We'd been advised not to attempt the 1,000km journey from Sydney to Brisbane in a hurry, and were recommended a 1-2 day stop at Moonee Beach, just north of Coff's Harbour, which is about halfway.
We followed the Pacific Highway up the coast.
The Pacific Highway sounds like a grand name, but at times the road is little more than a trunk road, with only one lane in both directions. Add to that the fact that it must have more roadworks per kilometre than just about any other road in the world, and we soon saw the wisdom of not trying to rush things. But the fact that it meanders through towns makes it more interesting than a motorway, and we had a pleasant enough journey, stopping every 2 hours or so to let the kids stretch their legs and get fortified with coffee.
We got caught in Sydney work traffic for the first hour, but eventually made our first stop just north of Newcastle at Karuah. There was a playground for the kids, next to a picturesque river.
These beautiful flowering trees near the playground attracted a few birds, including this Noisy Friarbird...
...and this rather fine male Olive-backed Oriole.
A couple of fairly young Masked Lapwings foraged by the roadside ...
... while the parents guarded a second clutch on a nearby school playing field. It was good to see that the grass had been left uncut around the nest.
We arrived at Moonee Beach - about 11km north of Coff's Harbour - and got ourselves checked into a comfortable cabin at Moonee Beach Holiday Park just before dark.
Dawn was early - before 5am - and the temperature was quite chilly. Nevertheless, as I walked out to enjoy the first rays of the sun, I met an elderly gent - certainly well over 60 - RETURNING from the sea with his surfboard tucked under one arm! His comment was "Not much surf, but it's nice to get wet." No wonder these fellows seem to win every sporting event they go in for! He reminded me of someone out of an Asterix comic book - the Antipodean version!
Moonee Beach at dawn (low tide).
At low tide there was quite an expanse of sand in the river estuary, but apart from some small flocks of Silver Gulls and Crested Terns and the odd egret and pelican, it was quite birdless.
I disturbed this Great Egret fishing for his breakfast. Sorry mate!
I walked up onto the headland, where I had been told the views along the coast are spectacular,and I wasn't disappointed. There were plenty of others up before me - fishermen and surfers, but it was a tranquil place nevertheless.
Two rivers meet
A fisherman catches the first rays of sun.
One of the first birds awake on the headland was a male Golden-headed Cisticola, singing away from the top of a lantana bush.
Crested Pigeons are common open country birds, but are rather attractive all the same. This is one of a group of four that were sunbathing in the early morning light.
Brown Honeyeaters are one of the commoner honeyeaters. They have a loud attractive song, which reminded me very much of that of a Cetti's Warbler.
On the way back to the cabin to wake the family up I came across a couple of common species attending nests.
This Laughing Kookaburra had a nest in a termite's nest in a tree. It scared the wits out of me by sitting very quietly on a branch at about head height until I walked almost under it before it moved and revealed its presence!
It was constantly hassled by a pair of Noisy Miners which no doubt had a nest nearby. Kookaburras are partial to nestlings and eggs as well as many other things!
The other local residents were a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets nesting in a hole in a tree. It's hard to imagine how these birds could be more colourful!
The rest of the day was spent at the beach with the family - building sandcastles and collecting stones!
I went out after dark to see if I could see any nocturnal birds or mammals but no such luck. Experimented a bit with long exposures of the moon over the river!