||Total Distance: 2044.2km
Today was a very very flat day. Grafton is 6m above sea level and we ended up in Yamba by the sea. We cycled out of Grafton and we were almost instantly in the countryside. We cycled along fantastic narrow roads that followed the slow moving Clarence River. The was no traffic and it was flat and quiet cycling past dairy farms, then sugar cane and macadamia farms. The river became wider and slower and split into many channels with low islands with lots of birdlife. At some point along here we past 2000km on our journey north.
We got to the town of Lawrence and caught the free ferry across an arm of the river to Woodford Island which is the largest inland island in the Southern Hemisphere. It was flat. We arrived at Maclean, a nice old town where we sat and had some lunch with a view of the river. The road got a lot busier and the verge disappeared for the last part of today’s ride between Maclean and Yamba.
The reason we are cycling to Yamba is because Dave and Paula and kids are driving down from Brisbane for a long weekend with us. Just as we entered Yamba they arrived and we said hellos on the side of the road. It must have been nice for them to see us cycling. We all went to the Blue Dolphin Holiday Park where we camped and they had a cabin. The park was a kids extravaganza with two pools, multiple play grounds, a jumping cushion (In NZ we call them bouncy pillows) plus loads of kids on school holidays.
We’ll be spending the next few days here before progressing north.
Highlight of today: Cycling along quiet roads next to the river.
Quiet country roads
On a short ferry ride.
||Total Distance: 1982.8km
Today was our longest biking day between Coffs Harbour and Grafton. There are two options, one being the highway and the other which we choose, the Orara Way. Our choice turned out to be a good one as the road was quiet and pretty.
We started by cycling through Coffs Harbour on a nice cycle track then headed out of town and up a hill through banana plantations and lush forest. Traffic was busy but quickly thinned out as we distanced ourselves from the population centre. The top of the hill 20 minutes after leaving Coffs was the highest point for the day and it was rolling gradual downhill after that. We passed through Coramba and then Nana Glen which were both nice little towns. After Nana Glen we also past the home of Russell Crowe and wondered if we should pop in for a cuppa, being fellow Kiwis (he can’t get Australian citizenship). As we progressed we transitioned from lush coastal vegetation to dryer gum trees and red dirt. It was a hot day and the temperature was 23 in the shade which must have been 26 degrees C on the road.
The last 20km seemed hard as we were getting tired so it was nice to arrive in the river city of Grafton. Approaching the bridge we didn’t see any signs either banning cyclists or directing us to an alternative. On entering the bridge we could see we shouldn’t be there as it was narrow, long and cars couldn’t overtake us. All we could do is bike fast and get over the bridge. Some cars wound down their windows to inform us of the lower deck for trains, pedestrians and bikes. It was too late as we couldn’t turn around. Numerous cars also wound down their windows to abuse us, swear at us, and even try to spit at us. Obviously we are visitors to this town and if the drivers of Grafton are so incensed by cyclists on the bridge, put in some signs! That put us off Grafton and we won’t be returning.
Highlight of today: The way the countryside changed over our longest day.
||Total Distance: 1888.0km
It rained hard overnight but it hasn’t rained during the day today although it’s threatened and has been very windy. We got up late and decided to try and find Coffs Harbour. We’ve been here a couple of days and we still feel we’ve not found the centre, CBD, or tourist part of Coffs Harbour. We’ve seen a mega-mall (Yawnnn) and some commercial shops (we don’t need to buy a car) and a beach suburb with no view of the beach. We don’t feel we’ve seen Coffs Harbour.
So we caught the bus into town and wandered around looking for something interesting. Coffs Harbour is a funny place. There are shops centred around the Pacific Highway but these are of little interest to us. There is a beach but let’s face it, every town around here has a beach. There is a marina, again common to many towns. The beach and marina are a long way from the CBD which is unusual. Really, short of looking a big banana, there is not much to do here. Where are the old buildings, the heart and soul of this town? Where are all the cafes and touristy parts because we haven’t seen it? Maybe we’ve been spoilt by the wonderful waterfront and buildings of Port Macquarie and Newcastle and the smaller towns of Port Nelson and South West Rocks. It’s interesting to note most tourist brochures talk about the Coffs Coast and all the smaller villages along the coast rather than the town of Coffs Harbour. We’d somehow expected more.
