Lake Ainsworth, from a very comfortable chair at our Lennox Head campsite.
In 1968 I threw a board into the surf at Lennox Head for the first time and surfed the amazing point break that is now legendary amongst Australian surfers and a mecca for surfers from around the world. In those days, you could count the number of surfers on one hand riding their 9 foot plus, 40 pound, 3-stringer surf boards – without leg-ropes, Now that was surfing. Actually, it was more like swimming, for when you came off your board, it was a long swim back into the beach! Almost 50 years later, I returned to Lennox Head, this time in a luxury caravan rather than a converted panel van. And this time I returned with my wife. A lot had changed, yet a lot hadn’t.
Lennox Head is located on New South Wales’ far north coast, about 100kms south of the Queensland border and 20 kms south of Byron Bay. For Dinah and I living on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane, it is an easy 3.5 hours on the Pacific Motorway. In 2016, we bought a new caravan, an AURA Strada. Great van and perfect for the two of us with semi off-road capabilities. Now Lennox Head was definitely on our ‘to-visit’ list.
Reflections Holiday Park at Lennox Head is located on the shores of beautiful Lake Ainsworth and is arguably our favourite caravan park. It is large and extremely well run with big caravan sites and excellent facilities and very friendly wild ducks who magically arrive a breakfast time. And it is just across from the main beach at Lennox Head. In summer the lake is fantastic to swim in, crystal clear water tinted a light red by the paperbark trees, it is a mecca for all kinds of water sports while just up the road, the surf just keeps on breaking off the headland as it did 50 years ago – as it did 50,000 years ago! Lennox retains a coastal village feel but with a smattering of coffee shops, eateries and smart boutiques. However, if you want more serious shopping or need to stock up on provisions for your Lennox Head holiday, Ballina is just 11 kms away. we’ve been back to Lennox Head many times over the last few years. It is one of the great places to visit. Contact the park on 02 6687 7249 or www.reflectionsholidayparks.com.au
Leaving Lennox Head, we decided to make a road trip of it, south along the Pacific Highway through other well known surfing spots including Evans Head (02 6682 4212 or www.northcoastholidayparks.com.au) and Crescent Head (02 6566 0261 or wwwmvcholidayparks.com.au). All have excellent camping and caravan parks with easy access to the beach. However, a word of warning for the not-so-dilligent camper or caravaner – don’t leave anything outside your tent or van overnight unless it is chained down. We lost a very expensive cooler box at Crescent Head – full of beer!
A pilgrimage south.
From Crescent Head south to Taree where we turned inland and headed for Gloucester, a beautiful country town nestled in the foothills of the Barrington Tops. About 10 kms from Gloucester on Thunderbolts Way is a small village called Barrington and just beyond Barrington you’ll discover some of the best river-side camping in Australia at Poley’s Place. The working cattle and crops farm is the home of the Everett family and you can free-camp here anytime of year for a very reasonable $20 per person per night enjoying the tranquility and natural beauty that this region is famous for. We have been camping at Poley’s Place for years. In fact, our boys all-but grew up there. This trip, we were able to meet up at Poley’s Place with two of our three boys, James and George and their partners Shelby and Sara for 5 days of camping. These days they live in Sydney and this was the first time that James and George had been back to Poley’s Place since they were in their early teens and the memories of swimming in the river and the campfires at night came flooding back.
Every Easter and October long weekend they hold a country music festival – a classic country hoedown. Most times of year you can just call in but with hundreds converging on Poley’s Place for the hoedown weekends it is advisable to pre-book on 02 6558 4220 or www.poleysplace.com. And with Gloucester just up the road, you can fill up with provisions (and water for the van) on your way. Poley’s Place is definitely worth the visit
You have a number of options when leaving Poley’s Place. First, back through Gloucester and down the Buckets Way to the Pacific Highway where you can turn left to go north (to Taree) or right to go south (to Newcastle and Sydney). Second, back to Gloucester and then out through Nabiac to Taree on the Pacific Highway. Or finally, turn right as you exit Poley’s Place and continue on Thunderbolt’s Way to the New England Highway. While this route is picturesque, if you are towing a caravan you will find it a challenging winding road with steep up-hill and down-hill sections and hairpin corners. Tow with caution.
For our return trip we opted to take the Buckett’s Way to the Pacific Highway, then north through Singleton on the New England Highway to Queensland The journey takes us north through the natural beauty of the New England district, its principal city Armidale not dislike an English county city in the architecture of its sandstone buildings and lush green rolling plains. There is plenty of caravan parks and hotel/motel accommodation in the towns along the New England Highway.
We stopped in Stanthorpe for a few days. Famous for its apples and now building a national reputation for distinctive cool climate wines, Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt is a fascinating area to explore. We stayed at the Top of the Town Tourist Park at the northern (or top end) of High Street, Stanthorpe. This is an expansive and beautifully laid out park with cabins as well as powered and unpowered caravan and camping sites and it is very convenient to the centre of town. You can contact the park on 07 4682 4888 or www.topoftown.com.au
Beyond the spectacular Granite Belt county (so named because of the composition of the soil and spectacular grant boulders strewn across the countryside), there a myriad wineries to visit with some excellent wines available to sample and purchase. You can organise a one-day wineries tour that will introduce you to a cross-section of Stanthorpe wines. The tour also includes an excellent sit-down lunch at one of the wineries plus a visit to a cheese factory and a boutique beer brewery. Excellent value. But a word of caution – it is a long day with lots of wineries to visit and wines to sample, so best not go too hard at the first cellar gate! There are a number of winery tour on offer. Check them out on Stanthorpe Tours website: www.stanthorpetours.com.au
From Stanthorpe, about 4.5 hours driving home via Ipswich and Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast. In all, quite a trip.
Tips for the Trip
Plan ahead. Work out your route and potential accommodation stops, both caravan parks and free camps. We keep a map of every park we visit in a travel folder. While we are at the park, we walk around and note which are the best sites and mark these on the park map for future reference. this way, if and when we return and book ahead, we can request that particular site.
We also keep a travel log of all of our journeys noting route, all accommodation stops, related park costs, fuel cost and food costs. This is really helpful when we are planning and budgeting our next trip. It is also something tangible we can share with or friends who might be planning a similar trip. They get to learn from our experiences.
Main picture: A peaceful evening on the shores of Lake Ainsworth at Lennox Head
- The headland that gives Lennox its name and fame
- One of Australia’s legendary surf breaks
- Camping in our caravan at Lake Ainsworth
- The fresh water is red from the paperbark trees that surround it
- A great place to swim, or just chill out
- The best coffee in Lennox
- Dinah feeding the ducks – morning and afternoon
- I still call the McCulloch’s campsite home!
- Imagine camping beside this? Does it get any better?