A Travellerspoint blog

April 2013

Summarising New South Wales

So, it's been quite a long time since my last post. I guess when you're living in a van finding wi-fi comes second to finding a shower. Anyway, we've spent the last fortnight making our way through New South Wales and have been to more places than I can count, some more memorable than others. So instead of boring you with all the details, this is going to be a 'Match-of-the-Day' post; just the highlights.

First on the list is, of course, Sydney. We continued our quest to not pay for camping by sleeping on streets in Bondi Beach, and aside from getting woken up by the council telling us to move on our last day, it wasn't a bad choice. The beach is beautiful, there are parks everywhere and the sun never seems to stop shining.

We spent our first night at the ANZ Stadium for one of my personal highlights; South Sydney Roosters vs. Melbourne Storm playing some good ol' rugby league. Since Storm beat the Rhinos in the World Club Challenge I was supporting Sydney, but they lost out to a more powerful Melbourne.

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The following day we hit Sydney's must-see tourist spots; the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. The Opera House is truly stunning in its design, although is much smaller that it looks in pictures! Suitably impressed, we made our way to the Botanical Gardens, where we joined the locals picnicking on the grass.

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Another impressive area was Darling Harbour, which lacks character but not distractions. If you're looking for shops, a cinema, food or even a fairground, it's all there. After a quick wander through Chinatown, we caught the bus back to Bondi and for tea had the best fish and chips outside of England! We then left Sydney and drove to the Blue Mountains, where we made the lovely walk to the Three Sisters at Echo Point. The only downside of the Blue Mountains is that it has been obviously exploited for its tourist earning potential; we preferred Wilsons Promontory.

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We finished off our time in the Sydney region with a day sampling the wineries in Hunter Valley. The countryside is beautiful, and there are so many wineries we were spoilt for choice. Plus with free tastings on offer wherever you go, who could resist?

After visiting a few more small towns along the coast and dropping in at the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, we finished our time in New South Wales with a couple of days in Byron Bay. Byron is a hippy haven filled with backpackers, beaches and individual clothing stores, and I loved it. We walked up to Byron's lighthouse, famous as the most easterly point on the Australian mainland, and from the top were lucky enough to see dolphins riding the waves below.

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Our last stop was a short detour inland to Nimbin, a small town with a big reputation. If Byron's residents are hippies, this is where the militants hang out; the main attractions include a 'Hemp Embassy', focusing on the legalisation of cannabis, and Nimbin Museum, which has a painted VW bus in the entrance.

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And so ended our time in New South Wales; the next day saw us crossing the border and driving into the forest of skyscrapers that is the Gold Coast. 'Til next time...

Posted by kate1401 11:52 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney new_south_wales byron_bay blue_mountains hunter_valley Comments (0)

Adventures in Victoria, and a minor purchase...

Melbourne was where jet-lag hit for the first time; after a 7-hour flight that did not allow enough time for sleep, a time difference that left us at odds and a hostel that refused to let us check in for 4 hours we were ready to drop. But Melbourne was also one of the first places in a while that felt like home. It has a certain charm; maybe its the trams, maybe its the breezy weather, maybe its the mix of old and new buildings that mingle across the skyline, but something endeared it to me. Our first day in the city happened to be Good Friday, which in Australia apparently means that everything closes down for the day, so we took the opportunity to go on a walk around the city, taking photos and generally getting our bearings. Federation Square, the meeting hub of the CBD, hovers on the line between edgy and gaudy, but despite being judged the world's fifth ugliest building by Virtual Tourist there's no denying it's impressive.

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Another day saw us venturing over the river to the more tastefully designed area of Southbank, dominated by the Southgate shopping and dining complex and the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), where we spent an afternoon browsing the extensive art collection and admiring the impressive stained glass ceiling.

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Another highlight was the beautiful Perdana Botanical Gardens, Melbourne's answer to Central Park, where scatterings of small lakes and stone bandstands provide a welcome escape from the noise of the city. We also took a walking tour around the bohemian district of Fitzroy, where amateur graffiti is effortlessly upstaged by colourful and creative street art.

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However, we had another mission while in Melbourne. We had been toying for some time with the idea of throwing off the constraints of public transport and driving ourselves across Australia, and this combined with the high costs of hostels in Melbourne led us to look for transport and a home. After a few days of searching we found a reasonably-priced campervan being sold by a pair of fellow backpackers, and the next day we took the tram to St. Kilda to meet the girls outside the spooky entrance of Luna Park. On looking around the van, we found that it was equipped with a mattress, bedding, two stoves, kitchen equipment, a road map and a GPS; everything we needed to embark on the roadtrip of a lifetime. A few days later we handed over the money, they handed over the keys and we were off!

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Due to car registration being a very complicated business in Victoria, our adventures began with an annoying but necessary detour across the state border to Mount Gambier in South Australia, where we registered ourselves as the new owners in a matter of minutes! This done and finding ourselves on the wrong side of Melbourne, it seemed the obvious choice to abandon the highway and opt for the Great Ocean Road. Starting at Warrnambool, we whiled away our first day with regular stops at the amazing limestone formations that decorate the coast; the Bay of Islands, the Arch, the Grotto and London Bridge. After an overnight stop in Port Campbell, we completed the set with visits to Loch Ard George and the Twelve Apostles, the most famous of the formations. Of course erosion continued after the naming of the site, and there are now only six apostles remaining.

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From there we travelled on to Apollo Bay and Lorne, two beautiful beachside towns filled with surfers, before bypassing Torquay and heading back past Melbourne for Wilsons Promontory National Park. The park is simply stunning, and we enjoyed two days of walking, paddling in the (freezing) waves and al fresco camping.

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And with that we hit the road again, and after a few stops at the Lakes and Mallacoota found ourselves crossing the border into New South Wales for the next step of our adventure.

Posted by kate1401 10:47 Archived in Australia Tagged melbourne victoria great_ocean_road lorne apollo_bay wilsons_promontory Comments (1)

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