New South Wales

Treachery Camp and Seal Rocks

Treachery Camp is a privately owned property a kilometre down an unsealed road from Seal Rocks. I think I’ve been going there for over 20 years now so the chance to have a quick weekend getaway was jumped at – a Dads and kids weekend.

Approximately 4 hours north of Sydney, Seal Rocks is a little village with caravan park, and general store, just north of the Myall Lakes National Park. Twenty years ago it was quite an adventure to get to but the improvements to the Pacific Highway in recent years, plus completion of a sealed road to Seal Rocks in the last two years have opened the area up to everyone.

Because of this the camp was busy, much busier than I was used to. We found a large spot near the billabong, in a forest of paperbark trees, which in prior years I would have avoided for an abundance of mosquitos. The billabong itself was barely a puddle left, and full of tiny fish, but the marks on the trunks of surrounding trees belied days when it was over 1m deep.

Camp went up, the boys went off exploring, the campfire started and Simo set a high standard with his curry for the first meal. The boys found sticks and the obligatory marshmallows over the campfire saw the night draw to a close.

First thing Nick braved the surf at Treachery beach but after breakfast we headed for the more protected waters at Seal Rocks where the boys swam, paddled and tired themselves out. A friendly Kookaburra visited my rear tyre and coughed up it’s equivalent of an owl pellet – full of beetle shells, leaving it on the tyre.

The big sand dune between camp and the beach is a huge draw card for the kids, as they run up and down in the heat of the sun. Some of them even got an introduction to sandboarding by a man who makes them, and soon enough the youngsters were speeding down the dunes extolling the virtues of the board.

The short walk to Treachery Head offers magnificent views back to Seal Rocks lighthouse, and Lighthouse beach to the north, with Treachery beach to the south. In calmer conditions in the past I have watched whales and dolphins playing in the waters just off the headland here.

I had heard dingos inhabited the area but had never seen one at Treachery before. Maybe it was because we were close to a place called Dingo Flats but we had a few visits by very wary dingos cruising past looking for an easy snack – none around six very active hungry boys! Then there was the obligatory snake sighting, a red-belly black snake cruised through the camp followed by the curious boys, careful to keep just enough distance to be safe.

And when they weren’t exploring the boys resorted to the irritating but totally harmless current craze of bottle flipping

I was surprised how crowded it was but even then our stay was pretty peaceful in the magical forest and all the mosquitos, it turned out, had moved to live in the toilet block! Still beautiful but changing fast.

As we drove back to the Pacific Highway we diverted the 5km to see the 400 year old Grandis tree, once claimed to be the tallest tree in NSW, but since exceeded by some remote tree back in the Blue Mountains.

 

 

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Categories: Adventure, Australian Outback, Beach, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, New South Wales | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Werrikimbe National Park, NSW

Shortly after leaving Armidale we chanced upon a sign to the grave of Nat Buchanan who died at the age of 72 in 1901. Like we did, you are probably wondering who Nat Buchanan is, but we discovered that after arriving in Australia from Ireland in 1837, he went on to create an unrivalled reputation droving cattle. The plaque next to the grave explained all his feats and having visited some of the areas he was droving we could well appreciate the achievement.

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Apsley Falls, Oxley Wild Rivers NP

Apsley Falls, Oxley Wild Rivers NP

Driving further along the road in the Northern Tablelands another sign triggered me to turn off to the Apsley Falls. I had read about these and also was keen to see what the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park had to offer. Two sets of falls plunge some 60m into the precipitous Apsley gorge and a series of lookouts offer some amazing vantage points to watch. The water levels were low and the river disappears beneath rubble at one point re-emerging around the next bend in the gorge.

Mooraback camp is a quiet oasis that lies in Werrikimbe National Park, and adjacent to the Oxley River National Park. Classified as a Gondwanaland forest, it is the remnant of forest from the supercontinent of the same name that split into the continents that we know today. The homestead was handed over to the National Parks in 1975 and is now critical habitat to a number of endangered plants and animals, including the River Hastings mouse. This rodent was believed extinct for over 100 years until rediscovered here in the 1980s.

