large_merrychristmastoyoutitle2

Merry Christmas – enjoy the holidays!

large_merrychristmastoyoutitle2

 

Hi all,

 

We’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year… and what a year it’s been!

 

We started 2015 in Cairns, where we stayed until May, working and biding our time until we had to fly home for two weddings.

 

Australia Day 2015 Cairns

 

Once we were on the road again, our task was fairly simple – explore the east coast of Australia.  After a magical visit at Paronella Park, we passed through Townsville and Mackay before heading inland to the beautiful Lake Elphinstone.

 

Lake Elphinstone 2015-05-05 038w

 

We cruised through the Central Highlands before returning to the coast. We ate beef in Rockhampton, drank rum in Bundaberg, then caught a ferry to Fraser Island. We gave the Troopy a 4WD workout at Landcruiser Mountain Park and watched the rain clouds come in on the Sunshine Coast.

 

Landcruiser Mountain Park 2015-05-16 054w

 

We spent about three weeks in Brisbane because Dave needed some medical attention, but it was great to spend time with friends in that beautiful city.  As we approached the Gold Coast, the dark clouds returned and by the time we got to the Best Of All Lookouts, we couldn’t see a thing!

 

IMG_20150612_161845

 

We crossed the border into New South Wales and bee-lined straight to Byron Bay for a few days in the easternmost town of Australia. We were lucky to get a few days of sun but the drizzle returned as we made our way to Coffs Harbour.  Finally, with some sun, we got to enjoy the beautiful coastline from Port Macquarie to Newcastle.

 

 

We enjoyed a tipple in the Hunter Valley before spending a week on the Central Coast, helping out a family with their household duties while Juz scored some work with a school holiday program in Gosford.

 

Hunter Valley 2015-06-23 038w

 

Arriving in Sydney was a little surreal. It’s the biggest city in Australia and we spent a lot of time walking around the city getting exhausted. We also have a few friends in Sydney so it was great to catch up and spend time with them.

 

Sydney 2015-07-11 030

 

We headed inland to the Blue Mountains and Central West just in time for a freakish cold front to sweep through the area. We had the pleasure of experiencing subzero temperatures and snow, as well as seeing the Dish in Parkes and exotic animals at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

 

 

With a few more friendly visits in Kiama and Milton, and a stop at the Big Merino in Goulburn, we finally visited our country’s capital. We called in at the War Memorial and National Mint and even saw our old travel buddies Tom and Bella.

 

 

Once we returned to the coast, the wet weather reappeared and we reached the Victorian border within a day or two. From then on, there was no point stuffing around – we were 4 hours from home.  On Sunday the 2nd of August, we rolled in unannounced and enjoyed a hot shower and warm bed.

 

Since our return to Melbourne, we’ve been busy.  We got jobs, reconnected with friends, and started making plans for the future.

 

We’re going to take a few weeks off to enjoy the silly season and spend time with our family and friends. We’ll see you all in the new year with more posts about the last leg of our lap around Australia, as well as our run down of Tassie later in the year.

 

Thanks for all your support,

 

Dave & Juz

 

IMG_20150802_094839

Bellingen 2015-06-19 032w

Bellingen YHA

Bellingen 2015-06-19 032w

 

Bellingen YHA is one of our favourite hostels in Australia.  It’s so laidback and homely, occupied by friendly guests, and set amongst the beautiful lush country of the Waterfall Way.  The nearby village is just as carefree, featuring a few cafes, eateries and pubs.  The atmosphere is alternative, artistic and environmentally passionate, and it’s also home to a few music festivals, like the Bello Winter Music Festival, Jazz Festival, and Folk and Bluegrass Festival.

 

Facilities

With the capacity to accommodate up to 32 guests, the Bellingen YHA is one of the smaller hostels in the country.  There are twin, double and multi-share rooms available, and if you have a big group, you can even book out the entire hostel.

 

Bellingen 2015-06-18 011w

 

The common areas include unisex toilets, a cosy kitchen with gas cooking, and a balcony overlooking the Bellinger River.  There are plenty of places to relax and enjoy the beautiful serenity of the surrounding landscape.  There’s even a lurking kitty that loves to laze around on the balcony.

 

Bellingen 2015-06-19 003w

 

To book a tour of the Dorrigo National Park or organise some canoeing along the river, just see the friendly tour desk at reception.  Also, Bellingen village is just a stone’s throw away.

 

Bellingen 2015-06-19 006w

 

Things Nearby

Within 1km

  • The Federal Hotel is barely 80 metres from the entrance to the hostel. Grab a beer or cheap meal with one of their weekly food specials.
  • 5 Church Street – 140 metres around the corner, next to a wholefoods store is a funky little eatery that hosts live music gigs and pours the local beer made by the Bellingen Brewing Company.
  • The Supermarket – there is no main supermarket in town, which adds to the charming appeal of the little village. The local IGA is located on the main street, a few doors down from the Federal Hotel.

