Lewis' Exploring Oz

On and off the beaten track…………………….

Archive for June, 2011

Port Macquarie, Cresent Heads, South West Rocks, Coffs Harbour

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on June 28, 2011

Pelican at sunset

CP on breakwater

Dan and Wade on other side

Hi Everyone,

We are staying at the Sundowner Breakwall Tourist Park, another Big 4 Park.  It is right on the water with magnificent views of the water.  The large rocks along the breakwater wall have been painted by the locals with various colours, scenes and names of families and people. It’s very colourful and some of the artwork is particularly good. The kids are especially excited as our site is huge and we look out onto the local skate park and playground. It was great actually as we could stay near the van or read a book but still be able to see and watch the kids.  Wade decided he’s like to go for a

Sunset from caravan park

swim in the pool, even though i reminded him that the pool wasn’t heated! It was like ice but not one to back down from a challenge, (or admit he was wrong:))  he still went in for a swim, did some very fast laps but still couldn’t get warm. Finally he conceded that it was too bloody cold and jumped into a very hot shower! Boys! There are heaps of bike tracks around as well, mostly following the breakwater too, so lovely views.  The kids decided to go for a

Sunset over jetty and harbour

huge bike ride, packed some snacks and drinks and took Joel’s phone, while we did washing, cleaning and odd jobs to catch up.  They rode around the bay, caught a ferry and then rode to a point opposite the caravan park and gave us a call, so we could see them over there.  They did this ride a few times while we were there and the track along the breakwater is fantastic for running and walking, of which we did a lot of both.  The ferry was free for pedestrians and cyclists but a small fee for vehicles. The kids thought it was quite an adventure to go off on their own and we try to let them when we feel it is safe enough. They usually take Joel’s phone with them so if they do get into any

Boys playing

bother, they can at least ring us. The sunsets over the water and harbour were just beautiful but the sun goes down so quickly on the east coast, so if you aren’t quick you will miss it!  We do so miss the sunsets over the oceans!  Port Macquarie is a beautiful place – we all loved this place and i could seriously live here, no problem! It has a great mix of beautiful beaches, fantastic waterfront and

Tacking Point Lighthouse

Town Beach

lush, green forests as well.

We took a drive around the town and further along the coast heading south, taking in some of the beaches, lookouts and stopping at the Tacking Point Lighthouse, the third oldest lighthouse in Australia.   The

Harbour views

coast line is very rocky along here punctuated by some lovely sandy beaches. We chilled here in Port Macquarie for a few days doing homework, blog updates and generally relaxing.

I had a lovely Mother’s Day, starting with a huge cooked brekky,

which was more like brunch! We spent the day just kicking back, reading and generally being lazy, holiday tourists:) The boys surprised me with dinner out at a lovely restaurant on the waterfront. We walked home along the breakwater and had some yummy choc-dipped strawberries the boys had made earlier in the day!

Mother's day brekky

Crescent Heads

Our next destination was a whole 70kms away at Crescent Head.  We met a bloke at Tathra who recommended this place to us so off we went to have

Crescent Heads surf beach

a look.  We decided to stay for a couple of days and check it out.  We stayed at the  Crescent Head holiday Park, which has either beachfront or riverfront sites.  We took a beachfront site, set up and wandered down to the beach.  There is a golf course right next door which must boast the best views ever from a golf course.  The course goes up a huge, steep hill, which would explain a lot of the buggies we saw. I took a walk around the town which took me to the top of the golf course and the views were magnificent! The surf here is amazing! Even though the weather is too cool for us to swim there are heaps of surfers out in the water – it

Crescent Heads Surf Reserve

is a very popular and beautiful spot. The kids and I hired kayaks and went for a paddle up the river, past the other section of the caravan park.  Wade struggled a bit coming back as we were paddling against the current and the wind had picked up as well.  He came back to the double with me and Dan took the single over again.  They should sleep well tonight:)

Next day the sun had gone again and the wind had picked up as well.  Ah well at least we had one good day!  We

Trial Bay Gaol

watched a heap of surfers catching waves and Wade was begging Joel to go in with him.  He even went to the front office of the caravan park, where they hire wet suits and boards and came back with a couple of wetsuits to try on.  His enthusiasm is unfortunately not rubbing off on Joel who declares that no-way is he getting in this water! So we promise him that he can go surfing further up the coast where hopefully it will be a bit warmer and somewhere he can do lessons too. That seems

German Gravestones

Arakoon Park walk

to placate him for the time being:) We took our tennis rackets and tried to get a game of tennis only to find that the courts are maintained by the local sports club. So we walked down to see them only to find that the unseasonal rain has damaged the surface of the courts so we couldn’t play. Ah well.

