After Byron Bay, we had an afternoon spare with nothing to do, so we set off an hour inland to explore Nimbin, a town which we were surprised to find even exists. We had a short, and very weird afternoon wandering around Nimbin, Australia’s hippie capital city. I’m talking peace sings, cliché posters, psychedelic clothes and arts shops, crafts fairs, flower necklaces, the lot. It was fascinating, the people there look like they’ve literally created their own world so far removed from what I’d call ‘normality’.
After some Googling, we found out that people of Nimbin believe in their own escapist sub-culture. In 1973 a group of students organised a festival celebrating an alternative lifestyle and marijuana, and today about 40 communities live in the region still celebrating this way of life. There is even a local ‘Hemp Embassy’ who are there to support the legalisation of marijuana. It was a really interesting but bizarre place. After about an hour of wandering around, we all felt we had seen enough and hit the road to go to the Gold Coast.
On the drive we had one recommendation from a friend in Melbourne, a beach we were told was completely unspoiled and basically undiscovered. The tiny town is called Wooyung, and the beach is so beautiful and quiet we couldn't quite believe it was real. You can drive right up to the sand and so we spent that afternoon with the beach entirely to ourselves. The sea was so crystal and bright blue, however we steered clear because of the shark and jelly fish warning signs. The one rule about swimming in the ocean here: if there's no-one else in, don't risk it.
There are two spots on the Gold Coast we wanted to stop at, the first being Coolangatta. We arrived pretty late and parked outside the YHA hostel, who allow you to pay 6 dollars per person to use the shower, kitchen etc. This was excellent news, as waking up in a van with no shower handy is a bit of a nightmare as we have learned! The following morning we headed to Burleigh National Park, and did the coastal walk which is only 1.2km each way. The park was probably our favourite so far, it had the most amazing views out onto the ocean.
The weather was pretty grey, and so having enjoyed our morning stroll we decided to drive inland to Lamington National Park, where you can do a treetop walk which consists of 9 suspension bridges 16m above the ground. Having seen photos, we were really excited to go. The drive was pretty windy and questionable in some parts when driving such a huge van with minimal suspension, but we got there safe and sound. Only to realise I had managed to direct us to the wrong side of the park (which is 206km2)… To get to the treetop walk from here was a 6 hour walk. Oops. It’s safe to say I wasn’t the most popular person that afternoon, but we managed to find a nice 5km walk around the rainforest type park. It was a great way to spend a day when the weather wasn’t so good.
Next stop in the Gold Coast was the infamous Surfers Paradise, known for it’s party culture and slight ‘magaluf’ vibe. We got there on a Monday however, so our efforts to find a party completely failed. We ended up having a few glasses of wine out the back of Fran The Van (yes, we have named her.) Our second evening in Surfers was more successful, we went to Broadbeach, which we discovered is definitely the more happening area filled with bars and restaurants.