After four months in Sydney, we packed our bags and headed for the East Coast. Since leaving on the 27th Febuary we have travelled to the Gold Coast, Queensland and have visited Barrington Tops, Spot X Surf Camp, a secluded camping and kayaking site and Byron Bay. Below I've gone into detail of our trip so far and what we've been up to!
Early tuesday morning we met our Loka driver and tour leader as well as the 15 other people that we would be sharing the journey with. Most of the group is British with the exceptions being Jesse who is Dutch, a canadian girl and a guy from Israel. We headed out of Sydney and travelled about 3 hours out until we stoped at a small town for lunch. It was our first rural town and very different to anything we'd really seen in Sydney. It was also super warm inland! We next headed to Hunters Valley to HOPE estate where we did some wine tasting and learnt more about the wine made in the area. Who knew there was a difference between the same wine grown in different areas! Our final stop of the day was at Twist tops Retreat, a little lodge nestled in the countryside. They took us tubing here along the rapids in the river below which was great fun and a great chance to try something new. We then headed back to the lodge and were treated to garlic bread and cocktails in the hot tub. We also used to opportunity to fully introduce ourselves to each other and have a chat with others in the group. That evening we had pizza cooked in a wood fire and played stack cup and other drinking games. Me and Sian attempted to get up early to watch the sunrise and took some photos whilst the fog and sun looked beautiful in the valley.
We had breakfast early and left to head to Spot X, a surf camp on a secluded beach. We stopped off at Port Macquarie for a swim on a beach with rockpools which were deep enough for swimming in. We also had a stop at Port Maqauiries Koala Hospital to learn more about Koalas and visits some of these adorable creatures. Many are injured in bush fires and in car accidents. As their native land becomes more popular for human civilisation, koalas habitat is in constant threat making the work they do at this hospital vital. They aim to release all of the animals back into the wild, however some will be kept in the hospital for life sadly. It was a great way to see some koalas up close but also sobering, knowing that many of their injuries were caused by humans.
We next made our way into the Surf Camp for the night where we were treated to four bed air conditioned storage containers to stay in for the night. The camp was right by the beach and although it didn't quite add up to the same experience as our first surf camp did, it was a great stop over. We opted to not join a surf lesson for the next day and instead sunbathed and swam on the beautiful beach.
At midday we left Spot X and made our way to a River Rereat for the evening. Before we got there we visited Moores Beach which had wild kangaroos realaxing as well as one of the best beaches in Australia. It was amazing to see kangaroos in the wild and in such big numbers. Some even had joeys! Later at the River Retreat we went white water kayaking in a river which in the past was powered by a hydro electric mill and was used by the Australian oplympic kayaking team. It is now a tamer river great for beginners. We went through many rapids which were really fun and it was a great challenge compared to more traditional kayak trips I had done in the past.
That evening, we had a group BBQ and sat around the fire playing drinking games and celebrating one of the girls in our groups birthday. This was a delicious meal and it was great to cook a little. The next day we left early and headed up the coast to Byron Bay. This was our first big stop on the East Coast trip and we were all really looking forward to exploring this famous town. Before we got there we headed to the Blue Pools, around 30 minutes south of Byron to swim in a fresh water pool and do some cliff jumping. After being unsure if I could get the distance to avoid the rocks in the path, I was brave enough to jump from one of the highest rocks. Of course Jesse, ever the adrenaline junkie went higher!
We arrived in Byron around 2,30pm and were taken to our hostel Arts Factory. This was made famous by being featured in the Inbetweeners 2 movie. It had a very hippy vibe and was filled with tepees, hammocks and a multitude of people with no shoes and dreads! It also had some great wildlife with bush turkeys and lizards all over the camp, not to mention Ibis's! We stayed in a 10 bed dorm by the campiste called the surf shack. It wasn't the nicest of rooms and was next door to the club which made it near impossible to sleep before midnight but the hostel was awesome. I really enjoyed the pool, the chil relaxed vibe and it really gave you a sense of the Byron lifestyle. We headed into town that day and went for a nice dinner at the Main St. Burger co. We all wanted a drink and a nice meal to celebrate being back in civilisation after a few days and this restuarant was a great choice. We then went to the beach to get a lay of the land and headed back to the hostel to drink goon and start the party. We were all tired but I was adamant that I would stay up and go out. In the end all bailed from a nigh out apart from Tor, Jesse, Steph and myself. We ended up having a messy night and fully got the range of the Byron nightlife!
The next day, after nursing a hangover, we headed into town for some breakfast and a spot of shopping. I was keen to find a swim suit but quickly realised that Byron is quite expensive. I did grab a tote bag however which had a Byron Bay logo on it. Touristy but also useful! We also headed to the beach to swim and sunbathe, even if the sun wasn't fully out! In the evening we joined back up with our tour guide, Eoin, and headed to the Byron Bay lighthouse to watch the sunset. We made it just in time and it was a beautiful lylac colour throughout the whole sky. We walked to the most Easterly Point of Australia and headed back down along the coast to the beach. This was quite a long walk and we were all tired and sleepy after this! It was however a great walk and many thanks go to Eoin who took the time out of his free day to take us there to experience it. It's always great to go when you have some local knowledge!
The next morning we left early and arrived early in the Gold Coast! We're staying at BUNK Surfers Paradise which is a great little hostel. It has a swimming pool and jacuzzi as well as great communal spaces. The rooms are equally as amazing and all have their own balconies, bathrooms and each bed is separated by the others into little pods,. It gives you seclusion which I haven't had in over four months! I'm in love with this hostel and so far can't praise it enough! Our only complaint is it not having soy milk or vegetarian options in it's free food choices.
On Sunday we chilled in the pool whilst we waited to check in and then later headed to the beach. It's a long stretch of sand with the classic tourist spots but lovely clear water and good waves. Sunday was also Steph's birthday so we cooked a homemade spaghetti bolegnese and drank a little to call in her birthday. We ended up watching Harry Potter due to another group of travellers putting it on the large tv in the common room. It's Stephs favourite so it worked out great!
've really loved the trip so far and am glad we stopped off along the NSW coast before hitting Byron. It gave us a bigger flavour of Australia and broke up the journey as well as adding some awesome activities with it! The group has been great and we've met some fab new people along the way as well.
This next week will see us leave Surfers Paradise, move onto Brisbane and head to Noosa and Rainbow Beach, with Sunday being our first trip our onto Fraser Island. I can't wait!