The Sydney Journal
Australia has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember and I had in fact hoped to visit multiple times over the past two years. Stunning beaches, intriguing mountains, curious wildlife and the Australian lifestyle put this place on the map for me, and up until now I had to listen to friends boast about their time there.
Shoulder seasons are some of my favourite times of year to travel, especially to hot climates like Australia. Less tourists and moderate temperatures are a huge draw, and there are usually a lot of fun things to do.
I boarded my flight to Sydney in Los Angeles, flying with Air New Zealand and connecting through Auckland. Air New Zealand fly out of Vancouver as well, but I needed to fly on a specific date making it easier to take the short hop down to LA. It also meant I get to pay a visit to one of my favourite airport lounges, the Star Alliance Gold LAX lounge. You can access this lounge by booking in business premiere or if you have Star Alliance Gold Status (I had both for this trip).
That cliché saying ‘it’s not the destination, but the journey’ definitely comes in to play when you fly with Air New Zealand. The stunning Koru Lounges, charming on board service and great onboard amenities and food all make the journey one to remember. On these long haul routes, they fly a combination of large Boeing 777 and 787 planes which feel much roomier and spacious on these longer journeys.
Arriving in Sydney feeling refreshed, I met up with a few others, joining me on my trip. We made our way out to the Blue Mountains, a short two hour drive from the airport. I had only seen photos of this place before but I was speechless seeing it in person, and it’s even wilder to think that somewhere so vast and natural is right on Sydney’s doorstep.
We stayed until sundown and took in golden hour high up on the mountainsides, looking down over the valleys. Just as darkness approached we made our way back to Sydney and checked in to the newly opened Ovolo Woolloomoloo Hotel. Jetlag quickly set in and all of us went to sleep after a quick bite to eat.
The following morning we all woke early to catch a Sydney harbour sunrise, ate some breakfast and made our way to Bronte beach. Slowly walking my way around the coastline up to Bondi beach, this area reminded me of my childhood growing up on the south-east coast of England with fish and chip shops, pubs, and people strolling along the beach. We stayed for a while, enjoyed some ocean view lunch, then made our way back to the hotel to get ready for the opening night of Vivid Festival. For those that haven’t heard of Vivid Festival, it’s a series of light and art installations scattered throughout Sydney’s CBD between May 25th and June 16th. This year was the 10th anniversary and it was supposed to be quite the show.
Attracting tens of thousands each year to both opening night and the remaining nights, it lived up to the hype. Street vendors kept us well fed and the electric energy kept us exploring all the different installations dotted around the harbour and further in. It didn’t take long before the jetlag took hold of us all once again and we were back in bed for an early start the following morning.
A 5am wake up call to leave for the airport left me feeling like a zombie but I was quickly overcome with excitement to explore a new place. We made our way to the domestic terminal at Sydney and boarded a small little hopper plane bound for the town of Moruya. The short forty minute flight saved us a five hour drive and took us in to some of the most beautiful coastal countryside in southern New South Wales.
From here, we were driving back north to Sydney over the course of the next few days. Our first stop was in Beautiful Bateman's Bay. We traded the car in for kayaks and took to the water for a tour of the Oyster Farm. We kayaked out of the bay towards the Oyster Farms, passing jellyfish and other marine animals along the way. A short paddle later and we had Oysters in our hands ready to eat. My stomach doesn't react to Oysters well so I let the others in the group enjoy them and made my way to shore to enjoy a coffee at the restaurant nearby.
Back on the road again, Pebbly Beach was the next stop on the drive north. This stunning beach seemed like it was out of a fairytale and was undoubtably the highlight of the trip for me. Wild Kangaroos hop around on this beach, eating away at the fresh grass. This was my first time ever seeing a Kangaroo and I was blown away at how friendly they were - they didn't mind humans being around and weren't afraid of us.
(Note: these Kangaroos are wild creatures so please be respectful)
We stayed until late watching these little Kangaroos and Wallaby's hop around then made our way back through Murramarang National Park, stopping off to take in some of the wild road views along the way. Our accommodation for the next two nights was at The Woods Farms. This accommodation was set on a beautiful piece of land with multiple options for places to stay, we had a small little cabin on the edge of a lake for two nights.
We woke early to take in a sunrise at Greenfields Beach. The beaches seemed to get better and better as we progressed through the trip but this one was really special, especially at sunrise when the sky ignited bright orange and pink.
We left the beach and made our way to the wharf for some delicious breakfast at Pilgrims in Huskisson. If you're a vegetarian like me, or love healthy food, be sure to pay this place a visit, you won't regret it! With a full stomach we walked down to the harbour and boarded a Whale watching tour. I'm not one for Whale watching tours as I live on the west coast of Canada and we're lucky to be surrounded by Whales and have much more intimate encounters. If you don't get to see many of these magnificent creatures, it's well worth the trip.
Being out in the fresh open air on the ocean worked up our appetites and just in time to make our way back to Greenfields Beach. We arrived to a beautiful lunch, set up by Hyams Beach Hampers. This was another highlight for me and a moment to really slow down and appreciate this incredible part of the world. From here we took the rest of the day to enjoy some downtime and the beautiful farm property we were staying on, catch up on some photo editing and eat a delicious meal in a forest setting at The Gunyah Restaurant.
Continuing our theme of taking things a little slower, we slept though a vibrant pink sunrise. I only know because I had a window view to the east and suffered severe F.O.M.O. laying in bed seeing the clouds light up. Our slow morning took us back to Pilgrims one last time before we had to leave and drive further north. Once again they cooked up a great vegetarian breakfast and before we knew it, we were in the car and making our way to Gerringong. We stopped at two famous roadside eateries along the way; Hyper Hyper, renown for their strong coffee, and Berry's Famous Donut Van, known for their addictive donuts.
Less than an hour later (including our quick coffee and donut stops), we arrived to the Soul of Gerringong, a private oasis nestled in the heart of this beautiful coastal village it was named after. This was by far my favourite accommodation of the trip and if you're travelling through with a few friends of family, be sure to spend a night or two (or three) here. We settled in then we drove ten minutes north to Kiama to capture sunset at Cathedral Rocks. Waves crashed below orange skies and we spent a few hours taking in the wild coastal scenery. Be sure to check the tides and have general knowledge of the ocean before visiting, the sea can be unpredictable at the best of times.
We enjoyed the morning relaxing at the Soul of Gerrigong, packed up our bags and made our way to see some fun places on the way back to Sydney. These included Blowhole Point Rock, Minnamurra River and driving over the famous Sea Cliff Bridge. We had a dinner reservation at Aqua to rush back to Sydney for. Our accommodation for the night was the Paramount Hotel a newly opened, trendy property in the Surrey Hills area. After enjoying a great meal at Aqua with incredible views of Sydney Harbour, the plan was to continue on to explore Vivid Festival again but unfortunately I had to leave on a minor emergency.
An early morning transfer took us to Sydney Airport the following day. We breezed through security and sat down to enjoy Air New Zealand's Koru Lounge in the international terminal then boarded our flight back to Auckland. I left the group here to take advantage of connecting through Auckland to visit some friends and see a little more of the country.