As well as travelling and sampling vanilla slices, i love to cook, so i have decided to start adding my recipes to this blog to share my joy in making food. I hope you enjoy perusing and please give those that interest you a go. I try to make them easy and everything I post has been tried and tested before going public. Bon Appetit. Aunty Frida.
400gms Almond meal
100gms Self raising flour
150gms Castor sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
1 Cup of icing sugar
Mix Almond meal, flour, sugar and lemon zest
add eggs and mix until it all comes together into a soft sticky dough
Roll walnut size pieces and flatten slightly
Roll each ball in icing sugar – before placing on tray lined with baking paper. Leave a little space between them
Winter was fast approaching so we decided to make a quick dash to the Yorke Peninsula while the sun still shone. We were lucky to score a sunny if not exactly warm week and that was good enough for us!
We chose to drive the quickest most direct route as time was short, but never to short to stop and have a good look at the awesome silo art at Kaniva.
Our halfway overnight stop, well, a little more than halfway was at Murray Bridge, for convenience rather than comfort, as the night time noise from the freeway ensured a restless night. Other than the noise, the park was well set up. The amenities old but clean and the showers had a wonderful flow, much needed to recover from the sleepless night. The camp kitchen was an outdoor open sided setting more reminiscent of camping on tropical beaches. The garden provided a lovely ambiance and would be quite enjoyable on a balmy evening.
Lunch time stop the following day was at Port Wakefield to revisit a town we enjoyed staying at on the way to the Eyre Peninsula on a previous trip. The road works were a nightmare but it is worth stopping and going for a walk in this town of pretty buildings and wide streets. Artworks pop up unexpectedly and the giant pepper tree was awesome. It was hard not to hug it. The compulsory vanilla slice taste test wasn’t great from the Port Wakefield Bakery but the sandwiches were good.
We arrived at Moonta Bay Holiday Park glad to have booked a lower level waterfront site. Definitely the better choice of positions. The views were uninterrupted and glorious at any time of the day. The sites are tight but the view more than makes up for it. The amenities are almost fully refurbished and pretty yellow roses in a vase were a lovely touch. Unfortunately the showers are possibly the worst i have ever experienced, and i’ve used many…The pressure was so low i laughed in spite of my discomfort and the hot to cold roller coaster had me screaming and hopping in and out of the three drops that fell on my head. I learned to wash my hair quickly as soon as the water was warm enough and that was as good as it got. A shame, as it is a terrific location. As our first evening fell i marvelled at how lucky we were with the view from our van.
Loving tides as i do, Moonta Bay delighted me. High tide filled the swimming enclosure and low tide changed the colours to pale blues and provided heaps of paddling space for little ones. Add a wonderfully long pier and my joy was unbounded. I can’t emphasise enough how crystal clear the water in this area is. Simply stunning. The clarity of the water rivalled any i have seen anywhere, ensuring we will return in warmer weather to be able to enjoy it from within rather than from above. The swimming enclosure provided some assurance that the beautiful water could be enjoyed without fear of being shark bait.
I was pretty chuffed to see the van next to us named after me. Well, actually, i was told it was Frida Kahlo but eh…
If walks on white sand, fishing and beautiful sunsets are your pleasures, you should visit Moonta Bay. We saw soooo many fish and squid in the water when walking on the pier. When the sun shone, the colour of the water was stunning. And the sunsets were magnificent. Perfect for the evening wine.
We were entranced by the ‘crazy bunny’ in an enclosed courtyard in the main street of Moonta who was waiting for adoption. He was the last one left of his family. Tempting, but nah.
Sadly we had to leave Moonta Bay after a glorious four days but i was keen to check out Point Turton. We could only spend three days at Point Turton as we had to return to work, and it was not long enough. We once again booked a waterfront site but it was a bit noisy with fishermen coming and going in the early hours. The car park for the boat ramp was right at our feet. Best to book a site away from the lower levels at Point Turton. We will know for next time. This is a very busy park, lots of boats and mainly older gray nomads who appeared to have settled in for long stays. Lucky buggers. A fire pit beside the camp kitchen is lit every day at 4pm so anyone looking for company can congregate for a chat. The amenities are old but freshly painted and clean. The showers were wonderful after the sad ones at Moonta Bay.
Pelicans were well aware of the fish cleaning table…and squabbled openly for space as they expectantly waited. The pier was lined daily with hopeful fisher people. In the clear water we could see ample variety’s and numbers of fish happily swimming through lures and hooks dangling in their space. We watched in fascination as a two handfuls of burley thrown in the water created a seething mass of fin and silver turmoil for a couple of minutes before they all swam off with full bellies and not a single hook attached. Oddly, one solitary fisherman was pulling up fish after fish. Filling his bucket while others watched jealousy.
Again i was astounded by the water clarity. It was truly incredible. I was skipping with happiness.
Stingrays under the pier were so beautiful to watch. I took way too many photos. Such magnificent creatures.
These are three of my favourite pic’s.
