Road Trip! Brisbane to Sydney (937km)

Day 1

We left Brisbane early deciding to stop in Coolangatta on our journey down to Byron Bay.

Coolangatta is the most Southernly point of the Gold Coast and is home to the official border between Queensland and New South Wales – Point Danger. We parked up near the border, where there is a Captain Cook Memorial and lighthouse, which he named Point Danger on his voyage around Australia. It was quite a strange monument but the lookout point was great and we had some fun crossing over the border line and changing time zones, adding one hour. We had officially crossed over into New South Wales. 

After looking around the area for a little bit, we hit the road again making our way to Byron Bay. We had heard lots of great things about the place and had also been told it was where ‘Thor’ (Chris Hemsworth) owned a house and could regularly be seen surfing. Unfortunately (for Lauren) we didn’t spot him during our time!

We were slightly underwhelmed first arriving in Byron Bay, walking along the coast and main street but it definitely grew on us over the two days we spent there and we ended up loving it like everyone else by the second day. It felt like a real relaxed hippy town with lots of campervans around, people playing guitars on the streets and groups selling crystals and jewellery – that sort of thing. 

We covered approximately 173km from Brisbane to Byron Bay.

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Day 2

On our second day there we were up early to walk the Cape Byron Conservation Area track to the Byron Lighthouse. It was another pretty steep walk, but some cool views and a nice way to wake ourselves up after our early start. The route also took us to the most Easterly point of mainland Australia.

Then we were both very excited to be doing something we never had before – hang gliding. It was an amazing experience soaring into the air feeling weightless like a bird. It was brilliant to fly around Byron Bay and we both had a lot of responsibility with steering the glider, which was awesome. Something we would both do again in the future!

For the rest of the day we went to the beach and then out for a Mexican dinner. While we were out walking that evening we saw so many musicians on the streets, some sounding really good and gathering a little crowd. It was like one big free music festival in the town. We stopped at a popular pub for a few drinks to enjoy some more live music, including a man with a guitar, violin and the unconventional instrument of spoons, which was interesting to say the least, and was actually pretty good. We ended our second day definitely feeling the ‘magic’ of Byron Bay.

Day 3

We ended up feeling quite sad to be leaving Byron Bay but it was time to continue our journey South onto Coffs Harbour.

We hit the road and within just over three and a half hours we were in Coffs Harbour. Before getting to our motel, we decided to be big kids and headed for The Big Banana Fun Park. We bought tickets for Laser Tag, Tobogganing and the Giant Slide – it was great fun!

Once we had checked into our motel we walked along the seafront and to the marina and jetty. It was a beautiful place. Then we had a delicious Italian dinner before the nice evening stroll back to our place and turning in for the night.

Today we covered approximately 239km.

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Day 4

Another early start hitting the road at 6.30am, we made our way to Port Macquarie. We arrived, found somewhere for breakfast and had a nice walk along the harbour where we found a display of decorated rocks stretching along the edge of the water that had been painted in interesting designs by people who visited the area. We also met someone as we were standing looking out along the water who introduced himself and was very impressed to find out that we came from the apparently ‘very famous’ place of Bedford known for John Pilgrim and the Pilgrim’s Progress – first time we’d heard that!

Next on our stop was Newcastle, where we had planned to go to The Memorial Walk, as somewhere interesting to walk as a pit stop. However, when inputting ‘Newcastle Memorial’ into Google Maps, choosing the first option from the drop down wasn’t actually the Memorial Walk but Newcastle Memorial…a cemetery. We didn’t realise this until we drove in and saw all the graves and a gathering for a funeral taking place. So, very abruptly we turned down our music, which was blaring out of the windows and tried to drive past as respectfully as we could before looping back out of the cemetery and continuing on our way. Not Lauren’s best directions. Instead, as the actual walk was another 30 minutes away and off route, we found a very boring, empty park to stretch our legs and decided to continue onto Sydney. 

We arrived around 4.00pm and met our Airbnb host, who welcomed us in and showed us around their very impressive house. One of the first things she did say to us was, “You’re not terrified of spiders are you?”, to which we responded, “not exactly terrified…” We found out that the Huntsman spiders are common here and may come into the house, so we’ll have to see if after our couple of months in Australia so far, we end up coming face to face with a ‘scary’ Australian spider, whilst here in Sydney. 

On our final day we covered approximately 525km – it felt like a long drive.

