The main pavilion in the Chinese Friendship Garden

The main pavilion in the Chinese Friendship Garden

 

Near the centre of Sydney at the bottom of Darling Harbour is the Chinese Garden of Friendship.

It was built as a  symbol of friendship between Sydney and Guangzhuo in China, to mark Australia’s bicentenary in 1988. The garden was designed and built by Chinese landscape architects and gardeners following the Taoist principles of ‘Yin-Yang’ and the five opposite elements—earth, fire, water, metal and wood. Unlike western-style gardens, there are no planted flowerbeds or manicured lawns. Instead, wild aspects of nature are recreated in landscapes that feature waterfalls, mountains, lakes and forests. Admission is $6.

You can walk around the garden itself quite fast if you wanted to, easily in under half an hour, but that wouldn’t really do it justice. I sat about reading my kindle for a while, enjoying the peace and quite. There is also a tea shop where you can have tea and dumplings.

Chinese Garden waterfall

Chinese Garden waterfall

The garden is in a busy bit of the city, but its got a good sense of calm.The waterfalls and ponds are very scenic, and of course the pavillions too. There were a few lizards about too, with one quite big one. On my way out I also spotted a couple of these colourful Rhino sculptures. They were all around the city to raise awareness of Rhino conservation. If you’ve got week or so in Sydney I’d put it on the list to have a look around, and Chinatown is right nearby for some crispy duck after or nitrogen gelato!

Rainbow Rhino

Rainbow Rhino

 

 

Port Stephens

Port Stephens

Back in late February we made a last minute decision to get out of Sydney for the weekend (at 7pm on Friday). I was put on the spot a bit, and came up with the idea of Port Stephens, about 2.5 hours up the coast, which I’d heard good things about.

Luckily I managed to convince Matt we should get a cheap motel rather than camp, as it was meant to be a super wet weekend. We set off on Saturday morning and the weather was terrible! The wipers were working flat out, and I was cursing Matt for saying he missed overcast damp days!

Port Stephens is actually a habour rather than a place. It was named by Captain Cook when he passed by in 1770. Here are some of the highlights from the weekend:

Tomaree lookout: We walked a kilometre or so up a steep hill to the lookout over the bay and the view was excellent. There are lots of little islands, nice sandy beaches and hills that run down into the sea. One of the islands has penguins living on it, so I’ve pencilled that in for a bat trip or kayak adventure!

Tomaree Lookout

Tomaree Lookout

Tea Gardens: The place we stayed was a small town called Tea Gardens. We arrived too late for high tea, but got a famous fish cone dinner at the pub instead (a bargain for $10), followed by some ice cream sundaes and chocolate fudge cake.  

Wildlife potential: The area had good wildlife potential with a koala reserve down the road from our motel and lots of koalas in the general area and some dolphins who come up the river to feed in the mornings. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to spot any exciting wildlife beyond a lot of giant pelicans, but it was nice knowing it might be around!

Myall Lakes NP: On Sunday we drove back via the Myall Lakes NP and went on a chain ferry across the lake. It was scenic with a giant lake on one side of the road and big dines and the sea on the other.

Giant sand dunes: We went to the edge of the giant sand dunes on the Worimi Conservation lands. According to the guide book they are the ‘longest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere’ and stretch over 35km. I’m not sure how they define it, as really all sand dunes move, but anyway it looked cool. You can go on 4×4 rides, try sand boarding and ride a camel! It was a soggy day so we added that to the to do list for another time.  

Camels!

Camels!

There were lots of tourist activities in the area including Putt Putt (mini golf), a shark and stingray centre, a toboggan run, an aviation museum and plenty of things involving driving through or boarding down sand dunes. It would be a good fun place to spend another weekend when the weathers a bit better!

30. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Outdoors · Tags: , ,
City from Watsons Bay

City from Watsons Bay

We’ve been to Watsons Bay before, and I took a day trip back there recently. I was actually planning to go to Manly, but 30 minutes before the ferry left it was full up with tourists so I changed my plans and went to Watsons Bay instead! Its about 30 minutes on the ferry across the Harbour and we’ve often recommended it to our visitors.

