In Life, its not where you go, it’s who you travel with. We leave the drama and attentions seekers to their own little groups and enjoy life with people with goals and an appetite for adventure.

December 31, 2015

KENILWORTH & IMBUL STATE FOREST, QLD

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KENILWORTH & IMBIL STATE FOREST


We took an easy 90 minute drive north of Brisbane via Landsborough (or you can take a scenic, twisty 2 hr drive via Caboolture) and had a great day trip to Kenilworth. Imbil State Forest has a great range of tracks for all experience, capabilities, and all 4wd types, but don’t be alarmed as not only has Imbil State Forest got some great 4wd tracks but also includes great camping, swimming and the scenery is magical.
Gorgeous weather, great company, beautiful scenery, and challenging fun 4WD drives – we couldn’t’ have asked for more over the weekend where everyone had lots of fun, chatter, driving, and greeting and meeting new friends. Lots joined in the Saturday morning kick off with 29 cars joining in on a half day scenic drive through the Kenilworth mountain 4WD forest tracks starting from base camp and headed through to Charlie Moreland camp area and popped out at Booloumba Creek.
Half the group got lost, including us, on route, though through a very scenic route and got to do some challenging 4WD sections again, that the other half missed out on! The scenery amongst Imbil State Forest has a full range of vegetation with rain forest, eucalypt trees, creeks and other spectacular scenery. From the top of the ranges you will get some magnificent views over the valleys and the rest of the State Forest.
As you are driving around, keep your eyes open for wildlife as it is in abundance throughout most of the Forest. There is also a number of walking tracks which are a great alternative way to see the scenery and stretch your legs from all that driving.The afternoon was left for everyone to have a rest, chat with Jason and Simon from All 4 Adventure, and get cooking for the cooking competition.
Raffle tickets were sold for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) with lots of great TJM gear as the raffle prizes, which was generously donated by TJM Head Office. We also had a participant who very generously donated an 80 watt solar panel. Everyone was very generous with $500 raised for the RFDS, and we had some...

Imbil State Forest is a great place to 4wd and camp with many other locations nearby which are just as good such as Conondale National Forest, Jimna State Forest and Amamoor State Forest; you can spend a long time exploring this great country side.


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December 30, 2015

YAMBA, NSW. PART 4 OF ROAD TRIP

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YAMBA

Before we hit Brisbane we stopped into Yamba, for an overnight to catch up with family that was camping at Dolphin Caravan Park.

It’s quiet, the breaks are known to be some of the best in Australia, and you are not fighting for waves. Of an evening you can chill out and give your body time to rejuvenate to prepare for another day of surfing. There are no wild night club hot spots here, no wild drunken debauchery or louts tearing up the streets. It’s early to bed here and early to rise to greet a usual warm, sunny day. It’s a one street town of cafes and restaurants sitting under shady trees that are chilled out, yet classy, and boast delicious meals.


We can vouch for the Wato’s fish and chips on the corner. Not your usual fish and chip shop with Pluto pups and frozen calamari rings. Whatever is cooked here is made from scratch: potato and sweet potato scallops, mouth-watering calamari  and then there are the seafood dishes that you’ll never find anywhere in another take away chipper: seafood laksa and coconut curry.


Sunset is said to be the magical time to be sitting on the deck watching the sky wash over in orange and pink hues. Yamba is of course famous for seafood, particularly prawns. If you climb up to the lighthouse hill of an evening and look back down the river you’ll see the lights of the trawler boats prawning for the evening.


You have 16 pristine beaches to choose from in the area. We walked from the breakwall past Turner’s Beach to Main Beach. The surf looked clean and like it was breaking nicely to my novice-surfie eyes. Why the waves were empty of surfers then I do not know, but if you love catching waves, then you should just bypass Byron and forget the crowds and surf here.

We then took a look at Angourie Beach which is where the most powerful and pumping waves are and is the place where legendary surfers like Mark Occhilupo, Taj Burrow and Mick Fanning come to surf. One of the highlights of the Yamba area that we loved was the walk to Shelly Beach through the National Park along the coastline.


