A view from the Sydney Tower, looking down at the skyscrapers – you can see the shadow from the tower.
Today’s excursion into Sydney was primarily to Darling Harbour so we took a direct bus into the city.
The first stop when we got there was the Sydney Tower Eye, one of the tallest buildings in Sydney with a viewing area near the top. It was a good clear day so we could see a fair distance, all the way to the Blue Mountains in fact.
We then went on to a couple more tourist destinations, the SeaLife and WildLife centres in Darling Harbour. We’ve been before and enjoyed the visit but, I have to say, we were a bit disappointed this time. Not sure if it was the time of year or what but the exhibits didn’t seem as good at either venue. Both venues also seem to have changed their approach and have targeted everything at young kids.
The Endeavour replica, moored at tha maritime museum.
The butterfly area had no butterflies in it, which seemed pretty pointless, and even the underwater aquarium seemed lacking compared to last time. So, all in all, if we get the chance of another visit to Sydney I doubt we’ll bother visiting them again.
All in all I guess we’re just not very good at the tourist thing !
The Sydney Opera house as the sun went down
The Endeavour replica was good to see again, I think last time we saw it was when it was in Whitby, that’s a few years ago now. On the way “home” we decided to use the ferry from Darling Harbour to Circular Quay and that has a dock next to the endeavour so we got a good view of it.
Tomorrow we’re heading to Lane Cove camp site where we’ll spend our last couple of nights here before we fly out. We might go for a drive up the coast as a diversion between camp sites, maybe head to Palm Beach. Sunday will be spent getting everything cleaned and packed ready for the long trip home.
Little Penguin at Manly Sealife Sanctuary
Very cold last night, the temperature dropped below double figures so we were both wrapped up in extra layers under the duvet ! Another bright sunny day though today which makes up for it and the wind dropped a bit so today felt warmer without the wind chill.
The temptation to wait until the sun managed to warm everything up won out this morning so we had a bit of a slow start before heading into Manly on the bus. We visited the Sealife Sanctuary while we were there, it’s aimed more at the “Finding Nemo” age group than adults but was interesting nonetheless. The sea horse aquarium was really good and the “Little Penguins” were very cute. The breeding programmes mentioned on their web site didn’t seem to get much of a mention though.
A Seahorse at Manly Sealife Sanctuary
From Manly we took the ferry to Circular Quays and, unlike the last time I took this ferry on 2005, it managed to complete the trip without crashing into the pier !
We took in a few of the sites around that part of Sydney, the usual tourist things I guess. A walk around the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Opera House first so we could justify second breakfast afterwards. After second breakfast we went for a random walk around the rocks (the oldest part of Sydney at the foot of the bridge).
We found “The Big Dig”, an archeological dig carried out when the YHA hostel was being built. Pam had mentioned wanting to go to it a while ago and it was a lucky coincidence that we kind of stumbled across it during our random wander.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Tomorrow we’ll head into Sydney again to visit Darling. Harbour and some of the attractions around it. After that we’ll probably have had our fill of being in a city and be ready to head for Lane Cove on Saturday morning.
North Narrabeen, the beach behind the camp site.
The winds didn’t abate as much as forecast but nonetheless we both had a decent nights sleep as only the occasional strong gust made it’s presence known during the night. They are now forecasting that they will reduce over the next couple of days but at least it’s still forecast to remain dry and sunny.
This morning we set off for Sydney, heading south for the final time on the Pacific Highway ! We had a few electronic things to buy to ship back to the UK with us and an internet search had led us to a small shop in the north west of Sydney so that was our first destination. Thankfully Apple Maps did the navigating again and we got there without any problems. They had everything we wanted in stock so, mission accomplished we headed back to north east Sydney and Narrabeen.
We stopped off to see Mal (he owns Narrabeen TyrePower) at his garage as we weren’t sure if he’d be off taking advantage of the snow this weekend. We stopped off at a petrol station to buy our “MyMulti 3” passes that will give us a week’s use of public transport in and around Sydney and then set up camp.
We’ve booked in for 3 nights, as planned. That gives us 2 full days to “do” Sydney before we head to Lane Cove on Saturday morning for our last 2 nights. Tomorrow we plan to take the bus to Manly then the ferry from there into Sydney centre to do the tourist thing.
A view of a very windy Lake Macquarie from the camp site.
We had a bit of a change of mind this morning. We awoke to clear blue skies and a beautiful low sun over the river at Norm’s property. There was the occasional gust of wind though and as the morning passed the gusts became more fierce and more frequent.
