Gold Coast to Mt Alford

Mac was heading off for the weekend and our cousins in Brisbane were also away for the weekend so we decided to head out of the Gold Coast and free camp at the Mt Alford Pub.

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Mt Alford is a super tiny town inland of Mt Tambourine and part of the ‘scenic rim’. It’s surrounded by small ranges. The camping is a paddock at the back of the Mt Alford hotel. Lots of space to camp anywhere, with toilets at the park next door. The meals at the pub were really huge and made mostly on site, and were super cheap, so it was easy to pop in there in the evening and have a meal and a beer. They also sell the beer from the brewery across the road which is only open Thurs-Sun. Locals were friendly and chatty and Dave and Rob the owners were great.

Very pretty countryside for riding and again we went swimming at lake Moogerah, making the locals shake their heads at the idiots who dared to brave the water at a mere 25C or so! Honestly! It’s not cold!

It was also a good spot to hook up with the Brisbane cousins the next weekend and go touring around Mt Tambourine.


After first tracking down the sled dogs to see them doing some dry running in the Karawatha Forest in Logan. This was the final part of my Neilma Sidney Literary Travel Grant (there are sled dogs in my next book, Dry Running). All my grant trips are done! I’d love to do this sport if I had time to look after big energetic dogs.


Up to Suffolk Beach and on to the Gold Coast

In pursuit of sunshine and a good beach to swim at, we took a quick trip up the coast to Suffolk Beach for a few days.

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Nice little camp, walking distance to the dog beach, and it was a bit funny swimming in our togs while the locals were walking past in jackets! It’s not cold, people!

We headed from there up to visit our friend Mac at Cararra on the Gold Coast.

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We street camped in his street which was a large quiet dead end still under development and just up the road passed Palm Meadows Golf Course and the Mecure Hotel. Lots of boats and vans are parked there, or in the golf club carpark or tennis club carpark so we didn’t look out of place. It’s a quick drive from there to Broadbeach, the train to Brissie or the GC Airport. I had to fly back to Sydney to speak at the Sydney Writers Festival, so I did that from there. Also popped down to Kingscliffe to see my friend Jo Sandhu author of Tarin of the Mammoths, who’d collected my Aurealis award for me in Perth, and have lunch with her. Kingscliff is a great little town. Big wide beaches, just starting to get that cafe buzz, and with a new foreshore park.


Ballina & Byron Bay

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Out of Stanthorpe and off to the coast dreaming of sunshine and sea swims. Instead we took an evening walk out along the breakwater to be sprayed with wild surf, and witnessed the heaviest rain we’d seen in years!

This is actually the moon rising over the lake at about 5:45pm… weird. The Reflections campground at the bottom of the hill had super clean amenities and liked dogs and we’re ┬ávery friendly, gave us two sites for price of one. Quick walk to a beach and the end of the breakwater from there.

We braved a drenching and stood under the giant prawn! Giant things… Australia, you and your giant things.

We thought we might come back to Ballina one day when she was a bit dryer and headed up the coast to Byron Bay.

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Prices are steep along the coast and they’re pretty heavy on free campers so Suffolk Park was where we ended up, at the Suffolk Park Beachfront where they like dogs, they also gave us a free park for the trailer. There’s a beach entrance at the caravan park but another further up the street for a beach where dogs can run wild.

From there it’s only 6kms into Byron Bay so we got the motorbike out for a bit of sightseeing:

People are living mighty fine in old Byron Bay.

I get the feeling Basil enjoys sightseeing.


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We shot up to stay at the Stanthorpe showgrounds in the hope of seeing some sled dogs in action (to complete a research grant), but their meet was cancelled. Its a beautiful part of the country though. Armidale is Australia’s highest city, and there are lush grasslands all around Stanthorpe, which is a very pretty, very friendly little town.

We’d hoped the showgrounds would be cheap considering they aren’t really a camping ground but they had lovely spots to camp there, including some large areas down by the bushland, and charged $20 a night, for an unpowered site. There were old toilets and showers, and an RV dump. Very friendly owner lives onsite near the gate.

We went out on the bike to check out the Passchendaele Forest where the dogs would run the forest trails, before we figured out the dogs weren’t coming, and saw a little of the countryside too. Seems to be some awesome roads for motorbikes around there.


Chaffey Dam

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Well, we didn’t get far from Nundle, did we? You see the thing is, it was school holidays in NSW, and while we wanted to head to the coast, it would be busy with no free camps, and Chaffey Dam was pretty with clean water and our own little beach and only $5 a night. We had some jobs we wanted to complete on Harvey the RV and a few nights turned into 10!

There were cows who wandered through every couple of days, pelicans, ducks, herons, kookaburra, rabbits a plenty and quails… quails are odd to find there, yeah? Plenty of large fish being pulled up from boats too.

There were loos and warm showers for $1 on site, and a dump point. For drinking water though it was a trip into Tamworth to the Lions Park near the Golden guitar, or boiling the dam water. I did see a group of little girls just filling up water bottles at the bathrooms so you may be able to get away with just drinking dam water if you have a strong constitution.




Melbourne -> Tocumwal -> Bathurst -> Nundle

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The first planned leg of our trip was to Nundle to catch up with an avid group of Jayco owners to talk shop, repairs and get some tips on how to do this whole live in an RV thing!

It was a three day drive. Straight off the plane from NZ, we drove from Melbourne into the night to get to the border at Tocumwal. The next day we drove on and stopped at a friend’s place in Bathurst, and then we took a look at the tiny and olde worlde town of Sofala…

… before heading off on┬áseriously the WRONG ROAD to Nundle! (Two hours of bumping over bare rock and large gravel and ruts was a dead giveaway!) Don’t be fooled by the signs, they pretend to be road works, but the Bylong Valley Way is not a highway! The road from Rylstone to Merriwa is far worse than any road work! You might like to take that road if you have a nice springy 4-wheel drive or a tractor, but don’t take your caravan or motorhome that way. Harvey the RV got shook to bits!


We did however get to view the pleasant and lovely Bylong Valley, which they are planning to tear apart for coal very soon, which seems ridiculous given it is the most fertile land for miles. If Aussies ever develop the ability to eat coal, then this might be a good idea, but otherwise, it seems shallow thinking and selling out:


Finally, we made it to Fossickers Caravan Park in Nundle where damper bread, an invitation to dinner, and dozens of people made us feel very welcome!

We’re Off!

The house is gone, gone GAWN! No going back.

First we took two weeks in NZ at a reunion of the group we toured the US with in 2014 in a giant figure 8 with Colorado at its crossroads. Such fun lovely people. We rode motorbikes around out of Taihape, and those roads were amazing. The scenery in NZ is gorgeous. Climbing up those twisty hill roads to the top, we felt we were looking out over the whole world!

We left Harvey the RV in the hands of the electrical engineers, which meant that we got some work completed while we holidayed.

Auckland -> Tauranga -> Hamilton -> Raglan -> Taihape -> Whangamomona -> Taupo

Papamoa from the Papamoa Hills, and Mt Maunganui.

Raglan with family.

Taihape, good friends and the Moto Guzzi that was waiting for us.

Smash Palace, The Chateau, Harrisville, Bulls and Whangmomona (a republic, go slow through that tunnel, it’s full of rocks!).

Huka Falls, Taupo, Tongariru and a very suspicious volcanic plug!