Tag Archives: Beaches

Heaven’s here on Earth… at Black Rocks

Copyright: Louise Ralph

We went back to Black Rocks in Bundjalung National Park this weekend…I meant it when I said we love this place.

This time we took our kayak and paddled up Jerusalem Creek. It was a gorgeous, although not exactly leisurely, paddle.

While I practice my zen paddling technique upfront, EB makes like an outboard motor in the back.

Somehow it works… well, having a rudder stops us turning circles at least.

Copyright: Louise RalphAnd I get to take photos along the way (with my trusty iPhone in its LifeProof case – and no, this isn’t some dodgy promo!).

The isolation, where the creek meets the sea, is simply sensational.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise RalphAnd then there are those endless walks along Ten Mile Beach… where paw prints reveal the nightly wanderings of wild dogs in search of shorebird eggs, and huge bluebottles – some with four-metre stingers – are strewn along the tideline.

We weigh up the odds of getting stung, figure they’re all stranded on the beach, and plunge into the icy water.

Luckily we escape unharmed, in time to spot a mother and baby whale making their way down the coastline along the whale ‘super highway’.

Closer in, three dolphins glide in and out of the waves.

Later, along the walking tracks, wildflowers are bloomin’ fabulous, grass trees raise their flower spikes to the sky and a bee homes in on a solitary flower.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Back in our campground, tiny birds feast on grass seeds and a goanna wanders through our camp, tasting the air with a flick of its tongue.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

It reminds me of the words of a Tracy Chapman song…

“I’ve touched creations beautiful and wondrous
I’ve been places where I question all I think I know
But I believe, I believe, I believe this could be heaven…
The world is our temple
The world is our church
Heaven’s here on earth…”

Copyright: Louise Ralph

 


Blissed out at Black Rocks…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

After a busy week or even a slow one, it’s too easy to head off to the usual short-break destinations. So a few weekends ago, we went somewhere we hadn’t been before. Funny how a simple change can reveal yet another favourite place in the world. In a National Park of course…

Black Rocks campground in Bundjalung National Park is a hidden gem, with a stunning coastline, fabulous creek and coastline walks, a pontoon on the creek for paddlers, amazing birdlife, and super-private campsites.

The campground gets its name from the black rocks (also called ‘coffee rocks’) along a rugged coastline. The rocks are soft, crumble exactly like coffee grinds,  and have been eroded by wind and sea into spectacular formations…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Espresso anyone?

Copyright: Louise RalphWe’re hooked and ready to explore. After downpours in the area the day before we arrived, we discover  the Emu Loop trail is a chain of ponds. Well, puddles really.

But we get to be carefree kids again, splashing along the trail.

There is something primal about it. You feel more connected to the earth… especially when you occasionally find yourself ankle deep in mud.

The next day, we ditch our shoes again for the six-hour Jerusalem Creek walk, alternating between thongs and bare-foot wading.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Along the trail, the vegetation is amazing – from rainforest to paperbark swamp to coastal lowlands to open grasslands.

We walk to a chorus of frog calls, with gorgeous birds adding in the high notes – and sometimes diving into the puddles in front of us to snatch a bug-snack…

A family of kingfishers are a flash of spectacular teal and russet, lorikeets sip nectar from flowering bottlebrush, a whistling kite soars overhead, and tiny birds are startling streaks of colour in constant motion among the branches…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Along the trail, there are signs of life. The slithering snake tracks are there too, on sandy parts of the trail, reminding us to watch where we put our feet.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…who goes there?

At the end of the track, the creek meets the sea. Here, migratory and resident shorebirds rest, feed and breed in peace.

There are pied oystercatchers, little terns, beach-stone curlews, sandpipers and two tiny mysterious birds whose little black legs are a blur as they run back and forth along the water’s edge.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

… some tiny mystery waders

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…and a pied oyster catcher

Copyright: Louise Ralph

‘Peppa’ the Ozpig… nice

Later that night, we are two blissed-out campers. You can have your posh hotels and even your cozy B&Bs.

There is nothing like sitting in front of a fire (our fabulous Ozpig), under the stars and the swish of the Milky Way, with mysterious rustlings in the bushes, miles from civilisation.

Okay, okay, we are sipping on a rather smooth pinot noir.

