This section of the blog will go into detail about our time in each location. It will be more of a journal than anything else and will include things we enjoyed, as well as any aspect we might do differently if we were to plan it again.
Day 183 – Monday 4th February
Eager to get back into a routine after our busy weekend at Spotless Stadium watching the Sydney 7’s, we got up in reasonable time and headed straight to the gym. The workout certainly helped gear us up for the NFL so we grabbed some supplies for brunch before settling in for a few hours cheering on the LA Rams.
The double-layered pulled pork nachos we made were so tasty we demolished the lot in record time! (Can you tell James missed meat during Veganuary?) We were really excited that James’ mum and dad were joining us later in the evening so we packed our bags and took the train to our AirBnB for the next few nights.
It was huge! There were three floors, three bedrooms and two bathrooms with a large kitchen and dining room area. It was much bigger than we needed, or so we thought…
Joe and Beth had kindly let us stay with them for the whole of January so as a thank you we took them out for dinner. We strolled down to Darling Harbour, only as short walk from our new digs, and tried to decide where to eat. We settled on Nick’s and filled our faces with steak and chips.
On the way to the train station we passed through Chinatown. It was extremely busy because of the Lunar New Year; the shops and restaurants were packed full and there were people celebrating in the streets. It took a while to get through as there were so many bodies to dodge! When we finally reached the train station we boarded the train and said our goodbyes to Joe and Beth when we arrived at the airport stop. It was really lovely of them to let us stay for so long and we were very grateful!
Rushing through the International Airport we checked the arrivals boards and, sure enough, Steve and Linda had arrived. We seemed to stand waiting for them for absolutely ages, terrified they would see us before we were ready. When they eventually came into view about half an hour later James quickly ducked behind a group of people so they wouldn’t see us until they were through the barriers. They had absolutely no idea we were coming and were so surprised to see us. It was great to see them after being away for six months, I think we all had tears in our eyes!
Little did we know they had a much bigger surprise for us…
The taxi pulled up on the road adjacent to our AirBnB and, as we walked down the street, there were two people stood outside our house gate. James and I were very confused and I thought the house must have been double booked. Until we got a little closer.
I soon realised it was Scott and Emily, James’ brother and his girlfriend! They had booked to come and visit us with Steve and Linda back in October and had decided to keep it a secret. It was the best surprise; we had absolutely no idea they were coming AND they were also staying for the whole month!
Completely overwhelmed we made our way inside to get them settled in and take in the news. It was already 21:30 so we went straight out for a couple of drinks at The Rocks to catch up on the last few months and how on earth everyone managed to keep it a secret for so long!
As we walked around the Harbour we could see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge all lit in red for the Lunar New Year. It was a beautiful night to give everyone a tour of the area.
Day 184 – Tuesday 5th February
Jet lag had kicked in and by the time James and I got up, the others had been awake for a couple of hours. Scott and Em had been out for breakfast supplies and Linda was on with the cooking. Steve and Linda fancied a walk so we strolled down to and around Barangaroo Reserve before making our way towards The Rocks for a coffee. I hadn’t been to Barangaroo Reserve yet and couldn’t believe how beautiful it was down there, not to mention the views of the Harbour and Bridge.
For Christmas, we had bought them tickets for a boat cruise with a three course meal so, after picking Scott and Em up from the house, we wandered down to Darling Harbour. We arrived in perfect time, or so we thought, to wave them off on the boat.
It turns out their boat was leaving Circular Quay, a 15 minute walk away from where we were in Darling Harbour, in less than 15 minutes. Whoops! James jumped in a taxi with them, hoping to make it in double quick time, while the rest of us walked. The traffic was so bad they got about halfway there before deciding to jump out and run the rest of the way! In the meantime, we were talking about how funny it was (providing they actually made it in the end) and how we had all seen the booking confirmation and none of us had noticed it was the other pier!
The three of us arrived at Circular Quay just as the boat was pulling away. We had no idea whether Steve and Linda had made it and James was nowhere in site. Thankfully, they had reached the boat in the nick of time and were happily setting sail out of the Harbour. Phew!
We found James and wandered up to George Street to show Scott and Em around the shops before nipping to Woolworths to get supplies for lunch and whipping up a quick feast of burritos. They were so good!
