Lewis' Exploring Oz

On and off the beaten track…………………….

Archive for January, 2011

Sydney, Wollongong, Canberra and Gundagai

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on January 28, 2011

Hi Everyone,

Wade fishing at Park


As we headed towards Newcastle, just past Karuah, we found a lovely little place called the Australian Motor Homes Tourist Park and Fish farm right on the Pacific Hwy.  We had wanted to free camp but all the rest areas big enough for us were right on the highway. The sites are away from the road a fair bit so noise wasn’t too bad, they have a couple of dams stocked with fish and for a small fee you could do some catch-and-release fishing.  Wade thought he was in heaven! As soon as we had set up he was off to fish and Daniel went to find the TV/games room.  I think they both needed a bit of time apart from each other and us:) We only stayed overnight so we didn’t partake of the aqua golf or take the small bush walk and mini treasure hunt that was on offer.  It is a fairly new operation but the staff are very friendly and I would recommend a stay here for all sized rigs and they are a dog friendly park too! The weather was not so wet today and by the time we had set up it was a lovely, sunny day.  We were ever hopeful that the tide has turned in the weather stakes for us:)

Lane Cove CP

Chrissy Bus

We made our way to Sydney and the weather was staying sunny for us!  We had good advice to stop and stay at the Lane Cove River Caravan Tourist Park, thanks to Cheryl and John!  It was amazing! It is set in the Lane Cove National Park and is only 10km from the city. We were surrounded by bush and yet right in the city – quite surreal! We set up and decided to make the most of the weather and get our butts into the city to check out a few icons and figure out the next day or two’s  itinerary.  We caught the train about 1 km from the park and it took about 20mins to get to the city. Wade was quite excited as we were travelling on double-storey trains and I must admit I’d never seen one either! We alighted at Wynyard, caught a loop train to Circular Quay and then started walking.  We walked through the Quay and the kids were watching the buskers and other entertainers there.  One of the buses running through the city was all decorated with tinsel for Christmas and the driver was in full Santa garb – it was a funny and crowd-pleasing sight! We headed over to the Sydney Harbour Bridge but Wade was too young to do the walk on top of the bridge, so we decided to just walk across it instead. So glad we did as the views were just fantastic.  The weather was so clear and you could see for miles.  It was just a picture-perfect day! I took heaps of photos of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House and views down the river. Spectacular!

Walking on the bridge

Ye Ole Opera House

Double storey trains

Dan on Ferry

We caught the train into the city again and then we caught the ferry to Darling Harbour, then Pyrmont Bay where we lunched, then visited the Australian National Maritime Museum.  What an absolutely fantastic place!  We spent all afternoon here and we still didn’t get to see everything that this place has to see!

The Endeavour Replica

They have some historic vessels that are permanently moored here that you can tour and  a museum that would take you the best part of 2 days to see everything it has to offer.  We boarded the HMAS Vampire which was a naval destroyer and one of the last big-gun ships made. It served from 1956-1986.  The boys loved the fact that you could walk through the ships and touch most things.  The history and workings of the ship were quite fascinating.  The next vessel to be explored was the HMAS

Walking on HMAS Onslow

Onslow, an Oberon class submarine.  We entered via the rear hatch straight into the torpedo room.  Then we toured through the rest of the sub, all the while marvelling at how crowded and small the space was on board.  You wouldn’t have wanted to be very tall or large and stationed on this vessel that’s for sure! We have a friend Steve, who used to be in the Navy and on the subs and we joked about how he might have been on this sub and where he would have slept, etc.  Funnily enough when I facebooked about our visit, Renae told us he had actually been on board this sub during his service.  Spooky!!! but we take our hats off to you Steve as it would’ve been bloody hard living in those sort of conditions:)!

We also toured the Captain Cooks HMB Endeavour (or rather the replica of it).  This ship was built in Fremantle and has sailed around Oz a few times and will set off again in 2011-2012.  For a fee you can be a part of the crew and sail all or a part of the journey with them as either a crewman or passenger.  It was a magnificent replication of his working ship.  The volunteer gentlemen on board were very knowledgable and funny with their presentation of the ‘facts’! There is way too much information to try to put it in this blog but do yourselves a favour and if in Sydney make sure you visit this museum.

On the sub

Oh Yeah baby

Cpt Cook's cabin

What..can't hear you!

Heave Ho Lads!

