Cindy definitely has something with islands. From Ibiza to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, she always feels home in some way. So when she had the opportunity to go to Australia, Cindy didn’t doubt for one second. The only reason she would doubt is because of the almost 24hour flight… That’s all. Today she’s sharing her road trip with all of us.
Big cities have never been my cup of tea but the nature in Australia is truly mesmerizing!
The idea of going to Australia actually started as a friend of me moved to over there about a month ago. He loves to discover new places, just like I do, and we share so many similar interests. Sounds like a perfect match, doesn’t it? That’s why we decided to meet up in Sydney and to travel together around the East Coast.
As I’ve never been to Australia before, I didn’t know what to expect. But after spending almost two weeks on this huge island of 769.2M ha, I kinda understood why people are crazy about it. The big cities aren’t my cup of tea, neither is it in other countries. However the nature was truly mesmerizing! There are so many beaches, all different from one another and you can’t count all the National Parks on one hand.
With only one week on the road there was definitely too much to see in that period of time! But short or not, it was unforgettable and I’m excited to share my trip with all of you!
Take a moment to discover Sydney
Our trip started in Sydney itself. We booked an Airbnb for two days, just for me to rest after the long flight. And also because I wanted to see the Opera House. Of course. Like how could I start our trip without visiting Sydney? I couldn’t. To start our trip, Vince got himself a van to travel around Australia and I loved it! If it was mine, I would’ve decorated the whole interior. But it’s not. So I stayed calm and only hang up a picture of the both of us after a couple of days. It’s like adding a personal touch…
Having a van is by the way the most awesome way to discover Australia! You drive to any place you like and stroll around. When you need some sleep, you stop at a rest area and sleep in the back of your van. You can cook food whenever you feel like. And last but not least, you can travel to any city you want to see.
Even if visiting the Opera House might sound super cliché, it was quite impressive to see it in real life. Normally I only see it on television when its New Year’s Eve while they show the incredible fireworks of Sydney. Also the bridge, which you can climb, is now forever in my memory. Next to that you also have beaches close by, about 35min by bus from Sydney. So you can escape the dense city life at any moment. Bondi Beach is probably the most known but I fell in love with Tamarama which is just next to it. It’s a small bay, very quiet and the rocks are super instagrammable!
PS: every Saturday at 9PM you can enjoy fireworks at Darling Harbour! We went on my last evening and it was the most perfect ending of the whole trip.
From the city to the sand dunes of Anna bay
Once you’re rested and have taken your Instagram shots in Sydney, you’re ready to take the road. Driving is super exhausting and you don’t want to be tired after only one day of traveling. Our first night rest was at Mooney Mooney, a lake just outside of Sydney as we left on Wednesday evening. Side note: I arrived on Monday, went to the Opera House and Tamarama on Tuesday. Anna Bay was therefor our first stop on the East Coast.
Anna Bay is a small town in the area of Port Stephens. It’s known for its sand dunes and the longest beach (32KM) of Australia. A part of the sand scape is where you have the sand dunes you can sand board on. And that’s what we wanted to do! I love snowboarding, Vince does as well, so sand boarding would be a perfect alternative to the snow. Even though it’s super touristic. Busses are coming every 30min, but it’s worth the trip.
For 20 AUSD$ each you can spend as many time as you want on your board. The organization we went with (4WD Tours) works together with the local Aboriginals who are the owners of the dunes. They rent a certain area and give back a percentage of the proceeds. It’s one of the reasons why it’s important to always do your research before paying any kind of organization. Knowing if they have mutual respect for the owners of the area is important.
After an hour of boarding we were exhausted and we had a couple of kilos of sand in our trousers. Therefor we decided to continue to Forster. It’s at two hours from Anna Bay, and we enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner at “The Sicilian”.
After a well deserved rest we visited Pebbly beach and spent Valentine’s morning with the craziest waves you can imagine. Nature can be so powerful! In a book we also read that this beach is known for the Kangaroos bathing and being around the beach. But we didn’t even spot one. However if you love nature and the sound of waves smacking on the rocks, this will be your guilty pleasure!
