action. I didn’t have my bathers so became the official clothes holderer.
Needless to say, the heights from which they jumped got higher and higher, with Paul laying down the challenge to Ben to jump from the highest point on the jetty. It wasn’t long until Ben built up the courage to accept the challenge and matched his Dad jump for jump!
We knew that staying in Sydney was going to be expensive (more so because it was approaching peak season) so we wanted to try and free camp as much as possible before hitting the city but experienced a few hiccups along the way (closures etc). We were happy to find ourselves in the Coopernook Forest Park campground. It was a really pretty spot and in hindsight we probably should have stayed here until we were due in to Sydney.
It may be useful for future visitors to note that camping in NSW state forests is free and here is a link to a page listing where camping is available, although not all are accessible by caravan.
In the end we arrived in the north-west Sydney suburb of Dural a couple of days earlier than planned. We had booked the caravan park months in advance knowing that it would be hard to find accommodation (it was actually the only spot we could find) and luckily we could check in early. We didn’t mind too much though as it meant we could spend extra time with our dear friends, the Masons.
Of course at this stage we weren’t expecting Ben to fracture his elbow requiring x-rays, CT scans and a number of visits to Royal North Shore Hospital, thereby further extending our time in Sydney.
This resulted in us spending a few nights sleeping on The Mason’s apartment floor!
Good thing they love us!