My first ever road trip around Australia, taking in the east coast and culminating in the iconic CMC Rocks music festival in Ipswich!
Bright and early on a Saturday morning, my friend Emma and I loaded up our Cruisin’ Motorhomes Sandpiper campervan and headed north. We were setting off on a 10 day road trip that would take use through Victoria, New South Wales and up into Queensland, culminating in a four day country music festival – the biggest in the southern hemisphere!
Our first night was to be spent in the stunning Blue Mountains at a place called Lake Lyell. That first day was going to have the longest amount of driving, with it taking approximately 9 hours to reach the campground. What I didn’t factor in was that driving a motorhome is a lot slower than driving a car, and Google Maps doesn’t tell you that either. So what was supposed to be a 9 hour drive resulting in us arriving to set up in the daylight, actually ended with an almost 12 hour drive and us arriving in pitch black with absolutely no lights anywhere and the task of trying to find our camping spot on our own because the campground owners had gone home for the day (they’d left a map and the gate code taped to a pole for us).
I had poured over the maps of the campgrounds to work out which specific spot I would book for us, making sure it faced either east (for sunrise) or west (for sunset), and that it was secluded but close to amenities (I was very well informed). So we’ve arrived at our campground, have navigated our way around to where our spot is, only to discover we have one of two options to actually get to our spot – down an embankment so steep we’d go straight off the other side and into the water, or reverse a good 200m in the pitch black with a cliff on one side and a drop straight into the lake on the other side. Keep in mind we’d never driven a motorhome before and we also couldn’t see out the back of the van. The decision was made to reverse in, which thankfully we managed (me in the drivers seat and Emma standing on the track behind me yelling instructions). Whilst it was a slightly traumatic first day, the view that morning when we woke up at the crack of dawn was so worth it…
Blue Mountains, Lake Lyell – Our camping spot for the first night
My attempt at a wistful contemplative photo
(it was all staged and my mug was empty – I don’t even drink coffee!)
We packed up and hit the road once again, this time headed for a place just outside Port Macquarie called Bonny Hills. Let me tell you, from the traumatic experience of our first day and night, we hit the absolute jackpot on our second night. We stayed at the Reflections Holiday Park Bonny Hills, and it was gorgeous! (Seriously, if you ever head off on a roadtrip then you NEED to visit this place.) I’d booked us a spot looking straight out onto the beach, the amenities were spotless and the entire place was just pure relaxation. Emma cooked up a delicious dinner (she did the cooking on the trip as I’m seriously culinary-impaired) and I set us up with a lovely outdoor picnic overlooking the beach as the sun went down.
We’d raided a few op shops before we left for blankets & stuff to stage some great picnics (and photos). At the end of the trip we then re-donated it all to op shops in QLD before we flew home.
The next morning we woke up to the sunrise directly out the back of our van, so we kicked the doors open and lay in bed watching as the sun came up. It was the most magical start to the day, and a tradition we carried on for the rest of the trip.
We walked down onto the beach and wandered along for about an hour before heading back to the van and another hot breakfast courtesy of Emma. Once we were ready, we packed up and waved goodbye to what is quite possible the best campground in Australia. Next we headed up towards the one place that I had been dying to visit – Byron Bay. I’ve taken a shine to the whole “boho” lifestyle and Byron Bay is the birthplace of Australian boho.
After getting lost a couple of times, I eventually pulled into the driveway of the campground and Emma ran inside to check us in, get our map and the code to the gate. When she came back out she climbed in and said, “Ok so the lady said that we have to be careful not to leave any food lying around because the bush turkeys will steal everything.” …………crickets………… Finally, I looked at her and said, “I’m sorry, I think you’re going to need to say that again, we have to be careful of what?!”
Turns out, these turkeys are everywhere in Byron Bay and they really will not hesitate to ransack your motorhome if you leave food lying around and the doors open.
BEWARE THE BUSH TURKEYS!