Around 15:00 we went to meet Steve and Linda off the boat. They’d had a lovely afternoon, sailing around the Harbour, enjoying a beautifully cooked meal and taking in the views from the stern of the boat. As they exited the Captain Cooks Cruise ship they had to hop back on board another boat as we took the ferry across to Manly to spend the late afternoon on the beach.
They chilled on the beach while the rest of us tried our hand at body surfing. There was a guy who was incredibly good and catching every wave from behind us to the shore and each time we tried we were sucked in and spat out; I’m sure he was chuckling to himself. He said the trick was to stay on top of the wave but James said he just kept sinking!
After relaxing on the beach playing World Top Trumps for a while, the lifeguards called over the tannoy that a lot of bluebottles (jelly fish) were coming in with the tide and they had quite a few people visit them for first aid with stings, including children, one of which we could hear screaming over the tannoy. We decided we’d had enough of swimming for the day! Shelley Beach was a short walk away around the coast so we strolled along the coastal path where we watched people swimming and crabs having their dinner on the rocks. At Shelley Beach we continued a little further to the Shelley Beach walking track and lookout point. The views were stunning from the clifftop and we couldn’t resist a group selfie!
Ready for dinner after our stroll, we wandered back into Manly town and picked a rooftop bar offering half price food. We had a fantastic view of Manly Beach and the food was delicious! Absolutely shattered we took the ferry back to Circular Quay and headed back to the house for an early night before another busy day ahead.
Day 185 – Wednesday 6th February
Our alarms went off at 4:45am and, surprisingly, we were all pretty fresh! We left the house at 5:20 with the aim of getting the 5:35 bus from Circular Quay, however, there were lots of roadworks and the bus stop had moved temporarily meaning, as we arrived, we saw the bus driving of into the distance. Shortly after, a bus to Bondi pulled up so we decided instead of missing the sunrise we’d just complete the walk in the opposite direction.
We arrived in Bondi in perfect timing; a few minutes before the sun came up. It was so busy, with people chilling on the beach, swimming in the Bondi Icebergs and running along the coastal walk. We had told the others to expect lots of people but when they actually saw for themselves how busy it was they couldn’t believe it!
When we reached Tamarama Beach we spotted a pod of dolphins just off the coast; it was the first time we’d seen them and it was incredible! We spent the rest of the walk strolling around the headlands looking out to sea in the hope of seeing more marine life but had to settle with playful dogs enjoying a dip to cool off.
Arriving in Coogee we demolished the breakfast of croissants we’d brought with us and had a much needed drink. We spent a while sunbathing, taking the weight off our feet and Steve and Linda went for a paddle. Shortly after arriving at Coogee Beach the lifeguards warned people to stay out of the water as bluebottles were being washed in with the tide (a similar story to Manly the previous day). Again, we decided against a swim so spent a couple of hours lapping up the rays. About 11:00 we were all sweltering in the heat so, unable to cool off in the sea for risk of being stung, we took the bus into town and wandered back to the house via Subway and a few shops (that had aircon!)
After lunch and a couple of hours rest we got ready for our last night in Sydney. We strolled down to Darling Harbour to Casa Italiano Ristorante where we ate a delicious combination of pizza and pasta. It was a lovely meal to end our time in this enormous city and we were ready to finish off with a couple of drinks. The first stop on our mini pub crawl was Cafe del Mar where we appreciated the incredible view over Darling Harbour and the surrounding area. One expensive drink later we moved on to The Grand Hotel, then the Fortune of War (the oldest pub in the world) then the Lord Nelson…
Day 186 – Thursday 7th February
It was time to check out and leave Sydney behind for some more adventuring so, while the men went to collect the hire car, we packed up and moved the ridiculous amount of luggage we had outside, hoping the boot would be big enough to fit everything in. Steve had booked an 8 seater and the boot was absolutely tiny! We put down part of the back seat and had to cram everything into the small space. We had backpacks under our feet, Linda was propping up the suitcases and the eggs were in the glovebox! And we hadn’t even been to the supermarket yet…
By the time we left the supermarket in Penrith there was no space under any of our feet (except the drivers, Steve); there were boxes of beers and bags full of shopping, not to mention the car sweets! The drive up to Katoomba took no time, especially with the tunes, sweets and views.
The house we were staying in was 50 metres away from Echo Point, a viewpoint overlooking the Three Sisters and Blue Mountains. It was jam-packed with tourists so we visited the information centre to get some hiking ideas for our short time here. As it was already later afternoon we decided on a quick walk to the Three Sisters and back. The tale goes that three brothers from a rival tribe wanted to marry the sisters but they must only wed inside their tribe so the local witchdoctor cast a spell on them to turn them to stone while a war ensued between the two tribes. He planned to return them to human form after the battle, however he was killed during the battle and therefore unable to reverse his spell, and so they remain.
