Category Archives: McCarthy-Wood Adventures

Queensland to the Bottom of Australia Road-Trip


This video is a highlights package of a road-trip we did a little while ago. Enjoy!

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Sunshine Castle

We headed to the Sunshine Castle in Bli Bli with the all new Suzuki S-Cross.

Sunshine CastleThe Sunshine Castle is an award winning tourist attraction and function venue. The castle captures the imagination and is a stand out landmark complete with moat, turrets, towers and drawbridge.

The Castle is filled with medieval displays and other exhibitions that you are able to explore at your own pace in a self walk tour, great for the whole family.

And with live combat displays, dancing dolls, a miniature city, a toy and doll museum, fairytale dioramas and a model train railway display – you’re likely to be entertained for many hours.

Check out resident knight, Sir Justyn on Facebook.

From Brisbane to Canberra and back in search of amazing laksa

Setting the 4BC Suzuki S-Cross Blogger Challenge:

How far would you drive for a good meal?
To the next town? To your nearest city? In our case, it was 1300km.

This well and truly knocks our previous record of driving from Brisbane to Gympie in regional Queensland for pumpkin scones from its place as the craziest distance covered for a knock-out meal.

4BC Suzuki Blogger Quick facts:

  • Join the adventure, join the ride – mwWEB.me/scross (Please like the FB page! Thanks in advance)
  • Kilometres on this trip – 3,116
  • Kilometres over two weeks – 6,200
  • Fuel – as low as 5.7 litres to 100kms during normal (define normal lol) driving
  • Coffee stops during three day trip – 7.8

It all started years ago with a bowl of mouth-watering laksa in Civic, the business centre of our nation’s capital. For those who do not know, laksa is an Asian soup-like meal full of flavoursome vegetables, spices and in our case, juicy tofu drowned in creamy coconut milk with crispy spring onions on top. The restaurant is fairly unassuming. Clean, warm, functional, brimming with public servants. If it lacks anything in sophistication though, it is more than made up for in taste.

From that moment, any trip to Canberra had the omnipresent incentive of a bowl of laksa. Try as we might to find a substitute closer to home, we always left feeling as deflated as Charlie must have when he though he had missed out on a golden ticket.

Suzuki S-Cross Backyard Drive.Still001

So when it came to setting my first challenge as part of the 4BC Suzuki S-Cross blogging competition, one word popped into my head:
Laksa. And so it was that we set out to drive 3000km in the Suzuki S-Cross to Canberra and back for a bowl of laksa. The catch: We had just three days. And a baby on board.

Day One:
Day one was to start with a 4am rise and on the road in a fully packed car by 5am. That didn’t happen. At 8am, we rolled up in our S-Cross at the BP Service Centre on the Bruce Highway for a coffee like two old dogs wondering where we left our mojo.

Fully caffeineted, we became much more effective and the miles finally started to peel off. It wasn’t until close to lunch, though, that we hit our first milestone. Rising out of a cane field like a bastion of hope, we saw the steep, ruddy red pitched slopes of the Our Daily Bread Café at Broadwater off the main highway.

We first found this old church abandoned, run down and unloved; a giant For Sale sign its unholy welcome mat. Then Alannah found it and it became a beautiful café, with much of its original interior intact. I grabbed a slab of homemade carrot cake with mint and whipped cream then it was on the road.

Aurelia tries her first babyccino at Coffs Harbour

Coffs Harbour is perhaps best known for its big banana. But we decided to skip bananas for Aurelia’s first babyccino. A few more stops were in order though as Aurelia was starting to get a bit frisky. But what really cost us was a relentless array of start-stop road works that had us yo-yoing between speed limits all down the east coast.

Before we knew it, we were well and truly behind schedule. At one point, we realised that we had let our navigational duties slide and had let the petrol drop well below the necessary fuel load to get us to our pit stop.

Suzuki S-Cross refuels at Liberty Service Station (The Milestone Cafe) in NSW

Luckily, the S-Cross proved its fuel efficiency and we found a little petrol station just off the beaten track. But with hours of road ahead of us, a baby who had just reached her witching hour and our destination beginning to seem more like a mythical Brigadoon, uncertainty begun to creep in. The dream of savouring a mouth-watering laksa was morphing into the reality of roadside broth.

