We bid a sad farewell to our very cool Cassowary friend. Okay, not really a friend since he’d happily gut you if you made him angry, but he was cool addition to our camping experience. Etty Bay was a small but beautiful little camp spot, but there really wasn’t a lot to do close by (and swimming was not an option), so it was time to hit the road.
Our next stop was the beachside town of Townsville (clever name, I know) on the Coral Sea. Since we were now rolling into Easter weekend, the campgrounds on the water were quite filled with large groups and families. We managed to score a nice spot across the street from the beach with a really nice boardwalk for strolling. Our plan was to take the ferry across the sea to Magnetic Island where we had a 4 x 4 rented (the last vehicle available on the whole island) to go explore the sights.
After a quick 20 minute ferry ride, we headed out on foot to go get the car. Before long, we were off and running before 9:00 a.m. Our first point of interest was Geoffrey Bay which is home to numerous rock wallabies. We had stopped and purchased a carrot in order to feed them an “approved” treat. Since we were there early, there were hardly any people around, so we had the experience all to ourselves. We saw momma’s with joeys in their pouch (and miscellaneous body parts hanging out at an given time) along with some youngsters. The youngsters were the most brazen of the bunch (kind of like human teenagers). They had no qualms about coming up and grabbing the carrot pieces out of our hands. At one point, I pulled my hand back to draw one closer, and he grabbed my finger with his tiny little clawed fingers and pulled my hand back towards him. They were so unbelievably cute! Oh how I wish I could bring one home!
As more and more cars flooded in, we took that as our cue to leave. We were then headed to a hike that took you through the eucalyptus forest (with wild koalas) and up to a fort used during WWII. As we drove through, both the parking lot and the overflow lot were packed full. There was nowhere to park. We decided to move along and come back for a try later.
We headed to one end of the island and a beach called Horseshoe Beach. Despite having to swim within the netted areas to avoid box jellyfish stings, the beach was packed with visitors. We wandered around a bit taking in the sights and trying to figure out our next move. We had specifically rented a 4 x 4 to check out some amazing views in hard to reach places. Unfortunately, the one road with all the best views had been closed because no one wanted to bother fixing the 3 foot deep potholes that riddled it. Such a bummer.
From there, we decided to check out the fort hike one more time. This time we lucked out and scored a spot as someone was leaving. The downside is it was later in the day and quite toasty out. The hike was only a couple of miles, but getting up to the sights of the fort was a lot of ascent on rocks and steps. We were definitely a little worn out and sweaty by the time we got to the top, but the views were amazing. From the very top, you could look out the gun slot for a full view of the Coral Sea and any approaching enemies. Along the way, we were able to spot a few koalas up napping in the trees.
We finished our exploration of the island by driving to the west end, down a 4 x 4 road to some very remote beaches. Here, there were no lifeguards or nets. We were told by the rental car agent NOT to swim here due to sharks. Yep, no problem there! Sorry, I will not be treating you to any up close and personal pictures of Great White Sharks….I know, disappointing. We quickly discovered it didn’t take long to explore the charms of this island, and after about 5 hours, we headed back to the ferry and camp.
We still had Easter Sunday booked at this campground, but we were finding that it was too far to walk to any sort of restaurants or entertainment. Other than walking the beach or sitting in the campground, that was about it. We were booked for a beach spot about 4 1/2 hours away on Monday but started discussing pulling up camp a little early. Dan made some phone calls and we lucked into a real campground (not a spot on the beach with no amenities or power) on Easter Sunday and Monday. Since we have been winging this entire trip, we have been very fortunate! Unfortunately, the campgrounds are very good about getting their money up front, so we did eat two nights in two different places by changing our plan, but it was sooooo worth it.
On Easter Sunday, we arrived in Cape Hillsborough and our spot right off the beach. This was on our list because the wallabies and kangaroos come up on the beach before sunrise to eat. They have also been known to wander the camp foraging. Here, the tidal shifts are quite dramatic, and we were warned to make sure we were attentive to the tides on our beach hikes. It was low tide when we arrived so we took a nice long stroll down the beach. The campground was packed to the gills with large groups and families yet again.