They were a beautiful sight from Echo Point, but even more incredible when we got up close and sat underneath them. The steps up from the Three Sisters were a lot steeper going up than they had seemed on the way down!
Back at the house Scott and Em made fajitas for everyone before we set off for sunset at Cahill’s Lookout, only a few minutes drive away. Unfortunately it was very cloudy so we couldn’t see the sun but there was a phenomenal storm in the distance across the valley which was incredible to watch. James got his drone out for the first time in over six months as his parents had brought it out for him. The view over the valley was beautiful, running for miles and we stood watching the lightening storm for a while before we got chilly and headed home.
Day 187 – Friday 8th February
James and I got up at 5:10 for sunrise. From the bedroom window it looked cloudy and like there wouldn’t be much to see but when we went outside the stars were bright and the sky was clear so we set off to Govett’s Leap Lookout. We were the first ones there, closely followed by just one other guy. The sunrise was one of the best we’ve seen, with the sun shining rays of light across the tops of the trees in the valley below. We stayed watching it for over an hour, taking photos and getting the drone up to see the waterfall in the distance.
By the time we got back to the house everyone was up so we grabbed breakfast and got ready for a long morning of hiking. We drove to the Grand Canyon hiking loop and began the 6km hike around the Blue Mountains. The first part of the hike took us down a lot of steps into the valley, through caves and under a small waterfall until we reached a turning for Beauchamp Falls.
Scott had been desperate for a swim since arriving in Australia so we took it and made our way towards the waterfall. The path became even more uneven and the climb down to the top of the waterfall was treacherous, with the handrail (which was useless) broken. Scott slipped down the rock and Steve banged his head on a rock but we made it and were rewarded with a stunning view over the stream.
After admiring the view and beauty of the waterfall we climbed back up to the path (where James banged his head on the same rock Steve had) and made our way to the foot of the falls. The pool wasn’t as deep as we had expected but, having taken the detour, Scott, James, Em and Steve decided to take a dip anyway. They struggled their way over the algae-covered rocks to a deeper section of the pool (only up to their knees) until they noticed something in the water. Em had asked what the few orange things in the pool were and we’d all just said they were rocks but it turned out they were crayfish. We hadn’t expected there to be crayfish in the freshwater pools up a mountain but there they were, crawling about the rocks. James put the drone up however the GPS wasn’t very strong and it was darting about all over the place. He managed to take a couple of photos before quickly bringing it safely down!
The walk back up to the Grand Canyon Track was a bit easier than the way down and there were no tumbles which was a bonus! But once back on the track it was all uphill from there, just steps after steps after steps. Eventually we made it to Evan’s Lookout where the hike finished and everyone was elated to get back in the car! We were all ready for food, except Steve who was ready for a beer, so we headed back to the house for lunch and a nap!
In the evening we wandered into the town for dinner and a few drinks. We had booked a table at The Old City Bank Brasserie where the food was absolutely delicious, however the less said about the service the better. The staff were extremely rude and obnoxious. It’s safe to say we didn’t stay long!
Day 188 – Saturday 9th February
Having had a few days off from going to the gym James and I got up early and began our tour of Australian Anytime Fitness gyms. We felt much better after stretching our legs, which were aching from the previous day’s walk!
After breakfast we set off towards the Hunter Valley Region in the hope of stopping for a spot of wine tasting. But first, after a couple of hours driving, we made a pit stop at a small market shop that sold a pretty decent apple pie and ice cream. At First Creek Wines we sat outside on the balcony in the sunshine and tried all the different ‘grapes’. The wine connoisseur was really funny and talked us through the array of wines. In fact, she was so good we came away with 13 bottles of wine from them! As we left the winery we passed a huge farm shop with a full car park so we stopped off the see what was going on. The place was absolutely packed! While we decided what to buy, we took advantage of the free tasters and marvelled at the various meats, cheese, ice creams and cakes. Eventually we came away with enough meats, cheese and rocky road to feed us for a week! The apartment in Port Stephens was lovely, with an incredible view out over the Karuah River. Scott and Em went for a paddle and it was perfect timing for James to get the drone out as the sun was beginning to set.