Sydney Harbour Bridge

We also managed to fit in a tour of the resident Tall Ship called the James Craig.  It has a very interesting history and is in fact a restored ship not a replica.  The work that has gone into the restoration is amazing! She looks absolutely beautiful.  There are only four 19th century barques left in the world capable of sailing and you can hitch a ride once a month when she sails out to sea. We were the last ones to board for the day and after looking all around the ship we were ready to leave when the crew started pulling the ropes and securing the vessel. They asked Joel and the boys if they wouldn’t mind helping to pull the ship in closer to the dock.  They obliged and had a bit of fun as well.

The wind had picked up so the ferry ride was breezy but still a great day was had by all. We decided to eat in Circular Quay and Wade was fascinated with a mime.  He was painted in all silver and would sit very still until people would come up to him and touch him as they weren’t sure if he was a statue.  Wade went to put money in his hat and he followed him and tapped him on the shoulder to thank him and have a photo. He was very good and we laughed as he caught a few people off guard:)

Mime with wade

Spent the next day stocking up on groceries, shopping and washing! That evening we went on a free guided tour of the park with a ranger to spot possums and quolls-spotlights at the ready!

The Wollongong Gang

Headed out of Sydney towards Wollongong as we wanted to catch up with some friends we had met on the Gibb River Rd.  The road into Wollongong comes off a mountain and as we neared our destination I’m telling Joel to slow down and turn left and his reply is “I can’t”!  We finally managed to pull up using the gears and brakes of the car only to find out that when the guys (who “re-created” the car) re-wired the 7-pin trailer plug, they FORGOT to wire the 6th and  7th pins which were the caravan brakes!!! Not happy Jan.  We pulled up at Merri and David’s house and they kindly let us park in their drive and sleep inside for a few days.  Luxury! They have a beautiful house with a view to die for!  Merri had organised to have dinner with Greg and Marge too but we didn’t tell them that we would be there so it was a good surprise!  We had a great dinner with fantastic company and caught up on the goss of the day! A late but great night and a wonderful sleep in the next morning.  Merri cooked us a huge bacon and eggs brekky and we were ready to start the day!

Aye me hearties!

Illawarra Coastline

After Joel and Dave had organised to have the trailer plug fixed we set out for the day to explore a little of the area.  We went to the lookout at Bald Hill for some magnificent views of the coast! And we travelled over the most amazing bridge, the Sea Cliff Bridge, which is built parallel to the coast.  Further on to Mt Kembla lookout for fantastic views of the city and surrounding district. Then we went to Jambaroo Water Park for the rest of the afternoon.  Dave and the boys went on the water slides and had a blast while i took photos and Joel had a snooze. They had a toboggan run as well that we all had a go on – it was pretty cool actually! You had to rind a chair lift to the top of the hill and you could get some good speed up on the fast track so long as the slow pokes weren’t in front of you , sitting on the brakes! We retired back to Dave and Merri’s for a very yummy dinner and dessert! They all decided to watch “Pirates of the Caribbean” but Dave got the boys to do it in style, by dressing as pirates with hats, cutlasses and eye patches. What a sight! A very funny and great night:)

We farewelled our friends and thanked them for their outstanding hospitality and headed off towards Canberra.

All the 'kids' at Jambaroo

Toboggans a go!

Mt Kembla lookout

Along the way we stopped to see the huge wind turbines that were along the banks of a huge lake.  It was sooo windy here, so I can well understand why they put them here! We stayed at the Canberra Motor Village as it was the closest park to the city and to where our friend Tibor lives.  We set up, did some washing and then rang to meet up with Tibby.  We haven’t seen Tibby for about 3 years so we were looking forward to catching up.

Our nation's capital

Tibby and us

Unfortunately Daniel lost his footing climbing on the step to the van and took a huge chunk of flesh out of his shin – yeeow-ouchy! After playing Nurse Nightingale, we swung by Tibby’s place and then all went to the Mount Ainslie Lookout.  What a fabulous view of our nation’s capital. I took a few photos and we marvelled at how much bush there is around Canberra.  I always pictured it to be a concrete jungle of a city but it is really quite pretty with all that bushland around.  And windy – holy hell it was windy and a cold wind too!  The views from the top though are quite magnificent. We headed back to Tibby’s and were treated to a very yummy dinner and dessert!  It was great to catch up with him but we only had one night in Canberra as we are heading to Victoria for Chrissy so next time we pass through we will be able to stay longer and do some sight-seeing and catch up properly. Thanks for the hospitality Tibby:)  That night we could see the Telstra Tower or Black Mountain Tower which was beautifully lit up.  It would change colours starting at the bottom and changing all the way up to the top of the spire; it was very pretty.  I managed a few photos using the tripod.

