Getting Out Of Sydney

This site covers the following topics Sydney cultural tourism, Australia, New South Wales, : I have provided this hidden list for search engines that ignore meta tags.

From time to time, people want to get a bit out of Sydney, to see a bit more of Australia. This page deals with the things you can get to and back from in a day, perhaps a long one—but in most cases, I would recommend a stay or a trip of several days. Later, I will try to fill in some of the more distant places like Broome, the Barrier Reef, Central Australia and Lord Howe Island, but that is for later. This page is being upgraded in September 2008, so bear with me!

Right now, this is a stub that will grow when I have time. Please be patient, because, as Kenny would say, I'm as busy as a one-armed bricklayer in Baghdad.

Contents

Adelaide | Blue Mountains | Brisbane | Budawang Ranges | Canberra | Cape York | Coffs Harbour | Dubbo and the Western Plains Zoo | Echuca Gundagai | Hunter Valley | Jervis Bay | Kiama | Melbourne | Newcastle | Perth | Port Stephens | Tasmania | Ulladulla | Warrumbungles | Yass |

Kiama

How to get there

Kiama is about two hours south of Sydney. You can get there by train (a nice scenic trip in any case) from
Central Railway: you will find several motels and at least two hotels within easy walking distance (about 80 metres) of the railway station. If you drive, just head off on the freeway to the airport, then pick up the signs to Wollongong, and look for signs to Kiama or Nowra after that.

Kiama used to be in the main road south, but now you need to turn off left to find the township. Watch the signs and take the turn-off to the left after you cross the Minnamurra River, go up a hill and down a hill past a beach on the left and a cemetery on the right. If you miss it, don't worry, there is another one, a bit further along.

What to look for

If you have a car, Kiama would be an excellent location for touring the area. Jervis Bay is about an hour south, Wollongong is about an hour north, and the township is pleasant. Unless you are there for the beach, a couple of days will probably do you, if you lack a car.

One of the highlights for me is a pub steak in the pub closest to the Ocean View motel. I could walk you there, but I cannot accurately describe it, but head uphill, away from the sea. This is a nice pub that has yet to be tarted up, so it has character.

Down on the small harbour, there is seafood to be had. Poke around—it is at least 12 months since I was there, and I am sure there are some excellent new places, like the restaurant in the park that you have to go through to get the the Blowhole.

Where to stay, where to eat

My preferred motel is the Kiama Ocean View Motor Inn, a smaller motel. The upstairs rooms are better if you want to sit on the balcony. Just across the road, there is another larger and slightly pricier motel, which I stayed at in a previous incarnation. It is now the Kiama Cove Boutique Motel. There are other motels in the area, and you can also hire houses by the week, most of them at North Kiama. The prices are fairly high, but if you have a group, it may be worth considering. There are a number of real estate agents (see the list of Kiama links), and I have found the local Ray White agency to be competent and attentive.

There are plenty of other choices. At the budget end, there is a caravan park with some cabins near the blowhole, and East's Caravan Park has lots of cabins on a nearby headland. For all contacts, see the Kiama accommodation guide.

History and background

The original main industries were fishing and the getting of 'blue metal', crushed basalt from the spectacular Bombo Flow, a layer of columnar basalt that can be seen north of the town and just to the west of the town. The basalt was mainly used as a base for railway lines. The first thing noted in the area was The Blowhole, seen in the late 1700s. This is a crevice that waves rush into and then blast up into the air. It depends on seas and tide, and can be a killer, so stay in the safety zone.

Around the area

Seven Mile beach, just south of Gerroa, Berry, a slightly tarted-up country town, vineyards, Jamberoo Mountain Road and the walking tracks off it, especially Barren Grounds for birds, and definitely recommended at a quiet time, the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk. It is pricey, but the views are worth it. I went in the afternoon, which was quiet, but you need a sunny day. Make sure you look down to see the tree ferns below.

