Hunt for the Platypus

Having headed south for the first half of our summer holiday to Victoria and the Great Ocean Road we decided to head North for the second part. We were persuaded into splitting it into two chunks due to both of our work Christmas Parties being on the middle weekend. My party was on the second of the two nights we were home for, so with Maisie at the wheel, and me with a slightly sore head we hit the Pacific Highway and began heading North. The plan was to make it a decent distance towards Northern New South Wales where we were planning on spending the bulk of the trip. We made it to Crowdy Bay National Park and pulled into the campsite at Diamond Head just as the sun was setting.

Northern NSW

Sunrise at Diamond Head

After a relaxing night I woke early and wandered down to the beach that joined the campsite just in time so see the sun begin to rise above the rocky headland of Diamond Head. We decided to get on the road fairly early, as we were keen to make it to our intended destination for the next few days, a campsite deep in the National Parks near Dorrigo called Platypus Flat, which as the name suggests is known for the possibility of seeing the elusive Platypus.

Northern NSW

Our campsite at Platypus Flat

Our journey took us through one of our favourite places in this part of the state, Bellingen, so it seemed rude not to stop for a break and some lunch at one of it’s pleasant cafe’s. Bellingen is a small town on the banks of the Bellinger river. There is a real feeling of community here, shopping local and responsible sourcing of produce, there isn’t a huge coles or woolworths to steal shoppers with their bargains. It has a very relaxed vibe. We had a delicious brunch at a cafe we had visited on previous trips called 22 Church Street before hitting the road again towards the long climb that would take us out of the valley and onto the highland plateau beyond.

Northern NSW

Monarch butterfly at Platypus Flat

After snaking our way up the steep climb through the Dorrigo rainforest to the town of Dorrigo itself, we headed onwards into the Nymboi-binerai National Park. We followed a gravel road deep into the forest, before finally descending down the very steep access road to the clearing in the forest that is Platypus flat campground. It is a small campground with only room for five or six groups as well as a few campervans / trailers (if you can get one here), so we initially set up camp on a small strip of flat grass at the top of the campground. It gave us a nice view out over the clearing, but it was disappointing to be slightly further from the water.

Northern NSW

The river at Platypus Flat

To have any real chance of seeing Platypus you need to be out looking for them just before sunrise or after sunset. We had learnt that the most likely time was in the morning so we set our alarms for 6 am and the next morning half-asleep we emerged from the tent and made our way as quietly as possible down to the water’s edge. We’ve had a couple of failed attempts at seeing Platypus before this, but clinging to the eponymous name of the camping area, we were hopeful at least. Initially it continued in the same vein as our previous Platypus spotting trips, and after 20 minutes or so, we were all but ready to call it a day, but then suddenly we noticed a disturbance in the water around half-way across the river. We weren’t sure at first, but as whatever it was dived and re-appeared for the next few minutes at different points across the water in front of us we were finally sure that we had seen one. At one point we could clearly see it’s strange bill as it swam along slowly just below the water’s surface.

Northern NSW

Finally a Platypus (honest)

So although slightly tired we returned to the tent to make our breakfast content that we had finally managed to see one of Australia’s strangest and most illusive creatures in the wild. We were planning to stay another night at the campsite, and the decision was sealed when one of the riverside sites became free shortly after breakfast. We unpegged our tent, and carefully carried it down to the river and our new spot. Platypus flat is such a relaxing location that we decided to make the most of it and spend most of the rest of the day enjoying the surroundings and wildlife of the valley. This culminated in a lovely swim in the river at sunset, rounding off a great day (although swimming with a platypus wasn’t to be!)

Northern NSW

View along Tallows Beach, Byron Bay

The next day we were ready to move on and continue North to Byron Bay where we planned on spending a couple of days. Although Byron Bay is near the top of most people’s lists of places to visit in Australia, we had still yet to visit after nearly two years since arriving in Australia. We decided that it was about time we changed that, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity with us already being so far north in New South Wales. As we pulled into our campsite for the night at the holiday park Glen Villa Resort the change from our previous camping spot couldn’t be greater. After handing over $50 a night for our pitch, we were presented with a tiny stip of grass barely big enough for our tent.  After going back to the office we were moved to a bigger, grassier pitch, but it was a bit of a shock to the system, our entire camp fees for the trip so far came to less than one night, and this was the cheapest campsite we could find in Byron. Still – the location was good, a short walk to the centre of town, and only a little further to the beach. Byron bay itself is pleasant enough, especially the headland and lighthouse which we took a walk up to for sunset.