There was no one around, the walk was stunning and we had the beach to ourselves when we arrived.  If all of that isn’t enough, Yamba also has pods of friendly dolphins and is a hot spot for whale watching. The town has the look and air of a place that is modernizing itself. It’s modern and classy yet still retains that old-world feeling to it. It’s the slowness, the gentleness of its people who stop to say hi and chat to friends and strangers on the street.


It’s also the old buildings like the iconic Pacific Hotel that sits on the cliff faces with the best views in town for a schooner. It has the look of a place in desperate need of a reno, but doesn’t look like it would happen to soon, and you don’t really want it to. And then the movie theatre, just one old building with a small shop front, its sound and atmosphere worth experiencing. The next day we rose and jumped back in the car to head for home.


December 24, 2015

COFFS HABOUR, NSW. PART 3 ROAD TRIP

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COFFS HARBOUR
The road trip from Sydney to Coffs Harbour is the first half of the road trip from Sydney back to Brisbane.  The route from Sydney to Coffs Harbour is 532 km, 330 mi, 5:48 hrs. Coffs Harbour is the half way point on the Pacific Highway road trip between Sydney and Brisbane.  Home of the family friendly Big Banana and the centre of many beaches and national parks. Coffs Harbour is a great place to take a break on your road trip.
Throughout Australia there are a number of big things. The Big Apple, The Big Chock (chicken), The Big Ned Kelly to name but a few. Well Coffs Harbour has the Biggest Banana, not surprising because of the bananas grown locally. Since we were in the area we decided to check it out, although it does help if you are crazy about bananas and have your own transport. As pedestrians you are met at the end of the footpath with a lovely view of the Big Banana across a very daunting dual carriageway.
The next day we came down from the lookout and went to the boat harbour and also the southern harbour side. It seems that the southern beach had the best breaks for surfers today. They were accompanied by a school of dolphin feeding on bait fish. After checking out some shops in the harbor we headed for at the famous Twin Tails winery at Nana Glen.
Orara Vale Vineyard is located approximately 25km northwest of Coffs Harbour at Nana Glen in the heart of Orara Valley. The Orara Valley is part of the incredibly beautiful Coffs Harbour hinterland. Two Tails Winery is located on the left hand side just before you enter the village of Nana Glen about 10km  past Coramba.
Our last day in Coffs was the best. We went to the local sea world type attraction called 'Pet Porpoise Pool’. This place is the only place we have been to where you can interact with the animals without getting into the water with them. Before the water show, we were all allowed to have a kiss from Ella the seal and Zippy the dolphin! This was very cool.
You could even put your hand in the pool to stroke the dolphins and throw balls for them to catch and play with. All the creatures there had been rescued and some were getting ready to be set back into the wild (We don't much like the idea of zoos and things) so we found this comforting to know. You could see how happy the animals are there.
The shows were excellent, the dolphins and seals doing countless tricks, all very impressive. They also have other animals too, kangaroos, peacocks, fairy penguins (which you could feed fish to) and a snake and reptile section with a show in which you could hold and feel them too. We had a fabulous afternoon there and popped down to the beach for a bit afterwards too...a good day. The next day we were up and early on the Highway to Yamba.



December 21, 2015

SYDNEY, NSW. PART 2 OF ROAD TRIP,

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Chatswood

Five and a half hours on the M1 we hit out designation, situated 10 kilometres north of the Sydney CBD; Chatswood which is a shopping and foodie hub.  Days could be spent eating in Chatswood, tasting all there is on offer; however, we only had a few hours. 


After a little pre-visit research we hit Chatswood Chase, which is a large upscale shopping centre located at the eastern edge of the Chatswood central business district on Victoria Avenue. The centre features a major three level David Jones department store, Kmart, Coles Supermarket, Harvey Norman plus over 120 specialty stores, most of them upmarket and fashion oriented. The centre is situated over four levels. It's an unofficial scientific fact that shopping makes you hungry, so it makes sense that Chatswood's cluster of shopping centres. We started the food crawl with a shot of coffee at the train station-side Steam Engine cafe. Run by self-confessed coffee geeks, it opened on the first day of September and is serving up serious Toby's Estate coffee, a custom blend and various single origins.


