Road-trip Melbourne to Byron Bay

The Adventure:

A full circle road-trip from Melbourne (VIC) to Bryon Bay (NSW), back to Melbourne.   Traveled from the 19th of December 2018 to the 4th of January 2019.

* Blue Pool, Bermagui
* Pinnacles Beach, Ben Boyd National Park
* Murray's Beach
* Blue Mountains
* Yarrawonga

* There is no such thing as enough sunscreen.  Set your phone, leave a reminder on the dash of your car, whatever you need to do to engrain it in your head, to reapply sunscreen at least every 2-3 hours.  Australian sun is nothing to joke about, it will ruin your trip, if you are severely burned.   If you do not reapply, I don't care what skin type you are, you will burn.  It will be one of the worst burns of your life, it will be painful to sleep, to sit, to wear clothes, to take showers.  There may be blisters which then will need time to heal.  It's not worth it.
* Never underestimate the distance from point A to point B in Australia.  It's a BIG continent.

Road Trip Podcasts:
* Serial (Season 1, 2 or 3 - all will suck you in)
* S-Town (from the makers of Serial)
* My Dad Wrote a Porno (hilarious)
* Heaven's Gate (a bit depressing, but certainly makes you think)

Roadtrip Playlists:
* Jill's Roadtrip Playlist
* Chilled out Sundays
* My Favs

Don't forget:
* If you are renting a car, get unlimited kilometers and make sure you have cruise control.  If you don't watch your speed Australian Police Departments will mail you speeding tickets.
* Pay attention to the distance between locations, I made it a point to refill when my tank was about 1/2 to 1/4 tank full, just to ensure I didn't get caught in the middle of no where (and there's a lot of middle of no where's in Australia) with no way to get fuel.
*Get the car with good milage over the cute or flashy car.  Must have air conditioning.

19/12 Metung, VIC

Four hours east of Melbourne at the end of the Great Alpine Road, is Metung.   A 1,200 person picturesque village stretching along the narrow shores of the Gippsland Lakes.

It was low tide, and a storm was about to hit, when I arrived at 90-mile beach.  The sky was dreary and grey,  all around cold and uninviting.  However, there was a lot of wildlife!   One of the things about traveling in Australia (provided you are not in really touristy areas) is that frequently there are very few people around.  90-Mile Beach was no different.  There was one other group out and about when I was wandering the beach, which I'm assuming is how I was so lucky with the wildlife.   Lot's of cranes, HUGE pelicans, ducks and other fowl.

This little place was so cute, I wish I had more than one night there.  Very clean little villas, a pool and again lots of wildlife.  I saw the largest mob of kangaroo I've seen since I arrived here, and managed to get a few photos before they saw me and hopped off.

On the way to Bermagui I decided to stop at Pinnacles Beach, which is known for it's interesting rock formations known as ‘Quoraburagun Pinnacles’.  The drive from Pinnacles to Bermagui was bright green with rolling hills.   The eucalyptus trees have very unique smooth trunks which twist and turn and branch out in every direction.  Many of them are left in place after they die, leaving massive trees trunks in the middle of big beautiful green fields, lending to one strikingly  interesting landscape after another.

Pinnacles is part of Long Beach, located in the northern part of Ben Boyd National Park.  If you enter at Pinnacles Beach and not the main entry, there is no charge.  Otherwise it's $8.  The walk down to the beach is short, about 600m, and pretty easy, the path is raised and constructed.   A bit steep at the end, so wear sneakers as you have to climb down the last 10 meters or so on red rocks that can be slippery.  I was not prepared for this beach,  WOW.   Absolutely gorgeous.   Sand for miles in both directions and blue in every shade.  I saw a large pod of dolphins cruising the shore, clearly they had found something yummy to eat.   Fins everywhere.  What a way to start my trip!

20/12 - 22/12 Bermagui, NSW

Bermagui is a charismatic little surf town on the sapphire coast.   I had been craving pancakes for about a month by this point and found a great little cafe called Bermi's Beachside Cafe.  The pancakes in Australia are quite different.  They are fluffy.   Not your normal fluffy, imagine an 1" thick pancake.  Basically a cake.  Topped with ice cream, fruit, whipped cream.  No syrup.   I just can't get into them.   Not only that, but pancakes are not easy to find.  In American, every diner, cafe and restaurant that serves anything remotely close to breakfast has pancakes.  Not here, they are a rare find in Australia.  So after nearly a year of no pancakes, it's gotten to a point, that's nearly all I think about.  The typical American pancake fluffy but not so fluffy it's a cake, soaked in maple syrup.  And guess what this restaurant had them, they were called:  Canadian Pancakes served with maple syrup and bacon.

