Our Coffs Harbour to Noosa week began with a bang… well, no, not quite with a bang: more with a roar! We spent a few hours careering around… wait for it… Raleigh Raceway, in Go-Karts! No, we haven’t entered our second childhood. But you know, there’s a heap of things we’ve never done (either because it’s too intimidating (mostly in my case), or never had the time/opportunity (both of us) and now we’re ready to have a go at pretty well anything!
(Except bungy jumping.The thought of being flung back up on the end of what amounts to a giant rubber band makes me want to run away and hide. So, not that!)
The Go-Karts were fun. I started off gingerly slowing down to practically nothing on the corners, then realised by the time I’d put in twenty laps or so that it actually works better if you’ve got a bit of speed up, and pick your line through the curves! Rob seemed to zoom around happily from the start. Is it something in the genes? Is this a Mars/Venus thing?
I remembered at the last minute to pose Doppy the Gnome on one of the carts and take a photo. (Doppy was given to us by our grandchildren to explore Australia with us and report back. We have strict instructions to take photos of him enjoying himself.) 5-cm-tall Doppy is even more vertically challenged than I am, so he kind of got dwarfed… but he got his photo-op!
Then it was on to the Big Banana. I have to admit that Rob and I have driven past this countless times without thinking about stopping. Why? Because we thought it was just another ‘Big Thing’ to attract tourists, and we had no idea that there was so much behind that big yellow banana! It really is well worth a visit (not least to visit the candy shop that’s part of the complex. Who would have thought it was such hard work to create those tasty little circular candies?) And of course, you’ll find out LOTS about bananas!
Then it was on to the Clarence Coast Resort at Palmers Island (Yamba), with a bit of a detour to check out Grafton. We didn’t have time to fully explore, but this looks like a nice town… another one on the ‘come back to later’ list!
We’ve stayed at Iluka before, but never at Yamba. I think someone recommended Iluka to us, so we just went there, and loved it. The Big4 Yamba is another experience again: less than 10 minutes from town, it’s pretty self-contained and – we discovered after talking to the manager, Nikki Dagan – is vigorously targeting groups of all kinds for weekend getaways as well as travellers like us. (I have to admit that I like the sound of their ‘Princess Pamper’ weekend!) A couple of caravanners we met had booked ahead specifically to get the powered sites right next to the river… and when you look at the view right outside their window, you can see why!
After Yamba, it was off to Byron Bay. We were looking forward to this, because a spot of ocean kayaking was on the schedule (Rob’s done a bit of ocean kayaking in the past, including Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand, but I’ve done only still water kayaking… and even then I make sure it’s a pleasant day on the water, most of the time!) It was a bit of a challenge to get out, but Lynchie (who led the kayak tour) gave me a bit of a hand by steadying the kayak in the waves at the beach while I climbed on. The weather was pretty good, but it took a while to get used to kayaking in a swell. In fact, at one stage I over-compensated when the swell rocked the craft, and yep, over I went! With more help from Lynchie and his fellow passenger Richard in the double kayak, I managed to heave myself back on board (ouch!) and off I went again. And of course, there was a monumental stack when coasting into the beach on a wave. I was hoping for an elegant entry, but nope… I was well and truly dumped. Unlike Rob, who did it in style. (Show off!)
All great fun, though… and we loved seeing the dolphins surfing the waves into the beach.
Then it was lunch at the main pub overlooking the beach at Byron… well deserved!… before moving on to a night of luxury at the Northstar Holiday Resort at Hastings Point, just south of the NSW/Qld border.
This is a great park to kick back and relax. You’ve got to love any park that sends a tractor chugging off to meet you at reception ready to valet-park your caravan! (Rob was quite happy to lean on the fourby and watch others do the work…)
This is a beautiful park, with a lovely amenities block (glass shower doors!) and top-quality inclusions. We’ve encountered several parks on the way around that have lines marked on the bottom of the pool for lap swimmers, but sometimes it isn’t easy to dodge others in for a casual dip… especially if there are a few kids around. The Northstar Resort has not only a lovely pool for families, but a 25-metre lap pool located in the Seascape Leisure Centre. (In this centre you will also find a gym, spa and sauna.) All in all, an ideal park to kick back and relax… as we did with Nigel and Liz, on a site not far from us. They were even brave enough to taste-test our beer damper! (Which we reckon turned out pretty well… thanks, Pat, for the recipe!)
On to Maroochydore…
Naturally we had to stop for a look at the Ettamogah pub… and then stayed for lunch. After that it was on to the Sunshine Castle at Bli Bli, to meet “King Bernadus” and his handmaiden. (Well, at least I think she was his handmaiden: I did spot her later working behind the counter in the castle souvenir shop…) King B. took us on a tour to view the castle, furnishings and displays… I’m not surprised to hear that it’s a popular backdrop for weddings and other functions.
We spent the night at the Maroochy Palms Holiday Village at Maroochydore. Another lovely park in a beautiful spot: our site was at the rear of the park right next to the peaceful lake, with its boardwalk and bird life. Since we arrived latish in the afternoon and stayed hitched up ready to depart the next morning for Noosa, we didn’t have time to take advantage of being right across the road from the Maroochy River to put the kayaks in for a quick paddle… shame! However, we did like being able to order dinner from the shop before 4.00 and have it delivered to our van in a little white cart. Ah, luxury.
There’s so much to see and do around this area it’s hard to choose: we couldn’t resist the Ginger Factory and Eumundi markets. (I spent around $240 at Eumundi markets; Rob’s investment in some ginger concentrate and a jar of lime & ginger marmalade came to the grand total of $8.75.In my defence, I don’t usually spend that much at the markets… but this time, I spotted a large leather shoulderbag that converts to a backpack, which just happened to be one of the things on my list of ‘stuff to buy on my way around Australia’. So what’s a gal to do???? Then there was the Eumundi honey, the choc-coated strawberries, and the music CD from a group that was performing…)
A Taste of Ginger…
Rob says: “Being a bit of a ginger addict from way back, I found the trip to the factory to be an enlightening and enjoyable couple of hours. You can take the guided tour of the factory itself & follow the “ginger story” from the fields to the final product or should I say products. As with many of the themed venues we have visited, it’s not just a focus on the main product – in this case ginger. There is a motor museum, a small gauge railway, food tasting, live bee display, a simulated boat ride for kids of all ages, garden walks, ample dining area, food tasting & even a cooking class. Most of the venue is undercover, so even if it’s not the best of weather outside, you’ll be well protected in the spacious and well laid out grounds. Now where did I put that ginger marmalade?”
[Note from Marg: We put it in the muffins we made in the turbo oven, remember??? But there’s some left for your breakfast toast…]
And on to Tewantin…
We finished the day by pulling into the Noosa Caravan Park at Tewantin, where we planned to settle in for a week or so to explore the area further and do important caravan-life things like chat, rest, explore and enjoy Happy Hours! And I have to say, this time around we’re being really spoiled when it comes to ‘valet parking’… well, in this case Rob still stayed behind the wheel, but we had the assistance of ‘Bob the Backer’. We remembered Bob from this park from a few years ago… one of those ‘right hand down, OK, come back on that line’ etc types who tell you exactly what to do to get the van positioned perfectly on the site. Bob tells us that he has had many grateful wives begging him to go with them on the rest of their trip to take over the instructions for reversing!