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Australia - Sydney to Gold Coast road trip in El Cheapo

We picked up our Jucy “El Cheapo” campervan from Sydney and made our way to the Blue Mountains to catch up with my friend Charlotte and her family. It was amazing to see her after so many years and to finally meet her husband and daughter! We were so grateful to have a delicious meal and a proper bed for the night after our long journey from Sri Lanka. However, as the afternoon went on Sam’s legs started to feel numb, tingly and achey from the knee down. I made the mistake of Googling his symptoms and coming up with a diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis and imminent death…ha! Luckily Charlotte’s brother in law is a nurse…after a quick call to him and a few aspirin Sam’s legs started to feel a bit better.

Charlotte and I <3

12 hours of sleep later (we needed it) we set off in El Cheapo and headed towards Nelson Bay. On the way, Sam started to feel unwell and had a fever. After the last night and the possible risk of DVT we took no risks and drove to a medical centre and saw a Doctor. It turns out a bite he had on his foot from Sri Lanka had got infected and needed to be treated with antibiotics. Panic over.

As it was dark by the time we came out of the hospital and Sam wasn’t feeling great we drove straight to a campsite. The reception was closed so we parked in a parking space and set up our bed. Major error as the next morning we were charged $46!

After very little sleep we began the drive to Port Macquarie. The first beach we stopped at was called Lighthouse Beach and was absolutely beautiful…white sand, bright blue ocean and glorious sunshine. Just what we needed!

Both feeling famished, we decided that it would be a good spot to try out our campers cooker for the first time… I inserted the can of butane gas into the cooker as instructed and began trying to ignite the hob. After a couple of clicks the whole butane gas can and cooker was on flames!! Panic ensued!!! Sam had to hold the tray that the cooker was on to stop it from sliding back into the van while I tried to free the extinguisher. After a couple of failed attempts I was getting even more hysterical and shouted to Sam that he’d have to try, meaning that I would have to hold the tray by the flame engulfed cooker! The whole time I thought we were seconds from an explosion! Luckily Sam managed to get the extinguisher and put the fire out. Hero.

Once the fire was out and the butane can safely removed from the cooker we couldn’t help but laugh hysterically. I think it was the shock! We settled for super noodles made with water warmed from the sun…not the best.

Sam post fire with his noodles

We took Pacific Drive through Port Macquarie and stopped to watch the end of a Surf comp before heading off to our next destination. It’s a shame we didn’t have more time as it looked like there was lots going on there.

We got to Coffs Harbour late afternoon and started looking round for somewhere to sleep for free. We stumbled upon Park Beach car park which was a small spot that overlooked the beach. We spotted a few other campers that looked like they were settling in for the evening so assumed we wouldn’t get moved on in the middle of the night.

Park Beach Coffs Harbour

Sam surfed in the morning while I lay in bed watching dolphins swimming just off the beach… Dreamy. I wanted to stay in that moment.

View from El Cheapo

As the camper had to be back the following morning we knew we had a lot of driving to get done on day 4. Too scared to try the cooker again we treated ourselves to breakfast at Café Aqua where they do good coffee and a delicious veggie breaky.

Vegetarian breakfast at Cafe Aqua

We checked out Diggers Beach, before making our way to Emerald Beach where we walked round the headland and saw our first Kangaroos! I was so excited to see the first two that I spent ages taking photographs of them. I didn’t realise that just around the corner there were about 50 more! I was in my element. Sam calls me Attenborough as I love animals so much.

Diggers Beach
Kangaroo watching the surf

After missing the turn off to Ballina we decided to stop briefly at Lennox Head instead. As time was so tight we literally got out of the car, checked the waves, and got back in the car and back on the road.

Next stop was Byron… the town was full of cool surf shops and yummy places to eat. It was super busy though so we drove straight through and up to the lighthouse where the views were incredible.

El Cheapo

On the way back down we took a turn off to Wategos Beach and jumped out of the car for a quick swim and body surf.

From Byron we got back on the Pacific Highway and headed for the Gold Coast. The homestretch. We drove through Coolangatta and up to Broadbeach to find the apartment we would be checking into after we dropped the camper off the following morning. Seeing the Bel Air building got us excited for a big bed, hot showers and a washing machine!

We spent our last night parked in Don Macsween Park where they have toilets, drinking water and a boiling water tank (perfect for our super noodles). After a free, undisturbed nights sleep and a morning swim in the sea we took our beloved El Cheapo back to Jucy.

The drive from Sydney to the Gold Coast is beautiful! There are so many places to see and my only wish is that we’d had a bit longer. If anyone is planning on doing it I definitely recommend the Wiki Camps app. It has loads of info on where you can find drinking water, toilets, showers, free camping and amazing scenery.

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