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.

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.

Cervantes, WA.

A family wedding gave us the push to get on a place and fly across the country to the beautiful west coast, giving us a not exactly a taste of Western Australia, but rather a slight lick that triggered pangs of desire to get back as soon as we can, and again, and again. But for the first visit in many years, here is my first impression. Oh i wish i could have stayed longer and travelled further!!!

Landing early, we had heaps of time to get to our accomodation in Cervantes, so we made a couple of stops along the short two and half hours drive from Perth to Cervantes.

First stop was Yanchep National Park. A beautiful parklands with wetlands and lush grass. There are many easy walkways for those with mobility issues. Neat manicured gardens contrast with natural landscape. You need to purchase a pass to enter, as this is a national park. Fires have recently ravaged the area but there are beautiful green signs of regeneration amongst the blackened trees.

There are heaps of kangaroos, and roo poo is impossible to avoid. A koala enclosure makes viewing of the cute little fellows easy. I was told Koala’s are not native in WA. I was surprised to hear this.

Lunch was nagging at our empty bellies, we chose to check out Two Rocks. A town with quite a bit of influence from Alan Bond, who purchased land with the aim of building a theme park and a residential area, streets which were named after Yachts from the America’s Cup. Atlantis Marine Park was a huge area with Dolphin Pools and sculptures, some of which still remain. The park is lost in overgrown scrub, temptingly enticing us to try and break through the fencing that keeps people out. I peeked and peered, seeing decomposing sculptures, and left with a sense of loss that i couldn’t get close enough to see more of what was once there. King Neptune stands high above us, grinning at people who cannot get anywhere near his lost kingdom.

Lunch at Neptunes Cafe was good, the toasted bread crunchy and super delicious. Sitting outside the view over the little marina is lovely, and a small King Neptune keeps you company while you eat. Beware the huge crows, apparently they pick up and fly off with cutlery, l milk jugs, sugar packets and anything else they can lift.

The town of Lancelin boasts the Big Blue Chair. I had to stop and take a photo and add it to my blog on ‘Big and Quirky Aussie Things.’

Arriving in Cervantes, we were lucky enough to be upgraded to a very comfortable suite at the Pinnacles Edge Resort. Overlooking the main street, i can assure you, we had no issues with traffic noise. A walk around town was delightful. Many front yards had quirky artworks and sculptures that made for fun walks. Locals waved at us from cars and they yards as we passed, and several took the time for a chat.

Bougainvillaea and Frangipani were just beautiful. There were also bountiful banksia’s along the highway. The colours were extraordinary. This was at the end of February.

Cervantes is well known for its rock lobster fishing. The bay was full of lobster boats bobbing about in the water. We arrived when the area was under the influence of cyclones from further up north, but the wet weather did not detract from the beauty of the area.

Not every catch is a prize. These little fellows were sadly dumped at the end of the pier.

We drove to Jurien Bay and had to try the vanilla slices. My blog ‘The Great Vanilla Slice’ has the details…

One of the reasons i picked Cervantes as our destination was it offered some rather interesting places to visit. The stromolites at Lake Thetis were accessible via a flat path and boardwalk with a viewing platform. For those who need a walk, a sandy track circles the lake, but the flies are a nightmare!

It was extremely windy the day we were there, and the salty foam build up was thick and blowing all over us.

Jurien Bay Marine Park has firm packed sand. Many of the beaches in the area can be driven on. The clear water was incredible, shallow water warm and impossible to resist. We watched stingrays swimming past us as we stood shin deep in the water, ready to bolt if they came too near!

At this time of year, the balmy evenings mean fabulous evening beach walks.

The Pinnacles delivered much more than i expected. The landscape is incredible. I can understand why Billy Connolly was inspired to dance ‘nekked’. There is a marked walking track or you can drive through and stop in the many parking bays to get out and take photos. This is in the Nambung National Park and requires a pass. We purchased the five day pass which works out cheaper than paying per park entry.

Not dancing ‘Nekked!’

Birds on the beach.

Beach walking is pure joy on these pristine beaches. Not sure what this is, but it captured my interest.

Ooooh so pretty.

Our final night in Cervantes we had dinner at Cervantes Bar and Bistro. They serve a local ‘Pinnacles’ wine that wasn’t too bad. I chose two entree as a main which were very good. Prawns and Octopus. Very yummy, and came with a lovely crusty bread to dip in the delicious sauce under the tender prawns. The octopus was very tender. He who sat on the other side of the table chose the FOD? which i realised meant Fish Of the Day. This was a little disappointing. A serve of salmon with chips and salad as he didn’t want vegies set us back $44. A bit rich for a very basic meal. Shame, when my food was super.

On the way back south, i was once again struck by the incredible whiteness of the sand. I really am looking forward to coming back this way.

Next stop Joondalup for the wedding. We stayed at Joondalup Resort, a golf course and reception centre that is extremely busy. It’s a little dated but solid, with nice gardens and a great shower.

We had lunch at Overboard Cafe, Hilarys Boat Harbour which was a little grotty and very busy with families, not really a comfortable environment and it all felt a little grotty. Our shared platter was huge, but fatty and we felt a little erg afterwards. There were mainly chain eateries and very little of a decent quality. Great for families with little kids but i don’t recommend it for couples. the water play area in the harbour was popular, but again, it all just felt sticky and yucky and i wouldn’t have put my kids in that water. Saturday night we attended a rock’n’roll night with Let’s Rock on. A great night and well attended. Check out the ice bucket!