Jervis Bay

How to get there

Drive south past Nowra and look for turnoffs on the left. Take a road map, as the signage is poor and confusing.

What to look for

Beautiful white beaches, a relaxed time. Hyams Beach is good, but faces north, and that means you need sunscreen.

Where to stay, where to eat

Huskisson or Vincentia: there are some rental places, and some motels around.

History and background

Some of the land is part of the Australian Capital Territory, and that includes the national park, so if you have a
NSW parks sticker, it is no good for that park.

Around the area

Booderee Botanical Gardens: if you want to see Australian plants, factor in a couple of hours to enjoy the gardens, but take your own food and drink, as there was nowhere to buy anything there.

Canberra and the ACT

How to get there

You can fly or train, but Canberra's public transport is abysmal, so you may as well take a car. Once you get to the start of the Harbour Tunnel, you need not see another traffic light until you get to Canberra itself, some 300 km away on excellent roads, after about three hours' driving. In summer, you can make a day trip of it: leave about 5.30 am, stop for breakfast along the way, roll into Canberra after their peak hour is over, and puddle around. Be aware that Canberra can be savagely hot in summer and miserably cold in winter. Don't assume that Sydney weather will apply.

A scam to beware of

On your way to Canberra, you go close to the town of Collector, and bushrangers feature in the publicity. Under no circumstances should you buy petrol there. The per-litre price is half-concealed on the pump and deliberately made hard to read, and there is no sign to indicate the price, but it will be 35 to 40% more than in garages in Canberra or anywhere else along the highway. Collector is famous because a bushranger once shot a policeman there: it would have been more socially useful if the bushranger had shot the store keeper, but whatever the case the spirit of highway robbery is alive and well in Collector. It apparently gets its name because they collect your money. Drive on by . . . do not stop.

Note: if you are from Collector, and this upsets you, all you have to do is talk to the store keeper and tell her that being rude to the tourists she rips off is not a good move for the town as a whole. Send me a picture of her in the town stocks, and we can talk. If she is visibly coated with rotten cabbage, I may find it within me to be conciliatory.

What to look for

There isn't a lot to see in Canberra that is a natural attraction, so they have manufactured a whole lot of attractions instead. The
National Museum of Australia, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, is quite good—and that is in spite of the vicious and spiteful attacks on it by assorted conservative politicians who want only to present a white elitist "famous dead males" perspective on Australian history. Ah, well, those people are now in the dustbin, and can no longer enforce their perverted pygmy view of Australian society. The National Library of Australia has good exhibitions and the National Gallery of Australia is excellent.

Where to stay, where to eat

There are plenty of medium-range motels up and down Northbourne Avenue, if you are planning to stay on. For lunch, either the Australian National Gallery or the National Library of Australia are good choices. For plain fare, try The Outpost at the Australian War Memorial, another must-see place.

History and background

Canberra is artificial and synthetic—it was created as a compromise because Sydney could not accept Melbourne as the capital and vice versa. So it was agreed that there would be a site, somewhere between but at least a hundred miles from either. That is all you need to know.

Around the area

Tidbinbilla is usually interesting, but I prefer to see Braidwood if I can. There is a small pub off the road at Collector, where a policemen was shot by a bushranger in the 1860s—the beer is good, the chips are good. On the other hand, Berrima is a delight since the highway bypassed it. they have done it up as a Artes and Craftes place, but the quality of the goods is excellent.

My main reason for stopping at Berrima is to have a meat pie at the Surveyor-general pub—they used top make their own, but I suspect they are now bought in, but they are still good examples of the Australian meat pie. Definitely a must for foreigners—and the service has been good throughout the 44 years that I have been going there.

To the north of Berrima township, you will find Berkelouw's Book Barn. Over the years, I have dealt with three generations of Berkelouw that I know of, and may well have encountered a fourth—they must be working there by now. It is a second-hand book dealership with an excellent collection.

