The next stop on our journey to Cairns was Coffs Harbour. Another town which is often bypassed on people’s East Coast trips.
Hoey Moey was the hostel we stayed in for the 2 nights we were there. This is a working hostel, popular with construction workers and farm workers. It is also just a 1-minute walk from the dorm rooms to the beach!
Let’s Go To The Beach
As the temperature had started to improve since leaving Sydney and travelling North we decided to make the most of our prime location and spent our first day exploring the beaches. We went on a walk, following the coast to see where we ended up while trying to catch a bit of a tan. Although we considered the low 20 degrees temperatures hot enough for the beach clearly no one else had the same idea – we had the whole beach practically to ourselves.
Not only was the hostel in the perfect location, it also had a bar, restaurant and bottle shop on site. After getting something cheap from the restaurant on our first night, we found the cheapest ‘goon’ we could get our hands on and played card games in the dorm room.
The following morning we experienced our first proper wildlife encounter since being in Australia. As I stepped out of the dorm room I noticed a reptile just by the door frame. At first, I could only see the head and thought it was a snake, but as it wriggled under the brickwork I saw legs. We later found out it was a blue-tongued lizard.
The Big Banana of Coffs Harbour
After that excitement, we decided to walk to the ‘big banana’. We had heard about this bright yellow banana statue a few times in conversation and felt that we had to see it for ourselves. The walk from the hostel to the banana took a while but it was worth the effort.
It turns out that the Big Banana statue is part of a waterpark and gift shop which features loads of banana inspired souvenirs. Although we didn’t go to the water park we did get a picture with the banana. Australia seems to have a lot of weird items enlarged into statue form. Since we’ve been here we’ve seen a big banana, a big boot, a big kangaroo and a dog. All with no real connection to the area around them.
That evening we ventured into the harbour and had some gourmet burgers while we sat outside around an open fire. Apart from inhaling some smoke, the burgers were tasty! We went back to the hostel shortly after for an early night. The next morning we had a 4 am wake up before our next adventure… Surf Camp!
Overall, our time in Coffs Harbour was short but sweet. I can imagine this town would be incredible in the summer months. Especially with the hostel being so close to the endless stretch of beaches. We were also told that Coffs Harbour is a great surfing spot so we would definitely look into hiring some surfboards if we ever go back.
When we started our East Coast trip back in July 2016 our first stop was Port Macquarie. This stop, around 6 hours on the Greyhound from Sydney, is often missed by backpackers eager to get to Byron Bay. However, in our 3 days here we squeezed in a lot of what this small beach town has to offer and were sad to leave so soon.
Our 6 pm departure from Sydney saw us arriving in Port Macquarie at around midnight. Just a short walk from the bus station brought us to Ozzie Pozzie, the beach themed hostel we would be calling home for the next few nights. The reception was closed but a small envelope with our room key was in a prearranged hiding place for our arrival. Being the first and only people in the hostel room we quickly claimed the bottom bunks and went straight to sleep before a day of exploring this unknown town.
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital
That morning we woke up early and headed to reception to introduce ourselves and see what there was to do in Port Macquarie. Luckily, there was plenty to keep us busy for the next three days so we quickly got ready and walked to the beach front. Although July is considered one of Australia’s coldest months and by no means peak season the 5 kilometres of beaches between the town centre and the popular lighthouse were still picturesque and inviting. After strolling along a few of the bays we decided to head inland to discover the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.
This free sanctuary for rescued koalas is home to a range of furry tree huggers too injured to be released back into the wild as well as some in recovery who will be reunited with their koala friends. There are many cute koalas who are partially or completely blinded by Chlamydia which is a common disease that affects their eyes. As well as this, Koalas are commonly injured by bushfires and cars. Although this hospital helps save the lives of hundreds of koalas it also teaches of the damage humans are doing to koala populations which have massively depleted in the past few decades.
After meeting these real life teddy bears we headed back to the hostel to have a classic backpacker dinner of pasta and diced tomatoes. As the sun was setting we were told to head to the nearby forest where a huge colony of flying foxes would be starting their nightly migration. We walked amongst the trees when it was still light to see the branches filled with these impressive mammals before taking a seat in the graveyard on the edge of the forest making for an eery setting to watch this natural phenomenon.
As the light faded thousands of bats filled the skies, making it appear almost pitch black in places. After watching the last few bats make their evening journey we headed back to the hostel to see what the nightlife was like in this small, lesser known town. Unfortunately, the only people awake were a couple of guys playing chess so we retreated to our room for a chilled night.
