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Road tripping tips, tricks and advice

Meet Elise and Marikki: self-professed ocean enthusiasts, adventure seekers and #vanlife NSW East Coast road trippers. 

Below, we chat with the girls on all things road-tripping in Australia. They spill their tips, tricks, and advice for travelling on the road, van life, highlights from their Sydney to Byron Bay drive, and much more!

If you’re planning a NSW road trip now, over the spring, or for a future trip, this is the read for you! Get your planner out, and get ready to dig in!

Q&A with East Coast road-trippers, Elise Wilson and Marikki Watego:

WE LOVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM FOR VAN LIFE! WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT ROAD TRIPPING?

We LOVE Australia and completely vouch for seeing this amazing country by road. As ocean lovers, one of our favourite things about travelling on the road from Sydney to Byron Bay was driving to our destination at night and waking up to a new view of the ocean each morning.

One of the best things about van life is also having the freedom to go with the flow. It’s the perfect escape from the 9-5 hustle, there are no zoom calls to prepare for, no strict routines to maintain and if you’re lucky, you’ll find some places with no phone reception. Deserted beaches and small coastal towns are our vibe. Being able to find little gems like this on our East Coast road trip was another one of our favourite things about travelling on the road. 

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR SOMEONE LOOKING TO HEAD OFF ON A ROAD TRIP IN AUSTRALIA?

Do it! But be prepared to be flexible with your itinerary!  

The best thing about road tripping is the mobility to explore everything this amazing country has to offer, and to do it in your own time. Sometimes you discover places that are so good they warrant staying longer than originally planned. So, our advice is: if you think you only need three days for the road trip, take six. Enjoy a sunrise and a sunset at each destination; it’s totally worth it. Go with the flow, embrace the inner gypsy and prepare a banging road trip playlist to cruise to!

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR EPIC ROAD TRIP ITINERARY FROM SYDNEY TO BYRON BAY?

Absolutely! We’ve wrapped up all the juicy details in our Ultimate Sydney to Byron Bay road trip blog. It’s filled with where to go, what to do, secret spots, and everything in between!

AMAZING! AND WHAT WAS A KEY HIGHLIGHT OF THE TRIP?

Our favourite day was definitely the day where Marikki surfed Crescent Head in the morning and then we explored the Mermaid Pools at Arakoon National Park. This part of the trip is what we envisaged van life to be: Surf. Eat. Explore. Repeat. 

HOW DID YOU GET AROUND? DO YOU RECOMMEND A VAN OR A CAR FOR HITTING THE ROAD?

Although both of us aspire to one day live our best lives out of the back of a van blasting Ziggy Alberts as we meditate on the beach, unfortunately, neither Elise’s Hyundai nor my Mazda really lend themselves to that kinda road trippin’.

So, we took off on the road in a hire van from Travellers Autobarn. We had the ‘Chubby’ van which sure lived up to its name. We’d probably call it ‘chubby but cute’ but it was the perfect model for us. It had more than enough space including a big double bed, a sink, cooking facilities, and space for a surfboard, skateboard, two girls, their oversized luggage and so much more. The van sported all the accessories we needed for overnight stays (USB ports galore for charging all your camera equipment) and it was the perfect size to be able to swing into a normal size car park. The only thing we would definitely recommend is bringing your own AUX cord to pump the tunes. 

YOUR ADVICE FOR THOSE WHO CAN’T HIRE A CAR?

If you can’t hire a car or don’t have a license, you might not be able to live van life but there are flights to Ballina/Byron from Sydney and some other capital cities. We’d recommend jumping on one of these and grabbing some accommodation in Byron Bay. We stayed at WakeUp! Byron and The Surf House and these guys have complimentary bike hire which is perfect for getting around Byron Bay. 

AS SURF ENTHUSIASTS, WE’D LOVE TO KNOW: THE BEST BEACH FOR SURFING IN BYRON BAY?

Oooo this is a tough one for a surfer to answer.

