Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ballina - New South Wales, Best Kept Secret

Am just back from my little camping and touring holiday in Northern New South Wales, only problem was that it wasn't long enough. Well ain't that always the way!

We collected the "Explorer-Off Road Camper Trailer from "Its all Good off Road" Hire at Jimboomba, about 50 mins out of Brisbane. I have to give these guys a plug or two, they looked after us very well and I can highly recommend them. Terry and Sue own a few "Jimboomba Camper Trailers" you can find both these companies on the web.

We headed home, packed the trailer and the Nissan Patrol with the usual half the house...lol, even having time to have a quick run though of setting the trailer up in the front yard, so at least we knew how it all fitted together. Must admit we did very well with only some quick verbal instructions from Sue at "It's all Good off Road".

Heading off the next morning around 9.00am, we arrived at our destination in Ballina around 2.00pm, having stopped off along the way for a long lunch and a bit of leg stretching.

We caught the car ferry across the Richmond River to get to our camping spot. Here's an interesting pic I shot whilst waiting to reach the other side of the river. I like the clouds sitting atop the folded life rafts and the colour contrasts here.

Took us a couple of hours to set up camp, with me watching some huge black clouds rolling in behind us. Just as we finished putting up the seabreeze enclosure, (that's an annex for those of you that don't understand the lingo) it started to pelt down. Only lasted about 30 mins and then the weather cleared, although not entirely, with a few short showers over of the following days and then beautiful sunny weather till we went home. We didn't have any issues other the the fact the I forgot to remind Mike to lay a tarp on the ground under the Annex. We only had shade cloth down, which is not much use when its raining.

Here we are at our campsite at South Ballina Beach. We snared a pretty good spot, nice and private, but admittedly there were only about 3 other campers round. March is a good time to go holiday, well usually, providing the heavens don't decide to open up and drop a bucket load of that wet stuff, we haven't seen here in a very long time.

Our friends, Russell, Cathy and Peppa the Border Collie arrived a few days later in their Pajero towing their Jayco Camper trailer. Unfortunely due to work committments they could only stay 4 days. During this time there were lots of BBQ's and plenty of catching up to be done, we all had a fab time and not to mention those two rascally rabbit four legged fur balls of ours had a tonne of fun together.

Here's the stunning beach not far from our camp, unfortunately, it wasn't dog friendly as it's inhabited by seabirds and is fiercely protected by Parks and Wildlife Rangers. We were advised by the park owner that fines can be around $1500 if you're caught disobeying their signage.

We are always very careful with our dog around birds and other wildlife, fortunately, Rem, has absolutely no interest whatsoever in birds, preferring to swim and chase his ball - rarely takes his eyes off the soccer ball for that matter.
We found heaps of other beaches that he could have a swim and play in the area. e.g Patches beach, South Ballina which is dog friendly is about 10 minute drive along a very scenic route beside the Richmond River. Well worth the drive just for the scenery, interesting gardens and statues along the way.

Here's a massive jelly fish we found washed up at Patches Beach, I estimated it would have been at least 42 cms wide. There were tonnes of them, I expect they were launched out of the ocean during that wild storm we had.

Ballina really is one of New South Wales best kept secrets, but then northern New South Wales seems to have tonnes of little interesting beachside hideouts with vertually no inhabitants. Frankly I don't understand why so many people move to South East Queensland and then proceed to live on top of one another. Retire to northern New South Wales, its peaceful, has all the necessary ammenities, the traffic won't drive you nuts, and ferry commuters won't be parking out your street.

Ballina isn't far from Byron Bay and Lennox Head both of which have stunning beaches. The town centre has tonnes of interesting little shops, and there are lots of nice walks to be had. It has a shopping centre just outside of town with the usual KMart, Coles, Big W and Woolworths Supermarkets and speciality stores, there's also an Aldi for those of us looking for a Chocolate fix. Yep they have the best Chocolate range as far as we're concerned!
There's also Bunnings Hardware for the handyman, a Library for us bookworms, Vet for our furry friends, RSL Club for cheap meals and I expect entertainment, great fishing spots and tonnes of water for boating activities.
There are two Camping Stores as well, one in the centre of town and another which is possibly more suited to Caravan owners etc is located in the shopping centre.

