Coolongatta to Sydney

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!

QLD NSW Border

QLD NSW Border

NSW!

NSW!

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.

Yelgun Rest Area

Yelgun Rest Area

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.

Byron Bay

Byron Bay

Lighthouse at Byron Bay

Lighthouse at Byron Bay

View from lighthouse

View from lighthouse

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.

The Big Banana!

The Big Banana!

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!

Ben on the tobaogan ride

Ben on the toboggan ride

Reardon, Emma and the crazy lady at the end of the ride. See the smoke?

Reardon, Emma and the crazy lady at the end of the ride. See the smoke?

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.

Jetty at Coffs Harbour

Jetty at Coffs Harbour

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!

Emma ready to jump!

Emma ready to jump!

Ben ready to jump from the pylon

Ben ready to jump from the pylon

Paul, my eldest child!

Paul, my eldest child!

Right begind you Dad!

Right behind you Dad!

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.

Setting up at Coopernook

Setting up at Coopernook

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!

Right guys?

Guys?

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7 responses to “Coolongatta to Sydney

  1. I went on the tabogan ride once and once only. I was terrified of falling off, snails would have been faster than me on it. How did Ben fracture his elbow? Is he Ok?

    • I agree, the ride was a little hairy and I am glad I went with Emma and not Ben! His elbow was hurt after a fall at the beach. His mobility is pretty good now but will need follow up x-rays and possible treatment in about six months. Thanks for the comment Sallianne and for the concern.

  2. Love the sound of the Big Banana place – the tabogan ride would be so cool – as long as we could go slow 😉
    Love the look of the water…..never realised that there was free camping in the national park in NSW. Sounds so nice
    What did Ben do to his Elbow?
    At least you had somewhere to stay (crash!) on the lounge room floor!
    Cheers
    Lisa

    • Hi Lisa. The Big Banana is cool but like most tourist attractions a little pricey. I imagine your boys would also love jumping off the jetty! Ben fell awkwardly at the beach and shaved a piece of bone off – all good now. Yes, the free camping is great, although not sure how you would go getting into some with the bus. Hope all is well in Mackay.

  3. Of course I love Helen, I mean we love you all!
    Missing you.
    Moose
    xxx

  4. sounds awesome

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