The start of August saw us say goodbye to family once again. We pointed our car and camper southbound and headed to a favourite little coastal town of mine- North Haven, around 30 mins south of Port Macquarie on the wonderful Mid North coast of NSW. This short stay was really a “shake down” trip for us to find our feet again and get a feel for our new camper. We couldn’t have picked a nicer spot! Situated at the mouth of the Camden Haven River. The beaches here are very popular for swimmers and surfers and the rock walls each side of the river provide a great place to wet a line.
Nearby Laurieton is a little gem of a town too, plenty of little shops to provide some retail therapy and has the basic supermarkets etc. so you never need to venture too far away. Keeping in mind Port Macquarie is just up the road in case you need anything a bit more specialised.
Across the river at Dunbogan (I love that name!) there is a great little playground for the kids. One thing we really want to commend the area on is the cleanliness of their parks and playgrounds.The toilet facilities were always clean- this is always one of our concerns when we take the kids to public toilets. We have seen some real shockers in some places. Well Done Camden Haven!
To be honest we didn’t really do much here during our 5 night stay, we had been here several times before and had visited the popular attractions like Timbertown at Wauchope and the Billabong Koala And Wildlife Park. But one thing we always do when in this area is drive to the lookout at North Brother Mountain for a spectacular view of the harbour and river mouth.
A great little place to come and relax!
We are lucky that Leo (our 5 month old) seems to have adjusted well to being in this new environment. I guess the big change for him was going from a cot to a caravan. He also seems to be enjoying the time spent traveling in the car. We did have some concerns about whether or not he would transition easily to this lifestyle. We were also very wary that perhaps our close neighbours in caravan parks may not appreciate the 2,3,4,5 AM crying sessions of a young baby, but despite him teething and being in this new environment, so far so good! Of course babies are going to cry but most normal people realise that is just what babies do.
Cooper has also settled back into this lifestyle without batting an eyelid. We knew he would though, after all he has spent more than two-thirds of his life living on the road already. For him, our new camper spoils him with a sizeable bed and his own seat at a table which is a comfy upgrade from our soft floor camper that we used previously- even though our camp chairs were comfy, its nice to have a lounge now!.
Jane and myself feel that life is once again “back to normal”. That must seem pretty strange to some but for us the nomadic desires and eagerness to explore must be in our blood. As much as we loved the soft floor camper trailer we used previously, the new Jayco camper now has us enjoying a comfy lounge, a full kitchen and access to power and best of all, out of the cold. It’s a nice change to have our family inside the camper where it is warm and not have to worry about heavy rain or 90km/hour wind gusts and of course the flapping canvas keeping us awake all night. Don’t get me wrong I am not knocking the camper trailer option but especially with Leo with us now, it is a nice change! A bit more security!
One of the advantages of having been on the road previously is that we have been able to learn from our past experiences. Identifying what we need and more importantly what we DON’T need. A lot more consideration went into packing this time. Everything we packed had to be justified!
This time round we have decided to throw all planning out the window and take each day as it comes we will end up wherever the road takes us. We have no more than a general direction in mind, a list of a few places we want to visit and at this stage no definite time limit. Also after assessing the costs of our last trip, aside from park fees, food and fuel- washing clothes was our next biggest expense. A measly $90 later now see’s us as frugal (but proud) owners of a portable washing machine that, believe it or not in only a few weeks has nearly paid for itself. With most parks and laundromats charging around $4 a load for washing we envisage that this would have been a worthwhile investment.
Although our choice to travel long-term as a family was met with mixed acceptance initially, we are encouraged by the large number of other families stepping outside the square and making the choice to do the same as us. We have already met some families that have been travelling Australia for over five years and have no vision to stop anytime soon.
As I write this, we are on our 26th day back on the road. It has gone so fast. We are still only 330kms from where we started. The East Coast has so many little seaside towns. We have frequently travelled from Coffs to Sydney but never really ventured off the Pacific Hwy, until now! After leaving North Haven we headed into Old Bar. We based ourselves here so we could explore the Manning Valley. A few day trips saw us visit places like Crowdy Head and the lighthouse there. A trip to Wingham, Taree and Harrington kept us busy. But I reckon the roads around here must have the most pot holes ive seen anywhere on our travels so far. A short stretch of road into Old Bar actually brought back memories of the Gibb River Rd with all the bumps and holes! (ok, maybe a little exaggeration). Something needs to be done soon, would hate to be towing a large van along there.
