Personal

Mar 2010

With a friend's wedding in Sydney, my wife Michelle decided we should take a couple of weeks off and drive down from Brisbane slowly, stopping at various towns and seeing some of the NE quadrant of NSW.

We took the coast road down and the inland one back, taking in a Hunter Valley wine tour and visit to the famous Dubbo Zoo.

We took the coast road down and the inland one back

Covering around 2500 kms, here's where we stopped:

  • Yamba
  • Nambucca Heads
  • Shoal Bay (Port Stephens)
  • Sydney
  • Cessnock (Hunter Valley)
  • Dubbo (for Western Plains Zoo)
  • Goondiwindi
  • Toowoomba

Yamba was the first port of call and it was great to finally discover why people rave about the place. The township was cute, the coastline spectacular, and it was home to Gorman's - one of the best restaurants I've eaten at, where the oysters were superb. Matched with a particularly gorgeous Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, it was hard not to leave the town with a positive impression.

Waves crash against the spectacular Yamba coastline Waves crash against the spectacular Yamba coastline Waves crash against the spectacular Yamba coastline

Yamba lighthouse established 1866

Our favourite restaurant of the trip: Gorman's in Yamba

The railway museum at Dorrigo was a trainspotter's delight.

Dorrigo railway museum Dorrigo railway museum

The Skywalk over the Dorrigo National Park rainforest canopy was quite spectacular with views over the Bellinger Valley.

Dorrigo skywalk stretches out above the rainforest canopy View over the Bellinger Valley from the Dorrigo skywalk Dorrigo skywalk stretches out above the rainforest canopy

Dorrigo skywalk stretches out above the rainforest canopy

Quite possibly the coolest little public device ever: a mount for your camera:

A public tripod (with one leg)!

The canopy walk was followed by a walk through the rainforest itself.

Dorrigo rainforest walk Dorrigo rainforest walk Michelle gets rooted during our Dorrigo rainforest walk Dorrigo rainforest walk Dorrigo rainforest walk Dorrigo rainforest walk Dorrigo rainforest walk Track closure due to landslide Dorrigo rainforest walk What´s not to lichen?

Dorrigo rainforest walk Dorrigo rainforest walk Dorrigo rainforest walk

Dorrigo rainforest walk Dorrigo rainforest walk Dorrigo rainforest walk Dorrigo rainforest walk

Dorrigo rainforest walk Dorrigo rainforest walk

Dorrigo rainforest walk

A storm was brewing near Dorrigo on the way to our next destination of Nambucca Heads. Of course I had to stop for a closer look and saw a rather impressive gust front develop with some lovely booms of thunder before it eventually fell apart.

Gust front develops near Dorrigo Gust front develops near Dorrigo Developing storm near Dorrigo Developing storm near Dorrigo Storm weakens near Dorrigo Storm weakens near Dorrigo

Pine trees in a cemetery near Dorrigo

Recent rain produced some lovely little waterfalls by the roadside as we drove over the Dorrigo National Park.

Roadside waterfall after recent rains over Dorrigo Mountain

Nambucca Heads receives rave reviews by most, but unfortunately, our stay was tainted by strong winds and rain overnight pushing our small tent inwards and onto us as we attempted to sleep.

Nambucca Heads coastline Nightfall over Nambucca Heads Claustrophobic fun

Well before the Hunter Valley, which we visited on our return leg from Sydney, we stopped at our first winery somewhere between Nambucca Heads and Shoal Bay.

Winery somewhere between Nambucca Heads and Shoal Bay Winery somewhere between Nambucca Heads and Shoal Bay

Being oyster lovers as well as wine lovers, the 'legendary' status of the oysters in this region caught our attention. We stopped at a small town noted for it's great oysters: Karuah near Nelson Bay. We searched the town, but all the seafood places were closed. I finally asked someone at a petrol station and they directed us down to the oyster merchants on the river bank! The location was exciting, the price was great and the oysters, excellent!

Oyster farm at Karuah, NSW Oyster farm at Karuah, NSW Oyster farm at Karuah, NSW

Shoal Bay was gorgeous. More spectacular coastline, but this time, great weather. The lovely tea-house on the top of the point at Shoal Bay:

Shoal Bay tea house at the top of the point

Another point on the bay was home to the remains of gun turrets strategically located and built during World War 2. The view from the top was incredible.

Walk up to a war memorial site at Shoal Bay View from the point at Shoal Bay View from the point at Shoal Bay View from the point at Shoal Bay View from the point at Shoal Bay View NE from the point at Shoal Bay

A quick video was needed to show the full view:

WWII gun emplacement and living quarters:

Old gun turret site on the point at Shoal Bay Old gun turret site on the point at Shoal Bay Old gun turret site on the point at Shoal Bay Old gun turret site on the point at Shoal Bay Old gun turret site on the point at Shoal Bay

This area also comprised a couple of wineries so we visited Port Stephen's winery for a great lunch and Wonganella Wines just behind it for even better wine.

Port Stephen´s Winery Port Stephen´s Winery

After our less than jaunty evening in Nambucca Heads in a claustrophic tent through what at times felt like cyclonic conditions, we splashed out on a caravan park cabin, which unbelieveably resembled a luxury hotel room.