We visited the famous Flaherty’s beach at low tide and were amused by the fact they hold a sandbar golf tournament there. The tide was just turning as we left and the incoming water was pristine. If it was summer i would have been wallowing like a jelly fish with no where to go. Many beaches close to Point Turton offer beautiful walks, easy beach driving and some super sand dunes that unfortunately were private property right down to the beach and consequently couldn’t be explored. Although tracks in the sand showed not everyone is as law abiding as some of us.
Tiny shells sparkled prettily on some parts of the beach in huge quantities. There is no lack of empty space to enjoy and exclaim over.
The salt lake trail is well marked and although i have seen more spectacular salt lakes, it is worth the drive to see some of them. A sunny day would have presented a better vista but the weather was turning and we were on our last day before heading back home.
While checking out the salt lakes we drove to Yorketown for lunch at the bakery. We don’t often have pies, pasties or sausage rolls, but i can honestly say these were the best pastries i have ever eaten other than my father in laws. Crunchy, golden and full of flavour. This is a bakery i fully recommend. The vanilla slice was pretty good too. Even though they look messy.
Far too quickly it was time to leave this beautiful part of Australia. On the way home we stopped at Ardrossan for Lunch and sat on a convenient bench overlooking the sea with the stunning red cliffs on either side of us.
Overnight stop on the way home was in Bordertown. It was dark by the time we arrived and we didn’t unhitch. Dinner was a questionable pizza from the road house which was across the road. We were too tired to cook and there wasn’t much else on offer unfortunately. A wee stop at Murray Bridge and a nice walk along the Murray led us to the Bunyip. Don’t go out of your way to see this noisy creature. And don’t take little kids unless they are fearless. The volume was eardrum shattering.
Lockdown in VIctoria has been long and at times frustrating, but we made it out at last! November 2021 saw us crossing the border into NSW and heading up to the beautiful Northern Beaches.
Leaving Melbourne on a wet and foggy morning with my new friend sourdough starter in the van (he needs constant feeding and can’t be left behind) the GPS decided it would be nice to hit the Hume Hwy via Kinglake and the Melba Hwy. A much nicer start to the journey than the dreadful ring road at peak hour.
Coffee, wee and walk at our first stop in Benalla. I was thrilled to finally see the completed mural I had spent a weekend working on in 1983 as a pottery student at RMIT. I was proud to think my hands helped to make some of these terracotta tiles.
Some lovely murals decorated the town. Make sure you go for a walk and look around.
A long tiring drive but due to the rain this year it is very green and pretty. Storms around us delivered some interesting clouds.
Governors Hill Big4 is very tight park. It’s a bit shabby and quite noisy, but the bathrooms are all renovated and super fresh and clean. It’s an overnight stop we have used before, but not sure we will again. The little insect band played country music until quite late in the night. If we had a site closer to them i may well have taken a shovel to them.
Setting up through a tropical strength deluge was not fun but i have a good man who let me sit in the car while he battled on. We woke in the morning to sun, humidity and 29 C by 11am. A shower in the immaculate amenities set things right for the rest of the day.
Follow a clear path through a tunnel of vegetation to a beautiful beach that brought joy to my heart.
We stopped at Kempsey looking for a coffee and bakery, but after a walk through the beautiful park and picturesque riverside, enjoying the Jacaranda’s in full bloom, walking through the purple snow dropping with every puff of wind and marvelling at the pops of seed pods bursting open, we decided to move on and look for food elsewhere.
33 C and humid in Nambucca Heads. We were finally thawing out. By now we were starving and settled on the Wharf Street Cafe. An inauspicious facade but it was quite nice and comfortable inside. Set on the river, it had ceiling fans swirling a nice breeze and the staff were really lovely. The food sounded promising but was average unfortunately. We shared Bruschetta, not great, Squid, which was not bad, and Buffalo WIngs, pretty good. The local beers were average, and we went for sweets. I had a Rose macaroon, acceptable but disappointing as i thought it was rosewater, but wasn’t. Coffee’s were good. we ran out of time for walk which was a shame. So, back on to the Pacific Hwy…which i do not like….
We arrived in Skennars Head with a temperature of 34 C. First time we had felt hot for months and months. The Big4 park is still as comfortable and clean as it was last time we visited pre COVID. The grassy sites are lush, trimmed and spacious. The palm tree cast nice shade over site. Staff are extremely helpful. The low flying planes are great for enthusiasts but are bit invasive if you want a quiet space. Mind you, they are infrequent and don’t seem to fly at night, so it is not too hard to deal with the occasional boomer passing overhead. Friendly frogs in the bathroom!
Just a short drive towards Ballina, Sharpes Beach is indeed beautiful at low tide. There is a walking track from the park, to Boulder Beach and along a well defined path. Surfers hit the waves at high tide. Car Parks are limited during busy periods but the bach is never crowded. Very lovely.
Lennox Head has a smart little village style street with a choice of eateries. We were lucky to be there on a day when ight rescued sea turtles were being released. It was extremely moving and wonderful to see these incredible creatures who had been cared for restored to health and able to find their way back out to sea. The protected area where they were released is also a great pool for swimming. Naturally protected by rocks from the surf, we had a lovely swim here.
