ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

Days nine and  ten  (27TH and 28th December 2018)

POKOLBIN TO BLUE MOUNTAINS TO SYDNEY

Time to leave my unusual intriguing accommodation behind and to enjoy another day investigating a beautiful part of the New South Wales countryside.

The Blue Mountains is a rugged region west of Sydney, Australia. Known for dramatic scenery, it encompasses steep cliffs, eucalyptus forests, waterfalls and villages dotted with guest houses, galleries and gardens.  The Blue Mountains are situated within a World Heritage area offering a unique, relaxing environment for a perfect lifestyle. One million hectares (3861 square miles) make up the magnificent Blue Mountains. With a blue horizon of eucalyptus trees that appear to stretch on forever, the natural beauty of this area is quite enchanting. It is certainly the place for walkers, as there are many marked tracks leading to magnificent views of the blue landscape rarely seen elsewhere.

After a walk(Erika and I got drenched in a downpour)we enjoyed dinner in Embers Restaurant at Fairmont Resort before I went to my accommodation at Waldorf Leura Gardens Resort. This place gives country hospitality set in four and a half acres of landscaped gardens. We were surprised to find Fire Appliances and guests in the driveway. The “all clear” was soon given and all could return to rooms – a false alarm!

Full Buffet Breakfast in the Olive Tree Restaurant was included in my tariff so we booked for the girls to join me, a great start to the day. Before they arrived I explored the famous Lady Fairfax Garden.

This day found us soaking up the views as we walked many different paths in the Australian bush. What a beautiful area!

Our Road Trip was now coming to an end and we were on the way to our destination – Sydney. The next morning the girls drove me to the Airport in the hire car that had served us well over ten days. We had enjoyed our time together as we experienced this small part of Australia. It is always hard to say ‘Goodbye’ but memories are golden.

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY EIGHT (26th December 2018)

NELSON BAY TO POKOLBIN

The beautiful waterfront location was very special. I started the day with an early morning walk before leaving this peaceful place.

Today we leave Nelson Bay and are on the road again, this time to Pokolbin and Lovedale. A slight detour off Highway 1 took us into the city of Newcastle. The Newcastle metropolitan area is the second most populated area in the Australian State of New South Wales. Located at the mouth of the Hunter River, it is the predominant city within the Hunter Region. Famous for its coal, Newcastle is the largest coal exporting Harbour in the world, exporting 159.9 million tonnes of coal in 2017. Beyond the city, the Hunter Region possesses large coal deposits. The Port of Newcastle remains the economic and trade centre for the resource rich Hunter Valley and for much of the north and northwest of New South Wales. On this day shops were generally closed but we did find a cafe serving coffees. We ordered drinks and sat outside in the pedestrian mall while Erika, always on the lookout for tourist information, chatted to some locals who pointed us in the direction uphill to the Church dominating the skyline. The Cathedral Church of Christ the King is also called Christ Church Cathedral. The building in the Gothic Revival style is located at the city’s eastern end in the suburb called The Hill. Originally built 1817-1818, the Cathedral walls and piers were badly cracked by the 1989 earthquake. Restoration work was begun in 1995 and completed in 1997. It was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register in June 2011. After our leisurely visit to the Cathedral it was time to leave Newcastle behind and we were in Pokolbin in time for a late lunch.

Pokolbin is a rural locality in the Hunter Region of New South Wales. It is the centre of the Lower Hunter Valley wine region and is an important bird area. The girls stayed overnight at Hunter Valley Resort and we enjoyed lunch at the Restaurant. The day was extremely hot but my friends insisted on sitting at a table on the enclosed verandah where we had a magnificent view of the vines, trees, water, etc. This was very special but there was no air conditioning and I could only think of the air-conditioned dining area behind me. My lunch was beautifully presented and certainly very tasty which made sitting in the heat a little less painful. (I always struggle to understand how my friends from Switzerland delight in the heat of the Australian Summer, hence choose to holiday here at this time of year).

