Canungra – Sun 6th to Mon 7th Dec
Time to take the girls to one of the theme parks just inland from the Gold Coast – they had been promised Wet N Wild from way back. The good news was we were still outside of school holidays, and Bonnie was now just tall enough to get onto nearly all of the rides.
Canungra is a great base for accessing the theme park strip. About 40 minutes inland it is a little town which does a thriving trade from tourists at the weekend but has enough of its own life that it is not dead during the week.
It also has a wonderful showground just outside of town. A river runs through the town, in a bend of which nestles the camping area, with the showground just behind. There is plenty of space, swimming in the river and you can have a fire. All for $25 for a family, brilliant value and so much better than cramming into one of the caravan parks along the pacific highway.
Getting into Wet N Wild is chaotic, they really could do with some signs advising which queue to stand in, and some more shade over the queuing areas. However once in its pretty well laid out. You can take your own food and drink, there are shaded seating areas to base yourself in and all the rides have obvious line ups.
Now Wet N Wild is not the kind of place that lends itself to taking photos – you can’t take a camera on the rides, and if you stand at the bottom you mainly get a large splash of water. A few had a viewing area but it is far more fun to just get on with things. The girls particularly liked hearing Mum scream when she ended up backwards on one of the group rides (you all sit on the same blow up float and head off down a large twisty water slide).
Overall a great day; we were amongst the last to leave as the park shut, not bad as we arrived just after it opened. However if it had been school holidays it would probably have been a different story – some of the queues were half an hour, with holiday crowds it would have taken all the fun out of things.
Byron Bay – Wed 8th to Fri 10th Dec
Ask someone to name holiday towns on the NSW coast and chances are they will mention Byron. Yes, we were back in NSW. No chance though to stop and get a photo of the “Welcome to NSW” sign, a bit too much traffic on the freeway.
There are several campsites in Byron, however the best located is probably Clarkes Beach, part of the North Coast Holiday Parks chain. It sits above the southern end of the beach, with direct access to the surfing below and a 10 minute walk to the patrolled swimming in front of the town centre. The only downside of the site is space, you have to get on with your neighbour as everyone is crammed in tightly.
Byron Bay takes its name from the headland, named Cape Byron in 1770 by Captain Cook, in tribute to Admiral Byron. With the opening of the railway in 1894 the village of Cavvanbah was renamed Byron Bay. Initially built on the dairy industry, with detours through sand mining and whaling, today it is definitely based around tourism, be it the large shiny caravans in the parks or the backpackers further back from the beach.
The town centre is a pleasant place to wander around, lots of surf shops and cafes, and there are some gems hidden away like the wonderful book shop a couple of streets back.
However the main attraction is definitely its beaches – more practise on the paddleboard although with a stiff onshore wind it was very choppy and hard to balance.
An interesting excursion from Byron is to the lighthouse on Cape Byron, Australia’s most easterly point. Tours are available, and there are various displays covering the history of Byron. There are also some great views of the bay and nearby beaches.
Red Rock – Sat 11th to Mon 13th Dec
All around Australia we had managed to avoid illness. Once back in the crowds Bonnie picked up a throat infection, most likely from one of the kids activities at Byron. Although she recovered in a day she passed it on, it took me over a week to recover (the joy of kids….). Makes you wonder whether high density living is inherently unhealthy.
Anyway, to accusations of man flu (more on that next time), Hils had to take over driving for the day and get us to Red Rock. This is a few hours south of Byron, on the coast by Yuraygir National Park. Another North Coast Holiday Park site, it couldn’t be more different to Byron – next to the beach but spread out with plenty of space.
On one side of the park is the Corindi river which flows into the sea at Little Beach. Not the safest swimming area as the flow is strong, but some interesting rock pools for the girls to splash in. A rocky red headland to the south separates Little Beach from the main beach, a long sandy strip but a little rough for smaller kids.
Unfortunately I didn’t see much of all this, spending most of our stay there sleeping and boosting the profits of the local pharmacy.