North of Sydney - Port Macquaire, Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise and Brisbane

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September 18th 2009
Published: September 18th 2009
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So we left Sydney and headed north up the coast, first stop Port Macquarie. "Port" is a fairly small town but has become known for its Koala hospital, which is the only Koala dedicated animal hospital in the world. Naturally this was to be one of our stops while in Port but first we decided to hit the beach. We did not fancy a dip in the sea as it was still a bit cold but on our walk to the beach we did get to see a couple of dolphins. The real dolphin/whale watching is planned for later in our trip at Hervey bay but it was good to get a taster even if it was from a fair distance away (unfortunately no photographic evidence of this).

The next day we decided to hire bikes to take a tour of Port and to visit the Koala hospital, despite the cycling debacle in Brazil. No cycling related mishaps this time - perhaps because we have got used to the art of pedalling backwards to brake. We cycled to a nearby nature reserve, which was cool, lots of trees and a swamp but the highlight was undoubtedly the hundreds of fruit bats which were hanging upside down amongst the trees. They were mostly asleep but we did get to see a few taking flight (Joey was fascinated, he would have stayed all day if Sarah hadn't dragged him away). Next stop was the fabled Koala hospital, we arrived in time for the organised tour where they took us round the "rooms" (which were essentially enclosures with Eucalyptus trees and a stump for them to chill out on) of the injured Koalas. This tour was really interesting and we heard about how the Koala's received there injuries, watched some of them being fed and heard some fascinating stories about how they had survived bush fires, dog mauls and road traffic accidents. Port's a pretty quiet place so we only stayed a couple of nights but it was a good way to break up the 15 hours between Sydney and our next stop of Byron Bay.

Our main focus in Byron was to hit the beach and learn to ride the waves. Thankfully the weather had improved so it was definitely sunbathing weather now, although the water is still more than a little nippy after a whole winter to cool itself down. As we are hard core though we braved it (ok the wet suits helped) and booked onto a 2 day course to learn to surf involving 3 hours of lessons on consecutive days. Unflattering wetsuits donned, we hit The Pass - a famous surfing area at the end of Byron's main beach. Sadly no comedic incidents to report, we both actually picked it up quite quickly and managed to stand on our first attempts. Staying standing was not always so easy but we caught some good waves and felt pretty proud of our progress. The surf lessons took up our afternoons so the mornings were dedicated to sun worshipping (one of Sarah's favourite pastimes) and we are well on the way to being bronzed. Byron was generally a really relaxed place with a small town feel and some good shops and eateries, including a gourmet fish and chip shop which we, obviously, sampled.

Next stop was a place called Surfer's Paradise, which couldn't be more different to Byron Bay. It's high octane, high rise and high spirits. It is the main town on The Gold Coast, which is akin to the Spanish Costas without the English chavs. We had opted for a night here so we could sample one of the Gold Coast theme parks, choosing Wet'n'Wild, which as the name suggests was a water park full of thrilling slides. We had a really fun day out and were there for the whole 7 hours the park was open. There were some old school slides, with the usual back scratching joins, alongside some new additions that were really exciting two person tube rides. There was plenty of screaming and hysterical laughing (from Sarah too, tee hee) and Sarah discovered a new found talent for slide racing beating Joey everytime (no jokes about weight advantages please).

We are now in Brisbane essentially on an overnighter before heading further up the Queensland coast. We had a walk around the city this afternoon and it seems a pretty cosmopolitan place with a nice river setting and new high rise buildings set against reminders of the colonial heritage. It's also blooming hot here now so not sure what is in store for us temperature wise further up the coast. Tomorrow we hit the road again for Noosa and on up to Fraser Island.

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