Journal Entries Archive

Armidale

Armidale – The City of Four Seasons

Armidale_NSW

A picturesque landscape of Armidale with its state-of-the-art edifice resting like jolts of colors in a greener landscape. Source: wikipedia

Halfway between Sydney and Brisbane rests the beautiful city of Armidale. It seats highly on the Northern Tablelands, kiss-and-telling to the multicultural sway of New South Wales. Armidale is known for its countryside setting with lots of forested steeps and coastal plains but not so sorry for its rich ethos and antiquity.

Armidale booms with the courtesy getting around the world. Everything about Armidale bounces back to its simple yet sundry existence. It is home to 25, 000 citizens from 53 different nationalities. The first thing that tourists notice in visiting the place is its unique blend of culture immersed in natural beauty, state of the art technology, and diverse education. But what the residents loved about the place is its four subtropical seasons, it enjoys a warm summer, hues of amber during the autumn, a crisp winter, and an exciting spring. Unlike any other place in Australia, its distinct season is the reason for its “new England” moniker.

Summer in Armidale is characterized by warm days but not so humid as compared to other cities in Australia, making it quite comfortable.  Base camp with day walks is a cool spot for summer activity. Beaching is not even a word, compared to festivals, music, theater, markets, and book fairs. Summer is also the best season to visit the Aboriginal Cultural Centre down the road, which features teasingly enriching display of Indigenous art. A small sweet café serving some imaginative picks of bush tucker rests near the area for refreshment.

As leaves turn yellow and fall, day temperatures are still warm, particularly March and April. Rains become sporadic and nights are colder, with thunderstorms getting lesser and lesser. The first frosts of the year occurs in the last days of April but unlike any other cities in Australia, winter in Armidale is milder and trifling. Cold frosty mornings are usually succeeded by warm sunny days, seemingly conducive for fun all-time outdoor activities.

Spring in Armidale blossoms to be the best season of the year, starting in October. Temperature is milder while winds get cool and smooth. This is the time of year where you can feel a lighter stroke of sunlight slowly varnishing the area.

Booloominbah_House _Armidale

The Booloominbah House with the calm blue skies draping its background.  Source http://bit.ly/1HXSedK

A Taste of Armidale Culture

A two-day tour in Armidale is virtuous but a weeklong vacation is superb. There are plenty of things to do in Armidale, with lots of heritage buildings, tree-lined streets, spectacular waterfalls and natural parks to witness. Enjoy a road trip along the Waterfall Way, stopping at cascades and rugged gorges in the craggy countryside. A great collection of colonial age architecture and reputed education centers also await in the City Centre.

You can spend a few hours from your hotel room observing a picture-perfect surrounding or leverage the great outdoors. Take on exciting new dimension up high to see the ravines or recce a trout fishing jaunt with friends. You won’t run out of options.

The coffee shops are exceptional. People here are known for their strong passion and good standard of coffee. Its cafes, from small batch roasters to wholesale coffee suppliers are absolutely marvelous. If you’re a lover of coffee, Armidale is a refuge of your favorite flavors and even more.

Another thing that gives Armidale a unique verge is its wineries and vine yards. Your tour is incomplete without setting foot at New South Wale’s largest wine region. Armidale’s cool weather allows it to produce high-altitude wines. The biggest wineries are located on the western edges, dramatically mantling the New England tablelands.  Don’t forget to include in your list the top wine producers such as the Blicking Estate, Topper’s Mountain, Wright Robertson of Glencoe and Zappa Wines.

zappa_winery_bartender
This friendly bartender will meet and greet you at the Zappa Winery. Source: www.newenglandwines.org.au.

Shopping Spree

This is life in Armidale, simple yet sanctified with a modest seasonal cycle that is inordinate for an assortment of fun-filled activities. But what you might not know is that Armidale is also a shopping haven, housing three shopping malls with over 40 specialty retail stores, and 100 boutiques and wholesalers.

The mixture of large and small shopping chains cater to both upper and middle class shoppers. Your budget might be tight, but who can resist to low-priced selection of styles, jewelries, and silvers in the shopping district? Hail to visitors who love leather goods, antiques, arts and crafts – Armidale is yours.

Armidale_eastmall
The stunning Armidale Plaza. Source: http://www.armidaleexpress.com.au/

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Camden

Camden, about an hour’s drive southwest of Sydney, is the birthplace of Australia’s wool industry. We stopped for a short stay in this quaint and very historic little town, one we’d often driven through but had never previously stayed in. Camden is part of the Macarthur region, named after the pioneers John and Elizabeth Macarthur and, indeed, hundreds of pioneering families began their new life in this region.

A riverside tourist park in Camden

Welcome to Camden

Welcome to Camden

We arrived on a Saturday morning and settled into a cabin at the Poplar Tourist Park ([star][star][star][star_half]) for our brief stay here. Nestled on the banks of the Nepean River, the park offers cabin accommodation as well as powered sites and a camping ground that has no amenities.

After settling in it was time to explore with our first stop being the Visitor Information Centre. But to really appreciate the historic, and in many cases heritage listed, buildings, it was wise to leave the car and walk. And walk we did.

 

Camden has many historic and heritage listed buildings

St Paul's Catholic Church (c. 1859)

St Paul’s Catholic Church (c. 1859)

We parked the car outside St Paul’s Catholic Church and, of course, the church was our first stop. St Paul’s was built in 1859 on land donated by James and William Macarthur, the youngest sons of John and Elizabeth, and in 1860 Camden became a separate Catholic parish. I would have liked to have gone inside but the church wasn’t open and so I contented myself with a few photos in the grounds.

John had wandered across the road to Camden Court House. This historic building is also on land donated by the Macarthur brothers. The original buildings, the cells and the Constable’s residence, were timber

Camden Courthouse (c. 1859)

Camden Courthouse (c. 1859)

structures and were built in 1841. The present building was completed in 1857 and new cells were built in 1859. John was fascinated by the workmanship of the old building. They built them to last back then!

Beside the Court House is the Council of Camden Community Memorial Garden. We took the time to wander through the garden but we didn’t take the Memorial Walkway that would have taken us past the Equestrian Centre, I could see something that really piqued my interest and I was impatient to go and have a look.

St John’s Anglican Church has to be Camden’s most visible landmark. Sitting on top of a hill, it overlooks the entire town. John wasn’t too happy about the walk up the hill, he wanted to go

St. John's Anglican Church (c. 1849)

St. John’s Anglican Church (c. 1849)

back for the car and by the time we’d reached the top I was beginning to think he was right. Not that I would have told him that! But what a magnificent structure! The foundation stone was laid in 1840 and the construction completed in 1849. We strolled through the grounds for a while and discovered a plaque set into the ground, a memorial to an amazing and little known piece of Camden’s history.

A mystery disappearance

The memorial is to the crew and passengers of an RAAF plane that went missing in this area in April 1943. They had taken off on, what is today, a relatively short flight from Sydney’s Mascot Aerodrome to Essendon in

Memorial to the missing RAAF Aircraft (1943)

Memorial to the missing RAAF Aircraft (1943)

Victoria via Forest Hill, today a suburb of Wagga Wagga, in southwestern New South Wales. The estimated arrival time at Forest Hill was 12:30 hours and they were reported overdue at 14:00 hours. The last positive sighting of the aircraft was made in the Camden region. Of course, the plane could have gone down anywhere and to this day has never been found. It is safe to assume, though, that the occupants are not alive today. There have been a number of searches, official and otherwise, over the years but the fate of the plane, its 2-man crew, and its 3 passengers is unknown.

 

Lunch in Camden

By now we were definitely ready for some lunch and we wandered into the Elm Tree Café for a bite to eat. A sandwich and a cup of coffee and we were soon on our way again. I wanted to see Camden Park House, which was to be the family home of John Macarthur, the father of Australia’s wool industry. Macarthur and his wife, Elizabeth, arrived in Sydney in 1790 and by 1794 were beginning to experiment with

Elm Tree Café (photo courtesy macarthur.com.au)

Elm Tree Café (photo courtesy macarthur.com.au)

cross-breeding of sheep to improve wool growth. In 1805 he was granted 5000 acres of land in what is now the Camden district. Construction of Camden Park House was begun in 1832 and completed in 1835, the year after John Macarthur died. It has become one of the greatest mansions of Australia and is still occupied by the Macarthur family. The house is open to the public only on the 3rd weekend in September and so we couldn’t go inside but I did want to have a look at it.

First night bubbly in Camden

The afternoon was fading and it was time to head back to the cabin for the night and, of course, we had our bottle of Two Tails Sparkling Wine waiting for us. We took our bottle and wandered off to the Tourist park’s camp kitchen for our first night bubbly but unfortunately the temperature had plummeted and so we returned to the cabin for dinner and a quiet night.