Erika and I were keen to visit the Hunter Valley Gardens. This comes with a word of warning – web sites are not always correct. We arrived at the Ticket Office at 3.40 pm to be told that on this day closing time was not 5 pm but 4 pm so it was not worth purchasing a ticket. We were soooooo disappointed as we both love gardens and had read of the amazing sights, colours and fragrances to be experienced in this place. Spanning over 25 acres with 8 kms of walking paths, we were looking forward to the thousands of flowers trees and shrubs but it was not to be.  Quote from website – Hours: open 7 days per week (9 am – 5 pm). Closed Christmas Day.

Our next stop was at Peppers Creek – This charming sandstone village is nestled in the Hunter Valley historic wine country. The collection of stone buildings and established vineyards surround a lake with a backdrop of the Brokenback Mountains. It was quite deserted but we enjoyed a walk around the property which is obviously a place for special celebrations such as weddings. It was now time for a coffee so we decided to make another stop when we saw a sign to the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop – certainly a drawcard for somebody who loves cheese. Can you believe that we got to the door five minutes before 5 o’clock and it was closing at 5. We missed out on cheese but enjoyed coffee as we sat outside with another wonderful view of hills, vines and trees.

Vineyard Hill Resort, Lovedale located 6 km from Pokolbin on 27 acres with self-contained villas featuring high cathedral ceilings and spectacular views was my place for the night. A beautiful sunset was a fitting close to a most enjoyable day. My attitude is to enjoy, and make the most of, whatever is given on the day and it was good!

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY SEVEN (CHRISTMAS DAY 2018)

COFFS HARBOUR TO NELSON BAY 

Opal Cove Resort, Coffs Harbour  This was the accommodation booked for my friends by the Swiss Travel Agent. The Resort has a beachfront location and facilities include 9 hole golf course, heated swimming pool, 3 floodlit tennis courts, gym, sauna, games room, etc, all most appropriate if staying for more than one night. This, for us, was a whistle stop tour to give my friends from Europe a taste of the Australian countryside between Brisbane and Sydney so it was another one night stop. After exchanging Christmas greetings and gifts we breakfasted in their room enjoying cereal, fruit etc purchased the previous evening when stocking up for our Christmas Day picnic lunch. They had collected me from Surf Beach Motel which is situated close to the centre of Coffs Harbour.

Coffs Harbour is a city on the north coast of New South Wales. Coffs Harbour owes its name to John Korff who named the area Korff’s Harbour when he was forced to take shelter from a storm in the area in 1847. It is known for its beaches and the Big Banana monument and amusement park. It is one of the largest urban centres on the north coast, with an estimated population of 70,000 (2017). Coffs Harbour’s economy was once based mainly on bananas but has now been superseded by blueberries as well as tourism and fishing. It is located where the mountains tumble down to the sea. In the waters off Coffs Harbour Marina is the Solitary Islands Marine Park, home to abundant wildlife, seasonal whales and coral reefs. Just east is the Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve with its large population of wedge-tailed shearwater birds and learning centre. Sadly, we didn’t have time for exploring. We walked around the Marina on this beautiful sunny morning before driving along the Pacific Highway in the direction of Port Macquarie.

Port Macquarie is a town at the mouth of the Hastings River. It is known for its beaches, wildlife and penal colony past. St.Thomas’ Anglican Church was built by convicts in the 19th century. A coastal walk from the town centre to the 19th century Tacking Point Lighthouse offers views over waters, home to whales and dolphins. Driving through this town on Christmas Day was quite an experience as it was deserted – no traffic and very few pedestrians – everything was closed. We did find a cafe that was more closed than open, but the owner cheerfully made coffee for us and there was a toilet for customer use.

Lake Cathie is a town about 15 minutes’ drive south of Port Macquarie. It is a popular holiday destination because of its tranquil location. Its main feature is a tidal lake fed by the ocean daily. Several  times throughout the year the lake is closed over by shifting sands and becomes dark in colour due to the tannins in the local flora. Tourism centres on the lake as it is a popular swimming and fishing spot all year round especially when the lake is open. It was now time for us to locate a place to enjoy our picnic Christmas lunch. As we drove we suddenly spotted a table with shade cover, just what we were looking for.

