Byron Bay – Our Final Stop

I’m such a fool. I am writing this after the fact, as I’ve just realised I never completed the write up of our NSW East Coast trip from February 2018. This was the penultimate destination of our 2 week long road trip, so be sure to head to the links below to check out the other places we stayed along the way. Or for those just looking to read about Byron Bay then thanks in advance for stopping by and reading up on our few days staying in this brilliant part of the world.

We arrived quite late in the day to the quaint little caravan park that is Byron Bay Holiday Park. We set up quickly then we went for a stroll spying the chook pen and swimming pool before heading into town for fish’n’chips on the main beach foreshore. The kids were the entertainment of everyone there as they chased the seagulls around, so they didn’t steal anyone’s chips. With the sun setting over the mountains across the beach to the west our first impression of Byron was, as expected, quite spectacular. I could not help but notice the multitudes of young backpackers kicking around though, I sound like such an old man saying that, but they were everywhere. This however, only added to the great vibe that is Byron Bay.

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No seagulls were harmed in the eating of the fish and chips

The next morning was the Byron Bay Market and I am never one to miss a market! Of course there was a multitude of fresh food of all kinds and all things organic, as is the Byron Bay way. By happenstance this was a bigger turnout than usual as it was celebrating a milestone birthday (I can’t remember how old), but this meant more stalls than normal and a visit from my the kids favorite ABC TV character Dirt Girl. As someone who loves the outdoors and gardening I admit I was a complete fanboy whilst the kids couldn’t have cared less and just wanted to get out of the heat. We did not buy anything from the market, instead we just enjoyed the festivities with jugglers on stilts, folk musicians, watching the the hundreds of bats flying overhead and hanging with our mates from Melbourne who were also in Byron for the day.

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I’m not gushing, you are! Shuddup!

It was super hot and thankfully we were able to leave our car on the oval where the market was, so we went straight to the main beach in town and for a swim. Amanda and I were not dressed for the water, so after a quick splash the kids spent their energy on the playground just off the main beach. Fletch was determined to master his surfing skills as Immy went after those pesky gulls trying to save everyone’s lunch. Speaking of lunch, we hit up Miss Margarita in town for some quality Mexican, only after buying ourselves matching straw hats to keep the sun out…such tourists!

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Nothing like matching hats and a family selfie to say ‘we’re not from around here!’

That afternoon we trekked from the caravan park across Tallow Creek to Tallow beach for a proper swim. Only this time none of us got into the water, rather we turned back dodging bluebottle jellys that had been washed up on the beach.

What was going to be an uneventful BBQ dinner at the caravan park turned out to be quite interesting with an unexpected visitor. A friendly kookaburra perched itself on a post near the BBQ, obviously looking for a meal to steal, so I went and grabbed the kids to come and see before it nabbed a sausage and buggered off. Still perched on his post he sat calmly as we got close and even let Immy and I pat him like a legend!

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Oh Ho how we all laughed!?

Later that night Amanda and I were lucky to survive the onslaught of mozzies that came out of know-where to ravage any exposed skin! Not to mention the orb spider as big as my hand with its web spanning the road just in front of our camper!

Our final day of the trip we decided the get the touristing done early before it go to hot and so we could relax and enjoy the final afternoon. However, the evening before we got talking to one of the caretakers and he told the kids to find him in the morning, so they could help look for eggs and so before we could go anywhere it was off to the chooks. Alas, no eggs.

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Some chooks and my Little Chicken

Byron Bay Lighthouse was the main adventure for the day making our way to the most easterly point of mainland Australia. After ticking that box, we trudged down the many many many stairs of the Lighthouse Trail. The views were amazing looking back into the town and out to the various inlets and rocky outcrops and the kids did great walking down all the many, many stairs, allowing us to enjoy it even seeing a water dragon just off the path. However, I could not help but think what goes down must come back up. As I may have mentioned there were many stairs and of course, upon the return trip the kid’s legs stopped working. Upon reflection, I’d say fair call, they had walked a lot, but at the time our legs and backs complained all the way back as we juggled the kids.

