Rolling with the Gray Nomads
Every winter a great migration happens in Australia. The gray nomads load up their caravans and head north. Retirees make the trek from Victoria to Queensland to get out of the cold, wet Melbourne winter weather. Last week we were rolling with these fair weather crusaders. We loaded up a rented campervan and headed north ourselves seeking adventure. We hopped from beach to beach each one better than the last. We drove all the way to Noosa and back down to Sydney in 2,100 kilometers (or 1,300 miles) and in 9 days.
Our first day on the road took us to The Grandis. It's the tallest tree in New South Wales (the state we live in). I'm not sure my family was particularly impressed by this gem I found off the beaten path, but I was redeemed by a huge lizard hanging about. He begged for scraps as any resourceful lizard would. From there, we headed to our first caravan park in Hat Head. There was a beautiful beach with many pelicans. We experienced our first night of quiet in a long time.
Australia was settled by prisoners, so there are not a lot of historical buildings of Australia's settlement. There are some cool defunct jails though (they spell it gaol here). So, day two brought us to Trial Bay Gaol. It was not only a prison, but an internment camp in World War I. The prison is in a beautiful spot and as far as prisons go, seemed pretty nice. It was abandoned as a prison not long after founding as it was not doing its job. Judging by the art and writing that was being done there, I hazard a guess it was a pretty lax gaol. Moving right along up the coast we stayed in Byron Bay the second night - a big surfie destination. The weather was not very cooperative, but we caught a beautiful sunset and again had a quiet night.
Crikey! Day three landed us in the Sunshine Coast and at the Australia Zoo. This is the Irwin family zoo (aka The Crocodile Hunter). This was an impressive zoo. Probably the best zoo I've ever been to. I am amazed by how much room the animals had in their enclosures and the landscaping around the zoo was beautiful. There were obviously a lot of crocodiles, but the Australia and Africa exhibits were truly impressive. And the most exciting thing... we got to ride camels! In case you are wondering, its like riding a really big, smelly horse in a very uncomfortable saddle. From there we headed to our next caravan park where we stayed for three nights. It was there we experienced the full gray nomad experience.
We were at Coolum Beach in the Sunshine Coast. We had pushed the kids pretty hard and seen a lot along the way. At this point, it was time to relax. Time for playing at the beach and the park and the skate park and heading up to Noosa. TW and I took turns taking a break from the kids. I got a little pampering and he got to do some fishing. Overall, it was just a relaxing place to spend a couple days. The nomads exhibited the same hospitality we've become accustomed to here - apart from a few grumpy old men. They teased the kids and even shared their homemade mayo for our tartar sauce.
We headed for home and pushed through one of the most intensive days of driving to land us halfway there in Coffs Harbour. Little did we know we were going to end up in the coolest caravan park yet. The kids loved it so much we decided to stay an extra day. There was an amazing pool, playground and bouncy pillow. Mom nailed it!
Day seven was awesome! We were able to meet a dolphin and a seal at Marine Dolphin Magic. We got hugs and kisses from all of them and got to feed them. The kids loved it and weren't afraid in the least. On day eight, TW booked us jet skis. Tessa freaked out and I only got about 100 yards with her. But Jack, he was all about it. Water and speed, his two favorite things! We're in trouble with that one. Finally, it was time to head home. It was a sad morning. We could have stayed on the road a bit longer possibly forever.
Aussie Speak of the Week
Yeah...nah = Basically, "I understand what you are saying, but no." This is now my new favorite.
Windscreen = windshield
Jelly snakes = gummy worms
Jelly = Jello
Doona = duvet