  
We headed to Khao Pla, which has been the hottest meal ticket in Chatswood since opening in July last year. Highlights from the Thai menu include sticky tamarind pork ribs and chilli-hot sashimi scallops. Sweet, milky Thai iced-tea is the key to taming the authentic chilli-levels. New Shanghai is another ever-popular option – both the aforementioned Lemon Grove branch, and the more upmarket Chatswood Chase site. The most sought after dish on the extensive menu is excellent pan-fried crab and pork buns.


  
We had a great meal and then headed back to hotel to a well deserved rest.


Palm Beach
Up early morning for day 2

We took a little over an hour's drive from the city to Palm Beach, which is at the exclusive end of Sydney's long stretch of northern beaches. It sits at the end of a long peninsula, with surf on one side and Pittwater on the other. Many of the country's wealthy have built their holiday houses here. Fans will also recognize Palm Beach as the mythical village of ‘Summer Bay' where the hit TV series Home and Away is filmed. The two-kilometer long, golden beach curves from Barrenjoey Head at the southern head of Broken Bay, to the sandstone rocks of Little Head in the south.

Palm Beach sits at the end of a long peninsula, with the ocean on one side and the tranquil waters of Pittwater on the other. Dramatic Barrenjoey Head looms over the northern end of the beach, with historic Barrenjoey Lighthouse and light-keepers' cottages at the end of the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk, a popular track for surfers, joggers and walkers. From the Barrenjoey Lighthouse, built in the 1880s, you can look over Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Broken Bay, or all along the dramatic coastline north of Sydney.

The North Palm Beach surf club is an ideal place to sit and enjoy the sweeping ocean views. The southern end of Palm Beach is more protected for swimming. Most of Sydney's northern beaches have ocean rock pools which are perfect for swimming laps or for young children. In the village we found one-of-a-kind designer boutiques, which Kim loved, award-winning restaurants.

We capped off a great day with lunch at Jonah’s Whale Beach Restaurant.

Blue skies, the sun on your face, a shimmering expanse of azure water stretching its way to the horizon. It's hard not to be taken aback by the views from Jonah's. Perched high on the cliffs above Whale Beach, there's an instant sense of calm as you take in the serenity of the magical trio of sun, sand and sea. The dining room is a sea of pressed white tablecloths set with glinting glasses. Most people seem to revel in the opportunity to get dressed up for a fancy Friday lunch but there are also more casual dining areas on the balcony and the terrace.











Bondi Beach
Day 3 Beach Day

We headed down to one of Australia's most famous beaches and well-known worldwide. It has probably featured on more postcards and more television shows and films than any other in Australia.

Each year tens of thousands of people, from backpackers to billionaires, take to the golden sands of this wide, one-kilometre long city beach expanse to walk, jog, or just soak up the sun. Being only 10 kilometres from the city centre, Bondi Beach is one of Sydney's busiest beaches. There's a host of events held here all year round from community art shows to city to surf running marathons.

After having a look we headed to the main street along the beachfront, which is Campbell Parade, where we found a range of stylish surf and fashion shops, outdoor cafes and bars. It's a popular meeting place for Sydney's cafe society. The main streets leading back from the beach are Hall Street, Roscoe Street, Curlewis Street and Beach Road. Hall Street has cool fashion and designer labels while Curlewis Street has many art galleries.


Being a Sunday, the grounds of the local public school hosted the Bondi Beach Markets, a flea market where you may pick up some bargains including locally produced jewellery, handicrafts and vintage clothing. Empty wallet later we headed to find a bit to eat.

We had a fantastic lunch at Ribs and Burgers.

Two lightly sesame seed toasted buns encasing a beef mince patty, grilled, basted with iceberg lettuce, tomato, Spanish onion, dill pickles, BBQ sauce and a pink secret sauce. Gorgeously pink inside, we loved the simple and classic flavours of this perfect burger. We can't have a burger without a side of chips and these ones were fantastic. Crispy, crunchy and every other synonym for “crispy” describe these chips. Perfect when accompanied with BBQ sauce and their secret pink sauce.


 We then headed back down the beach for an chill out afternoon.


