NSW Northern Beaches

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.

Benalla

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.

Goulbourn

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.

Bonny Hill

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.

Kempsey

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.

Nambucca Heads

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….

Skennars Head

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!

Sharpes Beach

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

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

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.

Boulder Beach

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.

Bangalow

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.

Ulmarra

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.

Humula

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.

Glenrowan

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.

Jetty Road Brewery

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.

Moama, The Murray and Barmah.

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.

Kingston SE South Australia

With COVID restrictions lifting all over Australia and Victorians finally given approval to venture a little further, we joyfully hit the road. Choosing to head to beautiful South Australia, a state that never fails to fulfill our desire for quiet towns and awesome beaches, we decided on Kingston SE. We did the drive in one day as our time was limited and we wanted to get the most out the week we had.

Stopping for loo breaks and bakery delights along the way, the km’s travelled were not too bad. Beaufort is a popular stop, with a nice bakery and clean toilets. I recommend the Beaufort Country Bakery. We had chicken sandwiches made up fresh while we waited and delightful cakes. Being a fan of vanilla slices – see my blog – The Great Vanilla Slice – obviously, I tried one of theirs…it was good.

We arrived in Kingston a wee bit tired and hungry, but awfully pleased to have a front row site with a sea view. After setting up and a quick dinner, we walked across the road to watch the sunset before ending a long day snuggled down in our van for two with a glass of wine and a movie. Zzzzz….

The next day dawned with a yawn and after breakfast we were ready to explore. The first thing we did is suss out the town. Walking the streets observing the architecture, shops and people gives a feel for the personality of a town. And of course, I have to find the local bakery. Always a source of joy…and vanilla slices.

Overlooking the Kingston Foreshore Caravan Park is the Cape Jaffa lighthouse, which was decommissioned and moved to where it now resides lighting up the streetscape at night. You can climb it, but it costs and needs to be booked as a tour. Tempting, but we were not organised enough to book.

The Kingston foreshore is grassy and clean with an asphalt track running along it. Tracks to the beach cut through the vegetation to a fine white sand beach. There is quite a bit of seaweed, but still lovely. Big tides clear footprints and leave the sand glorious.

The wind was crazy on our first day, resulting in some hilarious hairdos. Each day our walks revealed a treasure trove of pretty shells. I was particularly excited by the scallop shells.

The colours and patterns of Kingston town. Very pretty.

The Kingston Jetty is looooong. A lovely weathered timber structure. So much nicer than modern concrete piers don’t you think? Opposite the Foreshore caravan park is a pontoon for swimmers. A nice addition to any beach. Although the seaweed surrounding it would make me worry about what was lurking beneath the water…

Each evening awesome kites were seen on the foreshore. They changed daily while we were there.

A short drive south of Kingston is Cape Jaffa. The town is very quiet, the new canal development and marina are still in the early stages of becoming anything. We walked the jetty which was of lovely old timber but didn’t stay long.

The Granites, about 20 kms north of Kingston. A nice beach walk and interesting rock formations. Very peaceful and stunningly beautiful.

The Coorong Loop Road, just under an hour north of Kingston is well worth a day trip. Take drinks and snacks as there is only a van selling takeaway in Salt Creek. The loop road takes you off the highway for about 13 km. It is unsealed but graded, although some parts were a little rough due to corrugations. There is a long drop dunny not far in and I can happily say it did not smell. I sent the mighty warrior in first to make sure the coast was clear of smell and/or nasty surprises.

Salt lakes are one of my joys and I was squealing with delight when we saw this one just a short way along the loop road. The colours varied from sparkling crystals of white to soft blue/greens to pinks. It was beautiful.

Fascinating as well as beautiful. The salt creates a landscape that captivates.

Tea Tree Crossing allows you to cross to the ocean side of the Coorong. Not something I would try in the wet, but fortunately it was totally dry on the day we were there. Check the tides before you go. Sign posts mark where to drive and it is quite firm, but only suitable for 4WD as the entry on and off the crossing is quite steep and super soft sand.

A day trip to Robe was both a joy and a nightmare. A protected bay, that had the sun been shining, would have been gob smackingly beautiful, was unfortunately overrun with hoards of families dragging sour faced teenagers and grumpy children along the crowded main street. It was ridiculously busy, pushing our way through the shuffling disgruntled families was a horrible experience. We will return out of season.

We did eventually find a quietish outdoor venue to have some lunch, which was a forgettable experience in itself, however, on a positive note, Robe offers so much visually. The council has built a 6km walk along the coastline that is absolutely glorious. There are several places along it to park and enjoy a short walk if you are not up to the full 12km return trip. We were only there a short time so didn’t do the whole walk, much as we would have liked to, and will do another time.

The sun disappeared after lunch before we had the pleasure of enjoying the beautiful bay. The white sand made the water appear opalescent, too hard to capture in a photo, but the beach was relatively empty with the overcast conditions, so a drive along the hard packed sand was easy. It is the type of beach that beckons you into the water. So clean and clear.

Pop into the sales room for Loophole Brewery. They have a good range of beers from easy drinking, to the interesting Austral Project brews made with grape skins. Pretty awesome when you can get a local brew.