Reaching an altitude of up to 1200m on the drive up it was quiet a refreshing change, from the mid 30 degrees of the previous day, as temperatures dropped to a brisk 16 degrees.

Driving into the clouds we were regularly sprinkled with fine drizzle. On arrival we had choice of the 5 sites, all recently mowed luscious green patches dispersed amongst the trees. A fire-pit and supply of wood offered us probably the last opportunity to have a campfire on this adventure. As daylight vanished and everyone else disappeared into bed the forest suddenly lit up with tiny flashing lights, and for 30 minutes a display of fire flies flitted gracefully between the trees in the forest in pursuit of one another. Hannah was still awake and came to watch this magical finale to our trip with me.

From the camp there are two easy walks, one takes you through a number of habitats in the forest behind. This 15 minute walk showcased many local birds, crimson and eastern rosellas, white-eared honeyeaters, golden whistlers, rufous fantails, red-browed finches, fairy-wrens, silver-eyes, and treecreepers.

The second walk is a 5km walk that takes you around the headwaters of the Hastings river that runs towards Port Macquarie, where it finally meets the Pacific Ocean. The streams and pools abound with platypus and Xavier and I were fortunate to see a number of them in the late afternoon.

The hillsides up in this NSW alpine region abound with colour at the moment and we had fun spotting many different spring flowers, including a few different orchids. When the clouds finally cleared and the sun emerged this place was a truly tranquil gem and worth driving the additional kilometres from the main road to visit.

One last night, and time for a final episode of the “bushman’s TV”. Each episode lasts as long as your wood supply, and though often similar, are equally riveting for young and old with every viewing. The last of the kid’s houses built from firewood were sacrificed, another display from the fire flies and it was time to farewell this remote spot.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, New South Wales, NSW, Offroad, Photography, Photos, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Armidale

Our visit to Armidale was to stay with a close family friend, but also to do a little family research. There was the added possible bonus that Hannah was hoping to ride a horse too on the property, or at least get up and personal with one or two of them.

Booloominbah, the "House on the Hill"

Booloominbah, the “House on the Hill”

Booloominbah is a huge house that is now nestled in the centre of the grounds of Armidale University. Amanda’s great great grandmother had grown up in this house and she was keen to have a close look. The grandeur imposed by the building itself indicates that pastoralist farming was a lucrative business back in the 1880s when the house was built. We trooped in and looked around the entrance, then climbed up the main staircase admiring the stained glass window, at which point a lady appeared asking us if we required assistance. When Amanda revealed her credentials we were whisked off on a tour of the entire building, pretty special as this is now the administration centre for the university.

Among the highlights were the hand-painted glass windows in the nursery depicting scenes from nursery rhymes, but also the extravagance of the dining room was astounding.

Clutching new acquired brochures we thanked our guide profusely and headed for the Saumarez homestead, where we were welcomed by an equally accommodating caretaker, despite the fact it wasn’t open. Again the family link worked, and we explored the homestead but not inside the main house which was left pretty much as it stood when Elsie White died there at the age of 90. It has since been adopted reluctantly by the National Trust (due to maintenance costs) as it is such an important piece of heritage in the region.

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With hours of exploring Amanda’s heritage behind us it was time to relax in the peaceful gardens of our host and Hannah managed to get her long-awaited ride.

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Categories: Adventure, australia, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, New South Wales, Photos, Road trip, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Grafton and the Waterfall Highway

With the passing of the previous night’s storm the air smelt clean and fresh the next morning. The humidity crept up on us though, something we have had trouble acclimatising to in recent weeks.

With local knowledge imparted as we farewelled our hosts, we headed down to the beach, then up the road to get a good look back at Lennox Heads before heading towards Killen Falls. The water wasn’t very inviting following the previous night’s rainfall but the falls were putting on an impressive performance. Not quite as much a local spot as expected, there were plenty of people there though few dared the chilly waters. A collection of small cairns have started sprouting up opposite the falls, adding to the magic of the location. Hannah and I also snuck a quick look at Emigrant Dam while grabbing a geocache on the way out.

