East Coast Australia book

From Sydney to Brisbane in a campervan

Quin's journal

Wow, I’ve really fallen behind! And I’ve been bad about taking proper photos ever since we landed in Australia. It is certainly not a reflection of this beautiful country. There are endless photo opportunities here. It’s more laziness on my part…or maybe it’s because I’m having too much fun! In any case, I’m a bit short on photos from the past month. I’m making a promise to myself to take more and to share more often so that I can reflect on the everyday as well as our travels.

Let me catch up with …campervans! Gluttons for punishment, we jumped back into a camper for a journey up the east coast to Brisbane. Along the way we took in stunning sights, found fun surf and met many wonderful and interesting people. It was an unforgettable few weeks and we retraced some of the journey we made six years ago when Ivy was barely 8-months old (the book in the photo above is the same old copy we had with us on our original journey — with dog-eared pages and notes written in the margins!). This time it was even better thanks in part to familiarity, and thanks also to social media. When we made this trip six years ago I barely knew what social media was. I’m not even sure Instagram existed back then. This time around, it was our conduit to local families, local insights and an outpouring of hospitality.

Like our last trip, we began in the breath-taking Blue Mountains. Creatures of habit, we went right back to our former campground in Black Heath and spent our days enjoying the charming towns, natural beauty and stunning walks that abound in the Blue Mountains. (See previous post here.)

northern beaches

Whale Beach

While in Sydney we were told over and over to check out Avalon and the Northern Beaches. We listened and headed for the nearest campsite in Narrabeen, Sydney Lakeside Holiday Park. If you’re thinking of making this journey this is one to note. It’s one of the few good campsites near to Sydney and it proved a great base to access the nearby beaches.

We spent our first day at Avalon Beach, the next day at Whale Beach and the final day at Palm Beach. We tried out the surf, swam in the beautiful rock pools and sampled the local cafes. We hoped to find a favourite but we loved them all. Through Instagram we met locals, Kristie, Dave and their three kids, Isaiah, Amelie, and Isla. We had an impromptu dinner at their lovely home in Avalon and it was so much fun we did it again the next night. We connected so easily with this gorgeous family that after only two days together we were sad to say goodbye.

Ivy and Layla

kids in Wyong Creek

boys at Natalie's house

We left the Northern Beaches to visit my friend, Natalie Walton, in Wyong Creek. Natalie and her husband Daniel invited us to their cosy new home, an hour drive north into the bush beyond Sydney. We parked our campervan in the Walton’s driveway and enjoyed both lunch and dinner with their crew. Belinda Graham and her four kids joined us and we had a fun day together as three families, with kids outnumbering grown-ups by more than double. Belinda’s daughter Layla, has been Ivy’s pen pal for the past year. The connection was fist made through Instagram and it was lovely to watch them connect in person.

Seal Rocks

Our next stop was Seal Rocks, a favourite this time around and on our journey six years ago. We stayed at the North Coast Holiday Park just opposite Number One Beach. We made quick friends with our camp neighbours, spent long days on the sand together, shared big meals and stayed up late, drinking wine, eating chocolate and enjoying conversation with new friends under the stars. The campsite is in the middle of a national park, far from the nearest town or any houses. It’s a beautiful, natural setting – like camping should be. The kids were over the moon when they spotted goannas and a dingo on our first day. The gentle and fun surf didn’t hurt either. Even I had a go.

Having succeeded with one ‘Rocks’ we thought we’d try another, South West Rocks. Many people had recommended we check it out so we found a campsite nearby and enjoyed some time at the beautiful beach in Horseshoe Bay. This is clearly a popular spot, with crowded sands and waters. Nevertheless, we all had a swim and Easton managed to squeeze a surf in between the myriad bathers.


Ivy and Marlow in Bellingen

flying foxes

picnic lunch

Our next stop, Bellingen, was a favourite from our first journey up this coast. It’s a picturesque, bohemian town 20 minutes into the hills beyond Coffs Harbour. The town of 3,000 is brimming with charming buildings, great cafes, organic grocers and second-hand shops. Best of all though is Bellingen’s laid-back vibe. Shoes are optional here but tie-dye is not. There is no campsite in town so we pulled up in the showground fields, just across the river from town. A lady comes around every evening to collect $25 and you’re free to enter and leave as early or late as you like. Bellingen is near to the Dorrigo Rainforest (see previous post) where beautiful walks and lots of wildlife is on offer. It was in the showgrounds though that we met Lauren, Michael and their two girls — a lovely family from Newcastle who were camping in their cute little caravan next to us.

Ivy on fence in Lennox Head

Quin carrying Marlow

girls at Lake Ainsworth

Ivy in Lennox Head

Ivy swimming in lake


Many friends and Instagrammers recommended we check out our next stop, Lennox Head. This little beach town south of Byron Bay has a fun vibe, cute cafes and good surf. We camped at the North Coast Holiday Park on Lake Ainsworth, a beautiful tea tree lake. If you’ve never swum in a tea tree lake, that’s one good reason to visit. Dark waters capture the sun’s heat and the tea tree oil leaves your skin feeling soft and smooth. We were told that aboriginal woman came to tea tree lakes to birth their babies and for their medicinal qualities. I can see why. We spent our afternoons at the beach and evenings at the lake. We made a stop into the second-hand bookshop in Lennox Head and picked up some great books for the kids. We also checked out the nearby Belle General café thanks to recommendations on Instagram. The food and coffee here is fantastic. We’ll be back a few more times before we leave Australia.

Knowing we’d be back the following week, we skipped Byron Bay and spent our last camping days in Brunswick Heads. We camped on the Brunswick River within walking distance of town. As we pulled into camp our kids spotted dolphins swimming up and down the river! Dolphins in the river?! The kids were in their swimsuits within seconds and ran out to join them. They swam all day and collected fallen feathers from Cockatoos, Kookaburras and other exotic birds by night. Though we didn’t surf, the nearby break is a favourite among locals, and the town has some great cafes, restaurants and antique shops.

8 thoughts on “From Sydney to Brisbane in a campervan

  1. Fantastic journey you guys are on. Your kids are getting a splendid global education that’s for sure. If you are still in Brisbane, you must contact my friend Joe Hardwick who is a French professor at the University of Queensland. He was a classmate when I studied in Paris before I might you at GSD in Cambridge, Michael.


  2. Really really inspiring and love your authentic writing…i’m never been in australia, but now my imagination is running again and again…wonderful travel inspirations and so much fun to follow your family tribe a little bit on this magical journey…thanks, dear Courtney and have a lovley stay there down under…cheers and a little hug from Germany…ines


  3. Hi Courtney – I’ve been following on your journey for a little while now & I’m more inspired to take a long wished for Australian camping holiday! I’m wondering if you’d mind sharing where you rented your campervan from? And any campervan life packing recommendations?


  4. The Northern Beaches and Byron Bay especially are spectacular! Amazing views of the ocean and sunrise/sunset. Water is colder down south but i love how your family is getting a cultured perspective on life. Thanks for sharing!


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