Don’t get us wrong, we don’t dislike Coffs Harbour. We just can’t find a tourist reason to come here when other towns have made so much more of their location.
Later this afternoon we went for a walk to the marina and spent some time trying to get a photo of the waves breaking. There are always larger waves coming if we wait another 5 minutes.
Highlight of today: Buying a waterproof tent bag. When cycling in the rain the tent gets heavy when soaked.
The caravan park pool
Jen on the breakwater with waves breaking
||Total Distance: 1888.0km
It poured down. The weather forecasters predicted today’s weather correctly and it rained almost all day. At home rain is usually associated with a weather front and usually it would be windy. Today there was no wind and rain fell straight out of the sky driven by some force that must be more than gravity. It rained so hard floods appeared almost instantly on the waterlogged ground. June was a notably wet and warm month for Sydney but we’ve been lucky dodging the weather. Luckily we had planned to have time off in Coffs Harbour today though it’s hard to explore the place when it’s raining so hard.
We watched the rain radar and seized the opportunity to pop out to the supermarket this afternoon during a break in the weather. On the way back we could see dark ominous clouds approaching so we stopped under a shop verandah. Within 10 seconds it went from not raining to pouring down with great force. After a few minutes the rain stopped, almost instantly as if someone turned off the tap. We continued home this way stopping a couple of times for showers to pass.
Tomorrow we planned to cycle 81km to Grafton. The weather is looking better but still likely to have showers. Wednesday and later in the week look much better so we asked reception if we could have the cabin for another night. Luckily it was available, probably due to the fact it’s a one bedroom cabin surrounded by families. The NSW school holidays mean caravan parks are certainly busier with families. We wonder where all the grey nomads have disappeared to. We’ve decided the collective noun for grey nomads should be either ‘a friendly of grey nomads’ or ‘a convivial of grey nomads’.
Highlight of today: Doing nothing.
Ducking back from the shops
||Total Distance: 1888.0km
Wow, what a great way to cycle!
We started off with threatening clouds and humidity. We biked through Urunga and over the river on the highway cycle/pedestrian bridge. We then cycled a short and easy stretch on the highway to the intersection with the old highway. Cars can’t turn into the old highway because of the new highway layout but we easily managed to cross and then cycle along the very quiet road. We then came to a road block where part of the road has collapsed. Many cyclists had gone around the block so we continued and it was fine. It was surreal to cycle on a road that is completely deserted and has been abandoned. Even after the road blocked section, there were very few cars. Parts looked like America where a service station has been bypassed by the highway and has closed then fallen into disrepair. We cycled up a passing lane with all the signs and barriers but no traffic. Presumably the new highway is better and houses next to the old highway are happy. They now have a rather grand but empty road.
After Bonville we crossed the motorway and were surprised to find a wonderful cycle path that took us all the way into Coffs Harbour. As we cycled into Coffs Harbour the clouds looked very threatening. We got to a park and could see it was raining on the other side of the park. We sheltered under a baseball outbuilding as the rain hit. It poured down. After 15 minutes we decided to call the caravan park and we were lucky to get the last available cabin. We waited another 30 minutes for the rain to ease and set off to bike the last 7km on cycle paths. Luckily we didn’t get too wet although we had to go slowly through the flooding. The caravan park staff were friendly and said they had been worried about us when the downpour got hard.
It cleared later and we went for a walk to the supermarket. We are yet to find the CDB of Coffs Harbour but we are in a nice area by the beach. Coffs Harbour has great cycle paths and information online. Well done Coffs!!
Highlight of today: Having roads and cycle paths to ourselves.
Coffs Harbour has great cycle paths
Rain (before the flooding)
||Total Distance: 1854.5km
Today was a nice day cycling on quiet back roads plus an unavoidable stretch on the highway. It poured down during the night but by this morning it had stopped. It looked like it could rain again but luckily it didn’t and it became hot as the day cleared. We started off dressed for rain but soon stripped off clothes as we cycled. The first part of the route today continued along the pretty Grassy Head Road. There was very little traffic and the scenery was nice. After we joined the Scotts Head Road there was a little more traffic but still very nice riding conditions. We met the highway and cycled the short distance into Macksville. We stopped at a café next to the river and sat at a table in the sun. It was hot and we started to melt, a nice change from yesterday.