Ulladulla

How to get there

Drive south, past Wollongong and Nowra. There are no trains, but you can probably get a
coach.

What to look for

The fish, the fishing, the beaches, or head in to the southern side of the Budawang Ranges.

Where to stay, where to eat

There are quite a few motels in the area, none that I would particularly recommend. Prices will probably be higher in Mollymook, but quality may be up the scale as well.

History and background

There is a brief account available online. Note the reference to the Blessing of the Fleet at Easter.

Around the area

This is a convenient place to head off for the Budawang Ranges. It is an easy drive followed by a pleasant walk (you finish climbing a steel ladder) to get to the top of Pigeon House Mountain.

Hunter Valley

How to get there

You can get to
Newcastle by train from Central Railway, Strathfield, Epping or Hornsby, but you will really need a car to tour the Hunter Valley, so you may as well drive from Sydney.

If you are driving, you need to go north along the Pacific Highway, heading for Wahroonga, then turn right onto the F1. Take care as the traffic merges, and watch your speed: the first section is 80 km/hr. but you need to be doing that as you merge. Speeds vary depending on conditions and roadwork, but can be up to 110 km/hr. About 15 minutes later, you will cross the Hawkesbury River, then keep going until you get to the Cessnock turnoff, head along Freemans Drive and into Cessnock, or follow your map to wherever you wish to be.

What to look for

Where to stay, where to eat

The best area to stay is somewhere near Cessnock, and there is no shortage of choices. Look for places on the Wine Country Road, the Broke Road or McDonalds Road or maybe the Wollombi Road. Look at a map and use that as a rough indication. Some of the smaller towns like Morpeth get crowded with tourists on the weekend, but they are less frantic mid-week. There is an excellent little museum in Morpeth and a larger one at Singleton.

History and background

Around the area

From here, you are well on the way to Dubbo via Denman, Merriwa and Dunedoo.

Newcastle

How to get there

You can get to Newcastle by train from
Central Railway, but a car may be useful. On the other hand, if you only want to see Newcastle, get a train and use the buses and trains and the ferry over to Stockton to get around. If you are driving, go past the Cessnock turnoff that takes you to the Hunter Valley, and follow the signs to Newcastle. Some bits are not that easy, so make sure you have a map.

What to look for

The Shortland Wetlands Centre in Sandgate Road.
Check the official guide.
Walks along the river.
The food and drink and bookshops in Darby Street.

Where to stay, where to eat

The Crowne Plaza does deals at times, and it is right on the river, close to the Merewether Street station. It also has parking and it is close to Darby Street which is Eat Street par excellence, as well as being on the Honeysuckle Walk!

I suggest allowing a couple of days as a minimum.

History and background

Newcastle is an old industrial town, established as a port for locally mined coal—and still used for that, but it went into the doldrums a bit when the steel works closed. Now the civic authorities are slowly doing the place up, and it is well worth a visit. Look for the Honeysuckle Walk, along the southern bank of the river. You can walk along this, right out to Nobbys lighthouse.

Around the area

If you have a car, tour the Hunter Valley or visit Clarencetown. Parts of Lake Macquarie are worth poking into. If you lack a car, have a look to see what coach tours there are. Here is a general link: poke around!

Port Stephens

How to get there

From Sydney, you need the Newcastle expressway: follow your nose through the northern parts of Sydney onto Highway 1 and join the expressway going north. Port Stephens is in two parts, on either shore, so somewhere near Tomago, you will need to make up your mind about whether to go to the southern side (Nelson Bay, Soldier's Point, Corlette and Salamander Bay) or north through Karuah and around to Tea Gardens or Hawks Nest.

On the south side, we had a pleasant stay, in about 1977, at "Dutchies", otherwise known as Dutchman's Beach, just after the school holidays. There weren't many kids about, it was warm, sunny, but I suspect that during school holidays, it would be less fun. These days, we mostly go to Hawks Nest. It is probably about 3 and a half hours from Sydney, while Nelson Bay is a bit less. Just head for Newcastle and follow the signs.