Surrounding Attractions

  • The Honey Place – only 18 minutes away in Urunga, the Honey Place stocks honey of varying flavours, has a great display of honey bees and native bees, and you can watch a riveting documentary about bees in the back room. Definitely worth the visit, even just to see the Big Bee Hive.
  • Dorrigo – a 28 minute drive to Dorrigo is worth the trip. There’s the nearby Dangar Falls, which are a beautiful sight, and in town is the Red Dirt Distillery – apparently the only distillery in Australia to make potato vodka.  Tastings are available, so make sure you try their Nocino liqueur.
  • Coffs Harbour – just over 30 minutes up the coast is Coffs Harbour, featuring the Big Banana, the Clog Barn and Sealy Lookout.

 

The Essentials

Bellingen YHA is located behind the Federal Hotel at 2 Short Street.  There is plenty of parking available in the adjacent car park.  The reception desk is open from 8am to 7pm, check in is after 2pm and check out is at 10am.  For more information, contact 02 6655 1116, email bellingen@yha.com.au or visit the website.

 

Bellingen 2015-06-19 024w

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 010w

Explore : Coffs Harbour & the Coffs Coast

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 003w

 

We rolled into Coffs Harbour at dusk, after watching the sky change colour from Sealy Lookout.  We did a quick tour of town, bought some supplies from the supermarket and settled into the Coffs Harbour YHA with a big dinner and an early night.  Our roommates came in at around midnight but didn’t stay long because Dave’s snoring was keeping them awake.  Juz woke up not because of Dave but because our roomies were coughing and fake snoring to try and wake Dave up.  Instead of putting them out of their misery, Juz waited until they’d had enough and left the room before waking Dave up.  We had a very peaceful night after that.

 

In the morning, we rose just before sunrise and headed to Muttonbird Island.  It was a great morning walk, seeing the sun rear it’s golden head on the horizon and watching the fairy wrens play in the scrub.  Standing on the whale watching platform on the eastern side of the island was awesome, but we didn’t see any whales.  With a big day ahead of us, we headed back to the hostel, got organised and checked out before visiting the local attractions.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 038w

 

Fast Facts

  • The city’s name comes from John Korff, a shipbuilder who took shelter there during a storm in 1847. The spelling was accidentally changed by the crown surveyor when land was reserved in 1861.
  • The economy used to rely solely on bananas, but now blueberries, fishing and tourism have come into the picture.
  • According to the CSIRO, Coffs Harbour has the most liveable climate in Australia.

 

Things to See & Do

The Big Banana

One of Australia’s first big things, this legendary icon was built in 1964 and represents the area’s valued banana industry.  While it had humble beginnings, it has grown into an amusement park and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 171w

 

The Clog Barn

A little piece of Holland, right in the middle of Coffs Harbour – the Clog Barn offers clog making demonstrations, a souvenir shop and even free entry into a miniature model of a Dutch village.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 188w

 

Next door is Big Ooma’s Coffee House, which dishes out ‘Dutchstralian’ style coffee, cakes, and pancakes.  Make sure you get a photo standing in the big clogs that are fixed outside before you move on.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 186w

 

Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve

Connected to the mainland by a breakwater, Muttonbird Island is a protected reserve that’s home to a variety of bird species, including the migratory wedge-tailed shearwater, aka muttonbird.  If you miss out on seeing the shearwaters, don’t despair because there are plenty of cute and puffy fairy wrens to spot.

 

The single paved walkway leads you up to a great lookout over the city before weaving though the low growing vegetation to a whale watching platform.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 010w

 

Coffs Harbour Marina & Jetty

Coffs Harbour’s fishing industry and whale watching tours depart from the marina, but there’s also a café and Fisherman’s Co-op nearby, in case you want some super fresh fish and chips or seafood.

 

The historic timber jetty at Jetty Beach is a great place for fishing or photography, and was recently restored.  The Foreshore Park features BBQs, picnic benches and toilets.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 084w

 

Coffs Harbour Regional Botanic Gardens

This is one of the major botanical gardens north of Sydney and covers 20 hectares of Crown Land.  There are a variety of landscapes within the gardens, including a rainforest, mangrove estuary, Japanese Garden and endangered species section.  We enjoyed the sensory garden, as well as the Greenhouse, which houses a variety of bromeliads, orchids, and succulents.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 130w

 

The Forest Sky Pier at Sealy Lookout

To get to Sealy Lookout, you’ll have to travel 5km north along the highway, past the Big Banana.  Once you turn off the highway, there’s 6km of winding road leading up to the top.  The drive is slow but scenic, and the final destination offers fantastic vistas over Coffs Harbour and the coast.  The Forest Sky Pier reaches 21 metres from the mountain side and is 15 metres up.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-17 015w

 

The Honey Place

For all things sweet and sticky, visit the Honey Place in Urunga.  The entrance is a big bee hive, they have a huge variety of honey to taste, and there’s even a display of honey bees and native Australian bees.  It was fun watching the bees come and go from the hive, some returning with big yellow pollen pants.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 223w