First night bubbly with Two Tails

First night bubbly with Two Tails

Around Camden

The next morning was frosty, to say the least, but by the time we’d packed up our gear and made ready to leave it had turned into a nice, sunny day. There are many, many historic and heritage listed buildings throughout Camden and the surrounding district and we were sorry we didn’t have time to see any more but there were 1 or 2 places I simply had to go today. The first was Macarthur Park. The park was given as a gift to the people of Camden in 1905 by John Macarthur’s granddaughter, Elizabeth, and officially opened in 1906. Inside the park is the Cenotaph honouring World War I soldiers and the park is home to Camden’s War Memorial.

Macarthur Park

Macarthur Park

By the time we arrived at the park the temperature was moving upwards, not nearly as fast as I would have liked but upwards nevertheless. We stopped at the park for a short while and strolled through the gardens. There were many families and groups enjoying the grounds, having picnics or simply relaxing in the sun. We wandered along the paths for a short distance but didn’t stay long and soon were back on the road out to Camden Airport. I wanted to see the gliders and Camden Airport is home to one of the largest gliding clubs in Australia.

Air Combat Australia, Camden Airport

Air Combat Australia, Camden Airport

Aviation Adventures in Camden

There are all manner of aviation adventures available at Camden Airport and not only gliding. There are helicopter flights, a company called Air Combat Australia offers flights in a jet fighter, and flights in a variety of aircraft including bi-planes. And hot air balloons! One could be almost spoiled for choice. I was amazed at the sheer number of craft taking off and landing and the absolute silence of the gliders but, given more time, I would have loved a balloon flight. John has no interest in the balloons, he’d rather a glider or a jet fighter; one extreme to the other, really. But today, for us, it wasn’t to be. Lack of time meant we had to get on the road again, and soon.

Wines and heritage go hand in hand in Camden

However, there was one more stop we simply had to make and Gledswood Homestead and Winery was beckoning. Gledswood Homestead dates back to the early 1800’s and some of the first buildings to be built still stand today.

Gledswood Homestead and Winery (c. 1816?)

Gledswood Homestead and Winery (c. 1816?) (photo courtesy macarthur.com.au)

They were made from the local sandstone. A large tour group had arrived just ahead of us so we thought we would make a quick stop but billy tea and damper was on offer and I wasn’t passing that up!

After our cup of tea we wandered around the grounds for a while, watching the working dogs, those kelpies are fantastic the way they keep those sheep together, and the whip cracking and boomerang throwing displays. Then it was over to the Coach House for a little wine tasting before we reluctantly said goodbye. It was time to head for home.

Farewell to Camden . . . until next time

Camden is a great place for a short stay or even a long one. From the wool industry to the wine industry, Camden has a story for everyone. It is the birthplace of some very well-known Australians, too. Steven Bradbury, Australia’s first winter Olympics gold medalist, Mat Mladin, world motorcycle champion, and Professor Graeme Clark, the inventor of the bionic ear, to name a few. But anyone who fancies themselves as a history buff, like me, could become so completely immersed in it all that you’d never want to leave. The area has so much to see and do and we barely scratched the surface. More than enough reason to come back sometime.

2015

DISCLAIMER

The information contained in this journal is derived from our personal recollections of our visit to this town or region and is correct as at the time of publication. austracks accepts no responsibility should any of this information be incorrect or misleading due to changes, improvements, or upgrades that may have occurred to places and/or attractions since our visit.

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Albury

Albury, the second largest city in inland New South Wales, lies on the banks of the mighty Murray River, in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, and on the border of Victoria. With its twin city of Wodonga it is a major regional centre and it simply begs to be explored! Steeped in history, Albury was one of the towns originally selected to be the capital of Australia.

A top place to stay in Albury

We rolled into Albury on a sunny but cool autumn afternoon and made our first stop at the local visitor

685 Welcome to Albury (Small)information centre. Well armed with brochures and pamphlets we left the centre and made our way to our accommodation. We’d chosen the Hume Inn ([star][star][star][star_half]) for our brief stay here. The Inn offers motel accommodation with breakfast included for a very good price. It was perfect for our stay.

First night bubbly with Two tails

There are no real gardens at the Inn and so we wandered over to Australia Park for our first night bubbly with our bottle of Two Tails Sparkling Wine. It was quite pleasant at the park but when the sun started to go down so did the temperature and we returned to the Inn for dinner and an early night.

First night bubbly with Two Tails

First night bubbly with Two Tails

Exploring Albury

It was windy and quite cold when we awoke the next morning but we weren’t about to let that stop us. We wandered down to the river, the magnificent Murray River and strolled along the banks watching a fellow in his canoe and thinking how cold he would be out there. We followed the Murray River Trail from the Mitta Mitta Canoe Club out to Noreuil Park and the mooring for the old paddlewheeler, PS Cumberoona. The old vessel has been, for a number of years, inoperable and badly in need of restoration. Albury City Council hopes to have the vessel returned to the water by the summer of 2015/2016.

Canoe on the Murray River

Canoe on the Murray River

History lives in Albury

From there we wandered down Kiewa Street to the magnificent St Matthews Anglican Church. The original church was designed by Edmund Blackett, the designer of the University of Sydney and Sydney’s St Andrews Cathedral, and was built in 1857. The church was enlarged in 1876 and remained largely uncompleted until fire destroyed all but the stone walls in 1991. It was rebuilt to its former splendour and reconsecrated in 1994. Much of Blackett’s original design was included in the new structure.

 

Albury and heritage

St Matthews Anglican Church (photo courtesy Dirk Spennemann)

St Matthews Anglican Church (photo courtesy Dirk Spennemann)

There are many heritage listed buildings in Albury and we decided to walk down to the railway station which has a history all of its own. It was constructed in 1882 by John Whitton, considered the Father of New South Wales Railways, and was 455 metres (1493 feet) long, at that time the longest in Australia. Victorian Railways used a broad gauge line and New South Wales Railways used the standard gauge line which meant that travelers in either direction had to change trains in Albury, thus necessitating an extremely long platform.  This changing of trains continued until 1962 when the standard gauge line was extended to Melbourne in Victoria.

Railway Station Platform (photo courtesy NSW Rail)

Railway Station Platform (photo courtesy NSW Rail)

Albury and aviation

Albury also boasts the second biggest regional airport in New South Wales but it is the racecourse that has some aviation history. In 1934 a Douglas DC-2 airliner of KLM made an emergency night landing on the racecourse after becoming lost in severe thunderstorms. After refueling the next day, local volunteers were able to help pull the stranded aircraft out of the mud and it was able to take off again and finished its flight to Melbourne.

Albury, home of the Ettamogah Pub

By now it was time for us to return to the Inn for the night. Tomorrow, after all, was another day. The next morning was just as cold but the wind had died down and we set off to visit the original Ettamogah Pub at Table Top, just outside Albury. The famous Ettamogah Pub is a cartoon pub from cartoonist Ken Maynard

The very first Ettamogah Pub at Table Top

The very first Ettamogah Pub at Table Top

who so enjoyed the area called Ettamogah at Table Top that when he created the cartoon he used the named. The pub was built in 1987 and now houses the Ken Maynard Museum and Art Collection. A chain of these pubs have been built throughout Australia.

We left the pub after lunch and decided to drive out to Lake Hume, about 10 kilometres (6 miles) from Albury. The dam there took 17 years to build, from 1919-1936 and when full, the lake covers 80 square kilometers (31 square miles). It’s really quite pleasant out at

First World War Memorial on Monument Hill (photo courtesy of monumentaustralia.org.au)

First World War Memorial on Monument Hill (photo courtesy of monumentaustralia.org.au)

the lake and we went for a short walk but time wasn’t on our side today and I did want to visit the war memorial so we didn’t stay long.

The War memorial in Albury

The First World War Memorial stands on Monument Hill and is the most visible landmark in the city. There are gardens around the memorial with individual plaques commemorating those who died in all conflicts where Australia has been involved. We strolled through the gardens for a while, read many of the plaques, and quietly reflected on how many conflicts there have been.

Well known sons and daughters of Albury

A few notable Australians were born in Albury, including tennis champion Margaret Court, actors Richard Roxburgh and Maggie Kirkpatrick, V8 Supercar driver David Reynolds, fashion designer Lisa Ho, basketballer Lauren Jackson, and, of course, Ken Maynard.

An infamous claim to fame 

But Albury has also been the scene of one of Australia’s most famous crimes, the “Pyjama Girl Murder” in 1934. Identified 10 years later as Linda Agostini, there is now some evidence to suggest that she was not the Pyjama Girl and that Mrs. Agostini’s husband was wrongly accused and imprisoned.

Sadly our visit here in Albury had come to an end and it was time to move on. We’d seen and experienced quite a bit here in only two short days but of all that we had seen and done there was one thing that stood out; there is still much to see and do in Albury. We’ll be back.

2015

DISCLAIMER

The information contained in this journal is derived from our personal recollections of our visit to this town or region and is correct as at the time of publication. austracks accepts no responsibility should any of this information be incorrect or misleading due to changes, improvements, or upgrades that may have occurred to places and/or attractions since our visit.