A quick calculation and it was clear that we would have to change our plan to stopover the night at our favourite little motel at Cooma, just south of Canberra. Instead, it was a $74 room at the beautiful old town of Goulburn, north of Canberra. Dog-tired, we crashed fully clothed in our welcoming bed after 2am and slept solidly until after 7am.

Day Two:
We shook off our late night driving hangover with a coffee before hitting the open road. In a matter of no time we were through Canberra and out the other side bound for one of one of the most beautiful spots on Earth: the Snowy Mountains. What would at trip to Canberra be like without a visit to the Snowies? The seasons here are refreshingly distinct. Today was no exception.

Aurelia has her first real autumn just outside The Snowy Mountains National Park

Our road became a tunnel through a kaleidoscope filled with red, brown and orange flecks. A brief roadside stop became an Autumn playground for Aurelia. Piles of perfectly shaped leaves ranging from vibrant red to burnt cinnamon became the ultimate nature’s playground.

As we neared the border of the Snowy Mountains National Park, our surrounds changed again. Gone the shady trees with snowing red leaves. We had entered what seemed more like an underground ocean garden – only 1400m above sea level. Tough little ghostly white trees with bent trunks from surviving some of the harshest weather in Australia, steep slopes studded with stands of skinny, grey tree trunks and all bathed in a light a little ultraviolet in appearance. Roads chocked with tourists in the ski season were today empty of life, making the scene all the more spectacularly eery.

We wasted no time in testing how the S-Cross took to its new altitude. We whizzed around bends in the road seamlessly zipping together the mountains slopes on either side. We effortlessly zoomed up the slope beside Mount Kosziusko, keeping half an eye on the altitude reading on the display inside the car. We motored over vast dam walls. And we picked up a couple of hitchhikers who looked weary from their walk in the mountains (watch the video at the top of this post).

As sunset closed in and with empty stomachs, we pointed the car back toward Canberra and set out to fulfill our road trip mission. But with more than two hours of driving ahead of us, could we make it in time for laksa before close time? Luckily for us, we had entered the land of the long lunches, late dinners, politicians, public servants and their ilk. Canberra’s centre was buzzing by the time we arrived at about 8pm. And our laksa joint was open until 10pm.

Suzuki S-Cross outside Parliament House, Capital Hill, Canberra

Squeezing in to the packed restaurant, we finally got to savour the meal we had travelled over two state and territory borders, mountain ranges and pesky roadworks to savour. Such a build-up in anticipation could fall devastatingly short of expectation. But we were stoked to find our bowl of laksa was even better than we remembered. With full bellies we did a few victory laps around Canberra’s many roundabouts and past Parliament House until we felt dizzy and tired enough to collapse into bed.

Day Three:
The key challenge of the journey now behind us, a new test appeared over the horizon. We had one day to make it back home north of Brisbane in time for work the next day. We decided to take the inland road home so we could take in the picturesque escarpments and valleys of the Hunter Valley and beyond.

Our first stop was to tick-off our first viewer challenge: to drop by the fabulous Hunter Belle Cheese at Muswellbrook, NSW. Not only is HBC the home of some udderly amazing cheese, including our favourite beer cheese, but you can also get in a bit of practice milking the mechanical cow in the restaurant. By this stage, Aurelia had been disguised to fit in with our new hitchhiking friends.

The sight of a baby panda milking a mechanical cow presented a bit of a pandemonium for the HBC restaurant. With the hard work of milking out of the way, we decided to ditch our newfound friends, who by that stage were starting to wear out their welcome. Our next stop was the Golden Guitar at the home of country music in Australia – Tamworth (and an old war tank in between). You can drive right up to the Golden Guitar, perched just off the side of the main drag. After hanging out at the spot for a bit hoping some of the town’s star-making power will rub off, we set off again – this time bound for home.

In front of the Big Golden Guitar in Tamworth, NSW

Thanks to the open stretches of road, scarce traffic and absence of roadworks, we were able to make up for all of the time lost on our first day. By just after midnight, we were finally tucked up in bed, a little worse for wear, but happy knowing we had had completed one hell of a challenge.

Suzuki S-Cross: Our First Drive and Viewer Challenge No. 1

Join the ride, join the adventure – Like the 4BC Suzuki Blogger 9 – Andrew Facebook page now. Thanks in advance.

Just three days into our 4BC Suzuki S-Cross two-week blogging adventure and we have our first viewer challenge!  Already we have put this car through its paces – starting directly after picking up our S-Cross from Suzuki Queensland’s head office in Brisbane thanks to 4BC 1116 News Talk.

S-Cross pickup

After a quick switch of Aurelia’s baby seat, which was a cinch, we hit the open road bound for our favourite place: the mountains. The weather worked its magic on cue. Before we knew it we were driving through perfect mountain road tripping weather. The clouds converged above to bestow a heavy afternoon shower. And like a debutante at a coming out ball, the S-Cross was keen to shine. She gripped the slippery road around the bends like a pro. She gave it to the punishing climb up the range to Maleny that leaves even some late model cars struggling. She soared over divots in the road with kindness to her new passengers thanks to her high-riding body. She responded deftly to heavy acceleration. And her automatic wipers read the conditions as though climatology were her first language.

Most impressive of all though, it won over the baby. As all road tripping new parents know, this is as essential to a good journey as a double-shot latte is to a worker on a Monday morning. Aurelia spontaneously broke into a fit of giggles as we climbed up the range. Maybe it was the view as we climbed the spine of the deep green range. Maybe it was her first experience of the delicious scent of new car. Or maybe she was feeding off my delirium at being centre stage of this Eureopean-designed creation.  Whatever the reason, there was a sense of freedom in that moment that spread like an infection through the cabin. And even the baby wasn’t immune.

Suzuki S-Cross Backyard Drive.Still001

After our drive in the clouds, it was time to face our first challenge. Inspired by our journey up the steepest street in the world, we set out to find out whether the S-Cross could survive Brisbane’s steepest incline. We found our experience of the world’s steepest street across the ditch in Dunedin, New Zealand more white-knuckled-are-we-going-to-live-oh-my-God-will-the-brakes-hold-bloody-hell-whose-idea-was-this fear than Sunday drive. Could be something about doing it in a campervan! After some quick Googling we were stoked to find the city’s engineers had already carefully crunched the numbers for Fairfax Media to declare Gower Street, Toowong the city’s steepest street. Even we were surprised to find Gower St menacingly steep. A joggers nemesis. A skateboarders day of reckoning. A removal truck no-go zone. But nothing the S-Cross couldn’t handle with ease, as we proved. We got to check out the cool automatic brake feature, which any learner driver living in fear of the dreaded hill start would give their eye teeth for in a heartbeat. We did a reverse hill start with honours. Best of all though, we got to meet Amy Ward and Alex Gillespie – two joggers we rescued from Horror Hill as any good Samaritans would.

And this brings us to our first viewer challenge set by the super-fit Amy and Alex. They have thrown down the challenge to drive all the way to Hunter Belle Cheese in NSW. That’s an epic journey for a piece of cheese. Can we do it? Will the baby crack it? Find out by checking back on the 4BC Suzuki Blogger 9 Facebook page to find out. And please be sure to ‘Like’ our page so you don’t miss anything. (note to self: Google cheese puns).

Suzuki S-Cross blogger challenge link

Suzuki S-Cross Test Drive

After hearing a 4BC – 1116AM promotion on the radio for the Suzuki S-Cross, I picked one up from Martin Jonkers Motors and took it for a test-drive up and over the Mt Mee Range.

This was a fun car to put through its paces, pushing it to its limits on dirt and winding roads, the car held on like a mountain climber with no ground in site.

The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is available in three grades – GL, GLX and GLX Prestige. They all come with an 86kW/156Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.

Suzuki S-Cross Test Drive

The engine is matched with a five-speed manual or an optional automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) in the entry-level GL grade.

GLX and GLX Prestige models come standard with the CVT with a ‘seven-speed’ manual mode, allowing the driver to shift up and down using the steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters.

The S-Cross is also available with Suzuki’s new-generation AWD system dubbed ‘All Grip’, featuring four driver-selectable modes: auto, sport, snow, and lock. AWD is optional on the mid-spec GLX and standard on the GLX Premium.

Suzuki claims combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.8 litres per 100km for the front-drive variants and 6.2L/100km for the AWDs.

The entry-level GL comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, cruise control, tilt/reach adjustable steering wheel with audio controls, four-speaker audio system, and Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming.

Watch the video to see the test-drive adventure.

Roads, rivers, rainforest and beaches – Join us on our NSW roadtrip

Country road in Bellingen
One of the country roads in Bellingen

Three weeks. More than 17 locations. More than 1500km of driving. Two major rivers, dozens of beaches and even more coffee shops.

From the sun scorched grazing land of Glen Innes to the rainforests of the Dorrigo Plateau, the deep green hills of the Bellingen Valley and beyond to secluded seaside coves and vast, empty beaches.

Buckle up and join us on our latest roadtrip adventure in the New South Wales mid-north coast and northern rivers region.

Warwick town hallFirst Stop – Warwick

This is our starting point before we cross the border bound for the Mann River Nature Reserve not far from Glen Innes.

Chilling out by the campfire at Mann River Nature ReserveSecond Stop – Mann River Nature Reserve

A roaring campfire,  green grass, shady trees and our own  swim spot. We find one of the best free campsites in NSW.

Looking over the Australian Standing StonesThird Stop – Glen Innes

We reconnect with our Celtic roots at the Australian Standing Stones in Glen Innes and put Crofters Cottage to the test.

Aurelia in the Mann River at JackadgeryFourth Stop – Jackadgery

We cool off from the summer humidity in the Mann River at Jackadgery.

 

 

 

 

Aurelia gives the tick of approval to our River Cabin near BellngenFifth Stop – Bellingen

We swap the tent for a luxury river cabin in the area that was the setting for the ultimate escapism movie Danny Deckchair.

Dorrigo SkywalkSixth Stop – Dorrigo

Leaving the heat behind, the cool mountain air of the Dorrigo Plateau beckons.

Resting at ThoraSeventh Stop – Thora 

We take time to rest up at a free roadside campground at Thora.

 

 

 

 

UrungaEighth Stop – Urunga

We make a brief stop at Urunga, but find it too hot to set foot on the beach.

 

Trial Bay GaolNinth Stop – South West Rocks

There is much to love about the South West Rocks area, prison ruins and all.

Muttonbird Island Nature ReserveTenth Stop – Coffs Harbour

It must surely be impossible to tire of the beautiful Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve walk. That’s our verdict.

Pelicans at Yamba boat rampEleventh Stop – Yamba

Our controversial review of our stay at Yamba is sure to provoke those who call the spot their home away from home.

Aurelia ready for the roadtripThe Road Home

All the highlights of our trip back to Queensland.

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus posts:

Coffee Not by Clowns at Glen InnesCoffee wars at Glen Innes

You have to love this cheeky shot at Maccas.

Paint thick precision reverse parking near the Bruce HighwayPaint thick precision parking

You are not going to believe how close this motorhome parked to the car in the bay beside him in the Glass House Mountains.

 

 

 

 

The road home

After more than two weeks on the road it was finally time to turn the car around for home. But as they say: it’s about the journey not the destination. Here’s what we saw on the way.

Chatsworth Island
Chatsworth Island has become a bit of a ghost town since it was bypassed by the highway. Perhaps that’s why the locals have come up with some quirky ideas to enliven the town, including the community thong tree and gnome houses.
Community Thong Tree, Chatsworth Island
Ever wondered where all those missing thongs go? At Chatsworth Island it is not so much about buying a souvenir as leaving one behind.
Boatshed Cafe, Iluka
The Boatshed Cafe is tucked away behind a boat shop, but offers some of the best views over the water in Iluka.
Small boat at Iluka, New South Wales
Small boat at Iluka, New South Wales
Our Daily Bread Cafe
Our last stop, We love the chance to step inside this wonderful cafe every time we head back home. The Our Daily Bread Cafe is a great place to debrief from the trip over a coffee.
Aurelia ready for the roadtrip
Aurelia thinks it’s time to start planning our next roadtrip.

