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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Coffs Harbour, Brisbane and Christmas

Coffs Harbour
From Sidney we have a day’s drive up to Coffs Harbor where we have our eyes set on one last camping day. Both Coffs harbour and the Holiday park we selected Park Beach Holiday park did not disappoint. The weather was perfect to the point of being very warm into the late evening.

Ocean Beach

Coffs Harbour is a smaller town situated on the east coast of Australia and Coffs Creek creates a beautiful backwater entry into the ocean with a sandspit that Park Beach and the Holiday park and surroundings sit on. It is such a beautiful spot with warm shallow water and the holiday park sparkled it was so clean and well outfitted, and, it was one of the last low season days so prices were reasonable and there were few people there.

The RV park desk recommended the Parks Beach Bowls Club ( for supper as we were tired of the day’s drive and wanted to maximize our stay there similar to Kiama. While it did not have the elevated view that Kiama had, it was 100 meters from the RV park, right off the beach, and had excellent dark ale! I ordered the pork roast and Sandra a shrimp, Chorizo and pasta dish and both were excellent and reasonable in price, and, given the temperatures of 34C, air conditioned! Did I mention the excellent dark ale?

Then on to Brisbane which has become our home away from home on this trip. This is still a 375 kms drive from Coffs Harbour but we get an early start, kept exactly to the speed limit, and enjoyed gaining 1 hr. due to a time zone change.

The Back yard is full of birds every morning

Our first couple of days back allowed us to spend time with Abbey as the rest of the family went to N. Stradbrooke Island with another family for the weekend. It was a great opportunity to focus on Abbey, the pool, and prepping for Christmas.

I got in a mountain bike ride on Jim’s Giant Fathom 29er;  a 5:45am start on the Saturday morning up at Daisy Hill Park. First I was shocked to find the parking lot full before 6:00am. You see Queensland doesn’t adjust with Daylight Savings Time (DST) like other states on the east coast, so sunrise is before 5:00 am at this time of year.  My reason for being there was likely the same as  all of theirs, it’s the coolest part of the day at around 23-26C on days that are now getting into the mid to hi -30’s C. One side benefit is that I picked a track in the park that had 2 Kangaroos on it, so I actually get to see them in the wild! They hopped away as I rode in their general direction.

Later, together we all made perogies for Christmas dinner.

 Shannon had had Sandra try a dress from a local shop. It looked great and we were able to do some Christmas shopping and I bought a beautiful dress for Sandra for Christmas from that same shop. My gift was the America’s Cup sailing experience back in November!

Sandra wears it Christmas eve while playing Bocchi!

Sandra and I win at Bocchi, must be the distraction!

Once they returned from the weekend getaway and we waited for Blair and Sandie to return from Cairns, we spent an evening in downtown Brisbane watching the Christmas Parade and light show. They were both excellent and something we haven’t seen before even in larger centres.
Waiting for the Start

First Marchers!

Beautiful Angels

Close Up

Actual Camels and they do this every night for 10 days


Amazing Movie Projections

And more, they tell a Christmas story!

Next, we all headed to the Gold Coast for 3 days at a beautiful resort (Xanadu) just across from Main Beach on the coast. The rooms and view
North Main Beach from room

were exceptional and Shannon had been able to get, again, some great off season pricing so we all laid back, enjoyed some bike riding,
Riding to the Spit on the Gold Coast

Little Nippers in Training,
Young life guards put through their paces.

Look at the beach foot traffic, all before 7:00 am! and the training!

long walks on a beautiful beach, and a wonderful pool and tennis court. Jim picked a nice Italian restaurant for one great dinner out, and we returned to the Surf Club for an excellent lunch as well.

Our final 3 ½ days are spent back at Shannon and Jim’s with their great pool and surroundings.
Just Relaxing!
The weather is sunny and hot and we spend virtually as much time in and around the pool as possible.