Whites Beach was quite a journey to get to. Crazy steep steps down to the beach did me in for the next two days. Quite a few of the rocks i clambered down and then UP were deeper than my legs were long enough, so lots of scrambling. Hard work but oh so worth it. This is an incredibly beautiful coastline with a magnificent beach of fine sand and water exceptionally clear. A large cave offers shade to park yourself and there are other small caves and coves to explore at low tide. I wouldn’t risk being caught out during a high tide. The waves here are ferocious and only dedicated surfers were out in the water. The young men we saw bolted up and down the treacherous steps with boards under their arms and bare feet. I was envious of their ease with the quite scary steep track. This is not a swimming beach. The waves were majestic and i couldn’t stop looking at their immensity.
A short walk from the park to boulder beach gives access to a great walk that does either left or right along the stunning verdant cliff tops. It’s not called Boulder Beach without reason! This time we took the right hand walk back towards Sharpes Beach. The views are quite unlike most Australian Beaches with the lush green cliffs more reminiscent of the UK coastline. We also saw Dolphins frolicking in the water below. Easy walking and very peaceful.
I’d never been to Bangalow and have to admit i was expecting a pretty rain foresty type drive into a secluded hippy town. Unfortunately the GPS took us straight onto the horrible Hwy which quite killed my romantic vision of our drive. The town was very busy. Parking was virtually non existent. We found a park eventually and went for a walk up and down both sides of the main street. Eateries were not prolific surprisingly, nor particularly enticing. There are lots of pretty shops to have a poke about in for dust collecting items or pale linen women’s wear. Not much available for the boys. We opted to buy some cakes from Butcher Baker, which has a brilliant selection of bakery products. I had a nice chat with wonderful baker who served me and threw some extra cakes in, much to our delight as they were delicious. The custard filled donuts were crunchy on the outside, light and fluffy inside and the custard creamy and satiny and generously filled. Perfect. The pastry on the Raspberry Almond tarts, and pear tarts with delicious. Soft without being soggy or too crumbly. And the cheesecake, yes i am ashamed to say how many cakes we sampled, but have NO regrets, the cheesecake pastry was again wonderful and the filling creamy, not to sweet and i am salivating just writing about these fine sweets. Yummo.
It was time to head home and back to work. Not happy but a necessary evil. Getting off the ugly Hwy for a break, we stumbled on a town we had never heard of, Ulmarra. And what a joy it was. This is a place i highly recommend. The Clarence Cafe at the rear of the Ulmarra Hotel is bliss. I was sad we were there too early to order lunch but the cakes and coffee made up for it. Cakes are well up on the yummy stakes. My cannoli, although quite solid, was beautifully presented and the ricotta filling light and fluffy. He who always orders sticky date pud exclaimed effusively that it was the best he had ever eaten. The coffee on par with any fine establishments in Melbourne, if not better than many! My iced coffee tasted like proper coffee, and it was not smothered in fizzy spray can cream. The modern menu offered grilled whole sardines with ciabatta and sashimi. Reading the chalkboard i vowed to return for a lunch or dinner.
The beer garden was large, green and lovely. Set along the riverside the tables were well spaced out. The environment conveyed a feeling of peace and allowed you to sit and relax. To my distress, there were at least half a dozen water dragons who shared my idea that this was a nice spot to chill. They were draped on virtually every table or bench around the garden. Occasionally one would propel itself off the tables and land in the grass, scurrying away to stop and stare at something only they could see. This is a great place. Make the effort to find it.
After an overnight at Lake Macquarie Big4, which was not my most favourite place i have stopped at, we stopped at Marulan for lunch. The Marulan Cafe made our sandwiches fresh, and were happy to substitute the chicken, which they were out of, with roast beef at my request. Nice to get a pot of tea. The sandwiches were quite substantial and fresh. Good one to remember for a quick stop and feed.
Finding a quiet campsite off the beaten track is one of the best parts of travelling. Humula is a tiny town that boast the smallest licensed club in NSW. Unfortunately it is only open Wednesdays and Fridays, manned by volunteers, and we arrived on a Saturday. There are four powered camp sites on the grass and few more on what looks like it was once a tennis court covered in mulch. There are no shops, we didn’t see any people, and it was super quiet. The amenities are newly renovated and super clean and there are complimentary bathroom products in the ladies. The shower looked like it had never been used. This is a perfect spot for an overnight stop. Even though it was 25kms off the beaten track, it was worth the extra km’s at only $14 a night.
Last stop for lunch before the final part of the drive home. A tidy little town that is as expected set up for tourism. I was a bit surprised that the giant Ned Kelly menacingly pointing a gun looked rather the modern man about town. After a walk up and down the street we settled on lunch at the Glenrowan Hotel, thinking this was the best choice for a Glenrowan experience. Hmmmm. Disappointing. It falls just below average or acceptable. Service was good, the food was not. The ‘Kelly Draught’ is not worth trying. Don’t waste your money unless you like yellow liquid with no personality. I have no idea how old the coleslaw in my burger was but it should have been binned the day before. In their favour, the chips were good. The pizza edible if lacking any actual flavour. Shame, as it is a comfortable hotel with good choice of spaces to sit and chill. Just to let you know if you are looking for a good lunch choose another town, the Glenrowan Bakery was so disappointing we did a walk in, walk out. The choice of bakery products was very limited and looked quite unappetising. I was sad, as i really wanted to include a Glenrowan vanilla slice in my blog ‘The Great Vanilla Slice’ but they looked so plastic i couldn’t bring myself to try one. My recommendation is find another town for lunch.
