Sunny week to see the great attractions

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Oct 03, 2010

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Where I stayed
Lane Cove National Park Caravan Site

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Monday, August 23, 2010

As we left North Haven early on Monday morning, we saw the beautiful backdrop of Big Brother hill above Laurieton with a band of cloud across the middle. We drove out this pretty area fairly soon after 7am to join the traffic on the Pacific Highway. Driving through the rain along the highway we were entertained by some of the exit signs - Tom Cat Turnoff, Tuncurry, Crowdy Bay, Jericho Road, Bullocky Way, Cooloonlook, Coopernook, Crowdy Head, etc! Near Maitland we turned off the Pacific Highway and onto the Freeway heading straight to Sydney. We stopped at one of the Freeway Service Centres and were surprised at how many trucks were parked there.

From the 50kms to Sydney sign, the landscape was hilly and heavily wooded. The freeway in many sections was cut out of the hills and we were driving between high granite walls and then over the mighty Hawkesbury River. Not long after coming into the built up area of north Greater Sydney, we turned into the National Park Lane Cove Caravan Park. While staying here in the peaceful surrounding of the bush it is hard to believe we are only about 15kms from the busy City of Sydney. As we set up camp, we were welcomed by the resident kookaburra and then watched two brush turkeys building a nest behind our caravan.

The closest train station, North Ryde, is a short walking distance from the park and trains run very frequently which make this an ideal spot to discover this huge city.

With good weather forecast, we set out on Tuesday morning with $2.50 pensioner day bus, train and ferry tickets in hand and the intention of getting a good overview of the city so that places of interest could be explored in more detail later in the week.
First stop was Circular Quay from where all ferries to various parts of the city depart and is the centre of the tourist precinct with the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and the old area known as The Rocks in close proximity to each other. After getting off the train, we wandered past the jetties where the ferries were moored and walked up to the Opera House.

It is interesting to see that the Opera House is a cluster of three different buildings and not just one, as it generally looks like on photos. From here we had a leisurely walk through the Botanical Gardens visiting Mrs Macquarie’s chair carved out of rock where the wife of a former Governor sat and looked over the magnificent Harbour.
There was a hoard of visitors from Asia all having their photo’s taken at the chair so we decided to forego a picture and proceeded towards Kings Cross.

Across the narrow Woolloomooloo Bay Australian Warships were lined up at their berths at the Garden Island Naval Base, while numerous and large private yachts were tied up next to the upmarket units built on the Finger Wharf that juts out into the bay.

Woolloomooloo is a suburb consisting of old and new houses built on the hillside leading up to what is known locally as ‘The Cross’. Kings Cross is the hub of the night life of Sydney, where seedy clubs, drugs, gambling and ladies of the night do business. Not very interesting but according to the leaflets a must see place.

There is a pretty water feature in the Fitzroy Gardens sitting in the heart of the suburb where the Police Station is also located. After a fairly long walk, a drink was in order and we sat and enjoyed a cool drink before catching the train back to Circular Quay. We decided that we would have lunch at Manly Beach so we boarded the next ferry for the 30 minute trip. Just before docking at Manly we had a good view of the Sydney Heads where the harbour meets the Pacific Ocean.

Manly has a gorgeous beach which was being well used while we were there, although the temperature was only hovering around 20 degrees. Too cold for us sandgropers to even think of getting into the water despite the sun shining. As we had not enjoyed our normal seaside meal of fish and chips for some time, and being the easiest meal to take down to the beach to eat, we made for the local shop and bought a portion each and headed for the sand. After eating our fill a walk along the promenade was in order, watching surfers in the water and people sunning themselves on the beach. We then had a leisurely meander through the mall admiring the old colonial buildings before making our way through the shopping precinct back to the ferry for the  return trip to Circular Quay.

Thirty minutes later we were wandering around The Rocks looking for the way up to the Harbour Bridge. The Rocks consist of some of the oldest buildings in Sydney converted into eateries, pubs and boutique shops all designed to squeeze that dollar out of your pocket, as well as some up market hotels with the same intentions. It is interesting that in the heart of all this, there is a modern Youth Hostel where Lesley had enjoyed staying on her recent trip to Sydney. After climbing untold number of steps and backtracking somewhat, we eventually found our way to the roadway that leads to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Being gluttons for punishment, we decided that we would get a good view of the city, harbour and Opera House from the top of one of the stone pillars that support the gigantic arch. Two hundred steps and aching legs further on we stood and gazed in amazement at the view presented from this lovely lookout. Many photos are mandatory from such a place with views out to the heads, the city, up river to Parramatta and of course the intrepid climbers who pay their 180 dollars to torture themselves climbing the bridge arch itself! Satisfied that we had done enough for one day, we walked across the bridge to Milsons Point where we picked up our train to North Ryde and home, tired but at least a bit more familiar with this city of six million people than we were that morning.
We woke again with sunlight streaming through the caravan window and after breakfast walked the kilometre down to the railway station where we caught the train to Bondi Junction. We had arranged to meet Karin Calvey, who arrived in Australia a few months before us from Rhodesia, at the Junction Railway station to catch up again after all these years.

