Hello everyone, hope we are all doing well. In the last blog, I reflected a little bit on what 2020 had meant to me and what I managed to get up to throughout the second half of the year. I also stated towards the end of the blog that I had a few things in the pipeline that I hoped would come off, but I didn’t share too much for fear I would jinx it and things would fall through at the last minute. I’m delighted to say that they didn’t, meaning I’ve got some pretty good stuff to update you all with. At one point it was looking all a bit touch and go, with a big outbreak of COVID in Sydney’s Northern Beaches threatening to throw everything into disarray once again. Luckily the NSW government & health officials did an excellent job of containing the outbreak, meaning although Christmas & New Year was a little bit cancelled. In the end, my plans still went ahead.
That means the key focus of this blog will be my 7-day road trip from Sydney to Byron Bay & back. My travel companion for the trip would be Caoimhe who if you cast your mind back to the last blog, was who I shared a weekend away in the Blue Mountains with. When I say travel companion it’s probably more appropriate to say I was Caoimhe’s companion seeing as it was thanks to her the trip went ahead. She had entered a competition on Instagram run by campervan hire company Travellers Autobahn to win 7 days of free campervan hire, as well as a skydive for two people & a sea kayak tour for two people in Byron Bay. Amazingly, she won & even more amazing she asked if I wanted to tag along with her. An offer I was never going to refuse, although I think it was a fair deal, seeing as Caoimhe doesn’t drive, so the catch was it was down to me to complete the 1600km round trip. As I said fair deal though. So, there we are, the scene is set and a free road trip up the east coast of Australia in the middle of summer, let’s get into it.
Day 1 – 405 km Sydney to Port Macquarie: We headed to the campervan pick up site in Sydney in time for opening to collect the van and give us as much time as possible for the trip. On arrival the van depot was just full to capacity with campervans just sat idle. It was clear to see in that one instance the true impact of COVID on the travel and tourism industry. I bet typically the place would be a hive of activity in the heart of summer & you would be lucky to get yourself a van to rent. Today however we had the place to ourselves. Having signed the standard paperwork & packed up the van with our gear, we set off, however, not before I managed to break the free phone holder I was given so I could use my phone for navigation. This meant on living the city a quick stop in a nearby petrol station to fill up the tank and buy a replacement. Although it took a little while to get out of the busy city traffic, once we hit the open road it was all plain sailing. Most of the day did sadly consist of driving as we had to chew up some miles, but the evening pit stop was in Port Macquarie. We arrived around 5 pm, checked into the campsite & headed out for a walk along the coast. There is a long coastal walk from Tacking Point Lighthouse through to Town Beach, which takes about 2 / 2.5 hours. However, we joined around the halfway point at Nobbys / Flynn’s beach. It was great to stretch the legs after the long drive & explore the various beaches along the way. Once at Main Beach, there is Port Mac’s most famous landmark which is all the colourfully painted rocks that form the harbour/estuary wall. We stopped for a quick beer in a nearby pub to enjoy the sunset, before heading back to the campsite to cook some dinner, ready to be up bright and early the next day to continue the drive to Byron.
Day 2 – 390 km Port Macquarie to Byron Bay: We set off at 7 am arriving around 1 pm in Byron checking into our campsite for the next few days Glen Villa Resort. Which I would highly recommend as a great base to explore Byron from. Its ideally located within walking distance of everything, reasonably priced & had great amenities. With that sorted, it was time to head to my two favourite places in the whole of Byron (food-wise anyway haha). First stop In The Pink – Ice Cream, hands down the best ice cream shop in Byron, last time I was here I worked my way through half the menu haha & in the few days we were here I tried to do the same. Second on the list is Byron Hotbread Kitchen, which is an amazing little bakery open 24/7 and sells the most amazing pies, personal favourite is the minted lamb. And with them being open 24/7 it’s a great post-nightout feed!! There are also countless other amazing restaurants in Byron, but I had to share those two personal highlights. Plus they don’t break the bank like some places in Byron. After stuffing our faces (mainly my face) the weather was beautiful, so we relaxed on the beach for the rest of the afternoon. Another great part of heading up to Byron meant I was able to reunite with Lisa, Fred & Ollie. Lisa and Fred had left Sydney around the start of October & Ollie a month later, heading north to Byron & the Gold Coast respectively to do farm work. Therefore after spending 2 years of my life with them it was good to be reunited. We met up for a few drinks in Rails bar, before heading onto a fancy Italian restaurant & a few more drinks in a newly opened wine bar. It was great to spend the evening catching up with them all & also to introduce Caoimhe to people I had spoken so much about.
