Coastal road trip to Sydney
The morning of December 15th we packed our red Hyundai in Melbourne and headed towards our first stop, Metung. It was nice to be out of the city among countryside fields and small towns. When we arrived in Metung we found a walking path along the waterfront where we watched various birds, without a person in sight. Mind you, Metung is not a “destination” spot, it was meanly a stop over before getting to the east coast. Although, in the end we thought it was one of the best stops because of the quiet area and the Lakes Entrance water way.
We arrived late afternoon to our Airbnb and began to notice the Aussie Airbnb trend — the hosts provide a lockbox code for access to the accommodation. It’s strange not to be greeted by an owner and let yourself into someones home, but we settled in. We unloaded our gear, locked our private room and went for a stroll through town. It took 20 minutes considering the town only had one coffee shop, a small hotel, a few restaurants and a brand new play ground. On the waterfront of town there were flocks of parrots, cockatoos, black swans, pelicans and seagulls searching for dinner. Back at the Airbnb we cooked dinner together, with no sign of the home owner, but with permission to use the kitchen. We enjoyed our BBQ grilled marinated chicken, sautéed asparagus, sweet potato fries and some Fat Yak beer out on the second story balcony. As we were finishing the meal the owner arrived home. He turned out to be a single police officer that lets his step-daughter (the one we’d booked our room through) run the Airbnb remotely from Melbourne. He cracked a beer and joined for an enjoyable conversation on the patio. We mentioned our plan for tomorrow (renting kayaks) and he suggested we take his SUP and surf ski out instead… Sure thing!
We woke early to paddle board and surf ski (epic kayak) around Metung Harbor. It was fun until on our way back the wind switched directions and we had to fight our way to shore. Our hopes to ride the easy breeze back were gone, but we exhaustedly returned to shore grinning. Thanks Bryce for a great stay and fun activities in Metung!
Along our road trip from Metung to Eden. We made to following exploration breaks at:
- Cape Conran – On this hot day we took the scenic (beach) detour to walk around Salmon Rocks of the west cape and dipped our feet in the cool ocean water.
- Ben Boyd National Park – We took a 30 minute walk down a dirt road to get to Bittangabee Bay for a relaxing swim in the fresh (Aussie expression for ‘chilly’) water. It felt good to be in the ocean water again instead of a pool. On our way out of the water I saw a stingray which reminded us to shuffle our feet when underwater.
- BBNP Cape Green Lighthouse – This is Australia’s first concrete lighthouse where we saw a rare sight; a mom and pup wombat! We quietly watched in fascination as they munched on green grass and creeping closer. We shot some film and took pics as this was one of those rare moments where observing another creature spikes all curiosity. After watching them run back to their home in the bush we took in the beautiful coastal cape view at the lighthouse.
- Kent’s Airbnb in Eden – Our night stay, although very quick, was really comfortable at Kent’s. It was a self contained renovated studio space with a small kitchen area, bathroom, living area and queen bed. He had tons of advice for things to do and was helpful with directions. Another nice host — thanks Kent!
- Pizza on at the Wharf – Before conking out it was time for food. We had a few options for dinner and went with the seafood pizza for take away to the Eden Wharf. We watched the end of a sunset, saw the big fishing boats of the renowned fishing village and chowed ‘za. Beautiful scenery, but seafood pizza isn’t something we’ll be having again.
Along our road trip from Eden to Lilli Pilli we fit in the following adventures:
- Wild Rye Bakery – Since bakery fresh bread is my preference over store bought we stopped at in Pambula at Wild Rye bakery. Thinking it would have a variety of breads we were disappointed to find the only make sourdough varieties. Bummed because we wanted brown bread (where is an Irish bakery when you want one!). Let down we moved on to our first activity.
- Mountain Biking in Tathra – We first stopped to rent bikes at the Cycle & Surf shop in Merimbula, but the shop owner was a lazy dud, so we continued 25 mins to Tathra. Thankfully, the guy in the Bike & Beach Tathra shop was awesome and they had great bikes with a map of the huge single track park just down the street. Score! We rented bikes for a few hours and rode the single track to advance our skills. It was a good total body challenge and thrill! After returning the bikes we went across the street to Tathra Beach and jumped in the ocean to cool off. It felt good even though the wind went from breezy to blustery while there.
- Bermagui bake sale! – When a sign says ‘Farmers Market Today’, I’m always tempted to stop. In this case, we were hungry, it was just opening and we had the time so we checked it out. It was a small market with only a dozen or so tents but it had plenty to offer. Instead of the fruit and veg we opted for the apple cake from the bake sale tent run by two cute elderly women. They baked the goods and worked together to sell their simple goodies. We were more than satisfied after some of homemade apple cake!
- Wallaga Lake National Park viewpoint – We quickly stopped at Camel Rock and Camel Rock Beach to take in the view. There was no swimming, but we enjoyed stretching our legs and taking pics of the rock formations. Anyone see the camel?
