A Travellerspoint blog

Fort Newcastle was better than this!

King of fire, street parties and forts


After our failed attempts at riding the waves in Coffs we decided to head to Newcastle as we'd heard there were good waves there. We were met by Doug, one of the roommates we were to be couch surfing with, and he showed us to the mahoosive house they shared before we headed out for a street festival. It was jam packed with market stalls and although we’d sadly missed out on most of the events we did get to see a breathtaking fire twirling display. They also had some of the tastiest nuts ever and even Rach had some – she hates nuts! After the street festival had shut down we headed to a small chocolatiers and looked sadly at the prices next to the delicious sounding fondues and cocktails. We did however manage to finish off a fondue that Noni (our couch surfing host) had finished with; words cannot describe how good it was to taste proper chocolate again as opposed to the crap they try and pass off as chocolate over here.

After a good night’s sleep we woke up to explore Newcastle and discovered that its true state had been cloaked in the darkness we arrived in. The main street was not what we expected from what counts as a city in Oz. Rach couldn’t help but compare it to her native Newcastle which felt about three times the size. It took us a while to find the visitor information which was on a bit of a backstreet and even when we asked the lady in there what there was to do in Newcastle she seemed at a bit of a loss. She did however warm up to the topic and we left armed with several maps of the area and brochures. We decided after a brief lunch to check out Newcastle Museum which turned out to be a good choice.

The first exhibition contained stuff all about Newcastle and whilst overall it was good to go around there were times when it seemed badly put together with random item descriptions, bad grammar and unlabelled items popping up all over the place. Below is an example;


There was no mention/picture/drawing/etching/image of any kind showing the synagogue nor anything else saying why it might be important, why it was related to the trowel or why it was even mentioned. It was, however, still much better than the Museum of Brisbane (Browsing in Brissie). Things got really exciting when we got to another gallery that was stuffed with interactive science exhibits. They had one of the most dangerous time wasters possible, Lego, and we got sucked into playing with those brightly coloured bricks for half an hour. Our aim; to build a tower taller than Rach – not hard you might say but we wanted a solid construction and so block by block we raised a colossus amongst the other pitiful offerings. It dwarfed even the Duplo constructions and we were the envy of the six to twelve year olds within eyesight who looked upon our creation with a sense of wonderment and awe that verged on the edge of fear.


The rest of the science exhibit was just as fun and we were reduced to kids once more discovering the mechanisms behind magnets, electricity and forces and tried our hands at speed, memory and strength tests. It was really, really fun. We spent so much time involved in the science section that it left us only fifteen minutes to sprint around the steel making section of the museum before we were kicked out with the news that for safety reasons our tower had to be dismantled but that they were so impressed that they took a photo to use on their website.

We had intended to go surfing the following day but after having discovered the board rental market was completely monopolized and thus the price of a board for a day was $50 we decided against it and decided to try and follow the Heritage Trail around Newcastle. You are led through the trail by various signs and posts but after seeing that many of them did not actually show buildings or sights that were still there we decided to forgo the trail and simply walk Nobbys’ Break and the far edge of the harbour. The walk was really nice and we saw a couple of super tankers being guided into the harbour whilst we clambered around on the rocks of the breakwater. After the walk we decided to head for Fort Scratchley, the site of the only mainland weapons of Australia to be fired in anger during World War Two, and after arrival realised we’d just missed the last tunnel tour. There was however a kind volunteer who offered to take us around once we’d paid the tour price. After staring, gobsmacked, at the $24 rung up on the till we declined the offer and set off to explore the free sections of the Fort. They were well signposted and very informative but a lot of the buildings were closed meaning we didn’t get to see a huge amount of the Fort which was a bit sad.


One of the best bits about Newcastle has been our couch surfing hosts though. We have had an amazing time with Noni and her housemates even playing an awesome crossbreed of the Oz drinking game Kings and the English game Ring of Fire, which we christened KINGS OF FIRE! The gecko master rule was by far the most appreciated and there is nothing funnier than the sight of eight people scrambling to throw themselves against the closest wall pretending to be a gecko. We also played the Lying Game where you say three things about yourself, two are true and one is a lie and the others have to guess the lie. We had an amazing time with them and were it not for them our time in Newcastle would have been nowhere near as good.

Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • Newcastle is pricier than other places for board hire so unless you have your own board, you may find yourself staring forlornly at the perfect breakers.
  • It’s probably wise to plan your Newcastle visit better than we did or head there with your own transport.
  • The centre of Newcastle is quite run down. Don’t let this put you off; there’s still enough to keep you occupied for at least a day.
  • Just to give you an example of the lying game here was one Alex used: I’ve ran cross country for Britain, I’ve met the Commander and Chief of all the UK armed forces and my Uncle presents news in East Anglia. We’ll leave you to guess the lie....

Posted by rexontheroad 10:17 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Coffed by mistake

Big banana, Muttonbird Island and no surf


Following our surfing-high from Byron Bay, we headed down to Coffs Harbour after hearing that it was the same as Byron except cheaper, which is perfect for us poor backpackers. We arrived mid-afternoon and decided to leave the surfing til the next day. A man in the transport office showed Alex a really good walk that would take us along the coast and up to Muttonbird Island so off we headed.

The walk took us through the Botanical gardens to start with and Rach embarrassed Alex by making him carry a large stick and pretend to be Gandalf. We received some funny looks by passersby. After a brief interlude through some residential streets the path came to a mango boardwalk and then onto the beach front. From there the path continues through the harbour and leads to Muttonbird Island. The island itself is tiny and there is a single track winding across the top of it and down the other side. It was a fantastic island bar the wind nearly blowing us off the cliff face and Alex taking a chunk out of his toe.


The next day we woke up excited for our day of surfing. We were driven to the beach like gleeful school kids and ran eagerly onto the sand. It was then that we saw the utterly rubbish waves. What were we going to do now? We did what we do best in places where there’s not much to do: we went for a walk. This time we climbed up a hill and nearly stepped on lizards to go and see the Big Banana, the first ‘big thing’ that started off the craze. It was really cool to see and it was big for a banana but not as big as we imagined.


There were a few activities to do there like ice-skating, tobogganing and some water slides but like the cheap backpackers that we are we decided to go for a free option: a candy making demonstration. There was a candy shop there that gave demos on how to make sticks of rock and we were actually very impressed, particularly when they gave us free samples.

Other than that we didn’t find much else to do in Coffs Harbour. Luckily our hostel was amazing and had the best TV room with leather sofas and beanbags and a huge collection of films. We befriended another couple, Ben and Debbie and watched many a film with them as well as chatting about their travels in Asia. Best of all we got upgraded to a private double room with the comfiest bed ever. Going to have a great nights sleep tonight.

Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • If it’s not a great time for surf, perhaps skip Coffs Harbour.
  • Look out for the ‘Big’ things in Australia- massive statues in the shape of random objects- we’ve seen the purse, prawn and banana so far.

Posted by rexontheroad 23:07 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Sh*t! Is that a shark?

Surfing, surfing and not much else


We are now in possession of Byron’s dirty little secret- unless you’re surfing or climbing Cape Byron, there is nothing else to do. Literally nothing, unless you have the money to go shopping or your own car. What started out as a day of surfing went a bit pear shaped due to non-existent waves so we had to find a way to entertain ourselves in the town. Bar paying for expensive tours there was nothing. As Byron’s relatively far South it’s not all that hot during Winter/Spring so we couldn’t even chill on the beach in the sun. The beach did however provide a brief moment of hope with a beautiful walk as the wind swept kite surfers and sand sailors past us! We spent some time drawing pictures and messages in the sand and did a special one for the blog.


In an attempt to spice up the day with an evening rescue we headed out to see some of Byron’s legendary nightlife. Myth might be more accurate as we could only find one open club. Cheekee Monkees was small and more of a glorified bar than a club but we still had a good time dancing nonetheless.

The next day more than made up for our boredom before. We headed out into the bright morning sun, got some surfboards and wetties and hit the beach. After suiting up we launched ourselves on the waves and although it was only her second time Rach was soon stood up and lovin’ riding the water. We both had an amazing time although Rach did nearly have an emergency excretory evacuation when she spotted a dorsal fin cresting through the top of a wave. After shouting to Alex that she thought she’d spotted a shark he paddled closer to investigate and found not one but five! Five graceful dolphins that is, who we then proceeded to surf with for a while before they got bored and moved on. It wasn’t long after that we had to give up too due to the exhaustion of fighting the waves. Alex did attempt to get some pictures of Rach standing up but unfortunately our Kodak disposable underwater camera wasn't up to the task. All-in-all a brilliant day on which to end our stay in Byron.


Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • Unless you plan on surfing in Byron we’d definitely recommend having your own transport.
  • Remember, when investigating a possible fin, there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity but also remember that sharks aren’t the only finned creatures in Australia’s waters.