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Bulahdelah

Bulahdelah, on the mid north coast of New South Wales, is known as the Gateway to the Myall Lakes. Located at the junction of the Myall River and the Crawford River, the name is derived from the Aboriginal word meaning “meeting of the waters”. We’d often been asked why we didn’t have Bulahdelah on our website and honestly couldn’t give a clear answer. Obviously, a trip to Bulahdelah was well overdue. And so, on a sunny and quite hot Friday afternoon10 Welcome to Bulahdelah (Medium) we packed up the caravan, loaded our little dog into the car, and off we went to explore this great little town right on our doorstep.

Where to stay in Bulahdelah

With the recent completion of the Bulahdelah bypass there was certainly no traffic to contend with and it didn’t take us long to roll into the Alum Mountain Caravan Park ([star][star][star][star]). We were more than pleased by what we found there. What a great park! We’d driven past it so many times and didn’t realise what a fantastic place it is. Spacious sites, great amenities, and extremely friendly people. The couple camped next to us, Mike and Carol, had been there for a week and were in no hurry to leave, they liked it that much!

Exploring Bulahdelah

We had the camp set up in a few minutes and set off to explore the area. There are so many places to

Riverside Park

Riverside Park

explore here that we were spoiled for choice. The town is bordered by the Myall Lakes National Park, the Myall River State Forest, Alum Mountain, and the Wang Wauk State Forest but with the heat that afternoon we headed for the Myall River. Riverside Park, right beside the Plough Inn Hotel, is a great place for a picnic. On the banks of the river, there are sheltered picnic tables, a walking path, and some great views of the river and Alum Mountain. Opposite the park is the Lions Park, a rest area with overnight camping permitted. There were quite a few vans and motorhomes already setting up for the night. What we didn’t realise at the time was that this was the weekend of the famous Bulahdelah Bass Bash, a catch-and-release competition run by the Bulahdelah Fishing Club.

First night bubbly

First night bubbly

First night bubbly

We wandered around the park and chatted to a few of the locals for a while and then decided it was time to head back to camp to get ready for dinner. But first we had our bottle of Two Tails Sparkling Wine waiting for us to toast another new adventure. We settled in beside the pool, in the barbecue area, and raised our glasses to Bulahdelah and the Alum Mountain Caravan Park. Then it was time to get ready for dinner.

Dining in Bulahdelah

There are a large number of places to eat in Bulahdelah but a pretty fair proportion of them close their doors long before the dinner crowd makes an appearance – and by this I mean even the early dinner crowd. And so our choices were fairly limited. So we decided on dinner at the bistro at the pub and we set off for the Plough Inn Hotel. Well, we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner there that night. Of a higher standard than your basic pub fare, the food was delicious and we’ll certainly be making a return visit to this one. Our only disappointment was in our own decision to sit inside instead of outside overlooking the river. By the time we made our way back to camp we were more than ready for sleep. John took BJ to do what all little dogs have to do before bed and I think I was asleep before they even got back.

Bulahdelah

The area’s first inhabitants were the Worimi Aboriginal people and in 1818 the explorer John Oxley came

Alum Mountain

Alum Mountain

to the area. Overlooking the town is Alum Mountain and from the lookout there are some spectacular views of the whole area from Cabbage Tree Mountain, west of town, to the coastline. The mineral alunite was discovered here in the 1870’s and the mountain was mined until 1927. The whole Bulahdelah area also has a strong logging history and that continued up until 1994 when political pressure from conservation groups resulted in much of the land becoming national parks or state forests.

The Grandis, NSW tallest tree

We rose early the next morning to do a little more exploring and our first stop was The Grandis. Located in

John at The Grandis

John at The Grandis

the Myall Lakes National Park, it is estimated that this magnificent flooded gum is over 400 years old. The tree itself is 84.3 metres (277 feet) high  and is 2.7 metres (9 feet) in diameter at breast height. Magnificent doesn’t really describe this behemoth or the plant world. I felt sure I was going to end up with a stiff neck trying to take a photo up to the top of it! We stood on the platform and gazed in awe at the sheer size of it. The platform and fence protect The Grandis so you can’t get too close to it and that’s a good thing; it’s a sad fact that without the fence to protect it chances are it would end up covered in graffiti or worse.

Bulahdelah Mountain

Rather than head back to Bulahdelah we decided to continue on along the Old Pacific Highway, or Wooton

The old Pacific Highway over Bulahdelah Mountain

The old Pacific Highway over Bulahdelah Mountain

Way as it is now known, and travel the “dreaded” Bulahdelah Mountain. It was in 1999 that the Mountain was bypassed in the Bulahdelah to Coolongolook highway upgrade but before that the mountain road was the only way to travel north from Sydney along the coast. The road twists and turns, it is narrow and steep in parts, and in one area notorious for accidents there are concrete blocks down the centre of the road. Of course, today driving along the Old Pacific Highway is a breeze, we didn’t pass or see another vehicle the whole way, and the landscape is stunning! Such a beautiful rain-forest type feel to the whole place.

The Lakes Way

We stopped for lunch at The Salty Dog Seafood Café in the little town of Coolongolook, 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Bulahdelah before making our way back via the Lakes Way from Forster, a little further on.  We stopped briefly at Smiths Lake, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Bulahdelah before turning off on the road to Seal Rocks.

Seal Rocks

Seal Rocks Lighthouse

Seal Rocks Lighthouse

We’ve been to Seal Rocks many times over the years and it’s a place we never get tired of visiting. John was grumbling because he hadn’t put the fishing rods in but I was more interested in a visit to the Seal Rocks Lighthouse. This lighthouse is one of only two in Australia with an external stairway and guards a treacherous rock formation nearby. Established in 1875, it is built on a point of land known as Sugarloaf Point. In 1879 one of Australia’s most tragic shipping disasters occurred off this lighthouse when the vessel Catterthun sank with the loss of 55 lives. The light is operated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and became completely automated in 1987. We left the lighthouse and wandered down to the beach for a stroll along the sand. Even though the sun had started its downward journey it was still hot on the beach. The light breeze wasn’t much help. It was time to start heading back to camp.

Another day in paradise

Sunday dawned hot and John headed off for an early morning dip in the caravan park’s pool. The water,

The pool

The pool

according to him, was great and he was a tad reluctant to get out but he did want to spend some time at the river before we had to leave and I wanted to visit the Great Lakes Winery. Down at the river the Bass Bash was in full swing with boats leaving and coming almost continuously. John settled in for a while and chatted to a few other spectators. The competition is open to everyone, young or old. But there’s only so long I can sit staring at people fishing no matter how good the day is and so I wandered off to the old Bulahdelah Courthouse.

Bulahdelah Courthouse

It seems that Bulahdelah has quite a colourful past and, being the history buff that I am, I was fascinated. Built in 1886 the Courthouse is now a museum and is a Heritage Listed building. The sandstone blocks used for the building were shipped out from England in the early 1880’s and each block has a number on the back of it. Out the back are the cells

Bulahdelah Courthouse

Bulahdelah Courthouse

and back in the colonial days they were considered the most comfortable cells of any courthouse in the world! Inside, the history of the pioneers was really interesting and especially how the old timber bridge across the river was built and the story of the Bulahdelah Tornado. The most destructive tornado ever documented in Australia swept through the Bulahdelah State Forest on New Years Day 1970 and left a damage path 22 kilometres (14 miles) long and 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) wide.  I was totally absorbed in the history when John arrived to remind me that we wanted to visit the winery and so I reluctantly left the courthouse and the history behind but made a mental note to pay another visit soon.

Great Lakes Winery

Once more we drove the old Pacific Highway to Wootton on our way to the winery and again we didn’t see another car. However we did see a few motorbikes and these guys must think this is Eastern Creek! It was a case of just getting out of the way and doing it smartly! I was really looking forward to a visit to the winery and so you can imagine how disappointed I was when we arrived to find the place closed. The winery is 2 kilometres (a little over a mile) from the main road, along an unsealed road. The sign at the turn-off said “Winery Closed” but we thought we’d drive down anyway just on the off-chance that someone had forgotten to take the sign down. But no such luck, it was indeed closed. Disappointed, unimpressed, but what can you do.

Time to leave

And so, it was time to head for home. It had been a great couple of days and we certainly learned a bit more about this interesting little town. There’s a lot more to see and do in Bulahdelah and we certainly hope to be able to explore it some more in the not-too-distant future. And John wants to fish in the river.

 2014

The information contained in this journal is derived from our personal recollections of our visit to this town or region and is correct as at the time of publication. austracks accepts no responsibility should any of this information be incorrect or misleading due to changes, improvements, or upgrades that may have occurred to places and/or attractions since our visit.