For Christmas eve, in addition to potato, onion and cheese perogies, and sauerkraut ones Sandra decides to take on baking her first Pavlova,
Amazing Pavlova!
a traditional Christmas dessert in Australia due to the bounty of fruit available at this time of year. I will let the photo speak for itself. Truly a talented baker among other things!

Later on our drive Boxing day to the airport I comment that it is the 1st day in nearly two months that I haven’t bathed in SPF 50 sun screen. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Grand Pacific Drive and Sydney

Grand Pacific Drive  (Seacliff)
Our three nights in Kiama were a nice break from our travel pace to date and we were re-charged and ready to head the 132 kms into Sydney via the Grand Pacific Drive and the Seacliff Bridge.

Sydney Opera House
The weather was 21C by 8:00am so after packing up our gear we already needed to head for showers again before getting underway. And it promised and was hot all day topping nearly 30 C with bright bright sun.

The cliffs surrounding the Kiama to Sydney shoreline are quite different than those of the Great Ocean road and appear to have been formed in a similar fashion to Devil’s tower. So the Grand Pacific drive hugs the coastline near Seacliff, and then winds its way through the cliffs on its way to Sydney.

We are lucky that our hotel is within (long) walking distance of the Opera House, The Rocks, and the Harbour bridge
Harbour Bridge
as well as the other downtown core tourist sites so after checking in early to our hotel, parking the car and getting lunch we head out for the afternoon.

What struck us immediately is what a beautiful setting Sydney harbour is, and we sat back later in the Botanical gardens just off of Farm Cove and watched the harbour activity, and people go by.
Sydney Skyline with Royal Caribbean in port

Not far away was the Sydney Library and while technically closed for renovations it was open to look around and we went into the grand library hall.
Sydney Library (vast)

Government House

On the Road to Kiama

Seven Mile Beach at Sunset
About 800 kms north of Melbourne on the Tasman Sea coast is an area made up of several communities, Gerroa, Kiama, Wollongong and Shell Harbor. While researching Australia we stumbled across what is called the Grand Pacific Drive which stretches fro these 4 communities north to  a rebuilt bridge called the Seacliff bridge that takes you all the way to Sydney.

So Kiama, near the southern end of the highway 800 kms north was our first destination. Not knowing whether the M31 motorway could be travelled north in 1 day left us unsure about how much time to dedicate, so we gave ourselves lots of tie and did the road in 1 day, easily. However we arrived on a Saturday night and Kiama is the Banff of New South Wales. It was hopping. Fortunately we found camping at the Gerroa Top Holiday Park, and the receptionist there recommended for supper we try the Fisherman’s Club, their version of the Surf Club’s we tried in Southport on our first bike ride.
Our View from the Fishermans Club for Supper

We knew we had chosen well when this was the view from our table and our lamb cutlets, mash potatoes and veggies came on an overflowing plate. Coupled with cheap but excellent draft  dark beer we sat back and enjoyed the evening.

Sunday we began exploring and found the “Little Blowhole”
Little Blowhole
in the south of Kiama. It was performing well given the wind direction and I asked another person there where the Big Blowhole was. He explained it was at the lighthouse but due to the wind direction it was a bust that day, and we returned today and the wind still wasn’t from the east, the direction necessary for it to be great. We did sightsee around the lighthouse area and found one of the Rock pools that the towns will create an actual swimming pool from the seawater splashing over the area dependent on tide. This is the one in Kiama.
The Rock Pool

The area was so nice we decided to use the extra day and stay over and enjoy the beach and scenery. From the drives we took in the area it is apparent there is a lot of money here, and likely many people from Sydney have their weekend homes along this stretch.
Kiama Lighthouse


Melbourne National Art Gallery
Melbourne is the capital city of the Territory of Victoria in SE Australia and thought to be a stepping off point to Tasmania. Our attraction to Melbourne is that our grandsons are playing in a major Volleyball tournament that has attracted 530 teams/138 schools/ 5000 participants.