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A view like this makes carrying kids up stairs worth it!

Nothing a swim at the main beach couldn’t fix, so that’s where we headed. Only to find Amanda did not think to wear or pack bathers [facepalm]. So, whilst she walked to the shops to buy some, the kids and I enjoyed the warm, clear water and building sandcastles. By the time Amanda returned bikini clad I was buried up to my chin in mud and was glad for the reprieve, so I could swim out to the deeper cooler waters to clean off. As I made my way out I noticed all the fish swimming around the shallows, some bigger than a foot in length.

After the beach the kids had not swam enough, so we spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool chatting with some locals and letting the kids play with some newfound friends.

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Even better buddies by the end of our trip.

We spent a quiet evening together enjoying each other’s company and reminiscing on our first big adventure away in the Millennium Flamingo. It was an amazing trip and I can honestly say it brought us closer together as a family. I seriously questioned what we were thinking travelling like this with a 2 and 4 year old in tow, but it brought out the best in them and by association us as parents. We got so many compliments from the grey nomads we camped with saying how great it is to see a young family out seeing Australia in that way.

The adventure was due to stop there, but stay tuned for the next installment as I recount the disastrous drive home!

Also be sure to head back and check any of our more recent adventures, but most importantly those associated with this trip starting with Our Maiden Camper Road Trip, followed by Nelson Bay, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour.

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

Lakes Entrance & Surrounds

Ahead of our trip to Lakes Entrance we referred to a lot of forums about travelling the Great Alpine Road over Mt Hotham with the Millennium Flamingo (Jayco Flamingo). Most of the posts were absolutely against taking a caravan or even camper trailer, but we decided to give it a go anyway. Turns out is was easy for our Nissan Pathfinder to pull the Millennium Flamingo over the ranges and we got to experience one of the most spectacular drives I have ever undertaken! The road between Harrietville and Mt Hotham was steep and winding in parts, but nothing extreme. Slowing down for the many corners allows you to take in the amazing views all around as you head up the mountain.

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Danny’s Lookout Mt Hotham

After leaving Mt Hotham, we thought we may have passed the best of the scenery, but oh, how we were wrong. The rest of the drive is surprisingly flat and once reaching the point where the road follows the Tambo River the scenery goes to the next level. I had never heard of this drive before and it should be up there with the Great Ocean Road as a must for travelers. We have already decided to make a week long trip of the Great Alpine Road, but this is about Lakes Entrance so moving on.

We arrived at the Big4 Waters Edge and were presented with the smallest caravan site we have come across yet. Thankfully, there was an absolute legend of a bloke camping a couple of sites up who expertly navigated me into the site. Once I had finally set up the camper and was ready to settle down for my first beer, Amanda arrived back from getting dinner and said we were moving tomorrow! She had taken it upon herself to negotiate a new site with management after seeing our tiny site and that it was squashed up against the most foul mouthed family next door. Now I know not to challenge Amanda when she gets her back up and thankfully management was savvy enough not to either and we moved to a bigger site in a better neighbourhood the next morning.

From the gloomy shoebox on the left to sunny wide open site on the right

Therefore, day one was about exploring Lakes Entrance and with the BIG4 located in town, we had the freedom to do this on foot. Before moving sites, we headed across the foot bridge to the main beach, which was great except for the water. On the plus side, the beach was broad and covered in shells and sea treasures, enough to satisfy any nature collector (ie. Fletch and Immy), but the waves were breaking right at the shoreline, so no chance of any wading or splashing in the water for the kids. After the beach, we walked up and down town, with Amanda finding bargains in the Op Shop (as she always does) and me finding a great milkshake shack made from delicious Gippsland Jersey milk!

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Quality Gippsland Jersey Shakes

It was the caravan park though that the kids were more excited about, so they could find their new buddies and luckily across from our new site was a couple of young lads of similar age to befriend. Fletch and Immy along with their new mates were inseparable and thankfully their parents were great to get along with too!

