SOUTH BALLINA TO EVANS HEADS

SOUTH BALLINA TO EVANS HEADS

Ballina is a coastal town around 20 minutes drive south of Byron Bay, about 90 minutes south of the Gold Coast and just over a 2-hour drive from Brisbane.
South Ballina Beach stretches on the NSW north coast down from South Ballina – across the Richmond River from the main town of Ballina – becoming Patchs Beach and ending at Evans Head about 30kms away.
From Brisbane I headed via the Pacific Highway straight down to Ballina, then drove onto the ferry from Burns Point in West Ballina across the Richmond River to Seabreeze Caravan Park on the South Ballina peninsula.
Another option is to drive past Ballina to Wardell where you can drive over a bridge across the river, then enter at Patchs Beach. If you’re looping back north, you can catch the ferry back from South Ballina as it runs until half past midnight.
I caught up with the 4wd club at the caravan park and we all started to air down and line up to enter the beach at South Ballina.



Entry is  directly either at South Ballina or down further at Wardell and Evans Head is via well formed, well maintained all-weather tracks that provide easy access for 4WDs – though the Patchs Beach entry track is better suited to high clearance vehicles, small 4WDs may find it a little tough.
Speed limits apply to the entire stretch of the beach. 30km/h limits apply to the beach, while you must dip down to at least 15km/h when you’re within 50m of any other beach user – although the conditions may require a lower speed than this, so just keep your eye out for any other beachgoers (or their pets!) when you’re cruising down the shore.


29 cars lined up on the beach for the group photos, the sun was out and it was just on high tide. After an hour of letting the kids have a little swim we headed to Evans Heads.
If you’re planning on setting up for lunch on the beach, you can set up a day camp back away from the surf, Patchs Beach is even dog friendly..


Swimming is recommended between the flags at South Ballina or Evans Head, as these beaches are patrolled during summer holidays. The waters in between are open beaches and tend to have strong rips, so it’s best not to venture in for a swim. Besides, it’s more suited to casting a line for whiting than doing the butterfly.


If you don’t have any luck fishing, you can go for a hike in nearby Broadwater National Park, and picnic on the beach, where, in spring and winter, you might be able to spot whales or dolphins frolicking off the shoreline.
And to see the shoreline from a different perspective than the driver’s seat, tour operators offer horseback riding along South Ballina Beach, as well as other beaches around Ballina.


Evans Heads, about 30 km to the south of South Ballina Beach, is a great spot for lunch or an extended stay.  There is a patrolled beach and access to even more beach driving options on other beaches from here.  Just be careful of the tides, as depending on the day, there can be coffee rock exposed on the beach, making the beach trip to Evans Head impossible.


Lennox Head, just north of Ballina, is a surfers dream, and you can also take your 4WD straight onto a section of Seven Mile Beach – although you do have to purchase a permit, unlike the beaches in South Ballina. (These permits are available from an electronic ticket kiosk opposite the Lennox Head Surf Club.)




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Travels

SEVENTEEN SEVENTY (1770)

It’s the perfect combination of north and south. The tropical climate of the north of Australia, with warm winters and hot summers, but with a rain level more on par with south. It has stunning beaches, nearby islands and reefs like Far North Queensland, but it has surf, one of  the last places north on the Queensland coast to have it.

The Town of 1770 and Agnes Waters are a little diversion from the main highway between Brisbane and Cairns so it doesn’t see the high volume of traffic and tourists. It’s sleepy and quiet and undeveloped. Only a few houses sit on the side of the hills with magnificent views of Round Hill Creek and the well-known stunning sunsets.


It’s one of only three places on the east coast where you can see the sun set over the water. The Town of 1770 is a protected area so all future building has ceased. It’s almost in the pristine condition it was in 1770 when Captain Cook first sailed past Round Hill Headland to rest his ship the Endeavour. Except when you get to the Town of 1770 and you explore the nearby beaches and creeks and headlands that Cook and his crew sailed past. Its natural state has been unchanged for thousands of years. The longer we stayed the longer we wanted to stay. There’s a beauty and rawness here that gets under your skin.


