Between Sydney and Byron Bay: Three Stops Along the Way
Contributed by Matthew Nunn
Down under oozes landmarks and destinations that are worldly in their appeal and drag holidaymakers thousands of miles across the globe for what are, in many cases, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Flights to Australia are lengthy and costly, which makes it an unusual destination for Europeans looking for short-haul holiday hops or Americans looking for interstate trips. Having said this, it more than makes up for the effort as there are plenty of things to do and see here that set Australia apart from other travel spots. As well as being a famous holiday destination, Australia can also claim to be one of the major hotspots for travellers and career breakers around the world. It’s perfect for road trips and extended adventures, so you may find yourself wondering, “What do I do when I’ve ticked off all the must-do’s and well-known’s?”
Well, here is an example of three places I stopped over at during a road trip covering the entire East Coast, sampling the real Australia between the tourist magnets of Sydney and Byron Bay.
Port Macquarie is an excellent example of a small town with a coastal living philosophy. As a traveller who is a novice surfer yet keen to learn, I found that Port Macquarie offered everything I needed. From my experience, many people like to seek out the real Australia, where the tourist footprint hasn’t trampled away any idea of what living in this country would be like. Well, Port Macquarie is a great option; it features quite a large residential area and offers all your usual entertainment options such as extensive shopping and numerous eateries with authentic food among others. The town is ringed by several beaches, and every day I could watch the locals stroll on down to their favourite beach spots to catch the best waves. The town’s convenient location allowed me to drive along the shore and pick a beach with good size waves and that was not yet crammed with local surfers to pursue my amateur surfing attempts.
One such location was Lighthouse Beach, a seemingly never-ending stretch of golden sand backed up by grassy hills and dunes. It created a refreshing backdrop that wasn’t dominated by urban developments, as many coastal locations such as Surfers Paradise are.
Coffs Harbour offers what I felt was quite a refreshing change to the typical Australian coastal experiences. The majority of Australia’s population lives near the coast, in the cities such as Melbourne, Sydney and Surfers Paradise. The rest of the coast, due to the vast size of Australia, is sparse and empty, which in turn creates its own attraction for the world explorers looking to find their own little corner of down under. And Coffs Harbour, despite its size, is exactly it. It has a vibe of a seaside town rather than a city, so it feels less congested but still offers plenty of amenities.
The harbour and marina are worth a visit especially if you want to keep your feet dry, and are separated from the rest of the town. For adrenalin junkies, there are multiple beaches where you can search for your best surf.
Coffs Harbour also lies close to a number of national parks. As I was limited in time, I decided to rent a bike, which is an effective way to cover a lot of ground, particularly if you can’t afford to amble around. If you’re more into discovering the marine life, then this is also a place to be. It is well known for its excellent diving sites, and there are plenty of offshore islands to explore.
South West Rocks
If you’re not particularly sold on lavish hotels, exquisite restaurants and boisterous entertainment, the quaint and quiet South West Rocks will be your perfect destination. It’s one of those hidden gems known as the “best-kept secrets,” because you will rarely find as many tourists here as in the rest of coastal Australia.
South West Rocks is located next to Trial Bay, a picturesque historic venue that features the old Trial Bay Gaol (former jail) that is worth visiting due to its mysterious ruins and plenty of picnic areas where one can fully enjoy a sunny Australian afternoon. The site also offers magnificent views of the surrounding scenery, and my definite favourite was the Smoky Cape Lighthouse. Sitting on top of the cliff, it opens up to breathtaking views of the coastline. Adding to its historic significance, this place was once visited by Captain Cook en route to his world explorations.
Seeking out these destinations that aren’t your average tourist itineraries will greatly enrich your Australian experience. There is so much more to this country besides the popular tourist hotspots often highlighted in travel magazines – here you can stumble upon something that would cater to your individual travel needs. Perhaps you will never be able to see it all, but you will always know that there is a great beach nearby to fall back on.
This is a guest post by Matt Nunn, an experienced traveller who has added several new locations to his travel repertoire with an extensive RTW trip in 2011. Having explored much of Australia, his next year’s adventures will include the Portugal holidays and other European destinations.