The great thing about a road trip is the awesome things you come upon. From the well known tourist sites like Larry the Lobster, to this fellow sitting on the side of the road between Robe and Kingston.

Back in Kingston, just out of town, nestled alongside the petrol stations is an unassuming bakery titled Robe Bakery, even though it is in Rosetown, within the Kingston District. Don’t overlook this little timber structure. It delivers. The vanilla slice had crisp, flakey biscuit and the custard was smooth and light in texture.

Kingston Foreshore caravan park is a good place to base yourself for exploring. Well spaced grassy sites, and if you ask for the front row, a room with a view. The facilities are basic but clean, and the water flow in the showers excellent. The walk in to town is easy and the IGA well stocked. Beach or track walks to the pier are excellent. I highly recommend a visit. Our time being short, we had to head home way too soon. I was sorry to leave this quiet and beautiful area.

As we headed towards home via a couple of nights in Nelson, a loo break in Millient coincided with morning tea, so we walked the main street looking for a bakery, which was nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t believe there was no bakery, but on the way to the public toilets in the park, I glimpsed a sign one block in from the main road. Andy’s Bakery does a super donut, but i ate it before i took a photo. The vanilla slice looked amazing and i was excited to try it…sadly it had an interesting chemical aftertaste I have not experienced in a vanilla slice before. I will say at this point, that I share the vanilla slices. I don’t boff them by myself.

The main street of Millicent – check out this claim to fame! I love it. They have the world record for covered gumboots. 443!

Across the border and back in Victoria, we arrived in Nelson. We visited here quite some time ago and were pleased to see that other than the addition of a new petrol station, not much has changed. Nelson provides a base for exploring the sensational Glenelg river, it’s estuary and wild ocean beaches. We stayed at Kywong Caravan Park. Note that phone reception is an issue, so don’t come here if you are addicted to technology. Do come here if you are searching for a space to read and rest and let your mind take a break from the world and its troubles. I should mention the showers are a bit temperamental, changing unexpectedly from a full flow of hot water, to a trickle of cold that turns scalding hot without warning. Turning up the cold water provides a momentary warm mix before becoming ice cold again. Very challenging. And not a pleasant experience. However, the park offers good sized shady sites and is really peaceful when a super annoying child wasn’t bullying her little friends at the top of her voice. It took all of my will power not to grab a wooden spoon and find her. I am sure her pint sized friends would have cheered.

Walks to the ocean beaches are well maintained and easily found. 4G from the look out! We downloaded several movies up here.

There is heaps of wildlife, birds, waterways and amazing sunsets. Walking on the sand is excellent as it is firm and white and beautiful, but the ocean waters, pristine, dramatic and deadly, are not safe for swimming. Glorious for walking and absorbing the astounding colours. I use the word beautiful too much. Must find alternative.

The Great South West Walk follows the coast and Glenelg River. Well marked and offering several detours to the water down steps either built or carved, there are heaps of boat sheds and landings giving a picturesque view of the river and a place to sit and contemplate.

The Glenelg Estuary is a space of immense beauty and brings me joy. The walk to the ocean beach is easy at low tide if you are okay with picking your way through and around whatever is washed up. And very satisfying when you get through it. Heaps of little fish are darting around in the quite deep pools of tannin stained water left by the outgoing tide.

Low tide allows gentle swims and areas for families to bring the kiddies with canoes and floaty toys. The water is super warm, shallow and clean, but beware the fast flow as it nears the ocean. It’s wild and dangerous. Not for swimming, but the crazy water is captivating.

I took way to many photos, but it’s stunning. How could i not!

Nelson town has a pub, a couple of kiosks, a petrol station and not much else as far as retail outlets. Fill up on groceries and booze before heading there. Love the Nelson Pubs fund raising. The ceiling has notes pinned all over it.

Sadly we had to head home. We planned to drive inland and stay in Mortlake overnight to escape the Victorian coastal crowds that gathered for the extended long weekend break. Mortlake boasted an extinct volcano and interesting architecture, so we thought we’d give it a go.

Morning tea time brought us into Portland. A walk around the town provided nothing enticing, so needing loo’s we headed to the visitors centre. A little museum provided a spot of interest for free, so we decided to support the cafe which had nice views over the harbour. The lady serving was delightful and set up a table for us on the outside sheltered balcony. We sat there for quite a while enjoying the serenity. We chose a vanilla slice, of course, and the citrustart, which looked very good. I am not sure where they were baked but they were far better than some of the bakery products we have experience and the lovely lady went to a lot of trouble cutting them in half so we could share and decorating the plates with icing sugar and a squeeze of red. Most unexpected. The cappuccino was rather a piece of sculptural artwork, although a little overly fluffed for us. The vanilla slice was creamy, light in texture, smooth and although the biscuit was a little undercooked, it was remarkably tasty. The citrus tart was not too tart, some tend to set my eyes watering! It was creamy in texture and the pastry shell a delicious biscuit that held together well without being impossible to cut with a fork. The coffee was a little insipid, but i would return there to support them regardless. Nice stop.