After a while we became pretty peckish so James and I went out to pick up a mammoth takeaway for everyone; as usual we had ordered way too much food! We spent the evening grazing on the balcony and planning some more of our trip.
Day 189 – Sunday 10th February
Steve, Linda, Scott and Em were all up with the larks to watch the sunrise; James and I slept in a bit longer! After a few busy days hiking and travelling we headed down to Little Nelsons Bay to chill out on the beach for a few hours. It was absolutely red hot so we spent the day sunbathing and taking regular trips into the water to cool off! The current was extremely strong and would sweep us around the bay where we had to get out and walk back to the start again, think of it as a lazy river, albeit a bit more dangerous!
By mid-afternoon we’d had enough of the heat and took ourselves off to the AirBnB, with a stop at Red Ned’s Pie Shop first of course. There were so many pies to choose from it was insane! We had decided to have a BBQ on the balcony for dinner so did a quick Woolworths shop before heading back. It was another evening of grazing with food from the BBQ and snacks while we watched the sun go down on another fantastic day Down Under.
Day 190 – Monday 11th February
James got up at 02:00 to watch England in the Six Nation Rugby tournament while I managed another couple of hours sleep before he woke me up at 04:00 to go to the gym. In our wisdom we had decided that, since James would already be awake so early, we would go to the gym then hike up Tomaree Mountain to watch the sunrise. At 04:00 it didn’t seem like such a great idea!
Nevertheless, we had a great gym session and managed to get to the top of the mountain just after 06:00 before the sun rose.
It was perfect timing and the sunrise was absolutely beautiful! We spent a while at the top, taking in the incredible views before wandering back down for a bit of a chill at Zenith Beach. James thought he had found a shortcut through the ‘bush’, although I’m pretty sure it took us longer than walking around and, as James made a path in front of me, he noticed a GINORMOUS spider hanging right next to his head. I was videoing at this point and all you can hear is me saying, “where are you going? Don’t leave me!” as James darted off into the distance away from the eight-legged monster.
Zenith Beach was the perfect place to let our heart rates lower from our near miss (yes, we thought the spider was going to kill us!) As it was still quite early we had the entire beach to ourselves and it was absolutely stunning! It certainly wasn’t a bad place to spend a Monday morning!
Back at the apartment some parrots joined us for breakfast and got close enough for us to feed them. We spent a long time just relaxing on the balcony before packing our bags for our next destination, Port Macquarie. It wouldn’t be a car journey without some snacks so we stopped off at Red Ned’s Pie Shop on the way.
The new AirBnB was lovely, with the elderly owner residing on the ground floor while we took the top floor with a beautiful balcony overlooking the town. We wandered into town and had a drink in Chop ‘n’ Chill overlooking the sea before demolishing an indoor BBQ and getting an early night.
Day 191 – Tuesday 12th February
My birthday is 13th February and my parents had bought me a surfing lesson so, after a hearty breakfast, we all headed down to Lighthouse Beach so everyone could watch me get chewed up and spat out by the waves (although I only hit the deck properly once!) The surfing lesson was fantastic and the lady who took me was extremely funny, introducing me to an Australian song “Sadie, The Cleaning Lady” which I had never heard before (but have since been told about it on numerous occasions!)
While I was in the sea, everyone else chilled out on the beach and played cricket. After a drink and some food in the cafe we set off back up the coast, stopping off at a few beaches along the way. At lunchtime we stopped at the cafe at Flynn’s Beach where there were so many school children having what looked like a lifeguard lesson. They were all running around posts dug into the sand and racing each other into the water. It was fun to watch!
Further up the coast we stopped at a park to play a game of ‘tree cricket’; I’m not sure if it’s a real game or one we just made up but it was great fun. It was another extremely hot day and after a while we were hot and bothered and ready to head back to the apartment.
In the evening we went back down to Chop ‘n’ Chill for a few drinks. Scott and Em fancied having dinner there while the rest of us had a hankering for fish and chips so we wandered off to find a takeaway. I don’t usually eat seafood as I don’t like the taste or texture but I tried some fish and a bit of calamari and didn’t hate it so that’s an improvement! My mum will be very surprised! We spent the rest of the evening back at the apartment with another early night ready for a long day ahead.
Day 192 – Wednesday 13th February
When I got up, the kitchen worktop was covered in birthday cards, bubbly and a cake, it was a lovely surprise! When everyone was up we tucked into a breakfast of choccolate cake and bubbly while I opened my cards and presents.