While we’ve over the past 2 years been able to see Kaden play for Gold in both court and Beach volleyball this is our first chance to see Riley, and as misfortune would have it, an injury to a senior player on Riley’s team and another players bad ankle; they needed backups. The director suggested calling up a player from the younger age group. Kaden, being the Captain of that team, with Riley the Captain of his team, and them having played beach volleyball together before it made sense.  It was nice when the Director of sports for John Paul College came up to us after learning we were there and spoke so glowingly of our three grandkids and of course their parents. Need to say we blushed a bit?
Over the days and games we watched we came away very impressed with our oldest grandson’s leadership on and off the court. His mom and dad have to be very proud of Riley. And Kaden, while in support of the team’s bench to give it depth played well when called upon. Imagine being nearly 3 yrs younger and still fearless in facing those spiked balls. At one point Riley approached his coach and said he was OK for some bench time so Kaden could get some reps in. Then during the goal medal game Kaden was on the court due to his own abilities. The boys fought to 2 set scores of 25-23, but on the losing end. In Round robin play they had had the upper hand. So they came away with Silver for their work.

We took time to tour downtown Melbourne as well and found it to be a thriving vibrant city with all the benefits and problems related to a large over 4 million people population.
Melbourne Skyline
The downtown core has a wide promenade on both sides of the river and some very nice museums and Art galleries.

Abbey using one of the Simulators at ACMI

However traffic congestion is absolutely horrid there and from our arrival the first night from Christchurch through to our return by the airport today traffic is problematic. Such a departure from Brisbane.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Day 3 Geelong and Great Ocean Road

Split Point Lighthouse
As we head back east toward Melbourne on the Great Ocean Road we are discussing how the road is divided into 3 distinct segments, plus the low beaches between Geelong and Split Point Lighthouse. The literature suggests the GOR starts in Torquay.
How Split Point got it's name

From Lorne to Apollo Bay you experience generally high cliff views and winding road as pictured in our first segment. Then from Apollo Bay the road enters Otway National Park and is mostly forested lands a ways away from the ocean.

Then beginning with Castle Cove past Port Campbell to the London bridge lookout approx.. 26 kms. you see the distinctive cliffs and beaches that make this area unique.

As we head back today toward Melbourne we stop at the Split Pt. Lighthouse since it was in the mist and rain on Sunday on our drive out. Today the sun is out and so are the novice paddle boarders
Paddle boarders in Training
taking their lessons in the estuary behind the beach. On our way up to the Lighthouse we spot a white Cockatoo
First Hiding

Then on full display
who at first conceals themselves and then hops out on a wire on full display. The lighthouse itself itself is a nice 15 min return hike.

Then onto Geelong where Sandra wants to see the decorated Bollards. Geelong is definitely ready for Christmas. After walking the shore-front here we are looking forward to some Fish and Chips. This time it's Barramundi and Prawns at the Geelong Boat House, a barge that is fitted with a cafe on it. The fish but especially the Prawns are nothing short of fantastic!

Decorated Bollards

Merry Christmas from Geelong

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Day 2 Great Ocean Road The 12 Apostles

The Great Ocean Road

The Cove from the Sea
Today the weather has cleared up significantly and we’re able to continue our drive on the Great Ocean Road. One of the main features beside the drive itself are the rock outcroppings in the water that make up attractions like “The 12 Apostles”, The Arch, or London Bridge, or The Cove. All scenic and worth seeing.

Continuing our good fortune while driving just 3 - 4 mins out of Apollo Bay we see our first  Wallaby in the wild as we were driving along. To quick an event to capture by photo.

We’re finding a huge number of Asian tourists being bused on this route and suspect that this will only increase with vacation time setting in. It hasn’t yet.

The London Bridge scene is interesting. There is a story to it. Right here. As we walked back from the viewpoint I said, imagine after walking to the end they turn back and say "Which way did we come, I can't find the way back".

Hope you enjoy the photos.

The 12 Apostles
Eastern View from 12 Apostles

The Cove from Land

London Bridge Falls Down