I’m constantly amazed at how beautiful my home country is, even after living here for 25+ years.
Australia is more than just beaches (though the beaches are pretty phenomenal). It also has a seemingly endless supply of beautiful landscapes including mountains, rainforests, desert, and ocean.
On my recent travels around Australia’s east coast, I visited northern New South Wales for the first time. I had expected it to be a pretty typical Aussie beach destination, but instead I found a diverse area with plenty of nature activities. I was totally blown away by the wild and wonderful experiences I had while exploring it.
Here are all my favourite moments from the time I spent in northern New South Wales, Australia!
Swimming at a secret waterfall
Our friend Tim, who we met while living in New York City, spent some of his childhood living in Ballina. He knew about a secret place in the nearby bushland called Dalwood Falls, where we could swim in a waterfall or jump from a rocky cliff into the deep water below.
We parked our car on the side of the road and found the trailhead. 10 minutes later, we arrived at this epic waterfall. There were signs warning people that it was unsafe to jump off the rocks (and I was not nearly confident enough to try it!) but a few of our friends made the leap into the swimming hole.
Instead, I settled myself in the shallow water of the upper waterfall (which I renamed “the spa”) and relaxed for hours until it was time to leave. Tim told us that a coca cola commercial was once filmed in that very spot!
Hiking to Cape Byron
Many tourists will do a day trip from Brisbane down to Byron Bay to experience the hippy beach town. We only had a half day in Byron, and I wanted desperately to do the Cape Byron walking track while I was there.
Rob and I left our group of friends, who were day drinking in a bar, to do a hike out to Cape Byron – the easternmost point of Australia. It was a sweltering 32°C (90°F), and by the time we reached the vista point after 50 minutes of walking up and down the rocky path, my face was bright red and dripping with sweat.
But it was worth enduring the intense heat for the rewarding view of the Pacific Ocean. Standing at the lookout and watching the waves crash against the rocky coastline gave me a sense of just how powerful mother nature can be. The scenery was truly awesome.
Staying in a mountain house
Instead of visiting the touristy Gold Coast, our group decided to rent an incredible mountain house on Airbnb in the Tweed Valley – just south of the Queensland state border. This place was set on the side of a mountain and had unbelievably awesome views of the hills and valley surrounding it.
The house had a pool area and an outdoor shower (with a wooden privacy screen, of course!) so that you could get clean while smelling the fresh air and hearing the sounds of nature. We saw some wild kangaroos nearby and heard the calls of many Australian birds like the kookaburra and cockatoo.
Not many people associate Australia with lush green countryside, but it’s definitely there, and it’s definitely worth experiencing!
This part of Australia gets plenty of tropical storms, especially in the summer. As a Tasmanian gal, I rarely saw thunderstorms as I was growing up, so this crazy weather is truly exciting for me.
One night in Ballina, we were sitting outside after sunset and a storm was raging in the distance. I managed to capture this double bolt of lightning while playing with my camera and long exposures.
There was also a storm in Brisbane the night before that managed to cut power to over 100,000 homes in the city. We casually watched the wind, rain, and lightning while enjoying a few beers at the pub!
Having a bonfire night
Our group decided to light up a bonfire one evening in Ballina. Even though the tropical air was hot and sticky, the bonfire was awesome to sit around. We contemplated the flames late into the night.
We also grilled sausages on the barbecue (veggie ones for me!), drank a few local beers, and saw a green tree frog hopping along the garden path. It really was a truly Aussie way to spend an evening.
Flying our drone at sunset
Rob and I haven’t had loads of opportunities to play with our drone, so we decided to take it on this trip to capture some aerial photos. One night in Ballina, we took it for a spin and caught this sunset over the Australian countryside. It was magical to see the view of this area from the air.
If you’ve never played with a drone, I highly advise you to find a friend who has one and take it out for a photo shoot sometime. It’s so much fun to play with, especially if you’re in a scenic spot!