We walked to where her car was parked and she took us for a trip around the eastern suburbs where she lives. First stop was Centenary Park, a large area where families gather for picnics and the fitness fanatics go for their fix of exercise. After a short walk and a cup of coffee we then drove through the suburbs visiting different places of interest including Coogee Beach and the Waverley Cemetery where you would just die for the view over the Harbour and the Bridge in the background!

Further on we parked at Bronte Beach from where we went for a short walk to view the area from the sailing club veranda over looking Bondi Beach. From there we drove down to Tamarama Beach and then the famous Bondi Beach which was virtually deserted compared with Manly Beach yesterday. As lunchtime was now creeping up on us we went to Karin’s apartment at Vaucluse where she produced a plate of delicious cauliflower soup, bread and a welcome drink.
Then off again to visit the Gap, a series of cliffs overlooking the Ocean where many people have died, either by suicide or accident and even a fairly recent case of murder. Another drive through the suburb of Rosebay where large houses are in abundance and the well known Scots College is found, before arriving back at Bondi Junction. After saying goodbye to Karin, we went in search of the Swiss Consulate so that Margaret could organise the renewal of her passport, only to find that it is only open from 9am to 1 pm.

With the intention of visiting the consulate the next day, we caught the train back to North Ryde where we prepared to visit Susan Niven (nee Elliot) a friend from Hartley days, where we had enjoyed many a dinner with her parents John and Nora, together with Deirdre and Justin Kennedy on a Saturday night at the Hartley Hotel.

Susan and David have a beautiful house in the suburb of St Ives a short distance from where we were staying. They were very welcoming and had gone to a lot of trouble cooking a delicious roast complete with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and a variety of vegetables, something we are not easily able to cook in the caravan. Considering the amount of time that had passed since we last saw Susan, she hadn’t changed much and we enjoyed the time talking about the “good” old days, family members and what they are doing. Before we knew it, time had passed and around 11.30pm we once more said goodbye, pleased that we had had had the opportunity to meet up with Susan again at last after so many years and meet her husband and daughter.
This good weather doesn’t seem to be coming to an end and Thursday was no different to the other days with the sun shining again so we set off to get to the Swiss Consulate when it opened at 9am. We found the transport system very good despite the many criticisms it gets from the locals. The trains are frequent, clean and the stations equally so, and easy to find your way around. The pensioner day ticket at $2.50 is extremely good value and we have used ours to the max. Passport now almost sorted besides waiting on information to be sent from Margaret’s place of origin in Switzerland which should be received tomorrow. Glad that this has now been done, we found a huge shopping centre just around the corner where we went up and down and around various floors until we stumbled on a coffee shop to get our daily Latte. The shopping centres here are huge, especially the one at Macquarie Park where we did our weekly shop last night on our way to Susan and David. We were surprised that they actually close at 5.30pm on most days despite the talk around Western Australia that we should embrace 24 hour shopping because that is what they do in the east!

After our coffee stop it was time to explore the city centre so back on the train heading for Martin Place which seems to be the hub of the business area. This area contains really high buildings, some beautiful older ones such as the Queen Victoria Building,

The Sydney Town Hall and close by St Andrew’s Cathedral which has an amazing collection of stained glass windows second to none that we have seen on our previous travels to England and Europe. After taking in these sights we took a short walk back up Martin Place towards Hyde Park.

Just adjacent stands the New South Wales Parliament Building next door to the more imposing Sydney Hospital. The Mint, Barracks and State Library take up the rest of the block with St Mary’s Cathedral just across the road. Another day has passed and time to go and cook dinner and write some more of our travel pod. Friday morning came and we couldn’t believe that we had been so fortunate to get yet another day of good weather. We made the trip back to the Swiss Consulate, as we were told by way of a telephone call that confirmation had been received from Langnau that Margaret’s details were in order so that photograph and finger prints could be recorded digitally to conform with the latest travel requirements of the different countries around the world. Sydney now is the only consulate in Australia from where a Swiss Passport can be obtained.