The Bike Ride Gone Bad
The following morning we decided to make the most of the cheap bike hire in the hostel and go for a leisurely ride along the beach front. As we collected the bikes we realised this was going to be a bit harder than we initially thought. The bikes had no gears and the only way to slow down was to peddle backwards – I’m not the strongest rider at the best of times so was definitely not feeling too confident.
As we set off we also discovered that Port Macquarie is fairly hilly and I spent a lot of the time pushing my bike up hills and squealing as I sped down the other side. We arrived at the beach front with the expectation of an easy ride along the promenade. Instead, we had the option of riding on sand or along a thin, root covered path through the rainforest. We decided on the second path having been given strict instructions against riding on sand.
As we started we quickly realised that this bike ride was going to be more of a bike push. With the paths being single file and a steady stream of people walking in the opposite direction there wasn’t much opportunity to ride without having to stop to let pedestrians pass. After a solid 3 hours of riding uphills, pushing our bikes over sand, rocks, tree roots and up the stairs we eventually made it to the Port Macquarie Lighthouse, and the first stop since we set off where we could buy a drink. After putting on a brave face for some achievement photos we locked up the bikes and walked are shaky legs to the beach cafe for a burger and a drink.
Despite the treacherous journey to the lighthouse, it was definitely worth our efforts for the miles of beaches we got to see and the impressive lighthouse and panoramic views that came with it. I would recommend the bike hire if you’re staying at Ozzie Pozzie as it is so cheap and provides a unique way of getting around Port Macquarie, just stick to the roads!
Luckily, on the return journey, we learnt from our mistake and stayed on the roads, getting back in no more than half an hour!
A Sub-Tropical Adventure
For our final day in Port Macquarie, the rain made an appearance. This didn’t ruin our plans of seeing the sub-tropical rainforest but instead enhanced the experience. After another early start, we walked in the same direction we had cycled the day before until we reached the start of the Sea Acres Rainforest walk.
We paid a small entrance fee which allowed us to walk along a raised boardwalk and see the beautifully green canopy from a new perspective. With vines and palm trees at eye level and tree trunks reaching below us we really were in amongst the rainforest. Here the rain barely even touched us as the broad leaves acted as a natural shelter. After completing the walk and keeping an eye out for some interesting Aussie wildlife we headed in the direction of the hostel via the same paths we had previously walked our bikes through. This time we were able to truly appreciate the beauty of the nature that surrounded us. The contrast between the blue sea, the white sand and the green rainforest definitely reminded me just how far away from home we really were.
On returning back to the hostel we found out that it was cheap pizza and goon night so we quickly signed up. Thanks to the promise of cheap food the social area of the hostel was a lot busier than the previous two nights and we got talking to some of the staff who work for accommodation.
By the end of the night, we were full up on pizza and had finished off a few litres of goon and half a bottle of rum while playing drinking games and getting progressively louder. We also learnt that our new drunk best friend would be the minibus driver taking us to the Greyhound pick-up point the next morning.
One of my favourite memories from our first week in Sydney was The Blue Mountains. We only planned this trip the day before and got a last minute booking with a company called Happy Travels who would be picking us up at 7 am the following morning.
That morning also happened to be the day we were checking out of our hostel in favour of an Air BnB in Coogee. So we woke up at half 5 in the morning, repacked our backpacks and checked out of the hostel before the 15-minute walk to our pick-up point. As other tour buses heading to the mountains came and went we started wondering whether we had been forgotten about but just as we went to call the company a tour guide shouted our names and we were on our way.
Featherdale Wildlife Park
To break up the 2-hour drive from Sydney’s CBD to the Blue Mountains we had a 1 hour stop at Featherdale Wildlife Park. This was our first chance to see Australia’s native animals; including Kangaroos, Koalas, Dingoes, Wombats and Cassowaries to name a few. An hour gave us plenty of time to stroke the koalas, hand feed the kangaroos and get some postcards from the gift shop.
The Blue Mountains
It was another hour coach journey before we reached our first stop in the Blue Mountains. Here we went on a short walk to the famous rock formation – the Three Sisters. The walk took us through a sub-tropical rainforest where we were convinced we would see a snake or spider lurking in the trees. The funnel-web spider is a very venomous species of spider which is regularly found in the Blue Mountains; luckily you won’t bump into one of these killers unless you start poking around in the holes where they sit and wait for prey to show up.