After morning tea we cycled along the back road between Macksville and Nambucca Heads. Thanks to the Coffs Harbour Council for providing great cycling info on their website. The road was quiet and pretty and we enjoyed the cycling under the shady trees. We arrived just north of Nambucca Heads and sat on a park bench and ate lunch. We didn’t go down into Nambucca Heads as we decided we’d continue north to Urunga. Urunga had been recommended to us by some grey nomads and we thought it best to make progress while the sun shines. The forecast for the next few days is for 100% chance of rain. We had no choice but to cycle 13km on the highway which was OK with a reasonable verge. It was nice to turn off onto another quiet back road that took us back to the beach and along to Urunga. As soon as we cycled into Urunga we knew we liked it as it has a great feel and nice cycle paths. We checked into the caravan park then went to the lively pub for a beer.
Today has been a nice day cycling and we feel we made good progress after stopping early yesterday.
Highlight of today: Nice quiet roads.
Stuarts Point this morning
View from the highway most cars don’t get to appreciate.
Nice back roads
||Total Distance: 1799.5km
Today didn’t go to plan but turned out OK. We planned to bike from South West Rocks to Nambucca Heads, a distance of 61km. We packed up a wet tent and set off in cloudy weather. After 30 minutes of cycling it started to rain. The rain got heavier and heavier and when we got to a petrol station we pulled over as it wasn’t safe cycling in a downpour. Going at the speed of a bicycle we observed torrents of water flowing over the road and not all drivers were slowing down. It would have been very easy for a car to hydroplane on a corner with so much water on the road.
We waited for 15 minutes then set off again once the heaviest rain had past. The highway was busy but the verge was OK. It was still a pleasure to reach the turnoff to the quiet Stuarts Point road. About this time the rain seemed to ease to a steady drizzle and the cycling was good. We passed through pretty rural scenery with roadside stalls selling bananas and tropical fruit. We’ve noticed a change in the scenery in the last 100km. There are banana groves, flowering trees, hedges and bushes, more palms and the nights are warmer. We feel we’ve crossed some frost free line and are now in a more tropical region.
After 38km we reached the town of Stuarts Point. It was still drizzling and occasionally raining so we decided to call it a day at 11:30am. We could have carried on cycling but we thought it better to stop while we still felt good rather than push on and get cold. All the things cyclists need also fell into place in Stuarts Point, a warm cabin, laundry, and a small supermarket next to the caravan park. Everyone we met in Stuarts Point has been very friendly and we are pleased we’ve stopped here. We spent the afternoon drying out and our decision to stop has been good as it’s continued to rain all day.
Highlight of today: The unplanned stop at Stuarts Point.
||Total Distance: 1761.3km
South West Rocks is one of the nicest towns we’ve visited. We had the day off here today and we are really pleased we came to South West Rocks.
Last night we joined a collection of grey nomads (what is the collective noun for grey nomads?) in the TV room and watched the political coup unfold. I told the group the BBC called Australia the ‘coup capital of the world’. Most were gathered in the TV room to watch the State of Origin match and all but one supported Queensland although none of them were from QLD. It was a fun night.
South West Rocks (SWR) is 15km off the highway which makes a 30km round trip for us to visit this town. Probably the fact it is 15km off the main road has saved the town from the rampant development we’ve seen in other towns. There are no obvious apartment blocks or shabby 1980s retail developments that have spoilt other towns. There are no fast food chains and we like the fact the town has held onto its character. SWR is a popular destination for downshifters (Australians call them sea changers) which in our experience means good coffee.
This morning we did some laundry and watched the political TV coverage. There was a light shower of rain and the weather didn’t look great. Once the laundry was finished we dressed up in rain coats and walked through town and along the beautiful 4km beach to the Trial Bay Gaol. After five minutes walking we stripped off the jackets and walked in shorts and t-shirts. On the beach it got warmer and warmer and we were quite hot by the time we arrived at the gaol. Visiting an attraction like the gaol is not normally our ‘cup of tea’ but so many people had recommended it so we felt we had to see it. We are pleased we did as it was interesting. The Gaol was built in the 1880s to house prisoners but was abandoned then reinstated to house Germans of Australian heritage during WW1.
After walking back to town, we had lunch then relaxed for what was left of the afternoon.
It’s been a nice day off in this great wee town. It was worth cycling the extra kilometres to visit South West Rocks.
Highlight of the day: Walking along the beautiful beach to the gaol.