After setting off we filled up, probably for the last time on this trip, just down the road and then headed south on the Pacific Highway (in case you hadn’t guessed !). We followed it to the end of the Pacific Highway where the A1 changes name from the Pacific Highway to the Sydney Freeway then followed that around Newcastle. There are a lot of familiar town names around here, Newcastle, Hexham, Stockton, Wallsend, Cardiff, Barnsley, Wakefield, Windermere and the town exit we were heading towards – Toronto !
We stopped at Raymond Terrace along the way for a coffee and Danish pastry and while we sat there watching the trees, advertising flags and anything that wasn’t bolted down blowing around in the very strong wind gusts we came to a decision. Whilst camping in a forest may give you more shelter from the wind, it also increases the risk of having a tree landing on you ! So, a new plan was devised to head to a camp site with an enclosed camp kitchen in a sheltered location and we chose a caravan park on the shores of Lake Macquarie, just south of Morrisset.
When we set up camp I removed the fly sheet as it’s not really needed unless it’s raining and makes a lot of noise in the wind. I’ve also made sure the nose of the Land Rover is pointing as square into the wind as possible so we’ve, figuratively speaking, battened down the hatches and are ready to ride the storm out. It’s forecast to die out by tomorrow morning and retain the clear blue skies, hopefully they’ve got it right !
Tomorrow we’ll head into northern Sydney to set up “base camp 1” for our final days in Australia. We’ll probably head there in a circuitous route as we have some shopping to do for stuff to take home in the north west of Sydney. There’s lots of snow in the higher areas but we’re not expecting that to effect us at this point…
For anyone that’s keeping count, we’ve now covered 15,638 miles on this little adventure or 25,167 km. I think the Land Rover may be overdue a service !
Not over impressed with the weather today but have had a good day regardless. Other than a bit of sun this morning it’s been overcast all day and been threatening rain although that hasn’t actually appeared.
We set off from Harrington to head onto the Pacific Highway yet again as there was no real alternative. We headed south until we could pick up a more interesting route, The Lakes Way which follows the coast, taking in a peninsula that is accessed via a bridge at Forster-Tuncurry.
We stopped at Forster-Tuncurry for what may well be our final food shop for the trip as we now have enough for 4 meals and expect to be eating out a bit too. The shopping centre has a Coles supermarket but this was closed off with NSW Fire Service tape everywhere. It seems that on Saturday afternoon they had a freak storm that left the place covered in hail stones and part of the neighbouring KMart store roof collapsed and the shopping centre was evacuated. Fortunately the Woolworths store wasn’t effected so we went there instead ! We also stopped at a BCF store (camping equipment store) and managed to find an adaptor that will let us use the Coleman stove with our UK gas cylinder when we get it home.
Continuing down the coast we diverted to Seal Rocks to take a look but it wasn’t really the weather for a stroll on the beach. It’s probably a nice place to visit on a sunny day but not so much on an overcast, windy day…
After another brief spell on the Pacific Highway we arrived at Norm’s property where we’ll be camping for the night. A good camp fire, a trip to the pub for some food and setting the world to rights back around the camp fire before bed. Sadly no sign of the Koala though 🙁
Tomorrow we’re thinking of heading to the Watagans National Park as it’s due to be a tad windy and the trees will give us a bit of shelter. Our final schedule for the trip for the remaining days is likely to be…
Tuesday night, Watagans NP, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday night at North Narabeen where we can head into Sydney for a day or two’s sightseeing, Saturday and Sunday night at Lane Cove camp site where we’ll clean, repack and dispose of excess/perishable stuff prior to delivering the Land Rover to Botany Bay on Monday morning and catching the flight home.
Kylie’s Beach – with a permit you can drive on the beach, all the way to Crowdy Head which is about 12km down the beach.
We managed to avoid the Pacific Highway altogether today by following a mix of minor surfaced and unsurfaced tracks down the coast. On the way we passed through the Crowdy Bay National Park to have a look at Kylie’s Beach as a possible stop for the night.
We’d hoped to walk one of the trails in the park that starts at Diamond Head, we knew the camp site there was closed but when we got to the access road found that all access was closed so we continued south to the other spots.
Kylie’s Beach was nice enough and we considered staying but in the end the draw of sufficient Telstra coverage to watch the F1 and showers for the morning swayed the decision and we continued south.