Luckily the beauty of Byron Bay more than made up for the demonic bush birds lying in wait at every turn. We had a magnificent spot that looked out over the water and allowed us to once again kick the back doors open and watch the sun rise.
We stayed here for two nights, getting up at dawn each morning to hike the 5km up to the Cape Byron Lighthouse to watch the sunrise…
This is the easternmost point of mainland Australia
… before stopping at The Pass Cafe on the way home for an incredible breakfast.
These banana, honey, chai and cinnamon smoothies were to die for!
The rest of the day was spent exploring, shopping, sunbaking and generally just enjoying the vibe that makes Byron Bay so appealing. Dinner was an experience not to be missed, and we’d been told that we absolutely had to try the fish and chips from Fishmongers. So Emma and I bought ourselves a dinner pack each, a couple of drinks and wandered down to the beach for an evening picnic to watch the sun set.
We watched these incredible storm clouds roll in, however they never quite reached us (luckily).
On our last morning I went for one last hike up to the Cape Byron Lighthouse before we had to pack up and head off once again…
I swear I did more exercise on this holiday than I’ve done in the past five years.
I had muscles hurting that I didn’t even know I had!
Our last stop before we hit up the festival was Noosa, and unfortunately this wasn’t quite as good as I’d been hoping. Turns out we were there right as a cyclone was bearing down and thus the gorgeous sunshine we’d been hoping for was nowhere in sight. Emma really wanted to borrow some bikes and ride into Hastings Street though so we hired a couple of bikes from the caravan park we were staying at.
Now, this might seem like a simple idea however I’m not exactly confident when it comes to riding bikes, so things were about to get a bit dicey. Emma swore that it was an easy ride and after a quick lesson around the campground off we went. Once we got there we chained the bikes up and went window shopping before stopping at a lovely cafe for a pre-dinner cocktail (or two). I’m a complete lightweight (one sniff of alcohol and I’m dancing on the tables) so I was advised to go slowly. Apparently the barman had other ideas because he made me two versions of the cocktail I ordered and asked me to taste test them for him. So we went from this… to this…
After wobbling my way back up Hastings Street, we indulged in the most magnificent steak dinner that I’ve had in a long time. The night was going very well. Then it came time to head back to the campground, only this time I wasn’t just riding a bike; I was riding a bike, in the dark, drunk. I’m not sure but I think that might actually have been illegal. After a couple of “tests” where Emma made me ride ahead and then brake at various trees to make sure I could at least stop, off we went.
The next day we were heading for the big finale, the 2018 CMC Rocks festival in Ipswich – 4 days, 20,000 people, and one hell of a good time!
After waiting for 2 hours in the queue to actually get into the venue, we were directed to our allocated camping spot. There were thousands of people camping and thousands more driving in each day for the festival. To give you an idea of just how enormous the festival was, below you can see our camping area way in the distance and the huge festival zone towards the front. Everything in between was just acres and acres of camping…
To get between our camping area and the main festival zone, the organisers had arranged for “transport” to ferry campers back and forth. As you can see, it was in true country style…
The three day festival was a non-stop ride of incredible music, terrible food, way too much alcohol and the hottest four days of my life. It was awesome, except for the heat. There was absolutely no shade in our camping area and it reached to at least 35C each day with 50-70% humidity, and we were melting. Luckily Emma and I had a secret weapon – our campervan had an air conditioner. Oh man I can’t tell you how much it saved our lives! We had that baby running 24/7 for the entire 4 days and a queue of people outside our doors begging to come in.
The music was insane though, with some of the biggest names in country music in attendance, including Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Bryan, Darius Rucker, Old Dominion, Dan + Shay and Brothers Osborne. I had the absolute time of my life, and if you’re considering attending then all I can say is GO!
It was ten days, thousands of kilometres, more fun than I can ever remember, and I can’t WAIT to do it again!
Until next time,