Mother’s Day in Melbourne, the sun shone, it was warm, and the water of Port Phillip Bay glittered in the distance as we circled an industrial estate in Dromana that boasted several breweries, distilleries and eateries.
Jetty Road Brewery offer a spacious casual atmosphere with delightful live music that filled the space without making conversation difficult.
We selected some share foods, chicken bits that were truly delicious, bruschetta that was tasty but more ricotta than tomato, and a meat and bread platter that i wouldn’t recommend. I enviously checked out the next tables chips which looked amazing. I will try them next time!
For $18 a tasting paddle was put together with four beers of my choice. The experience with the young bar man was not particularly delightful. A warning that the sour was ‘very sour’ – twice, and that the dark ale was like, ‘a dark ale’ left me feeling a little testy. a bit of advice to those behind the bar, don’t assume the customer has no idea.
Fortunately, the beers of choice were quite enjoyable. And I satisfied myself with the knowledge that the arrogant fellow will one day feel the wrath of the young.
Desserts were a small but good selection. The pannacotta was okay, perhaps a little heavy, i loved the pecan garnish which to me was the highlight. The beeramisu was disappointing. Far too much cream. Not enough cakey bits and what was buried in there was too dry, not enough beery/coffee taste to cut through the sugary creamy bulk. I wish i had chosen the donuts. I will next time.
The unhurried atmosphere was refreshing. TIme between ordering and eating was surprisingly fast for such a large venue. The waitresses delivered food and removed dirty dishes unobtrusively. Making the whole experience very pleasant.
With Mount Martha and Dromana beach so close, we bought some beers to take home and a couple of t-shirts and headed for a walk as the sun began to set. A good time to go up to the look out as most people had headed off home for the day, leaving lots of parking spaces. Good thing, considering the signage warning us to watch out for cars.
And my love of piers, even if it was just a little one, meant i ended my Mothers Day with a beautiful display of colours above the gently darkening water.
The Murray is truly a wondrous river. The calm yet strong and steady flow pulls you down to the depths of it’s green water, filling your mind with images of what may be lurking below…
We spent a chilled out week at Morning Glory Camp Ground. Don’t let the name put you off, i was a bit dubious, but it is an excellent place to chill away from the busy caravan parks in Echuca and Moama, with the Barmah National Park only a short drive away. There are plenty of shady riverside sites and lots of grassy sites back away from the river and trees if you don’t want overhanging branches. It is a very pretty, clean, grassy camp ground with lots of sites, but not so many powered sites. Mid week during school term found us in a virtually empty park. It was awesome.
The changing colours of the Murray throughout the day are beautiful. I couldn’t stop looking at it…and taking photos…
The birdlife is crazy. The dawn and dusk are heralded by a cacophony, or symphony, depending on your personal thoughts on birds. It is loud and it goes on and on an on. So funny. Lots of squabbling. But beware if you do choose to camp under the trees. We had to wash poo off our car every morning.
Morning Glory is a space for people who want to steep themselves in serenity, away from shops, cafes and bars. A place to sit still. BYO booze and nibbles.The amenities are basic but super clean. The camp kitchen is however not terribly inviting. Functional, but not a place to sit and chill. There is an awesome pool and kiddies water play area, place far enough from the campsites that any noise from exuberance splashers is diffused.
Be warned! The pool and cabins at the rear of the resort are riddled with ants. I happened to walk through the middle of them while walking and my feet were instantly a crawling mess. i have kick off my runners, pull off my socks and run. Very scary. Luckily Hubby had Blundstones on and they couldn’t attach to the leather.
The BBQ looks rusty and a bit past it, but with a bit of a clean it cooked like a dream. We used it every night, and no one else went near it. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed in the results.
While on the subject of food, Suttons Bakery in Moama is right next to the Woolworths, about a 30 minute easy drive. They have a good range of cakes and breads and my review of the vanilla slice is in my blog The Great Vanilla Slices.
Just a short drive is the Barmah National Park. There are a variety of walks, some are short with colour coded guided information, and others are longer and marked with arrows. It is a beautiful area, with lots of water ways, historical areas and natural beauty. Intensely green and pretty, it is easy access and well marked parking. Lots of birds and due to the wet, mushrooms were sprouting everywhere. Fascinating. They were also in the grass at Morning Glory.
So pretty. A boat give tours on the water for those who like a bit of being toured about.
The Muster Yards are only one part of the self guided walks. There are many interesting facts about the area that are worth reading about.
The awesome trees are just plain awesome. Some are quite sculptural if you look hard.
Morning Glory has a variety of campsites, with and without power, water and amenities. There is lots of good signage. They also have their own sandy beach entry.
The Levy Bank Walk was a particularly nice part of the 5km circuit walk.