 

 

 

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Goulburn

46 Welcome to Goulburn (Medium)

Welcome to Goulburn

Goulburn, on the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales, is the only town in the world where you are greeted by a giant sheep! Seriously! Leave the highway at the southern entrance to the town and you will drive past the Big Merino, at 15 metres (49 feet) tall it is the world’s largest concrete sheep. Built in 1985, it is a monument to the district’s fine wool industry for which the area is famous. Prior to the bypass opening in 1992 this was the main highway to Sydney and many a traveller marveled at this unlikely guardian of the town. But with less passing traffic, Rambo, as it is known was stranded in No Mans Land. In 2007 the entire structure was moved 800 metres (½ mile) closer to the highway exit and received a new lease of life with a resurgence in popularity.

Accommodation in Goulburn

We arrived late on a Tuesday afternoon and quickly settled into our accommodation at the Willows Motel ([star][star][star][star]).

Gardens at the Willows Motel

Gardens at the Willows Motel

The Willows hadn’t been our first choice though. We had intended to stay at the Goulburn South Caravan Park and, in fact, had made a reservation some days earlier. So you can imagine how annoyed and frustrated we became when they told us that they were unable to get an internet connection and so they couldn’t let us have a cabin in the park. Whatever an internet connection has to do with giving us the cabin that we had booked, I don’t know. No offer to assist with other accommodation, we were simply told to go and find a motel somewhere! One thing is for sure, we will never recommend that caravan park to anybody and we certainly will never attempt to stay there again. The people at the Willows, however, were truly fantastic. We had no reservation there and at a time when most accommodation was full due to Parliament sitting in Canberra, they found us a cabin with no trouble. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

First night bubbly in Goulburn

First night bubbly with Two Tails

First night bubbly with Two Tails

It was too late by the time we were in our cabin to worry about visiting the Tourist Information Centre and so we settled in for our first night bubbly with Two Tails Sparkling Wine. We chose to sit out in the motel gardens amongst the blooms that were quite spectacular. Whoever is in charge of the gardens here really has done a fantastic job. I should have such a green thumb! We toasted our first night in Goulburn and it really was quite pleasant there with the fragrance of the garden all around us. But with the sun setting the temperature dropped and before too long we were back inside the warmth of the cabin.

History lives in Goulburn

Goulburn, Australia’s first inland city, is steeped in history. In 2013 Goulburn celebrates its 150th birthday but the area was opened to settlement much earlier than that. In fact, the colonial government made land grants to free settlers as early as 1820. To a history buff such as myself, Goulburn is pure heaven. The city

Artwork at the Tourist Information Centre

Artwork at the Tourist Information Centre

holds the unique distinction of being proclaimed a city on two separate occasions. The first, unofficial, proclamation was by Royal Letters Patent issued by Queen Victoria in 1863 and the second, the official one, under the Crown Lands Act in 1885.

Exploring Goulburn

Early the next morning we set off for the local Tourist Information Centre. With very limited time here we wanted to see all we could before we had to leave. The Centre is a fantastic resource and the staff members a veritable hive of information. I wanted to visit some of the heritage buildings and it was suggested we walk up to St Saviour’s Cathedral via Belmore Park. Sounded good to me and with sturdy footwear we stepped out to explore.

The Heart and Soul of Goulburn

Belmore Park is right in the centre of town but back in 1833 it was the city’s market square where all sorts of merchandise was exchanged, including livestock. That is hard to imagine today with its neat paths, magnificent trees, and carefully manicured gardens. Many people refer to the park as the “heart and soul of Goulburn” and it still plays host to a number of community activities including its annual Carols by Candlelight. We wandered around the park for some time. I’d like to say we were lost in its tranquillity, and admittedly it is very peaceful there, but I was more interested in the history.  We stopped briefly at the Temperance Fountain, a bit of an oddity in this day and age. It was built in 1886 as a gift from the Temperance Society. I think they were trying to tell the people of Goulburn something because, at the time the city boasted some 74 pubs or similar establishments!

Boer War Memorial

Boer War Memorial

Of all the memorials in Belmore Park, one of the most prominent ones is the Boer War Memorial. Constructed in 1904, it consists of three sections, topped with a carved marble statue of a trooper, complete with rifle and bandolier. The detail is truly amazing and was hand-carved in Italy. At the top end of the park is a Rotunda. Built in 1897 at a cost of £80, it celebrates the record reign of Queen Victoria.

Goulburn’s historical cathedrals

I could have spent all day in the park but John was starting to make noises about moving on so we wandered up the hill to one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in Australia, St Saviour’s Cathedral. The foundation stone was laid in January 1874 and the cathedral, as it stands today, was completed in 1884. However, the cathedral remains incomplete; the tower and spire depicted on the original architectural drawings were never completed. Still, it is beautiful and we wandered through the grounds marvelling at the detail in every one of the carvings in the stone. At the front of the church are some historical graves, including that of Mesac Thomas, the first Bishop of the Anglican Diocese.

St Saviours Cathedral

St Saviour’s Cathedral

We left the cathedral grounds with every intention of making our way back towards the information centre when something caught my eye. Now John has often said that I can spot an historical building a mile away in heavy fog and he could be right. Not far along the road is the Old Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, the only greenstone cathedral in the world, and I had to have a look. The first mass was celebrated in Goulburn in 1833 however construction on this cathedral didn’t commence until 1871.

Time for coffee

By now, John was tired of churches and memorials and so we strolled back down Verner Street and along through the main shopping street until we found a coffee shop. There are any number of cafés along there and we decided on the Paragon Coffee Lounge. What a nice place! And the coffee was good too. After our coffee we set off for the train museum; John was itching to go there. Yes, it’s historical but it is something he’s interested in.

The Roundhouse in Goulburn

34 Goulburn Train Museum (Medium)

Train at the Goulburn Roundhouse Museum

The Rail Heritage Centre is located at the Goulburn Roundhouse Museum. The Roundhouse is a huge part of Goulburn’s history as a locomotive depot and the 90-foot turntable, built in 1918, is still in operation today. In fact the Goulburn Locomotive Roundhouse is the largest operating roundhouse in NSW.  John was fascinated with the rolling stock and, I must admit, so was I. Some of these trains date back over 100 years. We found it all quite fascinating and would have stayed for hours but there was much more we wanted to see before we had to leave and so we drove up to the War Memorial and Lookout on Rocky Hill.

Rocky Hill and the War Memorial

48 Rocky Hill War Memorial, Goulburn (Small)

War Memorial Tower on Rocky Hill

It was one heck of a steep climb to get there and I didn’t think our poor old bus would make it up the hill but, back a couple of gears and we chugged along nicely. The War Memorial was built in 1925 and is a tribute to those who served in World War I. The museum wasn’t open that day and John was quite relieved; I think he’d had enough history for one day. But the views from the lookout were outstanding! The view takes in the entire City of Goulburn and the surrounding areas and it is spectacular.

Goulburn Gaol

But, there is only so much time you can spend staring at the view and there was still one more place we wanted to visit. The slight detour along the way to have a look at Goulburn Gaol (also known as the Goulburn Correctional Centre) was John’s idea. Curiosity took us to see the highest security

Goulburn Gaol

Goulburn Gaol

prison in Australia. This place is home to some of Australia’s most dangerous and infamous prisoners. It gave me the willies and I couldn’t wait to leave.

The Big Merino in Goulburn

44 The Big Merino (Medium)

The Big Merino

And so our last stop was a visit to the Big Merino. How could we come to Goulburn and not visit this icon. And how amazing it is. There is a gift shop there and a permanent exhibition depicting  the 200-year history of wool in Australia. It is said that Australia was built on the sheep’s back. Well come to Goulburn and you will realise just how true that is. Named after Henry Goulburn, Undersecretary for the Colonies in the early 1800’s and it became a major centre for the wool industry and, later, a railhead on the main southern line. Many notable Australian’s were born in Goulburn or make their home there including Olympic gold medallist Michael Diamond, George Lazenby, the only Australian actor to play James Bond, former professional golfer, Bruce Devlin, famous Australian writer, Miles Franklin, and actress Kate Ritchie.

There is much more to Goulburn than our one day would allow us to see but that all but guarantees a return visit at some time. And next time we’ll stay a lot longer.

2013

 

The information contained in this journal is derived from our personal recollections of our visit to this town or region and is correct as at the time of publication. austracks accepts no responsibility should any of this information be incorrect or misleading due to changes, improvements, or upgrades that may have occurred to places and/or attractions since our visit.

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Queanbeyan

Queanbeyan, on the border of the Australian Capital Territory, has been described as country living with city benefits and is somewhere I’d always wanted to visit. So, when John told me that he had to go to Canberra and would be staying in Queanbeyan,well you couldn’t have kept me away with a stick!

Welcome to Queanbeyan

Welcome to Queanbeyan

First stop, information on Queanbeyan

We arrived in the late afternoon of a late-winter’s day and settled into out chosen accommodation, The Queensgate Motel ([star][star][star][star]), before heading off to do a little exploring. First stop was, of course, the Visitor Information Centre. These information centres are marvelous; they have a wealth of information on the locality and surrounding areas and we’ve always found the staff helpful and friendly.  And so, armed with brochures and maps, we wandered out to the front of the Centre which is housed in a Heritage building. Built in 1925 for the Municipal Council, it remained a Council building until 1975.