A River Turtle crossing the unsurfaced road south of Kylie’s Beach
We were travelling pretty slowly on the unsurfaced roads as we were in no hurry. This turned out to be a good thing as we came across a River Turtle crossing the road which, fortunately, I avoided running over ! After reversing up and taking a couple of pics of it I carried it across the road just in case any other vehicles happened along the road before it managed to cross. There was marshland on either side of the road so I guess it’s not uncommon for them to cross the road in that area.
The lighthouse at Crowdy Head
We detoured into Crowdy Head itself and went up to the lighthouse to do a bit of whale watching. There were lots of people up there doing the same but the whales were a long way out. The lighthouse was very picturesque, at least I though so anyway. It’s another Victorian period building and is still in use as a lighthouse today.
We had lunch in Harrington before heading into the camp site and setting up. 5 dots of Telstra 3G so shouldn’t have any problems watching the F1, should be a good race.
Tomorrow we’re heading to Tea Gardens to stay on a property there owned by one of the marshals for our group in the 2008 OBC. We’re hoping that as well as catching up with him the young Koala he spotted a couple of weeks ago is still around.
The front of “Roto House”
A bit of a slow start this morning as we didn’t have to leave the camp site until 12 although, in the end we were off the site before 11am anyway. We stopped off in South West Rocks for brunch (coffee and custard tarts !) before heading off down the minor road to Kempsey.
At Kempsey we joined the infamous Pacific Highway again to take us down to Port Macquarie.
We chose Port Macquarie as our destination for tonight for two main reasons. The first reason is that there is a decent Koala population in the area, together with a dedicated Koala hospital. The second is we wanted to get somewhere with good Telstra reception so we could watch the Formula 1 qualifying live 🙂
The first goal has had a 50% success rate! we visited the Koala hospital and went on the guided tour, seeing the Koalas that are being prepared for release and also those that are no longer capable of supporting themselves in the wild. Sadly we’ve yet to see a Koala in the wild as such but we did pick up some tips on how to spot them at the hospital !
One of the Koalas being prepared for releasing into the wild, at the Koala Hospital
Alongside the hospital is an old, by Australian standards, house, the “Roto House” which has been restored and houses a museum tracing the history of the family that built the house and lived in it. We’ve visited a number of these “Historical museums” in Australia and the majority consist primarily of donated collections of Victoriana that the museums have accepted and feel they need to display even though it has a tenuous, at best, connection with the place in question. Often the “exhibits”, particularly the larger ones, just seem to be left outside to slowly rust or rot away. The “Roto House” seems to have avoided this trap for the most part and the artifacts and exhibits show the history of the family and are pretty much limited to items that have a direct connection. It gives a real insight into the specific family members that lived there during the house’s relatively brief history around the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Our second goal of the day was met with a better than expected result when it turned out the camp site has free unlimited WiFi throughout the site, enabling us to watch the Sky coverage rather than the Channel 10 coverage on the Sky Go app. An excellent qualifying result it was too with Massa getting pole !
Tomorrow we’re thinking of heading to Harrington for some guaranteed Telstra although there’s a site in the Crowdy Bay NP (Kylie’s Camp) which looks nicer but may not have Telstra.
The main cell blocks inside the outer wall at the Trial Bay Gaol
These final days of the trip are becoming more difficult, there’s a definite sense of us marking time rather than progressing towards a goal. As we plan the final days and nights of our trip backwards from a week on Monday when we fly out, there’s a real feeling that we’re looking for something to do before then and coming up short on motivation and ideas.
We’d hoped that today would shake us out of that a bit as we headed to Trial Bay to stay at a camp site adjacent to the ruins of the Trial Bay Gaol.
It was only a short trip from Nambucca Heads to Trial Bay of around 70km so even the inevitable roadworks on the Pacific Highway couldn’t delay us for long so we arrived at 11am with plenty of time to look around the gaol ruins and the museum.
A view of one of the cell blocks, all the ironwork that could be cut away and scrapped has gone, including the upper story walkways.
The gaol was interesting and in fairly good condition. It was created in the late 19th century as part of a public works programme to build a breakwater for Trial Bay using more hardened criminals. When progress on the breakwater was slower than anticipated and the gaol seemed to be an embarrassment to the prison reform process, the gaol was closed.
It was reopened for a short period during the First World War when it was used to house German nationals as potential spies. It was closed again in 1917 after an alleged sighting of a disguised German warship off the coast led to claims that they might be planning to rescue the prisoners. After the war all the prisoners, including naturalised Australians were repatriated to Germany.
