The Satanic virus has made setting off on any road trip longer than a couple of weeks, and further than 1000 km or so from home, a fraught, risky business, especially if you live in a capital city.
A dreaded snap lockdown can happen with just a few hours’ notice, as was recently the case in Brisbane. If you’re too far away to return before the city gates are locked, things can get desperate, expensive, and intensely miserable.
So it’s probably a good idea to go looking for destinations closer to home.
The national parks along the NSW north coast, between Newcastle and the Queensland border, are packed solid with holidaymakers in summer, but at this time of year, it’s a different story.
You can easily book a campsite online, and enjoy some of the most beautiful coastlines in Australia, with long, deserted beaches, wonderful walking, great fishing, kayaking, birdwatching, and, as we head into spring, dazzling displays of coastal wildflowers.
If Covid launches yet another attack, and you have to get home quickly to Sydney or Brisbane, it’s a day’s drive at most, thanks to the now complete Pacific Highway dual carriageway.
Bundjalung National Park, which takes its name from the Bandjalung traditional owners, stretches along 50 kilometers of coastline between Iluka, where the Clarence River meets the sea, and Evans Head to the north.
At the Iluka end, sealed road access from the Pacific Highway takes you to Woody Head, a well-organized campground with all the mod cons, including cabins, a couple of larger houses for groups, powered and unpowered caravan and campsites, showers, barbecues, phone reception, and a boat ramp.
It’s right on a protected beach that’s good for swimming, and adjacent to lush rainforest, with a short, easy walking track. There’s also a rock platform and shallow reefs just offshore, ideal for snorkeling, and you can kayak or canoe on the nearby Esk River.
If you want wild, though, the park’s northern campground at Black Rocks is about as remote as it gets on the NSW north coast.
Access is from Woodburn, via Gap Road, a 25-kilometer drive with the final 15km or so unsealed but no problem for most vehicles.
Black Rocks comprises about 45 nicely private sites, each tucked away within a banksia forest behind the huge sand dune that backs onto Ten Mile Beach. There are long drop dunnies, and most sites have a fire pit, but you have to bring your own water and firewood.
It’s called Black Rocks because of the unique “coffee rock” formations, made from compressed sand in extravagantly curvaceous, surrealist shapes.
Behind the campground, Jerusalem Creek offers fishing and kayaking, and a short, walking track through the forest takes you to its mouth.
You can walk along the beach, probably seeing nobody most of the time, for as long and as far as you like.
If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to see the RAAF Top Guns in their fighter jets do a low-level pass along the beach. No, it’s not the start of World War Three. Bundjalung is part of a flight training zone used by the RAAF’s Amberley base near Brisbane. It does rather disturb the serenity a little, but it’s an amazing sight. And sound…
At the end, or the beginning, of the day, you can climb up to the top of the dune that looks over Ten Mile beach and watches the sun ignite the sky in vivid, glorious technicolor.
(PS: It’s also the only place you can get a good phone signal.)
If you need some post-lockdown joy, or just somewhere to remind yourself that the world is still a beautiful place, a few days in Bundjalung National Park will make you feel a whole lot better.
Not least because you can make it home if you have to.
This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com