I have delayed writing this post for ages. Following the catastrophic Australian bushfires, it didn’t seem right to relay just what a lovely time I had spent in NSW, a mere week before the fires commenced. Luckily a friend made me see sense. Having returned from a Christmas break to see family in Oz, she explained how the tourist industry is suffering immensely. The Australian Tourism Industry Council has estimated the bushfire crisis has cost the national industry “hundreds of millions” of dollars and damaged Australia’s brand internationally, with a perception “the whole country’s on fire”. So let me use this as my own personal PSA to promote Australia! In fact I bloody love Australia. Browse Jetlag & Mayhem to check out my earlier reviews, from a trip to Tasmania to a WA roadtrip.
Mini Roadtrip: Driving Sydney to Port Macquarie
I haven’t got too much to say about Sydney sightseeing as we were mainly hanging out with old friends. We stayed in an awesome airbnb in Manly which is a handy spot to base yourself.
- Take the Manly Ferry to Circular Quay and have a walk about the famed Sydney Opera House & Botanic Gardens.
- Bronte to Bondi is a beautiful walk. Of course the iconic spot to eat is Icebergs, but we chose North Bondi Fish, which seemed a bit more kid friendly.
- Manly is choca with cafes and restaurants. Grab a coffee and pastry from Rollers Bakehouse and stroll up to Shelly Beach. For a longer walk, you can head North to Freshwater and eat at Harbord Diggers.
- Positioned on Manly Wharf, Hugos offers delicious Italian food which you should combine with a few sundowners.
Sydney to Newcastle
It takes just over two hours to drive from Sydney to Newcastle. Our final stop was Port Macquarie but I felt that drive was too long to do in one day. Plus I genuinely wanted to see Newcastle (much to my Australian friends’ amusement). Our first stop enroute was the Birkenhead Point Brand Outlet in Drummoyne. You may laugh but things like bedsheets are so much cheaper in Australia then Singapore!
From the mall, it was an hour’s drive to the Australian Reptile Park. Here it’s not just reptiles, you can spy koalas, kangaroos, crocodiles, dingos, echidna, wombats and more. Check in advance to see what shows are on, we listened to both the informative koala and dingo talks. Plus paid a little extra to see a koala up close. There are of course some slightly terrifying things on show. I’m not too bothered by the snakes but I did refuse to go in the spider house. Interestingly the Australian Reptile Park is the sole supplier of a variety of venoms, which is used for all snake and funnel-web anti-venom in Australia.
Newcastle is a further 90 minutes north. Located on the coastline of New South Wales, I was pleasantly surprised by the city’s waterfront promenade. I chose to stay at the Rydges Hotel, which was excellent. Instead of the hotel gym, you get access to an amazing fitness centre next door. The hotel is also poised for convenient access to the bars and restaurants along the water. We had a delicious sushi dinner at Nagisa.
I love brekkie at Australian cafes. Again, Newcastle came up trumps on the dining front with Blue Door Cafe. Even better is the Newcastle Museum, across the road, which is free of charge. There’s an amazing hands-on exhibition for kids called Supernova. I loved the history of the area, retold in the Newcastle Story.
We then drove from Newcastle up to Port Macquarie. Stay tuned for part two!