Posted by rexontheroad 19:35 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Byron babes in jelly

Bikini-clad girls in jelly- need we say more?


After a bit of a faff with transport (trains don’t go directly to Byron Bay) we finally arrived! We’ve been absolutely dying to get to Byron so we can finally get some surfing in. We managed to restrain ourselves for today though and get some touristy stuff out the way with so we can spend the next few days cruising the waves. One of the main attractions is Cape Byron so we headed off. We started out just rambling along the beach until we stumbled upon the set route which takes you on a 4km loop around Cape Byron. The walk has a few lookouts along the way, the best one being signposted as the most easterly point of mainland Australia.


It was along this section of walkway that we glanced down into the sea and spotted a pair of whales surfacing and flicking their tails. Not only this but in the next five minutes we saw a turtle and a pod of dolphins who were jumping through the waves. It was fantastic to see.


The route brought us to the lighthouse which was physically impressive and the views around were stunning. Less impressive was the one room museum inside the lighthouse, which was basically a random assortment of junk with no real relation to the lighthouse or if there was there was no explanation.


Now for the interesting stuff you’ve all been waiting to hear. When we got back to the hostel we headed to the bar for a welcome complimentary drink of jungle juice (interesting tasting stuff). The hostel organises a different event every night and we picked the best night to arrive on: girl’s jelly wrestling. Alex secured us some front row seats to see the eight competitors fight it out in a jelly pool. Best of all each girl was wearing only a skimpy bikini. We would explain the rules but frankly do you even care? All you need to know was that there was semi-naked girls with their bodies entangled - in jelly. What could get better than this?


Just to top off the night Rach, who is a huge Shipwrecked fan and can still remember and name all of the islanders, spotted Adam from the third series and slid across the jellied floor to grab a picture with him.

Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • If you want to do some free whale/dolphin/turtle watching, head up to Cape Byron. May-Nov is when the Humpback Whales migrate and pass through Australian waters.
  • If you’re staying at Aquarius backpackers and you want to join in the jelly wrestling, make sure you bring a sturdy bikini otherwise you may have a nip slip.

Posted by rexontheroad 21:55 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Zoo wouldn’t want to go here

Koalas, kangaroos and D ‘n’ B


Whilst we have seen a lot of koalas in the wild, we wanted to get up close and cuddly with one. There were two main choices, Alma Park Zoo and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Australia Zoo being a little out of our price range. We ended up settling on Alma Park as although it was a little further away, there were more animals to see. You know those times when you think you’ve made a really good choice and you couldn’t be more wrong. This was one of those times. The first problem was getting there after stepping off the train. It was a 2km walk from the station which wasn’t too bad for us as we walk most places anyway but it wasn’t the most pleasant of things and there was no pavement.

On our arriving we paid the fee (with student discount obviously) to get in and walked down to the cafe to find out about the advertised complimentary photo cuddling a koala. After speaking to the surly staff we were somewhat surprised to discover that there were no free photos and we’d have to pay $20 a photo- not mentioned anywhere in the brochure we’d seen. $20 for a piece of paper was too much for us so our main purpose had been left in tatters. We tried to rescue the day and did get to stroke a snake, a croc and a koala. We went around seeing the rest of the animals and feeding a lot of them which was fun but in no way made up for the blatant profiteering. We also found out not to mess with kangaroos either! One emu got too close and was sent flying by a swift kick. All in all whilst some bits were fun we left the zoo disappointed for the trek back to the station for the train back to the house we were staying at only to find there were no more trains running! It was a bit of a wait for the bus but we made it back eventually.


Speaking of our house we still haven’t spoken about our Couchsurfing hosts yet! We’re staying in a sharehouse with four housemates; Alesha, Fazzy, Johnny and Phil. Sadly most of the guys had plans but we had an amazing time with Johnny, even going out to a drum ‘n’ bass night in the ‘Valley.’ It was something new for the both of us and we both had an awesome night. Our last sight of Brisbane was from their veranda, cooking up a barbeque, overlooking the city skyline- best view from a student house ever!


Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • Don’t be fooled by false advertising, go with your gut instinct or at least do research if unsure.
  • We don’t know whether it’s Brissie nights out in general or just D ‘n’ B but everyone was really nice with no pushing, shoving or fighting.
  • Looking for a proper kebab on the mean streets of Oz- forget it! All you get is a lettuce in a tortilla with some particles of meat.

Posted by rexontheroad 21:38 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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