South West Rocks

South West Rocks, New South Wales, is one of those places that evokes serenity. It caters to the full spectrum of travellers, from young families to grey nomads. Steeped in history and showcasing some of the North Coast’s most beautiful beaches and national parks, this is a detour off the highway you won’t regret.

New South Wales coast, Australia
Beautiful blue hues

There are plenty of camping options in and around the area. We stayed at the Big4 Sunshine Resort, with a mob of friendly kangaroos as neighbours, but soon discovered one of the best camping spots in Australia, Trial Bay Campground. Foreshore camping, it’s just the best, and the sunset view is stunning.

Sunset by the sea in South West Rocks
Who wouldn’t want to camp here right?

Now, let me introduce you to a fascinating feature of South West Rocks – the historic Trial Bay Gaol. Enviably perched upon a hill, within Arakoon National Park, this imposing stone fortress has access to the most stunning ocean and forest views – one can imagine those building developers salivating at the possibilities. Yay, for our national parks’ protection mandate!

In all seriousness, this is a place of contrasts; of beauty and tragedy. Back in the day (it opened in 1886), it was built to house prisoners who were forced to build the breakwater just out the front. The breakwater project was a calamity in terms of dodgy engineering, seasonal storms and financial pressures. The ambitious project was shelved after more than a decade of work.

During WWII, the gaol was reinstated as an internment camp for ‘enemy aliens’. It must have seemed so cruel to be locked away inside a stone fortress while outside a picture perfect postcard beckoned.

A window to nature

Today, there’s no roof, no stone floors and many of the walls are indelibly marked by the elements of time. On the day that we visited, the beaming sun followed its arc around Trial Bay Gaol – lighting up the corners where even the darkest shadows lingered.

You will soon discover that this tourist mecca is home to loads of wild kangaroos (seriously, you’d think they owned the place) and is proudly preserved by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and a team of dedicated volunteers.

So, that’s my little story about our sojourn to South West Rocks. A detour well worth worth taking and a place we plan to revisit.

My sunshine and rainbows child

 

 

Byron and beyond

Before we hit Byron Bay, for a much anticipated holiday with my parents to celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary, we spent 3 nights on the Gold Coast. This was a strategic decision on our part when ‘selling’ the idea of travelling for 2 months to our son.

Child  in a blue kombi

Yes, you guessed it. Theme parks! You see, the Gold Coast doesn’t just glitter for the glamorous, it also boasts a boisterous array of kid-heaven-stuff.

But before that fun stuff happened, the repetitious but rather necessary assembling of our home on the road had to take place. The drudgery of this procedure was lightened considerably by the fact that we were staying in the beautiful surrounds of the Big 4 Gold Coast Holiday Park.

Camping with a mob of kangaroos

Heated resort-style swimming pool with licensed cafe, tick. Huge camp kitchen with all the mod cons AND an aquarium, tick. Having so much fun that you have no time to take photos, tick!

So our 3 nights were a lot of fun. We spent a day at Movie World and another at Wet n Wild. It wasn’t a peak period but it was still surprisingly busy. An afternoon riding our bikes around and then lazing by the pool was very welcome after the colourful chaos of the theme parks.

During the ‘pack up, take down, move on’ scenario of our final morning, we had a spring in our step. We were heading to Byron to stay at the most delicious holiday home hidden under a canopy of vibrant, tropical foliage, surrounded by a bedazzling, heated swimming pool.

Fireside at Byron Bay Retreat

I celebrated New Year’s 1999-2000 in Byron. It was a very different town back then. It’s still beautiful, bold and full of energy but now there is so much traffic! We had camped in a friend’s backyard right in town. That little beach shack is long gone, replaced with boutique accommodation for its perpetual influx of visitors.

Whale watching at Cape Byron Lighthouse

This time around, my family and I enjoyed Wategos Beach, did the Cape Byron lighthouse walk, hit the town one night (thanks for babysitting mum and dad), caught up with old friends, swam everyday, played some serious table tennis and chilled out in front of the open fire at night.