Telstra Tower at night

Off today to Gundagai but Wade is very unwell.  He woke me at about 4:30am spewing all over himself, the doona and his bed.  Lucky it didn’t get Daniel on the bunk underneath.  But the laundry was closed until 8am so I hand-washed his bedding, clothes and wiped down his mattress while Joel took him to the showers then let him sleep in our bed.  He wasn’t much better when he woke so when we were sure he wasn’t spewing anymore we packed up and headed off to Gundagai.  There are a few road closures around us at the moment as Wagga Wagga  and a few other places are flooded but we managed quite all right sticking to the Hume Highway.

Dog on the Tuckerbox

There are 2 caravan parks in Gundagai but one was still in flood so we stayed at the Gundagai Tourist and Cabin Park.  Lovely staff and the park is right next door to the public swimming pool-shame it wasn’t swimming weather though! We set-up, lunched with poor Wade still feeling very under the weather and headed out to the “Dog on the Tuckerbox”.  We had a bit of a look around but didn’t want to keep Wade in the sun too long.  The Dog on the Tuckerbox is supposedly based on an incident that occurred to a teamster named Bill the Bullocky on the road to Gundagai in the 1850’s.

Flood level indicator

We drove around to have a look as there was still a lot of water around.  We found a flood level marker in town on one of the bridges that showed how high each flood has been in which year.  This year the flood reached 35ft apparently. We took some photos from a lookout on the edge of town that shows how high the water had come up, how far it had gone down and how much water was till around. Wade finally feeling better after living on powerade all day.

Gundagai floods

We left early and headed towards Wangaratta.  We stopped to stretch our legs at Holbrook at a really nice rest area next to the submarine in the middle of town. Yes, a real submarine! It was a real submarine, bought by the town, cut into pieces to fit on trucks then transported to the town and re-assembled by volunteers. The spectacular, traffic-stopping inland submarine is a fitting memorial to those brave men who serve and have served in submarines in both war and peace.

Holbrook Submarine

We stopped at the Ettamogah Pub, at Ettamogah, had some lunch and then a beer in the bar-as you do- but it was sad to see a lot of the place shutdown.  There was a “shed” out the back that housed a lot of the cartoons that Ken Maynard had drawn and I remember seeing them in the Australasian Post magazine and paper when I was a kid.  I loved them and remember them as so Australian!

Ettamogah Pub

We finally crossed the border into Mexico, I mean Victoria and were on our way to Wangaratta.  There was still so much water around, even in Wangaratta.  Between Wodonga and Wangaratta we hit the worst plague of locusts I have ever seen.  We had to stop to clean the windscreen at one stage, their sheer numbers were just amazing.  I know what the kids will be doing tomorrow:) We landed at my sister’s house in Wangaratta and will be here for about 3-4 weeks.  I’m so excited to see her and the kids and my mum is pretty excited to be having us all home for Chrissy:)

Till next time



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Ballina, Byron and Bananas

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on January 14, 2011

Hi Everyone,

Yes I know Ihave been very slack but my New Year’s resolution is to get this blog up-to-date so here we go.

We didn’t go too far after leaving the Gold Coast making our first stop in Ballina.  The rain is still following us and i hope we can shake it off soon:( We are staying at Ballina Central Holiday Park, a small park but central to town.


R U lost Joel

Sunshine forecast for a short time today so we headed off to Alstonville to see Amaze-n-place.  It is a great maze and a little different in that the bottom half of the maze is actually tree trunks that have been grafted to form a lattice and the top half of the maze is the hedging of the trees.  We split up, the boys against Joel and I to see who could complete the maze and find the items on the hunt list.  There are 8 different lists so you could spend a few hours here!  There were heaps of wooden, metal and brain teaser puzzles to play with and purchase in the gift shop too. The boys found their way out first but not all the items were found so we called it a draw:)

We went to the Macadamia Castle which has farm animals, mini golf and a huge gift shop and cafe.  The park is definitely aimed at younger children (yep even too young for Wade at 9) so we played some mini golf and tasted and bought some macadamia nuts.