Unfortunately the weather was not on my side while in Bermagui.  It was still dreary, cold and grey.  I ventured out first to Bermaui's famous Blue Pool.  At 6am, there were a lot of people at the pool exercising.   Not so many in the pool as it was quite chilly.  The pool is stunning, I could have stayed and watched the waves crash over the edge all day.

Next I headed out to Camel Rock beach, the waves were coming fast and furious.  In the distance you could see the rain and storm clouds.  Regardless, I walked out to Camel Rock,  a rock shaped like a camel - go figure, hoping I was going to be able to trek to Horsehead Rock, but no such luck.  Morning is high tide, and since the waves were large and crashing, it wasn't safe to try and venture around the bend to Horsehead.  I did try to come back later in the day at about 2pm (low tide) and the waves were still so large, there was no getting around Camel Rock to see Horsehead.  I'll have to save that one for another time.

I then headed over to Beares Beach, which is close to the Blue Pool.  The waves were still large and many.  One right after another.  The Beares Cave was visible, so I made my way over and enjoyed a nice afternoon.  Watching the waves crash and the storm roll in.

On the way to Mollymook:

The morning I ended up at Tuross Head, it was again poor weather.  The plus side, this provided for some great ocean watching, with quite large waves rolling in.  I walked up to One Tree Point, the view was one long stretch of gorgeous beaches in both directions.  On a beautiful sunny day, I could see this location being extremely popular.

22/12 - 24/12 Mollymook, NSW

I stayed at the Beachhouse Mollymook.   The Beachhouse is a simple fairly plain motel in a great location, Mollymook beach is across the street.  As I was unpacking, I looked up out my window and saw a rainbow as bright as they come, over the beach.  I don't know what it is about rainbows, but they just make me feel like I'm at the right place at the right time.  Like a strange award in the game of life.  Ding. Ding. Ding. You've made it to your next correct destination!

Mollymook is about 40 minutes from Jervis Bay and Hyams Beach.  As I was plagued with unfortunate weather, my first day in the area was mostly touring by car.   I spent some time at Mollymook beach taking in the rainbow, then headed out to Hyams Beach.   Hayms Beach is a white sand beach, considered one of the "must see" beaches in the area.  I had all these grand plans to walk the beach, swim and take in  the sites.   Mother Nature decided that was not happening.  A downpour unmatched by any I had witnessed since arriving in Australia met me as soon as I found a place to park.   Even ducking into Hayms Beach Store and Cafe for a cup of coffee was out of the question.  I was afraid my little car might get swept away.  Instead I just turned up the radio, sat back, enjoyed the sound of the rain and watched the storm roll in.

I spent the next morning at Murray's Beach, which is inside Booderee National Park.   There was an $8 fee to enter Booderee, however the permit is good for 48 hours.  Ask any Australian to name their top 5 favorite beaches and a good portion of them will name Jervis Bay.  I expected Jervis Bay to be a large bay with a large beach.  Jervis bay is an enormous bay, with several beaches.  The main beaches are Green patch Beach, Murray's Beach, Steamers head Beach and Cave Beach.

I had no idea which was the best to explore, so I blindly picked Murray beach.  There are signs to each of the beaches when you get in the park, they are each a bit of a drive past the entrance.   Don't be shocked when the sign tells you your chosen destination is still several kilometers away.

The weather was sill a bit grey when I arrived at Murray Beach, but I could see clear skies in the distance.  I decided to find a place near a tree and settle in for a read.   Before I knew it, the beach started to fill up.  People came out of no where.  By noon the beach was quite full, the sun was shining, people were snorkeling and splashing about in the water.   I made the classic tourist error and forgot to "slip, slap, slop" better known as apply and reapply sunscreen.   I suffered the consequences for days afterwards. (so don't make my mistake)  A gentleman found a seat in the sand not far from me and began playing the ukulele, setting the ambiance to "perfect".   I was beyond content.   It was Christmas Eve, the weather had cooperated, I found my own piece of heaven on earth.   I had intentions of checking out the other beaches, but sometimes you just need to acknowledge perfection, sit and appreciate that moment, and let other plans evaporate.

24/12 - 26/12 Bonny Hills, NSW

I stayed at Ingenia Holidays Park in a cabin at Bonny Hills.  The Holiday Park was a surprisingly great location.  It's located adjacent to Rainbow Beach, a perfect place to spend Christmas.  The beach is quite long and lends to a long peaceful morning stroll.  There weren't many restaurants open during this time period, but the cabin had a stove and refrigerator.  There was a nearby grocery store and also bbq areas in the campground.  I'm sure there were plenty of places to explore here, but I spent my days on the beach reading and enjoying the waves roll in.

