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Visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney NSW

Greetings and salutations, My Beautiful Botanic Hobos.

In my 41 years on this earth, I have wandered through my fair share of botanic gardens and parks.  There is something so relaxing and grounding to find a little pocket of nature tucked in amongst the high rises and highways.

Until I moved east for love (what better reason to pick up and move halfway across the country than a fabulous human that makes your heart sing?), my absolute favourite botanic garden was the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens in the Adelaide Hills.  Since moving here eight years ago, I have been delighted to discover two stunning gardens.  The Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens is a seriously worthwhile day trip from Sydney, however, you can find natural beauty without needing to escape the city.

Situated at the foot of the Sydney Opera House, nestled between the Harbour and the historic CBD, the Royal Sydney Botanic Gardens is an oasis of calm amongst the throngs of tourists and busy locals jostling for position in Australia’s largest city.

Huh. That sounded like a proper travel writer or someone trying to sell the gardens on Craigslist. Not bad for a woman in a onesie who may or may not have already cracked open her first cider for the night. But my love of Somersby Cider and age-inappropriate attire aside, the Botanic Gardens in Sydney are a gorgeous sight to behold. Any time I have a little time to kill while I’m in at The Rocks, I take a wander through the lush greenery of the gardens and enjoy the harbour views.





If, like me, you are looking to live mindfully and bring the sense of being on vacation to your everyday life, there are several reasons you will love the parklands if you have not yet taken full advantage of them. Aside from the obvious natural beauty of the place, there are a myriad of things to do in the parklands.

 

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Terrigal, NSW. Walking Tracks, Beachside Bliss and My Assault on The Skillion.

 

Terrigal. One of the most overrated spots on the Central Coast in my opinion.  Now that’s not to say there isn’t a good reason that tourists and locals alike flock to the beachside town at the merest hint of sunshine. And it isn’t to say that I don’t venture out to see what all the fuss is about on the odd occasion.

My 17-year-old daughter was starting work early, so to save her an extra hour travelling on a bus, I offered to drive her to work.  Figuring I may as well pick a picturesque track I haven’t set foot on for quite some time for my morning walk while I was out, I settled on going the long way home via Terrigal.

I parked well away from the beach near the Marine Discovery Centre on Terrigal Drive and set out towards Terrigal Beach.  My aim for the day was not so much to walk as far as I could, but to enjoy the journey getting to The Skillion.  In my memory, The Skillion was a considerable amount of huffing and puffing up a short but steep slope, followed by a view that made each huff and puff worth it.

Destination: Skillion

I wandered through the beautifully maintained Terrigal Lagoon Reserve, to the banks of the Lagoon.  Ripples abounded on the surface of the water as fish darted away on my approach.  It struck me just how beautifully the local Lion’s Club keep this area, it would be a lovely spot for a picnic or barbeque on a sunny day.  The barbeques were spotless and there are public toilets just across the road next to a well-fenced playground.

Continuing on along Terrigal Drive, my walk treated me to an unspoilt view of the beach over twisting floral vines winding their way through trees and fencing without regard to which side they belonged on.  In the distance surfers and paddle boarders enjoyed the calm of the morning.

The barrier between road and footpath was decorated with ‘dot paintings’ by talented artists from the local schools. (And I don’t mean that in the indulgent manner of a parent proud talking to neighbours about their four-year-old’s finger painting, these are actually lovely works of art.)


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Sculpture by the Sea @ Bondi

(or how I sat in a tangle of tentacles and made fun of a white man’s winkie.)

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Warm and sunny greetings to you, my Beach Loving Vagabonds

For the past year my daughter has been talking about wanting to revisit Sculptures by the Sea @ Bondi one day. And a slight miscalculation in how early we needed to get up in order to make it to the Opera House in time to see a screening of Neil Gaiman short films, coupled with all the road closures in the city afforded us the opportunity to turn the day into an unplanned adventure.

We arrived starving and parched having left the house without breakfast and quickly found a cafe to please us all amongst the myriad of eateries along Campbell Parade. It was a blustery day, however the chance to eat in the sunshine and fresh air won out over nature’s plans to keep me indoors.

Ash: “It’s hard to believe we’re so close to the beach”
Me: “Yeah, it’s quite busy and touristy.”
Ash: “No. It doesn’t smell right.”
…and you know what? She was right. The smell of salt and seaweed was curiously absent from the air. It was almost unsettling once we noticed its absence.

Fed and watered we headed towards the iconic Bondi Icebergs Club to begin our arty adventure. I had never done this particular coastal walk before, but I could soon see that this walk would be stunning at any time. While I think that beaches like Bondi, Surfers and Manly are overrated due to the sheer volume of people trying their best to find personal space in an outdoor sardine tin, I have to admit that the small town South Australian girl in me was thinking ‘how cool is it that I live so close to somewhere so iconically Australian’ as I walked towards the Bondi Icebergs Club. I still get excited by the sight of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge as we drive into the city.