There is a bus service from Newcastle, but you will have to look for that. You are probably better-off driving for this one, because you may want to choose your beach when you know what the weather is like.

What to look for

Beaches, mainly. Quiet and civilised beaches. After rain, there can sometimes be leagues of fierce mosquitoes around Soldiers Point.

Where to stay, where to eat

Nelson Bay is very developed, but there are plenty of motels in the area.

History and background

The area has a
Visitor Information Centre, including a history page.

Around the area

Check the activities listed by the Visitor Information Centre. Wineries, dolphin and whale watching, wineries and more. Newcastle is well within reach as well.

Coffs Harbour

How to get there

This is about six hours driving time north of Sydney (more if you take a few sensible breaks). As for Newcastle and Port Stephens, but keep going. The road can be tiring, there will be roadworks in the foreseeable future. The roadhouse near Wyong is a good stopping point, Bulahdelah is close to the road, Kempsey is easy to stop at.

What to look for

Beaches, mainly.

Where to stay, where to eat

Coffs itself is a bit touristy and overpopulated. Urunga is about 25 km south and has a number of motels and a nice enough beach for walking, paddling and the like.

History and background

I still have to do this.

Around the area

I still have to do this.

Blue Mountains

How to get there

You can get there by train (a nice scenic trip in any case) from
Central Railway, but unless you are planning to stay in one of the towns and be dependent on tours, you will probably need a car. My suggestion is to go along the M4 in one direction, and to return along Bell's Line of Road the other way. A trip from Sydney to Leura, Katoomba, Lithgow, Mt Tomah and back to Sydney is around 350 km.

What to look for

One of the highlights has to be a visit to Scenic World, which is commercial, but excellent. We hit this in September 2006, having driven from Sydney and breakfasted at Leura, getting there fairly early in the morning. We took the cableway down, and walked around the boardwalk.

Under the sterile sandstone, there are beds of shale with a better mineral supply—and there are also beds of coal, so quite early on, people began mining the 'kerosene shales' and coal, to make lamp oil, and other useful stuff. They support rainforest, and some clever people have woven a boardwalk down through the rainforest, in among the lawyer vine and tree ferns, a walk that carries us harmlessly and sensitively through it all.

Now we drill for oil or import it, so the area lies unused and available to tourists, but the rainforest that grows there is in an uneasy balance. You see, miners needed pit props and fuel and stuff, so they felled trees, and when they did, the thin topsoil drifted away. The trees were deep-rooted, and they came back as coppices, so there is cover, but there are no new seeds taking root there. They fall and wither . . .

The topsoil must be slowly regenerating, so there is a desperate race on between life and death. We have to hope that life will win. Meanwhile, you can walk through rainforest, see mountain streams, hear lyrebirds close to the track and just enjoy the walk. There is also the scenic railway, run by the same people, and you can get on that and join the boardwalk as well. It is suitable for strollers, but not for wheelchairs.

Other attractions: Echo Point at Katoomba offers some amazing views, but there are other, quieter lookouts. We picked up "Scenic Route 5" as we drove out of Leura, and followed it past Echo Point, around to Scenic World, and on to

Where to stay, where to eat

We breakfasted at the Leura Gourmet, 159 The Mall, Leura, having excellent croissants and coffee/tea (cost about $15 each) and we picked up some magnificent deli treats at the front of the shop. They had no bread, but sent us down to the Bakehouse at 208 The Mall, where we got an excellent baguette.

History and background

When the whites first landed in Sydney, everything got English names. Even the namesake of Sydney was a no-good minor political hack back in London. The minor hills that rate in flat Australia as the Great Dividing Range are barely 1000 metres high—call it 3300 feet, but they were mongrels to get over, or even onto.

