Since as long as I can remember, I have had a healthy wanderlust and an overwhelming desire to travel and explore as much and as often as I can. As a New Yorker, living most of my life in a bustling steel and concrete metropolis that never sleeps, I am especially drawn to nature and the great outdoors. I share this passion with a close group of traveling buddies, and together we have crisscrossed pretty much all of the USA together, as well as most of South America. For our latest adventure, we set our sights on a destination far from home, the Land Down Under. Its breathtaking expanses of endless open road, beautiful timeless landscapes and almost mystical allure had captivated and beckoned us for quite some time. After pouring over maps of the Australian continent online, we agreed on the intended route for our road trip. With 600 miles of open road that hug the beautiful eastern coast line, an adventure from Brisbane to Sydney was an easy choice to make. This stretch of highway is aptly named The Legendary Pacific Coast, it is a truly breathtaking combination of beautiful rugged landscapes and awe inspiring expanses of ocean views. After landing in Brisbane and sleeping off the jet lag in a motel, my friends and I rented a campervan, stocked up with supplies, and hit the road.
Brisbane to the Gold Coast
After about an hour’s drive down the beautiful sun-soaked coastal highway we reached the Gold Coast. It is where many tourists and locals alike go to spend money in Jupiter’s casino and party the night away in loud, pulsating clubs that are crammed together along Orchid Avenue. We focused instead on the Gold Coast natural beauty and world-famous beaches. We took the beach road, stopping at Southport, Palm Beach and Burleigh Heads to take in the ocean views. At the famous Surfers Paradise we tried our hand at surfing with the help of a local surf school. Although we did not exactly master the sport, surf bars provided us with some excellent food and we met a lot of laid back, vibrant and friendly people in the local surf clubs. We settled down in a local caravan park, blissfully exhausted and excited about the traveling ahead of us.
Gold Coast to Coffs Harbor
Our first destination on this leg of our journey was Tweeds Head. We parked our campervan and headed off to explore the Tweeds Head estuary and national park. This area has a subtropical climate and the fertile volcanic soil was once covered by rainforest. Most of the rainforest was cut down, but in places along our trek the vegetation was so lush and dense that you had an overwhelming feeling of being in a vast ancient rainforest. Our next stop was Cape Byron, with breathtaking views of Mount Warning, Tallow beach and Border Rangers. We even caught a glimpse of a humpback whale, which is not uncommon from September to October. We continued driving south, passing through the beautiful Broadwater and Bundjalung national parks. We stopped at Yamba, a colorful coastal village known for its array of water based activities for river, beach and ocean. On the recommendation of a local gas station worker, we took a short ferry ride to Illuka, a tiny peninsula with a quaint bay on one side and the ocean on the other. A local pub provided us with delicious food, glorious views and a short respite from our travels. A short drive later we arrived in Grafton, a town located on the Clarence River known for its beautiful Jacaranda trees which were in full bloom.
While there, we took the opportunity to take a river cruise and visit Susan Island, famous for being the largest fruit bat colony in Australia. 50 miles down the road and we reached Coffs Harbor, one of the biggest and busiest towns along the Pacific Highway.
Coffs Harbor to Sydney
South of Coffs Harbor is the Nambucca Valley. It is a beautiful place with many sleepy villages and hospitable historic towns along the way. We drove along the coastline and soaked up the sun on empty beaches that seemed to grow into rainforests the further you got from the water. We stopped for a drink at Slim Dusty’s “Pub With no Beer” and soaked up the local charm. Port Macquarie is a two hour drive, and was a real treat for an animal lover such as myself. We visited a koala shelter and had an opportunity to interact with these adorable animals. A sunset camel safari on the beach was a great way to end an already amazing day.
The following day we made the three and a half hour drive to Port Stephens. It covers over two and a half times more water than Sydney Harbor, and offers pristine unspoiled waters, over 26 beaches and numerous marine and national parks.
We set up camp in a caravan park and explored the surrounding beaches. A local cruise boat took us in search of bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales, which we caught glimpses of as they made their migratory journey up the coast. The final leg of our journey was a two and a half hour drive to Sydney, the most populous city in Australia. Here we returned our campervan, left the road behind us, and went into conventional tourist mode for the few days we had left in the truly magnificent Land Down Under.
Author bio: Bob Gorman is a computer engineer by profession and enjoys in travel, outdoor sports as well as exploring new destinations with his friends.
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