First night bubbly with Two Tails

First night bubbly with Two Tails

 

First night bubbly in Queanbeyan

By now it was getting pretty late and so we made our way back to the motel for our first night bubbly with Two Tails Sparkling Wine but first we made a quick stop by the Queanbeyan River where we watched the wild ducks and geese.  The name “Queanbeyan” comes from the Aboriginal “quinbean” which means clear waters and I wanted to see if the river lived up to that. I’m happy to report that I wasn’t disappointed.

A lot of history in Queanbeyan

There’s a lot of history here in Queanbeyan and in 2013 the town is celebrating its 175th birthday. Founded in 1838 when the population was barely

Information Centre

Information Centre

50, today there are over 40,000 people living here. Gold was discovered in 1851 and that, naturally, attracted bushrangers including Frank Gardiner and Ben Hall, two of our more notorious outlaws. Today Queanbeyan is a major regional centre in the New South Wales Southern Highlands and has a strong sporting culture. It is the birthplace of some of Australia’s sporting legends including Rugby Union’s David Campese, Formula 1 driver Mark Webber, and Test Cricketer Brad Haddin.

Queen Elizabeth Park in Queanbeyan

The next morning we went for a walk to Queen Elizabeth Park on the banks of the Queanbeyan River. It is said that the weeping willows along the banks of the river were grown from cuttings from willows near Napoleon’s grave on St Helena. The river is what is known as a perennial river

Queen Elizabeth Park

Queen Elizabeth Park

because it has continuous flow all year round. The weir was constructed in 1901 and even though it is used for minor irrigation requirements it is somewhat controversial as it has had a serious impact on the fish population.

Queanbeyan’s Sensory Gardens

Inside the park is the Sensory Gardens with plants and activities designed to engage the senses. We walked around the gardens and discovered a whole lot of handcrafted tiles in and around the garden beds. We were told there are about 200 of them and each one has its own unique story to tell. Some of the tiles have stories on them, others have

Sensory Gardens

Sensory Gardens

impressions of local plants, and still more have images on them. It’s really quite fascinating.

Riverside Café in Queanbeyan

17 The Riverbank of Queanbeyan  Café (Custom)

Riverside Café

There’s only so long you can walk around a garden and before too long we were off for a much-needed cup of coffee to warm us on this frosty winter’s morning. We stopped at the Riverside Café situated, as the name suggests, beside the river. We sat outside on the off-chance that we might see some of the native wildlife. The river, itself, is home to a platypus colony and also native water rats but I guess they were being shy on this day because we didn’t see any at all. Nor did we see any of the many Eastern Grey kangaroos that are said to frequent the riverbank. But we did see where they had been and had to be careful where we walked!

John, as usual, struck up a conversation with some other folks in the café. I swear, even in a silent order of monks that man would find someone to talk to! One of these people imparted the (unwelcome?) information that fishing is permitted in the river. Oh joy.  However, the pastime is discouraged to protect the platypus population.

The “Father of Canberra”

John Gale, the 'Father of Canberra'

John Gale, the ‘Father of Canberra’

After our coffee break we strolled along the main street heading back towards the Information Centre. Directly opposite the Centre is Queanbeyan Courthouse but it wasn’t the courthouse itself that captured our attention, it was the bronze statue standing on the corner of the street. John Gale (1831-1929) is called the “Father of Canberra”. He was a newspaper journalist and founder of the first newspaper in the region, The Queanbeyan Age. The Age is still in circulation today. But he’s mostly remembered as a strong advocate of Canberra as the best site for Australia’s capital.

Queanbeyan’s Suspension Bridge

A little further along from the courthouse is the Queanbeyan Historical Museum and I would have liked to have a look inside but the expression of John’s face told me that I’d dragged him into enough museums over the years and he wanted to do something else. I didn’t argue; I was feeling guilty over the fishing or rather my lack of enthusiasm for it. So we decided to drive out to Googong Dam, the largest dam in the Queanbeyan region, but on the way we took a little detour to the heritage-listed Pedestrian Suspension Bridge over the Queanbeyan River. The

Suspension Bridge

Suspension Bridge

original bridge was built in 1901 to replace the stepping stones that had been used to cross the river. I can imagine there were a lot of wet feet, at the very least, in those days! Not to mention the odd inebriated fellow going for an unexpected dip on his way home! The bridge was washed away in the floods of 1925 and they were back to stepping stones until the current structure was completed in 1938.

Googong Foreshores

But with our time here limited we thought we should make our way out to the dam. It’s only 10 kilometres (6 miles) from Queanbeyan to the northern end of the dam so it didn’t take long for us to get there. Well, we would have been there several minutes earlier if the navigator (moi!) hadn’t missed the turn-off! And what a fantastic place Googong Dam is! Googong Foreshores is a significant wildlife refuge but there are also numerous walking and biking paths, some short ones and

John at Googong Foreshores

John at Googong Foreshores

quite a few of some distance, there’s bushwalking and birdwatching, sailing and fishing. In fact, this is the perfect place for a family picnic with wood and gas barbecues in the picnic areas and plenty of open space for kids to play.

Googong Dam, Queanbeyan

43 Googong Dam (Custom)

Googong Dam

We went for a walk to the foreshore and to the Dam Wall Lookout along the Cascades Walk. The water was so still, there wasn’t even a ripple. The dam was completed in 1979 and at full capacity holds more than 121,000 megalitres of water. At the southern end of the dam is a rock formation called London Bridge. Spanning Burra Creek, this natural rock bridge has stood in its present configuration for over 20,000 years. I really wanted to go and have a look at that but it looked like I’d miss out this time.

Things to do at Googong Dam

We returned to the Foreshore carpark and into a small picnic area overlooking the boat ramp. Several kayakers were just pushing off

Canoeing on Googong Dam

Canoeing on Googong Dam

and there were one or two guys fishing. Don’t know if they were catching anything but, as I’ve said before, sometimes the art of fishing has very little to do with actually catching fish. Swimming is permitted but only in the Queanbeyan River below the dam wall. We had noticed a couple of hardy souls taking a dip when we were on our walk. Now, it was a lovely sunny day and somewhat warm-ish but it wasn’t THAT warm! Must have ice water in their veins, is all I can say!

Farewell Queanbeyan

The sun was starting to go down and as it dropped so did the temperature and so we said goodbye to Googong Dam and made our way back to Queanbeyan. Our time here was at an end and we were heading out the next morning. But there’s much more to see and do in Queanbeyan than our short visit allowed and I hope we come back some day. I definitely want to see London Bridge and, who knows, I might even get John into that museum!

2013

The information contained in this journal is derived from our personal recollections of our visit to this town or region and is correct as at the time of publication. austracks accepts no responsibility should any of this information be incorrect or misleading due to changes, improvements, or upgrades that may have occurred to places and/or attractions since our visit.

 

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Forster-Tuncurry

 

The twin towns of Forster and Tuncurry on the New South Wales mid-north coast are said to be the beating heart of the Great Lakes region. Nestled between Wallis Lake and the Tasman Sea and surrounded by National and Marine Parks, it is little wonder that they are one of the state’s premier holiday destinations. We set off on a slightly overcast morning to spend a few days here and see what all the fuss is about. The town of Forster was originally called Minimbah but was renamed in 1870 after William Forster, the, then, Minister for Lands. Tuncurry is an Aboriginal word meaning “plenty fish”. John was hoping the name had real meaning!

Journal Entries - Forster-Tuncurry

Welcome to Forster-Tuncurry

Caravan Park accommodation in Forster-Tuncurry

There’s a vast array of accommodation in Forster-Tuncurry to suit all tastes and budgets but for us it had to be a tourist park so we checked into the Smugglers Cove Holiday Village ([star][star][star][star][star]).  What a fantastic place this is! Our first 5-star park! It had absolutely everything that you could possibly want in a holiday destination, from tent sites to cabins and a range of activities to make your stay the best you could have. You could have a terrific holiday without even leaving the village! The park has a nautical theme, is situated on the banks of Pipers Bay but still almost in the heart of town. The slight overcast was now heavy and a light misty rain had started to fall so we got camp set up pretty quickly. It didn’t look like the rain was going to get any worse but you never know.

Journal Entries - Forster-Tuncurry

Playground at Smugglers Cove

Exploring Cape Hawke and Booti Booti National Park

Only 10 kilometres (6 miles) south of Forster is the Booti Booti National Park, consisting of an 8 kilometre (5 mile) peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and Wallis Lake. The name comes from “butibuti”, an Aboriginal word meaning “plenty of honey”. At the northern end of the park is Cape Hawke Lookout, overlooking Cape Hawke, a coastal headland within the national park. The headland was named by Captain Cook when he passed it in 1770. It is only 420 metres (1378 feet) from the carpark to the summit and lookout and I wanted to have a look. After our trek up to the lookout at Wineglass Bay in Tasmania you would think I would learn, wouldn’t you?  The walk took us through some stunning littoral rainforest with lots of stops along the way, and not just for photographs, before we reached the top. Was it worth the climb? Not at that point but the best was yet to come.