Boulder Beach

Fun in the rain at Lennox Heads

It was still raining the next day so we spent the day touring around the area and decided to head up along the coast road up towards the infamous Byron Bay.  We stopped in at some of the beaches along the coast at Lennox heads and Skennars Head.  These places are small townships but so lovely and beautiful, even in the rain.  We kept looking at some of the houses along the coast road overlooking the sea and each of us picking out which house we’d like to live in etc.  It’s a fun game to pass the time in the car!! We stopped at Boulder Beach for a squiz then onto Seven Mile Beach.  There was a surf school operating there and we saw a huge pod of dolphins right next to the surfers. It was quite an awesome sight. We watched them for quite a while and the dolphins swam around, back tracked and stayed right with the surfers, it was incredible to watch.  Onwards to Byron Bay and up to the light house so we could see some of the views of the bay.  Trick here is that if you go all the way to the lighthouse you have to pay to park up there as it is in

Steps to the Lighthouse

Beautiful Byron in rain

a Marine/National Park and you may not always get a park either.  If the weather had been better we would have parked at the bottom and walked up so maybe next time:) History lesson: The lighthouse was built in 1901, named by Captain Cook after Lord Byron’s (the famous poet’s) grandfather and is the most eastern lighthouse in Oz. It is still maintained and in service today, but mostly used for whale watching.

OMG! The views!  They were absolutely gorgeous even in the rain.  We had to put on our rain coats as we decided to do part of the walk down to the Easternmost point of Australia and further on along the headland. The weather is wet but not that cold, thank god!  The views are just spectacular and I would imagine even more glorious in some sunshine.  We took photos of us all at the Easternmost point of Australia as there is a pole with a screw on it to screw your camera onto, lined up to take a picture with us in the photo and the sign and sea in the background.  We walked down the steps and path to the edge of the headland and got some more breath-taking views.  Wade spotted another pod of dolphins and we watched and followed them around the path and rocks.  A truly wonderful place.  After taking heaps of photos and sucking in all the ambience of the place, we started up the steps to get back to the lighthouse.  The weather had cleared a little and was now quite humid so we took our coats off as we were starting to really get a sweat up.  We decided to dine at the cafe up here and take in the magnificent views.  After lunch there was actually blue skies and I managed to snap off a few shots to see the difference with a bit of sunshine.  We will definitely come back this way next lap around. We headed back to Ballina but took the inland roads to see the hinterland inland.  Beautiful area too with green hills and trees.  Mmmm I could definitely live around this area, it’s just beautiful.

Eastermost Point of Oz

Beautiful Byron

Sunshine at Byron

Hinterland near Montecollum

Enthusiasm despite the weather

Breakwater and Jetty







We left Ballina and headed for Emerald Beach which lies just north of Coffs Harbour. The rain is still with us unfortunately and we decide to stay at the Big4 Emerald Beach Holiday park.  The reception staff would have to be the friendliest we’ve come across (and we’ve stayed at a few places by now!) We park down in the boondocks of the park but we get to see lots of kangaroos and actually witnessed (and caught on video) a fight between a very large male and a young male ‘upstart’. The park is bordered by natural bushland on two sides, hence all the roos. The kids have hired some push-pedal trikes to ride around in the park and are having a ball.  We have our own bikes with us but they want to try the novelty trikes instead-go figure! The park is just a short walk to the beach and we head off for a walk even though the weather is not the best. The boys found an area of the beach which is fed by a fresh water stream and someone had built a mini-dam which was getting washed away.  The boys (and Joel) decided to become engineers for while and try to fix up the wall.  I’m spewing as I have just realised I have lost 70 odd photos of the caravan park, the kangaroos and the beach area here.  Doh! I’ll have to try to work some magic and see if I can recover them:(

Colourful Regatta

Coffs Jetty

The weather is still raining when we go to see the sights of Coffs Harbour.  We manage to get a walk in along the breakwall and also a walk out onto MuttonBird Island Reserve and we try not to let the rain dampen our enthusiasm! It’s about a 1 km walk up, over and around the “hill” and the top gives you 360 degree views of the beach, harbour, mountains and the city.  The weather was just too wet to be bothered to walk out along the jetty so we’ll leave that for next time around.  When we were on top of Muttonbird Island we watched a very colourful regatta set out for a sail and a race.  There was certainly enough wind for it, that’s for sure!  The stairs were under repair as they have been washed away, so make shift stairs of scaffolding mark the start of the trek up the hill from the breakwater wall.