View from Arakoon walk

Next day we headed off to South West Rocks.  We had been told by a number of people we have met along the way to definitely check this place out.  We stopped at the Visitor’s Center for some info on places to stay and things to do as well.  We decided to stay at the local caravan park Horsehoe Bay Caravan Parkas it is right on the

Sunset at Horsehoe Bay

Smokey Cape lighthouse

beach and right in the middle of town.  We could see the beach from our site and it was very nice. We could only get 3 nights here as apparently it is a very popular weekend spot. The difference in demographics is quite noticeable.  Crescent Head was a much younger population and South West Rocks a much older population, lots of retirees.

The next day we decided to ride our bikes out to the Trial Bay Gaol and Campground.  It was a decent ride with a fairly steep hill on the last leg, going up to the gaol area.  There is a lot of history surrounding the Trial Bay Gaol and it too boasts magnificent views.  You can also see the whales travelling up the coast but

Another bay

we are in the wrong season to see that:( We locked our bikes up and headed over to the gaol which are basically ruins.  We were mulling over whether to actually go into the ruins when a lovely lady told us that the museum inside is actually closed and there’s no much to see except the ruins and listen to some videos.  We decided not to bother as we have already been to Port Arthur and it’s not really a patch on that.  We did however decided to do a walk around the Arakoon National Park.  It was only about 3.5kms and it took us past some of the WW1 German internees and powder

Smokey Cape Bay

Bay on other side

magazines then down to Little Bay then back to the Goal.  Midway we stopped at a park for a drink and snacks and the park was chock-a-block full of kangaroos – big ones. It was a fairly easy walk in comparison to some we have done but nice none-the-less. We rode back to the caravan park and Wade had a bit of a surf on his boogie-board and I went for a walk up onto the rocks, to watch the sunset.

We decided to drive out to the Smoky Cape Lighthouse and even though the sun is shinning the wind has a definite chill factor of about minus 5! The road out is nearly all uphill, I’m so glad we didn’t ride our bikes out here – oh that and there is no bike track so you would have to ride on the road, which doesn’t have much of a

Wade and Joel in a curl

Dan in the water

All three boys in the surf

shoulder! The walk up to the lighthouse is quite steep but fully paved and stepped.  There are a lot of trees and shrubs which have grown a lot and they do tend to obscure a fair bit of the views. The walk up and back though allows some great views so it was still worth it.  We also did another short walk down to the beach.  We all thought the same thing…easy going down which means it’ll be steep and hard going back up! We decide to head back to the caravan park and have some lunch.  After lunch Wade wants to go body surfing again and the weather is fairly warm so we all decided to go for a swim as well.  Daniel is not really fond of the ocean and salty water but I managed to

Boys at the show

Pig racing

cajole him into having a go at least.  Wade and Dan stayed out in the water for ages, with Joel as well and I had a bit of a body surf but decided to get the camera and get some footage of Daniel actually in the water! Wade met some other kids in the water about the same age and didn’t want to get out.  The rest of us had had enough and laid out on the grass to soak up what was left of the sun.  We cleaned up and went out to the local combined Bowls and Golf Club.  They provide a free pick up service from the caravan parks so we jumped on the bus so both Joel and I could have a drink if we wanted.  They had a buffet area that was about $20 for adults and $12.50 for kids.  Daniel eats like a horse so we pay for him as an adult and there was heaps of food.  There was the standard roast meat and vegies, salads, cold meats, fresh prawns and oysters and a heap of Thai/Chinese food as well, not forgetting the all-important dessert bar that Dan and Wade had a good red-hot go at.