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The walk to the summit at Cape Hawke

A view like no other!

The vegetation at the summit had grown so high that in order to see the view you would need to be about 10 feet tall but the National Parks and Wildlife Service had erected an 8.4 metre (27½ feet) tower that offered a 360° view of the surrounding area. Up there you really are at the top of the world! They say that on a clear day you can see as far as Barrington Tops, approximately 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the west, and Crowdy Bay National Park, approximately 60 kilometres (37 miles) to the north, and what a brilliant place to do some whale watching! But today the overcast made the view less than optimal. It wasn’t terribly good at all. There is a memorial on the summit declaring its discovery by Captain Cook and also a Central Mapping Authority Geodetic Station.

Off-road anyone?

Journal Entries - Forster-Tuncurry

He had to be kidding!

By now the rain was really starting to fall and the afternoon had become miserable so we decided to make our way back towards camp. Along the way John discovered what looked like an off-road track. It was off the road and it was a track; there was nothing more you could say about it. There was no way we were going on that! There was much discussion, mostly with me saying that he was out of his tree, and he was the recipient of “the look” more than once, but finally common sense prevailed.  He was sorely tempted, though.

Fishing in Forster

One of the great surfing beaches here is One Mile Beach and John wanted to stop there for a few moments. Now, his surfing days are well and truly behind him so I wasn’t concerned that he was thinking of taking a dip but mention the word “beach” and, to John, it seems it is synonymous with fishing. We stopped in the car park and took a short walk along the boardwalk of Bicentennial Walk while he decided whether or not he would throw in a line.  The rain had stopped and we strolled through some stunning rainforest while he did his best to convince me that

Journal Entries - Forster-Tuncurry

The boardwalk at One Mile Beach

this was the best time and place to fish. Not that I needed that much convincing; I was feeling a little guilty about putting the brakes on his off-road plans. So we settled in on the beach but it wasn’t long before the rain started again and I went back to the car. It must have been pretty miserable out there for him but he persisted. Sometimes he catches the best fish in lousy weather but today it wasn’t to be. He wasn’t too dejected as we made our way back to camp so it looks like we’ll be having another fishing excursion while we’re here. The weather didn’t look like clearing at all that evening and it was even too miserable for first night bubbly!

Whale Watch Cruise in Forster-Tuncurry

After a night of intermittent showers the sky was clear the next morning and I was looking forward to a cruise on Wallis Lake aboard the Amaroo, Forster-Tuncurry’s premier whale watching cruise. Not that I expected to see whales in the lake but I hoped there would be a dolphin or two. With blue skies and the sun shining it looked like it was going to be a good day. Unfortunately, it was windy and the water outside the lake was rough. Our skipper informed us that we wouldn’t be crossing the bar and going “outside” this day, we would have to stay inside the confines of Wallis Lake for safety’s sake. We departed the wharf a little after 10:00 and cruised around the lake passing oyster leases, for which the area is famous, Wallis Island, and Regatta Island. John mentioned that he’d forgotten his fishing rod and earned a look of disapproval from one of the crew!

Dolphins in the lake

Wallis Lake is one of the cleanest lakes in Australia with crystal clear water year round. It is also very shallow in parts. The Amaroo follows a specific channel where the water is deeper and after we’d cruised

Journal Entries - Forster-Tuncurry

Dolphin crossing the Forster bar

around the lake, and enjoyed morning tea aboard, the vessel made its way out towards the bar and that is where we saw what we came to see. No, not whales, the next best thing, dolphins. Such beautiful and graceful creatures, they frolicked in the waves and actually “surfed” across the bar. Space at the side of the boat was at a premium and cameras were clicking madly. But all too soon we were back at the wharf and our cruise was over. We had a great time and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone visiting the Great lakes.

Lunch at the club

Forster-Tuncurry is full of places to eat, from coffee shops to cafés to restaurants and the hardest decision we had to make this day was where to go for lunch. We opted for Sporties, a sports club in Tuncurry, almost at Tuncurry Beach. The lunch, though nothing fancy, was good and very reasonably priced. Afterwards we drove around to the Rockpool, a netted safe swimming area where there were a few people making the most of a beautiful day. And the Rockpool just happened to be where the Tuncurry breakwall is and that was good enough for John. The fishing rod came out and that was the end of the afternoon.

Fishing in Tuncurry

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The first of many

We wandered out along the breakwall but there seemed to be a lot of people there and it was a bit crowded so we went down onto the beach. I settled in with my book and John cast his line. It wasn’t too long before he had a bite and he reeled in a little dart, the first of many such fish, 6 in all. Unfortunately there was nothing bigger that afternoon and, knowing there was a bottle of Two Tails waiting for us, we didn’t stay long. It was barely an hour and a half before we packed up and headed back to camp. Still, 6 fish in an hour and a half wasn’t a bad afternoon’s work. But it was still early in the afternoon and Smugglers Cove offers so much in the way of entertainment and activities that we thought we might like to spend a little time in the park.

Mini golf at Smugglers Cove

I could quite happily have lounged beside the pool for the afternoon but John had other ideas. A game of mini golf was first and foremost on his mind. I thought, why not? But I quickly came to the conclusion that Tiger Woods has nothing to worry about! From either of us! In fact, the only

Journal Entries - Forster-Tuncurry

Margaret’s about to tee off

way either of us would beat him would be if he was too busy laughing to play! But it was fun and some of those obstacles were . . . different. It was like no golf course I had ever seen.

First night bubbly in Forster-Tuncurry

Later we wandered around the park for a while, visited Peglegs, the entertainment room, took a stroll down to the lake where there were some swans serenely floating on the water, a few people fishing, and the odd canoe and finally wandered back and perched ourselves beside the pool with our bottle of Two Tails Sparkling Wine. It’s here that I should say it was a perfect end to the day but you can’t come to this holiday mecca and not sample at least one of the restaurants in town.

Journal Entries - Forster-Tuncurry

First night bubbly with Two Tails in Forster

Dining in Forster.

The folks at the office recommended a number of restaurants in town, there was almost too many to choose from and so I left it up to John who decided he wouldn’t mind Mexican. So we set off for the Aztec Restaurant. Not a large restaurant but pleasant surroundings, friendly staff, and great food. What more could we ask? Although we did discover that just because something has an interesting name and the waitperson says it’s not THAT hot, that we really shouldn’t order it! Interesting or not, I thought my mouth was on fire and fully expected that my stomach lining would melt! But, in spite of that it was delicious!

Exploring around Wallis Lake

Journal Entries - Forster-Tuncurry

Canoe in Wallis Lake

And so we came to the end of our break in Forster-Tuncurry but there was so much more to see and so after packing up the caravan we drove down to Wallis Lake and went for a walk along the boardwalk. Wallis Lake is 25 kilometres (15 miles) long, 9 kilometres (5½ miles) wide, and is fed by four rivers. The lake is famous for its seafood, particularly the Wallis Lake Oysters. The boardwalk begins in the Forster marina. We followed the path around the lake, past a public wharf, cafe’s and restaurants, to Little Street and the dock where the Amaroo is moored. The path does continue on a little further but I wanted to see more of Tuncurry on the other side of the bridge.

A walk across the Forster-Tuncurry bridge

A little more than 50 years ago there was no bridge; the crossing was done by ferry. The first 2-car vehicular ferry started running in 1922 and was nothing more than a barge with a fence along each side. A launch was used to push the ferry across. Pedestrians usually sat in the launch but women with prams had to stand at the back of the barge. Not terribly safe by today’s standards but Wallis Lake is so shallow

Journal Entries - Forster-Tuncurry

Forster Marina

in parts that if anyone had fallen off they would simply have had to stand up and walk to the shore! The ferry was used for 37 years, with the last one being able to carry 6 cars, until the bridge opened in 1959. The bridge is 631 metres (2070 feet) and is one of the longest pre-stressed concrete bridges in the southern hemisphere. We crossed the bridge on foot and made our way into John Wright Park on the Tuncurry side where we found a wonderful expanse of green grass and an amazing view out across the bar to the ocean.

John Wright Park

John Wright was a boat builder in Tuncurry in the early 1900’s and it is said that he was the founder of the town and the ship building industry there. He built a wooden vessel called Tuncurry in 1903 and she was used to carry general cargo between Sydney and Brisbane. She was lost off Barrenjoey Head near Sydney in 1916. The park is on the land where the original ship building business and adjacent slipway stood. John Wright’s house, called Tokelau, still stands today.

Journal Entries - Forster-Tuncurry

Forster bar at the mouth of Wallis Lake

On the road again

It was time to move on. John was a little concerned about where we had parked the car and he wanted to make sure all was well and that we didn’t have a parking ticket. There’s plenty of parking around the parks on both sides of the bridge but not necessarily for a 4×4 with 18-foot caravan attached! We were soon on our way and heading off down the Pacific Highway to our next adventure but I know we’ll be back because there is so much more to see and do in Forster-Tuncurry; a couple of days there barely leaves a ripple.