Monday morning, we were up by 5:30 a.m. and headed to the beach. The wallabies and kangaroos were already there chowing down. It was such a cool treat to watch them along with the sun coming up over the rock formations. Since the holiday weekend was over, most of the campsite had emptied out so we jumped on the chance to move to a prime spot with no one around us. The next morning, Dan decided to head to the beach once again to see the kangaroos. I opted to stay in my less than cozy bed. It worked out in my favor anyway since two kangaroos decided to hang out and graze near the edge of our camp spot!
The next day we had an extremely long drive to Hervey Bay (8 hours) which meant I had to do some of the driving too 🙁 Once we got settled in, we took a long walk on a very long pier and took in the sights. We then headed to the only restaurant open (as you can imagine, that did not turn out well). We really didn’t see much to hold our interest here, so we left the following morning and headed to Noosa Heads. This was my nightmare in living color. It was very clearly School Break. The streets became parking lots and every sidewalk was wall to wall people. We hopped out in the nature park (Dan made me….I just wanted to get as far away from the chaos as possible) and did another hillside boardwalk through the eucalyptus trees and overlooking the ocean. We covered a few miles, enjoyed the sights, and then quickly made our way out of town. In a quieter time of the year, this place looked like it could be a lot of fun.
After leaving Noosa Heads, we arrived in Alex Beach and our next campground. It was a very pretty campground with a great boardwalk that went on for miles. We took in some of the memorial sites from various wars that we found along the boardwalk. Once again, we did not find a big draw here (we had begun to find that the remainder of our journey was highlighted by very popular beach towns which really wasn’t on our “A” list of things to do and see). As I am sure you guessed, we headed out bright and early the very next morning.
The next leg of our journey would bring us to Brisbane and the chance to catch up with some very special friends. We met up with a couple that we got to know in Greece (our boats are in the same boatyard) and spent a few hours catching up over lunch. This was definitely a highlight on our journey since they had been locked down and away from their boat for the last two years. It was really great getting to catch up. Since we still had a two hour drive to our next campsite, we were forced to say goodbye sooner than we would have liked. Between road construction and traffic, our two hour drive took us 3 hours! We were now in Byron Bay.
At this point, we have come to the conclusion that we have hit all of our bucket list points of interest. We were both feeling quite worn out, very homesick (me), and not looking forward to the upcoming week of rain in our little camper van. We decided to make our way to Sydney as quickly as possible and head home several days earlier than originally planned. Before we left Byron Bay, we decided to hike to the lighthouse on the point. Now that was a rough one! No one mentioned the relentless hills and stairs that went on for miles to get to the lighthouse! Once our hike was complete, we hit the road once again.
We headed to the town of Port Macquarie for our last night of camping. This was a very nice, quiet camp area with very few visitors. The highlight of this visit was a visit to the koala hospital where orphaned and injured koalas are taken in to be rehabilitated before going back to the wild (if they can). These are koalas that were injured in the big fires or hit by cars, etc. Some of the joeys (baby koalas) go to foster homes for more intensive care. I so wanted to be a joey foster mom!
We were now on the last leg of our adventure (I bet you thought this post was never going to end)! We spent most of this drive in relentless, pouring rain…..not fun! After 4 hours, we finally arrived in the town of Clovelly. We were very excited for this part of our journey as well because we would be meeting up with a distant cousin of Dan’s whose family was from the same island in Croatia as Dan’s dad. We had never met him before, but he generously opened up his home to us and shuttled us around to some amazing areas. We started across the river from the Sydney Opera House at sunset where we were treated to a fireworks show. The next day we visited some of the very popular and famous surf beaches in the area. Once again, our visit was far shorter than we would’ve liked, but it was time to get home.
We left at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday and arrived in Phoenix at 10:00 a.m. on……Tuesday! Gotta love the international date line, now my days of the week are ALL screwed up! All I can say is that it was a magical trip, but I am happy to be home once again (even if it is for only a month). In the end, we drove over 4500 miles in a little less than 5 weeks. For those of you in the U.S., that is the equivalent of driving from Boston to Anchorage, Alaska!
For now, we will say good-bye until the end of May when we return to our boat in Greece. We hope you will join us on this year’s sailing adventures which will hopefully take us to Sicily and the surrounding islands.