Northern NSW

Byron Beach at sunset

There are some great places to eat, that would rival what is available back in the city, so it was nice to relax after a few days without even running water. The beaches are nice, but there are far nicer dotted all along the New South Wales coast. I think what I disliked most was a manufactured hippy vibe the Byron exudes, which seems to be a big draw for a lot of it’s visitors. It in no way felt genuine like Bellingen had. Perhaps twenty or so years ago it was more authentic before the hoards of backpackers arrived and the dollar signs appeared in people’s eyes. It seemed like everyone there was playing a part. We still found some nice places to eat and drink but didn’t really understand the hype. We went for a drink at Byron Bay Brewery near our campsite and stumbled into an open mic comedy night, cue some very awkward, offensive and especially not funny acts and we’d had our fill.

Northern NSW

Pat Morton Lookout, Lennox Head

We left Byron not a moment too soon and drove back down the coast towards Sydney. We stopped for the night at Hat Head. A pleasant national park campsite on the coast a bit north of Port Macquarie. The next morning we had a slow start and we were quickly surrounded by Goannas playing Grandmother’s footsteps trying to get close to our camp and our food! Although they would quickly run away if you moved toward them it was quite stressful being constantly on the lookout for them appearing under the car or from behind you! It was time to leave but not before we’d had a look at the beach. It was a dramatic white sandy beach pretty much deserted with large waves rolling in fast, definitely not for the inexperienced swimmer.

Northern NSW

An inquisitive Goanna

Even though storms were forecast we had one more night before we had to be back in the city. Seal Rocks is a small settlement with a variety of beaches to suit both surfers and swimmers approx three hours north of Sydney. There are a few campsites to choose from, the North Coast Holiday Park, Treachery camp and Yagon campsite (managed by the the National Park). Being a popular time of year we only had one choice, Yagon, which suited us as we like the no fuss approach you often get with national park sites. Luckily the forecast was wrong and no storms came so we were able to have a quick dip in the sea Number One Beach before dinner. We walked down to Submarine Beach from our campsite for sunset to enjoy the last moments of our holiday.

Northern NSW

Submarine Beach, Seal Rocks

Photo Gallery

Northern NSW

Diamond Head

Northern NSW

Diamond Head

Northern NSW

Goanna at Platypus Flat

Northern NSW

Goanna at Platypus Flat

Northern NSW

Lewin’s Honeyeater at Platypus Flat

Northern NSW

Platypus Flat

Northern NSW

Private train collection, Dorrigo

Northern NSW

Private train collection, Dorrigo

Northern NSW

Our pitch at Platypus Flat

Northern NSW

Platypus Flat

Northern NSW

Our pitch at Platypus Flat

Northern NSW

Northern NSW

The Old Railway Station, Byron Bay

Northern NSW

Cape Byron Lighthouse

Northern NSW

Cape Byron Lighthouse

Northern NSW

Sunset at Cape Byron

Northern NSW

Sunset at Cape Byron

Northern NSW

Kangaroo at Hat Head

Northern NSW

A young Kookaburra at Hat Head

Northern NSW

Campsite at Hat Head

Northern NSW

Hat Head

Northern NSW

Seal Rocks

Northern NSW

Submarine Beach, Seal Rocks

Northern NSW

Submarine Beach, Seal Rocks

Northern NSW

Submarine Beach, Seal Rocks

Northern NSW

Submarine Beach, Seal Rocks

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On a Westerly Bearing

We set off in our traditional way after work on a Friday and driving as far as possible towards Melbourne before succumbing to sleep. We made it to Albury, approx three hours from Melbourne, at 1am to rest before we continued our journey in the morning. We spent Saturday with friends in Melbourne before heading towards the Great Ocean Road on Sunday.