26/12 - 28/12 Coffs Harbour, NSW

Loved Coffs Harbour!  Loved!  A fun seaside city with an Iconic Big Banana.  One of the odd, yet interesting things about Australia, they seem to have a lot of "big" iconic things.  And Coffs Harbours "thing" is a giant banana.  As fascinating as the banana was, it was the the walking path through the Harbor and Marina that sold me.  A timber path

There as another coastal pool in Coffs Harbour, called Sawtell Memorial Pool,  it's a bit tricky to locate, so tricky in fact that after several "u-turns"  I gave up looking.

28/12 - 30/12  Byron Bay, NSW

There's a ton to do in Byron Bay, lots of food, great night life, tons of daytime activities. I don't recommend going over the holiday's as I did.  It was jam packed, making getting around a bit challenging.  Every beach was packed, no parking anywhere.  If you do go over the holidays, plan early!  Hotels fill up quickly.  The rest of the year, the population is much lower making the town more manageable.  Regardless of the temporary overpopulation, Byron Bay is wonderful!

Like most coastal areas in Australia, Byron Bay houses one stunning beach after another.  The Main Beach is exactly what is sounds like.  It's located right in town, a short walk from all the restaurant and shop filled streets.  There's a large parking lot ($4.00), playground, public toilets, showers, bbq area and it's also a great place for beginner surfers! Main beach is patrolled every day of the year by the Australian Lifeguard Service.  At night, if you are lucky there will be a large drum circle, don't miss it.

Just North of Main Beach, beyond the seawall is "The Wreck".   This is a popular surf location, named after the protruding shipwreck of the SS Wollongbar.  The wreck creates a series of sand bars that result swells ideal for surfing. The wreck also creates an interesting location to explore with a mask and snorkel.

My favorite beach was Wategos Beach. It's small, less crowded, there were a few surfers providing for some great people watching.   I spent a sunrise here, there's a great hike, a 3.7 km loop that takes about 2 hours to complete. The track meanders through rainforest and over cliff tops providing stunning views of the ocean.

The iconic Bryon Bay lighthouse is not far from Wategos and overlooks Main Beach.    Cape Byron Lighthouse was constructed in 1901, and is now fully automated no longer requiring keepers.  The lighthouse keepers cottages now empty, have been restored and are now used to house guests.  It's a short drive or a long walk to the light house from Main Beach, either way, it's a must see.

Now restaurants, where do you even start?  Byron Bay is full of talented chefs, fun eateries, and unique eats.    I started out with Mexican, and I'm not going to lie, I went here more than once, it was so good. Miss Margaritas.  Bloody Mary's (Vodka, mezcal, tomato juice, spices, lime & a little chilli) are top notch, Tacos (Pulled pork, caramelized pineapple, rocket, ranchero relish & jalapeños), Jalapeño Poppers (Jalapeños stuffed with sour cream & guacamole - crumbed & fried) and guacamole - delicious!    If you are looking for a healthy, quality meal with a side of tiny adventure, try The Farm.  The farm is an actual working farm. Chickens, cows, horses and pigs roam the acreage.   A few of them even have been made mascots, such as Bobby the Rooster.  Not only food can be purchased here, but there are also adult workshops, activities for children and tours for all.  There's a restaurant on site and a bakery.   Food is acquired locally, . organically sourced, and superbly delivered.  YUM!     If you are looking for something a bit quicker the falafels at Orgasmic Falafel are excellent!

30/12 - 31/12 Anna Bay, NSW

  • Anna Bay
  • Birubi Beach

31/12 - 1/1 Blue Mountains, NSW

This was my second trip to the Blue Mountains.  I never plan enough time here.  I always think, just a few more days in the Blue Mountains and I've seen it all, but nope.   The most memorable image, I've had in Australia, was my first time in the Blue Mountains.  We were driving up  to the Mountains through a bit of fog, and as we came to a clearing a mob of kangaroo hopped out of the fog across a field.  It was the first time I had seen wild kangaroo.  I had no idea how common they were or that they hung out in groups.  It was the most beautiful image I'd ever seen.

The Blue Mountains has been on the World Heritage List since 2000.  The range itself is approximately 60 miles (96 kilometers).  The name describes a unique phenomenon  that occurs in the atmosphere.  Eucalyptus trees in the Blue Mountains are densely populated and oil bearing.  The atmosphere in the Blue Mountains fills with finely dispersed droplets of the eucalyptus oil, which, in combination with dust particles and water vapour creates a mist which refracts light.  This creates a  haze that looks blue at a distance.  Thus what you see when you look across the mountains is a blue color = Blue Mountains.

I stayed at the Three Sisters Motel on New Years Eve.  This allowed me to get up bright and early to see the sun rise over the famous Three Sisters peaks, which was just across the street.  2019 greeted me with a light  fog, stunning colors and only a small crowd of people.  I headed down the Giant Stiarway (better to go down than up, considering there are 998 steps).  Once I got to the bottom of the steps I turned right on to the Federal Pass walking track, which wound around the base of the Three Sisters.  It was mostly a flat trek in the shade, with ferns and massive trees.  After about 30 minutes I arrived at the bridge over Kedumba Creek, and a lovely view of Katoomba Falls.  A short walk further and I was at the base of the scenic railway.