There are some civilised things you should never give up…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

 

 


Snakes alive… on Amedee Island

Copyright: Louise Ralph

There’s a lot to love about the trip to Amedee Island on the Mary D. Swimming with resident green turtles is a major highlight in a totally relaxing day.

But I just couldn’t go past the snakes – well, without nearly stepping on one.

I’d just taken some photos of the awesome lighthouse, rising up in the perfect light against postcard cloud formations. Turning to catch up to EB, I only just caught sight of something slithery at my feet…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

It’s not like you can miss something this dramatic. This black and rust striped Tricot rayé (Striped sea snake) and several snakey-mates are curled up along the pathway and very close to my feet. Nearby, there are blue and black-striped ones.

These gorgeous sea snakes are more venomous than cobras but totally chillaxed! Which is pretty lucky considering I am totally distracted by nature, and tend to not pay attention to where I put my feet!

Later, walking along the beach, a gorgeous specimen slithers past on its way to a shady spot among the rocks…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

These shy, reclusive creatures still have lungs, so they come onto land to hang about and digest their food (usually fish and eels), then head back into the sea to hunt at night.

Fascinated as we were with them, there is so much to do here – a glass bottom boat, a trip out to the reef, snorkelling, swimming, island fare and entertainment, or just wandering around this peaceful island…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

But seriously, those snakes…

copyright: Louise Ralph

 

 

 


Striking gold on the coast

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Surfers Paradise from Kirra Beach

There’s a quote I’ve loved since giving up some tired ideas in my thirties…

If in the last few years you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.” (Gilett Burgess)

Confession time… I’ve always avoided Queensland’s Gold Coast if I could, passing through (quickly) on my way to my favourite beaches in northern NSW or heading out into the hinterland which was wilder and calmer…

Not an earth-shattering opinion I admit, but one that grew from a seed germinated when I was just a kid and I’ve never really questioned it.

It started with my friend in Grade 4. She would arrive back at our school in Sydney after Surfers Paradise holidays with her bling-bling parents, proudly displaying postcards and snaps of Meter Maids, the ‘glitter strip’ and crowded golden beaches in the shade of ever-looming high rises.

I should have been awestruck but I was already a confirmed freak for nature.

My idea of bliss was our camping holidays in the bush or at the beach – and the postcard-perfect Gold Coast looked anything but natural to me.

Well, so I thought.

When we moved to northern NSW last year, I didn’t think about the Gold Coast as anything more than another bottleneck on our Brisbane commute. When we got home it never crossed our minds to visit the area.

But recently we’ve been exploring – and I’ve discovered why people love it.

There’s more to this place than the ‘glitter strip’. Yes, there’s always something going on, but it’s not all about glitz and glam.

It has that kick-back feel all year round, the beaches are endless, and it’s greener than I expected.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Coastal walk at Kirra Beach

It helps that most of us, these days, are less likely to cut down every tree or shrub that blocks our ocean views.

And because we are all switched on 24/7, we want to get back to our roots…to remind ourselves there is more to life than busyness. To walk and cycle and run – or just soak up the Vitamin D.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

In search of the perfect wave…off Point Danger

I think I’ve struck gold here, forty-five minutes from where I lived in Brisbane for thirty years.

I’ve just checked my pulse and yep, it’s racing. In a good way.

Who would’ve thought?

Copyright: Louise Ralph

View from Point Danger to Kingscliff


Pétanque anyone? Hanging out in Nouvelle Calédonie

Did someone mention winter? Nouvelle Calédonie has turned on the chill and brought in the clouds especially for us. But who’s complaining, when work is a few thousand kilometres away…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Nouvelle-Calédonie. Perfect one day…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…cloudy and chilly the next (but you just have to walk faster!)

On weekdays at this time of the year, it looks abandoned and a little tired here – a bit like a nightclub strip in the harsh light of day.

Yes, there are signs of life as the cleanup begins for the start of the tourist season in September. But no-one is in a hurry.

It will get done when it’s done. There’s no real drive to lose yourself in busy-ness and you’ve gotta love that!

…and those two-hour lunch breaks, ahhhh. The perfect time to do a few laps of the bay, or keep it low key with a game of pétanque, the French version of boules.

The aim is to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (‘pig’). Did I say low key? This is intense stuff and these guys have all the style…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

It’s a little confronting to see so many of the Pacific Islanders hanging out in the street, in parks, under trees. We asked a local if unemployment was a problem here, but she just smiled.

