“Life is a journey, not a destination” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
A great Australian tradition, road trips allow freedom, flexibility, and a chance to immerse yourself in the great outdoors. For a little more creature comfort, why not ditch the tent and set yourself up in a campervan. With so many fabulous beaches to enjoy, headlands to hang out at, and beautiful hinterland scenery to discover, it might just be the perfect way to get to know the Northern Rivers.
Written by Alison Bone
In a life spent living abroad and travelling the world, one of my most memorable journeys was a six- month road trip in a Poptop Campervan in 2000. Until then, I had never been that much interested in travelling in Australia, but on that trip, I fell deeply in love with my country of birth. Incredible scenery aside, I was humbled by the extraordinary sense of space and absolute freedom of being truly ‘out there,’ and treading on earth that perhaps no person had ever trod on before. After the crowded, heavily cultivated landscapes of Europe, and the seething mass of humanity that is Asia, it was an utterly unique experience.
Travelling with no fixed agenda, we explored the mighty wonders of the Great Ocean Road, drove through the unworldly landscapes of the opal fields, headed north through fiery red desert to Uluru, and onto the sweltering tip of Australia before making our way down the east coast. Following random dirt roads brought us to pristine beaches, while forays inland brought us to state forests and wildlife filled camping grounds. We met families in buses doing their round-the-country trips, backpackers from the UK in their Wicked Vans, Aussie surfers in clapped out Combis, and encountered many a grey nomad – they always knew the best places to camp. We were welcomed everywhere we went, and were never far from a shower block, public barbecue, or shady spot under a tree to relax for a day. Surely Australia is the best place in the world for a road trip!
Naturally we gravitated to the Northern Rivers. There were lazy days lounging under the pandanus at Wategos, and fun nights at Main Beach car park in Byron, with drum circles, and plenty of camaraderie – sharing tips on where to sleep so the ranger wouldn’t find us. We discovered the Tweed Coast, and I have vivid memories of surfing the gentle waves off the headland at Cabarita, and a magical night watching the full moon rise over Hastings Point, lying in the back of the van with the door up. We camped in the rainforest in the shadow of Wollumbin and spent many an evening by a campfire under the stars at Rummery Park, near
Things are a little different these days of course, and free camping is banned in many places now, but there’s more people on the road than ever, and the spirit of van life is still strong – perhaps more so here in the Northern Rivers than anywhere else in Oz. Travelling with your own bed and kitchen isn’t just convenient and comfortable, it’s budget friendly and a chance to really connect with the landscape. Whether you want to wake to the sound of crashing waves and dive straight in the surf, or step out of bed and into a creek or rainforest, here’s some places to enjoy van life in our neck of the woods.
Hang out at a headland
Hastings Point, Norries Headland, Cudgen Creek, and Brunswick Heads are all great places to chillax in a van. Take a swim, make a sandwich, have a siesta. And while you now have to pay for parking at Wategos – it’s a small price to pay for a million-dollar view.
Hit the trails
The region abounds in peaceful national parks to park up for the day. From the lush rainforests of Nightcap National Park to the soaring eucalyptus forests of Mount Jerusalem National Park, to the coastal trails of Broken Head Nature Reserve, there’s much to explore. Got bikes? Hit the Northern Rivers Rail Trail.
Camp at the beach
Fancy falling asleep to the sound of the waves? There’s no shortage of beachfront holiday parks. Tweed Holiday Parks have foreshore camping at Fingal Head, Kingscliff, and Hastings Point. In Byron Bay, First Sun Holiday Park, and Byron Bay Holiday Park both have direct beach access, as does Broken Head Holiday Park.
Head to the hills
Surrounded by towering gum, kauri and pine trees, Rummery Park, in Whian Whian State Conservation Area is just a short walk to the beautiful Minyon Falls lookout. Book through nationalparks.nsw.gov.au
Crystal Creek Ranch
Sleep peacefully to a soundtrack of trickling water when you camp by a crystal clear, freshwater creek on the edge of Springbrook National Park, just 20 minutes from Natural Bridge. Book through Hipcamp.com
Watch the morning mists roll of the mountains at this scenically located campground in Kunghur (between Murwillumbah and Nimbin). Book through Hipcam.com or contact 0455416037.
Rent a Van
Byron Adventure Vans byronvans.com.au
Wicked Campers wickedcampers.com.au
Byron Bay Campers byroncampers.com.au