It has everything a traveller will need, yet not many venture here. Now we don’t want to send you there in droves, but we can’t keep this a secret from you. We think you should definitely be pinning it to your Australian Bucket List. We first heard of it years ago from friends who visited and stayed awhile. They say it’s their favorite place in Australia.

Agnes Water is about 8km south of the Town of 1770. Agnes is the ocean town where you’ll find the surf and a fantastic beach. It also has most of the cafes and shops and room for development.


Easily a highlight of this area was our LARC Paradise Tour. We saw and experienced so many amazing things on the water and the land. It was a lot of fun and Kim now has a new hobby – sand boarding! We were stopping every few seconds to watch crabs scuttling in the water, pelicans flying into land and brown kites circling overhead on alert to catch their prey.

To get to this desolate curved stretch of beach in the Eurimbula National Park, we had to morph into a boat and chug along the Round Hill Creek, detouring the long way to avoid the soldier crabs marching up the sand bank at low tide. 

The only one way to explore this unique part of the Southern Great Barrier Reef region is by LARC, or your own off-trail vehicles – 4WD or boat.  Even then, the LARC can go where no other vehicle can and gives you the option of both land and water. Getting to the lighthouse was an adventure in itself, as we drove up a steep and bumpy track only accessible by the LARC. We could sure use this vehicle ourselves on some other drives around Australia. As we climbed the track the 360 degree views over Bustard Bay and Pancake Creek and the mountains behind were truly spectacular. 

Across Jenny Lind Creek is a beautiful picnic area on the northern tip of Middle Island where we enjoyed a lunch of cold cut salad sandwiches and an afternoon tea of lamingtons and billy tea – that’s tea brewed over a camp fire. We were now ready for our afternoon of fun on the sand dunes of Middle Island. Who would have known hidden behind the coastal scrub were 35m high sand boarding planes? We were all sad to leave this place of mystery, fun, and serenity to drive back over the beach and four tidal creeks to return home.


We had a couple of breakfasts at Agnes Beach Cafe. We could have sat in this beach front cafe all day. It’s one of our favourite cafes in Australia so far. The views are just incredible, it has a really laid back vibe and the coffee is sensational! It’s perfect for families as the kids can play on the beach in front of you while you relax.


One of the days, we drove on to the industrial port of Gladstone. This city’s industrial nature cannot be missed, if, by some miracle, you were oblivious to the power station and numerous plants and refineries, the fact that literally 50% of the population is wearing high visibility jackets and work boots is a dead giveaway. That said, it’s a friendly city and there’s a certain calmness and down-to-earth in the air. Considering that there is a population of just fewer than 30 thousand, we had expected there to be a better infrastructure and more retail outlets though. Most of the shops and bars are in the vicinity of the Goondoon and Auckland Streets. The latter name (there are also the Auckland Hill Lookout and the Auckland Point Wharves) is not actually derived from the New Zealand city, but rather from the vessel ‘Lord Auckland’ which carried some of the first settlers to the Gladstone area in 1847. A little out of town we found a hidden treasure, the Gecko Valley Winery, a lovely spot in the hinterland where you can sample the produce and have a delightful lunch. On the way from Gecko Valley we passed the Tondoon Botanic Gardens.


Another day we travelled to Bundaberg, affectionately known as “Bundy” by the locals, is sunny, friendly and laid-back. I’ve been here many times and have many happy memories of barbeques, bonfires, beach sports, the Air Show, and the legendary ginger beer. The only hill in the whole area is “The Hummock”, an extinct volcano from the top of which there is a beautiful view of the surrounding farms, a smattering of small communities, and the sparkling Queensland coastline.  The town is set amidst fields of sugarcane which provide the molasses for the rum’s production. On our tour around the distillery, we learnt that the only other two ingredients are water and yeast. Learning about the history and production of the rum was fascinating.