Victoria

Sunset over Aire River West Campground

We drove along the coast to Lorne where we had fish and chips on the beach. As the rain was closing in we carried on to our camping spot in Otway National Park. Aire River West camp ground was our base for a couple of days. A quiet clearing on the bank of the river it was extremely peaceful and relaxing except of the noisy flock of cockatoos living in the tree above our pitch! We were delighted to see we weren’t the only ones staying in the camp ground, 6 (that we saw) Koalas called this camping spot home, two had babies that were extremely cute. They spent their time sleeping and eating and were a joy to observe on the way to the toilets!

Victoria

A baby Koala in the trees above Aire River West Campground

After a late start we spent our first full day on the coast by heading back to Lorne. First we had a short walk up to Carisbrook waterfall just off the Great Ocean Road outside of town, we then got a great coffee from Moons Espresso Bar before heading up to Erskine Falls. Although Erskine Falls was more impressive than the last one it was also a lot more busy, people vying for selfie spots, so we didn’t stay long. After Erskine Falls we went to Teddy’s Lookout over the coast road, it was very windy so it was a quick stop, the view was beautiful.

Victoria

View over the Great Ocean Road from Teddy’s Lookout

The next morning we said goodbye to the koalas and moved on along the great ocean road to Princetown Recreation Reserve & Camping. Princetown is only a short drive to the Twelve Apostles so a good base for exploring this part of the coast. It was really hot when we arrived and we pitched our tent and relaxed in the shade for a while. Later that evening we went to the Twelve Apostles for sunset and the chance to glimpse tiny fairy penguins leaving the sea for the comfort of their burrows. After walking around the viewpoint taking in the beautiful coastline we got our spot and waited for the sunset. We miss calculated slightly and had an hour and a half to wait until sunset and the penguins wouldn’t arrive until 30mins after sundown. It got progressively busier the closer the sunset, I had to give up my bench after being surrounded by a group with 15 pizzas and 6 packs of beer, they successfully ruined the tranquillity of the setting. The sunset wasn’t as spectacular as some we’ve witnessed but it was still a sight to behold. We then had a fairly long wait before the first group of penguins braved the beach. They huddled together looking to see if the coast was clear and then ran for the dunes occasionally pausing to check for danger. This happened a couple more times before the visibility was too poor and we headed for home.

Victoria

Twelve Apostles

Relaxing in the shade we had a lazy morning, it was another roasting hot day. After lunch we drove to a couple of other of natural rock formations, London Arch and the Razorback. Wanting to get out of the sun for a while we we to a local cheese shop. The area is a big producer of dairy products, the area was cleared to make farms after the First World War. Leaving the cheese shop our car failed us, suddenly the low grumbling noise we’d been ignoring since the beginning of the journey became a loud clanking with each revolution of the wheels, we slowly returned back to camp and called in the breakdown services. After an inspection and one of the rear wheels coming off the mechanic diagnosed a broken wheel bearing and we’d need towing to a garage before returning to our journey.

Victoria

A Kangaroo on Princetown Recreation Reserve

We were keen to get as close to Melbourne as possible as selfishly we were due to see a band the next day and really didn’t want to miss it. So we took advantage of the 200km rural towing option our breakdown cover offers, much to the disappointment of the mechanic from the night before as he was also the tow truck driver and one man band. If we had been able to get the car fixed locally we would have but no one was able to fix the car for a few days and we couldn’t really afford to be stranded for that time. So the morning after the breakdown the tow truck arrived early for our journey to Hoppers Crossing, a suburb outside of Melbourne. The breakdown company told us there would be enough seats in the truck’s cab for both of us however the middle ‘seat’ turned out to be no more than a wooden box with a seat belt and I can say it was extremely uncomfortable for 100kms before I swapped with Jon. We also had to take the back roads as the tow truck required some new tyres we had to avoid the police which was a little alarming, we were assured they were still safe but on one in particular you could see the fabric coming through the rubber!

Victoria

Our camp on Princetown Recreation Reserve

We made it safely and the car was fixed in time to get to our concert, Tortoise, an American alt rock band. Tortoise put on a great show ‘the best live music’ Jon had ever experienced and we had a really yummy Mexican meal before hand. The next morning we had another early start to get back to Sydney and the first leg of our two week holiday was over.