Anyhow, Governor Phillip in Sydney dubbed them the Carmarthen Hills, but before long, sailormen being what they are, they flogged a Jamaican name and called them the Blue Mountains. Then they made up a bunch of malarkey about how the oil got out of the gum trees and made a haze that made them look blue. In truth, it was just dust, distance and Tyndall scattering.

200 million years ago, give or take a spit, Sydney was rather like Bangladesh. It was all dirty great rivers rolled though a sad and depauperate sandscape, rinsing out every last skerrick of mineralisation that might have left a rock that could make nice soil. It built up to 200 metres thick, and got labelled the Hawkesbury sandstone, after a river name after another nogoodnik. Later, there was an uplift to the west, so even though the mountain tops are 1000 metres higher than the shores of Sydney Harbour, they have the same rocks. Rivers flowed down through the sandstone, bits fell away, and cliffs formed.

Along came Whitey, who settled in this useless place with useless soil—well, useless for agriculture: it was fine for growing bush. The settlers in Sydney were hemmed in, surrounded by almost worthless land where farming was concerned for 25 years until somebody supposedly had the bright idea of walking up the ridges to bypass the cliffs. This is a load of old cobblers—the Aborigines knew how to get over and walked over. There were tracks, but Whitey was too proud to follow where blackfella trod. Aside from that, I sat in the Hunter Valley, about 100 km north of here, killing a good bottle of red, and looked at a mountain with a friend, part of the same Great Dividing Range, and traced a path up it from where we sat. Our selected route (we not being complete muppets) went up the ridges, nice and easy. On the ground, there would be some rough going, but it was a negotiable route. It was purely an armchair exercise for him—my hobby is walking up small mountains slowly, but we could both see that following the ridges is the way to go, and after another glass or seven, it hit us that the hero-worship of Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson, for working out how to follow the ridges, was a complete joke. Blind Freddie could've seen it.

My hero is George Evans, a hobbit of a man who pootled over the mountains in their track, surveyed, marked and mapped it, and enjoyed himself immensely. I will say more about him later.

Around the area

You aren't that far from the Mount Tomah Gardens: drive to Mount Victoria, turn right until you reach Bell's Line of Road, turn right again, and look for the entrance on the right, some distance along, after the road to Mount Wilson goes off to the left.

Alternatively, you can drive past Mount Victoria, look for the gravelled area on your left as you go down the hill—there is an excellent lookout there. Then you can rejoin the road, drive down Victoria Pass, right into Lithgow and back up Bell's Line of Road.

Budawang Ranges

How to get there

There are several choices. My preferred route is down the Hume Highway (Highway 31, the road to Melbourne), turning off to the left, just near Marulan, following the signs to Bungonia the Oallen Ford. You can also drive to Nowra and turn right onto the Braidwood Road, or you can head down to Milton and/or Ulladulla, and turn in there.

The route through Marulan also brings you onto the Braidwood-Nowra road, but with much less gravel to drive. It is still a dirt road in parts, and I have seen one overturned vehicle there, so go carefully. Learn to recognise Canberra plates and slow when a Canberra car comes the other way—the ACT drivers who use this road to get to the coast are uniformly mongrels who fail to show the slightest courtesy to others on the road. I have no idea why, but assume that they are mongrels, and you will usually be better off. The walkers from Canberra are nice people, but sadly, most of the Canberrans are haring straight through.

Understand that this is wild country. You carry everything in and out. Some tracks are just wombat tracks, so you need to be experienced or go with somebody who is experienced. The weather can be different from anywhere else: assume it will rain or even flood, file a walking plan and stick to it. Carry extra food and warm clothes.

What to look for

Where to stay, where to eat

There is very little accommodation in the area. We tried a B&B near Nerriga, but it was a bit eccentric. You can camp at the Wog Wog entrance: there are pit toilets and water about 400 metres down the hill, or you can have water in a jerry can in your car. From Wog Wog, you can do extensive day walks, but carry plenty of water, because it can sometimes be a bit short.