Journal Entries - Forster-Tuncurry

The bridge

2012

The information contained in this journal is derived from our personal recollections of our visit to this town or region and is correct as at the time of publication. austracks accepts no responsibility should any of this information be incorrect or misleading due to changes, improvements, or upgrades that may have occurred to places and/or attractions since our visit.

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Scotts Head

 

Scotts Head on the New South Wales mid-north coast is the star on the Nambucca Valley’s Christmas tree! We’d planned a short break in this idyllic seaside town and in the week leading up to leaving the weather was stunning. Sunny skies, temperatures hovering in the low 20’s, and no wind had us looking forward to the break with great expectation. So you Journal Entries - Scotts Headcan imagine our disappointment when we awoke to grey skies,

strong winds, and a few showers on the day we were to leave. Undeterred? You bet!
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Gold Coast

 

Queensland’s fabulous Gold Coast is, arguably, Australia’s premier holiday region. With a wonderful year-round climate, beautiful beaches, and brilliant nightlife, this is the holiday destination of choice for a vast number of Aussies, us included. We arrived at the Radisson Palm Meadows Resort ([star][star][star][star]) on a Saturday in late May. Only a few days away from the start of winter and the days were still sunny and warm Journal Entries - Gold Coastwith temperatures in the mid-20’s, Celsius, every day. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

So much to see and do

There is a multitude of things to see and do on the Gold Coast with more than 50 attractions right in the heart of Surfers Paradise and we were certainly spoiled for choice but with only a few days here we knew there was absolutely no possibility of seeing it all. In fact, we probably wouldn’t even see a tenth of it. Not that we wouldn’t try. But we decided that a visit to the beach was an absolute must, as was one of the theme parks. A canal cruise and some shopping in Surfers Paradise were also on the list and we were determined to sample some of the nightlife. 

Journal Entries - Gold Coast

Coolangatta Beach

A walk on the sand

The beginning of the strip known as the Gold Coast starts at Coolangatta, right on the New South Wales/Queensland border and stretches all the way to Southport in the north. The long, unending stretch of sandy beaches that give the region its name, and the surprisingly warm water, enticed us the next morning to take an early walk along the sand at Coolangatta Beach. With cooler weather not too far off, there were many swimmers and surfers making the most of the sparkling morning.

The “locals” at Currumbin

Currumbin Beach, a little further north, has a great picnic area overlooking the beach. Again there were quite a lot of surfers but not much in the way of waves. The sand close to the water’s edge is hard and very easy to walk on and there were quite a few people taking advantage of it, as we did. It was as we were leaving that we had an encounter with a few of the “locals”. Of course we gave them right of way on the 

Journal Entries - Gold Coast

The “locals”

road, it was obvious that they definitely had no road sense! They just wandered around like Brown’s cows! And right there on the road they were sitting ducks for any drivers who might have been travelling a bit fast. John said if they didn’t move they’d be dead ducks! (puns intended).

A shop-a-holic’s paradise!

Shopping on the Gold Coast is an experience not to be missed. There are several different centres and we chose Cavill Avenue, in Surfers Paradise. The Circle On Cavill is a brand new shopping and leisure precinct boasting an open-air piazza and video-screen entertainment. With all those stores, John made sure his credit cards were firmly out of my reach! There was ‘live’ entertainment, in the form of buskers, performing for the crowds around the piazza and a concert screening on the video-screen. We mingled with the crowd watching the concert for a short while before going for a walk around this vibrant part of the city.

Journal Entries - Gold Coast

Cavill Avenue, Surfers Paradise

Daring sideshow rides in Surfers Paradise

Not far from there we stopped at a fun park where a very brave young lady did a bungy jump, and forgot that she was wearing a skirt, and some adventurous young fellows rode something called the Sling Shot, which I think just about put them into orbit! Traipsing around Surfers Paradise and the shopping precinct all day had left us exhausted and so, laden down with a “few” souvenirs for the grandkids, we headed back to the resort and settled down with our bottle of Two Tails Sparkling Wine to celebrate our arrival. One glass was enough to have me nodding off and it wasn’t long before I was tucked up in bed. The nightlife would have to wait for another time! 

Journal Entries - Gold Coast

First night bubbly with Two Tails

A visit to a theme park is a must

Three of Australia’s best-known theme parks can be found on the Gold Coast and deciding which one to visit was not at all difficult. In previous holidays here we’d each been to Seaworld and Dreamworld and so that left Movie World. The Batwing Spaceshot was the first ride we saw when we walked through the gate – were we going on it? Not a chance! We left that for the somewhat more adventurous types but we stood and watched those brave enough to ride on a rapid 4.5g vertical launch to the top of a 60-metre (200-foot) tower followed by a drop into a terrifying negative g descent! More than one of the people on the ride walked away from it on knees turned to jelly! As I said, I’m not that adventurous!

Rollercoasters. Only for the young and adventurous!

The Superman Escape rollercoaster is another ride that is out of this world! 0 – 100kph (60 mph) in 2, yes 2, seconds!  For those who like their rides a little less exciting there are several in the Looney Tunes Village, including the Looney Tunes River Ride. Now that was more my style! Although when we reached the end there was the possibility of a ride over a waterfall that didn’t thrill me. Luckily that didn’t happen.

A comedy of errors!

The shows beckoned and we went to the Police Academy Stunt Show that had us rolling around in laughter. It was a comedy of errors about a jailbreak and had everything from cars and motorcycles, not to mention a hapless sidecar passenger, to an exploding helicopter! It was a half hour of side-splitting fun and easily the most popular show there! Another of the popular shows is the Shrek 3-D Spectacular where, with the aid of special glasses, we had the characters on the screen virtually sitting in our laps! Outside the Shrek Show we ran into Scooby Doo and he was happy to pose for the cameras.

Journal Entries - Gold Coast

The Superman Escape

Howdy, pardner!

After lunch it was off to Wild West Falls for some cowboy fun! There’s a saloon (not a real one!), the Sheriff’s office, the Wild West Log Ride, and the Undertakers Shop. It was all quite authentic and it certainly wasn’t hard to picture a couple of gunfighters advancing on each other in the main street, or a fight in the saloon, or the bad guy in the black hat being shot and falling off the roof. Or the wagons circling before the Indian attack! Or John Wayne riding into town. You’re right, I’ve seen too many western movies!

A drenching is the reward

The Log Ride looked interesting and I thought I might like to give it a go, until I saw what happened at the end! The “log” would wind its way through the mountain and end with a rapid ride down the waterfall! The occupants of said log becoming drenched in the process. Now if the weather had been really hot I might have been tempted but . . . John decided to try out the wares at Custom Caskets and judging by the amount of dirt in the bottom of it I’d say he wasn’t the first one that day and probably wouldn’t be the last!

Journal Entries - Gold Coast

Movieworld Parade

A parade of cartoon characters

It was time for the parade and we joined the crowd along Main Street and waited for our favourite characters to come into view. From Austin Powers to Cat Woman and Daffy Duck, they were all there. For us it was the perfect end to a perfect day.

A cruise on the canals

The Gold Coast is home to 270 kilometres of navigable waterways, the Broadwater Canal, and there is no more pleasant way to see this part of the region than from a boat. And so, the next day we cruised aboard the MV Jindalee of Broadwater Canal Cruises along the canals and seaways. The Seaway provides safe ocean access for vessels of all types and a deep-water port for container ships. In our 2-hour cruise we saw some of the most expensive real estate we’ve ever seen. Some absolutely beautiful homes, many with their own boat ramps or docks, and boats moored and even the odd one or two with their own heli-pads and helicopters. Our skipper gave us a running commentary on many of the places we saw as well as a bit of information about the canals themselves and the view of the Surfers Paradise skyline from the water was amazing.

Journal Entries - Gold Coast

Surfers Paradise skyline from the Broadwater

Reaching for the sky

The tallest building on the Gold Coast is the Q1. At 80 storeys it is also the tallest residential building in the world. We cruised past the “Love Shack”, a boat that needs no explanation, and the Floating Chapel, which is the venue of choice for many weddings and christenings. Complete with resident Minister, this chapel cruises the waterways on a daily basis. Broadwater Canal Cruises operates 3 2-hour cruises every day, morning, afternoon, and sunset, and provides morning and afternoon tea and a complimentary glass of champagne on the sunset cruise.  

Southport Bar

After our cruise we drove out along The Spit to a park overlooking the Southport Bar where we watched some fellows on surf skis and the boats coming and going while we had lunch. There were also people in the water swimming across the mouth. I thought that they were either very brave or very foolish, depending on whether or not they made it safely. 