Best cooked Fish and Chips we found were at Lennox Head. No Basa on offer here, thankfully - not like Nambucca Heads last camping holiday! We also bought raw seafood at the Seafood Market on the way out of town to the Ferry and found it to be good quality and very fresh. The green prawns sans heads were rather delicious done on the BBQ with a little Chilli, Ginger, Garlic and Lime Juice....Yum!

Our favourite Beach was Angel Beach, where we spent a considerable amount of time swimming in what was a "Lake" in front of a Beach Break. The sand at the far side of this Lake had been gouged to above waist height, so that on reaching the deepest side, you could then climb up on the beach to breaking waves. Fantastic!
The water was like crystal and we all enjoyed it thoroughly. Rem had a absolutely fabulous time swimming. When we arrived at the Beach he raced off down to the water, pausing half way and looking back at us as if to say " Well come on, its time to Swim" Boy, is that a new word in his vocabulary. Not!
Here he is having a surf on the doggy beach at Byron Bay too. Can't say there weren't too many doggy beaches that he didn't visit.

We took a day trip inland to Lismore, and then drove onto Evans Head, also a very pretty seaside town. Take a look at the next pic, which was taken at the Lookout at Evans Head.

and this pic is the other side of the view

We also had lunch at a great little cafe right on the Beach. Its called "Shelly's on the Beach". You can find this cafe at Shelly Beach which is not dog friendly, but the cafe is Dog friendly. Furry friends can have a snooze at your feet whilst you indulge in a very nice lunch with a view.

Highlites on the Camper Trailer

1) Steps to the bed - no ladders to climb
2) The battery operated water pump on the sink
3) The spaciousness of the living space

Lows on the Camper Trailer

My Pet hate and I do have one, the Bed. If I owned a camper trailer it would have to have an inner spring mattress. As it was the mattress would have been low density foam and certainly no more than 13cms high. That to me is like sleeping on concrete. Mind you the other half didn't seem to have an issue, but then he can fall sleep anywhere!!

To try and make life more comfortable I went off an bought a foam underlay from Big W at Ballina. The $60.00 it cost me was well worth the money spent for what was almost a comfortable nights sleep. Once I was out of bed in the morning, usually 6.00am, there was no way I was crawling back in. Although I did managed to sleep till 8.00am one morning, most likely from sheer exhaustion.

Ok now, would I own a Camper Trailer? No, not unless I planned on using it constantly in the next few years and I don't mean just for the annual holiday. I've come to the conclusion that a caravan (perhaps a small compact one) would be less combersome. I figure too that when you're older finding the strength to open out a heavy trailer manually is not the way to go, particularly with continuous overnight stops and particularly if one of you is taken ill. I read recently about a woman whose husband was taken ill and had to go to hospital approx 200kms away, their camper was so heavy, the poor woman was unable to manage it on her own, needless to say they've since replaced it. I also think that I'd like to be up off wet ground.

Russell and Cathy reckon a pop top caravan is on their shopping list down the track. Consequently, we're looking forward to the Caravan and Camping Show in June.
It's always interesting to see the new developments in camping, either way am sure it will end up being a hard decision in the end as there are just so many options.

Last and not the very least here's Mike with Peppa (left)and Remy - on Tour. One of my fav pics.


Kel said...

Great blog ! Sounds like you guys had a wonderful time

Maryanne said...

Bernie ... your photos are great. It looks like you had so much fun - I'm jealous of the long journeys people seem to take ... can't wait till we can have some decent time off and get into some travel ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad to see the update Bernie. Your photos are wonderful and it sounds like you had a fantastic time. I do hope you get a wonderful camper that suits you and hubby and do tons of travel as you have always wanted. I sent you a photo of the green turtle my son took while diving somewhere, I cannot remember now. But it is so much like your pictures that I thought you would enjoy it. Sending you lots of love. Enjoy your summer and nice warm fingers my friend. Bev