Day two we went to explore Metung, but first was a relaxing morning as the kids and their mates run a muck riding bikes and scooters around the park. Once getting to Metung we found a great playground in the middle of town with a water play area. We had a picnic lunch whilst the kids played in the water and then in the nature inspired play ground. The town itself had little to offer in the way of shops and cafes, but the walks on either side along the waterfronts were worth going there. On one side, we walked along the rocky beach looking for natures treasures and on the other we walked along the wharf’s boardwalk admiring the boats and swarms of jellyfish in the water.

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Metung Monkeys and Wharf Piggybacks

After a quick drink at the Metung Hotel, we ventured back to the caravan park to once again relax and let the kids play with their new friends. By this stage, we had also befriended the campers on the other side of us and I immediately thanked Amanda for being her sensible self and getting management to move us to our much friendlier area.

The next day was all about the caves, Buchan Caves to be exact. Amanda and I were excited to see them and only hoped the kids didn’t need a toilet break half way through. We needn’t have worried as the kids were as mesmerised as we were, to the point where even Immy at 3 years old walked the whole of the Royal Caves and 90% of the Fairy Caves all the while agog at the amazing ancient formations. It was great to see their minds running in overdrive as their eyes were wide with amazement.  I am struggling to find the words to describe the two caves we toured, so instead I will leave it to the following select photos to show.

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Fun Fact: The Stalactites grow 1cm every 100 years

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Royal Cave’s dragon head formation

One thing I can articulate is that the tour guides were fantastic, especially making sure the kids were able to see and experience the caves to their full potential, which makes it even better for mum and dad! The Fairy Cave in particular had the kids spell bound thanks to the guide spinning yarns about fairies, even pointing out Tinkerbell who often helps him find his way out of the caves. I had both kids next to me staring in amazement and whispering with joy at seeing a real Fairy standing amongst the magic sparkling fairy dust rock formations. This all to the amusement to the rest of the tour, who melted at how cute our kids were being!

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Lore has it Tinkerbell cast a spell so no clear photo can be taken!

The drive to Buchan was about 40 minutes from Lakes Entrance so we stopped at the local pub, recently rebuilt and reopened after a fire. The place is beautiful and the food delicious, a great spot to eat if you’re in the area, but there is little else in town to occupy the tourist, so it was back to the caravan park for some socialising.

Our last few days where spent relaxing around Lakes Entrance. Our time was split between a few games of mini golf (there is three to choose from in town), an expensive paddle boat ride on the lake, more milkshakes and of course hanging about the caravan park chatting with our neighbours and letting the kids loose on their bikes. We did venture out once more to Lake Tyers Beach on our last and only true beach worthy day.

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Lakes Entrance Paddle Boats $25 per boat, but lots of fun.

On that day, we parked at the Waterwheel Beach Tavern and it was a five minute walk to the beach through the low tide lake and the sprawling sand dunes. The water again was a bit rough for a proper splash in the sea, but calm enough for the kids to get wet and enjoy it to about knee deep. The beach itself was covered in shells and Immy was extra keen to find shells to make necklaces. The previous day our neighbour’s daughters had started a ‘shell jewellery gang’ and gave a necklace to Immy, so now she wanted to join the gang! We had dinner that evening at the Tavern, the best meal of our trip, looking over the lake and the sand dunes and listening to the waves.

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Lake Tyers Beach was stunning!

Lakes Entrance could do with a couple of nice bars and/or restaurants as we had to go out of town for a decent meal (Buchan and Lake Tyers). Otherwise we found the place a great spot to take the kids and were relieved in the end that we moved sites as we come away with friends as well as wonderful experiences.

P.S. Lakes Entrance and the surrounding areas had the cleanest beaches I have seen for a while. I did not have to pick up one bit of rubbish for the whole trip!!

 

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie