Up early. For breakfast, I had the “ashi fruit” I bought in town last night. It actually didn’t match the description I’d been given; it was more like a cross between fruit salad and cucumber. Not a big flavor, but very juicy and refreshing.
Then on the road again, ever northward. Ballina is really lovely as soon as you get out of the commercial district. I left the Pacific Highway and took the coastal road. The view of Lennox Head as I came through the hills was spectacular, with craggy cliffs giving way to long beaches. Morning light danced on the ocean, and everything is green and increasingly tropical. On through lovely, rapidly changing countryside–forest, coastal scrub, beaches, towns–to Byron Bay.
Byron Bay is a beachfront town famous for its splendid beaches–and for being the eastern most point of mainland Australia. The town and nearby Cape Byron are largely surrounded by national parks and nature reserves. It’s a lovely area, and a very popular holiday spot for Aussies.
I left the main highway and headed up a series of narrow, winding roads that led through parkland and out onto Cape Byron, a rugged point of land that stretches out into the ocean. At the tip of the cape is the Cape Byron Lighthouse, which was built in 1901.
Fun little bit of history: Cape Byron was named by Captain Cook (most stuff was on this side of Australia) in honor of his navigator, John Byron, who would in time become the grandfather of the great poet, Lord Byron. Because people who settled the area originally assumed the cape had been named for the poet, rather than the navigator, the town ended up with a lot of very literary street names: Tennyson, Browning, Marvell, Ruskin, Wordsworth, and so on. Made me smile.
I hiked around the splendid, craggy, green-clad cape for about an hour, photographing distant mountains veiled in mist, crashing waves below, rocky cliffs, curving white beaches, the lighthouse, and all the foliage.
Heading north once more, I regained the Pacific Highway, only to leave it again at Mooball, to follow the Tweed Coast Road–a blending of gorgeous horse properties, tacky beach communities, and glorious beaches and headlands.
Before too much longer, I crossed the state border into Queensland, and a little before noon, I was in Currumbin. On my first trip to Australia, very early in my stay, I visited the wildlife sanctuary in Currumbin. It was my first immersion in the birds and wildlife of Australia. I’ve since seen more out bush, but I still wanted to return.
They had changed the name, from Currumbin Bird Santuary to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, and there was a greater emphasis on animals this time—but it was still fabulous. The birds were abundant and dazzling, but the larger numbers of kangaroos and wallabies made my heart sing. There were lots of other animals, of course, including plenty of koalas (which I happily photographed), but the ‘roos and wallabies were all about, grazing amidst the visitors, and I was overjoyed. I spent about 2-1/2 happy hours wandering through the beautiful grounds, photographing trees, flowers, and critters. It was wonderful.