Flanked by craggy rock formations and jaw-dropping ocean views, the two-kilometre cliff-side walking trail played host to over a hundred public artworks. Scattered throughout grassy parklands, rocky cliffs and sandy beaches between Bondi and Tamarama Beaches, artists displayed their talents in one of Australia’s largest free public sculpture displays.

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Etiquette in Outback Queensland

Or Does Anyone Know if I Should Order Dinner for My Children from the Seat of an Outback Toilet?

I’m sitting here watching a series on Netflix called Very British Problems.  The episode in question is discussing how to deal with other human beings.  What is and isn’t acceptable and how discomfiting any interaction with other members of the human race is.  Thankfully I was born in Australia and am not nearly British enough to have had all of this social awkwardness passed down to me through genetics, I do harbour enough of this Very British Problem that anything outside of the social norm is a veritable nightmare for me.

Listening to these droll, British comedians navigate the minefield of social niceties sparked a memory of living in Outback Queensland for me.  About twelve years or so ago, give or take, I spent a short time living on a station out past Adavale in Queensland.  Not sure where Adavale is?  You know The Gold Coast?  It’s not there.  Head to the middle of nowhere in Queensland, open the gate, turn left and keep going.  Or, if you’re in Brisbane, point your car towards the Northern Territory and drive for over fourteen hours.  Once you get to Adavale, it is only a two hour drive north to the station we lived on.  I like to call it a working holiday.  My (then) husband worked, I holidayed.

When you live that far out in the Outback, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) is something you rely upon heavily.  If something goes wrong, that is the only ambulance you have access to.  So every month at the Adavale Pub there is a pot luck fundraising dinner for the RFDS.  Now, I’m using the term Pub loosely.  Think place where you can buy booze and a can of beans in the same place.  The Outback is a wondrous place, and if you ever have a chance to visit the Adavale Pub, I highly recommend it.  The people are friendly, the beer is cold and there is a surfboard hanging out on the front verandah emblazoned ‘Adavale SLSC’.  Only in Outback Australia will you see a sign for a Surf Life Saving Club 900 km from the beach and not think it out of place.  But I digress.  Back to the Pot Luck Dinner.

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Drinking in Sydney. What do Lockout laws mean for me?

Drinking in Sydney is not what it used to be. To keep the Entertainment Precinct safe for everyone, restrictions have been put in place. So what do the Lockout Laws mean to you?

So here’s a thing I discovered last Thursday night.

In an effort to combat the violence our binge drinking culture has created, 2014 heralded the beginning of Lockout Laws in Sydney.  In the interest of public safety hotels, clubs and nightclubs in the entertainment precinct of Sydney’s CBD and Kings Cross were no longer permitted to allow entry to patrons after 1:30 am, with last drinks for those inside needing to be called by 3am.

Now, I would like to be able to say that I discovered this while sitting behind my computer reading the plethora of articles on the pros and cons of this legislation from the perspective of emergency workers and business owners.  I really would like to be able to say that.  However, I cannot.

The reason I know about lockout laws is because I got lost down a rabbit hole of wine and geeking out about Firefly and the new Voltron reboot while chatting with a friend in a pub on Angel Street.  By the time I struggled out of that blissful warren of tipsy, nerdy comradery I was brought back to reality by an unfortunate coincidence that changed the carefree direction of my evening.

The lamentable coincidence I encountered was that at the exact moment our feet hit the rain soaked pavement outside the pub, the last train out of Sydney for the night pulled out of the station.  Not ideal, if I’m honest with you.

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Coast 89, Toowoon Bay, NSW

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Sunday morning.   The perfect morning to sleep, lazily get ready and meander down to your favourite cafe for bunch.  Made all the more perfect as it was day three of our inaugural staycation.  While Coast 89 may not be my go to café, it is certainly top of my list for a slice of banoffee pie and some girly bonding for Mummy Daughter Dates.  Perhaps the only reason the Water’s Edge beats this place out as my go to café is the view at…. the water’s edge.  This place certainly has it beat for delicious things to eat and interior atmosphere.

The Restaurant

Coast 89 is located in a darling little bank of shops that have a delightfully boutique feel about them, quite unexpected for the out of the way area they are in.  In recent years the single block long group of eateries, boutique gift and clothing stores and local services has undergone a facelift and is now a rather pleasant place to take as troll in from the Bay after a swim or to while away some spare time on a weekend.

The unique blend of azure and white wallpaper combined with stainless steel on the walls is carried through to the fixtures with a chalkboard for specials dominating one wall.

The Food

I’ve been coming to Coast 89 ever since they opened several  years ago and I haven’t had a bad meal yet.  I won’t lie and say it is my favourite eggs benny on the coast, but overall the meals are lovely.   The menu is diverse and even my fussiest eater always finds something to practically gorge herself on.

