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The Great Aussie Stopoff

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Rebekah Joy
Rebekah Joy

Freedom Air was the instigator (R.I.P Freedom), Jetstar and Virgin Blue took over, flying to Australia has never been easier or cheaper. Using I looked last minute for flights and found Ex NZ to Melbourne $195, to Sydney $209 and to the Gold Coast $230 all including tax. Once upon a time I used frequent flyer points to get to Australia, but the tax worked out to be more than a Jetstar flight.

The Gold Coast Airport is a good choice to fly into because there are number of excellent locations close by. 300 km north of the Gold Coast is Fraser Island, the world largest sand island. One company Sunrovers does Brisbane pickups, which makes life a lot easier (the others all leave from Hervey Bay/Fraser Island).

AAExpress or the Surfside Bus # 765 from the Gold Coast Airport to Robina Train Station and a train to Brisbane Central connect the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Off the top of my head I think Sunrovers charge about $250.00 for a two day excursion, pretty good value for the amount that you see and do. Expect to see giant Sahara desert type sand dunes, hidden lakes, the odd dingo or two, and even a ship wreck.

If you’re after something a bit more low key you could catch a shuttle bus to Byron Bay. The journey is about 40 minutes and around $35AUD ow. I once tried to hire a car for a one way journey at $55 dollars for the day plus a $600.00 one way fee. If you’re content to sit on the beach and not wander far then Byron could be the place for you. Check out the wonderful for a unique place to stay, set amongst tropical bush. Accommodation includes teepee’s, cubes, pentagons and even an island retreat. I know I’m going to get in trouble for bagging one of Australia’s most popular holiday spots……but if you’re like me and resent paying $12AUD return for a bus that runs once an hour to 5pm, then there are better places to go.

Travelers really need access to their own transport to see all the wonderful hinterland activities that are far flung through out the region.

Renting a car is an easy option, but a lot of the roads are narrow, pot holed and badly sign posted. Byron is also expensive, a piece of cake is $8, a coffee $4 and if you want to go to the infamous Blues and Roots festival expect to pay about $350 for a five day pass.

A really neat place to go is Bellingen, 365km south of the Gold Coast. Premier Busline have a service from the Gold Coast to Coffs Harbour, from there it’s a local bus to Bellingen, or Bello as the locals call it. Surrounded by tropical rainforest and Waterfall Way, one of Australia’s most scenic drives, this little town has a lot to offer.

Head to the YHA located right on the riverside for affordable and unique accommodation. Stretch out on one of the hammocks on the wide verandah and watch the world float by. When it gets to hot, grab one of the hostels inner tubes and float down the gentle rapids or take a walk and see the friendly colony of 40 000 flying foxes. Everything is accessible in Bellingen, quaint cafes, the restored pub (where the whole town gets up to boogie), the local market and a host of trendy gift shops.

The Bellingen Global Carnival rivals the Blues and Roots festival in a much more laid back less celebrity orientated kind of way. There are two tropical rainforests near by where big fat slimy snakes hang from trees, try your hand at trout fishing, whitewater rafting, canoeing, horse riding, canyoning or abseiling.

Photo Credits:
Fraser Island: Fabian Chaveriat
Byron Bay: Shot at Byron
Bellingen Flying Foxes: Matt Jaffray

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