The reasons Watsons Bay is a good place to visit are:

  • You get to cruise on the Harbour past the Opera House for about a $7 ferry ticket (who needs a $60 tour?!)
  • Doyles (famous here) have a chip shop there with excellent fish and chips – both a cafe style version and a upmarket restaurant if you want to splash some cash
  • You can sit on the relatively quiet beach and look back at the Harbour Bridge in the distance – look out for the nudist section though (depending on your preference of course)
  • There is a gelato shop and I can personally highly recommend the chocolate sorbet
  • There’s a park to sit in and read a book if you want some shade or to escape the sand
  • Up the hill is a bit of a cliff top walk with great views over to Manly and the other way to the city
  • There’s less tourists there than somewhere like Manly

 

Watsons Bay cliffs

Watsons Bay cliffs

 

 

Elvina Bay

Elvina Bay

We have a book called ‘Sydneys Best Harbour and Coastal Walks’. We ticked off walk number 3 recently, Elvina Bay.

Its a medium grade, 2.5 hour walk over 6km. It starts from Church Point, about 40 minutes drive north, on the edge of the Ku-ring-gai Chase NP. The walk is pretty exciting becasue to get to the start and once you’re finished you have to go on a ferry across Elvina Bay. It runs in a circle so on the way out it takes about 30 mins, around Scotland Island, and then 10 mins on the way back.

The ferry goes every hour, and we just missed it so we took the opportunity for some light refreshments at the cafe in Church Point in the form of a cream tea. Now I am a bit of a cream tea critic so need to get off topic for a moment to write about it. On the plus side the pot of tea was gigantic, and the scones were gigantic and warm fresh out the oven which was great. However, there were three issues with the cream tea:

1. No fruit in the scones. I like fruit in a scone, becasue it tastes nice and also it makes me feel that it is marginally healthier! I know scone purists might say this is wrong, and can forgive plain scones, but fruit is my preference.

2. Not enough jam. This is a common bugbear or mine with cream teas. I prefer jam over cream and we had one small pot for two massive scones. Nowhere near enough. As it was mainly a lunch place I decided not to ask for more, but this has been known in the past!

3. It was served with squirty cream! This is a total cream tea crime! Now I’ve not had any other cream teas here in Australia yet to know if this is common, but it did make me pretty sad!

Anyway, back to the walk! The ferry ride was very scenic, with lots of houses backing right onto the water and with superb views. We got slightly lost at the start, as the description in the book wasn’t quite as clear and reliable as usual!

Church Point Ferry

Church Point Ferry

Near the beginning was a climb up a hill to a look out with views over the beach, bay and boats. A bit further on there was a series of pools with a water view beyond, which was also nice. Matt had a little dip in the water and we had a bit of a picnic lunch (although admittedly really we were still pretty full from the epic scones). Getting to the end of the walk was a big area of tessellated pavement and some aboriginal carvings including shields, kangaroos and an emu which were cool.

The majority of the walk wasn’t that impressive compared to some in the Blue Mountains, but overall with the cream tea and ferry ride it was a good day out and I’m glad we went.

 

Aboriginal kangaroo engravings

Aboriginal kangaroo engravings

 

Mini-waterfall in the Grand Canyon

Mini-waterfall in the Grand Canyon

No, we didn’t go on holiday to America – there is a Grand Canyon in the Blue Mountains.

This is one of the classic and popular Blue Mountains walks. When we first wanted to do it it was closed due to path work, so we headed back in January. It was a boiling 33/34 degrees, which is officially currently too hot for me to cope with very well! Luckily the majority of the walk is down in the canyon where its shady, cooler, damp and probably around 10 degrees cooler.

The walk is a loop and only 5.5 km, but because of the amount of ascent and descent at the end of each canyon and the path being quite steep and a bit slippery in place they recommend 3.5-4 hours for it. We smashed it in 2 hours 10 mins, even with the heat! You start and end at Evans Lookout with cool views down the valley.