Next day as we were packing up i noticed the local markets on right next door so we popped in there for a bit of a squiz.  They are usually good for finding some second-hand books and we weren’t

Wade feeding Little Penguins

Dan sitting as far away as he can

Joel feeding dolphin

disappointed.  We headed into Coffs Harbour and decided to stay at the Park Beach Holiday Park in town just across the road from the beach. Great special on stay for 4 pay for 3nights so we did. The last time we were around here we stayed out at Emerald Beach but found it was just a little too far out-of-town and no bike paths into town either.  It was nice to see the place with some sunshine as when we were here last it rained the whole time!  We set up and took the bikes off the van and rode along the paths out to the breakwater and along the beach and river.

We noticed that the local show is on so we took the kids for a bit of a treat.  They had a go on a few rides then we lunched – much easier

Dan playing catch

Wade playing catch

to do it that way than have them throwing up all their lunch:) The kids found a stall that sold beef jerky and were off with Joel to have a taste.  They thought it was great and came away with a bag or two.  The boys got to watch a couple of wood chop events as well but didn’t really understand all the fuss about it.  We were told not to miss the pig racing and diving show. Mmmm never heard of it so off we went for a gander.  The seats filled up fast so it was lucky Wade pestered us to get in there early and it was packed.  It’s definitely an eye-opener as the man in charge divides the audience into fours, each group to holler loudly, barracking for their pig.  The pigs race around and a winner is declared. Then they have a couple of pigs that they have trained to dive into a pool.  It was quite a feat and the kids and most of the audience enjoyed the show.  It certainly was different! Finished the afternoon off with some shopping and a relax back at the park.

What a show

Patting a dolphin's belly

We headed off to the Pet Porpoise Pool in Coffs.  It was great! They have dolphins and seals performing in the shows which were very entertaining.  They have a lot of audience participation and as it is out of school holidays there aren’t too many people here so you can get good seats.  Daniel decided that he didn’t want to be here, well not with us and sat away from us – a definitely “not cool to be seen with your family day”:/  Lucky for him it usually only lasts a few hours and we just ignore him:) We got to have our photos with a seal and a dolphin, which of course you can purchase later on for a cost, but they did allow you to take your own photos at the time as well – which most places don’t.  Even Joel got called up to feed the dolphins, from a platform over the pool, which was great. After the main show the keepers take you on a short tour of the rest of the place and allow you to feed some of the fish, sharks and even the Little Penguins.  Lots of photo opportunities and the staff were very helpful and keen to answer any and all questions.  A great day out.

Dolphin kisses Joel

Dolphin kisses Michelle

Dolphin kisses Wade

Seal kisses Wade

Yamba breakwater bike ride

Bike ride

Whoo hoo

We had another chill-out day and the kids wanted to do some arts’n’crafts. Initially they were making something each but then they decided to make a boat out of polystyrene and various bits and pieces.  They finished their masterpiece and then hopped into their boardies and off to the pool to test it out.  They had a blast and played with it for hours.

Next day we headed off to Yamba and stayed at the Blue Dolphin Holiday Resort. We had looked at the Big 4 but it was about 10-15kms out-of-town, so we stayed here instead.  A very nice holiday park which I imagine would be very busy in the holiday season.  We set up and took off the bikes and went for a ride out to the South Wall Breakwater. We stopped along the way back and read about the history of the walls and port area.  We were a bit warm when we got back to the caravan park so we decided to have a swim in the heated pool – well turns out it wasn’t heated quite as much as we thought but the spa wasn’t too bad.  The pool setting was a very bali-styled, with the thatched-roof gazebo and beautiful, timber decking and stonework around the pool.

View of East Yamba

Pool at Yamba

Spa was warmish

Something surprising for us, it rained and was quite cool once again so we got the kids to catch up on schoolwork and us on some forward planning. There are heaps of fruit bats in the palms that tend to get a bit noisy at night-time too. The next day we packed up and headed off towards Ballina.  We will probably stay here for a few days and see if we can get some better weather than the last time we were here.

Till next time

Ciao`.

