Updated: Jan 9
Part 1 is right here
Behind schedule and thoroughly exhausted from two surf sessions and nine hours of driving, we leave the gap year trap of Byron Bay and head out into the much less crowded Byron Shire. Winding roads, rolling fields and twenty minutes later we are deep in the Myocum Valley, just outside the original hippie town of Mullumbimby.
Tucked away down a 3km dusty, unsealed road, a road that essentially destroyed the underside of Luna over my four months of working on the farm, we arrive at Dingo Lane Farm. Home to over 200 snow-white cows, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and Hayla, the most intelligent and caring working dog I've ever encountered, we swing by. With enough time to grab a coffee and catch up before the sun started to set, it was time to continue the pilgrimage north, in the hopes of making it to Noosa by nightfall.
The map showed us at least another three hours still to drive until the Sunshine Coast and the warmer waters of Queensland. But it was more than just a race to get there before dark, news of a particularly mean thunder storm, with a biblical level of rainfall, heading in from the north meant that we were also racing nature. Joining the highway, the sun still keeping the windows rolled down, the storm just a distant rumour.
Pulling into a gas station in Tweed Heads, the last frontier before the border of Queensland, which is always a good idea to fill up before crossing over states. Stepping out the car I look across the street at an hour time difference, all in the space of 10 metres. Tweed Heads, situated between Queensland and New South Wales and for some strange reason only one state recognises daylight saving time. Which makes for an interesting event when the bars in NSW close, just walk across the street to Queensland and bam, you've got yourself an extra hour before last call.
Barely pulling out of the gas station and the heavens opened, windows up and wipers on full, I could barely see. News of how strict Noosa can be for free camping, and especially since the festival was in town, finding a campground was now the priority. Just outside of Noosa, a small, family run campground had space. Pulling into the campsite, just before 11pm, the storm was lighting up the sky barely a few kilometres away. No need to set a tent up when you are on a bed with wheels. Hopping in the back and settling down, just as all hell breaks loose around.
The morning came swiftly and a sharp beam of light illuminated the interior of the car. If it wasn't for the destruction of the surrounding area; collapsed fences, tree branches scattered and all manner of debris, it would seem like the perfect Queensland morning; all sunshine and blue skies. All hopes of catching an early surf before the crowd inevitably clog up every pore of Noosa and Tea Tree Bay were dashed when we arrived at the main beach.
Snapper Rocks on a good day has nothing on Noosa. The conveyor belt of surfers stretch as far as the eye can see, no surfing today. Sitting under the canopy, and the cool shade, watching the mechanical precision and clockwork consistency of Noosa First Point, was a sight for sore eyes. The leashless steez and elegance emanated from the locals, cross-stepping and hanging-ten through the crowds, the crystal clear water peeling flawlessly for what seemed forever. We had made it.
This was paradise. The natural, untouched beauty of the bay was everything I had imagined when I thought of Noosa; the perfect surf and tropical climate just add to the dream. And like most dreams, they don't last. Walking back into town and whatever notion of classic, untouched Noosa was strictly reserved for the actual bay. The town itself felt like Malibu had disembarked from the 13 hour trip from Los Angeles and thrown up all over the place. High-end boutiques occupy almost every square-inch of the street, the rest is taken up by real estate agents and coffee shops.
By now, you would have thought I would just accept that it ain't the 60s anymore, travel isn't like it was in the pages of London, Kerouac and even Garland; the well worn path is now well and truly paved, lined with luxury apartments. Noosa's biggest kept secret, to me at least, is the true extent of development and Malibu-esque clientele strolling through the once sleepy town. If you thought Byron had lost its charm, Noosa straight up sold it to the highest bidder. Very few budget accommodation remain, tightly policed camping opportunities, one solitary surf shop (who have expertly balanced their soul and the need to survive), Noosa is simply a wealthy retirement community.
I digress, nothing I have witnessed has taken away from the incredible beauty and untouched area around Tee Tree Bay. With poorer control and regulations, this place could have turned into the next Gold Coast, so for that, I can half-heartedly appreciate what Noosa has become. Walking through the town, filled to the brim with bleach-blonde, golden-skinned types with cool bad haircuts, we make our way to the main beach for the opening rounds of the comp. Having watched the likes of Kaimana Takayama, Honolua Blomfeld and James Parry take over the lineup, it was time to say goodbye to Noosa Heads, a bittersweet one at that.
Having spent many years yearning to travel and surf this mecca, as with most fabled trips, it was never going to live up to the idealised vision in my head. Pulling out of town and back onto the Bruce Highway heading south the twelve hours back home, my mind drifted to the thought of having to find my own Noosa, again.