Members Trips

stories from Australia


Whales & Waterfalls Walkabout - October 2006

by Neil, Tania & family


New England Panorama

We needed a holiday, we needed one bad! We had done the South Coast trip in 2005, and even though there is still plenty to see down the South coast, we decided to head North this time around. We had been North many times before, but always passing through, or just going to a single spot and sitting for a week etc, I like to tour a bit so we mixed a bit of both into this trip, and some caching of course.

    This was also our first holiday with "Larry" our NL Pajero doing the towing, even though we have had him for over a year now, he's never done a full trip, with the camper trailer, just weekends etc so it was going to be interesting to see how he went.

Day 1 - Home to Indian Head - Crowdy Bay National Park

    We had decided that as it was both the beginning of school holidays, and a long weekend, we would leave on the Sunday and avoid the usual mass exodus that heads away from Sydney. This was a good move and by 8:15am we were on our way North via the new M7 with very little traffic.

    We stopped at the twin servos on the freeway above Gosford for a quick second breakfast, the car park was full and the few parking places for trailers were taken up by cars, I sat and waited for a car to move out and just when I was ready to pull in, another car decided it would drive in. Some words were exchanged, there were a number of single car spaces available, and, I won out and was able to park.

    Our next stop was at Bulahdelah, this was where we did our first cache, and even if you don't cache, the location is an interesting place to stop. That massive stone mountain that looms over the town to the east was once a busy mining area for a mineral called Alumite. This substance was shipped to England and used to make toothpaste, there are some nice picnic areas and some lovely walks that show you some of the remains of this mining, well worth the 5 minute detour off the road, signs point the way.

    We were going to detour up via Forster but time was already running short so it was straight up the highway. We turned off not far up from Coopernook, the road is dirt for a lot of the way but not too bad, we arrived at Kylies Beach camping area and had a quick look around, read the sign we had to go to the main camping area to pay before setting up, so out we went and drove up to the Diamond head camping area. $19 for the night for the 5 of us, plus, I got a 2 year NSW Country parks pass as our pass had recently expired.

    There was no room at this camp area so we wandered back down to the middle camp area; Indian Head, it was also quite full but we managed to find somewhere quiet to setup. Good toilets here, quite a bit of room, when there are not so many people camping there like this weekend. I took the kids for a long walk around the headland track and got back to camp just on dark.

    It was here I noticed that the end of the 12 volt plug on the 3 way fridge had melted out of shape, it was still working, but made it a bit interesting to try and get a good connection.

    When we left in the morning, so did about half the people staying, the rest were obviously there for the school holidays.

Day 2 - Indian Head - Crowdy Bay National Park to Coffs Harbour

    After packing up, we drove the short distance up to Laurieton, did a cache in town and drove up to the lookout on top of the mountain called North Brother. The views from both sides of this mountain are just awesome! Well worth the slow climb up the steep road with the camper trailer on, we also did the cache that was up there as well.

    Northwards we continued, up to Port Macquarie where it was we saw our first Whales of the trip, we walked up to the lighthouse lookout and just as we topped the rise, there were a number of whales breaching not far off the coast, just spectacular! We did a cache or two before heading into town to find some lunch for us and Larry. On this trip, I decided to try Larry on the premium stuff, I don't think it made that much difference really, maybe a slight difference in economy for the better.

    With everyone full, we did the highway run straight up to Coffs Harbour. On the way up, Tania did a couple of calls to find somewhere to stay. One place was $37 a night for a powered site, the other $50 a night, we went and checked out the $37 a night park, not a chance in hell would I stay there, so, reluctantly, I forked out $100 for 2 nights. A very nice park though, really well setup for kids too, not too many people around so not over crowded, though, a couple of nights before, some people had some stuff stolen from there camps.

Day 3 - Coffs Harbour

    Today we did the Porpoise Pool and the Butterfly House / maze and the odd cache here and there. I did some fun 4WD stuff up in the hills of Coffs late in the afternoon and we generally had a good time. Kids spent some time in the pool, which was not heated, but the kids did not care. We used the free BBQ's provided, ate in the large communal kitchen, and the kids spent some time watching TV in the TV room.

    We have started to use TomTom navigation software as well, we knew where we were going town wise, but, TomTom makes it so easy to find stuff in a town, it helps us find supermarkets, places to eat, petrol stations, caravan parks etc, very handy.

