Crossing briefly into Victoria from Eden one passes through the area known as East Gippsland – pretty, forested, but otherwise quite remote, our route took us on to Cann River before heading north up into Australia’s famous Snowy Mountains region. Now, it was late November ( and hence, almost summer ) so our expectations were “managed” as to how much snow we’d see ( we glimpsed a bit ! ) but regardless of the scarcity of snow, it’s simply a beautiful area with a unique look given it’s obviously higher elevations.
There’s a distinct alpine feeling to this whole area. Home to most of Australia’s best ski areas, “The Snowy” as it’s known locally, is also home to ( what was then, in the late 1940’s ) Australia’s largest engineering feat, the Snowy Mountains Scheme. A massive undertaking that would require 25 years to complete, it’s basically a gigantic water diversion program ( via dams and giant tunnels ) built to harness the power of water from the snow runoff for both irrigation and the production of power. Every Aussie kid learns about it in school ( we did back in my day, anyway ! ) and its enormous demand for skilled labour was a catalyst for early waves of European immigration into Australia in the immediate post-war era. A fascinating museum tells the story in Cooma, where the scheme is still administered. Sadly, due to high winds while we were there, we were not able to take the chairlift to the Mt. Kosciusko viewpoint ( from which one can do the 13km return hike to the actual summit, Australia’s highest point ) – a real disappointment. A shorter, lower valley hike was the next best option but we may get another crack at Mt. Kosciusko on our way to Tasmania in the new year.
Our plans from the Snowy Mountains took us north through Canberra then west out via Wagga Wagga to parts of the Riverina, our interest primarily being to explore some of Griffith’s great wineries given that our turn inland from the coast had delivered the improved weather we were seeking – not hard to enjoy Griffith’s fine wines ! Circling back to Forbes ( sort of our home base in Oz ) a quick visit was made with family before driving on to Sydney where this segment of our Australian adventure goes on “pause” for a few weeks. Lois is flying back to Canada for a few weeks ( missing our new grand daughter too much ! ) while I head back to Temora to join my brother and his wife. I’ll be borrowing their hangar ( regular readers may recall they live in an airpark ) to park up the van and do some long overdue cleaning, general maintenance, minor repairs and a few ( very minor ) redesigns. I need space, a flat concrete floor, a roof over my head, access to tools and power – and they have it all !
We’ll re-start the blog just after Christmas at which point we head south ( via the Victorian coast ) to Melbourne and then on by ferry to Tasmania – our last Australian state. We want to thank our readers for following along with us in 2023 and sending us all your comments. Both Lois and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !
Prior to leaving Sydney there were a few developments ( some good, some – well, certainly disconcerting, if not exactly bad ) with regard to future travel plans in our van beyond 2023 ( precious little of which remains – where did this year go ? ). Our Carnet ( the “visa” for our vehicle effectively ) is expiring in December and an extension request had been submitted to AAA in October – this, fortunately, was approved so we are now good to keep it here until December, 2024 ( if we wanted that is – we actually plan to ship it out early in 2024 but that at least gives us peace of mind in the event of any shipping delay ). On the not so good news front, it’s becoming obvious that shipping out may not be as easy as we had hoped and as a consequence of that ( you guessed it ) also somewhat more expensive than we’d hoped. More on that as we get more detailed pricing to hand but for now we need to keep our plans, shall we just say, “flexible” !
The plan heading south in NSW was to stick pretty close to the coast and after a leisurely drive through Stanwell Tops, Port Kembla and Kiama we caught up with long time school friend, Sonya, who is blessed to be living in Gerringong, a town which must surely be one of the real gems of the South Coast. It’s a great little community, greener than Ireland ( currently anyway ! ) and with amazing beaches, wineries, farms as well as a host of hip little local eateries and cafes – a sort of, southern Byron Bay without the crowds. Loved our time there and also got to catch up with relatives, Elaine and Barry. Easy to see why they all love this town!
Just south of Gerringong is the Jervis Bay area, hugely popular with summer holidaymakers and already getting busy with the summer “season” still over a month away. There were two places we wanted to check out – Hyams Beach, famed for its pristine white sand, and, just a little further south, Bendalong beach, known for the huge manta rays that swim right up to the beach. Neither disappointed – but if you want to feel something really creepy, allow a giant manta ray to swim up beside you in shallow water and rub against your leg. Harmless, we were assured !!
As we went further south the weather held for a few days, then sadly it started to deteriorate – cooler, cloudier and at times rainy, dimming our enthusiasm for further hikes and and any more swimming. Still, we managed to pick out a few gaps in the drizzle and at least get some exploring done in the communities of Batemans Bay, Moruya, Narooma, Tathra and Merimbula ( generally idyllic places, just not when we were there this particular time ☹️). Eden, a major whaling centre back in the day, is effectively the last town of any size before one crosses to Victoria but the rain made any serious exploration a challenge leaving us to content ourselves with a ( rather wet ) view from the town lookout. Fortunately, the weather was better inland.