On arrival in Nelson Bay we first located my accommodation at Dutchies Motel in Christmas Bush Avenue (a very appropriate name on Christmas Day). When making the booking I was given precise instructions on location and where to find the key as there was nobody in attendance. I left my belongings and we were on our way to Mantra Resort, booked for the girls. After check-in, the three of us walked down to the Marina. It was now about 6 o’clock so the sun was low in the sky as we walked out on the breakwater. Returning to Mantra we enjoyed a meal where we aimed to eat leftovers from our freezer bags, perishables needing to be consumed before we travelled further the next day.

Back to Dutchies to my bed in Room 5. The beautiful waterfront location was very special. We each have different expectations when making bookings and, during these one night stops, I have realised how important it is to me to enjoy, and have memories of, the surrounding area.

 

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY SIX

Byron Bay to Coffs Harbour

My day started soon after 6 o’clock when I was outside my cabin in my PJs (pyjamas)taking photos of the morning sunrise. When the girls arrived soon after 8 I was showered, packed, ready and waiting at the gate. Breakfast for me was a most enjoyable berry pancake and good coffee at Espressohead Cafe. This cafe has been the hideout of locals for 15 years and had been recommended to us by a local. A clean retro decor is the setting, with impeccable coffee and locally sourced products.

Cape Byron Lighthouse (built 1901) is located at the top of the oceanway that runs from the centre of town to the top. This is the route planned for pedestrians walking to the lighthouse. The three of us started on the walk, not really knowing whether or not we would go the full distance. Nadine was first to give up but I am pleased that Erika and I persevered. My thought was “who could visit Byron Bay and not walk to the Lighthouse?”  It is not really the lighthouse that one goes to see as that can be seen from a distance – it is the magnificent coastal scenery along the way. We enjoyed some of the best views of the ocean on the entire coast. The area was just begging us to take the walking path with its well planned boardwalk, steps, benches and viewing spots, all making the climb easier. I am the first to admit that I was huffing and puffing and needed a break every now and then, but enjoyed it immensely. On reaching the top we viewed the displays inside the lighthouse, filled water bottles, enjoyed ice cream and rested. By the way, the top can be reached by car but the views of beaches, cliffs, ocean and rainforest would be missed. The car park at the top was so full that cars reaching the top could do nothing but turn and drive back down. We returned via Lighthouse Road watching the hang-gliders and making contact with Nadine who came part way in the car to take us back to the Motel as it was time for us to leave Byron Bay and continue our journey.

Continuing along the coast we came to Lennox Head, a seaside village in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, situated on the stretch of coast between Byron Bay and Ballina. The headland, also known as Lennox Point, is used by surfers who come for the noted right-hand break. Hang-gliders visit the headland to launch off its 65m cliff. The Point is also used for watching dolphins and the annual whale migration. Lunch was at Quattro, a beachfront Italian Restaurant and my choice was Arancini balls, a very good choice indeed.

Continuing our day’s travel we took a slight diversion at Ulmarra, a  town on the south bank of the Clarence River in New South Wales. The tiny settlement was established when Thomas Small bought land along the river in 1857. It is generally accepted that ‘ulmarra’ is a local Aboriginal word meaning “bend in the river”. At the 2006 census Ulmarra had a population of 446. A rather imposing building is the historic Ulmarra Hotel. Built in 1906 it sits on the east bank of the River. The interior is filled with memorabilia and old photographs grace the walls. This is a true example of a genuine Aussie Pub. It even had the rather rotund, singlet-wearing guy seated at a table on the verandah reading the paper, dog at his feet.

On arrival at Coffs Harbour we found Woolworths, Park Beach Plaza and were pleased that the store was open until late even though it was Christmas Eve. With the three of us making choices we soon had a trolley full of goodies for our Christmas Day lunch. We filled freezer bags with everything in readiness for our picnic.

My accommodation for the night was at Surf Beach Motel, 2 minutes’ walk from Coffs Harbour Beach. Early morning found me walking across the road to the boardwalk where a few early surfers were looking for a wave and I enjoyed views of the coast as I waited for the girls.