Trial Bay, another day, another beach 🙂
From what I can gather, due to an oblique reference in the museum, Trial Bay itself gets it’s name from a ship called “Trial” that floundered in the bay in the mid 19th century.
Tomorrow we’re going to head to Port Macquarie, probably for a 2 night stay. Our main interest in this town is the Koala population that may give us our first sighting of Koalas in the “wild”. There’s also a few museums and a Koala hospital there that will keep us occupied and hopefully help shake off this feeling of marking time a bit.
The marina and beaches at Coffs Harbour
Today was when of the rare days on this trip where our plans in the morning are thwarted. In this case by a mixture of mapping errors and road closures.
It all started well enough as we headed for our first destination of the day, Coffs Harbour. It’s one of those places that everyone seems to know, a bit like Byron Bay I guess, so we wanted to take a look while we were passing.
We headed down our old favourite, the Pacific Highway which, once again, delivered it’s now familiar string of roadworks. The only consolation is that at least here the roadworks tend to just result in lower speed limits rather than big traffic queues.
Coffs Harbour is a lot bigger than we’d expected, although most of it is set while back from the coast. It seems packed with shopping areas, industrial estates, tourist attractions and so on but when you eventually make it to the coast all of that seems to disappear. The marina, the beaches and
Another view of Coffs Harbour from Muttonbird Island
Muttonbird Island that stands at the entrance to the harbour all seem to make up a small but busy harbour area. From the island you’d never guess at the huge town that is hidden behind the beaches.
After walking up to the top of Muttonbird Island and then selecting our choice of yacht in the marina for when we win the lottery we decide we’d head off towards “The pub with no beer” where we would stay the night.
The first part of the journey was back on the Pacific Highway again until we could turn off to a small town called Bellingen. This is about 20km inland from the highway and would allow us to take the minor gravel roads to Bowraville and then onto The Pub With No Beer.
We had second breakfast in Bellingten (coffee and custard pies) and headed down the minor road to Bowraville. It was shortly after this that our plans went awry as we came to a fork in the road there was a yellow warning sign telling us that there was no access to Bowraville on the left fork that we would have taken. A quick look at the HEMA maps showed that the right fork, though slightly longer would also take us to Bowraville and we assumed that’s why only the left fork had the warning sign.
After about 14km of this part gravel, part tarmac road the road seemed to diverge from the road marked on the map. Where the map showed the road turning south the road actually seemed to follow the course of a river, heading west into the middle of nowhere. We followed the road for another 5km or so in the hope that this was just a minor difference between the map and reality before having to make a decision. Time was starting to be an issue as we didn’t want to end up finding a camp site in the dark or navigating roads that don’t exist on the map.
Camp set up at Nambucca Heads – a bit of a tropical feel under the palm trees
We initially turned back and drove to the point where the road diverged from the map and could find no sign of the road as it was mapped. In the end all we could do really was head all the way back to Bellingen and find somewhere we could get to in the time available.
We selected Nambucca Heads as it was easy to get to on the Pacific Highway and far enough south to make us feel we’d made some progress ! It probably means that we won’t get another chance to head inland again though now.
Tomorrow we’ll probably head to Trial Bay Gaol, sticking to the coast this time !
It seemed a shame to leave Plumbago Beach this morning but we really needed to find a site with more amenities so we could catch up on some laundry and get a shower. The weather also seemed to be closing in a bit with some localised cloud cover coming in from the ocean.
We decide to head about 80km down the coast to a Big4 camp site at Emerald Beach, a site that gets good reviews on WikiCamps and has full facilities, even free WiFi !
The trip down the coast was OK as we headed down the Pacific Highway but there were quite a few stretches with road works that meant we had a few delays. Road works aside though it’s quite a nice road to drive along nice scenery along this stretch and not too busy.
Emerald Beach itself seems a nice enough place and the camp site is pretty good for it’s type. Pam got the laundry done and we both had showers and then we gave the local pizza place a try – very good it was too with proper wood fired pizza ovens.
After pizza we sat alongside the communal camp fire that the site management light each night and had a beer before retiring for the night.
Tomorrow we might head inland a bit after a quick visit to Coffs Harbour on the way.
We’ve started to plan our final nights and think about how we’re going to get the Land Rover ready for shipping again. Looks like we’ll be in Sydney in another week… Scary how quickly the last part of our trip is passing.