The walk itself starts with a fairly dull road section, and then descends through a glen into the canyon. There are lots of cool undercut rock formations from when the river used to be a lot hire, and even a totally enclosed tunnel which you go through – although its under 20m long its pretty dark! A lot of the walk is probably about half way down the canyon – looking down into it was quite cool – in some places there are just really narrow slots with vegetation so you cant actually see the bottom. There is a relatively short section along the actual canyon floor near the end of the walk where you go along the river and past pools.

Big Water Dragon

Big Water Dragon

The area is popular with canyoners and we saw some abseiling into the start. We also saw a giant water dragon. I was deep in discussion and walked right past it. Matt called my name so I turned around and jumped when I saw it sat on the rock right by me as I hadn’t expected it. He was pretty cool and let us take a few pictures before Matt encouraged me to leave him alone!

I enjoyed the walk, especially ducking along all the rocks and the shady coolness relative to the temperature at the top! The National Pass walk is probably slightly more scenic and varied, but then it does also have a lot more steps to contend with!

Me and the lizard

Me and the lizard

Our house in Feb 2013 just before we left

Our house in Feb 2013 just before we left

I’m coming to the UK soon for a holiday. In fact, I’m probably in the air now. Before leaving I thought about all the things I want to do while I’m over, and here’s the list. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Visiting:

1. See family
2. See friends
3. Hang out in a country pub, preferably with a fire
4. Visit a building over 200 years old
5. Walk in the countryside, potentially with a dog
6. Have some chips on Brighton beach
7. Go and see our house and nose about inside

Food and drink: (There seem to be a lot of things in this category)

8. Drink a lot of tea
9. Eat a proper cream tea
10. Eat a pub dinner including chips with vinegar on them
11. Eat a roast dinner
12. Eat a lot of marmite and buy lots of smuggle home
13. Eat melting middle fishcakes and Tesco veggeburgers (not together)
14. Have a BBQ using charcoal

Purchases: 

15. Go clothes shopping (including in H and M, Next, Debenhams and of course Marks and Spencers)
16. Get some work shoes from Clarkes
17. Buy the board game Cards Against Humanity

Other stuff 

18. Watch the BBC News
19. Play board games
20. Go on a single decker train
21. Complain about the weather
22. Sort out some stuff we left in people’s attics (not my idea of fun, but I feel a moral obligation)

I’m looking forward to you Poms stll at home helping me out with these!

Old prison building

Old prison building

One weekend back in December we took a trip to Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. It’s a train ride to the city and then about a 25 minute ferry ride. As it was a Sunday Matts whole trip was capped at $2.50 and mine was free as I’d already made 8 trips that week on my Opel card (like Oyster).

Entry to the island is free too. It’s about 500m by 360m so not very big. For a gold coin donation you get a guide book and can go on a self guided tour. As we arrived about midday and were in no rush we did the full Island tour of 2.5 hours.

Originally the island was a prison for the worst of the worst convicts who were sent away from nearby Goat Island or we’re repetitive offenders. The conditions were pretty terrible. During WW1 the island changed its use and be me a big base for boat building to support the war effort. There are lots of old naval buildings there now which are cool to wander about. A lot of them are sided as film sets as they’re basically big abandoned warehouses.

View from Cockatoo Island

View from Cockatoo Island

There are two long tunnels on the island, one called dog leg tunnel (it has a bend it in), which was built as an air raid shelter when the island became an obvious target during the war. We walked through the tunnel and found a geocache there along with another one somewhere else on the island.

We had some disappointment at the half way point of the walk when the cafe had sold out of ice creams! Luckily we found another cafe further on which wasn’t on the Mao which did have some for us (along with a German sausage van which my brother will appreciate).

Incidentally, there aren’t any cockatoos on the island any more, just a lot of very noisy seagulls.