Breakwater and Muttonbird Is


Big Banana










We made sure to visit the Big Banana and get some photos so I could send them to my sister, Dianna, who is affectionately known as Banana-a rhyming family joke:)) – sorry Dianna;) They also have tobogganing, which looks more like a luge ride but alas it doesn’t operate in the wet weather! and the ice-skating rink is only open for a few hours on certain days and we missed it by half and hour.  But they have a great sweets shop there, where we watched them make a few of the boiled sweets and a video that shows how they make the little pictures and shapes inside the boiled lollies. It was very fascinating and of course you cannot got to a place like that and NOT buy anything. So a few kgs later, we were off.

Dressed for the race

F1 Racing team

Wade has been trying to go Go-Karting for as long as I can remember but most places require the kids to be 12 or older so you can imagine his excitement when we found one in Coffs that didn’t require them to be over 12.  Even though it was raining we thought “What the hell, let’s just go and do it!” F1 Kart Hire was the place of the racing showdown! Well, it was Daniel, Wade and me!  They decked us out in wet weather racing suits, gloves and helmets and off we raced.  Well couldn’t really race but we did quite a few laps and the boys and I had an absolute blast! Joel videoed and played paparazzi for us and the guys at the track were really great.  The machines are 2 stroke 100cc karts but they had a bit of kick and the wet track and water hazards made for an interesting ride! It was just great fun and we’ll definitely try it again when the weather is a bit drier.

First falls along road

Tristania Falls

Skywalk family photo

Checking in on FB

Crystal Showers Falls

Dangar Falls & Ebor Volcano








We spent a day driving out to Dorrigo National Park to go to the Skywalk, which was a boardwalk of about 100m out to a platform where it overlooks the treetops, rainforest and mountains.  It was quite pretty but once again I imagine it would be far more magnificent in more decent weather.  The drive up through the mountains and rainforests is just beautiful and we stopped to take some photos of the waterfalls that were right alongside the road.  The roads have a huge drain running under it so the water can fall under the road instead of cutting it off.  We almost witnessed an accident as we watched a “Juicy” van (like a wicked van) with some overseas tourists in it stop on a corner, do a five point turn across the road and blind corner so they could come back to take a photo of a waterfall.  At the Rainforest centre and Skywalk there was a 6.6km walk/hike(the Wonga Walk) and we decided to don our rain coats once again and get some exercise.  We were covered for the most part by the canopy of trees overhead but the last 2kms or so we hiked back in the rain.  It wasn’t freezing cold but it was definitely cooler than anywhere we have been for a while.  The rainforest was magnificent and the smells were absolutely fabulous.  We stopped at the Crystal Showers Falls and the Tristania Falls to take photos and have a drink.  They were beautiful falls and with so much rain falling the cascades were full of water.  We met a few other crazies who were walking the tracks in the rain also:)   We lunched at a great little cafe/gift shop in the Dorrigo township.  The lady at the Cofffs Tourist Centre told us it’s where we could get some “home-made” food which was delicious! We had a look at the Dangar Falls and Ebor volcano on the edge of town.  The Dangar river and cascades fall over volcanic bedrock from millions of years ago – another beautiful fall!  We decided to take the road less travelled back to Coffs and it was an interesting experience.  There were quite a few properties

Wade in the Rainforest

Fog and Mist Mountain

tucked away on the mountain sides but the roads are so windy and slippery when wet, which is most of the time:)  We were very thankful for the GPS (and 4WD) as signage in the back of nowhere was limited.  We were heading down the far side of the rainforest mountain when we found fog/mist which was pretty heavy in some parts but we managed to make it back safe and sound to our caravan.  As beautiful as the drive was, we all said we wouldn’t want to live up there as a quick trip into town would take ages due to the windy roads and even teh locals thinks the people who live up there are “just a little bit different”!  As we were taking our boots off both Joel and I noticed a bit of blood in our socks – upon further investigation we found a few leeches had decided to attach themselves to us and they were big, fat greedy suckers too! Neither of us felt anything bite or even sore, we didn’t notice till we saw the blood in our socks!


They must have been full of our blood as they came off relatively easy but had to make sure they were dead.  The sites bled for a few days too just kept putting on new bandaids.  I found a dead one on the car mat in the front of the car a few days later so we did a sweep of the car to make sure there weren’t any more.

Pack up day today and heading off towards Newcastle.  Depending on the weather and road conditions we’ll see if we can free camp tonight somewhere along the way.

Till next time


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