After five wonderful days in Sydney we set out on a two week road trip up the east coast of the country. We stopped in five different places along the coast, and we’ve written about each of them below.
Stop 1: Nelson Bay, Port Stephens (1 night)
Our first stop was just two hours north of Sydney in the region of Port Stephens. We rented an Airbnb in Nelson Bay and enjoyed exploring the surrounding area. Our favorite activity was hiking up to Tomaree Head Summit, where we were rewarded with 360 degree views of the ocean.
We also walked along the beach and around the marina a bit in the afternoon. The beach walkway is lined with huge boulders that visitors have decorated with paint. Some families have been coming here for years and add to their rock paintings with each visit. Nelson Bay is a very low key place, providing just the right amount of calm and quiet after being in the city.
Stop 2: Port Macquarie (1 night)
Our next stop on the road trip was Port Macquarie, which is just two hours north of Port Stephens. Port Macquarie is another quiet town with a gorgeous coastline. We went on the Coastal Walk, seeing many families with their dogs at the beach and watching the surfers in the distance.
We also visited a koala hospital in Port Macquarie which was such a unique experience. During our drives along the countryside we saw many signs warning about koalas on the road and listing a number to call in case of koala injury. The hospital we visited was founded in 1973 by a couple who saw a need for a rehabilitation center for koalas injured in the wild. The center is run by volunteers who treat the koalas when they arrive, feed them daily, teach visitors about the animals, and spread awareness about them and their conditions. Many of the koalas we saw were admitted to the hospital because they suffered from the bacterial infection chlymadia (affecting their vision and urogenital tract) or because they had been hit by motor vehicles on the road.
We enjoyed our time in Port Macquarie, and spent our last hour here walking along the beach, watching the sun heat up the water as the tides rolled out.
Stop 3: Byron Bay (5 nights)
After Port Macquarie we drove five hours north to Byron Bay, stopping in Coff’s Harbor along the way to take a picture in front of the famed “Big Banana.” Byron Bay is a little hippie town filled with surfers and backpackers, beaches and woodlands, and we were pleasantly surprised by how much we loved it. We stayed here for five nights, although we wished we could have stayed longer. We tried to cancel the accommodations we had planned for our next destination (Hervey Bay), but learned that we were unable to do so without losing out on the money we had already paid. Alas, we left and headed north.
(Stay tuned for another post about our week in Byron Bay, including our favorite beaches to visit, places to eat and drink, and things to do.)
Stop 4: Hervey Bay (1 night)
We were sad to leave Byron Bay, but we put a smile on and headed six hours north to the town of Hervey Bay where we had planned to spend the last three nights of our road trip. We arrived in the early evening after a long drive with no air conditioning. Exhausted and dropping with sweat, we couldn’t wait to get to our Airbnb.
When we arrived to check in we learned that it had accidentally been double booked, so we had no place to stay. (We could have stayed three extra nights in Byron Bay, after all!) At that point all we could think about was air conditioning and a bed, so we drove around until we found some wifi and booked the cheapest hotel we could find for the night. We figured we would use the internet there to plan the next few days. Turns out the Internet was broken, and we had to evacuate in the middle of the night because the fire alarm went off. Although these things were frustrating at the time, we know they’re all part of the long term travel experience.
The main reason we were attracted to Hervey Bay was because of its proximity to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. However, we had recently heard that getting to and around on the island is incredibly expensive so we thought that maybe we’d skip it and head back down south. We had heard great things about Noosa Heads, so we decided we would give it a try. We walked along the beach for awhile before leaving Hervey Bay, and laughed about the fact that we had driven so far only to turn around and leave twelve hours later.
Stop 5: Noosa Heads (2 nights)
We arrived in Noosa Heads, and immediately discovered that we had a less than ideal situation with our Airbnb host. (For the first time in our three months of traveling, we encountered someone who was unfriendly.) However, we were determined to make the most of our time here so we set out for the town right away.
We visited the main beach, which was filled to the brim with families on school holiday. As we walked along we discovered a path leading to a more secluded area called Little Cove. After sitting there for awhile we meandered into the National Park and walked through the wooded path just as the sun began to set. It was breathtaking! Despite the bad luck we had experienced in the last twenty four hours, we couldn’t help but stop to look around and feel grateful that our travels had led us to this pretty place.
Our stomachs rumbled as we made our way back to Hastings Street, the main strip in town, where we had myriad options for dinner. We stumbled into El Capitano where we were treated so kindly, and we enjoyed a few drinks and a delicious sourdough crust pizza.
We woke the next morning to rain and used it as an excuse to hop into an amazing coffee shop in town, catch up on emails with family and friends, plan our next travels, write blog posts, etc. (and drink more delicious iced coffee!).
Our road trip came to an end the following day when we drove to Brisbane to catch a flight to Cairns, in the tropical state of Queensland, where we would begin our scuba adventures.