Overnight in Port Macquarie

Our first port of call after Wolgan Valley was Port Macquarie, a popular seaside resort, with a temperate climate, on the NSW mid-north coast, about 390 km (242 miles) north of Sydney, and 570 km (354 miles) south of Brisbane. The town sits on the mouth of the Hastings river and it boasts many gorgeous beaches, a lush hinterland plus a surprisingly diverse range of attractions.

Rich in history, vibrant with art and alive with culture, Port Macquarie is a treasure trove of impressive convict built buildings to ancient Aboriginal land, from expressive public art to exotic exhibitions, and with an abundance of festivals and cultural events.

The town which is named after a former Governor of NSW was a penal colony for around 20 years from 1820. Its thick bush, tough terrain and indigenous folks (the Birpai) keen to return escaping prisoners in return for tobacco and blankets, provided large amounts of both isolation and hard labour to keep the criminals under control. These criminals would have been persistent offenders from the Sydney penal colony.

I’d picked it for an overnight stop as it was roughly midway between the Blue Mountains and Byron Bay. After almost returning to Sydney, we drove along the Pacific Highway, marvelling at the lush green pastures and rain forest either side of the road. The occasional burst of yellow blossoms looked just like mimosa, reminding me of home.

We arrived in time for a stroll around town before dinner in a great fish restaurant opposite our hotel. After a good night’s sleep, we enjoyed a longer walk around town taking photographs before eating breakfast in an organic cafe.

The town had been a great spot for an overnighter, let’s hope my other picks are as successful. All too soon we were back on the Pacific Highway heading for a few days in Byron Bay.

(Another) Postcard from Sydney: Part II

We spent that first Sunday in Sydney largely walking around its splendid (and free) Botanical Gardens which we accessed from the other side of the wharf. The weather was glorious for a winter’s day as you’ll see from the various photographs.

The map below shows the gardens occupy prime real estate: a heritage-listed, oasis of 30 hectacres in the heart of the city. The Gardens wrap around Farm Cove at the edge of Sydney Harbour, occupying one of the city’s most spectacular spots.

Established in 1816, it’s Australia’s oldest scientific institution, home to an outstanding collection of indigenous plants and those from around the globe. The Gardens overall structure and key elements were down to Charles Moore and Joseph Maiden and have been built upon by successive directors.

It’s a popular place with families who were out en masse enjoying the fine weather and like us looking at the various displays, including one which  honoured the Cadigal, the original inhabitants of Sydney’s city centre and their relationship with this land.

There are spectacular views across the water from the Gardens and it’s possible to walk round to the Sydney Opera House, a piece of architecture which has stood the test of time, and that iconic bridge. After we strolled around the centre of Sydney looking for interesting doors and admiring the mix of old and new buildings before heading back to base.


I have no idea how far we walked because my beloved  forgot to put on his Apple watch but I’d say it was approaching 15km, well over our 10,000 steps!



(Another) Postcard from Sydney: Part I

We’ve arrived in Sydney after a stopover in Dubai. I should warn you that if you’re expecting to read about Sydney’s iconic sites, you’re going to be disappointed. If that’s what you’re after, check out my earlier posts from 2010 and 2016. No, this post is about one of Sydney’s many ‘burbs, the wonderfully named Woolloomoolloo, a harbourside town 1.5km east of the Sydney CBD, near to Kings Cross and Potts Point.

Woolloomooloo was originally a working-class district, largely docks, which has undergone significant gentrification, particularly along its waterfront where we were staying.  Its name comes from the first homestead in the area, Wolloomooloo House, built by its first landowner John Palmer. There is debate as to how Palmer came up with the name with different Aboriginal words being suggested. Was it Wallamullah, meaning place of plenty or Wallabahmullah, meaning a young black kangaroo?

After the First Fleet’s arrival in Sydney, the area was initially called Garden Cove or Garden Island Cove after the nearby small wooded off-shore Garden Island. The first land grant was given to John Palmer in 1793 to allow him to run cattle for the fledgling colony. In the 1840s the farm land was subdivided into what is now Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst and parts of Surry Hills. Originally affluent residents built grand houses here, many with spectacular gardens, attracted by the bay and close proximity to the city and Government House.

Woolloomooloo has a number of heritage-listed sites, including a couple on Cowper Wharf where we were staying. The town is also home to Finger Wharf built in 1911-15, and at the time the world’s largest wooden structure, to help re-organise Sydney Harbour’s foreshore facilities. The wharf’s influence diminished during the 1970s and it became derelict until the mid-1990s when it was turned into private residential apartments, a boutique hotel and several restaurants and bars. It’s now a thriving and popular area.

Postcards from Sydney I

Despite 10 days in Australia, thanks to a hired bike, gyms in the hotels and suitable places to jog, I have been able to keep up with my training programme. I am however having severe withdrawal symptoms which will hopefully be assuaged tomorrow in Manly, where I’ve hired a road bike for the day. I’m hoping this will bear no resemblance to the bike I hired in Melbourne, which was the mountain bike equivalent of the supermarket trolley with the wonky wheel. That said, it was better than nothing.

My feet are feeling distinctly the worse for wear. This, I suspect, is a direct consequence of hours standing watching the cycling and hours spent pounding the pavement: walking and jogging. A foot massage would be bliss but I’ll have to settle for soaking them in cold water.

Strand Shopping Gallery – like going back in time!

I have done Sydney. Yes, I have walked all over the place, aided and abetted by the Hop on/Hop off buses. I love the juxtaposition of old and brand spanking new in the centre of town. I particularly liked those modern buildings that take some reference from the surrounding sandstone ones, specifically those in Macquarie and Bridge Streets.  I loved the refurbishment and conversion of the Queen Victoria Building and the Strand Arcade into Shopping Malls. I approved of the refurbished Hilton Hotel, opposite the QVB, and the retention of the historic Marble bar. I adored the view of Sydney from the Rocks where you can see the town’s modest beginnings against the backdrop of the modern skyline  and the iconic Bridge and Sydney Opera House. I also liked  the renovated wharves at Star City.

Barely populated Manly Beach

I revelled in the bohemian feel of Kings Cross and Paddington with their eclectic mixes of dwellings and their pavements enlivened with restaurants, bars, cafes and interesting shops. Equally, I enjoyed the ritzier locations of Rosecutters, Double, Rose and Vaucluse Bays where some of Sydney’s most expensive real estate is located.  While the bus commentary advised that there had been no deaths from shark attacks on Sydney’s beaches since two incidents in 1929, it failed to mention the numerous attacks since where victims had lived to tell their tales, albeit with missing limbs. You won’t therefore be surprised to learn that I passed on the opportunity to get up close and personal with sharks and other assorted marine life at the Sydney Aquarium. Equally, I felt no pressing need to visit Sydney’s Wildlife World despite the presence of a huge crocodile and a deadly taipan. I guess this isn’t one of those touchy feely places where the kiddies are encouraged to pet the animals.

Spoilt for choice!

I did however stop off at Sydney’s fish market, where the exhibits are largely dead, apart from a few swimming around in tanks awaiting their fate at the point of a finger. My father would have loved to have seen this wonderful array of glistening, fresh fish. I dined on an assortment of plump oysters for a fraction of the price I’ve been paying in local restaurants and would have had a lobster if only I could have found one small enough. They breed ’em big in Oz.