I was excited that I was finally able to cross the “Big Oyster” off my list of big things to see, but was disappointed to discover it was now a Nissan Dealership! I was recently told that this had been the case for a while, but I always visioned a seafood shop or a cafe or similar. It just seemed a little out-of-place as a car yard! (but at least its being put to better use than the poor old Prawn in Ballina).
Only a short stones throw further south we stopped for a week in Tuncurry. We had heard so many great things about this area so we thought we would take a look at it for ourselves. I always just thought of Forster-Tuncurry to be a big retirement village- how wrong I was! sure there were plenty of the retirees and grey nomads getting about, and I can see why. But it has a lot to offer younger people and families aswell.
Tuncurry sits to north of Cape Hawke Harbour and a bridge joins the other side at Forster. It seamlessly seems like just one town. Tuncurry is quite small, with only really a main street with a few shops however boasts a great rock wall, rock pool and a stunning beach. We stayed at the Tuncurry beach Holiday Park and really enjoyed it.
Forster seemed to be where all the action was. The main street (although only small) was always busy, a few kitsch cafes and specialty shops lined each side. The waterside provided a nice walk with a few more cafes and takeaway shops- the view over the water and over to the bridge set a nice scene for a bit of lunch.
The beach at Forster whilst we were there looked rough, we had some big winds and the surfers were lapping up the swells. There is a public beachside pool and a cafe aptly named “Beach Bums” adjacent to the beach which always seemed very busy. For a moment I actually thought I must have been on the Gold Coast as the beachside stretch of road was lined with highrise apartments and holiday accommodation- it was only really one or two street blocks but it just looked “Gold-Coasty”!
The main shopping centre “Stockland Shopping Centre” was a bit of a drive south but had everything we needed. Especially a Bunnings (how I love that place), a Kmart, Woolworths, Aldi etc etc.
On the days we had set aside for fishing were sadly met with strong winds and rain, so the line stayed dry once again- a bit of a shame as earlier in the week quite a few people were doing well with flathead and bream just off the beach behind the park. Ah well, next time!
We set off on a day trip along the “lakes Way”. A scenic drive south from Forster via the well-known Myall, Smiths and Wallis Lakes. We detoured via a few beaches for a bit of a look and ended up as far as Seal Rocks where we had lunch on the back of the Ute at the beach. Seal Rocks is only a small village and is home to the Sugarloaf Lighthouse. Not much to do here except perhaps a stroll or swim at the beaches but the scenic drive was great!
We are a bit disappointed that the many National Parks around the area are so expensive to camp in- for us it was going to cost around $26 per night, we were only paying $30 at the caravan park and we had power, water and hot showers! We might look into getting a park pass tho, but not sure if that covers camping or just day use fee’s…………. I will do some investigating.
The fourth and final stop before we hit Newcastle was Hawks Nest. The Beachside Caravan park was great! such an open and roomy park with gated access direct to the beach. There is definitely plenty of money around the area, lots of big fancy homes, many with either a Beamer or Merc gracing the driveways. In particular, “Winda Woppa”- a finger of residential area with beach to one side and the River on the other. If only I could win Lotto, id buy myself a home here, you know just for the weekends! Oh and maybe a boat!
Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens are only small little towns but the beach and river audiences are what bring in the tourists. The 2 towns are joined by a bridge called the “Singing Bridge”, which apparently makes a sound when the wind blows. I can tell you that it was windy when I stood under it and I couldn’t hear anything other than the cars going over it???
Before leaving the area, we just had to try the Oysters this area is known for. We scored a few dozen of unopened oysters direct from a grower. They were the hardest oysters I’ve ever had to open. They tasted great but its going to take a good oyster to impress me since visiting Coffin Bay (SA) last year! Now they were GOOD oysters.
We both have started to feel that being back on the road is feeling less like a holiday now, the “honeymoon” period is ending and we are starting to feel like this is our life now for the next few months (just like it was last time). Nothing stops for us- we still have the washing to do, we still need our own space now and then and I still have to contend with my work. Lets face it the bills don’t stop either and they wont pay themselves!
It dawned on us the other day- its only a few weeks till school holidays and we are approaching Sydney. Where to go, what to do and most of all where to stay- I dread the school holiday rates at the caravan parks and I bet the bush camps will be packed. Interesting times ahead!