Coffs Harbour, Australia

Located between Brisbane and Sydney, Coffs Harbour was my home for a few years. Having travelled through once, stayed for a few days and then moved on, I never would have thought that I would return and make it my home. My original impressions were that it was a pleasant, small town with beautiful nature. But I didn’t get to know it that well, it was too early in my trip and I was too keen to move on and discover more.

But return I did. I was staying in Newcastle when a job opportunity arose in Coffs Harbour. I remembered the town and jumped at the chance, I also needed the money. I worked and stayed at a backpackers hostel and got to know the town and its locals.

The town itself has, I believe, a perfect location. It is situated on the coast but backed by mountains which form part of the Great Dividing Range of Australia. So you live next to the beach but within thirty minutes you can be in the mountains looking at rainforest. And if you continue driving you will reach New England. With its rolling green hills and trout streams, you can see where it gets its name.

Coffs Harbour offers a lot for the traveller to do and experience. From visiting the rainforest to skydiving, swimming with dolphins or diving with sharks. For nine months of the year you can see whales breaching and jumping in the ocean. Or you can do many other activities with one of the companies offering fun and adventure. Liquid Assets is just one such company, and one I got to know well. Bob and Mal are top Aussies and always did their best for their customers. You could go whitewater rafting, surf rafting, sea kayaking or even do surfing lessons. So much to choose from. 

My boss was another top bloke. Graeme made me welcome and dealt with everyone with fairness, an open heart and a smile. I have never been very good at expressing myself with spoken words, or the telephone, but I appreciate everything he did for me. If you read this Graeme, cheers for everything. 

But the greatest memory of my time here has to be meeting my wife. I still remember standing outside the hostel, watching a gorgeous blonde walking across from the train station. I checked her in and starting planning how I could get to know her. We went for a bike ride and for a meal. After a long term and long distance relationship I moved to the Czech Republic. And the rest is history. Two kids and a happy life back in Europe, but it all started in sunny Coffs. 

Text © Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

My First Australian Home, Newcastle

My first Australian home, Newcastle. When I pulled up on my motorbike, just before Christmas 2000, I would never have believed what an impact this place would have on my life. Damo & Nick, Mel & Shell, Courtney & Tina, Cam & Mat & Kate. Names that bring back some of the best memories of my life. Please don’t be offended if your name is not on that list, there were too many amazing people to list them all.

It is incredible how random choices can affect our lives. Staying at the Newcastle YHA (Youth Hostels Association) was the first random choice I made, which seemed to then lead to a chain of happy events in my life. My planned three month trip took on a new dimension here and turned into a major part of my life. That part of my life, in turn, led to where I am now, happily living in the Czech Republic with my Czech wife and children.

Newcastle is known as an industrial city with a large port which exports coal and has very busy shipping lanes. Maybe that doesn’t sound so attractive but, believe me, that is only one small part of the city. And it makes for a very memorable sight; watching surfers lined up waiting for the next wave as tankers bob in the ocean.

But there is far more than that to the place. It has great, clean beaches which seem to be unaffected by industry. Only a short trip to Port Stephens(pictured) to do some whale watching. Like most big cities, there are different areas to suit different tastes. Some are historical, with beautiful houses from another era. Some are gastronomic, with a wide variety of cuisines on offer. And some are artistic, with a rich and varied music scene.

The hostel itself will forever hold a place in my heart. Most of the people have, of course, moved on. But not all, Damo(Damian) Parkhouse is still the manager and, I am sure, still the beating heart of the hostel.

When I think back I remember the backpacker nights at the local pubs. Free sausage sangas(sandwiches) and a beer, given in the vague hope that you would by more. But did any of us impoverished backpackers ever buy another? I really can’t recall. Pizza nights, $5 “All You Can Eat”. Thank goodness the girls had small appetites! Weekly trips with the gang to the video shop, yes it was that long ago, to select the next week’s entertainment. Evenings watching the Simpsons with friends.

It is, of course, always the people that make for a truly magical experience and this was no exception. When I think back about those people, the first thoughts that come to my mind are. Borrowing books from, and playing lawn bowls over a beer with Damo. The ever patient Nick, trying his best to teach me to surf. Mel’s smile and Shell’s voice. The crazy Canadian girls Courtney and Tina. The very cool and funny American surfer dudes Cam and Mat. And Mat’s eventual wife the happy, smiling Aussie Kate.

But weren’t we all happy and smiling then. Young(ish), on the holiday of a life time. What wasn’t there to smile about?

Text © Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

Image courtesy of


I am a Welshman, but I was lucky enough to live in Australia for over four years. I met some of the best people I have ever known during that time. Some were Australian, but others were fellow travellers from all over the world. Like-minded people from as far afield as North America and Asia, as well as from all over Europe. There was even one very important Czech lady, who would become my wife.

In the future, I am planning on writing about my experiences in the Land Down Under in more detail. But to start with, here are the first things that come to mind, when I think of Australia.

Welcoming, active, smiling people; who say “G’day” to everyone, both friends and strangers alike. Sun-kissed landscapes that stimulate the senses. Skies stretching so far, they almost swallow the world. Skies, at night, so full of stars you truly feel your insignificance in the scheme of things.

Mates, pokies in the pub, Surf ‘n’ Turf and Beer and Oysters. Standing in the rain at the end of a long hot day.

A variety of wildlife that appears to be the invention of an overimaginative child. Everything seems so far, but you can often move from the city to the beaches in minutes. From beaches to rainforests or highlands within an hour. Then everything feels like it is around the corner.

I also think of one of the safest places on Earth. Where people will look after a stranger like they are their best mate. 

Text © Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

Image courtesy of