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Stunning weekend getaways from Sydney
Summer - The Aussie Way
A love affair with the Great Ocean Road
A Day In Melbourne
Sydney - A beach haven down under
Posted By: Shikha Chugh
Sydney - the largest city in Australia, is also the state capital of New South Wales, the most populous state of the country. Over a month long period I discovered the true cosmopoliton nature of this city, walked along its harbours, dined at the choicest of restaurants and cafes, indulged in some freaky adventure sports and lazed around on its beaches! On one Friday evening, exhausted after doing absolutely nothing at all on the beach, I sat sipping my iced tea at Circular Quay and wondered what the ‘beach crazy Australian’ office goers had on their mind while boarding their trains back home on a Friday? What were their plans for the weekend? I tried to gauge whether the mundane ‘to do’ chores list topped their priority or was it family barbeques at the beaches or whether they were planning on packing that overnight suitcase and leaving for their weekend getaway.
Well I for sure wasn’t one to miss out on those weekend getaways from Sydney, specially when I had all the time in the world! So whether it was a weekend or the middle of the week, I just packed my bags and set out to explore the State of New South Wales, to discover smaller harbours, ports and towns on the south eastern shore of Australia.
Stanwell Park and Beach
: This picturesque coastal town, down south of Sydney, is only a hour away by road. The drive abounds scenic views of the pacific ocean and I couldn’t stop marvelling at how the ocean changed colours with every bend in the road. Here I caught my first sight of people paragliding and hang gliding from Baid Hill down to the beach. An adventurous sport but I wasn’t there as yet, still not as adventurous as to try and glide over the ocean! Bush walking and rock climbing are other activities that keep you busy if you are one for nature walks. The beach with its two lagoons is a real treat; as picturesque as it can get. One can also visit the Symbio Wildlife Park and the Sri Venkateswara Hindu temple, Australia’s first Hindu temple, at Helensburgh the next day before returning to Sydney!
Blue Mountains and Jenolin caves
: The Blue Mountains are a mountainous region bordering Sydney’s metropolitan areas and it took me less than an hour by road to reach here. These mountains got their name due to the blue haze that hovers over them produced by the oil from the plentiful eucalyptus trees found here. A visit to the Blue Mountains is incomplete without viewing the Three Sisters. The Three sisters are a rock formation formed over the years because of erosion of the mountains due to the wind, rain and rivers. They are situated near the town of Katoomba, and naturally the town thrives on tourism. You can view the three sisters from the edges of the cliffs, echo point or the various lookout points. From echo point, a winding bushwalking trail leads to the base of the three sisters and to the valley floor via more than 800 stone and metal steps, called ‘The Giant Stairway’. These steps are mostly carved out of the cliff and the stairway is extremely steep. Be sure to wear those walking shoes and carry your hats to block out the sun. After the strenous climb down to the base of The Three Sisters, I headed straight to the mouth watering aromas that filtered out of the cafes at Katoomba.
After lunch I took a ride on the steepest incline railway in the world. This 415m descent took me through the cliffside tunnel down into an ancient rainforest. The 2.8 km boardwalk, the scenic walkway, went through the thick foliage and the local flora of this region and certainly helped burn off those extra calories gained over lunch. This walk culminated at the scenic cableway which carried me back up to the echo point. From the cable car one can see the vast hilly region and understand why these mountains got the name ‘BLUE’!
The next day I headed to the spectacular Jenolan Caves. An hour’s drive from the Blue Mountains, these stalactite and stalagmite limestone caves are the oldest discovered open caves in the world. The most popular cave here – the Lucas Cave, displayed the famous Broken Column formation. The Cathedral chamber in this cave is famous for its acoustics. I was told that at least twice a month underground concerts took place in this chamber. The cave’s tour involved climbing a flight of 910 stairs, but thankfully they were gradual and spread over a span of 1 ½ hours. The special lighting inside the cave made the white limestone formations look even prettier.
: Less than two hours away by road from Sydney, it took me no time to decide that I wanted to visit this town. From farmers markets to pelican feedings to heritage walks to fishing and biking – if in the mood for a lazy weekend away from Sydney, this is the place to be!
: Port Stephens was an almost 3 hour drive north of Sydney. Here Nelsons bay was quite famous for its Dolphin and Whale watch cruises. Needless to say, I went on one such cruise. To see the dolphin pool in their natural habitat was not something you saw everyday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the season for humpback whales else it would have been a double whammy of sorts to have sighted those in their natural habitat too.
The cruise vessel was equipped with a huge boomnet which was lowered into the ocean on our way back and all the kids (I have to admit here that it was so inviting that the kid in me couldn’t resist it either) jumped into it hoping that the dolphins came and swam along with us! Nelson bay was quite a tourist attraction so a bed and breakfast wasn’t too hard to find nor that hard on the pocket either!
At a distance of 10 minutes from Nelson Bay, I stopped at the Birubi point and the Stockton sand dunes, the largest sand dune system in Australia and the largest continuous mobile coastal sand mass in the Southern Hemisphere. The wind blown sand dunes at the beach were just stunning!!!There were plenty of activities for the adventure lovers at these sand dunes. I booked myself onto a 4 Wheel Drive tour and all through kept praying that the jeep doesn’t topple while going over the dunes.
The dunes were enormous, quite steep and extremely thrilling, especially when I hit them for a fun filled sand boarding session and slid screaming down the 60-degree slopes. The tough bit was to walk back up on these sandy slopes, against the wind, in order to be able to sand board down again. When I reached the top of one such sand dune, I took a moment to absorb all that was around me, and was left spell bound. In the slanting rays of the sun, the sand dunes glittered on one side and the ocean waters gleamed on the other. It was surreal. The moment seemed of another time, another world. How mesmerizing could nature be and how humble and powerless it made you feel!!!
After I let the moment sink in, it was but natural to head straight to the beach to get rid of the sand that had enveloped me. Another beach along these sand dunes was the Fingal Beach. A walk at sunset on this beach and the sand and water shimmering alike in the setting sun’s rays; it was these moments that made this weekend getaway unforgetable.
Well, at the end of almost 40 days in Sydney, I knew that there was still a lot to explore. No matter how much time you spent in this lovely city it was never enough and there was always something new to do. From beaches to day trips to weekend getaways, I had experienced quite a bit and now it was time to move on to the next Aussie destination – The state of Victoria, and discover the city of Melbourne and the joy of driving on the Great Ocean Road. Catch this space for more if planning a trip down under!
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