We left Newcastle around 8am and followed the Pacific Highway a little way inland from the ocean, although we caught a glimpse of blue out to our right every now and then. We drove through a mix of rain forest and agricultural land with nothing much to see unless you headed for the coast. Although the highway avoided most urban areas, it passed through the middle of the busy town of Coff’s Harbour. We waved at the Big Banana as we stop-started our way through the traffic lights in and out of town.
We’d planned to find some lunch at Coff’s Harbour but it was all too hard – too much traffic, too many people. We drove on and found an exit to Grafton, a largish town on a river. It being a Sunday afternoon, the little cafés on the waterfront and the old part of town were all closed but we found a sandwich bar in the food court of the modern mall. The sandwich was expensive, but it was fresh.
At this stage we were on our way home, with only one more overnight stop. We were basically all touristed out, looking forward to home and our own bed. We stayed that last night at Ballina, a small town on the banks of the Richmond River not far from the Queensland border and we reached it in good time.
We strolled along the wharf at the riverfront. The water was full of small fish which would have attracted larger fish. A number of anglers were trying their luck.
Back at our room we had a look at the offerings in the local restaurants but most of them were closed on a Sunday night. We ended up going to the brand new, enormous RSL. The building is bigger than the RSL at Hervey Bay and pretty flash. The food, I have to say, was as expensive as any of the restaurants we’d looked at and it was disappointing.
That night, Pete woke around 3am when somebody tried to get into our room. Maybe somebody looking for unlocked doors? Next morning, we found a single women’s shoe outside.
And then it was time to head home. We crossed the Tweed River into Queensland and went up the motorway past the Gold Coast towards Brisbane along with the other Monday morning commuters. Brisbane’s urban sprawl starts at the Gold Coast just over the NSW border, across the CBD and up along the Sunshine Coast, a distance of about 200km, busy with traffic all the way. It was a relief to get past the CBD and onto the Bruce Highway heading North.
When we reached Gympie (a large town where the highway goes through at least ten sets of traffic lights) we opted to take the back road to Maryborough to avoid the major road works we’d encountered on the Bruce when we left home. It’s a good 2-lane road and after we eventually passed that infuriating woman with the queue behind her it was plain sailing.
We were home by early afternoon.