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Published: November 21st 2014
We shared the airport shuttle from Airlie beach to Proserpine (Whitsundays airport) with a group that had just spent 7 tough days cycling from Brisbane to Airlie Beach, a charity fundraising event. The return to Brisbane would take them just over an hour. Given that the G20 was in full swing in Brisbane we were not sure what we would encounter in terms of hold ups, but in the end we saw no evidence of the event.
Our Apollo van was a bit bigger than the VW van Carol used to own, in fact you could live in it quite comfortably for a very extended trip, all mod cons included. Good to drive too, so long as it was in a forward direction and in a straight line! To get to Brisbane we were going to try and hug the coast as much as possible, The Pacific Highway did pretty much just that. As a main route way it had nothing like the volume of traffic that we experience in the UK, so that made for more relaxed driving.
First stop off was just outside of Surfers Paradise. Even though we weren't in the main resort the place was
really built up and it seemed totally dedicated to holiday makers. For our early morning run we ran along the promenade into Surfers Paradise. The beach was beautiful, water rolling in, a lovely clear blue. Just off the beach was the resort, wow, what a place, totally developed for tourism on a big scale. Interestingly, along the sea front they had placed a pictorial history of the place. 1880's, mangroves with just a few dwellings. 1920's, the first pub - The Surfers Paradise, the place to be for the young surfer set. 1930's, developing as a resort. Now it is so developed and is for some people that we spoke to beginning to lose its appeal- progress! For the time being though it is a place to be; we were on the sea front at 7.00am, along with as many people as we might see in Selsey on a busy day at the height of the summer season. The resort was preparing itself for "Schoolies Week", which I think is a mass influx of youngsters out to celebrate the end of their high school years. Lots of warnings about alcohol and substance abuse and looking after each other all around.
After Surfers, we got the van on the move and headed down to Byron Bay, another resort town. This also is a really popular resort, but one that has limited development. So, no tower blocks, no big campsites, but still a good range of facilities behind the beach. The views from the beach were lovely, looking across to the wooded headland withs pristine white lighthouse. If it wasn't for the fact that we were on a schedule, this would have been a great place to stay for a couple of days. As it was we stayed a couple of hours, sunbathing on a gorgeous windswept beach.
So that we don't end up with lots of hours driving in any one day the plan has been to get a couple of hundred km in each day, so we moved on south, not 100% sure where we would stop. To help us with the planning we had bought Camp7, a directory of cheaper campsites across Australia. Along side the campsite descriptions were pretty detailed maps. Carol, in role of navigator in chief, took us off the Pacific Highway and more inland. The scenery was beautiful, love rolling hills, a real rural landscape. We headed to Glenreagh. It turned out to be a good choice. The small town had mostly turn of the 19th century buildings from its original development. The campsite was the towns recreational park; 25 acres of well kept grounds with no more than 5 vans using it. The campsite manager met us, beer in hand, obviously a relaxed way of life. Our nearest fellow campers, were on a never ending tour. Having done the proper job thing, they now just move around as their whim dictates, sometimes picking up work if money is needed. Clearly this is not uncommon here since some of the bigger sites have a category of camper called "Nomad" or "Wanderer".
Our remaining overnight stops were in Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Port Stephens. All three places were similar, in that although from their names they sounded like single resorts, they were massive and each had numerous beaches, campsites and shopping centres. For us the problem was that the different functions were not always close together. So, you could get a campsite, but it might not be on a beach or close to shops, or another campsite may have a beach, but not be within walking distance of somewhere to eat or shop. Each place really needed a week and a bike to explore. Many of the sites had a big proportion of semi permanent residents. In between the overnight stops we stopped off at some of the smaller beach resorts as we were moving down the coast. Some, like Sawtell, were lovely. They had escaped the hyper development and were just lovely small, "old" resorts, great places to just chill.
By the time we followed the satnav through the centre of Sydney we had driven just over 1000km. The van had been great to drive, although you had to be constantly ware of its' size. Once the van was returned it was time to get back on the city trail, this time over 5 days in Sydney.
Tot: 2.456s; Tpl: 0.034s; cc: 11; qc: 48; dbt: 0.0441s; 2; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 3;
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