The view of the mountain range is not a disappointment and rightly called the Blue Mountains, unfortunately, the pictures from my iPhone 5 don’t even begin to do it justice (I’m hoping to go back to the Blue Mountains in the next month so I can get some better pictures). The blue haze which gives the mountains their name is caused by the masses of eucalyptus trees which release a chemical that scatters light wavelengths causing the blue-greyish appearance of the distant mountains.
While looking out over the mountain range and admiring the three sisters (also known as Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo) our tour guide told us an aboriginal-style story about how the rock formation came to be. We were also given aboriginal face paint which was made by mixing the sandstone from the mountains with water.
It was now time for lunch so we were driven to a hostel in a small village within the mountain range. While we ate our lunch from the comfort of an open fire and incredible views of the surrounding area we were asked if we wanted to go on a second bush walk before going back to the CBD. We all agreed to go and after lunch, we were driven to our final stop for the day.
This walk took us through another sub-tropical rainforest and lead us to a waterfall. Standing just a few metres away from the water as it rushed into the pool by our feet was an incredible experience and marked our first time ever seeing a waterfall. The walk now continued uphill until we came out to another viewing platform which provided one last chance to admire the mountains before the 2-hour drive back to the city. After a long day, I fell asleep for almost the whole journey home.
On Monday 13th June we arrived in Sydney and spent a few moments feeling proud of ourselves for getting there with no problems. From the airport, we were greeted by a rickety old minibus ready to take us to our new ‘home’.
There was a lot of time to kill before check-in so we walked around Darling Harbour; a dock lined with restaurants and bars – and only a 5-minute walk from our hostel. It is also the location of Sea Life Aquarium, Madame Tussaud’s Sydney and The Australian National Maritime Museum. After grabbing some lunch and exploring Australia’s biggest city we were able to get the key to our room.
Feeling tired and anxious to experience our first night in a hostel we made our way up to our 8-man dorm room only to be greeted by the grunts of 6 half-asleep boys and the smell of BO infused with piss. I immediately got on the WiFi and let my parents know that I’d made it there safely and everything was good. X Base Hostel where we were staying for our first week in Sydney is a party hostel right in the centre of Darlinghurst and joined to Scary Canary – a bar that is featured on Geordie Shore and home to the ‘Scary Jar’. We turned down a night out in ‘Scaries’ with our new roomies in favour of an early night to make up for the 24 hours we had just spent on a plane.
After catching up on sleep and getting the important admin done it was time to get out and explore. Unsurprisingly our first stop was Circular Quay – home to The Opera House and The Harbour Bridge. I probably took 100 pictures and selfies around Circular Quay and from Mrs. Macquarie’s Point that day.
Right next to the Opera House are the Botanical Gardens which are equally as picturesque, providing a peaceful getaway from the City just behind. You can follow the gardens all the way along to Mrs. Macquarie’s Point which is where the postcard-like view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge can be seen.
After walking back from the gardens we returned to the hostel, showered and changed ready to see the city light up for Vivid Festival; a free festival where projections of lights are displayed on major buildings all around Sydney. We sat across from the Opera House, eating dinner while watching patterns and stories come to life on the Opera House roof.
Overall, our first couple of days in Sydney were amazing, although we arrived in Australia’s winter we were lucky enough to get clear blue skies and temperatures in the 20’s which for us ‘Pommies’ was hot. We started to feel settled and comfortable in our new, temporary home and started looking on Air BnB for somewhere other than a hostel to stay for our first few weeks.
For my first blog post I thought it would be best to introduce myself and give a quick breakdown of my journey so far and my up and coming plans.
I’m Holly Wigmore – a 21-year-old from Southampton, England currently on a year Working Holiday Visa in Australia. I arrived in Sydney in June 2016 with my boyfriend Sam and 9 months later we’re back in Sydney with new memories and some more knowledge on travelling Australia. In the next couple of months, we have plans to see Melbourne, see more of Sydney and travel home via Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
In the time that we’ve been out here we have been all along the East Coast; traveling from Sydney to Cairns on the Greyhound then flying to Brisbane and hiring a Campervan with my parents, driving back up to Cairns before boarding a return flight to Sydney. Needless to say, we have seen all the best bits along Australia’s East Coast.
I intend to use this blog as a way of reminding myself of our journey so far, telling stories of the places we’ve been lucky enough to see and informing anyone in a similar situation wherever I can.
As well as writing about my time here I have tried (and occasionally succeeded) in capturing the beauty of this vast country. I’m always trying to improve my camera skills and find new places to photograph and will be updating my gallery with new material regularly.
I’ll be aiming to write a new blog post at least once a week but in the meantime please give me any feedback on my website so far.