We had a long drive ahead of us so we packed up once again and set off on the 500km trip to Tamborine Mountain.
After an hour and a half we stopped of for a pie (pies seem to have overtaken McDonalds for us!) before continuing on for another hour and a half to Byron Bay. We spent just over an hour in Byron Bay, wandering down to the beach and around the shops. James, Scott, Em and I fancied Mexican and found a cute little place, Chihuahua Taqueria, to eat.
James and I then found an ice cream store where you could pick your own toppings so we grabbed one to cool off before meeting everyone back at the car for some more driving.
Two hours later we arrived at our next stop of the day, Angourie Blue Pools. We spent an hour or so cooling off in the water and even jumping off the (small) cliffs into the pools. It was a bit of a smaller jump than the one at Mermaid Pools and I was feeling brave! With another two hour to drive to reach our next destination and home for a couple of nights, Tambourine Mountain, we piled back in the car.
Arriving at our AirBnB we did the usual thing of looking around the place. Someone noticed there was a possum sitting outside on the balcony eating his supper. We watched in awe as it was the first possum we had seen! Linda cooked us up some chicken pasta and we spent a relaxing evening chilling out, happy to be out of the car!
Day 193 – Thursday 14th February
Everyone awoke at 07:00 to a kookaburra eating breakfast on the balcony. Actually, I think everyone woke up because James and Steve were cooing over the kookaburra and shouted at us to come and see it! It was taking food out of their hands but kept on spitting it out, no matter which bird feed they gave it. After a while (and a google) we realised it was a carnivore! Luckily for the bird we had some chicken pasta left over so the guys began to feed it the chicken. It really threw the chicken around, presumably trying to ‘kill’ it, before demolishing the lot.
Close to the house was Esme Lahey Environmental Park so we wandered across the road for a walk. There were so many flies! The walk was okay but short with not a lot to see so we strolled back to the house to get ready for a venture into town. The town was small and we soon found a restaurant, Clancy’s Irish Bar, to book a table for the evening. After a quick stop at the supermarket we headed back to the house for lunch. Scott and Em were shattered so went back to bed for a couple of hours while the rest of us went for a walk to Curtis Falls.
The walk was lovely, however we couldn’t swim in the falls as they were full of protected glow worms. We weren’t too disappointed though as the water was quite dirty! After the walk we strolled around the shops and art gallery, and of course the chocolate shop, before spending the next couple of hours relaxing back at the house.
In the evening we had a family Valentine’s Day meal at Clancy’s, which served absolutely fantastic food, including Pork Belly and Beef and Guinness Pie! By the time we’d eaten and had a few drinks we were ready to stagger back to the house.
Day 194 – Friday 15th February
With another full day planned we hit the road early to meet Ashton, a friend from home, and his Australian girlfriend, Sienna. After a catch up and breakfast at a cute little place, Le Vintage Boutique we were energised and ready for a day at Wet ‘n’ Wild, a huge waterpark on the Gold Coast.
It was an awesome day trying out all the slides, relaxing in the lazy river, wave hopping and sunbathing in the blazing sun. Absolutely shattered after a day racing down slides we drove to Hervey Bay and picked up a takeaway!
Day 195 – Saturday 16th February
Scrambled eggs got us through the early morning as we drive to the Marina for a boat trip around Fraser Island. We had chosen Tasman Ventures and they turned out to be an amazing company to go with! They can usually cater for around forty people but today there were only ten of us; excellent!
One of our first stops was a viewpoint looking out over the island. It was a pretty steep climb up the sand dunes but made for a fun run on the way down! A short walk took us to a creek where we cooled off in it’s freezing cold water – okay, maybe a slight exaggertion, but it was bloody cold!
We couldn’t believe how big the island was as we sailed along the coast. Throughout the day we snorkelled, kayaked up a creek (which almost resulted in some couple break-ups!) and had a ride on an inflatable rubber ring being pulled by a speedboat. Highlights of the day definitely include seeing a sting ray while snorkelling and turtles while kayaking! We had an incredible day and would absolutely recommend Tasman Ventures to anyone looking to do a boat trip around Fraser Island.
Back at the house we all showered and got ready to go for the evening. Despite being absolutely shattered we managed a couple of hours at the Beachhouse bar where we demolished either seafood or meat platters and a drink or two.
To be continued…
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