When deciding on our itinerary, we mainly used blogs and various travel guides which we had been bought as presents. The blogs covered the main tourist parts of the east coast such as Byron, Whitsundays and Fraser Island but there were some stops along the way which are slightly out of the way (and less visited by backpackers) – we decided to stop at a few of these places to break up the 12 hour coach from Newcastle to Byron Bay.
Our next stop after Newcastle was at Port Macquarie, a sleepy seaside town with nine very pretty beaches. Having nine beaches makes a town very spread out which meant we spent a bit more on taxis than expected. The main attraction of this town is, of course, the beaches, so we walked the coastal path through four of them. This was a pretty hilly walk and probably not the best terrain for flip flops (we did get a few strange looks from the locals after a smile and a “good morning”). The views were lovely though. We stopped at one of the beachside cafes for lunch and stumbled upon an event called The Sand Mudder (obvs a spin off of tough mudder), a charity event for both kids and adults. The beach was pretty crazy with all sorts of activities going on, including swim sprints and paddle board races. It was great fun to watch. After, we headed to the Koala Hospital to see the long term residents and those currently being fixed up. Some of their stories were so sad with a number being left blind due to car accidents or dog attacks. Poor little 🐨’s. We stayed in a YHA hostel with a pool and yet again ended up with a dorm room of six to ourselves – pure luxury.
The next day we jumped back on the bus and headed to Nambucca Heads. It was touch and go as to whether we would even be able to get on a bus as some had been cancelled due to so many bush fires in the area which closed the motorway – thankfully we were fine, but the bus was rammed! I ended up sitting next to two girls from the UK and Sweden who were doing a similar route so we swapped itineraries and hoped to bump into each other again. Nambucca Heads was even sleepier than Port Macquarie. We arrived at the visitors centre and got a taxi to our accommodation – a chalet in a holiday park which took us right back to a long weekend in Haven with Mum, Jim and Ross. It was nice to have our own space for a night. There really wasn’t much there but a lagoon, breakwall and a beach but it was cute to have some time to ourselves without fighting for utensils or using communal showers. That evening, we had the ultimate fiasco when trying to buy groceries. When trying to pay at the till, our normal cash card wasn’t accepted, neither was my debit or credit card – eeeeeek! The manager was über rude and not sympathetic at all. Luckily there was a cash machine nearby which actually accepted my card – clearly it was their machine but enough to set in panic mode! We went back, paid for our groceries and had to resist an “up yours” to Jan the grump. The town was pretty but we probably wouldn’t recommend that anyone stopped there.
The next stop we made was to Coffs Harbour which is more popular with backpackers due to the local farms (in order to extend working visas by 12 months, you have to do 88 days of agricultural work which is what everyone there was doing). The hostel was rammed, wifi crappy and our first night was so hot that we slept in the lounge for half the night – definitely the times when you start to question everything. On the plus side, the showers were the best yet. I also randomly bumped into an old school friend who was staying in there. We ate dinner in a local Italian and ordered a bottle of red wine. It sounds silly, but this was such luxury after penny pinching and eating meals in the hostel. The night was so stormy and the sky was filled with thunder and lightning which gave us some extra entertainment. The next day we spent some time on the white sand beach and although it was cloudy, it was so nice to lay out and get some sun. We had a curry that evening and chilled whilst keeping an eye on the internet to see the result of the US election – still can’t believe Trump won!
We slept better that night thanks to the bad weather in the day and spent the morning exploring the Botanic Gardens before we jumped on the bus to Byron Bay. The gardens were pretty and we made sure to support the upkeep by having a tea and scone (with cream and jam) in the cafe.