You can camp on the island in tents they have put up there all year or hire out some of the historic cottages. It would be quite cool although there’s not a right lot to keep you entertained much more than a day!

Cockatoo Island Camping

Cockatoo Island Camping

Overall it was a good day out and worth the trip. I always like going on the ferry and the fact it was super cheap was great too.

Day 18: Philip Island to Albury
4071 km, 67 hours 9 mins

When in Melbourne I had a bit of a change of plan for my trip and swapped a second night in Philip Island for a night near Lake Hume on the NSW VIC border. This meant I didn’t have an 8.5 hour drive one one day and I realised that apart from the penguins there wasn’t too much on Philip Island to warrant a second day there.

So I efficiently packed up the tent all by myself, and managed to get it back in its bag! The lady from the caravan park even complemented me on how quick and efficient I was which made me feel rather smug. The drive was super boring, back west, around Melbourne and then north for 5.5 hours in total. A lot was freeway so very dull, even with my awesome playlists! I even stopped for a power nap to relieve the boredom!

I camped by Lake Hume and although the water looked temping with the weather a balmy 26 and stark contracts to the mornings’ 16 degrees it was a bit muddy so I gave that a miss. After masterfully performing surgery on the broken tent pole with a mallet, concrete block and a lot of tape I went to see the dam. It’s right by the campsite and very big. It’s in a scenic area with lots of trees downstream and if you walk across you can cross the state border to Victoria the other side. The footpath was closed or I’d have been tempted. I cooked some pasta by the lake as the sun went down which was very scenic, although the wind meant the stove took forever!

Lake Hume Dam

Lake Hume Dam

Day 19: Lake Hume to Snowy Mountains
4415km, 72 hours 17 mins

The next day I drove the windy and scenic Alpine Way up into the Snowy Mountains in the Australian Alps area. They are part of the great dividing range. I stopped at a couple of lookouts on the way and in the village of Threadbo to pick up a pass for my car and some leaflets about the area. Threadbo is a very pretty village which is a major skiing centre in the winter as it’s right up in the mountains. There were chair lifts and chalets aplenty, along with lots of places to stop and out on your snow chains along the road. On the way I went past one of the big sites of the Snowy Mountains Power Scheme, a giant hydroelectric power system with multiple power stations.

Snowy Mountains Power Station 1

Snowy Mountains Power Station 1

30km further I reached Jindabyne and had lunch by its giant lake while lots of people came and launched boats and jet skis for some hooning about. The final campsite was about 15 minutes north from there, 5 mins inside the park boundary. After chucking the tent
up again and a nice cup of tea I went for a drive the other way up the valley into the mountains and ski area. I went through Perisher with its giant, empty, potholed car park and static ski lifts and on to Charlottes Pass at the end of the road. You used to be able to drive on a lot further but the area was getting damaged so they shut the roads. At the lookouts to Mount Kosciusko I saw actual snow again! There were quite a few bits of it this time and it certainly felt a chilly 13 degrees at the pass (1900m elevation). The views of the mountains were good, although they were the quite vegetated rather than totally rocky variety. There were lots of white snow gum trees – lots of them had lost all their leaves, maybe fire damage, I’m not totally sure. Apparently the gum tree is the only tree which exists in deserts, alpine environments and the bit in between.

Charlottes Pass View - with snow

Charlottes Pass View – with snow

On the drives around there were a lot of birds including a massive flock of flying cockatoos (over 60 I reckon) and red and green lorikeets too. On way way back to the camp in the evening I saw a group of kangaroos, and some more at the campsite who had been hanging out earlier in the day at the adjoining fields. I had a BBQ for my dinner and headed to bed.