The pub food at the Nerriga pub is passable. You can usually hear a bit about conditions if you call there. Your map may show a town of Sassafras, but it doesn't exist. There is a tiny town at Bungonia and a larger town at Braidwood.

History and background

There was gold mining here in the 19th century.

Around the area

Braidwood,
Ulladulla, Jervis Bay.

Dubbo and the Western Plains Zoo

How to get there

Head west, over the
Blue Mountains, and keep going. It will take you around six and a half hours, with a few stops along the way. I recommend a stop in the Blue Mountains, probably Leura, and another at Bathurst as a minimum. There is a brilliant museum at Canowindra, called the Age of Fishes Museum. (Canowindra is pronounced Canowndra!). but that is a little out of your way, unless you want to see more about a Devonian Billabong.

What to look for

Mainly, the Western Plains Zoo, but the gaol in town is good for a quick visit—it is time I went there again, because I am sure there is more.

Where to stay, where to eat

Dubbo is basically a day away from Brisbane and Melbourne, and lots of people drive that way to get from one to the other, so there are plenty of motels, except in school holidays.

History and background

Around the area

The Warrumbungles.

The Kimberley

How to get there

This patch of northern Australia is about twice the size of England. The roads are dreadful, so you need 4-wheel drive, it is hideously hot and insect-ridden at the end of the Dry (October-November), and wet until April or May, so the roads are closed. That said, it is highly spectacular and well worth a visit.

I recommend strongly that if you are from overseas, you go as part of a group. We travelled with Kimberley Wilderness Adventures in a small 4WD truck adapted as a bus. We had a driver who knew the area, its plants and rocks, extremely well. We stayed partly in motel accommodation, and partly in wilderness camps—tents, some with en suite showers and toilets!!

We joined our tour in Broome—this is a major tourist attraction that mainly draws Australians. We were dropped back to Broome at the end. Look, see the link—I will do more when I have time. It isn't cheap, but it is excellent value.

What to look for

Where to stay, where to eat

History and background

Around the area

Melbourne

How to get there

From Sydney, it is about 11 hours of hard driving: unless you are planning to stop along the way (I strongly recommend
Yass or better still, Gundagai), but you are probably better flying or getting a train or coach. Trains end up right in the centre of town, and there is a nifty coach service from the airport to the city centre. It tales about twenty minutes unless the traffic is bad, and the TV show is excellent in terms of alerting you to what is there. If you are coming back, get a return ticket, and make sure you know where to find the buses.

What to look for

Sydney and Melbourne are traditional rivals, and I have only had one week in Melbourne in the past ten years, most of that spent in Federation Square and a bit riding around on trams. I plan to go back again soon and add some more details. They have all sorts of handy passes that let you use trams and trains (and I think buses as well). The signage is brilliant, there are people in the streets who wear fluoro jackets who are there to help. You can also see Melbourne from the air. This is a place marker

Where to stay, where to eat

History and background

Around the area

Don't miss the arts area on South Bank.

Adelaide

How to get there

To drive from Sydney will take you two fairly long days.

What to look for

Where to stay, where to eat

History and background

Around the area

Brisbane

How to get there

What to look for

Where to stay, where to eat

History and background

Around the area

Tasmania

How to get there

Fly or swim.

What to look for

Where to stay, where to eat

History and background

Around the area

Perth

How to get there

What to look for

Where to stay, where to eat

History and background

Around the area

Gundagai

How to get there

Drive down the Hume Highway from Sydney: it would be about six hours, I suppose. Southern Cross Drive, past the airport, M5, the Freeway, and so onto the Hume. Take a few breaks along the way!

