It was time for the final roadtrip. We raced out of work on Friday afternoon and for the last time we loaded up our beloved station wagon with a weekend’s worth of gear. We couldn’t wait to be heading out of the city and were eager to set off. We turned on the engine and… nothing.
Our rusting Holden Commodore (henceforth known as Martin), was dead. He has been there every step of the way on our mammoth journey around Australia, delivering us to destinations 1000’s of kilometres apart. Apart from a few minor hiccups, (the most major of which you can remind yourself of here), Martin has behaved impeccably despite his 20-odd years of service. Was this really the end?
We prayed that Martin was merely out of gas and hoped we had just failed to notice the dwindling tank and thank god, we were right. After trekking through the thick, late afternoon Brisbane heat to the closest petrol station and back it was finally time to hit the road. And run right into rush hour traffic.
Four hours later, we finally limped into our destination. We had chosen to spend our final camping trip across the border in northern New South Wales, about half an hour inland from the famed backpacker hub of Byron Bay.
We picked a campsite we had stayed in before, a part-time racecourse in the gorgeous little town of Alstonville. It’s nothing fancy as fully fledged camping parks are pricey along the east coast, but it was just what we needed for our mini break. We fumbled around putting the tent up in the dark and then sat back in our camping chairs to plan the weekend ahead.
We woke up to burning bright sunshine and blue skies, the weekend was forecast to be a scorcher. We quickly dressed and went to stretch our legs around Alstonville. When we last passed through on our way to Brisbane we arrived at night and left early the next morning so had seen nothing of the town apart from the cute colonial buildings which line the high street.
This time we had a leisurely stroll down the high street and popped into the many antique shops the town is famous for. We eventually settled down for brunch at 86 on Main which has a delicious menu of breakfast classics to choose from and great coffee to accompany it.
With full tummies we hopped into Martin and set off to the coast. Our first stop was a new one, the rugged coastline of Broken Head a 20 minute drive south of Byron Bay.
The whole coastline of northern NSW is stunning and Broken Head is no exception. A lot quieter than the heaving beaches of Byron, Broken Head is a tranquil oasis of glassy water, buttery sand and a short coastal walk which was our first port of call.
We followed the shaded trail and caught glimpses of the impossibly clear water through the trees. With the temperature rising, it was almost too inviting to resist.
Emerging from the trees we were greeted by incredible views of the waves crashing on the rocks below and the craggy Three Sisters rock formation jutting from the sea in the distance. The Aboriginal Dreamtime story of this unique formation tells of three sisters being pulled out to sea after trying to rescue each other, despite being warned of the dangers of the waters. Subsequently they were turned into stone for their troubles and as a warning to others of the perils of the open waters.
The place was almost deserted and we could spot countless empty beaches along the coast beyond. We settled down on the grassy headland and kept our eyes peeled for the whales who play in these waters on their way to Antartica.
Having no luck with the whale watching we bundled back into the car and headed even further south to Lennox Head. A favourite from our previous foray up the east coast, this laid back surf town is often described as what Byron Bay had been like years before the deluge of backpackers and holidaymakers descended.
Ignoring Lennox Head’s beautiful beach, we instead turned our attention to Lake Ainsworth which lies a short stroll from Lennox’s famous surf. We hadn’t visited here on our last visit but now we were desperate for some relief from the heat and willing to dive into any pool of water we could find.
Fortunately, Lake Ainsworth was the perfect place to wile away a scorching afternoon.
We jumped into the tea-tree stained waters, only slightly perturbed by the eerie brown colour the trees gave the lake.
We happily swam without having to be on constant guard for hungry sharks, over enthusiastic waves and deadly rips (the sea along this coastline does not have a good track record for all of the above) which made the experience even more relaxing.
When we finally dragged our pruney selves from the lake we dried off in the sun and spread our picnic blanket in the shade for a snooze. It surely couldn’t get more chilled than this.
I was slowly drifting off when I felt Ryan jump up beside me and shout ‘SNAKE!’. He has done this countless times before, cried wolf so he could get some much craved attention. Nevertheless, I opened my eyes and was greeted by, you guessed it, A BLOOMING SNAKE!
We hurried off of our picnic blanket (we later learned that you should stay still) and watched in horror as the snake slithered over our belongings.
The only reason Ryan had noticed it was because it was being stalked by a magpie. Ever since getting swooped by a magpie, Ryan has become incredibly wary and always has his eye on them if they’re in the vicinity.
Eventually the magpie chased the snake away and we took this as our cue to leave. A later Google confirmed the snake was a harmless tree snake, but you can never be too cautious in this country.
Still reeling from the snake attack, we made a final stop at the Pat Morton Lookout which overlooks beautiful Lennox Head. In the golden hour light, the town and ocean glittered. It’s going to be hard to beat places like these, no matter where we end up in the world.
The next day we packed up our tent and camping kit for the final time. The hundreds of nights we’ve spent sleeping under the stars in Australia have been incredible. From relaxed beachside campsites to the grassy verges of the highways we’ve had our fair share of weird and wonderful places to lay our heads. But now, that part of our Australian adventure had come to an end and it was back to four solid walls for the final month of our trip.
Reluctant to finish our weekend, we stretched out the Sunday with a last visit to Byron Bay. We love this crazy little town and couldn’t resist popping in for some Christmas shopping and a stroll along the beach.
The surf was up on the main beach so we went in search of somewhere more sheltered to swim. We drove past the road winding up to Byron’s famous lighthouse and found ourselves at Wategos Beach, a breathtaking stretch of sand we had never heard of before.
Unfortunately for us, plenty of other people had heard of this slice of paradise! However, this didn’t stop us from giving Wategos a place on our ‘Favourite Places in Australia’ list. This place was stunning.
There was grass to snooze on, BBQs for whipping up a sausage sizzle, the clearest water to swim in and rocks to clamber over. We were even entertained all afternoon by a playful pod of dolphins which frolicked metres from the shore. What more could you ask for?
With the sun sinking we peeled ourselves away from the sand and began our journey back to Brisbane. Life on the road has been everything we could have hoped for and we hope we can emulate it in our future home of Canada. Nothing beats the feeling of freedom you get from living on the road. The road never really ends, we’ll take a short sojourn from it for a few months but will doubtless join it again in the not so distant future.