Day 20: Mount Kosciusko
4510km, 73 hours 42 mins

My main reason for coming to Kosciusko was to go up Mount Kosciusko, Australia’s highest peak at around 2230m. The walk started from Threado so I headed back there for about 10am. The walk is billed as 13km and 4-6 hours from the top of huge chair lift which takes you to about 1900m. This was half the amount of up from the Cradle Mountain walk and they classed it as moderate!not hard, so I figured I’d be fine. To do the walk from the village is another 4km and 2 hours as it’s very steep. I always planned on getting the chairlift down because of my dodgy knee which breaks going down hills. The return pass for the lift was only a fee more dollars than the single so I figured I’d get the lift up too. The lift ride itself was very scenic, although chair lifts do scare me slightly as you can just lift the bar up!

The walk itself was either metal boarded or had a well defined path, so wasn’t particularly hard. There were lookouts along the way including of Australia’s highest lake (Cootapatamba). Along the way there were lots of granite boulders, wild flowers, crows and several deposits of snow. One was just a short walk off the path to touch but I decided to resist the urge to feel snow again and stick to the path like the signs said! The views along the walk and at the top of the great dividing range were great and it was nice and clear too – they went on for a a long way! It was a good temperature for walking with a nice cooling breeze too. Along the way there were various signs including about the Aboriginal peoples use of the area as a sacred place where lots of different spirits live.

Lake

Lake Cootapatamba

In the end I got to the top in 90 minutes, spent half an hour there eating lunch and admiring the scenery and then got down in about 80 minutes. The walk wasn’t particularly strenuous and I did feel slightly cheated as I’d expected it to take a whole day. If I’d have known that I probably would have walked for the bottom! You can do it from Charlottes Pass too which is 18km and 4 hours each way (allegedly) so if we come back I think we should try that.

After the walk I had some tea at the highest cafe in Australia as I wanted a brew and the views were better than at the one down the bottom!

At the top of Mt Kosciousko

At the top of Mt Kosciousko

Day 21: Home time!

So after a 3 week holiday it was finally time to drive home. The trip back to Sydney was about 6 hours and pretty unremarkable!

So all in all in our trip we drove a whopping 5009km for 79 hours and 7 minutes (although some of this was looking at views and faffing rather than driving!) That’s an average of 238km a day and 3 hours 45 mins a day. It was an excellent holiday with a lot of variety, especially for me with the extra week. Three weeks is long enough to totally forget about work so going back is going to be really strange!

Exciting news – we have a new page on our website!

On our fridge, and in more detail in my head, we have a To Do List. It’s not one of those boring ones about hoovering and chores though, but about all the places to go and things to do while we’re over here in Australia. We’ve added the new page to share it with you and you’re more than welcome to give us ideas too! I’ve also summarised what we have done so far with handy links in case you want to know about something in particular.

You can get to it by clicking the button under the main picture called To Do List (to the right of Home) or by clicking HERE.

View from top of the National Pass

View from top of the National Pass

We went with our UK friends Phil and Rhiannon recently to do the National Pass walk in the Blue Mountains. Its a 4.8km circuit, graded hard with 210m ascent and descent, timed at about 3 hours.

Our Best Blue Mountains Bushwalks book says: “Distant views, stone steps hewn into the side of sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, ferny grottos and swimming holes all combine to justify the reputation of the National Pass as one of the Blue mountain’s classic walks’. The walk is very popular, but as we went on a weekday it was nice and quiet.

We modified the walk slightly and did it in reverse to make sure we got to the cafe before it shut and we couldn’t get an ice cream. As it was over 30 degrees this was an important consideration! Luckily the walk is mainly in the valley so its nice and shady.

The views were great with a number of waterfalls including Wentworth Falls. The steps up the end were a killer though, I counted over 800 and could still feel my legs hurting 2 days later! We didn’t stop for a swim, although that was definitely an option if you don’t mind chilly water.

A few signs give information about how the walk was built in the early 1900’s with dynamite blasting and a lot of elbow grease – much more impressive than me walking up 800 steps! There are also little lizards and cool birds to be seen along the route, as well as metal sculptures of them too.

It was an excellent walk and I’d definitely do it again – once we’ve done the 100’s of others in the book!

koalawild

I was so excited recently by seeing wild koalas, I thought they really deserved their own post!