Like a magician who never reveals their secrets, you’ll be hard-pressed to get the location of secret spots out of any surfer. Butttt…. given Byron Bay is far from a secret spot and we’re pretty much blow-ins, we’re happy to share. From those who think they surf like Steph Gilmore to those who are newbies to the stoke, Byron has a wave for you. If you’re a learner there’s always some whitewash around, perfect for a gentle introduction to ‘kooking it’. 

For those lazy 1-2ft days, grab a log (longboard) and head out to The Pass or a bit further round to Wategos. (Fun fact: Wategos is named after Marikki’s great-great uncle!) On a northerly wind, try Tallows which is a pretty consistent beach break just to the south of the lighthouse (though keep an eye out for fins, she’s a little sharky). If you’ve got some wheels, on a southerly or westerly wind try a bit further south of Byron at Broken Head

But our top tip would be: No matter what break you go to, respect the locals who surf there everyday.  If you’re a beginner, get acquainted with the surfing etiquette. And lastly, good vibes out in the surf go a long way to getting that salty fix.

EVERY ROAD TRIP NEEDS A GREAT PLAYLIST. YOUR TOP TUNES FOR LIFE ON THE ROAD?

Surprisingly, we didn’t blast as much Ziggy Alberts as one would rightly assume from checking out our Instagrams. But, we’re pretty liberal with our music choices so not much is off the table. On our road trip we were feeling some happy coastal vibes and a bit of Surfaces, Tep No or Matt Corby fit the bill. When the iPhone was running low on juice, Triple J always came through with the goods.

WHAT’S THE NEXT ROAD TRIP YOU’D LOVE TO TAKE?

The post-holiday blues have really set in for us, so at this point we’d set off on a road trip anywhere. Even if that’s a lap around Lake Burley Griffin. And because our East Coast road trip was so great, we’d do it again in a heartbeat and stop at some more places for longer.

But for our next big adventure (and COVID-19 pending) we would love to do a road trip in Western Australia, Queensland or South Australia. Having done a road trip covering the south-west of Australia before, can vouch for it being an epic adventure and something we’d like to do again.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to hit up our favourite spots on the South Coast of NSW and maybe even head off on some mini-road trips up and down the coast to tide us over until the next big one. Check out our Insta’s for some South Coast inspiration (@marikkiw and @_elisewilson).

YOUR FINAL PIECE OF ADVICE TO SHARE FOR THOSE TRAVELLING AUSTRALIA?

There are so many beautiful and diverse places to see in Australia from pristine beaches, snowy mountains and rugged coastlines. We, like many Australians, want to see it all! One thing we’re always conscious of when we visit new places in Australia is that this land always was and always will be Aboriginal land. There’s a rich history to each place in Australia if you’re willing to learn and explore it.

GET TO KNOW ELISE WILSON:

Elise is from Canberra but is probably more of a local on the South Coast of NSW. She’s studying to be a high school P.E and graphic design teacher. Elise has represented Australia in Touch Football in the Youth Trans-Tasman in 2017 and the Youth World Cup in Malaysia in 2018. If she’s not at the beach or on the touch-field, she’s more than likely chillin’ out with her doggos Monty and Huxley. 

GET TO KNOW MARIKKI WATEGO:

Marikki is a proud Indigenous Yugembeh Mananjali and South Sea Islander woman. She grew up on the east coast of NSW in Kingscliff spending every weekend in the ocean through surf lifesaving and surfing. She has represented Australia in Touch Football for the past eight years and most recently in the World Cup in Malaysia in 2019 where she retired from representing Australia.  Having practiced as a corporate lawyer and realising she’d rather not lose her soul, she left private practice and currently works as a public servant in Canberra.


YOU’RE NEXT…

Have a best mate you’re keen to explore our Aussie backyard with and create killer content along the way? Let’s see if we can help make it happen. Get in touch and tell us more about you!

About Elise and Marikki

Self-professed ocean enthusiasts, adventure seekers and recent #vanlife east coast road trippers. We play touch football together, having both represented Australia in our respective divisions but in our spare time we love surfing, snorkeling and adventuring to find all the secret spots Australia has to offer. Follow our adventures on @_elisewilson + @marikkiw

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