Birds on the deck in Grafton

Birds on the deck in Grafton

Well on the homeward leg now, our trip was becoming more of a social event than one of exploration and we headed towards Grafton where our friends “Roving Reeves”, from Perth, were staying. The kids always enjoyed catching up with their boys so it seemed an obvious stopping point for us to catch up with Tash and Stephen. An enjoyable dinner was spent on the deck, chatting and watching flocks of lorikeets, king parrots, cockatoos and galahs queueing up to eat sunflower seeds.

 

The next morning, once a thick fog had lifted from the hills around Grafton, they joined us on a drive towards Dorrigo National Park, stopping first at Dangar Falls, just off the obviously named Waterfall Highway.

A quick lunch and walk to the base of the falls at Dangar then off to the Dorrigo National Park where we wandered into the rainforest, onto the skywalk and listened to the birdsong throughout the hillside. with time once again getting away from us we bade “Roving Reeves” farewell and parted ways heading towards Armidale, via the Ebor Falls. The surrounding woodland and fields there were smothered with a thick dusting of white michaelmas daisy snow, the wonder of springtime flowers was greeting us once more in our last few days on the road.

Spring flowers around Ebor

Spring flowers around Ebor

 

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, New South Wales, Photography, Photos, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Byron Bay – Australia’s eastern most point (Back to NSW)

We did it - the final compass point extremity of mainland Australia

We did it – the final compass point extremity of mainland Australia

The last challenge for us was to stand on the last of the compass points of mainland Australia. In the South, a year ago, we had hiked 40km in 2 days to South Point. In the West an arduous drive took us some 32km along a hideously corrugated sand track to Steep Point. Only a few weeks ago we had stood at the Tip, (Pajinka) on Cape York, in the North and the last challenge was Cape Byron on the East. This had to be the easiest part of our challenge. We parked car and trailer and walked 15 minutes up the hill past the lighthouse to the sign. Once again a storm threatened but on our return we hesitated on the cliffs to watch a manta ray glide past. We also witnessed a shark, eagle rays and dolphins cruisng close to the shore before we dashed to miss the rain.

 

But wait a minute I’m getting ahead of myself!! Leaving the Gold Coast we took a scenic drive inland through forests to a place called the Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park. A short trail through forest takes you to Cave Creek that falls over a rock wall then through a cave making it a photogenic “Natural Bridge”. The river passes several plunge pools before cascading over a large log into a glowworm cave, then flows out to the forest again. The glowworms are only visible at night unfortunately when their green light fills the cave. Another feature of this part of the park are the Hoop Pines, primitive conifers that have existed for 180 million years.

Nearly home!

Nearly home!

Our itinerary was busy and as we pressed on again, then suddenly on a narrow winding country road we were confronted with a sign that grounded us. “Welcome to NSW” meant we were truly almost home. We left NSW over a year ago.

Our next stop requested by the kids was Crystal Castle in Mullumbimby. I wasn’t prepared for what greeted us, but mirth soon overtook apprehension when our guide paused for an unexpected moments meditation. The kids slurped their drinks loudly (we were lunching on the run again). I poked them in the back, half opening my eyes to see if anyone had heard but they didn’t get it and kept slurping. I hung my head for a minute in embarrassment, then let go, relaxed and enjoyed the sumptuous grounds. Giant statues of Buddha and numerous Indian gods occupy strategic positions throughout the Shambhala gardens. Enormous crystals offer healing qualities, and a world peace stupa allows one to close your eyes and pretend you are in Tibet. There is a rainforest walk, regular events, and niches where people seek tranquility for a spiritual experience. Much work and collaboration has been required to develop this place and it is well worth a visit. After a couple of hours here it was time to close the compass point challenge and Byron Bay was our next stop, unfortunately having no time to stop to see our fellow travellers “Our Roaming Home”, who started from our home suburb shortly after we left. They had seen us passing and called Amanda on the phone!