We decided to make a day trip into Echuca. The town has been tidied up and was super busy, people spilled in and out of cafes and various shops. The Old Port, is quite upgraded and not at all as i remembered it as a child. Very touristy, but we walked around and had a look, found the old Thong Tree, and decided we preferred to return to the peace of Morning Glory.
Beechworth Bakery is always busy and has a very large range of bakery goods, sweet and savoury, to choose from. Of course, we had to try the Vanilla Slice and add it to my Great Vanilla Slice blog.
So many things to delight us. From little creatures, to sweet delights, colours, and creatures. We scuttled back to our campsite, away from people, and chilled happily the whole week.
A fire at the end of the day while the sun sets and the river turns golden is indeed joyous.
One of the best things about travelling is bakeries! And in bakeries, there is almost always, a vanilla slice. I’ve been sampling quite a few, and have decided to put them all together as a reminder to myself of where i have eaten vanilla slices, and to let other travellers know what is on offer in vanilla slice heaven. Some are amazing, some are not so memorable. I will update and add these delicious creamy delights as I find and devour them. Yummm…
Ardrossan Bakery, SA
We stopped in Ardrossan for a quick lunch and the vanilla slices were packaged up 3 for $6 as they were yesterday’s. I decided to take the risk as they looked okay and was not disappointed. Creamy custard, not too soggy biscuit even though they were a day old but the icing was thick and stuck to the teeth somewhat. i could go a half but not a full one.
Yorketown Bakery, SA
The French Vanilla Slice offered at the Yorketown Bakery was a little messy to look at but it was very yummy. Smooth silky custard, the top biscuit was nicely crunchy, a rarity and very pleasing. Even though it slid off with the first bite i was not disappointed, just messy. I think the layer of cream was unnecessary and detracted from an otherwise delicious sweet. The jam was surprisingly complementary and although not usual i have to say i enjoyed it. The pink icing was not sickly as so often the case but more like a cupcake frosting, again not usual but it worked. Bottom biscuit not as good as the top but better than most.
Port Wakefield Bakery, SA
Hmmm. We tasted both French and Traditional. I forgot to take a pic of the traditional. The French biscuit was soggy and tasted a little stale. It had a really weird taste that overwhelmed the entire experience. The custard was sloppy, the icing sticky and sickly. Not at all a pleasant experience. The traditional had a nicer custard but the biscuit was the same soggy weird taste as the French. I wouldn’t go back. Disappointing.
Windara Bakery, Penola
I decided to go for the French vanilla version and he went for the traditional which i found a little cloying. The biscuit undercooked and soggy. Custard was creamy but devoid of flavour. Icing was okay. The French vanilla was lighter and had a pleasant texture. Biscuit was actually crunchy which was a nice surprise. The icing was light and i quite enjoyed my French vanilla version.
Kings Bakery, Hamilton
A traditional vanilla slice. I found them a little sugary and half was more than enough. Custard was not too bad. Sticky icing was a bit hard to swallow. Biscuit a little soggy. Very hard to eat without demolishing it. It fell away into its three separate parts with the first touch of the spoon.
Suttons Bakery, Moama
Although a little messy looking they tasted pretty good. Light fluffy custard and not too sicky icing. Biscuit a little undercooked.
Beechworth Bakery, Echuca
These babies tasted better than they look. I was surprised and happily so. Creamy custard, if not a bit yellow. The icing top wasn’t sickly and the biscuit cooked better than most.
The Loaf and Lounge, Camperdown.
Nice place for lunch. The vanilla slice had nice flakey pastry, although a little burnt and slightly bitter. The custard is super yellow and a little gluggy at first bite but actually worked well with the biscuit. The pink icing was a little strong in flavour, but much as the individual components were not 100%, they worked together and melded into a satisfactory sweet. Just don’t eat the bits separately.
Portland Visitors Centre Cafe.
An unexpected delight. I have no idea where they are baked but the vanilla slice was really good, (as was the citrus tart). Creamy, smooth, light in texture and flavour, although the biscuit was a little undercooked. Worth a stop to sit and enjoy the view of the harbour while enjoying a vanilla slice and a rather sculptural coffee.
Andy’s Bakery, Millicent.
These vanilla slices looked perfect. I was excited. But what a let down. The custard had a vaguely curdled texture, quite gluggy, and little taste. There was a slight chemical aftertaste i have never experienced in a vanilla slice before. The biscuit was average. So sad. Note: The donuts were awesome.
Robe Bakery Kingston SA.
They might look a bit sloppy, but they are possibly one of the nicest vanilla slice i have ever had the pleasure of eating. The biscuit was crunchy and flakey, the custard light in texture and taste. The only thing that lets it down is the addition of cream. Totally unnecessary, as was the chocolate splats on top. These only detracted from the otherwise delicious custard.
Beaufort Country Bakery. Smaller in size than most vanilla slices, this little delight was smothered in icing sugar that made eating it in the car somewhat tricky. The custard was smooth, not too sickly sweet and the pastry satisfactory. All in all, a nice treat.
Littles at Kingston by the Sea. Coconut sprinkled vanilla slice is a first for me, but it works. Easy to cut for sharing, the custard was very nice. Smooth and silky. The biscuit however was a little undercooked and soggy. shame.
