Time to start heading south…something we’ve found extremely hard to do! The Mid North Coast has been an absolute highlight of our trip so far, the coastline is beautiful and full of little gems. In saying this, we could not wait to get on the road and start exploring some new coastline.
Chocco arrived on another moody NSW day so we decided to spend a few days chilling out in my newest hometown checking out the sights. We wanted to camp and Chocco wanted to charge our poor second battery so we opted for our first “Van Packing” experience, as the name suggests we got to camp in Bluey while using hostel facilities (including their wall plug to charge the battery), thanks YHA Newcastle!
With accommodation sorted we decided to repeat our usual trick and head in the opposite direction to our intended destination…to Port Stephens, an hour north of Newcastle for a day trip. Of course, what was supposed to be a relaxing day trip turned into an epic spearo fisho misho after Chocco spotted a guy carrying his newly speared Flathead who said “yea there’s heaps out here in the green weed” so it was a day on the beach for me while Chocco explored every inch of Shoal Bay. At 6:30pm I was about to take myself to dinner when the Misho Man appears not with a fish but enough sense to suggest getting Thai. After a full belly, we decided to head back to Newcastle to sleep, get our washing and battery.
Take off south? Naaa, Chocco was desperate to catch a flathead and I was not complaining about another beach day in such a beautiful place, so off we headed. Did I mention a fish farm net had busted and there were 20,000 king fish in the area, ready to be caught?…help us! Ever persistent Chocco came in for lunch with THE BIGGEST whiting I’ve ever seen and I ate THE BIGGEST whiting I’ve ever seen. I’d call that a win win situation…probably just for me.
We decided to free camp in Port Stephens and get up in the morning to hike Mt Tomaree and what a good decision that was. The views from here were definitely worth the steep climb up. So good in fact we spotted a little bay we hadn’t explored so we made our way down and around to Zenith beach before continuing around the point for brekkie at Fingal Bay. It was probably about time we started heading back south…we’d organised to have dinner with friends Foxman and Lisa SOUTH OF SYDNEY, so like the responsible people we are…we thought we best just check out Fisherman’s Bay too (closer to the site of said kingfish) and then it was time to head into Newcastle for lunch for one last Acai Bowl…our new favourite treat, before heading over the bridge!
Crossing the bridge was my grand idea and of course our lack of self-restraint (and detour for Acai bowls) meant that we were now crossing the bridge in peak hour traffic…I LOVED IT, Chocco kept calm despite probably thinking of ways to dump my body for making us cross over the bridge.
The traffic was second to none, but we made it out the other side alive and into the sanctuary of southern NSW. One of the most unexpected drives we’ve had to date. Out of the craziness and into long winding roads that cut along the side of spectacular mountains, dense green bush and towering trees. The Seacliff Bridge was phenomenal, taking you straight out over the ocean before sending you into little towns between the mountain and the sea.
It was here that we met Foxman for an “expression session” 3-wave surf before dinner (an idea of how long it took to get through Sydney) at Sharkies Beach…apparently no sharks!
Our first morning in Bulli, we headed for a surf at Stanwell Park…a big boys wave so I sat this one out. Chocco came in with a blue bottle sting but he toughed it out as we headed up to Bald Hill to look out over Stanwell Park and the Seacliff Bridge. Foxman suggested we hike up Sublime Point in the afternoon, so we took off at 4 and dear lord…the most challenging 1km we’ve done yet, but the views from the top were yet again AMAZING!
We were due to get the train up to Sydney to visit friends, but first it was out to Port Kembla for a surf on the south side of Wollongong. We were met with an awesome little wave, beautiful views and a beach that felt just like home with white sand, clear water and sand dunes in the background.
It was then time to jump on the train back up to Sydney for a few days (we were scarred from our last driving experience in the big smoke). Our first night was with Bunga, who we madly crossed the gulf to meet in Cairns, and Ellen for Bunga’s birthday. We had drinks at an old pub, ate chicken butts, hearts and gristle among other things and finished with secret laneway bar…so Sydney.
The next few days in Sydney we spent with our tourist pants on heading to Bondi for a swim, Dee Why to see my beautiful friends Lucy and Benat, Circular Quay to take photo’s at the Sydney Harbour Bridge with every man and their dog and jumping on the Manly ferry to check out the sights. It was a whirlwind few days with great friends and amazing food but we were so excited to head back to Bluey and continue south.
