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Julia Dimon Celebrates the Van Life on Australia Day
Posted on January 26, 2016

The beaches of Byron Bay, a hip beach town along Australia’s Gold Coast, where Dimon's travel adventures first began.

Everybody loves Aussies—and their stunning national landscape—but no one more than Eddie Bauer adventure travel guide Julia Dimon. The globe-trekking travel journalist not only chose her profession on a walkabout through the diverse and spectacular country of Australia, but also shifted her worldview after finding inspiration on a postcard tacked on a bar wall in Byron Bay. In celebration of the Australia Day, she’s compiled a recap from a recent camper van romp—husband and new baby in tow—around Australia.—LYA Editor

Reflecting at Crystal Castle & Shambhala gardens, a private botanical garden filled with crystals, subtropical plant life of lush flora and fauna, just outside of Byron Bay.

There is something truly liberating about cruising the open road with no set destination, no time limitations, and no real agenda. Typically, I’m a highly organized traveler, armed with guidebooks, maps, and a hit list of must-see tourist attractions, but on my most recent trip to Australia, I vowed to let loose and let the power of serendipity dictate. I figured that a road trip through some of eastern Australia’s most beautiful seaside landscapes should be taken on with a “go with the flow” Aussie approach. Best to absorb the chill, nasmaste nature of the local surf culture and hang, rather than hustle.

So there I was, getting ready to set out on an epic adventure in and around the Brisbane area of Queensland, Australia, with my husband and seven-month-old baby girl in tow. We were eager to explore the beach towns of the world famous Gold Coast. But how best to do that with a kiddo? Having recently become a first-time mom, I struggled to find a balance between the demands of motherhood and my own insatiable desire for adventure. As a travel writer with incurable wanderlust, it was my sincere hope that the fact that I’d become a parent wouldn’t mean I’d have to give up my passion for exploration. A road trip in a family-friendly camper van seemed like a good way to find balance between the thrill of the open road and the comfort and certainty of a home base for my tiny traveler.

Renting a camper van for our multi-day trip—which is a very popular thing to do in this part of the world—made for an affordable and adventurous way to see the country. We opted for a company called JUCY, a popular local option with a fleet of camper vans and cars across the US, New Zealand, and Australia. While there are many different styles and sizes of camper vans, we chose one called the JUCY Condo, which slept four and had a custom-built interior featuring everything from a 19″ flat screen DVD player, cooker, fridge, and kitchen sink. This pimped-out green-and-purple camper van would be our beloved transportation/accommodation during the course of our Australian adventure.

While our entire trip was five days, I’ll focus on some of my most memorable mobile-home moments on my family road trip through Eastern Australia.

So, day one. We piled our crap into the van and headed south from Brisbane in the direction of Surfer’s Paradise. With my husband driving—on the “wrong” side of the road, I’d like to point out . . . eeeeek!—I was able to zone out and watch the passing countryside. With my bare feet propped up on the dashboard, feeling a cool ocean breeze thick with salt blowing through the van windows, I smiled and took in the spectacular Australian scenery. Blue ocean waters, rolling waves of foam-cappuccino white, clusters of surfers bobbing patiently in the ocean as they waited for their next big wave.

Eager to live out our Crocodile Dundee dreams, we saw a sign, pulled over, and popped into the Australia Zoo, owned by Crocodile Hunter Steve Erwin’s family. Part of me worried it would be super cheesy (Crikey!) but it actually turned out to be one of the trip’s highlights.

Located in Queensland on the Sunshine Coast near the Glass House Mountains, the Australia Zoo is an impressive 100-acre zoo with local, indigenous animals. Obviously, there are kangaroos, wombats, and koalas (which you can cuddle and take selfies with) but some of the most interesting animals were the ones we’d never heard of.