Village Bakehouse Port Fairy. One of two bakeries in Port Fairy, the vanilla slice promised joy, but although assured they were baked daily, the pasty was a little soggy and i found the custard a bit gluggy. We shared the one piece and both felt half was more than enough.
Cobbs Bakery Port Fairy. One of two bakeries in Port Fairy, the vanilla slice is of the pink iced variety. Always dubious of the little pinkies delivering, the custard was creamy and light in texture, and although the pastry was hard to cut through, it has a rather nice taste. The thick pink icing fortunately was not sickly. Good job.
Stoneground Bakehouse Hurstbridge. Situated in a village style street, they have a good range of cakes, biscuits, breads and pastries at reasonable prices. The vanilla slice is of the more traditional Aussie style. The filling is smooth and silky but lack interest in flavour and has a slight chemical taste. The icing is a little sweet and sickly for my taste but hubby loved it. The biscuit not too soggy and cuts well. Although it holds together well, looks okay, it is not on my recommendation list.
The Malley Bakery, Ouyen. Cakes here are good. We have stopped a couple of times on the way to somewhere. Creamy smooth texture, and the icing is actually not sickening, even though it gives the appearance of sticky over sweetness. Definitely recommend the vanilla slice if you are passing though.
Paul The Pieman, Inverloch. This is a great bakery. Their cakes are amongst the best i have eaten, and i have eaten a lot of them! Variety is brilliant. Their vanilla slice is rich and creamy. A true dessert, rather than a cuppa at morning tea.
Flinders Fish and Chips, Flinders. The Flinders Fish and Chips shop boasts the Guinness World of Records biggest vanilla slice 2012. And yes, it’s huge. At $11 a serve, it would easily feed four people. Two of us had a good go at it and couldn’t finish it. It is big, but it’s not the best in taste and texture. It’s a once only buy and try for me.
Pastry King Cafe Bakery, Daylesford. This was a shop that promised a superior sweet. Their bakery fare looked good, and was priced on the high side. We bought a selection to share and tasted. The vanilla slice was nice, a little super charged in presentation, but not extraordinary. It looked better than it tasted. Disappointed. Staff were a little discourteous to customers. Next time i will try some of the other bakeries.
Marysville Country Bakery, Marysville. This is a large bakery with heaps of choice. They don’t call their vanilla slice, a vanilla slice. They call it a ‘granny vanilla slice’. When i asked why, i was met with a confused look and the answer was, ‘that’s what we call them.’ We rushed back to our accomodation to give it a taste test with a glass of wine, as you do, and were a little disappointed in the grainy texture and hard to cut pastry. The taste was good, but degree of difficulty eating and texture left us not wanting to go back for more.
Bay Bakery Cafe – Jurien Bay WA. A busy little bakery in a little shopping strip, two versions of vanilla slice were on offer. Labelled Vanilla Slice, was a pink iced number that looked like a traditional no frills vanilla slice, but unfortunately the biscuit tasted a little burnt, or perhaps bitter is more accurate. The custard was somewhat gelatinous and lacking in richness, a little watery in taste. But i loved the pink icing reminiscent of grandma’s and country bakeries. The alternate was labelled Custard Slice. The pastry was much better, but the custard was grainy, disappointingly feeling like a packet mix fail. Both looked good, but let down in the taste and texture.
Wild Grains Bakehouse – Healesville Victoria This vanilla slice was a modest little surprise. Creamy and smooth, light in texture. The biscuit was a little hard to eat with a fork, but hubby sorted it by picking it up and taking bites without cutlery. The icing was as sticky and pink as you would expect a vanilla slice. Reasonably priced. I recommend you give these a try.
Marysville is a pretty town not far from Melbourne. We decided to stay at Vibes Hotel for New Years Eve 2019 and enjoy the beautiful surrounds. It was very quiet, surprisingly for New Years Eve.
We paid a decent price for a room with a balcony and a view? Hmmm.
Accomodation at Vibes was disappointing for the price we paid. The sitting room was badly designed with cheap and decidedly uncomfortable furniture. The whole place had a cheap feel about it, and a distinct lack of care for guests comfort. The pool was overcrowded with two families in it and definitely not appealing to couples. We will consider alternate options next time we spend a weekend in Marysville.
Not to be missed is the lovely walk up Steavenson Falls. It is by no means a difficult walk, the start is flat and easy access, although as it gets higher it becomes a little rocky, so not for those with mobility issues.
The car park is ticketed, but not expensive. People were handing over their unexpired parking tickets as they left, which was quite friendly. The public toilets were a little yucky.
Don’t disregard the ‘Beware of Snakes’ signs. They are all over the place. We saw one and people on the track sighted a second one a little further on.
Although the area has regenerated since the bush fires, there is still plenty of evidence of the dreadful fires in huge burnt out trees.
It is a really pretty place to walk.
I am a sucker for bakeries. The vanilla slice, which I believe they called something like a granny slice? I can’t remember exactly, looked good, held together well, but was a little grainy and rubbery, and lacked lightness. But, I am a bit of a vanilla slice nutter and have tried far too many on my travels. The Marysville Country Bakery certainly has plenty to choose from.