Day 3 – Byron Bay: Today we were up about 7:30 in preparation for our skydive, which was due to be at 11 am. However, on waking up Caoimhe had a missed call on her phone, which turned out to be from the skydive centre. To cut a long story short our skydive had been brought forward and they wanted us there in 20 mins. No time for breakfast and we jumped out of bed and dashed to the airfield. Within the space of an hour, we had gone from lying in bed to climbing into a plan about to jump out of it at 14,000 ft. To start with it was just odd being in an aeroplane, all be it one with no seats & a massive Perspex door. The last time I had been on a plane was when I flew to Aus from Bali in April 2019. So, after nearly two years I think it’s possibly the longest period in my life (since the first time) that I hadn’t been on a plane. Not a bad stat. It was also my 3rd skydive, I seem to do one every 3 years, having first jumped out of a plane at 18 alongside my dad, then at 21 in Switzerland & now at 24 in Aus. Will have to ensure I’m in another country and throwing myself out another plane at 27. The skydive itself was amazing, I think because I knew what to expect I was just able to enjoy the experience and take the view in, which was stunning seeing Byron from the Air. As for Caoimhe, she was a bit nervous on the way up, but upon being reunited on solid ground you could tell she absolutely loved it. I think the fact we had no time to think about it and just went was good for the nerves as you don’t have time to get yourself worked up. The adrenaline-filled morning was done by about 10:30. That afternoon’s we proceeded to walk along Byron’s main beach, before onto Clarkes Beach, The Pass, Wategos Beach & then finally all the way up to Byron Bay lighthouse and the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. By the time we were making the journey back to town, the heavens had opened, having threatened to do so for most of the afternoon. We therefore, had to jump in an Uber to take us back to our trusty van. That evening the rain had subdued a little, so we met Fred & Lisa at the Beach Hotel for a drink, bite to eat and some live music.
Day 4 – Byron Bay: The rain had thankfully cleared, and it was forecast to be a beautiful day. We headed into town for Brunch at a local café, which as you’d expect in Byron was delicious. It also fuelled us in preparation for our 2-hour sea kayak. The conditions could not have been better, the water was like a millpond and crystal clear. The tour operators guarantee a sighting of sea life or your money back, so I had high expectations. Safe to say they didn’t disappoint. Not long into the kayak, we saw a ray pass under the group and then a few turtles surface not far from us. The main objective though was to see dolphins. It took a fair bit of paddling and we were out pretty far, however as a big wave came sweeping around the headland along with it came a flying dolphin out of the wave. The pod of about 3 or 4 dolphins then continued to track towards us before continuing on there way. All in all, it was a lovely couple of hours paddling and offered a great view and unique perspective of Byron. That afternoon I was due to go Snorkelling which Caoimhe had kindly gave me as a Christmas present, however about 5 minutes before I was due to arrive at the dive shop, it was sadly cancelled due to condition out at Julian’s Rock being too rough. Cleaely it wasnt meant to be. It capped a rather eventful 30 mins with Caoimhe forgetting her phone in the public toilet, where a kind stranger had picked it up and was on their way to the police station when I called the phone which she kindly returned it to us. It therefore meant we spent the afternoon relaxing after the kayak, before enjoying live music on the grass outside the Beach Hotel, where buskers regularly play and the vibe is just the epitome of all you come to expect from Byron. It was the perfect end to a lovely few days in Byron catching up with friends & filled with action.
Day 5 – 280 km Byron Bay to Nambucca Heads: Today we departed Byron to commence the journey back to Sydney. First stop on the agenda was 30 minutes south of Byron and Whites Beach. This was recommended by Lisa & Fred who said it was one of the best beaches they had been to in Aus. Unfortunately for us, the weather had turned, and conditions were far from ideal. The sea was really rough and the sky spitting fine rain. However, there is still something magical about being the only people on a beach even in these conditions and we could certainly appreciate how beautiful this place must be on a sunny day. We weren’t alone for long though as there was a massive eagle that kept circling overhead and diving down to the sea which was epic. After the short stop at Whites Beach, we continued south to Nambucca heads where we would be staying the night. Thankfully the rain had eased but the sky was still rather grey & the ocean rough. We spent a few hours walking around the various beaches & viewpoints of Nambucca heads, which again on a hot sunny day would be beautiful I imagine. Before heading back to our campsite for the night which was a lovely spot on the side of a river and made ourselves some quality campsite dinner, ready cooked pasta with jar sauce, standard.
Day 6 – 375 km Nambucca Heads to Newcastle via South West Rocks: For day 6 the weather was once again beautiful and just in time as we were due to visit the place, I was most excited about, after Byron. South West Rocks. I had no idea this place existed until a cool account I follow on Instagram (again recommended by Lisa & Fred) visited and showed what a beautiful place it is. For anyone wondering the Instagram account is called Drone Shark App and as the name suggests it’s a guy who lives by Sydney’s eastern beaches, with a drone who just goes out every morning looking for sea life. Honestly check it out it’s insane. Therefore, having seen the place via this guy’s drone, we went to explore. First, we arrived at was Little Bay, which is a stunning little beach and home to a massive family of Kangaroos as well. We spent the best part of the morning just relaxing on the near-deserted beach just soaking in the tranquillity of the place. Sadly, the sea was raging and far too dangerous to venture any further than knee depth. But regardless it was beautiful. From Little Bay, there are several walking tracks that I imagine would be beautiful to explore, but given it was approaching the middle of the day in summer, we decided against them. Instead driving to Trial Bay Caol which is the remains of a 19th-century prison, before heading into town to get some fish and chips. Which sadly after a very long wait was a little disappointing, but such is life. After lunch, we then drove onto Smoky Cape Lighthouse, which has outstanding panoramic views of the headland and coastline. There are also two beautiful lighthouse cottages you can rent and stay in, so if ever a group of you are in the area, not sure the price but can imagine would be an amazing stay. From here we also made the short 20-minute walk down to North Smoky. From the car park it looks far but isn’t too bad of a walk. Again, the beach was empty, and we had it all to ourselves, which as I’ve said is one of my favourite things in life, just having something so beautiful all to yourselves will just instantly make you happy! The sea again was very rough so no naked swimming, maybe next time. We spent as much time as we could on the beach but as the day wore on we were conscious that we still had a good 2 / 3 hour drive to get to Newcastle where we would be spending our last night of the trip. We has also treated ourselves to a swanky hotel room to end the trip.
