We left Linga Longa Farm with some great suggestions of what to route to take to Newcastle to take in some of the amazing sites this part of Australia has to offer. Before we left, our fantastic host Lauren posted this picture of us on their Facebook page. You can find them here. https://www.facebook.com/LingaLongaFarm/ Can’t recommend them highly enough. They were gracious and generous and their farm is beautiful.
We had planned to go through Wingham town centre first then drive down and through Forster on the Lakes Way past Wallis Lake then stop off at Seal Rocks Beach then onwards to Newcastle.
Wingham is the oldest town in the Manning River valley. Walking down the town centre is like you’ve gone back in time. The main street has been caught in a time warp and has many old original and well preserved building facades.
To reinforce the the fact Wingham is trying to preserve all the “old ways” it even boasts a Video Rental Store. Remember those?
This Vampire Jet which was donated by the Air Force Association in 1971 to commemorate the fiftieth birthday of the RAAF. It stands proud across from the main street in what could only be described as a village square.
There are 2 plaques on the plinth the jet is mounted on. This one to describe the jet.
And this one to commemorate that Australian Rugby League started here in 1907.
We left Wingham and headed for Forster along the Lakes Way. The Lakes Way is a tourist route 77kms long and takes you through the twin towns of Tuncurry and Forster, through Booti Booti National Park and along the thin strip of land between Wallis Lake and the Pacific Ocean. We stopped briefly at a municipal camping site. It was in the most beautiful setting in the National Park in the middle of the forest and alongside a stunning and deserted beach. It only costs $20 a night to camp there. We vowed to camp there on our way back up this coast in July.
Quite a few people had mentioned Seal Rocks as a place we had to visit and it was here we were heading. At the end of a long, twisting narrow road we found it. It was of course, stunning, and busy, very busy.
Well, it felt busy in my memory when I accessed that part to write this section. Then I added the picture above and it doesn’t seem that crowded at all. It was again, one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen. I think Australia has the best beaches in the world and even on a busy day most look like this.
We hadn’t much time to stop as we had to be in Newcastle by 3:00pm to pick up the keys to our Airbnb apartment so we turned the car around and went straight there.
The apartment was on the 10th floor of a new development overlooking Newcastle Beach, the rock pool and the lighthouse.
It was a very modern apartment. The bedroom had floor to ceiling windows with the view in the picture above. It was a very peaceful place to sit and work while listening to the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore 10 stories below you. As an added bonus the sun generously decided the most appropriate place to rise each morning was so that Jim and Jenni could get the best view of it out of the bedroom window.
We had arranged to meet Natasha, a friend of Jenni’s, and her husband Ed at the Custom House Hotel for dinner. It was Sunday night and Sunday night at the Custom House is doof doof night. The place was packed with happy young folk drinking craft beers and furiously and annoyingly having fun. Worse than that the restaurant was closed. Their loss was our gain, we went to Bocados Spanish Kitchen, a Spanish tapas style restaurant. The food was great, the sauce the calamari came in was fantastic, chilli hot and rich. Bocados means “little bite” they told us.
Ed told us a little factoid about the history of Newcastle, apparently some convicts escaped and were on the run. The British sailed into what was to be Newcastle looking for them and found coal lying around on the beach. The rest is history, Newcastle now exports more coal than any other port in the World.
We had 3 days of customer meetings in Newcastle, that meant 2 more nights to try different restaurants.
On our previous meanderings we saw an interesting place, a Japanese Bar and Restaurant called Kitami. Jenni and I made a decision to try this before we left and it was there we ate the next night.
A short piece of research and reading their reviews before we went told us 2 things,
1) We made a good decision and,
2) We must try the smoked tofu.
The decor in this restaurant is pretty unique. There’s a massive portrait of Marlene Deitrich on the wall, some blimps and a Red Baron biplane hanging from the roof and Japanese art all around. Apparently the building used to be a German restaurant until the new owner took over. He kept a lot of the German decorations and simply overlaid them with Japanese stuff which made the place very interesting indeed.
We ordered the Smoked Tofu, some Sushi and some Japanese Beers and some Sake.
The Smoked Tofu was divine, when I spoke to the chef on our way out he told us it takes 3 days to make it. Totally worth it.
Every now and then we’d see a shape swooshing past the apartment window, not something you expect on the 10th floor. Hang gliders used the strong on shore winds to play on around the high rise apartment blocks along the beach. Seems a bit dangerous to me. They got really close to the buildings sometimes.
On the 3rd and final night in Newcastle we went back to the Customs House Hotel. The happy young people were gone and the restaurant was open. We had the place to ourselves, this is probably how famous people eat all the time. Booking out the entire restaurant for themselves.
The Salmon with Mediterranean spices was great, the beer was a great match, Kosiusko Pale Ale. A great pairing if I do say so myself.
