When we planned our big road trip up Australia’s eastern coast we knew that it was going to be Queensland’s rainy season. Naively, we thought we might encounter a few afternoon thunderstorms or possibly a day or two of rain. We had no idea just how much rain we would see. Since crossing the border of New South Wales into Queensland it has rained all day every day. And the rain is fierce here – we’re talking serious rainfall. It has rained so much that we have had to make 2-hour detours because entire highways have been under water. The rain is, of course, good for the rain forests in this area, but it has totally dampened our spirits. Not to mention, it’s put a kibosh on our plans of visiting some of Australia’s most famous islands and beaches. We made it all the way up to the (apparently) beautiful Whitsunday Islands only to sit in our campervan and watch the rain fall. Boring. (Can you sense my growing frustration?!)
Alright, I’ll stop complaining. I’m sure all the Australians are sitting at home saying “I could have told you so!” And, to be fair, we have done some pretty cool things in the past couple weeks despite the rain. Here are the highlights…
We spent some time in a really lovely little town called Bellingen – where most people walk around barefoot and the car of choice is a VW van — COOL! The town was full of natural food stores, great cafés and other cute shops.
After that we headed north up to Byron Bay where we spent three days watching a storm pass through (this was the beginning of the rain). We did see a large goanna (lizard) walk through our campsite – which the kids loved. We also, thanks to many suggestions from readers, spent a day in Bungalow which was a very cool little town with great shopping. (I think we liked it even more than Byron Bay!)
We then drove north and spent a day at the Australia Zoo – home of the Crocodile Hunter, the late Steve Irwin. The zoo was started by Irwin and his father and holds many of the animals they helped capture and rescue. It was the best zoo I’ve ever seen – with loads of opportunities to interact with the animals. We held baby alligators, fed the elephants, watched a crocodile-feeding, hung out with kangaroos and watched tigers swim!
We spent a few days on Fraser Island – the biggest sand island in the world. We swam in the famous Lake McKenzie – a freshwater lake in the middle of the island with crystal clear water and fine, white sand. The sand in the lake is meant to naturally polish your jewelry, and the water will (as rumour has it) make you look ten years younger. (We spent as much time as possible swimming in that lake!)
We then drove up to the Mon Repos Conservation Beach which is the biggest turtle rookery in Australia. More Loggerhead turtles breed on this beach than anywhere else in the world. And the breeding/hatching season is now… so we had to see it. The turtle action only occurs at night time (when it’s cooler) so we had to wait until 10pm to be guided out to the beach, but it was worth the wait. We watched a mama turtle come up the beach to lay her eggs and then we witnessed an entire nest of eggs (122 of them!) hatch and scurry down the beach to the water. It was really amazing to witness. Did you know that only 1 in 1,000 turtle hatchlings will survive to adulthood? I’m glad I’m not a turtle!
We are now all the way up north in a nice little beach town called Mission Beach. It’s where ‘rainforest meets reef’, and also home to the biggest population of Australia’s cassowary birds. We’re nearly to the finish line – only 5 more days in the campervan and less than 200 km to go! Woo hoo!