We went on holiday with Phil and Rhiannon from the UK along the Great Ocean Road which is west of Melbourne in Victoria. You can read more about that here. On our first night we stayed in a cabin in the Great Otway National Park at a place balled ‘Bimbi Park – Camping Under Koalas’. For me, the name was a give away that there might be some exciting wildlife around!

On the drive we stopped near the Kennet River for some initial koala spotting. After a few minutes Matt won with the first sighting.

Now, koalas sleep for over 20 hours a day, so generally they’re spotted as round balls of cute fur nestled in the joins of branches in Eucalyptus (Gum) trees. They blend in well with the tree colour. Seeing them awake is fairly unusual, even at the zoo. In the Kennet area we managed to spot 9 koalas, including a few awake ones and one going for a walk along the forest floor – I did have to be restrained (= warned about snakes and spiders) as I excitingly bush bashed my way through the undergrowth for a closer look!

That morning the friendly checkout lady at the supermarket where we got our obligatory road trip supplies (including TimTams) informed us that koalas are actually really noisy, especially at night and make a very deep noise. In the Kennet area we got our first proof of this, and the noise was terrible. Its a low grunting / neighing noise, that you might expect to come from something like a big bear, gorilla or distressed horse. At first it sounded like they were deeply unhappy, but it seemed to be their normal call.

The road to the Bimbi Park campsite was full of more koalas. After checking in, we went for a walk and got in a koalas count of over 30 in the end! Seeing them in the wild was awesome. Around the Otway a lot more of them were awake and eating or wandering about, some of them quite close to us and seemingly not too bothered. Some of them had gone quite far out in the trees into some quite small and bendy branches in search of yummy leaves. We saw a mum and baby too – super cute.

Unfortunately the Otway area is actually becoming overpopulated with koalas. While this is good for spotting them its not good for their food supply which is fast running out or for their survival. The locals and the Government are working together on a relocation program and on some bush burning to regenerate the trees and bulk the food supply back up. Hopefully this will be successful. We did see some migrating sitting in the road! Looks like they’re getting the message to move, but hopefully they’ll learn sitting in the road isn’t a good plan!

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

2koalas

In early December we were luck to have our good friends Phil and Rhainnon visit from the UK. They stayed with us for a few nights in Sydney and then we hijacked the next part of their holiday! We flew together from Sydney down to Melbourne and spent 5 excellent days driving along the Great Ocean Road, checking out the Grampian Mountains and spending time in Marvelous Melbourne.

The Great Ocean Road is fantastic. I can easily see why its meant to be one of the best drives in the world. It stretches for about 240km from a place names Torquay in the east to Warrnambool in the west. The road was built by ex-servicemen from World War 1 to help them reintegrate. You can read more about it here. Our new website cover picture is of the road.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra

We drove the road over 2 days, stopping in Cape Otway National Park overnight, which is koala central! (More on that coming soon). The scenery on the drive is spectacular and the windy coastal road makes for an awesome drive. There are masses of viewpoints, places to stop for an ice cream or other refreshment and walks which range from short to multi-day (in fact you can walk  most of the route if you’re that way included).

There are so many things to see and do, taking the trip over two days was certainly a good call, and you could easily spend longer doing it.

Here are some of the many highlights.

Seeing wild koalas and camping with them in Cape Otway National Park. We spotted over 30 in total. I’ll do a whole other post on them!

Many spectacular beaches with rolling hills behind and a nice windy road along the front. The sea was very blue and had good surf in some places too. There were a fair few picturesque lighthouses too, including the one from Going Round the Twist (80s kids TV) which we visited.

12 Apostles

12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles sea stacks (although there are only actually about 9). Not only were the stacks themselves great, the water and sky were both soooo blue it looked really idyllic.

Wild emus, koalas and kangaroos at Tower Hill, a cool ancient volcano. We also saw a Copper Head snake here, although it was far away from us on a board walk.

Wild emu

Wild emu

‘London Bridge’ arch. It used to be a double arch connected to the mainland, but it fell down one stormy day and left two people stranded on it who had to be rescued by helicopter!

