Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Blue Mountains in spring

As Sydney is familiar to us both, we side-stepped this lovely city to head west to the Blue Mountains – and October was a great time to visit as spring had well and truly sprung!

A Everglades 5

A Spring 1 A Spring 2 A Spring 3 A Spring 4 A Spring 6

We made our base at the Katoomba Falls caravan park which also has cabins, camping sites etc. A great location as the hop on/hop off Trolley Tour (cunningly disguised as a bus?!) stops here regularly and is good value at $25 each for 3 days.  We checked out all 29 sites to decide on our favourite spots for photos, food and fun (our Nomad171 motto after all!)

The magic BLUE of the Blue Mountains has inspired many painters and photographers and the way in which the light changes in the late afternoon is especially beautiful. We enjoyed walking several trails in this area to view the iconic 3 Sisters and the Jamison Valley.

A Three Sisters 1 A Blue Mountains a A Blue Mountains 4 A Blue Mountains 2

Local artist John Wilson captures these amazing landscapes beautifully in his oil paintings – visiting his Fine Art Gallery is a must.

Just walking the streets of Katoomba and neighbouring Leura was fun to experience the mixture of historical shops, new home and living ideas, terrific art and great food.

Visiting the Everglades Historic Home and Gardens was a happy trip back through the Art Deco era as this beautiful home was built in the 1930s and is now a National Trust building.

A Everglades 2 A Everglades 1 A Everglades 13 A Everglades 9 A Everglades 11 A Everglades 8 A Everglades 14

Next on the list was Scenic World which gives you 4 impressive ways to experience the vertical scenery – four in fact!

1. The Scenic Skyway – great views of Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters, and the Jamison Valley

A Skyway

2. The Scenic Railway – the steepest passenger railway in the world with a 52 degree incline – a short but white knuckle experience!

A Sceninc Railway

3. The Scenic Walkway – a pretty 2.4km boardwalk

A Scenic Walk 2 A Scenic Walk 1

4. the Scenic Cableway down into the Jamison Valley and back up to the escarpment

A Scenic Cableway

Overall a great experience but make an early start to beat the crowds and get full value for your day trip. Then top it off with a drink at one of the 4 bars at the Carrington Hotel – originally opened in 1883 as a mountain retreat, and still going strong.

A Carrington Hotel 2 A Carrington Hotel 1

Just as an aside, we would like to thank the marvellous informants at the Information Centres around this country. We do our own research but it is always good to get a local perspective on the ‘top spots’, and the staff and volunteers always have interesting ideas on where to go next – and the map you need to get there!

Moving further south in New South Wales

Before leaving Queensland to travel south through New South Wales , we drove about 1.5 hours west through Nerang and on to Canungra. That gave Ian a few shivers down his spine as he recalled his jungle training there in preparation for Vietnam. Hard to believe it is 50 years since conscription was legislated, and his birth date was on one of the marbles pulled out of the ballot box – a life-changing moment for Ian and our many veteran friends. That was the fourth National Service scheme in Australia – will it ever happen again, we wonder?

Onwards to visit our friends Bob and Noreen in Beaudesert; a pleasant drive, and great to see them settled happily into their new home and Bob toiling away building a rock garden.

A Bob & Noreen

We also visited Byron Bay, famous for being hippy, happy and a bit alternative. It was all of that, and we enjoyed wandering the streets and having lunch on the beach alongside surfers, whale watchers and the many other tourists.

So it was decision-making time – what route would be best to get us to the Blue Mountains? Sounds simple BUT the difficult thing about our first caravanning visit to this coast is choosing where to stay! We have been to so many well located, beautiful places with friendly locals and services but we could return next year and stay in completely different locations and have just as good a time. Quite a novel experience for us as our less populated home state of WA often has long stretches between great spots to stay.

Our first choice was Evans Head. We completed our normal ‘settling in’ process in record time having spotted the local Illawong Hotel beer garden less than 50 metres away – a nice shady spot on a hot day!

Evans Head beach 1 Evans Head beach 2 Evans Head camp 1 Evans Head camp 2

It was school holidays here in New South Wales so lots of families were camping to enjoy the sun, surf and fishing. We planned a successful one day circuit following back roads up to Ballina for lunch and then west to Alstonville and south through Woodburn back to Evans Head. Overall this whole area was great to explore although we could have done without the marauding midges that attacked Ian and made life very miserable.

Next basecamp was Urunga on the Coffs Coast, where our favourite walk quickly became the boardwalk from the river right out to the sea.

A Board walk 1

We decided to brave Sunday in Coffs Harbour and it was frenetic but fun! The Sealy Lookout, about 8 kms past the Big Banana (don’t ask) explained their marketing slogan ‘where the mountains meet the sea’.

A Coffs Harbour 3 A Coffs Harbour 2 A Coffs Harbour 1

Headed down to the marina for a coffee. Considered trawling the hundreds of stalls at the local markets but decided we were a bit over them, so we walked across to Muttonbird Island to see the sanctuary developed to protect the shearwaters from their animal and human predators.

We had intended to eat fish and chips at the Fisherman’s Co-op but the queue was soooo long that we headed over to the Fishing Club where we had a late and very mediocre lunch (and still queued). That’ll teach us to change our minds! However the view was to die for, the sun was warm and the wine was cool so all was not lost.