“People think they’re sitting around with no work or money, getting depressed,” she said. “But it’s not like that here. They don’t have ‘nothing to do’, it’s just their culture to be relaxed and happy.

“They don’t want a lot – they have what they need. They’d rather hang out with friends and family. It’s who they are.”

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Our first (and possibly last) selfie – just to prove we did stay still (long enough to take it anyway…)

Some argue that there’s a ‘welfare culture’ side to it, but I like that they don’t feel the need to accumulate wealth or ‘stuff’.

That they prioritise family and the group. That having a laugh and a chat is way more important than having the right house or car…

So we did a bit of hanging-out these holidays – something new for us. By the end of the week, we got the point.

It’s okay not to be always on the go. In fact, it’s pretty fabulous really.

Could this be a new way of life? I’ll let you know when we’re back home…

Meanwhile, I must get us a pétanque set. Just sayin’.

 

 


Winter beach escapes…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

The tourists have gone, the cafes and shops are quiet, and the camping areas are almost empty except for intrepid grey nomads on their way north to escape the southern chill.

A crisp wind sweeps the beach, where only the locals brave the elements to fish, walk or give their dogs a run.

Surf and sun are definitely big drawcards, but winter is my favourite time at the beach.

When our kids were little, we’d wrap them up  all cozy and warm and we’d go to the beach to play – to search for shells and other treasures, make icy sand castles, brave a paddle, throw a ball, look for dolphins.

Here in northern New South Wales, from June to November, humpback whales are coming and going along their migratory highway. Seeing them breaching and playing just off the beach makes you want to wait forever for each magical glimpse.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

But there is plenty to do around here that doesn’t involve the beach – or practicing your whale whispering techniques.

Try an early morning climb – with that last chain-assisted scramble – up Wollumbin (Mt Warning), the remnant central vent of an ancient volcano and an icon of the region.

Or slightly easier (with goosebumps of a different kind), paddle up the river towards the mountain. Along the way, you’ll see raptors riding the thermals above you. Last weekend, we counted twelve raptors, possibly square-tailed kites, in one breathtaking group…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

If you’re not into chilly water sports or ‘hill’ climbs, there are so many forest walks around here – and so many stories. Like the walk to Protestors Falls on Terania Creek near Nimbin, the birthplace of Australia’s environmental movement in the late 1970s.

Or head down the trail in Springbrook National Park to the Natural Bridge, created over millions of years by water tumbling through the roof of a basalt cave.

For something a little more civilised, the Taste of Kingscliff is a delicious foodie fest in July 2014. We’ve booked in with a bunch of friends for the Long Table feast under the stars, so more on that in July…

Then there are weekend markets, the Mt Tambourine wine trail, theme parks, the Currumbin Sanctuary, places for golfing and cycling, cozy bars and cafes, music, and more.

This is the kind of place where, once you dig your feet in the (now chilly) sand, you never want to leave. For too long, anyway…

 


a beach somewhere…

The beaches near and not too far from us are so full of life, and not just human life (although there’s a lot of that). The ‘beachscape’ is always changing shape, carried away and built up again with the wild winds and shifting tides.

This weekend, on a visit to Byron Bay, the beach was back. Where not so long ago it was a strip of sand, now it stretches far and wide.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

dusk settles on another absolutely perfect day at Byron Bay…

And on another beach wander closer to home, the shoreline at Pottsville beach is littered with pumice stone. Queensland University of Technology’s pumice expert Dr Scott Bryan explained the mystery to Sydney Morning Herald columnist Tim the Yowie Man:

‘ “It’s the result of the July 2012 eruption of the Havre Seamount, which is about 1000 kilometres north of Auckland”… the underwater volcano spewed out a ”raft of pumice estimated to be more than 20,000 square kilometres in size”. That’s a surface area bigger than Belgium.’ (SMH, 10 January 2014)

A closer look at the ‘moving’ volcanic stones littering our beach reveals that marine creatures have hitched a ride on the pumice. Sometimes they are welcome, like coral-building species, and sometimes they are invasive species.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

mysterious creatures hitch rides on the pumice stone to seed or invade the oceans

There is something magical about wandering along a beach somewhere. Something that feeds your soul, connects you to the power and mystery of nature, and keeps drawing you back time and again.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Sand squiggles or aerial views? It depends on your perspective…