Photo Gallery:

Victoria

Split Point Lighthouse

Victoria

Aire River West Campground

Victoria

Cockatoo on Aire River West Campground

Victoria

Koala on Aire River West Campground

Victoria

Koala on Aire River West Campground

Victoria

Koala on Aire River West Campground

Victoria

Koala on Aire River West Campground

Victoria

Koala on Aire River West Campground

Victoria

Koala on Aire River West Campground

Victoria

Koala on Aire River West Campground

Victoria

Koala on Aire River West Campground

Victoria

Australian Painted Lady Butterfly at Carisbrook Waterfalls

Victoria

Australian Painted Lady Butterfly at Carisbrook Waterfalls

Victoria

Carisbrook Waterfalls

Victoria

Great Ocean Road near Lorne

Victoria

Great Ocean Road near Lorne

Victoria

Great Otway National Park

Victoria

Castle Cove Lookout

Victoria

Koala on Aire River West Campground

Victoria

Sunset over Aire River West Campground

Victoria

Koala and Cockatoo above Aire River West Campground

Victoria

Koala above our tent on Aire River West Campground

Victoria

Crossing the bridge over Aire River

Victoria

The beach near Princetown

Victoria

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo above Princetown Recreation Reserve

Victoria

Superb Fairy-wren, Princetown Recreation Reserve

Victoria

Superb Fairy-wren, Princetown Recreation Reserve

Victoria

The Twelve Apostles

Victoria

The Twelve Apostles

Victoria

The Twelve Apostles

Victoria

Sunset at the Twelve Apostles

Victoria

Nighttime on Princetown Recreation Reserve

Victoria

Port Campbell

Victoria

The Arch, Great Ocean Road

Victoria

London Bridge, Great Ocean Road

Victoria

The Razorback, Great Ocean Road

Victoria

The Razorback, Great Ocean Road

Victoria

Princetown

Victoria

Princetown

Victoria

Princetown

A ‘Summer’ of Camping

Being British, it seems like the right thing to be making the most of the outdoors during the months of June to September. Although in reality, these months are the depth of the harsh Australian Winter. We decided to not break with tradition, brave the sometimes near single digit temperatures and head on some camping trips anyway!

Warrumbungles

Grand High Tops, Warrumbungle National Park

The first trip we made around this time of year was to Coonabarabran a town 450km north east of Sydney, known for the nearby Warrumbungle National Park where we camped over the June long bank holiday weekend. This area of New South Wales is famous for it’s Siding Spring Observatory, one of Australia’s foremost astronomical observatories. The area has little to no light pollution to disturb astronomical viewing, in 2016 it was declared as Australia’s first International Dark Sky Park. It wasn’t perfect star gazing conditions as there was a small moon but we still saw loads of stars. One night we went to an observatory set up in someone’s front garden, we got to see the moon close up and saturn’s rings umongst others. During the day we went on a 13km hike in the Warrumbungle National Park, there were a lot of steps up to the summit of Grand High Tops but the view and the accomplishment was worth it.

Warrumbungles

A Kangaroo on the campsite at Camp Blackman, Warrumbungle

In August we decided to make the most of another long weekend to get out of the city for a few days, but this time we decided to head South to Jervis Bay. Although it is located on the South East New South Wales coast a few hours drive South of Sydney, it is in fact part of the Australian Capital Territory. It serves as the seaport to the federal capital of Canberra, although is perhaps better known as a popular weekend getaway destination from Sydney. In the summer months it can be difficult to find somewhere to stay in the area due to it’s popularity, so it was actually pleasant to visit at a time when we could fully enjoy the beautiful  Booderee National Park when it was relatively quiet. We stayed at Green Patch campground within the National Park itself, and were blown away with the amount of wildlife we were surrounded by. Actually, it was possibly a little too much wildlife, in the case of a Kookaburra who enjoyed a sausage that we had just cooked for breakfast!

