Strap yourself in for our road trip north… we are heading to sunshine, warmth and clear blue skies!

Branxton, Greta, Lochinvar, Maitland, Woodville, Glen Oak, and Clarence Town, Tea Gardens, Hawks Nest and Mungo Brush – Myall Lakes National Park.

Ever wondered, in between sniffles, what the word ‘SAD’ means? Well, they tell me that in the world of psychology, it stands for ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’…. a fancy term for a severe case of those pesky winter blues and you might ask… why is this relevant?

In Tassie, our beautiful, sunny, picturesque autumn days would now be slowly being replaced with occasional rain, snow top mountains, bone-aching chills, grey expanses of foggy skies and ‘Jack Frost’ weather!

In saying that the temperature and weather since we have been on the road hadn’t been much different.  We have had the occasional beautiful day, but the nights have been freezing and according to other travellers, the long term forecast for inland NSW, where we had planned on heading, was pretty cold and miserable!

Dr Google also tells us that studies have officially shown that ‘holidays and a warm climate’ improves your outlook on life; you are more active and they definitely raise your happiness levels… so with that in mind where do we go without getting grumpy or frostbite? We are heading to sunshine and warmth, to crystal skies, pristine beaches and clear blue water!

Queensland doesn’t seem to inherit the annual Aussie winter chill of the southern states. Our original plans were to head to inland NSW and then up through Queensland and visit places we had never visited before but with the surprise report of cold, inclement weather in many of the outback towns this idea soon went on our ‘to do list’ and we headed for the coast.

We loved the coast and we were really looking forward to travelling over ground we had already travelled before as well as visiting places we had never visited. The east coast is great for camping, with national parks and holiday parks in abundance. It is full of cities and towns, each a different size, each with its own quirks and character, and of course, with lots of beaches… so sit back and enjoy the ride while we take you on another adventure!

Leaving Broke early the next morning, the next leg of our journey took us over a few back roads as we headed west for a glimpse of Hunter Valley Wine Country through the towns of Branxton, Greta, Lochinvar, Maitland, Woodville, Glen Oak, and Clarence Town . We turned off onto Limeburners Creek Road then The Bucketts Way and travelled through Wallaroo State Forest and out onto the Pacific Highway. From there we made our way north to the turnoff to the Tea Gardens then once we had crossed the famous Singing Bridge, the bridge that “sings” when the south-westerly winds are blowing, we were in Hawkes Nest and on the coast… and our next camp for the night.

The twin towns of Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest are located on the northern side of Port Stephens on the Myall Coast of NSW.

About 6.5 kilometres off the highway we stopped at Lion’s Park for a break. There were toilets, a water fill up point and picnic tables here and excellent views over Tea Gardens and out to Yacaaba Head and Tomaree Mountain on the Port Stephens side. There was no camping allowed but we didn’t care because we already knew where we were heading!

Our camping spot was at Jimmys Beach Reflections Holiday Park at Hawks Nest where we had stayed on a previous trip. This entire holiday park is situated amongst a lovely bush setting with plenty of space to spread out, a great camp kitchen and amenities, and a lot of big shady trees, friendly kookaburras and inquisitive goannas wandering around the park and even the odd dingo.

This idyllic location is right on Port Stephens’ calm water bay to the south and Bennett’s Beach to the east.

Bennett’s Beach on the Myall Coast runs between Seal Rocks in the north and Yakaaba Headland in the south and is the main surf beach for the towns. At the northern end of the town four wheel drives are permitted on the beach.Bennetts-Beach1

Here the water was as clear as crystal and the colour a light aquamarine blue, it was beautiful. We drove and walked the lengthy stretch of beach following it’s long sandy shores, rode our bikes to Tea Gardens and it didn’t take us long last visit to discover that there was a great walk from Hawks Nest to Yacaaba Head… and we couldn’t wait to do it again!

After walking along Jimmys Beach, which incidentally is a great place for swimming, boating, kayaking and fishing, we crossed over the very sandy isthmus about halfway along, then continued along the beach until we reached the base of the headland to a sign indicating where the Yacaaba Head Walking Track started.

The 7 kilometre return walk was pleasant walking alongside smooth barked gum and gnarly old banksia as the track steadily climbed to a viewpoint with great views out over Winda Woppa, Jimmy’s Beach and Tea Gardens. 20131210 Hawk's Nest (10)

This national park  walk is graded ‘hard’ as it is a hard climb to the top of Yacaaba and of course we couldn’t resist the climb… but be warned the last 500 metres was a steep scramble over rocks, but well worth the bit of extra effort as we were rewarded with magnificent views.20131210 Hawk's Nest (13)

Just north east of Yacaaba Head was Cabbage Tree Island where the John Gould Nature Reserve protects the only known breeding colony of the very rare Gould’s Petrel.

All up the walk was about 10 kilometres return and although it was quite a distance along Jimmys Beach and across the isthmus we really did get a good work out, especially our calves, as we sloshed our way through deep, wet sections of sandy beach trying to avoid the rising tide.

Leaving the next morning we headed for Mungo Bush Campground in Myall Lakes National Park. We had camped here before on a previous trip and loved it so much we decided we couldn’t drive by without a couple of days by the lake.

To stay in the coastal National Park campgrounds in NSW we needed to book prior to our arrival and although previously we have done this online, this time we visited the Visitor Information Centre at Tea Gardens. If you plan on staying at a few of these campgrounds it is worth considering buying a National Parks Pass because as well as paying a camping fee you do have to pay for your car as well… and it can get pretty expensive!

Mungo Brush campground is a popular and well known campground near Hawks Nest and although a beautiful place on a sunny day we ended up spending most of our visit sitting out an easterly low that brought some really bad weather. This did little to deter us as we still managed to do lots of walking, riding and swimming…

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From the campground it was easy access to the beach, which was just over the road.
We could walk the Mungo walking track  or the  Mungo Rainforest walk,  just north of our camp or head south to the Tamboi walking track and being right on the lake mean’t we could swim and wash off the dust from our long rides whenever we wanted.

We were surrounded by amazing birdlife… kookaburras that practically ate out of our hands, ducks and pelicans to name a few and the odd dingo or two that continually patrolled the grounds.

Early one morning we were caught unawares by two of these animals as we answered the call of nature and I am not sure who got the biggest fright! We had read the signs warning us to keep our distance and how to behave around them but it’s a bit hard to make eye contact when it is not quite daylight, so all we could do was walk backwards to our tent, careful not to trip over, as they followed closely behind … quite an unnerving experience!

The next night we were kept awake by continued howling that sounded like it was just outside our door and any thoughts of the call of nature in the middle of the night were quickly forgotten until daylight hours.

Aside from these creatures we were also inundated with ute loads of local prawn fishermen who pulled in on each side of us and set about dragging their nets in the lake in the hope of bucketing the kilos of prawns they had told us about… a noisy bunch, but good fun.

We loved it here at Mungo Brush and we were already planning a visit on our way back later in the year.

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Leaving Mungo Brush, we had planned on catching the vehicle ferry at Bombah Point which was further up the road.

As we were heading north this would provide us with a short cut across the lake to Bulahdelah on the Pacific Highway but because of the bad weather the ferry was closed… so it was back out to Hawks Nest over the Singing Bridge through Tea Gardens and back to the highway the long way.

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