The Pacific Highway takes you past surf breaks and beachside towns all along the east coast. In some parts it’s three lanes each way, in others, a minefield of potholes with semi-trailers whizzing by and no shoulders to pull over on. But with a beach sunrise every morning and the unique sound and smell of cicadas in the evening, a roadtrip up the coast to some of Australia’s finest waves is a must for any summer. Whether you’re travellers in a campervan, four Japanese crammed in a Ô92 Ford Falcon, or like us – two crusty ol’ sea-dogs in a panel van – the surf is calling.
Colin: Mark and I left Bondi Beach after an early-morning grovel in crowded two-foot surf. Hopefully King Neptune would send something with grunt as we moved up the coast. After escaping the city traffic we headed north to Newcastle, where a couple of Novocastrian friends told us about Anna Bay, just north off the highway. We met them in the carpark where a nice little left-hander rolled through. It’s a little protected from the north-easterly winds here, so we jumped in and shared some waves before resigning for the day.
Mark: Waking up to the first glimpse of sunlight, we headed a few hours north, past Port Macquarie to Point Plomer, a healthy little right that usually delivers. The swell had risen and after a quick paddle on the three-to-four foot swell and a few lazy rides, we decided to scout a bit further north to the town of Crescent Head. ‘Crescent’ can get up to 10 feet and give you a 500m ride on a good day. Today, the smooth four feet swell made for an indolent afternoon of quality longboarding and a kick-ass sunburn on our calves (idiots).
After spending too long at Crescent Head (a complete oxymoron) we bypassed some great spots like Hat Head, Nambucca Heads and Trapdoors (not for the novice), to stay the night at Red Cliff campgrounds in Yuraygir National Park, Brooms Head. It would be an early start in the morning to nearby Angourie, so it was time to get our heads down. Camping is a paltry $5 per person per night, and wood BBQs and mobs of wallabies are readily available.
Colin: Angourie Point is famous for its set up, a classic right-breaking wave (moving left if you’re on the beach) on a thin headland just south of Yamba. But this morning nothing much was going on, so instead, we ventured to Arrawarra, a wave that is pretty consistent and more forgiving for a novice. To get there we turn off the Pacific Highway on Arrawarra Headland Rd, just north of Woolgoolga. A nice longboarding wave about four feet was running. We pulled out the nine footers to get 10 toes on the nose, some successful, most sinking.
As we made our way north to the town of Lennox Head, the right-breaking point was world-class and can stay well-shaped up to 15 feet. But the entry/exit is sketchy, you have to jump from the rocks as the wave comes in, so it’s not for the beginner. We dived in for some steep take-offs and long barrels. This is where our shortboards came into their own – snappy and responsive we… ahem, ‘got totally gnarly in the green room, dude’.
Drying off and jumping back in the van, we headed to Broken Head, just south of Byron Bay to camp, where rainforest meets the ocean. Drive from Ballina along the coast road and you’ll find the turn-off. It’s a right-hander with a beachbreak 200 metres north. Although we got nailed on a few shore breaks, the purple, red and orange-splashed sunset more than made up for it.
With the sound of rumbling bellies, we ventured into Byron Bay for a kebab and a drink at the Beach Hotel. Pretty girls detoured around us – I blamed Mark’s Hawaiian shirt, and the kebab.
Mark: Saltwater and easy surf clears a hungover head so The Pass to the right of town was our perfect choice. On the southern side of Byron’s headland, Tallows Beach provides one of the few waves on the North Coast protected from the north-easterlies common in summer afternoons.
There are some great spots between Byron and the Gold Coast: Cabarita, Hastings Point and Fingal south of the Tweed, while everything from Duranbah north (Queensland territory) is over-crowded, but still has kick-ass breaks. I grew up surfing these spots so we bypassed most of the usual haunts, had a quick paddle in Snapper Rocks, to see how the Spit looked.
If you looked up Surfers Paradise in the dictionary it would read: See Irony. Have a body bash by all means but unless you’re with a surf school, try to avoid it at all costs. The Spit is right opposite Seaworld and is the surfer’s gateway to South Straddie through the Gold Coast Seaway. If you’re not a strong paddler, don’t try to make it across. ‘Straddie’ is famous for a heavy beachbreak, which was evident when removing sand from every orifice.
One good thing about Surfers Paradise is the nightlife. It is a veritable meat market at the booming club scene. After drinks at the SP Tavern, we stumbled into Shooters where we decided to take the club’s name literally with many shots, got shot down with the ladies and then got holstered by two large gorillas.
Colin: 7am… 9am… 11, 12… At around 2pm we found the car and drove to Noosa. (It wasn’t like we were totally wasted like the dudes in Dude, Where’s My Car?, we were just lazy and slept in.) After a pie on route, we made it to Noosa Shire by six. The Sunshine Coast has surfable, often uncrowded beaches from Caloundra to Noosa. Point Cartwright, Alexandria Heads and Peregian Beach are the best picks for the stretch up to Noosa, but I had a one track mind and wanted to surf well into the evening at Tea Tree Bay, where there was a clean four-to-five feet swell. Thanks to a full moon, we were shark bait until about 10pm that night. Friday and Saturday (couldn’t write, too busy surfing) saw the same perfection, stopping only for a Betty’s Burgers lunch hidden along Hastings St.
Mark: iPod on shuffle, windows down, car packed, tour virginity intact (damn it), and driving duties sorted, the long trip home began. After a stop at my folks’ place for breakfast, a late lunch, and a quick pick-me-up at our friend’s place in Newcastle, we arrived back in Sydney at midnight. Exhausted, tanned, and seriously in need of a good night’s sleep, the wet dream was over. Except for Col – he had another one that night.
For information on swell and weather forecasts as well as checking surf cams around Australia visit www.coastalwatch.com