    Tomorrow we were heading inland.

Day 4 - Coffs Harbour to Little Styx River

    As usual, we took about 2 hours to get up, have breakfast, pack up and get underway, it seems to be about the average amount of time it takes us to do this and as usual, we always seem to wake up around 6am so we are usually gone by 8ish.

    We headed back down the coast a bit to turn inland to Bellingen, Dorrigo and Ebor. The entire way as we climbed up and up along the waterfall way, we were misted in and it was quite nice, all the waterfalls were flowing really well and it made for a beautiful drive. As we topped the mountain, you can turn off to a lookout on the left about a 5k drive, a nice spot, though, we could not see too far in the misty conditions.

    Just before Dorrigo, we headed out to the Skywalk that the National Parks have setup above the rain forest, a pretty spot and again, quite fogged in so we could not really see too far. The National parks centre here is really well setup with interesting displays and nice walks etc.

    We drove into Dorrigo, grabbed some hot pies and headed out to the nearby Dangar Falls. These were much bigger than I expected and were really spectacular to view, we sat and ate our pies and were just getting ready to leave when we could here a strange noise, to me it sounded a bit like a steam train. I was not far wrong, a few moments later, a rubber shod steam engine chugged into the car park, all 10 tonnes of her.

    After checking her out, we were back on the road heading for Ebor and the falls that are there, just like the previous falls, these were really flowing as well, and I don't think I have ever seen them with this much water flowing over them, just awesome. We did the cache there and then we were back on the road once more, we detoured out to Cathedral Rocks National Park for a look, no time to do the walk, but we had lunch there and checked out the camping area. On the way in, we spied a rather thin looking dingo. Back out to the main road and it was not far to our destination for the night, the free campsite beside the Little Styx River. This is right next to the turn off to the New England National Park and it's a pretty spot.

    We setup near the river and had dinner, the temperature was starting to drop as we were at an altitude of over 1300mtrs, we had a low of 1 degree which was a bit chilly compared to the last few nights. We sat around the fire which took the chill off the evening.

Day 5 - Little Styx River to South West Rocks

    As it was so chilly when we woke up, 1.5 degrees, we opted for sleeping in and did not leave until around 10am, which was quite late for us, plus, I had a had a bit of a chat with some of the other camper trailer owners that were staying there while we waited for the underfloor sheet to dry a bit. We had a few km's to do today, but we still found time to drive the short distance into the New England National Park to take in the stunning panoramic views from the lookouts there, some of the best I have ever seen with multiple shades of blue mountains in the distance. If you are ever out this way, it was one of my highlights of the trip, the views were just amazing.

    Back out to the Waterfall Way and westwards once more, our destination was Wollomombi Falls and Gorge, not far from Armidale. We arrived with high expectations of good flows over the falls, especially with how well Ebor and Dangar falls had been flowing the day before. The gorge is just amazing, and the falls were flowing, just not at their full potential, but still, beautiful just the same, oh, we did the cache here as well.

    Time to start heading back towards the coast, so we turned onto the Armidale-Kempsey road, approx 130k's, including around 80k's of winding dirt. This was slow going, but very scenic. Most of the dirt road on the long descent down to the Macleay river is single car width with the odd spot just wide enough for 2 cars to pass, we did not see any other cars on this stretch so it was an easy run. The dirt surface is in very good condition and was fun to drive.

    Once we had descended down to the river level, we stopped in to a camp area here, used the toilets, made fun of the cows that are wandering around the campsites and kept heading towards Kempsey. We eventually stopped at a nice riverside rest area beside a big bridge, nice and shady, but I think we picked up some ticks here from the long grass as I had a big one crawling up my arm a short while later.

    We finally arrived in Kempsey, did some shopping and fed Larry once more, then headed out to South West Rocks where we were going to stay for 3 nights. After we were setup, we went to the local club for a bistro dinner, words cannot describe just how bloody good that was! Not a single dish could be criticized, and I had 4 platefuls! Just brilliant!

    It was here we discovered just how much you can get penalized for having kids, just a total blood ripoff!

