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Published: August 8th 2008
Dolphins at sunset
Clarence River, Iluka
1st July - been on the road for 5 months today! Left Coffs Harbour a tad reluctantly - it’s the kind of place where you could easily stay a while - and drove up the coast to the Clarence River area. Stopped en route at Maclean the Scottish town, where all the lamp-posts wear kilts! (well, the bottom part of each post is painted in a different tartan, making them look like they are).
The towns of Yamba and Iluka sit one on each side of the Clarence River mouth and both also have long ocean beaches. And both are rather special places. We stopped for lunch at Yamba, then decided to drive around to Iluka to stay, as it is smaller and less developed. You may have gathered by now that we generally prefer the smaller, less touristy places when possible. Anyway the Anchorage Caravan Park at Iluka made us feel at home straight away - a very friendly place, the kind of place that people go to every year to relax and catch up with others who do the same. Right opposite the river with its own small jetty - we went over to see the sunset and
were treated to a pod of dolphins playing around in the river. Booked for 2 nights and ended up staying 4!
Had a lovely couple in the van behind us, Pat and Joan - Pat soon got us organized with fresh caught prawns for $15 a kilo from Roly a few caravans down - so guess what we had most days for lunch or dinner! Iluka was another good place to spot whales from viewing platforms strategically places along the beach. Got our bikes out and did some exploring, and took them across to Yamba on the ferry another day for a ride. Also gave our fishing rods a couple of outings (but no luck, the fish were pretty safe). A really nice spot to relax in, and again, we were a bit sorry to leave.
Next stop was Brunswick Heads for 3 nights - a really good alternative to staying in Byron Bay, as it is close enough to visit but a good distance from the busy Byron tourist hub. The caravan park was right on the river, and we could actually throw in a line about 100m from our van! This time we both caught a
fish - well, mine was big enough for an entrée but sadly Blu had to throw his back in as it was a tad small. Watched the NZ-South Africa tri-nations game in the Brunswick pub with a keen local who originated from New Plymouth.
The best thing about Byron Bay is the headland - the views from the lighthouse are panoramic and it is a great whale-watching spot, as it is the most easterly point in Australia, and so the whales pass quite close to the shore en route to the northern Queensland waters where they migrate to in winter. We saw a number of humpback whales and one passed just below us under the cliff - we enjoyed this pastime so much we had to go back for a second time, and saw more whales! It was also fascinating to watch a pods of dolphins surfing the waves at Byron Bay, a few hundred metres behind the surfies.
Did an trip up to the Mt Warning National Park, and walked about 1/3 of the way up through the rainforest, but then it started to rain (funny, that) and we got rather drenched, so abandoned our attempt to
the Clarence river mouth
Yamba and Iluka beaches flanking each side of the river mouth
climb the mountain - another time! There is some nice country inland from Byron and around Nimbin, although Nimbin itself is pretty flaky - a small mountain town full of pseudo pot-smoking “hippies”.
We stopped off at the Gold Coast for a few days and stayed at Tallebudgera Creek, between Burleigh Heads and Palm Beach. We liked this area when we had a family holiday there in 1999 - it’s a lot more low-key than the main Surfers Paradise area. The Tweed Heads Bowling Club does a great lunch for $6.50 - roast chicken and vege - oh, but if you want pumpkin it's an exta 50c! You can sit on the deck and be entertained by teams of bowlers below - magic!
Caught up with a bit of caravan maintenance and chores, and spent a great day in the hinterland area - there are a few really good national parks up in the mountains there - we visited Springbrook and Lamington. Very similar to other parts of the south eastern Australian coast - high mountains (for Australia!) covered in rainforest, dropping sharply down to the coast and the wide sandy surf beaches. We are constantly surprised how
many roads there are in Australia that wind up and down mountains in a dramatic fashion. The road to O’Reillys, and the tree-top walk through the rainforest, is particularly narrow and steep with numerous hairpin bends - Blu started to count them but he gave up after a while!
Our last day on the Gold Coast was spent with Barbara and Ian (ex-Wellington) at their Tambourine acreage homestead - had a very pleasant day there. Then it was off to Brisbane to spend a relaxing weekend with Marge and Don at their inner-city home - we had a great time catching up and a day out together on Sunday on the Brisbane River Cat. This is great value - for $4.20 you can go up and down the river stopping off at places of interest on the way. This part of our trip has been rather sociable - we had dinner with George (brother-in-law) on our last night in Brisbane before heading off to the Sunshine Coast to meet up with more friends from Wellington - but will leave this till our next instalment!
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