On Wednesday 22 August 22 members headed off on Brian’s Coaches around 10AM on our 8 day trip down to Ballina. Stopped at Chinderah for lunch arriving safely at our motel around 2PM. After everyone checked in it was time for pre dinner drinks followed by a lovely 3 course dinner. Following dinner we had a joke night with Doug getting the ball rolling and then a few others getting involved.
Next morning up for a great cooked breakfast at 8AM and then on their coach around 9:45 (this was the same every morning) for a day sightseeing around Ballina. Each morning whoever was sitting in the front seats of the coach got to wear the captain's cap and tiara. First stop was the information centre and the Ballina Navel & Maritime Museum which was very interesting. In the museum is one of the Las Balsas rafts from the 1973 when it landed in Ballina after leaving Ecuador. We then headed up to Lennox Heads for morning tea and then back to Slipway Hotel for lunch. After a bit of time at the motel we headed off to Thursday Plantation. The story behind its name is in 1973, Eric White invested in a piece of land in northern New South Wales and started harvesting from Tea Tree plants. After four years of painstaking research and lobbying, a crown lease was granted. It arrived via the once-a-week mail, on a Thursday in 1976…and Thursday Plantation was born. After an ice cream we headed back to the motel for more pre dinner drinks and again a lovely 3 course meal followed by a game of celebrity heads.
Friday we headed off north along the old highway through Bangalow and along the ridge line into Mullumbimby for morning tea stop. Then travelled through Murwillumbah and Tumbulgum and then up over Terranora to Point Danger and lunch at Tweed Heads. After lunch we headed back to Ballina following the coast going through Kingscliff, Pottsville and Brunswick.
Next morning we woke to a big thunder storm with lots of thunder and lighting. After breakfast we headed off again staying on the scenic country roads travelling through Wardell with morning tea beside the Richmond river and then over the flood plains to Lismore. Most people had lunch at the Lismore Workers Club. Then back on the coach for a drive through Rainbow Valley to Nimbin and a walk around the town. We continued our country roads drive back to Ballina. Tonight the motel provided some light entertainment after dinner plus some unwanted action as someone stole one the waitress’ purse and phone. She managed to get her phone back couple days later.
Sunday there were no trips planned allowing people to take some time out. Some went to the movies, some walked around the shops and some planned to go on a river cruise after lunch but the cruise was cancelled last minute due to the rain. Once again we enjoyed a lovely 3 course dinner
Monday we headed off to the Newrybar plateau region and stopped off at Broken Head Coffee plantation for a talk from the owner about how he got started growing coffee and how he does it all, very interesting. From here we travelled to Bangalow for morning tea near the Byron Creek. Back on the coach for a visit to the Cape Bryon Lighthouse where we were able to see some whales just down off the headland in spite of the wind and choppy ocean. Then back down into Bryon for lunch at the RSL and a look around the town. After lunch we headed off to the Macadamia Castle for a look see and viewed some of the animals they have there including crocs, snakes and lots of different birds. Then back to the motel for some more pre dinner drinks and dinner.
On our last full day in Ballina we headed off to Alstonville for morning tea and then onto Summerland House with no Steps. This is a very interesting place to visit and see how it is run. Summerland House Farm is an exciting new House with no Steps business enterprise which has transformed a working macadamia and avocado farm into a large scale agritourism destination for northern Rivers area and includes the farm nursery, gift shop and cafe . The farm was established in 1972 as a regional operation for the organisation founded by Lionel Watts in Sydney some 10 years earlier. The organisation is dedicated to creating opportunities for people with a disability to make the most of their abilities. We had a tour of the packing shed, checked out the gift shop and nursery followed by lovely lunch in the cafe prepared and served by the people on the farm. After a very enjoyable lunch we headed off to Evans Head Aviation Heritage Museum. Here the volunteers gave us a very informative talk about the museum and a tour of a couple of their planes. They have an F111 there on display that you can check out the cockpit area, very tight fit. Back to the motel for our last dinner on the tour.
Wednesday morning everybody was up ready for our last cooked breakfast here and then waited for Brian’s Coaches to arrive around 9:15. We were on the road again for our return trip home, stopping at BP service centre at Coomera before arriving home in Redcliffe around 1:30. Great time was had by all who went.