17 Dec Australia road trip: Melbourne to Gold Coast
Earlier this year, at the start of March, we drove from Melbourne to the Gold Coast. “We” was me, my husband, our almost 3-year-old son and my parents. Yes, all in the one (in-adequately sized) car.
It was a multi-generational road trip, I was about 4 months pregnant and we were meeting my husband’s parents on the Gold Coast, where we would all be staying in the same house. We wondered if we had made a terrible mistake but it all turned out fine and everyone had a fun holiday.
Driving Melbourne to Gold Coast
The total drive time was around 21 hours each way. On the way there we took the Pacific Highway with stops along the way and staying overnight twice. The way back we went along the Newell Highway and stayed overnight in Dubbo.
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After leaving home, I drove for the first 5 hours. We stopped for a brief rest and toilet break and to eat our packed lunch. Our next stop was a coffee break in Holbrook, where we saw the HMAS Otway Submarine.
Back on the road we passed the “dog on the tuckerbox” in Gundagai and drove through Glenrowan, sighting the large Ned Kelly Statue. After more than 9 hours of driving, we stopped in Goulburn and stayed the night in a 2-bedroom apartment at the Best Western hotel.
The Big Merino is a concrete Merino ram that stands at 15.2 metres tall. Built in 1985 and later moved to its current location, it is one of Australia’s many ‘big things’. Known by locals as “Rambo”, it features a wool exhibition on the second floor, while the ground floor is a gift shop selling souvenirs and locally made products.
North Brother lookout, Dooragan National Park
We drove up to the summit of North Brother Mountain to see the scenic views from the three lookout platforms. Dooragan National Park is about 40 km from Port Macquarie. Captains Cook Bicentenary Road winds up the mountain for 5km before reaching the summit. Car parking spaces are located near the viewing platforms. According to local Aboriginal legend, North Brother Mountain is the resting place of Dooragan, the youngest of three brothers. As well as the great views from the summit there are also several walking trails through the national park.
After leaving Goulburn and stopping at the North Brother lookout, we arrived in Port Macquarie by late afternoon. We had booked a night in a 2 bedroom apartment at Beaches Holiday Resort which is opposite Flynns beach. After checking-in, we went for a walk up the road that sat above the beach. It was extremely hot and humid so we didn’t last long.
Hello Koalas is a fun and creative sculpture project in the Port Macquarie Hastings region, featuring of course koalas. The Koala image is one that fits the region well as it has a large involvement in the animals’ habitation and conservation, with a Koala hospital located in Port Macquarie. There are fifty-one, 1 mitre high fibreglass koala sculptures dotted around the area. Artists submitted their designs and those selected individually hand-painted one Koala sculpture each.
I was browsing the areas we would be driving through when a certain little person happened to look at the same time I opened the Hello Koalas webpage, so of course, we had to visit and see some up close. We didn’t get to see anywhere near all 51, but we did track down the one he wanted to see the most, “that koala painted like a tiger”, which was located at a KFC at a service centre along with a few others. We first went to the foreshore and walked along, viewing the sculptures that were spread about.
It was a fun activity for everyone and they were all so creatively individual, Fletcher absolutely loved seeing the different designs on each Koala. Read about the structures, view a gallery and see the trail map on the Hello Koalas website.
Leaving Port Macquarie, we drove 159km to Coffs Harbour. After stopping by the Big Banana, we were going to have lunch at the harbour but it was extremely busy and we couldn’t get a park. We settled for lunch in the Central Coffs plaza and after a little look around we drove to our accommodation for the night, Smugglers on the beach. Our apartment was a 2 bedroom near the sea. After checking in we walked to the nearby beach to put our feet in the water.
We then decided to get back in the car for a short drive to The Forest Sky Pier at The Sealy Lookout, located in Bruxner Park Flora Reserve, Orara East State Forest. The short drive up winds through forest and passed banana plantations. At the top, the pier extends out over the edge of the lookout, providing views of the coastline. Whilst we were there, a wedding party was having professional photos taken against the lovely backdrop. I managed to leave my camera at the apartment so didn’t get any photos.
The Big Banana
The Big Banana was one of Australia’s first ‘big things’. It was built in 1964 to draw attention to a small roadside banana stall. Today it is much more than a roadside attraction, it is part of The Big Banana Fun Park. There are many different areas to the fun park, such as ice skating, mini-golf, laser tag and a water park. You can also join a tour of the banana plantation and there is a cafe and gift store on site. We simply viewed The Big Banana and walked through the middle of it, which Fletcher thought was pretty cool. My Dad bought Fletch a ‘little Big Banana’ as well as a jar each of banana butter and banana Jam from the gift store. Oh, and Fletcher had a cup of ice-cream from the cafe, it was…strawberry!
About 3 hours drive from Coffs Harbour and just over an hour from Surfers Paradise is the town of Byron Bay. A coastal town with a hippie-chic vibe, Byron Bay is Australia’s Easternmost town. The Cape Byron Lighthouse sits close to the country’s Easternmost point. It was a weekend and the place was packed. We crawled along with the traffic to get into town, spotting a couple of backpackers trying to hitchhike in the opposite direction. We managed to find a park and walked through the towns centre before going to a cafe for lunch.
I would have loved to browse in the stores but we were running short on time. We drove uphill to the Cape Byron Lighthouse (note parking must be paid with cash) before leaving to meet Tim’s parents at our Gold Coast accommodation.
Gold Coast accommodation
I was in charge of finding accommodation for everyone. We decided we would split the cost and get a house for us all to share. I ended up booking a house on Stayz which is really quite risky as you pay the host directly. I only looked at listings with plenty of feedback and made sure to communicate with the host. The house was in Mermaid Waters. The front was located at the end of the street. The back was on the waterfront with a beach area and jetty part of the property. It had 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a pool, trampoline and kids toys. Sharing a house cost a lot less than booking separate accommodation.
For a one week stay, each couple paid aus$700 and we had the added bonus of a large living space, private pool and a kitchen to prepare meals. The property was about a thirty-minute drive from all the theme parks.
Everyone loved our Aussie road trip. It gave us the opportunity to stop off and see some great places. The drive home from Gold Coast to Melbourne was harder as we didn’t have time to make stops. We also took some smaller country roads which are difficult to drive on and stay alert. I recommend sticking to the main highways and roads as it’s easier when driving long distances.