 

 

 

 

 

Eleventh stop – Yamba

We had heard so many good things about Yamba that we decided to book in at a holiday park for a four night stay. We chose the Blue Dolphin Holiday Resort because it seemed to have it all – spas, pools, a tennis court, barbecues and kids playgrounds.

Unfortunately the sunny weather turned overcast on our arrival and it was a little bit too chilly to enjoy the pool. We thought the cooler weather would make it perfect for a dip in the spa. But our hopes of relaxing in a warm spa were soon destroyed when we realised the temperature was almost the same as the pool and no where near warm enough to enjoy.Yamba

We spent the next two days exploring the town but were definitely not overwhelmed with what we saw. While the beach was pretty, we have seem many places on our road trips that are miles more attractive. We soon came to the Pelicans at Yamba boat rampconclusion that unless you enjoyed boating, fishing and surfing, Yamba might not be the best place for you. Having said that we did meet people in the holiday park who were not big on either of those activities and still enjoyed coming back year after year for their holidays.

Angourie Surfing Reserve
Pool at Angourie Surfing Reserve

By midday we had seen all of the sights accessible by road, including the Yamba breakwater, the famous Angourie Surfing Reserve and Lake Wooloweyah.

By far the most exciting thing we found were the DIY beach shacks on the beach made out of driftwood. They have a real Robinsoe Crusoe look about them and actually do offer shade, as we were to discover.

Driftwood hut at Yamba

Maclean, NSWThe next day we explored slightly further afield to the Scottish town of Maclean with its many tartan-painted power poles and character buildings. This town is a real treasure and has many inviting shops and cafes. We found a tiny little cafe that served amazing coffee.

Ferry Park Gallery, Maclean
Ferry Park Gallery, Maclean

Another real find is the nearby Ferry Park Gallery stocked full of handmade goods all made by the locals. The range included woodworks, little girl dresses, children’s toys, jewellery, paintings and household Aurelia at Yambadecorations. I was blown away by the quality of the goods and the prices seemed reasonable. We bought Aurelia a hand made, bright red bunny for $15, which she is sporting as a hat in this photo (see left).

Back Beach, Broom Head

The biggest surprise of all was the beautiful seaside village of Brooms Head with its great walks and understated charm. This laid back little beach town was exactly the type of uninhibited little place we had hoped to find on our trip. Our only regret was that we had not booked our accommodation in the rustic little caravan park right on the beach.

Back Beach, Broom HeadThe walk along the sand at Back Beach, Brooms Head – part of the four-day Yuraygir Coastal Walk – was truly spectacular. We even saw three trail bike riders zooming along the hard sand and another little driftwood beach shack.

Back Beach, Broom Head
Back Beach, Broom Head

Cafe Marina, YambaWhile we might not have rave reviews about Yamba town itself, we did fall for the homely and unpretentious Cafe Marina at Yamba. We found some of the more trendy looking cafes in Yamba a little to small, noisy and crowded, especially when you have a baby. But here we had room to breathe and a great view of the yachts at the marina.

The owners also have some creative menu options, including baked apples stuffed with roasted nuts and honey, and banana bread served with caramalised banana and bacon on the side if you are a fan.

Aurelia at Yamba
Aurelia after the pelican incident

Aurelia was a little traumatised though when we witnessed an epic pelican battle over a fish carcass thrown overboard by the nearby wholesale seafood vendor. Two pelicans were going at it in what for a moment looked like it was a battle to the death. Turns out pelicans are territorial and nothing like the happy bird from Storm Boy.

While Yamba had its highlights, sleeping in a tent right on the boundary of the holiday park close to the road was a downside and we were more than happy to push on home.