Grampian mountains – we walked up Mount William for some awesome views and went to many other lookouts with good walks and equally good views. The B and B we stayed in had complementary port which I was extremely happy about! Sadly the Halls Gap mini-gold was closed on the Monday when we went there – I’ll have to go back to that one!

Climbing at a waterfall in the Grampians

Climbing at a waterfall in the Grampians

I’d totally recommend the Great Ocean Road as a must do on any trip to Australia.

Round the twist lighthouse

Round the twist lighthouse

Happy Christmas everyone!

We decided we should have a Christmas Special blog post, so have finally finished preparing the adventure video from our New Zealand honeymoon. There will be a more scenic video at some point too.

You can read more about our awesome honeymoon here. This time last year we celebrated our first hot Christmas with the Millis family in Wanaka, including a picnic and spot of kayaking in Lake Wanaka. Also featured in the video are sky-diving, bungee jumping, Queenstown luge, caving, sea kayaking, lake kayaking, canyoning, jet boating, cycling and of course some rock climbing!

Warning: This video contains footage of what may be considered ‘extreme’ activities. Sensitive parents may find some scenes distressing. No Shorts were harmed in the  making of this film. 

View to Manly

View to Manly

We have a book of Harbour Walks and recently decided out to try out the classic, Spit Bridge to Manly walk with Toby.

Its about 11-12km with the extra detours and described as ‘simply one of the best walks in Sydney.’

We got the bus to Spit Bridge and went from there. The walk passes through some very nice beaches, coves, bush, Aboriginal sites and great views. There were loads of places it would be great to go back to when the waters a bit warmer to hang out on the beach and go for a swim.

We saw a dolphin very close up in the Harbour although it was too quick to get a picture of!

We did a detour to the lighthouse which also had great views back to the city.

Lighthouse

Lighthouse

 

Conveniently the walk ends in Manly, where you can get a giant ice cream and catch a ferry across the Harbour, past the Opera House and Bridge back to the city as the sun sets. Manly also has a penguin colony who go into the sea at night to feed. The wardens  cone off the section of the beach where they live and keep an eye out for over enthusiastic penguin lovers like myself who might try and adopt one for a pet! We saw one briefly plop into the sea before we had to catch the ferry – I’ll be going back for another look soon!

Penguins!!!

Penguins!!!

Middle Cove

Middle Cove

We have a book called Sydney’s Best Harbour and Coastal Walks. A couple of weekends ago we decided it was time to try one of them out with our friends Deb and Andrew. Slightly biased, Matt picked out a walk around Middle Head. It was a 2 hourish, 5km walk, a 10 min drive from our place – with climbing!

The walk is through a nature reserve and around the banks of the scenic Middle Cove. The sign on the way in mentioned wallabies, goannas and echindas, although we didn’t see any of these unfortunately – just a whole load of noisy cockatoos.

The walk was really scenic, it even had a castle AND a bench shaped like a lizard. By the climbing were some communal BBQs, so well do back again and try those out after a spot of climbing I reckon. Considering it was late July, the height of Australian winter, we ended up walking in just our t-shirts at a toasty 19 degrees – not too bad at all!

We went back about a month later to check out the climbing, do some slack lining and have our first Australian outdoor communal BBQ with some other climbers. The climbing was OK, not great but it was a good day, specially chilling out by the barbie, Aussie style. not bad considering it was the end of winter and we mainly sat around in t-shirts!

BBQ

BBQ

View over Wollongong

View over Illawara valley to Wollongong

On our way home from Jervis Bay we went via the ‘Ilawara Fly’.

We noticed a leaflet about it at the tourist info. Not only was it half way home, but it was also covered by our annual Merlin passes, so we got free entry.

You drive up a ultra wiggly windy road in the Southern Highlands up to the Jamberoo Lookout with awesome views back to the coast and Wollongong. We had a quick picnic stop there. 