Only White American Oak timber, sourced from the boarded of Canada and the USA, is used to make the vats in which the rum matures. Not very carbon neutral… but then the rum’s flavour would be altered if they were to switch to a different timber. A large rum bottle graced the entrance of the distillery and there was a life-size version of Bundaberg Rum’s emblem, the big white polar bear. What seems like a bit of an odd choice for liquor company was essentially a clever marketing concept. The image of the polar bear is to imply that the drink can ward off even the wickedest chill. The yummiest part of the distillery tour was, of course, the tasting at the end. Kim chose the Red Label rum with a beautiful vanilla flavour and I went for the dark Premium Release Reserve. We both finished off with the decadent Royal Liqueur which combines rum, coffee and chocolate flavours. Delicious. We were very tempted to buy a bottle, especially when we were told that it is not offered in retail stores and only available from the distillery itself, but I can proudly say that our willpower won in the end.


Finally, we couldn’t leave the Bundaberg area without a visit to the lovely town of Bargara. Every inch of this picturesque little spot (on and off shore) is protected, and we can see why. We went for a drive along the shore path, admired the beaches, checked out the cafés and shops along Bauer Street and stumbled across the super cute Windmill Market. This gem is a small out-of-the-way community space with a few stalls and a coffee shop.


On the way home we dropped into the township of Childers which is positioned on a ridge with magnificent views overlooking thousands of hectares of vivid green sugarcane and avocado farms. You can step back in history as you visit the town’s many historical buildings, some dating back to Queensland’s early pioneering days.  Childers is a fascinating place to stroll around or visit the local wineries and cafes and sample famous local ice cream.

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BRIBIE ISLAND

BRIBIE ISLAND

We took at day trip with our 4wd club to Bribie Island. Our club, Off Road Camping & Outdoor Adventures is a Brisbane based community family adventures group all about off road touring, finding those special places and making the most of it with a group of like-minded people.  They Explore, Appreciate, Relax, Socialize…   From sitting under a water fall in a rock pool to drinking champagne in the rainforest whatever spot they find there is something great about getting a group together and having fun exploring this great country of ours.

Bribie Island is the smallest and most northerly of three major sand islands forming the coastline sheltering the northern part of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. The others are Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island. Bribie Island is 34 kilometres long, and 8 kilometres at its widest.

Bribie Island hugs the coastline and tapers to a long spit at its most northern point near Caloundra, and is separated from the mainland by Pumicestone Passage. The ocean side of the island is somewhat sheltered from prevailing winds by Moreton Island and associated sand banks and has only a small surf break. The lee side is calm, with white sandy beaches in the south.

Most of the island is uninhabited national park (55.8 square kilometres) and forestry plantations. The southern end of the island has been intensively urbanised as part of the Moreton Bay Region, the main suburbs being Bongaree, Woorim, Bellara and Banksia Beach.

We hadn’t been on the beaches at Bribie Island in 2016, so we all packed up and headed out in a convoy of about 19 cars for a day trip.  Bribie island is only about an hour and a half from Brisbane and probably the closest place that 4wd enthusiasts from Brisbane can get some beach driving action. 

We decided to start on the bottom of the inland track and then head north, up and out to the beach at the top of the island.  To get to the start of the Inland track, we went over the bridge to Bribie Island, and left at the large roundabout, then through White patch to the start of the sand track.  We all stopped here for a little while to let down the tyres.

The inland track quickly changes from bitumen to dirt ruts to soft sand and before you know it we were having fun.  Be sure to check if the track is open, because it does get closed sometimes if it is wet or not passable.

The inland track is mostly soft sand and didn’t present any problems for our combination of soft roaders and proper 4wd’s.  There is a few blind corners that are very soft, so look out for oncoming traffic trying to keep their momentum up, and don’t follow others too closely.

Our first stop was the camping ground at Poverty Point, were the water was so tempting. We stopped for a quick lunch at the Lighthouse Reach Day use area, then headed out to the ocean beach and north to the bunkers where the kids were let loose for a while.  We had a small wait to let the tide go out a bit before continuing south along the ocean side of Bribie. 

Coming back down the beach, there are 4 lagoons which you will come across.  Depending on the season/ tides etc these can be impassable, so make sure to do your research on the conditions and tide times before you leave.   Also season dependent is the washouts caused by water running out of the lagoons, remember to check derm.qld.gov.au for the latest conditions report.

We continued south until we hit Woorim Beach, then you can get back up off the beach and back onto the black top.  There is heaps of off street parking to inflate the tyres before heading back home.

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