Next week we move inland to explore the Snowy Mountains area and Canberra – the nation’s capital.
For all the amazing cities we’ve travelled to during our lifetime, there would be few, if any, that have a more beautiful setting than Sydney – who doesn’t recognize the world famous Opera House, set against the backdrop of the Sydney Harbour Bridge ? If there’s one city in Australia that feels closest to home for both Lois and I, it’s Sydney. I spent a month of every childhood summer here, then all my university years here after that. Lois and I spent a year here together in the early 80’s and of course it has been the first port of call every time we’ve returned home to Australia probably 15 or 20 times over the last 35 years. That said, we never tire of returning and there was great anticipation around this visit ( for a few special reasons ). We’ve experienced its attractions countless times over the years so this time around the plan was to revisit a few of the truly famous sights then spend most of our time here with several close, lifetime friends and to enjoy the simple pleasure of just catching up and spending time together.
There are a couple of other favorites whenever we return – wandering Balmain’s trendy stores and backstreets, exploring the city itself ( the Opera House and “Rocks” area always have plenty going on ), but on this visit we also explored further afield in the Northern Beaches, a corner of the city we don’t often visit. On the south side, “The Shire” always offers up great shopping, awesome beaches, and the natural beauty of nearby Royal National Park. When visiting Sydney one really is spoilt for choice!
Our week in the Sydney area with my aunts, cousins and such long-time friends was a real highlight for us, we loved every minute of it. In the week ahead we’ll begin exploring the South Coast of NSW, a bit of a hidden gem of NSW.
Click below for a link to our latest post. This week you will note that the video clips are via YouTube link ( it’s been suggested to me that it may solve the problem of Gmail subscribers seeing the weekly subscription go into their Trash/Spam folder). We shall see:
The northern section of the NSW coast had indeed been impressive – endless long stretches of white sand, wildlife sightings that we hadn’t expected, quaint towns – even our ventures inland had yielded unexpected treasures. Could the central part of NSW’s coastline possible compare ? In short – absolutely !
Nambucca Heads was our first stop. Widely considered one of the nicest spots on the coast, we’d wholeheartedly agree. The viewpoints and coastal hikes offered amazing perspectives – we had the added advantage of some local area insights from Adrian and Darrell, a couple of like-minded travellers we had met earlier during a stop over in Denham, Western Australia. Wonderful to reunite with them, and as is often the case in these kinds of connections, the more you sit and chat, the more you find you actually have in common. It was Adrian and Darrell who are purchasing a new Sprinter van with a professional conversion, so our visit was timely giving them an opportunity to look closely at our specifications and ask us questions as to design options.
Just south was another interesting part of the coast we’d not previously explored- Trial Bay , South West Rocks, and Hat Head; great beaches, an historic gaol/jail and one of the prettiest lighthouse lookout/hikes we’ve enjoyed so far. Port Macquarie gave us the opportunity to catch up with another old kindergarten “alum” – Julie, and husband Greg joined us for a drink at a nearby pub and gave us some great pointers on the area, both having lived here most of their lives. Wonderful to catch after such a long time !
From Port Macquarie the M1 took us south to Newcastle but we did manage pit stops in Nabiac and Beuladelah, the latter town where we managed to cross paths with my brother and his wife who were returning home to Temora from Queensland. Great to have an impromptu and somewhat unexpected catch up ! Our general preference is to take the side roads when there is a viable option to the motorway and conveniently there was a coastal road south towards Newcastle – hugging the road around beautiful Lake Macquarie one passes Toronto ( yes, there’s one in Australia ! ), Foster/Tuncurry, The Entrance, and Nelson Bay all popular beachside communities and just starting to get busy with the impending arrival of summer holiday hordes.
Newcastle, a city best known for its industry and port, and long in the shadow of more glamorous Sydney just to the south, surprised us both. Yes, coming in from the north you see its gritty port, train lines, massive bridge and industrial area, but go further south and Newcastle reveals its picturesque beachside and lakeside communities, historic downtown and some dramatic beach and cliff side walks. My image of the city has been reformed!
Just west of Newcastle lies the Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s premier wine producing regions, no visit to Newcastle being complete without a short detour west to enjoy its offerings. Unexpectedly quiet ( being just outside high season ), we generally had the wineries to ourselves providing ample time to sample the local fare. Cheese tastings, and even beer tastings, just added to the allure.
A final bonus (for what was already a great travel week ) was the opportunity to catch up with the Bowyer family. Long time friends from Kelowna, they were in Australia doing a tour of the east coast and with some modest schedule juggling we were able to connect briefly just north of the Hawkesbury River. Wonderful to sit, relax, enjoy a beer and compare notes with us heading south and they heading north to many of the places we’d just been.
We are Lois and Jeff, of Kelowna, BC, Canada. Recently retired with a serious overlanding travel bug, we hit the road in our truck camper in May 2019, initially tackling the Pan American highway. The PanAm completed in April 2022, and truck camper sold, we plan to continue exploring again later in 2022 in our Sprinter 4×4!