On to Mortlake. The caravan park was in a pretty park, but we were not comfortable with it and decided to grab a quick lunch and head instead to Port Fairy for out last night on the way home. There is not much i can say about Mortlake. It sounded promising but it isn’t really somewhere that offers much to see. The bakery was a little grotty and the food looked uncared for. Although the pies boast about their quality, i can assure you the pasties were a little strange. Perhaps i should have tried a pie, but they were reminiscent of white flabby skin and consequently a little off putting.

Arrival in Port Fairy was a little different to our previous visit. Jam packed and bursting with long weekenders. Being there for only one night we made the best of the crowds by zipping in and out of town for supplies and going for walks. The weather was the best we had ever had in Port Fairy with warm temperatures and little wind.

Beach walks were heavenly as no seemed interested.

Rock walks..same. Everyone seemed to just be hanging in the main street cafes or the camp sites.

Super clear waters and the ever present wallabies. Always a winner Port Fairy.

Time to go home.

Last stop Camperdown for lunch. The main street was nice for a stroll. We stopped at The Loaf and Lounge for lunch. A large space, with seating outside as well as in. It was comfortable and offered a nice range of food choices. The sandwiches were huge chunky slices of bread like i have never seen anywhere since my friends lunches in high school. Tea came in a pot of adequate size and the mixed sandwiches, which were our choice for the day, were light and flavoursome. The vanilla slice, yes, i know, way too many vanilla slices this trip, was over coloured and the icing over flavoured, the biscuit over cooked and slightly bitter, but if you didn’t separate the bits, it was quite okay. Strange.

Well, the end of another road trip that was super packed with walking and exploring. And vanilla slices. I highly recommend South Australia for road trips. It is not as busy as the east coast and you can get campsites in quiet places that are not too remote, but are away from the hordes who want to be near cafes and easy to view tourist points. I can’t wait to get out here again. Cheers. Aunty Frida.

The Great Vanilla Slice

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…

Suttons Bakery, Moama

Beechworth Bakery, Echuca

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.

IMG_9754

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.

Port Fairy, Cape Bridgewater and surrounds.

The wind! Oh my. Is Port Fairy ever not ferociously blowy? We have visited five times, winter and summer and i have been blown to bits every time. In saying that, it is a very pretty town with lovely gardens and grass that creates an envy i find hard to control. It is very much worth a visit if you have not done so yet. There is copious accommodation available, in fact, i would love to know what percentage of the few blocks surrounding the main streets are rental vs owner occupier.

We chose to stay in the Penguin and booked a very reasonably priced and good sized super grassy site at Southcombe Caravan Park. This is indeed one of the nicest parks we have camped in. Going off season meant this huge park was practically empty, so it was quiet and super clean. The hedging throughout ensured excellent wind breaks and considerable privacy. Very pleasant.

Day one after a long drive from Melbourne, about four hours, we set up and headed for a walk around Griffiths Island. Super pretty at low tide. The colours of the sea were just beautiful. The walk is easy and and not long, but we walked from Seacombe park to make it a little longer and give our legs a good stretch before locking in for the evening away from the…wind…

The two walks take you to the light house.

And look out for these little fellows on the track.

The walks around Port Fairy are easy and the car can be left behind, even to go to the shops and cafes. The IGA is good. Fresh salads and precooked meals in the deli for those who don’t want to eat out but can’t be bothered with ingredients. The bottle shop was a bit of a let down, i was hoping for regional craft beers and wines but it was sadly disappointing. Two bakeries have adequate sweet bits and breads – we tried the carrot cake and vanilla slices from the bakeries, but the cakes were superior at Rebecca’s Cafe, sold from a cart on the street and packed into card boxes for easy carrying. They are pricey, but worth the extra dollars as the textures and flavours were really exceptional.

Birdlife is abundant. There are lots of waterways with walks around them. Wetlands offer birdwatchers plenty to keep them happy.

The Moyne River provides another short easy walk. Riverside accommodation and moored boats offer interest and a bridge allows a longer walk with access across the river and clean white sand beaches.

A short drive from Port Fairy is Yambuck Lake. There is a small caravan park tucked away in a very pleasant quiet spot for those wishing to avoid bustle…except when kids arrive to use the Yambuck Slide! We decided not to try the slide, preferring to avoid potential damage to our bodies, and instead enjoyed the walk to the mouth of the river. There was not much to see when we got there, but the walk itself was very pretty and recommended.

The Crags are just before Yambuck Lake. Interesting rock formations and blue blue water. A quick stop for a look is definitely recommended.

Cape Bridgewater was lovely. We will return to this beautiful area for a longer time, but we only had one day, and left wanting more. Around this amazing town is so much to explore. The seal colony is an easy walk most of the way, but does have a few steps and steep inclines that could make it difficult for people with impacted mobility.

We only saw two seals on our visit but they lolled about and entertained us for ages.

The Blow Holes were spraying high and the blue of the sea was brilliant. The access to the viewing platform is easy and we watched the spray hitting great heights for quite a while. Excellent view from way up high.

The petrified forest was our la