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The Dish, The Zoo, The Opals and The Guitar.

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on June 8, 2011

The Dish and Michelle

The Dish - specs

Hi Everyone,

We lunched today in Forbes, near the park as you enter town. It was beautiful and sunny and the town looks lovely and clean. We pushed on to Parkes as we need to get a new battery for the car and it’s a particular type and Joel has managed to track one down in Parkes.  A quick change over, left the old battery in Parkes and off we went heading north.  We stopped in at the Parkes Radio Telescopewhich was where they made the Australian movie “The Dish”.  It is absolutely huge! There is a great display in the foyer area of the visitors centre about the dish itself, the history, the uses, all the specifications and some interesting astronomy facts. The dish was commissioned in 1961, has a 64m diameter parabolic dish and after a recent upgrade is now 10,000 times as sensitive as it was when commissioned in 1961.  It is still used quite extensively by astronomers, from all over

Whispering Dishes

Red Earth Cellar Door

the world who book in to visit and use the facility.  Interestingly the dish has just been upgraded to allow remote access to the dish, so astronomers can access the “dish” online rather than physically being at the centre.  There are two theatres; one shows a 21 minute presentation about the telescope, radio astronomy, the history of radio astronomy and some of the achievements of the astronomers who use the Parkes telescope and the other is a 3D presentation of a flight to Mars aboard the spacecraft Elysium 7 followed by a virtual tour of the telescope. We watched the 3D virtual tour which was pretty cool.  If you have the time there are other 3D features you can watch if you ask at the desk.  You can walk outside and see the dish up close but no where close enough to touch it.  We did get to see them re-aligning the dish and that was pretty spekky. There are a couple of whispering dishes in the front garden that the kids had a play around with and it was amazing how well they worked.  Daniel was at one dish, whispering into it and Joel and Wade at the other dish some 50-70m away and they could hear him as if he was standing next to them! Pretty cool!  We decided to watch the movie “The Dish” that night as a fitting end to our day!

Giraffes

Wade feeding Giraffes

Dan feeding Giraffes

We left “The Dish” about 4;30pm and decided to driving on towards Dubbo.  We didn’t really want to stop at the overnight stops along the way as they are all right on the highway and very noisy with all the trucks going past.   A luck would have it, I was trolling the forum on one of our favourite websites, http://www.exploroz.com and found out about a place that is just at the back of the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.  The place is actually a beautiful little winery and i rang ahead to see if it still allowed people to park on the property.  The answer was a resounding yes and it wouldn’t cost us anything unless we wanted power which we could have for $5. The winery is called “The Red Earth Estate

Black Rhinos

Winery” and the owners were very lovely.  They let us stay out the front of the cellar door, in the car park which is right in amongst the vines. It was beautiful.  We made a snappy spag bol then watched the movie “The Dish” for our evening’s entertainment.  It was so peaceful and quiet and the stars put on a fine show for us tonight. It was glorious.

Hippo

We packed up early, thanked our hosts and headed off to the Taronga Western Plains Zoo.  They have great caravan parking with fresh water to fill your tanks and a dump point as well.  We had it on good authority to take our bikes and ride around the zoo, (Thanks Mel:)) and that’s exactly what we did.  The zoo was about a km or so from the winery so we were nice and early.  We packed our water bottles and some snacks and off we went.  You can hire bikes to ride around or you could hire a safari buggy, like a golf buggy but painted like a zebra:) Wade really wanted to hire one of these:) A family entry cost us $117.30 and we opted to feed the giraffes for an extra $20 for the family. The

Tiger on pole

tickets are valid for 2 days entry so if you don’t see everything on day one you can return for a second day.  Armed with our trusty zoo map and timetable of feeding and zoo keeper talks we began our safari.  The Zoo is a 300 hectare open-range sanctuary.  You can actually drive around the zoo but you have to park and walk to some of the exhibits whereas you can ride right up to the fences on