Adopt a Koala in Port Macquarie
After a morning at Pebbly Beach we continued to Port Macquarie and visited the Koala Hospital. The historical “Rotos House” takes care of Koalas who have been rescued, whom are sick or not strong enough to survive in nature. You can enter for free and see them being taking care of. If you’re lucky they will be awake and eating their beloved eucalyptus leaves. And I say lucky because a Koala can sleep up to 20hours each day! I think I want to be a Koala in my next life… Another fun fact is that Koalas poop up to 200 times a day. Don’t ask me when they do it if they sleep so long. Haha, I just had to share this!
From Port Macquarie we started to drive to Guy Flakes National Park. It’s a big park inlands and it takes up to 3h30-4hours to get there from the Koala Hospital. As said before, Australia has so many of them that you just have to do your research. You simply can’t do them all in once and we discovered Guy Flakes by putting a random pin on Google Maps. Yes, that’s how we are! Pin it, drive to it and discover unexpected things.
The road was going through three other National Parks and we saw the most incredible landscapes. Even if it was a long and exhausting drive to get there, it was all worth it. There were also no gas stations, so make sure to stock up some fuel in case you need it.
The most beautiful and unforgettable part of that trip was the clear sky… We saw the whole galaxy while passing by Armidale! Once arrived in Uralla, at an hour from the Wollomombi, we stopped in the middle of the road. There we had a jaw drop when looking at the sky. Dear readers, seeing the whole galaxy in real life is a breath taking moment. It makes you realize once more how magical life can be. And also how the most beautiful moments happen on the most unexpected times!
The waterfalls of Ebor
On Saturday we woke up after dreaming a whole night of the Galaxy and drove back towards the coast. During the drive we stopped at Ebor which isn’t even 30minutes from the camping place and visited the Ebor waterfalls. Unfortunately due to the bush fires the viewing point got destroyed, but it’s definitely worth a visit when passing by. The sound of the water flowing down the rocks gives you such a peaceful feeling. At the same time nature will recharge you for the upcoming long and adventurous road back.
An adventurous road isn’t even the right description. We actually really taught the van would break down as Google Maps sent us through the mountains and cobblestone road. We had to cross small wooden bridges, pass through fallen trees and this for more than an hour. So adventurous readers: this is definitely an unforgettable trip like you won’t see or experience anywhere else. Trust me on that one! The next pin on Google Maps we were driving to? Emerald beach, which is next to Coffs Harbour! And that road was a little bit more easy to drive on.
Coffs Harbour is a city like any other at the first view. But the Solitary Islands in the North of Coffs are known for their camping places. However I actually pinned this area on Google as well. But we ended up spending our most favorite time of the whole road trip at Emerald Beach. At first we were actually giving up on seeing Kangaroos. But nothing prepared us for that evening!
First we had a stop at the Surf Café where I had another protein berry smoothie. We talked to the lovely lady who was working and shared a little secret with us. Shelby beach was the place to look out for Kangaroos.
At only five minutes by car we came across the first kangaroos. A small street leads you to the “Look at me now” Nature reserve. Once arrived a Lion King sunset and scenery were waiting for us, including families of kangaroos. From now on I call it kangaroo paradise and you just have to go there to understand the magical feeling. Take a break and sit on the bench. Watch the surfers taking some incredible waves and listen to the sounds of nature.
PS: the picture has NO filter. I pinky promise you!
Have an Ibiza feeling in Byron Bay
On Sunday, after having breakfast at the Surf Café, we started the long drive of three hours to Byron Bay. This city was on the to-do list of Vince. And I agree that you have to stop there if you’re traveling around the East Coast. However I have to be honest with you and tell you that Byron Bay is quite overrated.
Yes the “hippie” atmosphere is nice to discover, you have incredible hotspots to eat at and the street art is amazing. But for a traveller I was very disappointed to discover that you’re not allowed to park or stay overnight in your van. A free camping spot is at least 30min outside of the city and as it’s super touristic you end up not finding a parking spot after a certain hour. This caused of course some stress which could’ve been avoided if it wasn’t so strict.
