Wednesday, February 25, 2015

ANCHORAGE PORT STEPHENS


With some errands to run in Newcastle recently, James and I figured we'd make a weekend of it and head a little further north to Port Stephens. I had never been there before and James had never stayed overnight, so we took to Trip Advisor for recommendations on Where Was Good. The Anchorage was the most consistently well-rated, so that pretty much decided it for us! With its Cape-Cod inspired architecture and absolute waterfront location, The Anchorage is the perfect place to stay in the idyll that is Port Stephens.


We loved our recently refurbished attic room, which had a gorgeous little balcony where we could enjoy views of the pool and bay. 


One thing we missed out on was dinner on the waterfront. We thought wouldn't need to book ahead for dinner but it turns out we were wrong! Oh well, we managed to make up for it at breakfast time. A lovely place for some coffee and bacon, wouldn't you say?


You can even fashion the tablecloth into a top once you're done:


Enough about the hotel! Let's explore the area. If I have one recommendation, the single must-do, it's that you embark on the Tomaree Head Summit Walk. It's a short one, but I'll warn you: it's incline all the way there. 


The view is totally worth the sore legs.


I was pleasantly surprised to discover such paradisal landscapes so close to Sydney. Port Stephens boasts a number of stunning beaches, some of which really feel like they're in the tropics, like this one:


I'm so glad we made the time to go there and I'm looking forward to showing off the region to my next interstate visitors!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

BUSH WALKERS


Thanks to our little bush sojourn last weekend, we woke up this Saturday with an uncharacteristic motivation to get into the sticks. Thats not to say that we don't like being amongst nature - we do! We're just very guilty of constantly putting off visiting some of the things we say we're going to do, in favour of the well-loved familiar. Our destination was Kuring-gai Chase National Park and Hawkesbury River region. I've always wanted to experience the Hawkesbury River ever since driving into Sydney from Queensland a looooong time ago (possibly ten years?) and having my breath well and truly taken away by the sight of it. We get glimpses of it on our frequent trips to Newcastle to see James' parents and always talk about going there. We're like broken records - We should do this; Let's do that; How about next weekend? We'll see how we feel (code for "maybe I can't really be effed actually) - ohmygoodness we're those people! Give us a shake would you?


We drove here and walked down the Resolute track, which takes you to the stunning and secluded Resolute Beach. We stopped to enjoy the beach and take some photos before climbing back up the stairs the way we had come, crossing the waterfall/creek and  following the track, which took us to West Head Lookout. I can't find this exact trail online, but if you go there yourself, the map at the picnic area should be able to help you. Now, isn't that some view from West Head?


After that unforgettable sight, we jumped back in the car and drove to Cottage Point. I believe there is a scenic route which we regrettably didn't take. Next time! Cottage Point is very special. It's peaceful and quaint and appeals to me as the kind of place I would like to hole up for a few months and write a book - or just read dozens instead.



A lovely taste of the beautiful Hawkesbury. We'll definitely be back!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

MUM AND DAD'S GARDEN


My dad would be scratching his head as to why I am putting these pictures online. He thinks the garden at our family home is in the worst shape of it's life, given nobody has been living in the house and tending to it properly for some years now (aside from mowing the lawns every so often, as you see here!) I don't agree with him. I love the effortless look of the garden, how it isn't something that requires a lot of work, though it took a whole lot of effort to create it in the first place. When mum and dad bought the house, the whole side of the property was a densely overgrown area with a mere trickle of a creek running through it. Over time, dad created what you see today. After work and on any days off, he toiled. He dug out the creek, making it a large feature of the garden; and every single rock you see in these pictures, he laid himself (with the help of a friend or some of us kids, of course). The stone bridge and every waterfall was also his work. He put in lamp posts and planted many of the trees too.

I remember at one stage he'd made the creek three times as wide as it is now, with a jetty, neat stone edges and stepping stones, but he decided he didn't like it that way anymore and overhauled it again, making it less contrived. I don't know how long it must have taken him to remove the jetty and all those rocks and bring in earth, but he did it, and without doing his back in!

He also completely overhauled the front garden and back courtyards but they aren't too pretty at the moment so I'll hold off on posting about them! Soon he and mum will be moving back into the house and I am excited to see what he plans to do with the property once they get there. My sister wishes to have her wedding and reception at the family home soon, and dad thinks the garden as it is simply won't do! Watch this space.

EMIRATES WOLGAN VALLEY


When I was young, I didn't appreciate the Australian landscape. I grew up in a rural area - a place where the quintessential Australian bush meets the most pristine ocean - and craved the buzz, lights and sounds of the city for as long as I can remember. I got my wish at 17 or so and never looked back. Until now, that is. The desire to be amongst eucalypts and ferns, imposing cliff faces and rolling pastures has seized me. I feel like I have deprived myself of this country's incredible landscape for so long that I am frantically scrambling to catch up. This weekend just past, we were lucky enough to experience one of the most visually stunning and remote bush settings, all the while enjoying the spoils of a luxury resort. 

Emirates Wolgan Valley (who recently appointed One & Only Resorts to manage it) is a conservation-based resort nestled in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. We were told that the land had belonged to the Webb family and used as a cattle farm, before the Sheikh spied the vast and spectacular valley from his helicopter on the way to another proposed resort location (which fatefully, fell through) and asked the pilot to land. Apparently, he asked him to land the chopper again on the journey back and the Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort was born. 

When a 5 star resort sets up in such an untouched location, one can't help but fear ruin. Queensland in the 80's and 90's is a difficult sight to recover from. Thankfully, this resort blends seamlessly into the natural landscape - timber and sandstone is predominant. One night at dinner (in the main building, which itself is reminiscent of an old homestead) I had an exciting realisation: even the fabric of the chairs we sat on were the exact colour of the mountains! Some were the sagey green of the ones close enough to climb; others were the dark blue of the distant peaks. There wasn't an element of the resort's vision, design, execution that I could fault. The homestead style-main building and lodgings wouldn't be out of place on a ranch or snowy peak, with colossal fireplaces as features; exposed beams; panelled walls and furnishings in hides, tweeds, florals and plaids. It excited me greatly! I can't write this post without mentioning the staff: there wasn't a single employee we met who wasn't both exceedingly professional and down-to-earth.

You can do as much or as little as you please. We chose the former - a couple of hour's bushwalk and a lesiurely swim and spa treatment here and there was all we could muster. Mostly we just wanted to sort of sit and take it all in, and there were plenty of spots to do just that. If you want a little more action, hikes, horse rides and cultural tours are offered. I do hope we'll be back again to do all of that. Without any further adieu, let me bring you the pictorial.

The Villa


The Resort and Location


Dining and Decor


The Spa


I hope you're a reader who appreciates a picture-saturated post!!! It's fair to say I'm still quite thrilled about how we spent our Australia Day long weekend. 

As I plan to escape the city as much as I can this year, I wonder if you might share some of your favourite locations for a weekend getaway? I'm even thinking of getting camping gear, so even if it's off  a little off the beaten track, I'm keen to hear about it!