Siamang Apes

your bike.  We started at the Black Rhinos listening to the talk about the difference between the white and black rhinos.  They aren’t really white in colour, it’s more to do with their wide mouths which in Afrikaans is “weit” (pronounced white).  We headed around to the giraffes so we could get in line for the feeding.  They are just the most amazing creatures.  Big, very big, even the babies!  We each got a turn of feeding the giraffes some carrots and getting lots of photos. They have the most amazingly long, grey tongues and really, long eyelashes too.  We took our time stopping to see most of the animals.  A lot of the enclosures have a moat/trench at the outer edge, nearest to the paths

King Julian - Lemurs

and the paths are built up so the animals can’t get out but neither are they “fenced in” with traditional fences.  It was great as you felt like you weren’t really in a zoo! We saw some mountain goats and started the whole “You shut up, No you shut up” from the movie Brother Bear. It’s one of our favourites and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity, even if people did think we were a bit

African Elephant

strange:) We saw lots of animals; zebras, hippos, lion, cheetahs, meerkats, otters and rhinos.  We watched the Siamang Apes swing over to put on their show – OMG they make the loudest noises.  They have a throat that fills with air and balloons out and they use it to sing to each other. By god it was so loud! but they are very entertaining.  The Tiger keeper gave us a talk about the Sumatran tigers and then tied a taped-up box, with meat in it, up a very high pole.  She tries to come up with different ways to feed the tigers, trying to make it a bit difficult to get the meat.  We watched as the tiger stalked the ‘box’ then climbed with such ease up the pole to the top and stayed there for quite

UG opal mine tour

some time trying to rip the box open.  She didn’t succeed on the first go but managed to rip it down later on. We headed in to the cafe in the middle of the park for a late lunch. We then continued on around the park and came through the Australian section last. We decided to keep going around to see the lemurs as we have seen all of the animals in the Australian section, some of them in the wild.

Unpolished opals

The lemurs were on their own little island and looked just like “King Julian” from the movie “Madagascar”. The keeper even opened with her talk with “I like to move it, move it”. The kids all thought that was hilarious. As we were enjoying an ice-cream, we watched a wedding rehearsal for the next day.  What a magnificent setting for a wedding.  They also have packages where you can stay overnight in safari huts and listen to the sounds of the zoo at night.  Maybe another time:) The ride through the park was pretty easy, no big hills or anything like that. We got there at 10am and left at 4pm and still did not see everything, so I can see why they make the pass valid for 2 days. We

Hand Polishing of opals

filled our water tanks before we left and headed north out-of-town to a free camp, (Camps 5 # 934 Terramungamine Reserve) just north of Dubbo for the night. We arrived at about 5pm and the place was pretty packed already.  It is a fantastic spot, right along the river, with heaps of areas to pull up.

Polished Opal

Amigo's Castle

We headed off the next day heading north, stopping in Walgett for some fuel and a kick of the soccer ball. We were parked at a local reserve and the grass was full of bindis! We spent another 15 mins just getting the little buggers out of our thongs and shoes before we got back into the car!  We made it to Lightning Ridge just on lunchtime and set up at the Lightning Ridge Hotel Motel and Caravan Park.  It is the first time we have seen warm and sunny weather for ages!  We kicked back for the rest of the arvo basking in the sun and catching up with schoolwork and the blog. Lightning Ridge is home of the black opal and we decided to do a tour of the town with one of the local companies, Outback Opal Tours.  We had

Chambers of the Black Hand Mine

Carvings

MJ and Dan

a very entertaining few hours being shown around the old diggings, the huge open cut mine and a tour into a working, underground mine. We stopped and looked through Amigo’s castle, an amazing hand-made castle, which is his home as well. It truly is a work of art.  Our guide was an old local fellow and he was full of stories about the place and the people.  After the tour we went to visit a place called “Chambers of the Black Hand“. This is an awesome place.  If you only get to see one thing while you visit here then this should be it.  In a 100-year-old mine Ron Canlin has created a walk in underground mine, about 11m down and has carved all sorts of animals, pillars and people into the walls of sandstone and painted

Wade mining for opal

some as well. It is just an amazing place. There are over 500 different carvings in the walls and he just starts from the top and works his way down.  He has no formal training in sculpting but by god you would think he had.  He has been carving for about 14 years and is now retired so he comes down to carve nearly everyday now. The rest of the mine is still worked for opal by his partners. These guys took us on a tour of the mine and explained what they