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Final thoughts

We were glad that we had a shorter distance to cover compared to our previous road trip from Cairns to Brisbane. This meant we were a bit more relaxed than last time and had more time to stay in places, such as Byron Bay. Thankfully long stretches of the highway were 110kmh (68mph) which helped cut our travel time down too.

Overall this was another great road trip experience travelling down the East Coast of Australia. There is just so much to see and do!

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Lauren’s favourite thing – Hang gliding in Byron Bay

Daniel’s favourite thing – Changing time zones from Queensland to New South Wales, within the same country

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Brisbane – Surrounding areas

During our time in Brisbane there were quite a few places we wanted to visit on the coast, most of which we hired a car to drive to in our final week. They were between one and three hours away from the city.

North Stradbroke Island or as the locals call it ‘Straddie’

We set off on the train to Cleveland to then board the ferry there for North Stradbroke Island. It was a short 25 minute journey across the water before we arrived!

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First, we got a bus to Point Lookout and were instantly stunned by the gorgeous views. We looked out to the sea and had a pod of dolphins pointed out to us, so that was something ticked off the ‘to see list’ pretty quickly! 

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After fish and chips for lunch, we set off on the North Gorge Walk and around the beaches.

As soon as we started we saw our first wild kangaroo relaxing in the shade. We went quite near him, and he made it very clear that he was not looking for company looking at us very grumpily and growling a little, so we quickly got a photo and moved on! 

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The Gorge Walk was absolutely amazing! The views were spectacular and the walk took you right up to the tops of the coastline. We saw a family of turtles in the waters but unfortunately no whales (having missed their yearly mitigation by a few weeks). We then ventured onto the beaches – Main Beach and Frenchman’s Beach – both equally as beautiful.

We were staying in an area called Amity Point, which was on the other side of the island at the top – a much less popular area to stay, resulting it being more difficult to get to without a car, which we didn’t realise before arriving.

We got there just before sunset and did the very British thing of making a cup of tea before heading out to have a look at the sea, which was under 100m from our cabin and the jetty, which was a few minute walk.

We arrived and within a few minutes spotted a few dolphins swimming by right up to the jetty, which was a wonderful experience. We saw a few more and then witnessed the wonderful sunset.

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Now came the issue of dinner. Not realising how small the area we were staying in was we thought it would be easy to find somewhere to eat – this was not the case. There were only two restaurants even in our area, and as one was closed on Tuesdays we walked to the other, to be met by a notice saying they only served food Friday and Saturday nights until further notice. Plan two was to see if there was a supermarket or store open to buy some food to cook, which we discovered closed at 6.00pm (it was now 7.30pm). We knew there were no buses running at this time so decided to call a taxi firm on the island and couldn’t believe the quote of AUS$60-70 one way to get to the busier area where we could get food. We were hungry but couldn’t justify over AUS$100 just to get to somewhere we could get food. So stuck with no way of getting anywhere without forking out a stupid amount of money, we ‘luckily’ remembered we had a couple of apples and a cereal bar each (snacks that we hadn’t eaten during the day) to have for dinner – not exactly the nice evening meal on the island we had planned.

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The next day we awoke with grumbling stomachs at 4.30am to catch the sunrise at 4:45am and try to spot some dolphins around the jetty, which we did. It was lovely to see the dolphins again so close and with no one else around too.

Then as soon as we could, we headed in search of a big full English breakfast, which was the best breakfast I think we’d ever had because of how hungry we were. 

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Despite our unexpected events of the evening, we had a great couple of days on Straddie.

The Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is 57km long and is made up of many beautiful beaches and suburbs with skyscrapers scattered along it. 

We visited Burleigh Heads and headed to the National Park, heading to the lookouts and completing the ocean track walk.

Another beautiful place and the first time we’d ever seen a beach, and well sea, with a road in the middle.

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We also went to Surfers Paradise, the most popular area of the Gold Coast and it felt what we would imagine California or Miami to feel like. It was very metropolitan, cool and trendy, full of surfers and people with very tanned and good looking beach bodies.

Noosa National Park

We were up at the crack of dawn (4.30am) to make the early drive to Noosa. We knew it was a couple of hours drive and wanted to avoid the traffic. We had also read that parking could be quite difficult so thought being there really early would be a good idea. What is really early to us, 7am, is apparently not for the residents and visitors of Noosa National Park as the place was already packed and there were only a few spaces left at this early hour. So feeling very lucky we had arrived so early, we set off for the coastal track. It was another beautiful walk with stunning views.