Our first stop south was 5 minutes down the road at the Growers Market in Bulli to restock for our road trip. Chocco also restocked his wardrobe with some more cool shirts that he really needed and I restocked my stomach with food I definitely needed. Then we were off headed for Pretty Beach, half an hour south of Ulladulla. The drive down was again, stunning. We passed through little towns such as Kiama, Jervis Bay and Ulladulla and wound our way through rolling hills and deep green bush while overlooking the coast.
We reached Pretty Beach in the afternoon and decided to book for one night first…we didn’t want to overcommit to something so life changing. We were met with the friendliest kangaroo’s, a lot of them, who lounged around as we camped. We headed down the beach for a swim and called it a night…that was until a possum rudely woke Chocco (I was still drooling), he decided to clean up the left overs in our camp oven and use it as a swing.
On our first morning at Pretty beach we were due to head for a surf when we thought we’d be responsible adults for once and book another two nights…of course our lack of commitment meant that someone had now booked our site. Unfortunately we’d overcommitted to our camp set up so we faced a morning of camp moving and no surfing. To the rescue came the lady in the van who booked our spot…her friends didn’t like the beach front/no power location so change of plans WE WERE OFF FOR A SURF!!!!
Surf spot found, surf successful for one of us (not me) before we headed back to our camp for brunch and the discovery that said possum had also decided to try our new loaf of bread.
The rain that threatened, set in by our second night and while I’m proud of our little tent for staying, mostly waterproof I was even more proud of Chocco who relaxed, and read books throughout the next morning while we waited in the rain. As the rain eased by lunch, action man was out of the tent faster than a man running over hot coals (or me eating lunch) and down the beach for a swim. As the afternoon turned into a beautiful sunny day again, we decided to go for a bush walk to Snapper Point and around to Merry Beach, just north of us. The headlands along here were beautiful and beach was unreal.
The surf back at Pretty Beach was looking good, so we wandered back, Chocco made a curry and then hit the surf while it slow cooked on the fire…who says men can’t do two things at once!
Pack up morning is always hard, especially when we find these amazing spots but we pushed through and said our goodbyes…it was made a little easier knowing we were headed for MY most anticipated stop yet TILBA!! Home of River Cottage and my dream farm. We got our detective hats on…and google’d the address of River Cottage, devastation set in when we couldn’t make it past the front gate (we’re not stalkers) but it was THE BEST DAY EVER none the less. We headed into Central Tilba to check out the awesome little town. We restrained ourselves from buying everything in the cheese factory, had a pie at bakery, Devonshire tea at the café, beers at the local pub and headed for the fudge factory before continuing on south…supporting local business (and food) is what we’re all about.
We made our way towards the border of NSW/VIC through so many little towns and ended up in Eden for a swim at the most Southerly Ocean Pool in NSW before crossing into Victoria in the afternoon. Our aim was to make it to Lakes Entrance, however our long stop in Tilba meant we were on the hunt for a camp a bit sooner. Chocco came through with the goods, finding us a little “free if you have a beer” camp at Bellbird Inn just south of the border, our bartender…an outspoken, fair dinkum Aussie grandma. Chocco treated me to vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce for Valentine’s Day whipped up by herself the bartender. What a day!
We were up early, our destination for today Wilson’s Promontory National Park. First things first a morning surf at Cape Conran…this place was like something out of a surf movie! People rolling in, all sorts of vans, making their way down the little sand path either about to jump in or having post surf brekkie. It was a special spot, we got some great waves, awesome views and met organic farming enthusiast Chris.
Onwards to Sale through the winding roads of Lakes Entrance and Bairnsdale, here we raided the local Aussie Disposals for all their cheapest, nastiest hiking gear in preparation for our overnight hike to the most southern tip of Australia. I convinced Chocco not to use an empty goon bag as a pillow and he convinced me to buy the $40 tent rather than the $20 one…teamwork!
We had a brief visit from Chocco’s friend and racecar driver Davey T before making our way to our camp at Shallow Inlet Campground just outside the National Park. Here we packed our backpacks and strapped as much as we could to them ready for the morning’s adventures.
Our first overnight hike and final mainland extremity here we come!