After a few nights in Sydney our Australian adventure continued with a flight north to the area between Byron Bay and Gold Coast. You can’t really fly to the other side of the world and not visit a family member living in the area which was the whole reason we went to Australia. Not only was it lovely to spend some time with James’s family, it also meant that we were able to explore an area of Australia that I probably wouldn’t have paid too much attention to otherwise.
Having given the beaches around Sydney a miss, this was our first experience of Australian beaches and they didn’t disappoint. I can see why they have a global reputation. The first thing that struck me was how long they all seemed to be, with very soft white sand and strong waves. We saw lots of surfers in the water and as soon as I stood in the sea I could see why. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a sea which felt like I could be dragged off at any minute. The current was really strong and I can see why there are so many warnings about where you should swim. Luckily we didn’t see any sharks the whole time that we were there although apparently they are very common and come in really close to the shore.
Having told various people that we were travelling to Byron Bay we’d heard a little bit about it before we arrived and I was surprised to find it completely different to the image that I’d built in my head. I was expecting it to be much quirkier and more alternative than it actually was, and apparently it has lost an element of that due to it becoming increasingly popular with tourists and house prices rising. I still really liked it, it just wasn’t the hippy haven that I’d expected and I think I’d find it far too busy in peak season.
We also went to the most Eastern point of Australia at Cape Byron, walking down from the Cape Byron Light which is Australia’s most powerful lighthouse. There were beautiful views of Byron Bay from the top, and the mountains in the distance. It was also mesmerizing watching the waves crashing against the rocks beneath us – once again I was fascinated by the power of the sea.
Whilst Byron Bay was not quite what we expected, we found Nimbin to be everything we thought Byron might be and more. Nimbin is apparently the hippy capital of Australia and has a reputation for its cannabis culture (which is illegal in New South Wales despite its prevalence in Nimbin). I have to admit that I didn’t really feel comfortable there and I think that the fact that we had been offered drugs twice within about ten minutes of arriving probably had a lot to do with that. However, it’s an interesting place to wander around and the shops all lived up to the alternative vibe.
From Nimbin we headed on to Minyon Falls which is a plunge waterfall over cliffs which were once part of the Tweed volcano. They were pretty spectacular, mainly because of the sheer drop that they came off. It was a nice drive to get there and it felt like we were getting a proper experience of the Australian bush. Everything was much greener than I had expected! There is meant to be a great walking track around Minyon Falls which we opted not to do, mainly because it felt too hot and we didn’t really have enough time. I was also a little scared as it seemed like the perfect place for snakes and spiders so I was very relieved that we didn’t come across any.
I can see why this area of Australia attracts so many tourists as it was really beautiful and very unlike the red desert image that I imagined the whole country to be like. The East Coast trip from Sydney to Cairns (or vice versa) is very popular with travellers and is one I wouldn’t mind doing if I returned having now seen some of the east coast.