As the Travelling Two spend more time exploring overland together we are developing a cadence and travelling style that sees us covering a lot of territory in a short time. We stop to check out the historic sites and interesting attractions but we don’t tend to linger unnecessarily in one place. And so we found that our two night planned stay at Nymboida River changed, with one night spent in the beautiful bushland setting and a decision that sent us on the way to the coast, via some historic old roads through the areas hinterland.
The road we chose would take us to the old gold mining town of Dalmorten, a place in the beautiful Clarence River valley that was alive with 5,000 residents in the late 1800s, but which is now a desolate river flat with a few derelict buildings and a war memorial beneath some huge hoop pines. There is a copy of the old town plan on display, the only building still recognisable being part of the old butcher’s shop.
We wandered around the old town area and checked out the campground across the river, to make a coffee and to investigate if it was worth a stay on a future trip (probably not though, there are nicer options in the area). From here we continued inland on the narrow track cut into the hillside of the river valley, and with wonderful views along its full length, until we reached the fascinating little tunnel that cuts through a ridge of rock that crosses the road’s path.
These old historic features amaze me, as I picture the tenacity of our pioneer forebears and what they could achieve by hand or with the assistance of a draught horse and perhaps some TNT. Engineering achievements that would need huge machines today were taken on by tough men supported by tougher women.
We continued to thread a path toward the coast, dropping down the range on Glens Creek Road into Nymboida then across to Grafton. A quick run up the Pacific Highway then we turned into the Bundjalung National Park and followed roads through low lying swamp land until we emerged at the Black Rocks Campground, our home for the night.
The site we chose was a little tight for the side folding X3 but it worked out well, with a picnic table and clothes line tucked into a very private site amongst coastal shrubbery. We prepared an early dinner in case the forecast rain came over but thankfully it didn’t appear until we were tucked up in bed that night. We had a surprise visitor during the evening that caused us to tap dance a little, when a bandy-bandy snake wandered under our feet.
We woke to the light strumming of rain on the canvas roof, making it a little harder to climb out of bed knowing we would be packing up a wet camp, and likely get wet ourselves. The X3’s awning at least provides good shelter right from the camper’s exit door and around beyond the kitchen, though there isn’t much space to set up a table and chairs so we ate breakfast inside. With raincoats on we rolled and folded and flipped our camper back into its compact little box and headed toward home, knowing that we’d be setting everything up on the driveway as soon as it was sunny enough to dry the canvas.
We had hatched a plan to follow the coastal roads as much as possible rather than sitting on the mind numbing Pacific Highway. This would give us a chance to see some of the seaside villages and towns that we usually bypass, some of which I hadn’t seen since childhood road trips. I also noticed a stretch of beach from Evans Head to South Ballina that could be driven on without a permit, and the tides were low enough to take this shortcut up the coast – calling by Evans Head also enabled us to grab a coffee and morning treat from a bakery rather than making a brew in the rain beside the camper trailer.
The run up Broadwater Beach was spectacular – brooding turbulent clouds boiled all around us and the crashing surf was throwing mist into the air, making for a very dramatic scene. The bad weather kept everybody indoors too so we hardly saw a soul for the 15km beach run.
Exit from the beach was a soft despite the rain, and I was lazy and hadn’t aired down, so half way up the beach we bogged down. The Staun deflators soon had us at 18psi all around, I reversed back down the beach and approached the exit with a bit more right boot to ensure enough momentum to stay on top of the sand. Of course this meant another delay to air back up again only a few hundred metres later…
The quickest way to get back on track was to use the Richmond River ferry from South to East Ballina, which was a cool little addition to our trip, any trip with a ferry ride seems to be more of an adventure 😉
Rest of our day was spent dipping in and out of each town along the coast. We had one minor misadventure when I got to the Byron Bay lighthouse only to find no trailer parking, and Byron itself was jamb packed with hipsters and pretty young people, so we clearly wouldn’t fit in and kept moving, deciding to have lunch at Hastings Point further north.
The NSW north coast has some terrific National Park camp sites that give you access to the area’s beautiful beaches without the drudgery of commercial beachside caravan park camping. Jump onto the NSW National Parks website and check them out at this link.