There is a rather nice caravan park along the sparkling shallow river that flows through the township. Families sit on chairs in the water watching their kiddies splash around. It’s not fancy, but has a friendly feel and is close to the IGA and pub.
I hate to bag places, but seriously, Radius Bar & Grill, the restaurant attached to Vibes was not a great night out. The Barramundi we ordered was very good, but the deserts were pitiful. I did let them know that at $16 each, they needed to review their sweet offerings and the waiter did take the cost of one off our bill, however, I had to request a clean glass, and felt like once again, the customer was purely for $$$ and they did not offer a dining ‘experience’ I could honestly recommend to other travellers. Breakfast in the cafe of the same business was not brilliant either. I recommend you try the bakery instead.
To finish out weekend, we went to Lake Eildon and had lunch at the Aqua Bar and Cafe. Book ahead in busy season, we were lucky enough to score the last bar table. The view is nice, staff friendly and efficient. Mostly fried food, but with a cold beer or wine, all good. The water was a great colour and heaps of people were enjoying their boats. I was extremely happy to see how clean the water was. And no rubbish lying about anywhere.
We drove through the Black Spur, which was looking beautiful. A lovely drive, gorgeous walks, and so close to Melbourne. Cheers.
The Hume Highway, although a rather boring drive, is an easy way to cover km’s along the east coast if your need is to get from A to B as fast as possible. This road trip was the case of A to B, so we stayed in easy caravan parks and tried to fit in some less conventional roads and places to see on the way home. Big service stations provided coffee, fuel, snacks and toilets at regular intervals on the way up, but there is little to experience and contribute to a road trip. We prefer alternate roads and unexpected treasures of little known towns, but this trip, we had to knock of the km’s fast so it was hit the highway and head north.
First stopover on the way to the Northern coast of NSW, was Goulburn. It was dark and freezing as we set up for the night at Governors Hill Big4, and by golly, we set up in record time so we could head to the Hibernian Hotel for a smashing dinner. The porterhouse was beautifully cooked, the vegies were crisp and the baked whole spud creamy. A double glass of wine for only $10 was well appreciated and once we were fed, we started to relax a little. Hearty and simply tucker. Definitely recommend this pub in the main street for dinner. Very comfortable atmosphere, friendly and efficient staff. Perfect after a long boring drive.
The wind picked up overnight, gusts reaching 85kph. We held on in our little camper trailer and hoped we wouldn’t end up rolling down the hills of Goulburn. Feeling a bit blurry in the morning, we woke slowly and by the time we had finished brekky, the big rigs had moved out and our little Penguin stood forlornly alone. No complaints. It sure made it easier to hitch up and get out of the tight little caravan park. This park’s bathrooms are in need of updating, and a bit more serious cleaning wouldn’t go amiss. The camp kitchen however, was clean. There is a quiet lounge with a TV and the gardens are full of cute quirky things.
We hit the highway again, heading for another overnight stop around Port Macquarie. Sad to see the roadside verges post Goulbourn covered in litter. I’ve not seen it so grubby. What has happened in the past few years?… We had hoped to out drive the wind, but it followed us up the east coast, although abating slightly in strength. FYI, the M2 doesn’t have many road side stops past Goulburn for coffee, wee, or petrol, so be prepared.
The second rest night was at Bonny Hills Big4. A very nicely laid out park with lots of trees, heaps of shade, lots of grass, real and fake, and very friendly staff. This park has heaps of family things for kids, including a heated pool, games room, and a good book/DVD swap at reception. The amenities were soooo clean and fresh, with great showers. Tall palm trees create extra shade and look lovely amongst the gum trees. The staff put on movie nights for families but for us older folk who can leave their kids at home, it was still quiet and peaceful around the park.
Rainbow beach, accessible from the park was a pleasant surprise for a morning walk and well enjoyed before hitting the road for a third day long day of driving.
Late on day three we finally arrived at our destination via Grafton and the iconic Big Banana.
Surrounded by palm trees, lush grass and huge McVansion’s, we were pretty happy with the clean, quiet grounds. Having only a small camper trailer, we were given a tucked away grassy spot among tall palm trees reserved for tents usually. The amenities were very clean, the pool really nice and lit at night, and there is a good area for kids. This park has permanent residents living in tidy gardens beyond the camp/caravan areas. Everything was very well maintained and tidy. The amenities even boasted a well lit makeup mirror with a sparkly plastic chair. Very cute. The park was directly under the flight path of Ballina airport, so there was lots of excitement every time a plane flew overhead. All activity stopped and eyes follow the arc of movement as graceful planes fly so low you could almost tickle their underbellies. As they disappear, people resume what they were doing.
Having finally arrived, we gratefully set up for a longer stay and visits with family in nearby Ballina. Opposite the caravan park is a great walk along surf beaches with beautiful clear blue waters. The fine sand is rimmed by dark, smooth rocks which skirt the bay. A grassy walk takes you up and follows the cliff tops, with views that wow. The colours are just beautiful. We were told the lookout at the top was notorious for jumpers, but despite the sad use, or should I say misuse of the area, the walk was still outstanding. Down the road we saw whales right from the car park at Sharpes Beach. Unbelievable.