Jervis Bay

Keeping warm by the campfire at Green Patch Campground, Jervis Bay

In September we headed to the Hunter Valley for the weekend looking to make the most of a sunny weekend and visit a few vineyards. Having stayed in Cessnock on a previous visit to the Hunter, we decided this time to base ourselves in the village of Broke. We camped for the weekend in the free camping area of McNamara Park within the village itself, and although the facilities were pretty basic, it was a beautiful spot to spend a couple of days, with the added bonus of being a brief walk from a selection of vineyards. On the Saturday we spent a relaxing morning on the campsite followed by and afternoon visit to the Whispering Brook and Margan vineyards followed by a tasty dinner at Nightingale Wines.

Hunter Valley

A walk amongst the vineyards, Broke, Hunter Valley

Later the same month we made the journey up the Pacific highway to spend a few days in Myall Lakes National Park on Mungo Brush campground. After a three hour drive from Sydney on Friday evening we arrived at the campsite after dark an set about putting the tent up in the dark. The next morning we were greeted with the beautiful setting on the side of The Broadwater, one of the three Myall Lakes. We saw Dingos on the campground which was a surprise as we’d only once seen a Dingo before since arriving in Australia, and that was on Fraser Island. We mainly spent the day relaxing by the lake, and took a short walk along the water’s edge to the Mouth of Myall River and back, during which we saw a Red Bellied Black Snake as it darted for cover into the undergrowth. In late afternoon we took a short drive to the massive dunes near Dark Point, clambering to the top to take in the views along the coast.

Myall Lakes

Sunset over the Broadwater, Myall Lakes

Photo Gallery:

Warrumbungles

Wollombi

Warrumbungles

Festival of the Fleeces, Merriwa

Warrumbungles

Merriwa

Warrumbungles

Warrumbungle National Park

Warrumbungles

Siding Spring Observatory, Coonabarabran

Warrumbungles

Grand High Tops, Warrumbungle National Park

Warrumbungles

Grand High Tops, Warrumbungle National Park

Warrumbungles

Grand High Tops, Warrumbungle National Park

Warrumbungles

Whitegum Lookout, Warrumbungle National Park

Warrumbungles

Whitegum Lookout, Warrumbungle National Park

Warrumbungles

Attempt of Astro-photography using the telescope at Warrumbungle Observatory

Warrumbungles

Milky way captured on Camp Blackman, Warrumbungle National Park

Warrumbungles

Kookaburra, Warrumbungle National Park

Warrumbungles

Warrumbungle National Park

Warrumbungles

Warrumbungle National Park

Warrumbungles

Emus near Camp Blackman, Warrumbungle National Park

Jervis Bay

Sunrise over Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Green Patch, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Galah above Green Patch campground, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Too much temptation?

Jervis Bay

Bherwerre Beach, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Bherwerre Beach, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Wallaby, Cave Beach, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Echidna, Cave Beach, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Sunset over Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Sunset over Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Sunset over Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Sunrise over Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

King Parrot, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Whale watching in Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Whale watching in Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Honeymoon Bay, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Point Perpendicular Light Station, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Crimson Rosella, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

King Parrot, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Green Patch, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Green Patch, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Murrays Beach, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Cape St George Lighthouse, Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Sunrise over Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Crimson Rosella, Jervis Bay

Hunter Valley

McNamara Park, Broke

Hunter Valley

Nightingale Wines, Broke

Hunter Valley

Nightingale Wines, Broke

Hunter Valley

Broke

Hunter Valley

Broke

Hunter Valley

Margan Winery, Broke

Hunter Valley

Nightingale Wines, Broke

Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley Gardens, Pokolbin

Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley Gardens, Pokolbin

Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley Gardens, Pokolbin

Myall Lakes

Dingo, Mungo Brush Campground

Myall Lakes

Mungo Brush, Myall Lakes

Myall Lakes

Myall River, Myall Lakes

Myall Lakes

Mungo Brush, Myall Lakes

Myall Lakes

The Broadwater, Myall Lakes

Myall Lakes

Goanna, Myall Lakes

Myall Lakes

The Broadwater, Myall Lakes

Myall Lakes

The Broadwater, Myall Lakes

Myall Lakes

Dark Point, Myall Lakes

Myall Lakes

The Broadwater, Myall Lakes

Myall Lakes

Sunset over the Broadwater, Myall Lakes

Myall Lakes

Mungo Brush Campground, Myall Lakes

Myall Lakes

Swordgrass Brown Butterfly, Myall Lakes