 

If you have time, take a seat and watch the documentary about bees.  Despite being filmed in the early 80s, it’s still relevant and really interesting.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 209w

 

Nambucca Heads

A 40 minute cruise down the coast will bring you to Nambucca Heads, a holiday town with plenty to see.  There are two fantastic lookouts – Captain Cooks Lookout offers great views of the beaches on either side of the headland while the Rotary Lookout gives you a postcard picture of the mouth of the Nambucca River.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 276w

 

Down by the harbour is the Vee Wall Walk, a very colourful outdoor gallery with hundreds of breakwater rocks painted and tagged with a variety of messages and graffiti.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 282w

 

In town along Bowra Street is a wonderful three dimensional mosaic featuring whales and dolphins, an octopus and ocean waves.  The piece is called ‘The River’, is 30 metres long, and consists of old pottery, cast off tiles and knic knacs fabulously placed to make an incredible piece of street art.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 318w

 

Information & Accommodation

The Visitor Information Centre is located at the Big Banana on the Pacific Highway just north of the city.  For accommodation, we recommend the Coffs Harbour YHA.  It’s located close to town and the local attractions, and is a short walk from Muttonbird Island and Jetty Beach.  For more information, visit their website at https://www.yha.com.au/hostels/nsw/mid-north-coast/coffs-harbour/

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-17 020w

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 166w

The Big Banana, Coffs Harbour NSW

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 166w

 

The Big Banana is Australia’s first big thing!  It was built in 1964 outside a banana plantation to draw in customers but over the years, it’s grown into a massive tourist attraction and amusement park.  The Big Banana recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, and it’s such an important Aussie icon that our former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, took time out of his busy schedule to congratulate the iconic landmark on its birthday.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 171w

 

The Big Banana Fun Park includes plantation tours, a downhill toboggan ride, laser tag arena, ice skating rink, a waterslide and the World of Bananas educational experience.  There’s even a souvenir shop and café that sells banana jam and chocolate coated bananas.  During the peak tourist season, the Big Banana can receive close to 150,000 visitors, although these days, the entrance is looking a little tired.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 163w

 

Still, the Big Banana is a great Aussie icon and we were stoked to see it in all it’s big yellow glory.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 178w

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 049w

Coffs Harbour YHA

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 049w

 

We rocked up to Coffs Harbour at sunset and were overjoyed to be spending the night in a warm bed.  The Coffs Harbour YHA is clean, comfortable and spacious, and located in a convenient and quiet area that is close to the beach and Muttonbird Island.  If you’re not busy checking out the local attractions or lazing by the swimming pool, there’s plenty of awesome Australiana hanging from the walls of the common areas, and if you’re lucky, you might even get to meet Mr Kitty.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 076

 

Facilities

The Coffs Harbour YHA has 92 beds in multi-share dorms, twin or double rooms and even ensuite rooms.  It can accommodate families and groups and the rooms have keyless entry.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 061w

 

Downstairs are all the common areas.  There is a big lounge room with internet access and board games, and just outside the window is the outdoor area with picnic tables, a swimming pool and sun chairs.  Hostel surfboards, body boards and bikes are available for hire.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 058w

 

The large kitchen has gas cooking, plenty of preparation space and a large walk in fridge.  The adjacent dining room has plenty of seating and a large wall covered in blackboard paint so you can leave some words of wisdom.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-18 048w

 

Parking is available at the rear of the building and there is even a courtesy bus that can shuttle you to the city centre.  The tour desk at reception is the best place to book all your tours.  Activities include 4WD tours, whale watching expeditions and even wine tasting tours, with great discounts available.

 

Things Nearby

Within 1km

  • Supermarket – the closest supermarket is across the road, but if you’re looking for a bigger one, you’ll have to go to the city centre.
  • The Beach – a short 500m walk towards the marina will bring you to Jetty Beach.
  • Dolphin Marine Magic – previously known as the Pet Porpoise Pool, this attraction is 600m north of the hostel and is a great opportunity to meet marine animals like dolphins and seals.

Surrounding Attractions

  • Muttonbird Island – a quick 1.3km walk past the marina will bring you to Muttonbird Island, a nesting area for muttonbirds, or wedgetailed shearwaters. When they’re not around, the whales arrive and there’s a viewing platform on the far side of the island.
  • The Big Banana – 4km north of the hostel on the Pacific Highway is the Big Banana, one of Australia’s first big things. Apart from eating a chocolate coated banana from the cafe, you can enjoy tobogganing and ice skating.
  • Sealy Lookout – check out the view of Coffs Harbour from the Forest Sky Pier. It’s amazing – and worth the 11km drive.

 

The Essentials

The Coffs Harbour YHA is located at 51 Collingwood Street.  The reception desk is open from 9am to 9pm, check in is from 2pm and check out is at 10am.  For more information, contact the hostel on 02 6652 6462, email coffsharbour@yha.com.au or visit the website.

 

Coffs Coast 2015-06-17 020w