Instead of taking the railway back up, I decided to follow the elevated walkway to Dinosaur Valley. Intended for the enjoyment of the younger crowd, I quite love this.  Triceratops eggs, a T-Rex, and other surprises around every corner, leading to the Cableway.  The Cableway, which is the steepest aerial cable car in the Southern Hemisphere, takes you 545 meters out of the canyon and up to the Scenic World Gift shop as well as the skyway.  The Skyway, is suspended 270 metres above ancient ravin and takes you full loop back to Three Sisters.   Overall a very enjoyable way to spend the better portion of a day.

2/1 - 3/1 Kosciuszko National Park, NSW

I did not get enough time in Kosciuszko Park.  I basically passed through.  Enjoyed a sunrise and a sunset. Mount Kosciusko is Australia's highest mountain and located about 500 kilometers south of Sydney.  At 2229 meters it's nowhere near the mountain heights found in North American and European.  (Mount Everest in the Himalayas is 8,848 meters and Denali/Mt. McKinley is 6,168 meters)   It does however have several full day hikes, bike riding, horseback riding, hot springs,  you name it you can do it at Kosciuszko.  Sumemr or Winter.  During the winter there are plenty of snow sports you can enjoy in the park.

I specifically went to Kosciuszko because I read they had an over population of wild horses.  The wild horses were (and remain) a hot topic in the news, as the discussions had resorted to culling.  It was a tough conversation to read, and both sides made sense.  It was a heartbreaking thought to think these beautiful animals could be exterminated, but also devastating to see images of the corpses of horses not able to survive due to lack of food and water.

That being said, the estimated count of horses ranges between 3,500 to as high as 7,000.  Brumbies, as the feral horses are called in Australia, are a cultural iconic image.  I really wanted to see and photograph them if possible.   Unfortunately, I saw signs of them, but never found a herd.  I want to go back, next time perhaps with a local guide who can point me in the right direction.

Here are some additional articles for those interested:

3/1 - 4/1 Yarrawonga, VIC

Yarrawonga may be one of my favorite places in all of Australia.  I stumbled upon it during my road trip to The Man from Snowy River Festival.  Home of the Murray River and Lake Mulwala.   Lake Mulwala is a man made reservoir of water diverted from the Murray River for local irrigation.

The history of this lake is fascinating, and ultimately what makes this one of the most unique lakes I've ever seen.   In 1935, as they began building the dam (or Weir), the River Murray Commission refused to fund the clearing of the red gum trees.  This forced a group of local men to take on the enormous task of clearing a forest.  As the trees fell, they were left in place.  There was concern the felled trees would damage the dam, but ultimately, not enough concern, as the trees were left where they lay.   Officially set to open in 1939, due to WWII, the dam did not open until 1989.

The Yarrawonga Weir was built to raise the water level in the Murray River to ensure diversion of water via gravity. Diversion of water is via two major channels, the Mulwala Canal and the Yarrawonga Main Channel. The Mulwala Canal is 2,880 kilometres long and is the largest irrigation canal in the southern hemisphere, spreading across the southern Riverina plain to Deniliquin and suppling water to 700,000 hectares. The Yarrawonga Main Channel is 957km long and services the Murray Valley irrigation region, from Yarrawonga to Barmah. It supplies water to 128,000 hectares.

Now what makes this lake special, all these dead gum trees.   They fill the lake, rising out of the water, making incredible silhouettes, stunning views and breathtaking landscapes.  The only way I know how to describe this is to think of a real life cross between a Georges Seurat and Claude Monet painting.  My eyes are telling my brain, it's too perfect.  Like a painting. The hills roll at the perfect inclines, the sky is the exact color blue, you would think of when someone says "blue".  Same with the grass on the rolling hills.  It's "green", exactly how picture in your mind.  Then as if someone thought, it's just a bit too perfect, dead trees are tossed in the image throughout the water.  Reaching out like twisted hands.   I've been here several times since I've moved to Australia and it's going to be the place I miss the most.   It's stunning.

I've been told the lake is drained every few years, and I hope I'm lucky enough to be able to see that.  Additionally, there are many bike trails on the Murray River.  One that I'm fascinated by is the Rail Trail, which is an old rail line converted to a bike trail.  It passes right through this magical land of lake and gum trees.  Hopefully one of my next adventures!!

10 East Coast Road Trip Blogs:

  1. East Coast Australia Road Trip Itinerary and Ultimate Guide
  2. Byron road trip and where to stop along the way!

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