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY FIVE

Mount Tamborine to Byron Bay

The first stop was at Surfers Paradise Beach – Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. The three kilometre strip of golden sand between Surfers Paradise and the Pacific Ocean is Australia’s iconic beach. It is a major tourist destination with its sunny subtropical climate and has become widely known for its surfing beaches, high-rise dominated skyline, theme parks, nightlife and rainforest hinterland. After a windy walk along the seafront it was apparent that the storm had blown through this area the previous evening. Montmartre by the Sea, Surfers Paradise, was our cafe of choice for morning coffee.

Next stop was at Kirra Beach, Coolangatta. There are variations on what the word Kirra actually means, but some believe Queensland Aborigines named it after a boomerang. This makes sense as Kirra wraps around the bend separating Coolangatta and Kirra beaches and in front of Kirra Hill. Surfers still flock to Kirra bend for its world-class breaks. This was our place to stop for a late lunch and this time our choice was Tupe Aloha where Hawaiian meets Mexican in a vintage tropical atmosphere.

Byron Bay is a beachside town located in the far-north-eastern corner of the State of New South Wales. It is located 772kms north of Sydney and 165 kms south of Brisbane. Cape Byron, a headland adjacent to the town, is the easternmost point of mainland Australia. The lighthouse was built in 1901 to protect ships passing along the coast. Operated by resident keepers until 1989, its now automated light is clearly visible from Byron Bay Township. As at 2018, the town is reported to have around 5,000 permanent residents, while being visited by over 1.5 million tourists each year. The town has several beaches which are popular for surfing. It is a resort popular with both domestic and international tourists, including backpackers, who travel along the Australian coast. The area is also noted for its wildlife, with the whale watching industry a significant contributor to the local economy.

My accommodation for one night in Byron Bay was in a Cabin at Glen Villa Resort (approached from Shirley Street!). This Resort, with a mix of accommodation, is located next to the Cumbedin Swamp Nature Reserve. The self-equipped cabins were spotlessly clean and set in very neat grounds. Late in the afternoon Erika and I walked the streets of Byron Bay with many other tourists but, as it was Sunday, many businesses were closed. We found a Supermarket open and the Information Centre (Erika’s favourite place) closed, but we did locate the place recommended for breakfast the next morning so all was well. Back at the girls’ Motel room we found Nadine and the three of us walked through Apex Park to Main Beach to watch the sunset before they chauffeured me back to my cabin where I enjoyed  a shower before sleeping well in a very comfortable bed.

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY FOUR

Another day on TAMBORINE MOUNTAIN – this place of beauty and tranquility is 550m above sea level, 30kms from Gold Coast and 70kms from Brisbane, Australia. At every turn there is breathtaking scenery, abundant wildlife and clean mountain air. There is a strong cottage industry including many local arts and crafts, a host of natural and man-made attractions, award winning wineries and top-class restaurants, country markets and festivals and a host of accommodation choices. The day started early for me as I drank a coffee while sitting on the little balcony adjoining my room. I once again enjoyed the magnificent views over the hilltops and valley.

At 8 o’clock the girls arrived and we went back to Witches Falls Cottage to enjoy the array of goodies from the breakfast basket that had been delivered to the room. A bush walk was planned for the morning so we were on our way at 10 o’clock into Tamborine National Park. The Park protects large areas of rainforest. At first the path was clear and level but not for long. We were soon making our way through branches across the path left from the storm of the previous evening and could hear chainsaws in the distance as other tracks were being cleared and we were going down, down, down into the valley. It was very humid and it was on my mind that what goes down has to come back up again, certainly not a place to fall, so take care Shirley!! This was a beautiful place . We came to a viewing platform where we could take in the magnificence of distant hills. After a short rest it was time for the uphill climb, this time aided by a strong stick.