Cape Byron Lighthouse, New South Wales

I’ve never known a town to truly embrace its motto as much as Byron Bay does. So next time you visit remember to Cheer Up, Slow Down, Chill Out

Till next time Byron!

 

 

Queensland’s Capricorn Coast

After our adventurous sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands, it was time to turn south. Homeward bound – well, with a few planned stops along the way of course.

To break up an arduous drive to Yeppoon, we plonked ourselves at the surprisingly fabulous Potter’s Oceanside Motel. This place, and its manager/owner, is seriously cool. He was very accommodating, giving us extra room to park our camper trailer and even driving Cam to the supermarket to get supplies. Sometimes it’s just the little things, a laundry to wash your clothes, airconditioning, a balcony to watch the sun setting over Mackay, and a story-telling ex-publican playing ‘host with the most’.

The rugged Australian outback

Kinka Beach, slightly south of Yeppoon was our next destination. We camped right near the Causeway and spent 3 days exploring Yeppoon, Kinka Beach and Emu Park. The weather was so beautiful and the view across the ocean to the Keppel Islands, just stunning. I’ve been to Great Keppel Island twice, so we avoided it this time, but if you ever get the chance to visit you won’t be disappointed. There are so many hiking tracks and you can find yourself on a deserted beach with not a soul in sight.

As the sun sets the moon rises over Great Keppel Island

Yeppoon itself is a gorgeous town to visit and it offers a unique water park right on the foreshore called the Keppel Kracken.

Yepoon foreshore

A notable mention of our time here was the Centenary of ANZAC Memorial Walk in Emu Park. It takes in enviable views of the beautiful Southern Great Barrier Reef and the Keppel Islands. The artwork pictured is strategically designed to blend in with the horizon so that it looks similar to the morning of the Gallipoli landing.

ANZAC memorial at Emu Park

For those of us whose relatives have served, it is a moving tribute and a sobering lesson in world war history.

My suggestions for any time spent here would be:

  • Ride your bikes around the area, especially Kinka Beach, it’s so flat and the scenery and fresh air is awesome.
  • Go to Great Keppel Island for a day trip or even for a night. The ferries leave from Rosslyn Bay daily.
  • Treat yourself to some ‘straight off the boat’ seafood! The seafood co-op in Rosslyn Bay is the best ever!

So, once again it was time to pack up our tiny home on the road – me leaving behind another hose connection on the tap in the caravan park – and set our sights on the glitz and glamour of the Gold Coast.

Yamba and Wooloweya

So we came to be at a place that offered an embracing calm. Wooloweya, just a 5 minute drive out of Yamba (Northern NSW), is a watery land full of lush national park forests, glistening inland lakes and pounding ocean surf.

View from the Yamba Hotel

Is it any wonder our friends chose to live here? What a reprieve from the camping life! We were welcomed with open arms and hearts into their home. After the bright lights and big city festivities of Sydney’s Vivid, Wooloweyah’s chilled energy was just beautiful.

Inland lakes at Wooloweyah National Park

It also just so happened that it was Cam’s 40th birthday the following day so celebrations were on the agenda. Think seafood feasts, beach jaunts, laughing children (and adults) and drinks at the Pacific Hotel which takes in beautiful coastal vistas – and a world renown surf break which has seen the likes of many local and international surfing heroes. It is also home to the Yamba Surf Life Saving Club, the second oldest in Australia (founded in 1908).

There is a more sobering story to this place and its people (like many areas in Australia). The Yaegl and Gumbaingirr people who come from this land are said to be some of the last to be ‘discovered’ by the white man. I’m certainly not the authority on all of the details, as I haven’t had a chance to do much research being on the road and all, but I think it’s a story that is worth sharing. If you want to learn more please go to the NSW government website.

Sparkling waters of Wooloweyah's inland lake systems

After we’d experienced just a taste of beautiful Wooloweya, the road was ready to meet us. So we packed up and returned to the highway that goes on and on, and to those dreams of adventure – until the moment we chose to stop again and take it all in – all of it. That’s when we are really travelling.