The Illawara Fly has nothing to do with flying – the name is pretty confusing! Basically its a 1.5km walk including a raised walkway where you end up about 40-50m above the ground amongst the trees, with good views back down the valley to the coast. There’s a tower to climb up and some signs about the local vegetation.

It was worth a visit, but i’m definitely glad we went with our Merlin passes, as its really wasn’t worth the $24 normal entry price for basically a walk with a good view. We also got a free coffee by spending more than $5 on tea and an ice cream becasue of having the Merlin passes, so overall a total bargain!

illawara2

On the walkway

Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls

In July we went up to the Blue Mountains for a weekend, nominally dubbed ‘Christmas in July’. Saturday we went climbing at Mount York and then had a pub dinner with a lot of the climbing club in the evening, staying over at the pub. It was a good night, although nothing actually Christmassy occurred!

On the Sunday it was far too cold for more climbing. After a first breakfast in the pub, we headed for a second breakfast in Altitude Cafe in Blackheath. Becoming more Australian by the day, I had a flat white, and Matt went for the bacon and egg roll. From there we went on for a walk around Wentworth Falls.

We did the Charles Darwin walk, which Darwin did himself. It was nice and quiet, along a small river, which then turned into a big river which went over Wentworth Falls. You could walk right over the top of the falls which was very cool, although obviously there was a big safety barrier to stop you falling off. The path went round the big cliffs each side, under some big under hangs and then up to a lookout, all with really cool views.Most of the time the waterfall was actually going upwards because of the wind!

In all the probably walked for about 3 hours. It was well worth the trip, excellent views. From the falls you can do the 8 hour or so National Pass walk down into the valley and around. We might come back to that another time.

Love this sign!

Love this sign!

 

Palm Beach

Palm Beach from Barrenjoey

Palm Beach is about a 45 minute drive from our place.

Palm Beach is a pretty affluent area and where they film Home and Away. The beach is attached to a massive bit of rock called Barrenjoey Head with a lighthouse on top. From the air the whole thing makes a mushroom shape, with water on both sides. To the east is the Tasman Sea, and to the west is an inlet which looks over to West Head and the Ku-Ring-Gai National Park.

We went for a walk up Barrenjoey Head and went on the half hourly tour of the lighthouse which runs from 11am – 3pm on Sundays. For $3 it was a bargain (although you also have to pay about $5 an hour for parking). You got to see old photos of the area and go up the tower. The views our to see and Ku-Ring-Gai were good (if windy) and we even spotted evidence of a few whales out at sea.

Barrenjoey Lighthouse

Barrenjoey Lighthouse

After the walk we had lunch at the The Boat House which is right next to the pier where they film Home and Away. It was very busy, and justifiably so as the food was both excellent and massive! (We had calamari, steak sandwiches, chips, massive smoothie and of course some tea). We managed to grab a seat outside with prime waterfront views across to Ku-Ring-Gai. I’d definitely advise eating after the walk, we were too stuffed for much afterwards!

View from the Boat House cafe

View from the Boat House cafe

Barrenjoey also has climbing, which Matt will get around to writing about sooner or later!

View from Balls Head

View from Balls Head

Ten minutes on the train towards the city, and then a ten / fifteen minute walk is Balls Head Reserve. Its a piece of bushland in the city, right on the North Shore of the Harbor  You can walk about on a couple of trails, with lots of rocks and plants. In a few places the path goes down by the water, where you get some really cool views across the Harbor to the city and the Harbor Bridge.

At the entrance is a cool giant wide tunnel where they use to load coal into trains. There are still all the chutes in the roof and you can walk through the gloom and damp into the park.

There are picnic spots (one by a cave which looked very cool), aboriginal drawings and a giant tunnel you can walk through which used to be a train line. There was a spider with a giant web too, which I didn’t appreciate – Matt took its picture and I went and waited a safe distance away where I couldn’t see it!

Verdict: 7/10. A nice spot of countryside in the city, near our flat, with excellent views. I expect we will go back before too long.