Next to that camping detail, I ate the best food of the whole road trip in Byron Bay. Think about an Açaì bowl at Fundies Wholefood Café, a local healthy menu at Byron Fresh Café and a nice breakfast at the same spot. This will make you ready for the next destination which was the Gold Coast.
We ended up staying around 32hours in Byron Bay and it was personally long enough if you’re not a surfer. If you are, you can easily stay a couple of days at each beach if you love the area. But you can actually walk around the main city center Byron within a day. On your trip you can’t forget to visit the Lighthouse tho! The National Park underneath the spot is the most Eastern point of Australia and the 360° view on the top is the perfect view to sit at while having some inspiring life talks.
Feel on top of the world at the Gold Coast
We knew we didn’t have a lot of time and that visiting some places, such as Fraser Island, wasn’t going to be possible. Unfortunately. That’s why we decided to stop only for a few hours at Gold Coast and to have a lunch break at the beach which is also called “Surfers Paradise”.
The Gold Coast is quite crowded and very touristic. But the sky high buildings at the coast line are a must see! And so are the houses build around the lakes before you arrive at the main beach. The houses have a parking spot for their boats instead of a garage. I’ve actually never seen this anywhere else on a trip and I was looking up for a couple of minutes to realize how impressive these buildings were!
Luxurious surfing in Noosa Heads
From the Gold Coast we went up to Noose Heads without stopping in Brisbane. This because it’s another big city and choose nature and adventure over cities. Even though Noosa isn’t as adventurous as the Guy Flakes park, it is still a must visit.
This more “luxurious” surfers town, with also an Ibiza feeling, has a beautiful National park where you can hike for hours. The longest walk is four hours long and will guide you through Dolphin look out spots, the Fairy pools and many other nature spots and beaches.
Unfortunately also in Noose heads it’s very inconvenient for vans and campers. Once again you’re not allowed to sleep in your car overnight. You can’t camp for free either unless you drive also 30mins out of the city, and the paid campings are often fully booked. Even we tried to find a spot and it was fully booked. However we just took the risk, like we did in Byron Bay as well, and slept in our car in a dark street. Life is an adventure and those who don’t take the risk don’t live life to the fullest! It gives you some extra adrenaline for sure, haha. However note that if you get caught fees can go up to 2500 AUD. Auwtsch…!
If we knew that it was such a “big deal” to stay in your camper or van at the East Coast, we would’ve booked the campings in advance. However it wasn’t a part of the plan to spend lots of dollars on overnight stays as you can also take hotels for that money! But then the cotton sky sunsets make it all worth it again to visit Noosa Heads. Dilemma’s are real guys!
Home sweet home
On Thursday, one week after starting our trip in Anna Bay, we went back to Sydney. It’s 12hours from Noosa Heads and we did the drive back in two days. The first night we stayed at a rest area close by Noosa Heads and on the next day we stopped once more at Emerald Beach to enjoy the mesmerizing nature. Shelby beach where the kangaroos are living their best lives, is our favorite spot without any doubt.
The trip was so much more than I could expect from the road trip and I’m glad that I didn’t follow everything from Pinterest or other blogs. I love to discover my own places and it’s the best way to travel. Real adventure comes when you do your own things and when you just drive and let life surprise you.
However I was truly disappointed about the camping “problems” on the East Coast. This because I know that Australia is amazing to discover by van and a must-do for backpackers. Driving out of the city every night, while you’re there to discover it, is quite a pity. And let’s be honest, spending an average of 40 AUD for each night on your trip is an expensive joke. However I’m glad we did it and we made the best of every situation!
To find the best overnight stays on your road trip I recommend you to use Wikicamps and prepare yourself a food-budget as it can turn out more expensive as expected. Overall life in Australia is quite expensive so being prepared is a good start.
Last but not least I want to share with all of you that Australian locals and the travelers visiting the country are so open minded, social and kind! They help you at any time, love to show you around and listen to your travel stories. You can spend hours talking while drinking a hot coffee or tea, and come home with life experiences you never expected to discover.
Australia got a special place in my heart after this trip. Now I can’t wait to be back soon to explore the West Coast. Oops, did I say too much?