Roadtrip up the east coast of Oz

August 4, 2009 - Brisbane, Australia

 We collected our Wicked camper van (Wicked is the name of a rental company btw - i'm not going all english/ozzy street lingo or anything) it's a fairly crappy converted '97 Mazda van with just about enough room up front for three of us to sit with a squeeze! Also it has some eye catching cheeky grafiti on the outside of the van - and we got plenty of strange looks spinning through melbourne city centre and since (even some people asking us can they take photos of it!)

After one last night out in melbourne we got on the road the next day heading down towards Bells Beach and the coast road out of melbourne and to see the sights of sea arches and stackes (a number of which are called the 12 apostles) Its a nice stretch of coastline but one of my main reasons for wanting to go down there was to try my hand at surfing the famous surfing beach of Bells Beach (which holds pro surf competition in march and also was made more famous by being the beach location of the final scene of the film 'Point Break') but much to my disappointmentthe sea was as clam as a lake so a no go for surfing (and was the same on our way backthe next day!!) But we did see on 2 different occasions some Southern Right Whales just 100 to 150 metres off the shore. While we where down along the coast road it was cold and wet and windy and no surf - so definitely wasn't the ideal time of year to see that part of the country.  

Next we had decided we would make our way up to the heat quickly so we high tailed over 900km in one day to stop off in Canberra (australia's capital) - here we called with a freind of mine Niall Fallon and his girlfriend Julie (I used to work in galway with Niall a few years ago) They where very hospitable and we had a few drinks, reminisced and sang songs into the wee hrs (a good nites craic agus ceoil!). It was a flying visit though and we departed the next day. But before we left Canberra we had a look around the city and visited the War Memorial Museum for a look.

We headed to the Hunter Valley just north of Sydney which we just skirted around on our way as we all agreed there wasn't much point stopping in as we'd seen plenty of it before! In the hunter valley we went around a few vineyards doing a bit of wine tasting (well myself anf Ginley did - Boland was sick with the Flu and didn't feel up to it and myself and ginley thought we had caught it too - feeling a bit shivery and not fully right for a day or two - But thnakfully a combinationof the red wine and a Berrocca tablet each day fended it off for me). We also did beer tasting in the hunter valley in the Blue Tongue beer brewery.

Next it was onto forster fora nite and then to Coff's Harbour - Both nice little beach/port towns and family holiday resort kind of towns - Coff's Harbour was a nice spot and spotted some dolphins playing/fishing just beside the harbour as we had our breakfast.

Then we headed north to the town of Ballina stopping in a town with strong scottish Heritage called Maclean - it even has has street signs in both english and Gaelic (scottish gaelic)  - it calls itself 'Scottish town in Australia' and has a tartan festival during the year. The two lads had to stop in ballina for a look seen as they are from just outside Ballina in Mayo!

Next we headed just a few miles north to the hippy town of Nimbin for a look and then onto Byron Bay and in our minds the start of the east coast proper! (at this time of year anyways as every bit further north we got it was a few degrees warmer). And from wearing Jackets abd being froze in the camper van at night just a few days previous we had finally arrived at t-shirt and shorts and flip flops(thongs as there know in oz) weather! Byron Bay is a lovely little beach side town / Holiday destination with safe sandy beaches (i.e. just alright for learning surfing really). We spent 3 nites here and I went out snorkelling around Julian Rocks Island (a little island 3km off the shore - with turtles, nursing sharks, sting rays and alot of fish just under the surface around the island - highlight for me was swimming just inches away from a turtle (very majestic creature). Cape Byron is also the most easterly point of Australia and the walk up around the lighthouse is a good one! We where in Byron bay for saturday night and it was nice to spend bit of early evening having a drink in the beach front in the Beach Hotel and then a bbq at the hostel followed by a nite out in the backpacker haunt of Cheeky Monkeers where the tables are purposely set up for dancing upon and they tell everyone to get up and dance on them - so was a bit of craic.

Next it was onto the Gold coast tourism hot spot of Surfers Paradise - which is famously hectic on schoolies week (week when schoole leavers from OZ's equivalent of secondary school go on holidays to celebrate finishing) Thankfully enough thats in November though! Surfers Paradise is all developed with high rise holiday apartments stretching along the coastline for a couple of km's alongside sandy beaches and the winter here is mid twenties degree Centigrade during the day - plus there is a number of water Parks and Theme parks all near by.

It's a very commercial and american style resort (plus there was alot of americans around for some reason). But it is well set up for people on a 2 week holiday! And even though its called surfers paradise i never made it into the sea for a surf. While here we went to Wet'n'Wild water park - well worth the visit! 

Next it was onto Brisbane...

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