Day 7 – 170 km Newcastle to Sydney via Central Coast: Having made the most of not needing to walk 100 m in the middle of the night / before bed to use a toilet or brush your teeth at a campsite bathroom, we departed our hotel in Newcastle for a leisurely drive back along the NSW Central Coast towards Sydney. We stopped at serval beaches along the way, including Caves Beach which is a cool little spot, but unlike yesterday and due to the school holidays was teeming with people, which although still great, loads of screaming kids around detracts from the tranquillity a little bit if I’m honest. The last stop of the trip was Shelly Beach where more than anything we just parked up and cleaned the van. We then drove the final few hours back to Sydney and returned our home for the past week. All in all, it was a fantastic week and epitomised what Australia is all about, the great outdoors, stunning beaches, and nature. Special thanks must go to Caoimhe for inviting me on the trip, she made an excellent co-pilot feeding me snacks and keeping me hydrated during the long drives, although there were some questionable music playlists.
And with that, it has brought me up to my last weekend in Sydney. The road trip was from the 16th of Jan until the 22nd. Plus I was due to move to Melbourne on the 25th of Jan. The company I work for had successfully been re-awarded their tender as a delivery partner for NBN meaning lots of the operations was to move to Melbourne and my role would now be based there. It was ideal for me as after a year and 3 months living in Sydney, I was certainly ready to explore & live somewhere new. Sydney as a city certainly grew on me steadily over time and I did come to love it. I’m grateful I had the chance to experience it as a true Sydneysider. Also living in an apartment with the most insane view of the city & harbour skyline was just incredible. I shall certainly miss the view and evening sunsets from the balcony but shall be forever grateful I got to experience them for so long. To all the friends I made and have left behind in Sydney thank you for all the fond memories and I hope to see you all again someday somewhere in the world. Over that weekend I said my goodbyes to various people and relocated my life to Melbourne. I was fortunate enough to already have friends in Melbourne both from farm work & university back in England, so I instantly felt at home here. I moved into a beautiful home, who I share with Desi a lovely German girl who I met doing my farm work in Ayr and Beth an Aussie plus former travel agent so I’m right at home here. It’s crazy that I have now been in Melbourne for almost two months, the time has flown by, but unlike Sydney which took time for me to appreciate, I already feel right at home in Melbourne. It’s certainly different to Sydney but with that comes its own unique charm. The way of life just seems a bit less chaotic and while it may not have Sydney’s world-famous tourist attractions the city itself is brimming with unique and induvial charm. Street art is everywhere, independent cafes & bars line the pavementd and overall, there just appears to be more atmosphere in contained areas whereas Sydney just felt it spread itself a little too thin in places due to its size. Sadly, the weather doesn’t seem to be as good and the city beaches aren’t as beautiful, but the Mornington Peninsular a short hour drive away solves that issue. So far, I’ve spent a weekend away on the Peninsular which was lovely, had a camping trip in rural Victoria, been to the theatre to watch English comedian Russel Howard and turned 25. Which was a little scary thinking I left home at 22 and haven’t been home since, but in my mind, I still feel 22 and am so happy for how great these last 2 and a half years have now been. The future is really up in the air I must admit. My second-year visa is due to expire on the 24th of April which is 5 weeks from the time of writing. In the last blog, I indicated there were a few things in the pipeline but didn’t want to divulge too much in case they didn’t come off. Those things were everything contained in this blog. That tactic seemed to work so I’m going to go with the same approach here, however, what I will say is last resort right now is coming home. I’m so happy for everyone back in the UK that things with the vaccine appear to be on track and I sincerely hope in the coming months you can experience the normality we have had in Aus for some time now. However, for me, as much as I can’t wait to see everyone, I still think my best option is sticking it out a little longer before coming home to visit. let’s see what happens in the next few months and come sometime in May/June when I will likely update the blog again, I have no concrete idea what or where I might be. It honestly changes daily. Once upon a time, this would have scared me a little as I do undoubtedly like to have a plan, but I’ve also now learnt to embraces uncertainty. As ultimately having such concrete expectations can only really lead to disappointment if they don’t come off. Thanks for reading till next time.
P.S I’ve also started a dedicated Instagram page called EverittsAdventures where I shall be posting loads of my travel content such as pictures, video travel advise & facts. I have loads planned for this in the coming months & hopefully years. I’d honestly appreciate any follow, share, like or support!!