I was completely enthralled with the Cassowary, a giant ostrich-sized bird that can weigh between 70-120 lbs. It’s the third largest bird on the planet, but it’s on the endangered species list. Males are responsible for hatching eggs—they’re on the nest for 50 days—and look after the chicks for the first 9-18 months. Nice to see some shared parenting action in the animal kingdom—good work, daddy Cassowary! But beyond birds, it was, of course, the crocs that were the most captivating attraction. One of the most impressive specimens was big boy Acco, a 2,200 lb, 16 ft male saltwater crocodile. The largest and oldest reptile at the Australia Zoo, his size and power were at once magnificent and terrifying. Clinging tightly to my delicious little daughter, I introduced her to all the animals. She loved watching the crocs, kangaroos, and other animals the zoo had to offer. The Australia Zoo is a must-visit for any family traveling through the region.

With my compulsory need to see crocs, walk with kangaroos, and cuddle koalas satisfied, we left the Australia Zoo and continued along the Bruce Highway for another hour to the delightful town of Noosa Heads.

 

Surrounded by the calm waters of Laguna Bay, Noosa Heads is a super-chill beach-side town with great surf, cool boutiques with local designers, and cosmopolitan cafes with world-class cuisine and alfresco dining. We spent time strolling along Hastings Street, a pedestrian-friendly strip in the heart of the town where like-minded shopaholics can easily spend the day popping into fine-art galleries and acquiring trendy treasures.

Sticky from the afternoon heat of an Australian summer, we hit Noosa Main beach and slipped into the warm turquoise waters for a lovely swim. For those who love to surf, you can rent boards and join the action at First Point. Or if you love to hike, be sure to follow the wooden boardwalk from Noosa Main Beach into Noosa National Park and Noosa River for a scenic forest stroll.

Let’s not sugarcoat it: traveling with a baby can be a challenge. A lot of moving parts, tears, screams, blowouts, and sleepless nights. The demands of parenthood also required plenty of pit stops for diaper changes and feedings, but sightseeing was still high on our list of priorities.

With so much to offer in the region, we decided to head straight to Byron Bay, a hip beach town along Australia’s Gold Coast. Located in the far-northeastern corner of the state of New South Wales, Australia (some 480 miles north of Sydney and 100 miles south of Brisbane), Byron Bay draws an eclectic mix of backpackers, bikini clad hipsters, beach babes, sunseekers, spiritual yogis, and fashionistas.

Having visited Byron back in 2003 as a twenty-something backpacker, it was here that I was inspired to make travel a bigger part of my life. I found inspiration on the floor of a dingy backpacker bar: a postcard that inspired me to travel around the world for a longer stretch of time. Eighty countries, seven continents, and many years later, I found myself back in Byron Bay, having come full circle—this time, as an established travel writer, a travel expert, a new mom, and life-long adventurer.

First thing on the to-do list this time? Leave baby with daddy and head out with Go Sea Kayak for a guided aquatic adventure. I love the water and a few hours of solo sea kayaking is one of my ideal ways to relax and reconnect with the ocean. Go Sea Kayak  offers many types of sea kayaking tours suitable for a variety of ages and fitness levels. Plus, they offer a guarantee that you’ll spot dolphins, whales, or turtles in the clear blue waters of the Cape Bryon Marine Park, or you can paddle again for free.

With snarling winds and wild waves, the water turned out to be a bit too choppy for sea kayaking on this particular day, so I was given the chance to experience their new river kayaking tour along the Brunswick River, dubbed one of the most beautiful river systems in Australia.

The tour left from Brunswick Heads, a quaint little coastal town only fifteen-minutes north of Byron Bay. The Brunswick River is a haven for wildlife such as birds, turtles, and fish. Paddling peacefully along the river, winding my way through a protected estuary of mangroves, the river proved to be a sanctuary for wildlife, kayakers, and swimmers alike. In these brackish waters, there are no big crocs to be found, so, with a thumbs up from my guide, I slipped out of the kayak and into the waters for a refreshing mid-afternoon swim.

Sun-kissed, toes caked with sand, skin sweet with the smell of ocean air and relaxation, I returned to my little family and found a place to park our mobile Jucy condo for a good night’s rest. After all, tomorrow was another day, another chance to go with the flow, have an adventure in Australia, and let serendipity do the scheduling.

Mama taking a moment to relax. A candid snapshot with child, camper van and Chardonnay.

Check out the series of Travex gear Dimon sported on her camper van trip around Australia at eddiebauer.com.

 

Author: - Tuesday, January 26th, 2016
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