In February, Sam, my parents, and I embarked on a road trip up the east coast of Australia, from Sydney to Brisbane. Hopefully, you will have read part one of this trip as part two begins on Day 8 at Coffs Harbour.
Day 8: Somewhat gleefully, today we left Nelson’s Bay at Port Stephens. There’s nothing wrong with the place in itself, we just happened to visit the week after peak season, which meant that the town was kind of… hibernating. Restaurants closed at 8, and there were few people on the streets. The marina was full of yachts, with no one to man them. We had a great time on the Dolphin Watching tour, but I wouldn’t recommend staying much longer.
On today’s travel agenda was a five-hour drive up the east coast to Coffs Harbour, a place known for its fruit-picking and Banana monument. The drive felt like an eternity so we split the journey by stopping in Port Macquarie, which hosts a Koala Hospital. They pluck koalas from the road on the edge of death and nurse them back to health for re-release. Those they can’t release, they house in their sanctuary for guests to see.
We expected to be able to tour, to see loads of koalas, and to learn a lot about them. Instead, (in a way its a good thing) there were only about 10 koalas on show and one tour a day – at 10am. Although the koala hospital is a charitable organization which carries out a range of treatments and procedures, we don’t think it is worth adding the extra time to the drive. So unless Port Macquarie has made it onto your itinerary, perhaps you should give it a miss.
After purchasing a momento fridge magnet, we carried on our journey and soon arrived in Coffs Harbour. first stop as the less than magnificent ‘Big Banana’. Australia’s east coast is littered with these ‘Big…’ things; such as the Big Crab, the Big Pineapple, and Coffs Harbour’s Big Banana so we were expecting something grand. We were not impressed (despite the smiles). The drive was lengthy, so we took the afternoon to settle in to our Airbnb and then made our way out for some Italian food and a few drinks.
Top Tip: Be sure to try the gloriously tasty Stone and Wood Pacific Ale, its our favourite of any we’ve tried in Australia – and that’s saying something.
Day 9: Today consisted of stand-up paddleboarding and plenty of beach time. The last time Sam and I tried paddleboarding was in Koh Phangan in Thailand, which was disastrous. The water was super shallow and it was windy, so we got carried out to sea. needless to say, I fell off into the stupidly shallow water full of sharp, dead coral cutting myself in the process – all Sam could do was laugh! Anyway, this time was a lot different.
We arrived at the complex where we’d hire the boards and were horrified to be overlooked by a cafe’s balcony, and to make things worse, it was full. This certainly didn’t help our nerves as we really did not want to fall in with everyone watching. One-by-one, we clambered onto the boards – my mum very nearly fell in (and I very nearly wet myself).
We stayed out on the water for about an hour, saw sting rays and I nearly got knocked in twice – thanks to Sam and my mischievous dad. I had been pretty nervous, but it was actually much easier than I thought, I thought Sam would definitely struggle but actually he did very well; it was a very different experience to the one in Thailand. We would love to try it again as it was a lot of fun (and a way to workout in a fun way) – you should definitely try it!
We then headed to Woolgoolga Beach, sunbathed, relaxed after the morning’s exercise, and frolicked in the waves. Like many travellers, the beach is one of our favorite places to be. However, after hours spent in the sea, we traipsed back up the beach and saw hundreds of tiny blue jellyfish. Bloody bluebottles! The warm, windy weather had blown them down from the north east, Queensland coast. If we’d known they were there we perhaps wouldn’t have bothered. No harm done though as we didn’t get any stings.
Day 10: After our time in Coffs Harbour, we headed for the remarkable and renowned, Byron Bay. Byron bay is known for its beautiful beaches, hippie/surf culture and its vast array surf shops and lessons, and we were not disappointed. Soon after arriving, Sam and I headed for Tallow Beach, just a short walk from our accommodation. The beach was unbelievably picturesque, but so windy on the day we were there – you couldn’t stand or sit still for long for fear being completely buried by the sand. Nevertheless, we still went in the choppy sea and thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
In the evening we went out for pizza and live music at the Treehouse. We would definitely recommend it here, but be sure to book a table before you arrive as it can get very busy.
Day 11: We perused the many hippie shops which Byron Bay has to offer and hunted the best company to learn to surf with. We decided on Black Dog Surf School which we would highly recommend. They devote enough time to you in your small groups, and their teaching style is excellent. We then headed back to Tallow Beach which was much less windy – we sunbathed, played in the waves, and chilled out ready for a big day of surfing tomorrow.
In the evening, we went for dinner at Miss Margarita which you simply must visit. It is definitely not one to be missed – the Mexican food is to die for, with humongous portions. We wish there was a miss margarita in Melbourne so we could go again sooner. Then we headed over the road for drinks and live music.
Day 12: Today was the day that we learnt to surf. It was a lot of fun, but definitely hard work fighting the waves getting back out – especially for me being so short! If you’re planning to go to Byron Bay then definitely take a surf lesson as the place is renowned for it. I definitely want to do it again and get more practice – it was so much fun and such a memorable experience.
We absolutely loved our time in Byron Bay and really want to go back – so make sure you don’t miss this place out on your travels!
Day 13: Our time together is coming to end, and its sad to know that we won’t see my mum and dad for another 9 months. But we have had such a wonderful time we have had altogether. From Byron Bay, we drove to Brisbane and took the rental car back. It’s been great having a car because you see so much more of the country and its impressive and varied landscape. It gives you much more freedom, but we’re lucky we had my parents because hiring cars in Australia is expensive for people under-25.
This evening, we were recommended to go to George’s Paragon for dinner. It’s a Greek restaurant which offers a variety of delicious dishes, in prime location on the waterfront. They even have a half-price deal if you enter before 7pm so we would definitely recommend for you to try it out. If you’re looking for something sweet, be sure to check out Nitrogenie, an amazing ice cream shop we found where they us Nitrogen to make super smooth ice cream – extremely tasty!
Day 14: If you’re in Brisbane, you have to visit Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (this isn’t like the Koala Hospital where there are only 10 koalas!!!). You are able to cuddle a koala and have a photograph, which was definitely a highlight for me (although it very nearly pooped on me). There are plenty of Australian wildlife on offer here to enjoy, and there are shows to see. Check out the Bird of Prey show, these birds were beautifully impressive. The koala holding was definitely the best part for me!
We had originally heard that there isn’t much going on in Brisbane and that it was dirty and run down. It has been through a bit of regeneration in the last decade and now is a thoroughly pleasant city to visit. The city centre is clean, there is no trash on the street, and the riverside is buzzing. We loved it as a city and would definitely return – so make sure not to miss it on your travels.
This has brought us to the end of our East Coast road trip. We had the most incredible two weeks exploring Australia, visiting the most beautiful beaches, eating delicious food and doing some stupendously fun activities. It was absolutely amazing to have my parents with us to join us on our WhenTwoWander adventure, but it was extremely sad to see them leave. It will be another 7 months now until we see them again, but before then there are so many more adventures awaiting us and plenty more memories to make. We hope this has helped and inspired you for your travels in Australia.
If you’d like a visual run down of what we got up to, check out the video below. Subscribe to our channel, like our video, and follow us on our other social media channels!
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