The wedding was both lovely and lively. The Macedonian church in North Perth is a beautiful building. A Serbian dance ensemble entertained us at the reception and it was a suitably joyous occasion with much dancing.

Back to Perth CBD for the last two days before we head back to Melbourne. We spent a couple of hours walking around Fremantle, 45 minutes of which was watching three tug boats turn a container ship and guide it out of the port to open sea. Pretty impressive.

We took a look at the round house, a gaol built in the 1830’s, the oldest building still standing in WA. Worth a visit, gold coin donation. The chaps at the door are a wealth of knowledge and tell a good story. The market didn’t ring my bell. But have a stroll through.

We chose to stay at Crowne Plaza because we had no idea where to stay, and you can’t really complain about the view, or the generous serves of bubbles, however, it getting a bit tired and shabby and the showers are in the bath with a swinging glass door to get in. Difficult if you are mobility impaired. A little overpriced and they take $50 per night bond!!! Seriously?

Walking the streets of Perth CBD. This alleyway was tour bus territory but still an interesting walk.

My fascination with plants and patterns keeps me happy.

And our last walk was through Kings Park. What a fantastic place to walk, experience incredible views and gardens, and just sit and enjoy the carpet of grass. Definitely a place everyone should visit when you come to Perth.

This poor Boab tree suffered when it was uprooted and delivered to its gaol in unfamiliar surrounds. Lots of pretty trees are however looking delightful.

A brilliant raised walkway.

And who doesn’t love waterways? Heaps of tadpoles.

And to finish off…more amazing plants. Check these little babies out. Really worth a visit.

WA you are a ripper and i can’t wait to get back.

‘BIG’ Aussie Things – Strange and Quirky sights in Australia

I love the unexpected. Driving on long road trips we often look for the unexpected. Australia is full of BIG things, and ‘things’ in unusual locations. I intend to add to this blog as I stumble across things that make me squeal. BIG things are my favourites, but the quirky finds make me happy!

Ned Kelly, Glenrowan

Man about town Ned Kelly.

The Thong Tree, Echuca.

Aussie Skeleton

On the roadside between Robe and Kingston is SA.

The Giant Koala.

Situated in Dadswell Bridge, between Stawell and Horsham is It is 14 metres tall.

The Big Mango

The Big Mango stands 10 metres high. It is located at the Visitor Information Centre, Bruce Highway,  just a little south of Bowen. It’s quite a good ‘Big Thing’. Nice colours.

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The Giant Galah

Kimba is the home of The Giant Galah. Standing eight metres high, it lies half way across Australia between Melbourne and Perth on the Eyre Highway. I can’t find any reason why Kimba has a BIG Galah, but who cares. It is there.

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Cocklebiddy Roadhouse

Cocklebiddy is a roadhouse on the Eyre Highway. This is an iconic sign that makes everyone smile after a long drive. Great place to stop. Meals are huge, home cooked and delicious.

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The CD Tree

Still on the Eyre Highway, the CD tree. Glittering enticingly, I couldn’t go past without stopping for a photo

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The Big Murray Cod

The Big Murray Cod in Tocumwal, New South Wales, is one of the earliest big things in Australia. Installed in 1968 Goodoo is the Aboriginal name.

Euroa Ladies Lavatories

Euroa service centre boasts these lovely doors in the ladies toilets.

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The Giant Trout

Odd of my favourites. The 10 metre high giant trout in Adaminaby is located 51 kilometres northwest of Cooma, in the Snowy Mountains.

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Holbrook Submarine

Holbrook is situated between Melbourne and Sydney on the Hume Highway.It is the home to the decommissioned Australian submarine HMAS Otway. It is BIG, but only because it has been restored in it’s actual size. Strange thing to find in country NSW!

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The BIG Merino 

The Big Merino is concrete merino ram standing 15.2 metres tall. Situated in Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia. It has been nicknamed “Rambo” by the locals. It is a symbol of Goulburn as ‘the Fine Wool Capital of the World’.

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The Big Golden Guitar.

On the southern approach to Tamworth, Australia’s home of country music is the Big Golden Guitar. The Big Golden Guitar was unveiled by Australia’s “King of Country Music” Slim Dusty in 1988. It is one of the most visited and photographed sites in Australia. I took my turn in the queue.

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The Big Orange, Berri South Australia.

The BIG Orange is 15 metres high, has a diameter of 12 metres and is the biggest of the BIG fruit in Australia.

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The Big Lobster, Kingston South Australia.

Looking very fierce, the BIG lobster was built in 1979 and is known locally as Larry the Lobster. It stands 17 metres tall.

The Big Prawn

The Big Prawn is in Ballina near Bunnings. It used to perch on the roof of a bait shop, but now contends with passing traffic in and out of a car park. A great example of Aussie Big Things, i think it deserves a better place to reside.

King Neptune – Two Rocks Western Australia. A ten metre tall King Neptune was hard to photograph as he is enclosed by a wire fence and hidden by overgrown shrubbery and debris. The Atlantis Marine Park constructed in 1981 lies in ruins around him, with other ocean-themed sculptures lurking in various parts of the seafront.

The Big Beach Chair – Lancelin Western Australia. Standing 2 metres high the big beach chair can’t be missed at the junction of Gingin Road and Walker Avenue.

THE SHOE FENCE PRINCESS HIGHWAY NEAR PORTLAND. We saw this on a recent trip to Cape Bridgewater and had to stop for a photo. The photo didn’t take in the entire length of the fence but it went on for some distance. I snapped and jumped back in the car as the smell was pretty gruesome.