Old Friends, Canoeing, and Surfing on the Sunshine Coast

Way back when Chris and I were in Brisbane we decided to look for work, sending us 5 hours north to the lovely town of Bundaberg. So after that job we decided to back track a bit, going first to Fraser Island, and then further down to the Sunshine Coast.

Meeting Up With the Gibneys

IMG_0398I was pretty excited about going to the Sunshine coast, not for the beaches, but to meet up with one of my best friend’s from home, Danielle, aka Dizzle/DJ Danni D. She and her Aunt Jill were going to be in Australia for a few weeks visiting their family who now live here.

It had been over 18 months since I’d last seen Dizzle! But she’s been keeping our friendship alive by sending me weird selfies while working night shifts as a nurse.

So first stop was a small town called Buderim to stay with the Gibneys. I hadn’t seen the family in about 7 years! But Dizzle’s Mum, Wendy, and 2 sisters, Caitlin and Ashling, made me feel right at home with beers and tasty home cooked food. And with 7 people from the Emerald Isle being reunited the craic was mighty should I say.

The next day Wendy took us to the market at Nambour. It’s on every Thursday and is definitely worth the visit. You can get everything here from clothes, to foods, to your fortune told. The stalls are bright and vibrant with a hippy feel throughout and everyone’s just wandering around enjoying the chilled out vibe.

IMG_5358New addition  to the Gibney Tribe

Over the next few days I just hung out with Daneille, going to the beach, out for dinner, the cinema, getting lost in the shopping mall… (still don’t know how that happened but thought we were never going to find her Mum’s car!) But too soon it was time to say goodbye. Luckily it wasn’t too sad as I knew we’d be seeing each other back home in July. Continue reading

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Road Trip: The Gold Coast

Our flight got into Brisbane pretty late so we spent the night freedom camping on a residential street near the airport and then got up early the next day and drove straight to Tweed Heads, which is more or less the start of the Gold Coast. This is where the first lifeguard hut is (I think there’s 39 up the coast)!

Tweed Heads

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My first impressions of Tweed were good. The high rises hadn’t quite started yet, it wasn’t busy at all, and there were great views of the Gold Coast skyline across the water. It was also pretty random how the boarder between NSW and Queensland runs straight through Tweed. I didn’t know which time to go by!

IMG_4759Duranbah Beach

Once there, Chris and I went straight to Snapper Rocks, which is apparently an epic point break for surfing. Although not on this day it wasn’t…. With the waves looking tiny and mushy we gave surfing a pass and instead, went for nice walk around the point, taking in the views.

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Byron Bay

Byron Bay. It’s a backpackers haven. A place where people plan to stay a week but somehow end up staying for months. They arrive clean cut and wearing shoes but somewhere along the way find they’re barefoot and have grown dreads.

When there’s so much hype about a place it instantly makes me feel sceptical about it, and so when Chris and I left chilled out Lennox Heads and drove up the road to Byron I wasn’t sure if I’d like it at all.

The Pros

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But it’s hard not to like the place! On one of the roads into the town is a sign saying ‘cheer up, slow down, chill out’, and that says it all.

The bustling little beach side town is busy and full of people, all ages and from all walks of life, just coming together to enjoy that feeling of freedom that Byron seems to give. Walking through the streets there’s organic foods, hippy stores, smells of incense in the air, street art. There’s such a high energy about the place and a good vibe, it’s impossible not to enjoy yourself.

As the sun starts to set buskers take to the streets. A drumming circle by the main beach car park, fire dancers in the park, and guitarists on street corners playing as crowds gather to sing and dance along. With a few drinks in you just walking the streets is an experience in itself. Continue reading

Road Trip: Iluka to Lennox Head

I could have happily stayed in Yamba and surfed at Pippi’s beach every day for the next month, but no matter how good a place is I always get that nagging feeling that there might be somewhere better up ahead. It’s not a bad thing, otherwise I’d probably never get anywhere!

Iluka

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We left Yamba and went to the next town, Iluka, which is just over the river but takes a while to drive to as there’s no bridge. This was a strange little place with quite an eerie feeling to it. There didn’t seem to be any tourists about and the locals were all the fishing types who enjoyed to drive their 4WDs on the beach.

We spent the night in an empty beach car park and while we cooked dinner there was a crazy thunder storm. We fried up burgers as lightening flashed above us but luckily by the time the rain came pouring down our burgers were cooked.

In the morning we were awoken by a lovely local who thought it was funny to drive up close to us and beep his horn! I’ve heard that sometimes locals in certain areas aren’t too keen on sharing their beaches with tourists.

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Taking the hint we got up and I thought I’d give barefoot running on the beach a go. I ran about 3 miles and it felt great! Until I got back to the car and realised my big toes had massive blood blisters on them! I think it will be a while before I try it again.

Evans Head

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The next stop was Evans Head, which was a nice enough wee town with a good surf beach. When we first arrived it was pretty hot and I just wanted to find somewhere to chill out for the day. So we drove a bit out of Evans Head to the Bundjalung Naitonal Park where we found Chinaman’s Beach and a half naked girl walking around her campervan with her boobs out.

She looked really young to be a naturist so I thought good on her! But as the day went on she appeared to keep her boobs hidden in a bikini, so maybe we just caught her at a bad time in-between outfits…

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Road Trip: Crescent Head to Coffs Harbour

Crescent Head

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From Port Macquarie we drove on to Crescent Head, Australia’s longboarding capital. At the time it was school holidays and the place was absolutely packed! We drove down to the beach front where there was a holiday park full of tents, caravans and holidaying families.

The beach was nice with small but clean waves coming in, and I would have been tempted to go in for a surf, if not for the amount of kids and adults fighting over the waves. I was fairly entertained watching one guy on his longboard, who would be happily cruising along a wave, only to get cut off by some surfer dropping in on him. Every time he’d throw his arms in the air with an exasperated look on his face.

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The next day the crowds were back fighting over the waves so we decided to drive away from Crescent Head along Plomer Road in search of uncrowded beaches. We’d driven less than 10km when we came across a campsite with showers and access to a quiet beach with decent waves. This was more like it.

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Road Trip: Port Stephens and Seal Rocks

Port Stephens

Leaving Newcastle behind it wasn’t long until we came to Port Stephens. This isn’t a town, but an area, which is made up of a few nice costal villages. We arrived first at Anna Bay and stumbled upon a beach called Birubi Point.

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Being a Sunday the place was overrun with tourists, and I could see why they were all here. The beach was long and beautiful running off far into the distance. But even more spectacular, were the Sahara style sand dunes that backed it. They were huge and seemed to go on forever.

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Operation Learn how to Surf

IMG_3896Oh my god it’s such a cliché. Lets go to Australia! Lets buy some surfboards! Lets learn how to surf! Well apparently I am that cliché. Although I have to defend myself a wee bit. I didn’t arrive in Australia and suddenly decide I’d take up surfing. It’s actually something I’ve wanted to do for years.

Back home in Northern Ireland there’s some pretty great surf beaches. And growing up, I’d usually take an annual trip up to the North Coast with a couple of mates to mess around in the ocean. We’d rent boards and maybe even get a lesson. But the problem is, you don’t learn how to surf in a day! So I’ve never really progressed.

I’ve been saying for years I want to be able to surf. And by that I don’t mean clumsily climbing to my feet on a broken wave. I want to be able to do it properly, at least to an intermediate level. I suppose I’ve just never really had the time. I was at school, then uni, and then doing ski seasons in New Zealand. But now here I am, in Australia, travelling, unemployed, thousands of beaches ahead of me, not a care in the world. Continue reading