With light fading fast we headed for our camp at Lis and Greg (friends of Amanda’s brother) in Lennox Heads, put the trailer up and the deluge began. As hailstones began to rattle the roof on the house I hoped that they wouldn’t be big enough to damage the car. The kids were fascinated with them as they haven’t seen hail for a long time. Finally we sat in the house watching Malcolm Douglas episodes on TV, a rare event in the last year, until it was time to retire to bed.

 

 

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, New South Wales, Photography, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Yarrangobilly and the Snowy Mountains

Today started with a swim at Yarrangobilly thermal pools(Kosciuszko National Park). At 7am the water was lovely but air temp was 3 degrees. We scraped ice off the stove when we got up. Water dragons were already in the water, obviously familiar with a better way to warm up than solar ways usually used by reptiles. We explored the South Glory Cave then headed over the Snowy Mountain highway, where wild flowers were blooming in vibrant violet and yellow hues. The snow gum forests were eerie, looking quite dead covering much of the mountainsides. We changed plan about climbing Australia’s highest mountain given the temperature and settled for the highest town in Australia instead at Cabramurra.

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Categories: Australian Outback, Camper Trailer, Journey Narrative, New South Wales, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Conquering Pigeon House Mountain

It turned out to be a bit of a challenge but our 6 and 7 year olds lead the way to the top. A 3-4 hour round trip involves a steep climb from the car park, a flat stretch through thick scrub, then a second climb to the base of the mountain top. This is then negotiated via metal steps and ladders to the peak which reveals a fantastic view. A challenging climb rewarded by the spectacular views from the top, especially of the Castle, a flat plateau in the Budawang National Park.

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Categories: Australian Outback, Challenges, Journey Narrative, Location, National Park, New South Wales, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Birds and Booderee Botanic Gardens

Just a couple of our avian visitors, many more of whom we encountered today in the verdant botanic gardens. One of the favourite spots was the mossy path through the forest gully pictured below.

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Categories: Animal Action, Journey Narrative, Location, National Park, New South Wales, NSW, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: | Leave a comment

Booderee National Park

Jervis Bay is beautiful! The birdlife at Green Patch was fantastic. In a couple of days we have seen variegated fairy-wrens, endangered eastern bristlebirds hopping through the dense bush, ospreys, sea eagles, king parrots, eastern rosellas, wood ducks and much more. There are swamp wallabies, kangaroos and echidnas around too, some even tame enough to pat. At the derelict lighthouse we found a snakeskin (brown snake!) almost 2m long.

We played a variation of Pooh Sticks with pumice pebbles we found on the beach – Pooh Stones.

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Categories: Animal Action, Beach, Camper Trailer, Journey Narrative, Location, National Park, New South Wales, NSW, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Trip Planning

My trusty Australian Geographic Map of Australia (for Travellers & Dreamers) is undergoing serious scrutiny at the moment. Even the kids are getting into it putting their suggestions on coloured post-it notes (one of Hannah’s suggestions – “Perth – lots of swans”)

Map of Australia for Travellers & Dreamers - to keep us focused.

Map of Australia for Travellers & Dreamers – to keep us focused.

We have 3 weeks planned in Tasmania from mid Nov, Christmas booked in Kangaroo Island, so we’re filling in the gaps between departure and January. We’ll be starting the adventure in Green Patch, then a practice climb up Pigeon house mountain, before we make an assault on Mt Kosciuszko a couple of days later. That’s our first challenge, so if you have any others please send them in and we’ll consider them. Just remember we have 3 kids 6,7, and 8 and the challenge has to be done by all as a team.

From The Snowy Mountains we’ll be making our way to Wilson’s Promontory to do Challenge # 2 – to visit the most southerly point of the Mainland at South Point (guess what 3 other related challenges are?). That one might be a bit challenging getting the kids to hike 16km.

We then will head up the Great Ocean drive, through the Coorong, towards KI, with a few stops no doubt in the Coonawarra, for refreshments of the Cabernet variety.

Categories: Australian Outback, Camper Trailer, Car, Journey Narrative, New South Wales, SA, Travel, Travel Adventure, VIC | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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