I usually divert, and last time, I went from Yass through Wee Jasper, along a winding narrow rocky road with forest trucks scooting along. Go carefully, and buy petrol: I was there on a Monday, and Wee Jasper was closed! Before Wee Jasper, there is some amazing geology in the hills, and a marvellous bridge that you can clamber down to the Murrumbidgee River from. There is a sort of high stile on the left once you cross the bridge, and a steep slope, with a few sheep at the bottom. Good swimming in the river in February!

Gundagai is also on the Murrumbidgee. It was settled once on the river flat, even though the Aborigines said this was a bad idea. After a flood in 1852, where a brave chap named Yarri rescued fifty white people with his bark canoe, they moved up the hill.

What to look for

There is an excellent collection in the historical museum, poorly curated and barely interpreted, but it's there. The hardware store has a collection of historical photos upstairs. Forget the dog on the tuckerbox which is poor kitcsh: go for
Rusconi's marble masterpiece, which is high kitsch, but also amazing craftsmanship. He used a converted Singer sewing machine as his lathe (or it may have been several). There is at least one in the museum.

Where to stay, where to eat

History and background

Around the area

Cape York

How to get there

It's a VERY long drive, and the roads are fairlu aatrocious in places, and impossible in the Wet. At the very least, you will need a four-wheel drive. We flew to Cairns and joined an APT tour there, which entailed flying to Horn Island, just north of Thursday Island, then by ferry to Thursday Island, another ferry to the mainland, and then a slow haul back to Cairns in a four-wheel drive truck with a comfortable coach body.

We have been on several APT tours now, and they can be recommended, but some of their ground representation is contracted out, and this is a weak point. The idiot woman who was sipposed to brief us in Cairns made the following errors (and if you are from APT, from memory, her name was Cheryl or Sherrill):

Do you get the picture? Once we were in the airline's and APT's hands, things went much better, but there are some awful fools in Cairns, and some of them do the hack work for APT. In spite of our treatment, we would recommen the trip (and APT), but don't assume that everybody in APT livery is capable.

What to look for

The
Cairns historical museum in Lake Street (?) is worth some time. The Cairns Central shopping compex is typical of its kind. Ugh, but if you need to shop, you could do worse. There seemed to be no decent bookshops. The Cairns Regional Art Gallery was definitely worth a visit, though you won't be there long enough to get what we in our house call gallery feet. The gallery shop has some exquisite stuff.

Where to stay, where to eat

We stayed at the Hotel Cairns, which was quite acceptable. Cairns is a tourist town, so there is no shortage of accommodation and services. Beer was expensive, so as we were there for a few days, I bought some at the grog shop and carried it back to the hotel and used their fridge. The price was about 30% of the hotel price. The food at the Adelfia Greek Restaurant was excellent. And they even had Mythos beer! There are eateries all along the Esplanade, and also out around the pier near the marina: walk down the Esplanade with the sea on your left, then swing left at the shallow pool. Or look at this map and head for the marina.

History and background

To come

Around the area

You need at least one day to visit Kuranda: one way by train, one way by the skyway. You need at least one day to poke around Cairns, but the beaches up and down the coast are pleasant as well. There are also day-trips out to the Barrier Reef, with snorkelling thrown in. Our tour provided suits that made us look like Teletubbies, but they protected against sunburn and in stinger season, they protect you against stingers. If you are clumsy, they protect you from the coral. They don't protect you from being kicked by knuckleheads who swim past you and then cross in front of you at close range. The snorkelling experience isnt all that good.

Yass

How to get there

Drive down the Hume Highway. That means Southern Cross Drive, then the M5 to Liverpool and so on towards Canberra, but a few kilometres past Goulburn, veer right.

What to look for

Don't miss
Cooma Cottage, the homestead of Hamilton Hume, a pioneer and explorer. It tends to be closed at all the most annoying times, so check first, using the link above.

Where to stay, where to eat

There are plenty of motels, good supermarket to buy snack foods, beyond that, I can't say. Some 30 years ago, I got bad food poisoning at the RSL Club in Yass. I guess they have improved since then. It's a neat and tidy town.