 

Another walk in the afternoon was at Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, probably the best, and easiest, way to get one’s head around just how beautiful Mount Tamborine is. The setting is 30 acres of privately-owned rainforest beside the crystal clear rock-pools of Cedar Creek. We wandered among the treetops over steel bridges and followed the 1.5km path that gradually descends to the lower canopy past the rock pools to the cantilever bridge that stands 30 metres above the valley and offers views for miles.The walk takes about an hour, including a stop at the Rainforest Eco Gallery which explores some of Mount Tamborine’s local and indigenous history. We, of course, stopped at the Birdwing Cafe for refreshment as we took in the view of the treetops from the balcony.

Erika and I had a late afternoon walk and thankfully were on our way back and not far from the cottage when the sky darkened and the thunder began to rumble getting closer by the minute. We were back under cover when the storm came to the mountain. It was quite spectacular with gutters overflowing and the day still warm. It was a unanimous decision to stay in for dinner as we had enough leftovers in the refrigerator and were checking out in the morning. We enjoyed  our picnic in the outdoor room experiencing the sight and sounds of the storm.

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY THREE

BRISBANE – MOUNT TAMBORINE

After an extended time at the Hertz office we loaded our luggage into a Toyota RAV4 and were on our way out of Brisbane with the assistance of the GPS, heading for Mount Tamborine. First stop was at Springwood Conservation Park, a former quarry site which was saved from development by the community and Logan City Council and is now natural parkland in the middle of suburbia. This area is great for walks along the Stringybark Lookout track or longer Gorge Discovery Circuit through open eucalypt forest, passing interesting rock formations and criss-crossing the gorge via wooden bridges. The day was hot and so were we after our walk so it was back into the car and a short drive to a cafe for morning tea.

Next stop was at the Daisy Hill Koala Centre. Built by the Queensland Government, 25 km south of Brisbane as a dedicated koala education facility, the centre was opened to the public in 1995, extensively refurbished in 2009 and most recently in 2018. Nestled amongst eucalypt trees and featuring a large outdoor koala enclosure and many interactive displays, the Centre is a unique place to learn about koalas and their conservation. There are films in the Woodland Theatre and Wildlife Officers give presentations to groups of visitors at allotted times of the day. Time was spent watching the koalas – namely Molly, Janice, Aretha and Kyra.

Tamborine Mountain is a plateau (8km long by 4 km wide) and is located in the Scenic Rim, the name given to a group of mountains in South East Queensland. The name is of Aboriginal origin and has nothing to do with the musical instrument. It is considered part of the Gold Coast hinterland and has a strong tourist industry. Settlement on the plateau is centred on three villages with approximately 5,000 residents. There is no reticulated water supply or sewerage system. Many residents commute to work in Brisbane or Gold Coast.

The girls had booked their accommodation through a Travel Agent in Switzerland and I booked mine from Australia so, although each night we were in the same town, we were in different places. This meant that I was picked up in the mornings and taken back in the evenings, but it was never far. Here I was at Mt. Tamborine Motel and they were at Witches Falls Cottages (much more upmarket than mine) but I had the most amazing view from my bed. A breakfast basket was delivered to their room each morning. Hence they came for me prior to breakfast as there was more than enough for the three of us.  (Photos below are views from my balcony or room)

Tamborine Mountain Botanic Gardens combine a colourful and diverse range of exotic and native flora. The gardens include a lake as the centrepiece, a tranquil Japanese garden, a tropical rainforest walk and are open during daylight hours. Erika and I spent the remaining hours of light wandering in this beautiful garden. The gardens are maintained and administered by volunteers and members of the Tamborine Mountain Garden Club who instigated its development in 1983. The 11 hectare plot of land was formerly a weed-covered swamp.

Dinner was at Hickory, a small Mount Tamborine Restaurant, full of character – what a treat!      Quote from the Menu……                  “Enjoy our amazing full plate dry rubbed whole rack of ribs, succulent maple chilli chicken wings, our new Seafood Shovel!   Rosemary real potatoes. Decadent desserts. VEGE’SAURUS Trencher (my choice) – House made felafel, roasted pumpkin, quinoa and beets + red onion, feta and toasted macadamia nut salad served with blistered truss tomatoes, our rosemary potatoes + warmed flatbreads, pumpkin hummus and beetroot hummus”……….