The next day we had a final customer meeting then it was off to Sydney. We had a few customers to see in Sydney so we were going to be there for 8 days, we’d also be visiting friends and relatives while we were in town. I’m going to try and do a blog about Sydney without featuring the Opera House or the Harbour Bridge. Here goes!
Initially we would be staying with Jenni’s brother Mark and his partner Kathy. They are the most gracious and entertaining hosts and the food is always amazing.
We were in Sydney CBD all day the next day visiting clients. On the way through Sydney Jenni saw this little lost girl. She was wearing a coat even though the temperature was 40c.
There are statues like this all over Sydney. It’s an interesting place to wander around.
We walked back over the very colourful Pyrmont bridge to catch a taxi.
On the second night in Sydney we went to the local pub with Mark and Kathy, the 3 Weeds, for dinner.
Jenni and I been in there for a drink on the first day and I ordered a Guinness. The excellent barman told us they had Nitro Stout, I didn’t try one that day but we went back this time so I could give it a go. It was so good I had 2. The barman also told us about 4 Pines Space Beer, specially brewed for zero gravity and the only beer to be approved by NASA to go into space.
The story goes that some NASA boffins were visiting 4 Pines Brewery, after many tastings they got sufficiently “creative” and suggested that if they could arrange it would 4 Pines brew some beer they could send into space. And they did.
Read about it here.
Carriageworks Farmers Market
While at Linga Longa Farm the host Lauren told us about the Farmer’s Market in Carraigeworks in Sydney. They said it’s a proper Farmer’s Market, the stall holders must produce the product they sell themselves. They don’t allow wholesalers in. Lauren said that Linga Longa farm have a stall there every Saturday so we went along to see it.
There were over 70 stalls selling everything from flowers to vegetarian sausages. We met Lauren and bought some of her famous homemade bone broth and some steak for Mark and Kathy.
We like walking and exploring so we walked the 6 kms back from the market to Mark and Kathy’s house. The walk took us through Sydney University which has some really interesting architecture.
They are a most progressive Uni, there were rainbow flags flying from the turrets and hanging out windows.
We stopped for coffee and then wandered back along a small river bank back to Mark and Kathy’s house. We passed this amazing mural. The images were fascinating.
On Saturday night we’d arranged to stay with some other friends, Carol and Greg.
The afternoon we arrived they were in the middle of having a cheese making social afternoon that involved drinking, making cheese from scratch and eating it.
The first dish was watermelon salad with homemade feta. Tasted as good as it looks.
Next up, home made halloumi on the BBQ.
And finally, for desert some cream cheese tarts with fresh raspberries.
It was an entire afternoon of eating and drinking. The food was amazing and we vowed to give making our own cheese a go soon.
Carol and Greg’s house had a great view of the Sydney skyline and I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of it as the day progressed.
This is a montage of the skyline during the day, at sunset and at night.
Sunday morning started a bit slowly, due to the previous nights fun. Jenni and I had some work to do for a client but we had this sorted by about 11 and Jenni and Carol went for a run in the park.
Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden
In the afternoon we took a trip on a ferry to visit Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden across the river. This was a suggestion from Judy Johnson, thanks Judy, the place was beautiful.
At this point I realise that it’s (almost) impossible to do a trip around Sydney Harbour with catching a glimpse of the famous landmarks.
The Secret Garden is a short walk from McMahons Point or Milsons Point ferry terminal. We chose Milsons Point as we got to walk past Luna Park.
Luna Park is a theme park mainly for kids but as it’s right on the river with fantastic views of the bridge and Opera House it is one of the main attractions in Sydney, it was certainly busy on the Sunday afternoon we were there.
I spotted this little feather caught on a spiders web, glinting in the sunlight.
In case you haven’t heard of it or it’s story, this is from the website.
Wendy and her renowned artist husband, the late Brett Whiteley, set up their family home in Lavender Bay in 1970 and lived there together for two decades. Brett painted many of his iconic Sydney Harbour pictures in the house.
In the weeks that followed Brett’s death in 1992, Wendy’s grief-stricken need to regain some control in her life, to clean up a mess that she could clean up, found her obsessively attacking the piles of overgrown rubbish on the large land filled valley of unused railway land at the foot of her house. Wendy hurled herself into the forlorn site, hacking away at lantana, blackberry vines and privet, clearing up dumped bottles, rusty refrigerators, rotting mattresses, labouring till she was too exhausted to think or feel, then collapsing into sleep each night. Then doing the same, the next day and the next. Wendy never asked any authorities for permission, and no one told her to stop, so she kept going.
After the walk around the gardens we were ready for a cold one so on the way home we stopped at The Cottage in Balmain, we ordered a mushroom pizza to share. It had truffle oil on it and was delicious.
We’re in Sydney until Thursday, then we’re staying in a vineyard in Byong and then with friends in Albury . Read all about that in next weeks blog.
Jim and Jenni