One of the best beaches
Will in the gaol
South West Rocks Trial Bay
||Total Distance: 1761.3km
We’ve been looking forward to visiting South West Rocks as many people say it’s one of the nicest towns on this coast.
We got up and fixed yet another flat tire on Jen’s bike. It turns out she must of cycled over shredded truck tire wire which punctured the tire and tube in multiple places. We’d fixed the obvious leak but failed to notice all the other holes. Yesterday we’d seen a sign for a bike shop so first thing we did was cycle to the shop. We didn’t have great hopes as we’ve visited numerous cycle shops looking for a tire. Well what a surprise! Crescent Head Cycles is the best stocked shop we’ve ever seen on this trip. They had panniers, trailers, heaps of cycle touring gear, and most important of all, dozens and dozens of tires. The owner was chatty and presented Will with a selection of 700x32C tires to choose from. He suggested a tire he uses on his own cycle touring bike which has done 7000km without a puncture. So now Jen has a new inner tube and new back tire that should be bomb proof. That was a good start to the day.
We then biked on quiet back roads from Kempsey to South West Rocks. It was great riding through rural countryside and it was nice to have a screaming tail wind. Clouds started to threaten and just when it looked like raining we got to the pretty little town of Gladstone. We stopped for a Devonshire Tea let the shower pass. After our stop we continued to South West Rocks and arrived at lunchtime. We checked into the nice caravan park with friendly staff and other campers. We then walked into town and went to the pub. It then started to pour with rain so we sat on the verandah and watched the rain. It rained so much we were forced to have another beer while we waited for the weather to clear enough to walk back to the caravan park.
Tomorrow we are having a day off in South West Rocks and plan to have more of a look around this pretty town. Leo is still in hospital and Michael says he is stable though still in ICU and sedated on a ventilator. We know he’s getting the best care and it sounds like Michael and Sally are being looked after at Ronald McDonald House which is accommodation for families of sick children.
Sorry there are no photos today. We’ll hopefully get lots tomorrow when we look around more than the pub in the rain.
Highlight of today: A great bike shop, nice cycling and arriving in South West Rocks.
||Total Distance: 1723.2km
Today we biked from Port Macquarie to Kempsey. Will was 50/50 over which route we should take. One option was to catch a ferry then bike the Maria River Road to Crescent Head. The Maria River Road is a dirt road with mixed reviews so we opted for the other option, the highway. We thought the highway would be the same as further south which was dual carriageway with a huge verge. Instead we biked on the highway which was single lane and a modest to non-existent verge. It wasn’t a pleasant days biking and in hindsight we should have taken the dirt road. It was a lesson to spend more time researching and checking the status of the highway before opting for the main road.
The second mistake for the day was choosing the caravan park. When looking at the different caravan parks on our WikiCamps phone app, none appeared to have a camp kitchen. A camp kitchen is important to us as it gives us somewhere to cook and hang out after dark. Most caravan parks have BBQs but a kitchen allows us to boil a kettle, cook toast, and cook dinner without getting out our gas stove. Looking on Google we found that one caravan park did have a kitchen and we opted to stay at the Kempsey Tourist Village. After checking in and being given a key to kitchen, we were then told it would be an extra $20 per person to use the kitchen. We’ve never been charged before to use a kitchen so we refused to pay and instead used the BBQ area. We would never have stayed in this caravan park if we’d known there was a pay kitchen as the park is a long 5km walk to town.
That said, we did enjoy the pub in Kempsey which was one of the nicest old pubs we’ve been in. It had tile floors, no pokies or dog racing, comfy 1950’s style bar stools, a friendly bar lady, and was decorated for the State of Origin match.
The other thing that put a real dampener on the day was news our nephew Leo is in hospital. He has chicken pox which spread to his throat and lungs. He was admitted to Nelson Hospital then transferred to Starship Hospital in Auckland. Starship is the best children’s hospital in NZ. Leo is currently in ICU, sedated and on a ventilator. It doesn’t get much more serious than this. Who knew chicken pox could be so serious?
So all in all, it hasn’t been the best day, either biking, camping or for family. Our thoughts are with Michael, Sally and Leo.
Highlight of the day: Seems trivial while Leo is in hospital, but the highlight was the nice old pub in Kempsey.
The nice bar
Kempsey Tourist Park with pay kitchen.