Afterwards, we grabbed a smoothie in the town and enjoyed walking around. It was one of (if not the) favourite place of ours in Australia so far.

The Sunshine Coast

Caloundra

We arrived in Caloundra after a very early start and busy morning around Noosa National Park. Caloundra has four beaches and we headed straight for Kings Beach and a dip in the sea. It was a gorgeous beach and having a swim in the sea was lots of fun. Then with what was becoming a bit of a tradition with our beach days, we grabbed some fish and chips and ate them by the coast – another beautiful day.

We also visited Coolangatta (part of the Gold Coast) on the journey down to Byron Bay, which will be in the next blog.

Final thoughts

Both the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast were full of great places to see, including a lot of lively coastal towns. Everywhere we visited we loved and there were so many more we didn’t get to see. A nice contrast to our few weeks in the city.

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Lauren’s favourite thing – Swimming in the sea at Kings Beach, Caloundra

Daniel’s favourite thing – Visiting Noosa Heads

So that’s it for Queensland and hitting the road for New South Wales and Sydney…

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Brisbane City

We arrived in Brisbane very excited to see what the city had to offer. We were staying in a suburb about 15 minutes drive away from the centre, called Windsor. We got to our apartment and were so happy with it – our favourite place so far! A really spacious and light apartment with a balcony, and a really homely feel to it.

Highlights of our time in Brisbane City

Wilson Outlook Reserve

We made our way to this spot after reading it was one of the best to see the sunset over the skyline of Brisbane. We got off the ferry at Sydney Street and walked there at about 5.30pm and waited for night to fall to get some great views and photos. In Brisbane the sunrise at this time of year is usually at 4:45am and sunset is around 6:00pm, so pretty early compared to the UK late Spring. It was well worth the wait.

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Botanical Gardens

We continue our unexpected tour of Australias Botanical Gardens visiting Brisbane’s one a few times to wander around and enjoy our lunch. It was a beautiful space with great walks and it was really interesting to see the contrast of big skyscrapers and all the foliage of the gardens together. 

Cityhopper ferry service

Brisbane City Council offers a number of free transport services across the city. One of them is the Cityhopper which is a free ferry service that runs along the Brisbane River from North Quay to Sydney Street, near Story Bridge. The views from the ferry along the river were great and even better that it was a free ride along the river! 

Open mic night

While exploring Windsor and Ludwyche (the areas we were living) we saw that our ‘local’ called the Crown Hotel had Open mic nights every Friday. We decided to spend a Friday evening there listening to lots of great performers and having a couple of schooners of beer – an Australian measurement we were very confused by but have now learnt is about 3/4 of a pint.

Elizabeth Picture Theatre

We were both very excited to go and see Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindlewald. We decided to ‘up’ the experience and go and see it in the ‘Royal Rooms’ of a local theatre, where the chairs were fully reclining with a table and waiter service to your seat. We had mixed feelings about the film but absolutely loved the cinema! 

Mount Coot-tha

After going to the summit and cafe at the top of Mount Coot-tha before, we wanted to head back again but this time to climb to the top. We set off on the trail completely unprepared for how tiring it would be. It was over 6km and (understandably) very steep! By the top we were completely knackered but stopped to take in the views and then enjoyed the easier walk back, now downhill. 

Eat Street

Eat Street was somewhere we had been wanting to go to the whole time we’d been in Brisbane and finally managed it on our second to last night with two friends from back home, Grace and Mark. It was an awesome place with lots of market stalls, food stalls with cuisine from all around the world, bars and live music. There was almost too much choice with food and after the four of us wandered around for ages trying to decide we went for a Hungarian Langos, which was like a pastry pizza. A fun experience and great to spend time with friends from back home. 

 

Southbank Parklands

Sunday Social

We spent a Sunday afternoon here walking through the boardwalk areas, along the river and gardens. After which, we stopped to enjoy a few hours on the grass with our books and some relaxing live music – a perfect Sunday afternoon. The Sunday Social is a weekly music event in Brisbane.

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Streets Beach

Streets Beach is Brisbane’s answer to the coast – a beach and pools in the city. The beach areas are gorgeous and the pools huge. We were first there on a Friday and it was packed, especially in the late afternoon with people finishing work and then coming to enjoy, we even saw someone jump in the pool in his work clothes! We spent a couple of days here on the beach and in the pool – an ideal way to relax and cool off in the city.