History and background

While the Blue Mountains stopped people getting west, it was easier for would-be farmers to spread south-west, down to the Monaro Plains, the area around Yass and Canberra. Later, stock from there would be driven down to Melbourne, and then over to Adelaide, when those two areas were settled in the 1830s. It was easier than shipping sheep and cattle.

Around the area

My favourite place after Yass is Wee Jasper. There are some amazing geological folds on the hillsides, so drive slowly and look around. The best scenes come just before the road goes right, crosses a bridge and goes up a hill. Ignore the signs and take the low road for about 3 km, then turn where there is a homestead and come back again. There isn't much at Wee Jasper, but you can head on over narrow, windy gravel roads that get better after a few km and encounter sheep on the road, logging trucks, idiots from Canberra going too fast, and delightful scenery. Assume that Wee Jasper is closed on a Monday, and have food, drink and enough petrol to get to Tumut or Gundagai. Especially petrol, as the road is narrow and winding and needs a lot of low gear work.

The Warrumbungle Ranges

How to get there

The nearest town of any size is Coonabarabran, so get your map out and head for that.
The Warrumbungles are all in a national park.

What to look for

Scenery, kangaroos, delightful walks, but carry food, a map, plenty of water, and leave a walking plan behind when you go out.

Where to stay, where to eat

There is camping to be had within the park. See this general National Parks camping link and follow the links. For my last visit, I stayed at Gilgandra, drove in and drove back out again. It was just before the September holidays, and I was able to have Mt Exmouth to myself.

History and background

John Oxley was the first European explorer to go there. I was following in his footsteps, researching a book, so like him, I climbed Mount Exmouth. You can read the script of the radio talk I did on this if you want more, or you can listen to it as well. Just choose the link you prefer.

The area is volcanic, which is unusual for Australia. It is the result of our continental plate drifting over a hot spot that also generated the Glasshouse Mountains in Queensland and later generated the Grampians in Victoria. Now the hot spot is more or less under the north-west corner of Tasmania. Maybe one day, the Bass Strait will be filled in!

Around the area

Siding Springs observatory, Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo,

Echuca

How to get there

The easy way is down the Hume Highway through
Gundagai and Albury on the Murray River, then down the Murray valley to Yarrawonga, staying on the NSW side, or changing around as you see fit. On my last trip, I drove back to Sydney in a day, but two days is probably a better idea. The Murray Valley is beautiful. Driving home, I went across country through Deniliquin and Wagga Wagga, which was nowhere near as much fun, but it was a VERY hot day. Carry water in case you have a breakdown!!

What to look for

Wander along the Campaspe River in the early morning for the birds, take a ride on one of the touristy paddle steamers that are still going.

Where to stay, where to eat

Whatever you do, dine at Oscar W's on the edge of the Murray. For lighter meals, try the Benalla Bakehouse in High Street.

History and background

In the 1850s, Australia was opened up by paddle steamers, and Echuca was a major port where goods could be transferred to trains. Cattle came through there on the way to the gold fields, and Echuca became a major node, the biggest unland port in Australia.

But what a port it was: the changes in river level were huge, with melting snow in spring and summer swelling the river, then the heat of late summer dropping the levels again.

Around the area

The Barmah State Forest is a delight. Dirt roads, but fine in a small sedan. Just one thing: take a map. The roads are signposted but not perfect, and the names are not logical, so it may help to know where you are. It is a snakey area, so watch out if you decide to wander into the undergrowth. Some of the roads take you to delightful reaches of the Murray River, and on weekends and during holiday periods in summer, expect lots of other people. The camping season starts on the weekend before the first Tuesday in November, which is Melbourne Cup Day. After that, it gets crowded with noisy hoons.

This file is http://members.ozemail.com.au/~macinnis/syd/away.htm, first created on June 7, 2007. Last recorded revision (well I get lazy and forget sometimes!) was on Januarey 13, 2010.


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