Day 6 - South West Rocks

    Don't want to think about how much a powered site costs here, especially if you have kids, argh! And, not as nice as the Coffs Harbour park! We were up early and we took the kids down to the beach near the Gaol, they had a great time with their boogie boards and afterwards we headed out to the Lighthouse for a wander. That afternoon we headed back out to the highway and did a cache up in the forests to the North West of Kempsey and then wandered up to Scotts head for a look, here we saw more whales off the coast, even though it was blowing a gale, the kids still had fun on the beach.

Day 7 - South West Rocks

    Once again up early and we headed South down to Hat Head, a nice small town about 27km's from South West Rocks, big caravan park here with some just awesome views up and down the coast from the various vantage points available. The only downside I can see to the caravan park is that it has public access through it to the beach, so anyone can drive or walk through it.

    Whilst the kids played on the beach, I walked about 5 km's to do a couple of caches on the main headland here. Whales and dolphins where playing in the crystal clear water off the beach which was nice.

    In the afternoon, we caught up with some friends who live in SWR who we had not seen in years, then went to the Shell Shop and back to camp for a pool session and a spot of tennis.

Day 8 - South West Rocks to Maitland

    OK, we did not intend to stay the night in Maitland, but that is what we ended up doing. The plan was to drive down the inland route via Buckets Way and then enter Chichester National Park and stay the night in there, it did not happen quite that way.

    We were up early as usual and were on our way a bit after 8am, stopped off in Kempsey to feed Larry and we headed South, turned off the highway to Wauchope, passed Timbertown and went through Comboyne and detoured out past Elands to the spectacular Ellenborough Falls. A highly recommended detour, the falls are just awesome and there is easy access to get a good view of the falls, there is even a kiosk at the falls.

    Usually, after about half an hour of driving, I get my son to check the fridge is working, this time it was not, so I gave the bodgee melted plug a wiggle and we drove for a while and he checked again, still no go. I repeated this a few times before I finally decided to test the socket by plugging in a USB charger that has a light on it, dead socket, hmmm. What bloody fuse controls THAT socket? I found it and sure enough, it had blown, I had spare 15amp fuses so it was fixed in no time. Still not sure why the plug melted or why it decided to blow the fuse.

    We then continued South through Bobin, Marleeto and Wingham where we had our usual late lunch, then South West to Krambach and West to Gloucester. We arrived a bit late, and stopped off for essential supplies like ice creams ;-) By this time, I decided it was just too late to drive down and out to the National Park, look around and then find a place to camp before dark. We decided to try the local caravan park, which is quite nice from the brief stay we had.

    We settled on a nice clear spot to setup, unhooked the trailer, put the back legs down after levelling it, took the top off, laid the underfloor down, and then, without warning, we were hit by 70+ KM/PH winds! So, we just hung onto the floor and the top of the camper which we were just about to open. We stood there for 10 minutes watching other tents collapse and campsites get blown further into the caravan park.

    It was then that the youngest of our daughters found a large tick in her hair. Tania headed off to see if she could borrow a pair of tweezers from the office. I waited around as we had placed the cover back over the top of the camper. I ended up borrowing a pair from a nearby camper who had tied his tent to his car to stop it from blowing away. Tick removed, we looked to the South, and there was a huge wall of cloud coming our way and visibility was dropping quickly in that direction. Looked like a lot of rain coming our way, so, I made the choice to pack up fully and we would just drive either home, or, to Tania's sisters at Maitland. All we had to do was get our money back, which we did and we set off towards Maitland.

    During this part of the trip, the eldest of the girls found a tick in her hair, so we stopped off in Stroud and got a pair there and removed it easily. If you are passing through Stroud, take the time to wander up to Silo park which is on a hill to the west, interesting history up there which I will leave up to you to investigate. Then it was on to Raymond Terrace for a slap up meal at Maccas. Today was Tania and my 18th wedding anniversary and I never imagined it would be a dinner of Maccas, but, so be it, I'll make it up to her next year. We then headed onto Tania's sisters house for the night.

Day 9 - Maitland to Sydney

    An uneventful trip home via the Central Coast doing a bunch of caches along the way and arrived home around 5:30pm. Am yet to still fill Larry back up, but we used an average of 17.10 L/100KMs with each KM costing us around 21.8 cents per km. This was with a mix of towing on tar and dirt, some off road fun without the camper, and touring without the camper. We travelled just under 2000km's on this trip and I was pretty happy with the way Larry travelled with the camper. He's not the fastest up hills when towing and you really have to work the auto box like a manual, but we are looking forward to our next trip.