Art galleries

Southbank is host to a couple of art galleries (great news for Lauren); the Art Gallery of Modern Art and the Queensland Art Gallery. Unfortunately the Art Gallery of Modern Art was mostly closed off as they were setting up for their latest exhibition. This didn’t bother us as the Queensland Art Gallery was much better and we spent about an hour walking around the gallery. It had a really varied collection of artwork and Lauren found a painting she really loved. 

The West End

The West End area is filled with cool restaurants and cafes and whilst there we stumbled across a vegan festival, where we stopped to enjoy lunch. We also visited a cool second hand book store called Bent Books. Spending lots of days outside on beaches, in gardens and parks we were getting through lots of books, which we were loving!

 

Lauren’s Birthday

We couldn’t believe after hoping to enjoy a hot and sunny birthday for the first time in November, that on the day of Lauren’s birthday it was thunderstorms and rain all day! Luckily the rain did stop by the evening and we enjoyed a delicious Turkish dinner at Mado’s Turkish Restaurant on the Riverbank and some great live music and drinks at Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall. 

As the weather was better the day after that’s when we went for the Brisbane Greeters Tour around the city and for the Escape room experience at Quest Room Brisbane. 

Brisbane City Greeters 

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Brisbane City Greeters is a tour company run by enthusiastic volunteers in the area who give up their time to give you a free tour of the city. It was a great way to get to know the area and to learn about Brisbane’s history. 

We learnt that Queensland did not actually become a state until 1859, which got its name as a condition from England’s Queen Victoria. The roads in the centre are also named after British royalty with the male streets running one way and the female the other. The history of the city was really interesting considering how young it is, for example, the oldest buildings in Brisbane are from 1828 and 1829 and in 2009 the city celebrated being only 150 years old.

We had been hearing about some of the extreme weather conditions Australia has to contend with since being here and learnt more about the floods that had affected Brisbane. The most recent being in 2011 where thousands were evacuated. The worst however being many years before in 1893 where the river rose over seven metres and the Victoria bridge and Indooroopilly bridge were even washed away. 

We spent around three and a half hours wandering around the city, grabbing a coffee and taking a quick ferry ride on the City Hopper. Overall a worthwhile experience and one we’ll look to do in other cities.

Quest Rooms

We had enjoyed doing escape rooms back in the UK and loved this one too. It was a lost tomb experience and we had to make our way through the dark tomb with only hand held lamps working out lots of codes and puzzles to release a golden statue. It was lots of fun and we escaped, with six minutes to spare! 

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Meeting family

We were lucky enough to have two cousins and partners of Liz’s (Lauren’s Stepmum) living in Brisbane, Michael and Myra, and Des and Shunny. 

Michael invited us round for lunch during one of our first days. Michael was kind enough to come and pick us up and bring us to his house and much to our surprise had invited Des and Shunny to join us. We enjoyed lunch and then a trip up Mount Coot-tha where we got to see across Brisbane and were treated to a drink in the cafe overlooking the city. We had a wonderful afternoon meeting and getting to know them.

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We spent another couple of evenings out for dinners with Des and Shunny and also met their son Daniel and his partner Caroline. It was lovely spending time with them during our stay and hearing more of a locals guide to Brisbane and the surrounding areas. 

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On another day we were taken to Boonah, a country town about an hour from Brisbane City and met some of Michael and Myra’s friends and had a great day seeing some of the sights of Boonah including Karoomba Winery and Moogarah Lake. 

Something we didn’t expect to be doing travelling – attending a children’s birthday party! Daniel has a cousin Matt, who lives in Manly, a coastal part of Brisbane and we were invited to his daughters fifth birthday party, who we had never met before. It was a gorgeous afternoon spent in an outside area of yacht club, having drinks, food and getting to meet all the family and their friends too. 

We also spent our last day in Brisbane with them going to Manly Yacht Club and Manly swimming pool, which was lots of fun, followed by a BBQ back at the house. 

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We felt really lucky to have had some family time here in Brisbane and meeting so many great people we hadn’t before. 

Final thoughts

Brisbane is a fantastic city with lots going on. There are so many great places to eat and drink and loads to do. We used public transport a lot during our time and it was always so quick, on time, and cheap. We were really impressed! 

The Southbank area near the river in particular was a highlight, with such a beautiful walk around, the restaurants, galleries, music and Streets Beach. 

Lauren and Daniel’s favourite thing – spending time with family