A journey of rediscovery
The quintessential Australian road trip is the perfect way to become reacquainted with this stunning country.
After years spent living and working overseas, Australian photographer, Woody Gooch, has come home, and how better to rediscover the wonders of his native Australia than to get behind the wheel and head out on the road.
Woody Gooch and Sean McKeever
22 April, 2021
“I was asked about my country and it concerned me that I hadn’t explored much of my own backyard”
For photographer Woody Gooch, a 3500 kilometre road trip down the Australian east coast was the perfect way to reconnect with his native Australia after years spent in other parts of the world. Rediscovering the riches of the country from the surf breaks and river inlets to the mountains, catching up with old friends and making new ones along the way. An epic journey of discovery that has resulted in a new appreciation of 'home' as well as in a stunning film.
Woody Gooch is a man preoccupied with wandering. “What calls to me is change,” the photographer explains. “It’s what saw me fly to far flung shores, tempted by an idea of expanding where I call home.” No stranger to travel, the 27-year-old was immersed in a nomadic existence, bouncing from one destination to the next, camera in hand. His tremendous talent saw him work on international brand campaigns for the likes of Corona and Billabong, as well as staging private exhibitions around the globe. But five years rooted in the concrete metropolis of Tokyo, sprinkled with countless trips for work and pleasure, came to an abrupt halt in 2019. A yearning for home coupled with a global pandemic saw him return to the Sunshine Coast.
“I realised at some point that I had been everywhere but Australia,” he says. “I was asked about my country and it concerned me that I hadn’t really experienced a whole lot of what we have around. I hadn’t explored much of my own backyard.”
What better way then to get acquainted with Australia than hitting the road? A concept long embraced by residents of our island home, a road trip is a far more leisurely alternative to flying and a more intimate way to really immerse yourself in the places you visit.
And, in a contemporary twist on an old concept, this road trip would use the all-electric Audi e-tron in keeping with Woody’s ‘tread lightly’ ethos – zero emissions, but maximum comfort – ably served by Chargefox charging stations right down the east coast.
And so an ambitious road trip got underway, meandering down the eastern seaboard, taking in the coast, the country, and even a sprinkling of snow. From Woody’s hometown of the Sunshine Coast through quaint country towns lining Noosa North Shore, where Rainbow Beach welcomes us with open arms. Outdoors enthusiasts flock to the sandy beach highways just beyond the town’s borders, where 4WD-only trails make way for Double Island Point, a haven for fishing, swimming, and (if you time it right) surfing. With Fraser Island within arm’s reach, crystal-clear waters rich in fish lap onto uninhabited sands here. For Woody this place is particularly special. “This is where I caught my first wave, my dad brought me here. It’s stayed etched in my memory ever since – this is a place you don’t easily forget. I can’t believe that this is home. You go searching for something and it’s been right here in front of me all along.”
Josie Prendergast joins us here for a morning surf, the Byron-based longboarder who could get a ride from a ripple. Like Woody, Josie is most at home on a plane, spending half the year in her home island in the Philippines.
And so an ambitious road trip got underway, meandering down the eastern seaboard, taking in the coast, the country, and even a sprinkling of snow
Staying put as a part of a pandemic hasn’t been all pain no gain. “It’s made me fall back in love with Australia
But staying put as a part of a pandemic hasn’t been all pain no gain. “It’s made me fall back in love with Australia,” she says. “I was always on the move. But staying still has allowed me to explore at home. Places like this, which are so beautiful.”
It’s not hard to see why the duo have found themselves reconnecting with Australia. Especially after an evening spent on the otherworldly Carlo Sand Blow, a former forest swallowed by sand over centuries making for rolling dunes and the ideal lookout to take in a vividly red sunset.
On daybreak, Woody embraces the role of tour guide, showcasing Noosa Shire as we wind our way down south. Its reputation as a resort town overshadows its natural wonders – this is a region rich with river systems (Everglades included), rolling hills, and little-known swimming spots. Among them is Paradise Cove, a rugged cave tucked into the northern tip of Sunshine Beach, on the cusp of Noosa National Park. There’s just time for a quick pit stop, a dip in the balmy waters, and a bite to eat in the shade of the pandanus, before a quick recharge in charming Cooroy, before winding our way down south to cross the border.
In the Northern Rivers we meet up with local chefs David Moyle, and Mark LaBrooy of Three Blue Ducks fame. The boat ramp beckons, with the avid fisherman prepped for crabbing in the picturesque Brunswick River.
“It’s so diverse here,” says Moyle of the intricate web of waterways. “It all comes back to I like to find my own food. I like foraging and fishing and diving and hunting. Grabbing my own fish and crabs and meat. The sheer scale of waterways to explore have made this a fishing haven, so I spend my time fly fishing, or I’m out to sea, or even just chucking out crab pots in the river to come back to.” The morning’s catch proves useful come afternoon, at an outdoor barbecue at the rustic Riverhawk Ranch on the river’s edge. The property of local creative Kim Amos proves an ideal backdrop to gather friends old and new on logs around the campfire, for a seafood feast simmered over hot coals, topped with curry sauce, and joined by a few glasses of red.
The next morning our attention shifts to sea, with our fleet of vessels pushing out through the foam of The Pass in nearby Byron Bay at first light. With marine biologist Lucas Handley and conservationist and impassioned shark fan Madison Stewart on board, we’re taken out onto Julian Rocks Nguthungulli Nature Reserve. The rocky outcrop is beloved by divers as a shark nursery, and a treasure trove of turtle and ray species.
“This is one of the most amazing dive sites,” says Madison. “Growing up here you can become immune to the general beauty of the things around you. It wasn’t until I went to other parts of the world that I realised how special this was.”
Woody is equally entranced: “This particular site is the definition of treading lightly,” says Woody. “It’s an example to the rest of Australia, of what can happen when something is protected, and respected by locals as well.”
Continue down the east coast in the second part of Woody's electric journey.
The next morning our attention shifts to sea, with our fleet of vessels pushing out through the foam of The Pass in nearby Byron Bay at first light
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