The Rocks

Day 4 Part of CBD Visit
Today we explored Sydney's early convict days at the Rocks, a jumble of cobblestone streets and cul-de-sacs just five minutes from Circular Quay. You only have to step off the harbour foreshore to find the sandstone terraces and cottages and some of Sydney's oldest pubs. The historic precinct also draws both visitors and locals with its museums and galleries, lively weekend markets and hotels with harbour views. The past and present collide in the best way in the Rocks, home to both ghostly tours and some of Sydney's liveliest celebrations.

We took a walk up the steep, higgledy-piggledy streets of The Rocks sprawl out to the western side of Circular Quay and the viewed the imposing steel arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  We then wandered around the harbour foreshore, from the iconic Opera House on one side to just beneath the bridge. We visited the Pylon Lookout
The pubs here are some of the oldest in Sydney, and we listened to live music and tasted a locally-brewed pint in bar where sailors, soldiers and stevedores celebrated and drank away their sorrows in the 1800s. We immersed ourselves in their stories we wandered between the pubs, historic Playfair Street terraces, storehouses and workman's cottages.

Kim had to explore the boutiques and I killed time in some of the galleries. We were lucky that we came on Saturday, as the markets you'll find everything from stylish, hand-crafted jewelry to gourmet bush tucker condiments.



Garden Island
Day 5 Garden Island and Watson Bay




Today we travel down the F3 to Sydney, across the beautiful Sydney Harbour to Lady Macquaire’s Chair. "Whose chair?" that was Kim’s reaction when I said we were going to Mrs Macquarie's Chair. We were on our way to Mrs Macquarie's Point, hopefully, to get a nice view of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.



We parked up and a little short walk later, we were at the Royal Botanical Gardens. It was reminiscent of Brisbane Botanical Gardens, a huge garden and park in the middle of the city. We strolled around a bit and made our way to the Mrs Macquarie's point.

During our walk to the Mrs Macquarie's Point, we had to take some detours as there was construction work going on. The walk ended in, what seemed to be the end tip of the island.

We didn't see the chair (actually, we didn't bother to look for it), we saw people looking over the bay gawking at the Opera House, photographers setting up there tripods and some just taking a stroll. There was a cold breeze flowing from the bay, it was strong enough to knock our tripods off but rather pleasant enough for us to stand and enjoy it and take in the view ahead.

It's one of the best places to see the panoramic view of the Sydney's iconic performing arts venue with the Harbour Bridge in the background.

After some quick photos we jumped back in the car and traveled to The Rocks to find a park then jump on a ferry to Garden Island. We gained access to the Naval Base where my father was based in the late 60’s and enjoyed tour in the RAN Heritage Centre within one of the most historic and beautiful locations on the harbour.





The theme of the initial exhibition is Australia’s Navy in Peace and War, and it emphasises the operational Navy over its history and Navy’s people, who have always been central to what Navy is and represents. Kim ran amuck playing with the periscope which overlooked the harbor while I chatted with the volunteers. One of the volunteers helped pass of a few photos of my dad’s ships he was posted to. We took a walk around the grounds and jumped back on the ferry to Watson Bay.

Finally, we arrived at Watsons Bay. The first thing we noticed was the million-dollar view of the Sydney harbour and the city skyline. Having fish’n’chips by the beach is an Aussie tradition. Or you could have a sit-down meal at the famous Doyles Restaurant. Doyles is a well-known restauranteur name in Sydney, if not Australia, and this one on the beach was the Doyles dynasty’s first seafood restaurant. Est 1885. We went to have a drink at the Beach Club, otherwise known as the Watsons Bay Hotel, next to Doyles. It was a very chillax and lively beachside club.




Manly
Day 6, Trip to Manly

We awoke to another glorious sunny day in Sydney. We were lucky to catch the 9.30am Manly ferry. The ferry ride gives you the opportunity to see Sydney from the sea with views of the bridge, Sydney Opera house and coastline. The ferry also bizarrely goes backwards for 30 minutes all the way to Manly. We took a short walk from the ferry terminal to Manly beach passing many shops in The Corso, the main pedestrian street in Manly. It was quite a slow walk keeping Kim out of the shops. We decided to do a shortened version of the Manly Scenic Walkway. We walked to Shelly Beach and then up a hill towards North Head. Because we had to explore the shops later that day we could not walk up to North Head and instead cut back to Little Manly Beach and back to where we started, the ferry terminal.