Next stop was Tuncurry and the neighbouring town of Forster where our van park opened onto the beach. Great spot for following the foreshore to the rockpool and then walking back into town to pick up prawns fresh off the trawler for lunch!

Then it was down to the Central Coast, travelling through bushland and hills to The Entrance, famous for its many pelicans. Cool and windy, but we wandered along the beach happily and found the original swimming baths.

A The Entrance 1 A The Entrance 2 A The Entrance 3

Next stop the Blue Mountains – Ian was last here when he was 16 and Ginny has never seen this beautiful region, so we’re excited!

Exploring the Gold Coast

We were fascinated to discover that the Gold Coast is the 6th biggest city in Australia, stretched out along 57 kms of coastline and hinterland, with a resident population of 535,000 and a mere 12 million visitors every year!

map_of_gold-coast

Our sightseeing started with a 30 minute drive up the beautiful beaches – special mentions for Coolongatta and Currumbin – to Broadwater, where Ginny’s cousin Alan manages Jubilee Views (reasonable priced, well located accommodation for anyone visiting). We therefore scored a personalised walking tour and lunch (thanks cuz!) of this lovely area with its great shopping, cafes, beaches and boulevards. Very impressive.

A Ginny & Allan

From there we simply walked one block to use “the G“, the recently installed light rail system which travels to 16 key places over a 13 km route and links in with all other public transport. We were keen to experience this mode of transport as both West Australian political parties promised a light rail system for Perth in our latest election to address the public transport nightmare.

A Lt Rail 1 A Lt Rail 2

Perth readers, please tell us if there has been progress on those promises?! It is so quick, so clean, so easy to use… and economical – 6 hours of hopping on and off countless times cost under $5. Of course the other side of the story is that it took years to build and caused several businesses to close due to land reclamation.

A Ginny surfers chair A Surfers 1 A Surfers 2

Surfers Paradise has a fun vibe; the beaches are spectacular and the surfing culture is justifiably famous. The malls are many and the shops immense, and of course they are gearing up for the Commonwealth Games in 2018 – we loved the 4 metre high surfboard clock counting down!

A Clth clock

Robina Town Centre is the largest shopping complex on the Gold Coast – 350 shops at last count – and has free buses to and from other suburbs. We spent many happy hours meandering there and especially love our new best friends at the Apple Shop (yes, Ian has crossed to the dark side and bought a Mac Pro!) Also impressed with the free parking system which has a large LED sensor above each park to show if it is empty (Green) or taken (Red)… now isn’t that sensible?

So all in all, we found this region great fun even though we are not theme park addicts. The variety of them is astonishing, and they are obviously loved by the tourists so good on them for contributing to Queensland’s economy – they need it. You may like to also read fellow West Australian Amanda Kendle’s blog on her most recent trip to the Gold Coast – after beating up on it last year, she had a very different experience this year AND she won 500,000 frequent flyer points into the bargain! Only a little jealous…

The Gold Coast region

The Boyd Bay caravan park at Tweed Heads was a great base to meet up with friends and family around the Gold Coast region. This city straddles the 2 states of Queensland and New South Wales and 2 different local government areas which of course leads to some odd situations – not least when daylight saving kicks in. Our friends Doug and Bruce found a novel way to always know what the time is where by setting two clocks, one upstairs on Qld time and the downstairs one on NSW time!

There are LOTS AND LOTS of people in this region so we tried to balance some frenzied days of glitz and huge shopping centres out with some more gentle jaunts into the country. One day trip to the southwest started at Murwillumbah, a lovely country town and home to the Tweed Regional Gallery  which includes the recently opened Margaret Olley Art Centre.  An absolutely magic tribute! We particularly like the paintings where she repeated the same scene at different times of the day – such a beautiful way to show how light changes the way things look and feel.
Murwillumbah 1 The Yellow room 1 A Margaret Olley room 1
The current exhibition is a recreation of the ‘Yellow Room‘, her favourite room in her Sydney home full of her treasures and nicknacks.
The display is so well done and includes many personal insights. We loved the story of photographer Greg Weight. He was helping Margaret prepare the catalogue for what was to be her final auction at the age of 92. Each day she would finalise several canvases until there was only one left and she told him “See you tomorrow at 2!” That never happened as she died the next morning. As a tribute, Greg prepared a marvellous series of commemorative photos  entitled See you tomorrow at 2 including this one of the artist below.
A Margaret Olley
Another popular feature was an interactive digital painting program to create your own artwork by mixing colours on the screen. Although we picked up some grumbles from locals about the increasing rates required to support the gallery, it really is a marvellous FREE drawcard and has several other permanent and temporary exhibitions. e.g. Deb Mostert‘s exhibition looks at how birds interact with manmade objects, especially those keen on ‘collecting’ like bower birds. It made us wonder about our own collection of ‘stuff’ and how we justify our own decorating habits!  Plus the coffee and cake was A1 as well.
We continued our scenic drive out through Tyalgum and Chillingham to arrive at Tumbulgum, a village once famous for its cedar timber industry but which now appears to be Sugarcane Central.
A Surfers 3
They have a great tavern on the edge of the Tweed river – perfect for a late lunch – and wonderful fresh local vegetables, fruit and eggs. (No, we’re not fixated on food totally but the quality and prices here on the east coast so far have been exceptional)…