For the next part of our adventure, we considered going inland to Casino and on to connect with the A15 going south to Tamworth and then Newcastle before heading to Sydney (our Motorhome adventure destination), but after researching online, decided that this would simply add more driving, cold nights, fuel costs and boredom for the kids as we clocked up the miles. So we decided to take the coastal option all the way to Sydney.
Our first stop, south of Byron Bay, was Lennox Head where we found the usual public park with climbing frames and electric BBQs by a fantastic beach. It was a little chilly, but we had a picnic lunch outside on one of the tables, while the local surf life-saving school did some warm-up exercises nearby. We went down onto the beach later and watched the students antics while the kids played in the sand.
After an overnight at a motorway rest area (which, fortunately was set back from the road by 100m or so), we spent the day visiting the coast – parking at the end of Frazer’s Reef road, we walked down onto Frazer’s Reef beach and then up onto the raised rocky shelf of Middle Bluff where the waves were impressively crashing against the rocks, sending up huge sprays. A small path inland from the Bluff took us back to our parking spot. This path was covered in a weed called cobblers pegs, or beggar’s tick, whose fruit consist of black seeds like small pine needles that get stuck into your skin, clothing and shoes. We de-seeded ourselves, and drove on for a quick look at Bluff Beach and then to Iluka where we found Charlie Ryan Memorial Park – a lovely small park with BBQs, playground and beach looking over Iluka Bay and Marina which offers flat calm waters on account of some robust breakwaters. The nearby trees also offered some shelter from the wind here, and we used one of the BBQs to cook some sausages for our lunch.
We continued on to Grafton and arrived at Jabour Park (a basic low-cost camping area provided by Grafton’s Vintage Car club) just before sunset and surprised a mob (great collective word!) of kangaroos as we approached the site.
Grafton is a medium sized town more or less equally split in two by the Clarence River. To see the sights, we selected the northern side of town – our research had identified a much needed laundrette on this side, and there were also other notable attributes such as a shopping centre and pie shop. Laundry sorted, we stopped at Grafton Regional Gallery Here the lady at the desk greeted us as we entered and we had a chinwag about where we’d been and of our vague plans going south. She provided some useful local knowledge, and pointed out places on a large map of the area. She also kindly allowed us to charge our laptop while looking around.
A large room here was home to a Gough Whitlam exhibition. He was Australia’s 21st Prime minister and brought the Labour goverment to power in the 70s. During his brief three-year tenure, the Labour govermnent implemented a host of important reforms, and he later became an ambassador to UNESCO. There was a lot to read here, and the kids got a little bored, so we whizzed past the other exhibits.
We couldn’t resist having meat pies for lunch, which we enjoyed from their paper bags in a nicely maintained memorial park and gardens by the Clarence River.
Knowing from the radio that there were various bush fires in the area, and being able to see smoke in the distance, we thought it prudent to check our planned route south from here – we were headed for a campsite at Glenreagh. Searching for fire information online, we cam across the ‘Fires near me‘ service – an excellent web site and mobile app which we installed. This showed fires both sides of the road south, so we didn’t risk going that way. Instead we took the pacific highway and then cut across below the fires. Along this road, we stopped to watch 2 helicopters airlifting water from a reservoir, and a small plane also being used to help control the fires – we couldn’t see the fire directly – just the glow of it from behind a ridge.
Two motocyclists who’d also stopped gave a thumbs up when I asked if the way ahead was clear, so we continued on to our campsite – the recreation ground of this small town which had little more than a school, bakery (from which the kids had some tasty individual apple pies), Postal Museum (closed), small general store and a small hotel, named after a huge golden (well, yellow) statue of a dog outside. There was a picnic area and outdoor swimming pool, but the latter was shut as out of season.
Glenreagh recreation ground, like many others we’d visited, was spacious, sparsely occupied and good value (A$10 per vehicle/night – double that if you wanted power and water) – we ended up staying here 3 nights as it was so relaxing and quiet and had plenty of space to kick a ball around. We were also able to collect firewood from the nearby woods and have campfires. Perfect!
In need of essential supplies and motorhome-related ’emptying’ facilities, we did a day-trip out to Coffs Harbour. Business completed, we went in search of a beach, finding both Diggers and Little Diggers Beaches, the latter being more sheltered from the wind. Only a few dog walkers and a brave surfer were out and about here, but the kids had missed being able to play in the sand, so we stayed for the obligatory couple of hours before heading ‘home’.
We decided to stay in the area for the next couple of days, but moved campsite to another showground; Nana Glen Equestrian Centre, which was a lovely, huge open space with a very friendly caretaker, a large pile of wood – available for free for camp fires, and a very inquisitive and friendly old horse called Cruiser who liked to stick his head in through the door of our motorhome. We pretty much had the place to ourselves here and did very little – Dawn managed a 5k run with a couple of laps of the grounds perimeter and the kids, after escaping from a home-schooling session, used planks of wood to build a house (the kids called it an orphanage) for the toys. We set this alight to start the camp fire one night – luckily the toys escaped in time! The evenings are getting very cold, but we managed to eat around the fire before retreating inside.
We had managed to organise a last-minute workaway with a family in Eungai Creek, and on our way there, we had time to visit Nambucca Heads, where we walked up to Captain Cook Lookout to admire the view. We spotted a couple of migrating whales in the distance, before visiting Shelley beach below.