Pro Tip:  Miss Fussy Fifteen recommends the Bacon and Egg Roll

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Eat Street Cafe, Gosford, NSW

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Second day of the work week.  I start at 8:30 am.  I like to leave time for unforeseen traffic so I am often 15 – 20 minutes early for work.  What I didn’t account for was the fact that

  1. I am an idiot and
  2. There was a public holiday on Monday so it was actually Wednesday today, not Tuesday.

Ever the optimist I seized the opportunity to be glad I had an extra 45 minutes up my sleeve before I had to be at work and decided to head down to a little cafe I had been dying to have my lunch break at for quite some time. What a brilliant opportunity to have early Brunch.  Also known as breakfast in some circles, but I don’t do breakfast.  Breakfast is for people who haven’t mastered the art of sleeping in.  Amateurs.

The Restaurant

Eat Street Cafe is a prefab building at the carpark near the waterfront in Gosford, NSW.  Not sold yet?  I’m not surprised, but you will be. Surprised and sold that is.  Beautifully decorated with superbly finished timber and heritage elements, Eat Street Cafe is an outdoor eatery with a difference.  Not aiming for shabby chic or modern trends Eat Street oozes its own unique, comfortable street side atmosphere.  Every person that walks in is treated like a valued customer with staff going out of their way to learn people’s names. Relaxed seating is available if you are in the mood to watch the world go by, or you could grab a takeaway and wander 20 paces to sit by on the waterfront and lazily enjoy the sail boats drifting past.

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Somersby Falls, Central Coast, NSW

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I can’t speak highly enough of this little picnic area located, not surprisingly, in Sommersby. It is a delightful spot for a walk, a picnic, a bbq or (as I am quite fond of) a sneaky spot of lunchtime yoga if you work nearby.  Water spilling over lichen covered rocks in this picturesque rainforest location presents a multitude of photo opportunities and serene spots to sit and listen to the water cascading down the falls, meditate or read a book.

Somersby Falls NSW Quick Guide
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Multifarious bird life, sandwich loving bush turkeys and water monitors and abound in this corner of Brisbane Water National Park. Well maintained steps and natural pathways lead you down the hill to viewing platforms and access points to the falls.  In the pools at the base of Lower Falls you will often see children and young people in swimsuits enjoying a paddle in the shallow water.  If you are very lucky, on a quiet day you may spot a turtle making the most of the tourist free solitude.

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The Fat Goose, Hardys Bay, NSW

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The Restaurant

Winding roads amidst tree lined hills lead you along one of the most scenic drives on the Coast.  So much so that the road leading in is called ‘Scenic Drive’.  Past the tourist traps of Terrigal and the stunning views out over Brisbane Water, the drive to Hardy’s Bay is part of the experience of this brunch outing.

This delightful little café is tucked in alongside the always popular Old Killcare Store and offers indoor and alfresco seating as well as take away orders.  What the building lacks in cosmopolitan style it makes up for in warmth and character.  Which in my opinion is much nicer than the spurious indy feel of Starbucks.  Bottles of Fat Goose branded sauces and spreads line shelves, the ambient light picking up the reds and oranges and making them almost glow.  Tables are nestled together near windows inside and out in the sunshine we watch people laughing and chatting, enjoying the unseasonable warmth.  Stroller friendly and dog friendly, the atmosphere is one of community.

The Food

Although the menu does feature an all day breakfast I couldn’t resist completely ignoring the reason I was out and ordering from the lunch menu.  Who can say no to a portobello mushroom burger stuffed with 3 different cheeses and smashed avocado?  Not me, that’s who.

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Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb

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There are some opportunities in life you should never pass up.  Climbing Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge is one of them.  The summit of the arch affords the most stunning view in the whole of the city and every climb has something new to offer.

BridgeClimb_QuickGuide
Click to save a printable PDF

Sydney’s Harbour Bridge has a history colourful enough to rival that of the their Opera House.  Rich in anecdotes and personal flair, the passion for the history and stories that went into building the bridge come through in the commentary from each individual guide.

After eight years in construction, with 1,400 men working on the crew, six million hand driven rivets (no rivet guns back then, it was all heated over the fire and thrown – yes thrown – to the guy needing to bang it into place) and with a price tag of $4.2 million the 53,000 tonnes of steel were finally officially opened as the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932.  Not content with a politician cutting the ribbon to open the Bridge, Captain Francis De Groot slashed the ribbon with his sword before the NSW premier had a chance to cut it.  De Groot was a firm believer that the only person to open the bridge should have been a member of the Royal Family and was promptly taken into custody.  Probably under charges of being a madman with a sword.  (I have not verified this fact)  A murmur, a shuffle and a reef knot later and the ribbon was ready to be cut officially by Premier Lang.

There are three climbs to chose from depending on your level of fitness, time available and budget.  BridgeClimb, BridgeClimb Express and BridgeClimb Sampler. Each one will provide you with a unique and memorable experience however it is important to know the difference to avoid booking the wrong climb for you.

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