Sea scene with Nemo

are actually looking for down there.  It was fascinating to see the opal still in the sandstone and then see how they polish up later. They explained the difference between a real opal or a triplet, where one is the full stone and the other a thin layer of opal on a layer of quartz. The jewellery was just beautiful, as was nearly everything we had seen in different stores today.  There were two pieces that caught my eye though and i hinted that they would be lovely Mother’s Day presents.  One was a lovely ring with inlaid opal and the other a gorgeous necklace with a tear-drop-shaped opal.  We had a chat to the fellas and bought both pieces. I am one very lucky and happy lady:) although i cannot have them until Mother’s Day. After the tour Daniel, Wade and myself went over to fossick in the pile of tailings that is left at the Visitors Center.  We sat down for a couple of hours and managed to find a few small pieces of opal, not enough to retire on but nice to keep for a memento. Wade got a bit bored with it but Dan could see the money at the end of the rainbow and he found a couple of good pieces with colour too. There is a huge pile of rocks and tailings right at the Visitor’s Center and every so often one of the mines will dump some rocks and tailings there for anyone to go through.  After the tour the kids couldn’t wait to try their hand at fossicking for opal.

Cotton on roadside

Feral Koala

There are some local, self-drive tours of the town and are aptly named car door tours.  There are four; a green, yellow, red and a blue one. They are literally old car doors that signpost a trail around different parts of the town highlighting some of the local attractions and history of the town.  The story goes that the car doors have been used for years as signs but some bureaucrat in Sydney decided that they were illegal and needed to be removed. So the community got together and created the “car door tours” to validate using the doors and now there are even more car door signs than before! We visited the local Bowling Club for a delicious meal for our last night in town.

We left town heading eastward and stopped for a while in Gunnedah.  All along the road we’ve been seeing a lot of white, fluffy stuff.  At first we thought it was tissue but after seeing so much of it, we stopped and had a look and it was actually cotton. In Gunnedah, they supposedly have koalas everywhere in the trees in the streets, according to the tourist spiel but after talking to the tourist

The Big Golden Guitar

Camp at Moonbi Lookout

info centre and driving and walking around the town, we decided that it’s just a big farce! We didn’t see even one koala.  The closest we saw was when Wade climbed into a tree and pretended to be a feral koala!:) Not to worry we headed out-of-town and stayed at another free camp (camps 5 #329 Red bank Rest Area).

We headed off this morning to Tamworth and parked the van at the Tourist Info Center so we could explore a little of the town.  We had a few chores to do then we visited the Big Golden Guitar for a photo opportunity.  There was some interesting signage in there about the past winners of the Country Music Awards and even some Donald Bradman memorabilia.  We’re not that into Country music so we didn’t go into the museum there.  I imagine the place would be so different when the Music Festival is on though. Most attractions are geared towards or about Country Music (as Tamworth is the capital of Country Music) and as it’s not really our cup of tea we caught up on the shopping, etc and headed out-of-town for a free camp at a lookout (camps 5 #166 Moonbi Park and Lookout.) There was only one other car here so late in the afternoon but they were just taking photos so we had the place to ourselves.  There was heaps of room to park the van and car and great views to boot.  Joel went for a run, the kids did some exploring and I took some photos and caught up with some more of the blog.  We could have kept driving on further but then we end up tired and cranky and no-one is happy so sometimes it’s better to pull up early, have some fun and enjoy where we are, because we can.

We are heading into Port Macquarie today and the roads are very hilly and windy.  We stopped for lunch at a free camp area called Ellenborough Reserve (camps 5 # 318). It’s a great spot beside a river and we met a few other campers who had pulled up for lunch as well.  We always get people come over for a chat, usually to ask about the car, how much was it, who did the work, etc.  It’s a great talking point. After much chatting we head off for Port Macquarie.  We didn’t stay here on our way down last time as we were in a hurry to get to Victoria for Christmas, but we had stopped to pick up our mail and liked what we had seen, so we thought we’d stop in for a few days.

Till Next time

Ciao`

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