Our surprisingly luxurious cabin in Shoal Bay Our surprisingly luxurious cabin in Shoal Bay

Our surprisingly luxurious cabin in Shoal Bay Our surprisingly luxurious cabin in Shoal Bay

Our surprisingly luxurious cabin in Shoal Bay

A great time was had at our actual halfway point but original destination of Sydney where on one morning we were greeted with a glorious sunrise over the city.

Sydney sunrise Sydney sunrise

A Hunter Valley wine tour was another major stop we were looking forward to. The Tempus Two winery was unusual in its architectural design. I found it a little pompous and touristy but they do make great wine... as do many other wineries in the region.

Tempus Two winery in the Hunter Valley Tempus Two winery in the Hunter Valley Tempus Two winery in the Hunter Valley Tempus Two winery in the Hunter Valley Magpie singing a merry melody at Tempus Two winery in the Hunter Valley Cicada overlooks the courtyard of Tempus Two winery in the Hunter Valley Cicada overlooks the courtyard of Tempus Two winery in the Hunter Valley

Another Hunter Valley winery

Peterson´s winery in the Hunter Valley Peterson´s winery in the Hunter Valley Peterson´s winery in the Hunter Valley Peterson´s winery in the Hunter Valley

Cessnock was our base for the Hunter Valley where we got a rather beautiful sunset. I also shot some sunset and star timelapse video.

Threatening sky in Cessnock Threatening sky in Cessnock Threatening sky in Cessnock

Cessnock sunset Cessnock sunset

Before taking off for our next leg to Dubbo, we went back into town for breakfast where we could receive a 10% discount in exchange for singing for 8 seconds! I'm ashamed to say we paid full price.

Sing for 8 secs & get a 10% discount!

Most of the wineries in the region are based in the Hunter Valley, but Arrowfield Estate is located away from the hub in what is curiously known as the Upper Hunter Valley. The sign "a dozen bottles for $40" caught our eye. The estate was beautiful but strangely deserted. It was ten minutes before a worker wandered out, curious himself as to where the cellar door staff were. We suspected the "on special" wine would be horrible, but tastings happily proved otherwise and we left with two cases for $100.

Bargain at Arrowfield Estate winery

Dubbo was our next major stop for it's famous Western Plains Zoo, owned and maintained by Toronga Zoo in Sydney. I'm not a fan of zoos normally but I was surprised and impressed with the open layout of the exhibits, more closely resembling the animals natural habitats than I'd seen in a zoo before.

Impressively open animal exhibits at Dubbo Zoo - there are monkeys on that island somewhere Rhino at Dubbo Zoo Camel at Dubbo Zoo Hippo lunchtime at Dubbo Zoo

Watch the hippo slow chomping in the video below!

The zoo participates in various international breeding programs for species that are considered to be under threat of extinction. It was noted during a visit to the African elephants that because their numbers in the wild have increased to supposedly satisfactory levels, no more African elephants would be introduced into the zoo, even after the current two elephants eventually die.

The gorgeous African elephants at Dubbo Zoo African elephant at Dubbo Zoo African elephant at Dubbo Zoo African elephant at Dubbo Zoo African elephant at Dubbo Zoo

African elephant at Dubbo Zoo African elephant at Dubbo Zoo Customised Coke machine at Dubbo Zoo

Asian elephants differ from the Africans in a number of ways including the size and shape of the ears, shape of the forehead, and of course, their accent ;)

Feeding time for the Asian elephants at Dubbo Zoo

The otters were playful, speeding around their pen, seemingly unable to sit still for two minutes.

Playful otters at Dubbo Zoo

The Siamangs were probably the most entertaining creatures we found, no doubt due partly to their human resemblence. Watching two of them interact and communicate with each other was thoroughly fascinating.

Highly entertaining Siamangs at Dubbo Zoo Highly entertaining Siamangs at Dubbo Zoo Siamang catches some zzz´s at Dubbo Zoo Highly entertaining Siamangs at Dubbo Zoo Highly entertaining Siamangs at Dubbo Zoo Highly entertaining Siamangs at Dubbo Zoo Highly entertaining Siamangs at Dubbo Zoo Highly entertaining Siamangs at Dubbo Zoo Highly entertaining Siamangs at Dubbo Zoo Highly entertaining Siamangs at Dubbo Zoo

A video of the hippo, African elephant and Siamangs:

The option is available to actually drive around the zoo, but we chose to walk it, and I'm glad we did. The slower pace afforded a better look and more relaxed pace. Trouble was that the impending closing time meant we had to pick up the pace to reach the exit in time.

Koala at Dubbo Zoo Kangaroo at Dubbo Zoo

At least we were able to walk faster than this giant tortoise:

Giant tortoise at Dubbo Zoo Giant tortoise at Dubbo Zoo Unexpectedly impressed at Dubbo Zoo

We had a rather lovely dinner at the nearby bowls club where we were also treated to another gorgeous sunset.

Purple sunset over Dubbo

The rest of the trip to Goondiwindi and onto Brisbane was photographically rather uneventful besides a wedding I was shooting in Toowoomba.

Thanks to my gorgeous wife Michelle for coming up with the idea of driving and then organising the entire trip. If it was left up to me, I probably would've flown to Sydney for the weekend of our friend's wedding and flown straight home again!