Journal Entries - Gold Coast

Conrad Jupiters Casino (photo courtesy Gold Coast Tourism)

A visit to Jupiters

No visit to the Gold Coast is complete without sampling some of the nightlife and we took ourselves off to Conrad Jupiters Casino for dinner, entertainment, and, of course, a visit to the casino. Never having been that interested in gambling before, we were fascinated. We stayed for a while in the casino, watching others more than doing any gambling ourselves although that’s not to say we didn’t have a flutter but I was amazed at the amount of money being lost at the tables.

The show left us breathless!

The show currently playing was Zingara, the fantasy story of a gypsy queen and for a while we were transported to the Europe of old in “a journey filled with music, dance, illusion, acrobatics, and death-defying stunts” that left us breathless. Jupiters is on the Gold Coast Highway at Broadbeach and, believe me, you can’t miss it. It’s bounded on 3 sides by the canals so it’s almost an island unto itself. There are several restaurants and we decided on Zen, reputed to have the best Chinese anywhere on the Gold Coast. We certainly weren’t disappointed; I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed Asian food so much.

Tamborine Mountain

The Gold Coast isn’t only about beautiful beaches and waterways. About an hours drive west of Surfers Paradise is the stunning Hinterland. An area of approximately 7,000 square kilometres (2700 square miles) includes mountain ranges, 7 national parks, and World Heritage rainforests. The Lamington National Park encloses Australia’s largest preserved stand of subtropical rainforest. Tamborine Mountain is a great place to stop for a picnic and to visit the many craft workshops, wineries, and galleries. And there are some spectacular views towards the Pacific Ocean and Mt Warning.

Journal Entries - Gold Coast

The view of the hinterland from Mt Tamborine

Chilly on the mountain

We stopped for a coffee break in the park and as soon as we got out of the car we were reminded that winter is just around the corner and we hastily donned our sweaters. In spite of the chill, it was lovely and I can imagine how beautiful it must be in the winter even though I doubt that they see snow in this area.

Glow little glow worm

Also in this region, Australia’s largest glow worm colony makes its home in the Natural Arch Cave where a spectacular waterfall cascades through the roof and into an icy pool. There are guided tours through the rainforests of the Springbrook Plateau into the Natural Arch to see the glow worms in their natural habitat. At Cedar Creek Winery we ventured into the artificial Glow Worm Cave. Glow worms of course, are best viewed at night but the conditions in these caves allow for viewing at any time. The idea for an artificial cave arose from concern over increased tourism in the Tamborine National Park at night and it has proved to be extremely popular with tourists.

Perfect all year round

The Gold Coast stretches from the New South Wales border in the south to Southport in the north, a distance of some 25 kilometres (15 miles). To coin a phrase, we barely scratched the surface of things to see and do here but we tried to fit in a good cross-section of the Coast. We had a fantastic few days and with the wonderful diversity of attractions and places to visit, and the perfect year-round climate, how could you not have a great holiday?

2007

The information contained in this journal is derived from our personal recollections of our visit to this town or region and is correct as at the time of publication. austracks accepts no responsibility should any of this information be incorrect or misleading due to changes, improvements, or upgrades that may have occurred to places and/or attractions since our visit.

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Gundagai

Gundagai is a small rural town located in the southwest of New South Wales on the banks of the mighty Murrumbidgee River. A town rich in history, a visit here is like taking a step back in time.

Journal Entries - GundagaiPart of the traditional landJournal Entries - Gundagais of the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people, the first settlement was began here in 1829 and the town is well known for the number of bushrangers who frequented the area in colonial times.

 

Bushrangers!

Outlaws such as Ben Hall, Frank Gardiner, and John Gilbert ranged throughout the area but Gundagai can lay claim to its very own home-grown, so-to-speak, bushranger in Andrew Gordon Scott, better known as Captain Moonlite. From a wealthy family he was as bad as any conman or robber in his day. We checked into the Gundagai Tourist Park ([star][star][star][star]) in the early afternoon and settled into our cabin.  After some of the “budget” ones we’ve stayed in recently, this one is positively palatial. A quick drive into town to visit the information centre was next on our list and we were quite surprised at how good the town looked after the recent floods. Even though 99% of the floodwaters are gone there is still plenty of  evidence of the flooding but the folks here have done a fantastic job of cleaning it all up. We had dinner that night at Lott’s Family Hotel in the main street in town. The food was delicious even though only standard pub fare but it wasn’t too long before the dining area was taken over by a large, and rowdy, family group and so we left early.

Journal Entries - Gundagai

First night bubbly with Two Tails

First night bubbly with Two Tails

It was still daylight when we arrived back at our cabin and so we sat outside on the balcony with our bottle of Two Tails Sparkling Wine to toast our first night here but it had been a long day and it wasn’t long before we were off to bed. We awoke the next morning to absolutely freezing conditions and it’s not even winter yet. Don’t know if I’d like to be here in the winter, I’m not a snow-bunny! I hoped the day would warm up before we set off to explore Gundagai but it wasn’t to be and so, rugged up to the eyeballs we set off.  Well, believe me, it didn’t take long; this town is not what you would call large but it is interesting.

Historical Gundagai

There are so many historical sites here and I couldn’t wait to see the old railway viaduct and Prince Alfred Bridge, and the historical railway station, to name a few. The Prince Alfred Bridge is the longest wooden bridge ever built in Australia. Built in 1866, it was completed in 1869. It remained in use for 110 years until it was replaced in 1976 by the Sheahan Bridge. Along with the adjacent railway viaduct that was built in 1901, it has been classified by the National Trust. The old railway bridge was built in 1902 and is one of

Journal Entries - Gundagai

Historic rail bridge over the Murrumbidgee River

the longest railway bridges in the world at 819 metres long (2687 feet). The railway line reached Gundagai in 1886 and was closed a hundred years later in 1986. The railway station was built in 1885. Featuring the only slate-roofed goods shed in New South Wales, it is also the largest timber railway station in the state. Today the bridges are in disrepair although much restoration work has been completed by the Heritage Council, and the railway station is a museum.

Mt Parnassus

One of the best places to see all of Gundagai is from the lookout on Mt Parnassus. We drove up the steep incline to the top and we certainly weren’t disappointed by the view. It was outstanding, the river and the mountain ranges were just breathtaking but the wind was blowing hard and it was very cold and it wasn’t long before we retreated back to the relative warmth of the car. St John’s Anglican Church, built in 1861, is just down the road from the lookout road. Built of local asbestos stone, the interior and roof were destroyed by fire in 1975 but it has since been restored to its former glory. A little further along the road are three interesting brick houses

Journal Entries - Gundagai

St Johns Anglican Church (1861)

known as the “Plantation Cottages” and one of these, built in 1873, is thought to be the home of the first Anglican minister. The local catholic church, St Patricks, was built in 1885 and stands in the main street. The wind had died down a little that afternoon and we set off for the Rotary Lookout in South Gundagai for some more outstanding views but I think Mother Nature was waiting for us to do just that and the wind returned with a vengeance.

Rusconi’s Marble Masterpiece

We’d stopped in at the local information centre on the day we arrived and now we decided to return and have a look at some of the remarkable historical pieces there. The centre is home to a magnificent marble masterpiece by monumental mason Frank Rusconi, the sculptor of the famous Dog on the Tuckerbox. This unique miniature cathedral is built from almost 21,000 individual pieces of marble, each piece cut, turned, and polished by hand. It stands at 1.2 metres (4 feet) high and took 28 years to build which is not surprising but what is surprising is that no plans or drawings of the piece have ever been found if, indeed, they ever existed.

Journal Entries - Gundagai

View from the Rotary Lookout in South Gundagai

The Dog on the Tuckerbox

The next day was our last for this visit to Gundagai and we took one more drive around the town. The flood damage in some of the areas is devastating and one road is still closed by a fallen tree but, even though the river is still up and is flowing fast it is clearly receding. But we couldn’t leave Gundagai without making a stop at the iconic Dog on the Tuckerbox. Like much of Australia’s folklore the origins of the dog are clouded in mystery but we do know that the statue was inspired by a bullock driver’s poem which celebrates the life of a mythical driver’s dog that loyally guarded the man’s tuckerbox (lunch box) until death. The legend was born in the 1850’s and its popularity spread throughout the colony and then it was immortalised in 1937 when Jack O’Hagan wrote his song, “Where the Dog Sits on the Tuckerbox, 5 miles from Gundagai”. The original monument was erected in 1926 but a new one was commissioned a few years later. The dog

Journal Entries - Gundagai

The Dog on the Tuckerbox

section is cast in bronze but the base was sculpted by Frank Rusconi and the monument was officially unveiled by then Prime Minister Joseph Lyons on November 28, 1932. The last time we visited here the “Dog” had been commercialized and it was so disappointing but they seem to have come to their senses now. Yes, there is a café where you can buy souvenirs but it really is just about our famous dog. As it should be.

2012

 

 

The information contained in this journal is derived from our personal recollections of our visit to this town or region and is correct as at the time of publication. austracks accepts no responsibility should any of this information be incorrect or misleading due to changes, improvements, or upgrades that may have occurred to places and/or attractions since our visit.

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