Sydney to Brisbane Part 3: Newcastle to Bundjalung National Park 

From the Central Coast many people will shoot up to Byron Bay and I don’t blame them, I fell in love with the place, even though so many people have said its changed and isn’t what it used to be. But there are lots of different places to explore on the way, which is what we did with my parents…Not just camping.

1 En-suite campsite, 2 National Park sites, A Country Lodge, A Lighthouse and a Mountain Lodge

NEWCASTLE

We travelled from Umina up to Newcastle. As we are all from the North East of England near Newcastle-Upon-Tyne it would be rude not to and on arriving we were met with suitably similar North East weather, it was raining, dark and very overcast.

Our campsite was across the river at Stockton Beach [Another place in the North East] and although we had a lovely en-suite site and their camp kitchen is superb, Stockton wasn’t much to write home about, apart from its nice golden sandy beach. I was starting to think our pilgrimage wasn’t a great idea as from across the water Newcastle looked industrial too. But then we crossed over on the ferry and started to explore the town and we were all pleasantly surprised by its array of shops, cafe’s on Derby street and the Honeysuckle Foreshore, as well as the beautiful Cathedral with its stunning stained glass windows. We walked for miles exploring the break wall, where we had fun dodging the big waves crashing in and on Nobby’s beach as well as the Lighthouse.

GLOUCESTER 

Home of the DOT (Drifta Off-road trailer) and our home for the year on our big lap around AUS. Rich was very excited to visit the factory and we had a tour of the operation, met Luke the owner, as well as booking our DOT 67 in for a service and a few modifications that we felt would improve living in a camper trailer for a year. Check out all the modifications we had done here.

While the trailer was at the DOT Spa, we stayed at the Gloucester Country Lodge, it was nice [Not like a Country Lodge in the U.K.) but it was clean and had the most amazing views of the hills and we sat outside for breakfast which was just beautiful……

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That day we walked up to the top of the Buckets (Luke the Drifta’s Recommendation) a very short but very steep climb, which offered amazing views and rewarded ourselves later in the local pub The Roundabout Inn and had superb fish and chips from the Kitchen for dinner. We would love to come back to this area and next time stay in the Barrington Tops National Park.

CROWDY BAY NATIONAL PARK/ DIAMOND HEAD CAMPGROUND

This was Mum and Dads favourite place on this trip as it provides an excellent balance of being in the bush, without being too remote. We set up camp at Diamond Head and were instantly met by lots of wildlife, Kangaroos, Kookaburra’s and huge Goannas. The kookaburra were really naughty and kept stealing chops off people’s BBQ and then wacking them on the fence next to us.

On our second day after a wet start to the morning, we walked to Mermaids Lookout and then did the 7km headlands and Forrest walk with the additional walkout to Kylie’s Beach. It’s a stunning walk taking in so many different environments from glittering rock faces that give this area it name, golden beaches, heath and forests of Banksia and paperbark. The wet weather brought out amazing fungus displays too. There are dramatic panoramic views overlooking the mountains and beaches on this walk

After lunch we then walked along the beach…some further than others, Mum and Dad walked for miles trying to reach the end of the beach, that looked at times so near, but the beach just kept stretching on for miles.

There were two other campsites at this National Park and we walked through both on our hike. They are not as close to the beach but are very quiet and nice big grassy sites.

HAT HEAD NATIONAL PARK / A NIGHT IN A LIGHT HOUSE

This was the part of the trip I was personally really looking forward too and it didn’t disappoint…staying in the Lighthouse Keepers Cottages. En-route we stopped off at Port Macquarie and had coffee in a funky little kiosk called Salty Crew then a walk along the rock memorials, before crossing the river on another Ferry and heading to Hat Head National Park and Smoky Cape lighthouse. We started on the 4×4 track into the park, but soon turned around as time was ticking on, the track was slow going and we wanted to maximise our time at the lighthouse [Plus Dad isn’t the biggest fan of 4×4 tracks]

We had a lovely late afternoon walk down the steps to North Smoky Beach, followed by a BBQ and then an evening walk up the hill to checkout the Lighthouse in action. The cottage is amazing with 2 beautiful bedrooms, one with a four-poster bed, a lounge area full of nautical lighthouse memorabilia and a small kitchen with tea and coffee-making facilities. We stayed in the B&B cottage, so in the morning we woke to the smell of bacon and eggs and fresh coffee being cooked for us…. a real treat. The views from the cottage are unbelievable and there are seats all around the gardens, so you can have lots of different views.

DORRIGO WORLD NATIONAL PARK / WORLD HERITAGE SITE

Next stop was the breathtaking Dorrigo National Park a World Hertiage Site and it was a  fun windy road that leads you to the top and to the Rainforest Centre.  The weather was beautiful and so it was perfect to do the short sky walk, a platform perched on an escarpment that stretches out across the rainforest with dramatic drops hundreds of meters below and a vista that stretches for miles overlooking the Gondwana rainforest. From the viewpoint we headed onto the Lyrebird track [ I would love to see one of these beautiful birds, but they are also still on the list of birds and animals which are hiding from me] and then onto the Wonga walk which is a 6..6km loop that drops into the valley with several impressive waterfalls on route. We especially liked the Crystal Shower Falls as you get to walk behind it and lookout. The stunning flame trees were fruiting and there were beautiful bird sounds every step of the walk.

After a coffee in the rain forest cafe surrounded by Brush Turkeys, we booked into our accommodation at the Mountain Lookout Lodge in a family room. At the weekend they do dinner in their rustic wooden dining room and bar, which was a perfect end to the day.

 

BUNDJALUNG NATIONAL PARK/BLACK ROCK CAMPSITE

We woke to a misty morning that turned into a beautiful day. Just down the road from the lodge is Danger Falls, we nearly didn’t stop here but glad we did. You park at the top of the falls which offers a great view-point of them above, before doing the short walk to the base. Again the sheer amount of rainfall we had meant that these falls were really impressive, after a dry spell they might not be worth the visit….let us know!

From the falls it was onto Bundjalung National Park, the camping is just behind the beach and dunes and was really quiet when we were there, only a handful of campers. You can have fires at this site if there isn’t a fire ban and there are drop pit toilets which were clean but there are not many for the size of the site and you could be a long way away from one.  Once you head onto the beach you can tell why it’s called Black Rock Campground. Huge back rocks line the beach creating dramatic shapes and patterns. At the time of our visit it was a full moon with high tides. This made beach walking tricky as most of the beach was underwater left of the campground. So we turned right and got to see a beautiful Brahminy kite take off every time we passed its perch as well as bright red-beaked Pied Oyster catchers. We rounded off the evening with dinner on the fire and a few toasted marshmallows.

On the second day we had planned to do a circular walk along Jerusalem Creek walking track to Evans Head and then back along the beach, but as we got a few kilometres down the path alongside the Creek, it turned into a huge lake, with nobody wanting to attempt to paddle through and wisely so. So we turned around and headed down the other side of the shorter Emu track, just to be met with the same predicament. It wasn’t meant to be and so once the tide was out we headed left and walked the other way along the beach. Checkout our route on my Garmin to see what happened. Another evening and another campfire, but that night the storms came in, you could see it mustering all day which made for impressive skies. This campsite had a few friendly echidna’s that were snuffling around the bush, a cool fact about them is that along with the platypus are the only egg laying mammals in the world. 

Had we stayed longer we would have got our Kayak out and explored on the teatree stained waterways.

From here we headed to Byron Bay checkout Part 4 of the Sydney to Brisbane trip.

Sarah x.

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