The breezy weather turned sultry the next day and the increase in humidity was pleasant on our Melbourne winter skin. We finally began to relax. Byron Bay called for a revisit, it had been several years since we had been there, so we took off for a walk and lunch. The beach really is quite lovely, although rather rough today. I have seen it at its best, calm as a lagoon, with crystal clear water and big fish bumping into our legs. Today the fine clean sand was scattered with sun bathers but only a few cautious paddlers ventured into the water. It was still a wee bit cool for swimming.
The Beach Hotel Byron Bay remains unchanged. Well worn and bordering grotty, everything was sticky and yucky, yet nevertheless retains a certain ambiance that draws you back into its lay back relaxed atmosphere for a drink and unfortunately somewhat disappointing, feed. The indoor/outdoor environment is perfect on a balmy Byron day. The menu is very limited, I recommend sticking to the standard pub fare of fish and chips or burger. The pizza’s, cooked outside and supposedly wood fired looked somewhat unpalatable in my opinion and we decided against them after watching an older couple chewing without pleasure on a pale lifeless pizza. Stick to a beer/wine and burger/fish and chips meal and you won’t be disappointed. Beware the parking. It is $4 per hour for a maximum of 4 hours unless you park away from the main centre. Which we did.
We took an afternoon drive to Nimbin between family visits via the Bangalow Road, driving through Macadamia plantations and dense lush forests. It was a beautiful drive, tree ferns dripped from captive trees. Dark, dense, overhanging canopies contrasted with deep valleys of incredibly green rolling hills. Just out of Nimbin, we were stopped by a chap waving cars down. We stopped in time to avoid running over a large snake lying across the road. The creature was about two metres long and quite thick. The fellow stood over it and coaxed it into fighting position, then grabbed it just under the head and lifted it high off the road. He swung it at shoulder height and tossed it into the long grass at the side of the road, as we squealed and watched from our car. He then waved, hopped into his ute and everyone continued on their way as if this was normal practice. Arrggh..
Nimbin is a colourful town, but sadly full of trashy shops bursting with repetitive clothing, bags and bits and bobs of useless stuff. It is a shame there were not more handcrafts, artworks and bakeries to encourage tourists to stop longer and purchase something to support the community. It is a pretty place to spend a few hours with good coffee and cakes, but the tacky shops bring down the feel of the town and make it feel like a bit of a sham. Good coffee and cake, although the cakes are quite pricey. I think the locals might have an issue with the boys in blue…
For dinner the following night we purchased fresh fish from the Ballina fish shop. They have an amazing array of fish and shellfish of all varieties on sale direct from ice packed boxes. Most of the fish are whole. Very little was filleted. Well worth a visit. They do fish and chips as well if you don’t want to cook.
The Ballina breakwater is a great walk. It is a surprisingly long walk, going all the way out to the heads, complete with markers telling the history of the area. We saw large fish jumping clear out of the water in the lagoon type ponds at the start of the walk, and sat watching boats battling the entrance at the heads. Give yourself time to do this walk.
And of course, you can’t
not marvel at the giant Prawn. He’s a ripper.
Lennox head is a beautiful beach with firm sand. Excellent for a long walk. The town is pretty, and quiet, a touch classier than Byron Bay with its all too obvious bogan element shuffling around. However, it was off peak season while we were there, possibly a little busier in summer methinks. There are several good cafes to have a coffee and while away some time, and there is free two hour parking. It is less frenetic than Byron Bay, and definitely more relaxed and clean. I recommend it as an alternative place to stay.
The pelicans were a delight to watch. I took about a zillion photos.
Having time to drive home at a slower pace, we were pleased to avoid the highway and see more of the country on our way to Lightening Ridge. We headed inland from Ballina via Lismore, a large town with some fantastic architecture, old style Queenslander type houses, Californian bungalows, with lots of stained glass windows. It was quite interesting and unexpected.
We crossed the great divide and headed to Lightening Ridge, via Casino and Tenterfield. The road was windy and very uppity and high in the sky. We stopped at Tenterfield for cake and coffee and stumbled on Deepwater Brewing. ‘Beer Brewed with Altitude,’ an unexpected gem with a great range of beers. I recommend a stop. The bar is comfortable and the beers are great. They are only open Friday to Saturday. Check their website for details.
This area is soooo dry. We were truly subdued by the dust and lack of anything green on the ground.
An overnight stay at Inverell Caravan Park and dinner at the Australian Hotel. It was pretty quiet around town, and the big pub was almost empty. There is a walk into town which we took, but I got a bit spooked by the lack of people around. The meal was pretty basic and the menu limited, but with nothing much open, it was okay for a feed and then back to our well stocked fridge for an early night in. The amenities are amazing. As good as some five star motels! Very modern.
We drove through Maree, just because I wanted to see the site of the pool that was featured in the 1965 Freedom Ride protest. It is now a huge complex with indoor/outdoor artesian pools and children’s play areas. I didn’t see any obvious references to the issues that faced our indigenous community and felt quite sad at what they had to endure. We stopped for lunch at the Royal Hotel and were gob smacked by the size of the serves.