Then a quick trip out to Kirrawee to deliver a present to Lesley’s friend Joanne, who is expecting a baby in October. We spent a good twenty minutes talking to Joanne who had met Lesley whilst on a trip to the game reserves in Tanzania and Kenya last year. While in the area we went to look at the nearby town of Cronulla, infamous for the so called Race riots in 2005, as we had to wait quite a while for the next train back to the city. Cronulla is quite small but boasts some lovely beaches and is a popular summertime destination for locals from the surrounding areas. Soon we were back on the train, destination Circular Quay where a further look at the Opera House and the historical area of The Rocks were on the agenda. As usual, the opera house was swarming with people, especially school children obviously on tour from one Asian country or another all eager to see as much as possible in the short time they would be in town. For this reason we did not take a tour of the inside of the building but took in the beauty of the building while sitting on the steps in the sun. Time is running out, our week is almost up, so to make the most of the remaining hours of the day we wandered between the old buildings, up and down small walkways and alleyways of The Rocks. Sydney has so much to offer in the way of entertainment, restaurants, and attractive sites, we can see why it is the destination ‘numero uno’ of overseas visitors. In contrast Perth really has not much to offer the tourist even if it is our home and we love it.

Saturday came, we had a leisurely breakfast of Egg, Bacon and Mushrooms before leaving for China Town and Darling Harbour. First we just had to ride the monorail around the area to get our bearings and get our $3.50 monies worth. We actually did two circuits alighting on the third pass at Paddy’s Markets. This market is similar to the Fremantle Market but much much larger, and a map would be in order to find your way around it. After perusing the many things on offer and not buying any of them, we wandered into China Town comprising mainly of one street with restaurants and eateries taking up most of the space with a few souvenir shops in between. Chinese restaurants are like magnets to us and we couldn’t resist the urge to get lunch, so soup, springs rolls, fried rice and some kind of beef vegetable concoction, lemon chicken together with a beer and Chinese tea were ordered and eaten with great satisfaction.

The Chinese gardens are situated just around the corner and something not to be missed, being beautifully set out in the Chinese tradition and a place of peace and tranquillity. For well over an hour, we wandered through this small area packed full of typical Chinese buildings, waterfalls and ponds stocked with large koi fish, before leaving for Darling Harbour.

This part of Sydney is very popular. There were many families picnicking, strolling along the shoreline or enjoying the entertainment on offer. The usual buskers riding monocycles, juggling and playing didgeridoos were joined by the most amazing marching band from a high school in Japan. These school children played a really varied assortment of music while marching in ever changing formations and their discipline was something to behold. They were definitely a credit to themselves, their school and their culture. It was a real pleasure to sit and watch their performance which lasted about an hour, after which we wandered down to the Maritime Museum to check out their display of old and modern ships and other maritime items.

Unfortunately we couldn’t do the place justice as the afternoon had slipped by and closing time was fast approaching, so another trip to Sydney is on the must do list and next time round we will visit this museum again. We made our way home via a ferry to Milson point where we got into our heads that we had to buy a lamb roast dinner, why we don’t really know, as we had eaten a good lunch. Perhaps the reason was it seemed such good value and looked delicious! The amount of meat and vegetables for $10 was just unbelievable. Mike ate all his but Margaret had to ask for a container to take more than half of hers home!

Sunday, our last day here, was a day of rest with no more rushing around town and instead time to do our laundry and slowly pack up the caravan annexe and tables ready for our departure the next day.

 In the evening Nick Weinmann, whose parents and grandparents we knew in our days in Africa, came over to say hello. We had a braai/bbq of boerewors and steak, made a salad and some roast potatoes and sat and talked for a couple of hours. The evening was surprisingly warm for us to sit outside where a local possum came out of the dark to investigate who was talking and disturbing his evening.

After Nick went home, we settled down for the night with the satisfaction that we had done and seen as much as was humanly possible in the seven days we had been here.
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Terry Dunn on

Good on yer Cobber ! another very interesting and enjoyable read ! great pictures also , as usual ! keep up the good work !

margrit jenny on

Alles umwerfend all your travelbook and specially Sidney - i think i do not have to go and visit this town - it was all so real to look at!
What a diffrent to our trip last Saturday to Adelboden - even i was walking over a very long Hangingbridge!

Eileen Hart on

Hi you Guys.
As per previous persons comments, wonderful read and stunning pictures,
I now hav e this terrible urge to visit Australia. I am also very impressed with Sydney. What has been your favourite place. When do you return to Freemantle, Perth. Keep me updated on your future travels that would be homeward bound.

Nigel Read on

I am thoroughly exhausted having just read about your Sydney visit. It brought back many memories of visits to Sydney, mainly attending training courses. (you will know, Mike), staying at a hotel Bronte Beach and getting around in a ute that I hired for 2-weeks. I really enjoy reading about your travels (and so does my dad!).

Irene on

Wow what a trip. Sydney sounds great. I was interested in your visit to Susan (Elliot). She looks a little like her mother in the picture. Did you think that??
And the Calvay lady is she the wife of David Calvay?? Have a good week.
All well here.

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