Was hitting lunch time so, we headed to The Panty.  In prime position opposite The Corso and directly overlooking the beach stands this homey deli-style beach house. It’s a triple threat of smug real estate, consistently good service and a menu that says you’re in for something special. We went light and went with charcuterie, pate, terrine and tapas mix, all rustically presented on wooden boards and ideal for sharing.

Kim jumped into the Manly’s one-of-a-kind boutiques far from the main drags, which brim with kebab stands, tourist-y variety shops and standard clothing outlets. We strayed to the laneways and backstreets instead. First shop was Bow & Arrow which had artfully sourced fashion, jewellery, trinkets, homewares and objects of desire from designers like Paper Denim & Cloth and Chronicles of Never. Next the Mint Shop which had an even split of guys’ and gals’ clothing and accessories, plenty of high-end denim and a permanent sale rack of designer bargains. The small pocket of shops in Rialto Square boasts McLean & Page, which stocks Shakuhachi, Lover, Camilla & Marc and other luxe labels. Next stop was in Sammy & Sid which she found vintage, retro and recycled fashion, and always has some new pieces thrown into the mix, and came out with a couple of things. Back at circular quay we've got another decision.

We made a decision to head for drinks at the Blu Bar on 36 at the Shangri-La Hotel Sydney. As the name suggests, the cocktail lounge is located high above the city, on level 36 of the prestigious 5-star-hotel, allowing guests to enjoy breathtaking views of Darling Harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Sounds too expensive? Surprisingly it isn’t. The beers are all priced around 10 AU$ and glasses of wine start at 12 AU$. Just make sure you get there straight after they open at 5 pm, in order to get the best seats directly in front of the windows, which usually are taken very quickly. So we stayed in this marvelous place for quite a while, drinking cocktails, soaking in the fantastic views and watching the sun go down over the city. Was a beautiful spot to relax, after a busy day of sightseeing was definitely one worth visiting.




Paddy Market, Darling Harbour
Day 7 Walk around CBD



Today we decided to head into the CBD. First stop was Sydney’s Paddy’s Markets at Haymarket is located just beside Chinatown’s main street Dixon Street, on the ground floor of the Market City Building.  Paddy’s Markets is one of Sydney’s largest markets with a wide variety of goods ranging from fresh produce to souvenirs and cheap imported clothing and accessories. Paddy’s Markets is a great place to get cheap souvenirs, clothes, imitation bags and gifts.  You can get lost in the rows and rows of shops all selling similar stuff.   As Paddy’s Market is popular with people like us, tourist, remember to bargain with the storeowner to avoid getting ripped off.   Nevertheless, it is an excellent one-stop centre to get all the souvenirs you need to gather dust back when you get home.
From there we headed towards the city and walked to The Anzac Memorial which was built for the soldiers in the First World War but is now used for all service Persons. We had a good look around and watched a short film about how it was built.



We then walked again to St Andrews Cathedral, lots of people sat outside in deck chairs, people sit everywhere. Then we plodded on to Sydney Fish Market which was really exciting, very buzzy and noisey. The fish down there was amazing, I don't think we have ever seen that amount of fish, so we decided to sample some lobster and it truly was worth the walk.

We then walked over to Darling Harbour which is just beautiful, loads of restaurants, bars, museums, Sea Life and just loads and loads of things to look at. My neck has got longer, really too much to take in. I think by the end of this trip, I will have to get a new camera, it will have worn out. We walked over the Darling Harbour Bridge and they play music from speakers on there, 'smooth sounds', really lovely to hear whilst looking out to the harbour. We then went back to the Sydney Tower so Kim could have one last Shopping Day.
On the Road
Day 8 Back on the road to Coffs Harbour

Woke up nice and early and packed the car and started heading back to Brisbane. Our next stop was going to be Coffs Harbour. Follow Blog under Coffs Harbour.

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