- Tilba Tilba – This quant 1870s village was well worth it. We walked the historic main avenue, were tempted to get sweets at the candy shop, and hiked up to the lookout hill which boasted a 360 view of the rolling green valley below.
- Chef Will’s Kitchen: When we got to our Airbnb in Lilli Pilli (cute name, right?) we were greeted by the nice retiree hosts who we talked with for a bit before unloading into their basement studio and getting groceries at Coles (similar to Fred Meyers back home) in Batesman Bay. Thankfully we had a private kitchen and Will cooked up some prawn green curry in what I called “Will’s Kitchen”. The curry was delicious as it tasted straight out of a Thai restaurant at a fraction of the cost and simple to make.
For the morning our hosts provided one of the best breakfasts. They stocked our kitchen with fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, some eggs, cooked bacon, tea, coffee, juice and more. We were excited to be staying their for two nights instead of one quick night.
During our first full day in the Batesman Bay area we enjoyed:
We woke to a hot sunny day to explore the Batemans Bay area. We opted to get out on the water of Mossy Point where we rented kayaks from Region X since there was no swell for surfing at Broulee Beach. The Region X kiosk paired a kayak rental with a mountain bike hire for cheap… we could’t have paired it better ourselves. We enjoyed a ride on the bikes down an old flat gravel road. The ride was hot but the beach at the end of the trail was well worth it. We dipped our feet in the water (no swimming due to rip currents) and headed back to kayak on the Tomaga River estuary. We set out on a double kayak to fight a little wind and tide since the launching spot was near the rivers outlet to the ocean. The river was peaceful as we observed pelicans fishing, saw rays on the sandy bottom and many mangroves.
After our busy day we cooked and then took a short walk around from Malua Bay to Lilli Pilli beach at low tide. During high tide the beaches are land locked and water rises making the rocky path connecting the two beaches disappear. We found the path by venturing further and further on the rocks towards Lilli Pilli; collecting shells and taking dusk photography along the way.
On our road trip from Lilli Pilli to Jervis Bay/Sanctuary Point we discovered our favorite National Park and spent two days exploring. These were our highlights:
- Booderee National Park – We drove a few hours north to Sanctuary Point, a small town that boarders the Saint George Basin near Jervis Bay to drop off our things then went to . The park costs $11AUD for 48 hours access so we planned to tackle some of the park today and some tomorrow morning. At a hot 30 degree Celsius we hiked to the Cape St George Lighthouse remains which were underwhelming at best and chose to beach hop next. Turned out the lighthouse was demolished between 1917-1922 due to the confusion it caused captains at sea so we saw the remains. The short hike was enough walking in the heat so we headed for the beach. We visited Green Patch/Ilmay Beach, the Scottish Rocks, Hole in the Wall and Murrys Beach to cool off in the fresh waters and stretch our legs some more. By the time we got out of the water and dried almost instantly at the final swim beach some clouds and wind rolled in. Naturally we squeezed in one last 30 minute hike to Georges Lookout where the vast dark sea bordered with the rocky cliffs for miles…or kilometers rather.
- Homemade Dinner: We cooked up some chicken salsa black bean sizzle on tortillas and cheers’d a glass of Margaret River cabinet sauv before taking an evening walk to Sanctuary Point’s lake basin not far from our Airbnb for sunset. Our accomodation was a small private room in a house owned by a single gal in her 50s. Again, we had lockbox access to the house, so we made ourselves at home and put the kitchen to use before meeting her on our second day. It was another gracious Australian hostess who even taught us how to make a toasted sunflower seed snack. Delicious – Thanks Cherl!
- Booderee National Park Trail Run – We woke up early for 7:15am trail run in the park to enjoy a different trail before the crowds showed up. Our legs felt strong on the rocky path, although a few hills took us into a speed walk. The fresh morning air coming off the ocean not far away kept us cool as we trotted along. Every once and a while we would hear the leaves in the bush crunch and look to see a kangaroo or wallaby feeding. Most would scamper further into the bush at our sight, but a few stopped to stare back wondering who was going to make the first move.
- We stopped at Blacks Waterhole for stretches when Will shouted, “snake!”. As I bolted away the snake darted into the water. We were afraid it was the highly venomous red bellied black snake, but we later found out it was a larger less venomous snake. It freaked us out, but we continued keeping eyes focused on the trail occasionally watching the parrots, cockatoos and kookaburras squawk as they swooped through the tree line.
- Lunch at Pilgrims Cafe – This small waterfront restaurant was the best veggie burger joint we’ve eaten at in Australia. I’m a sucker for a bunch of organic vegetables combine with mashed lentils or legumes seasoned with flavorful spices. Add a fresh squeezed juice and I’m one satisfied health nut. Oh well, eat what feeds you best, right? We devoured some burgers before before diving.
- Diving in Jervis Bay – We signed up the day prior for the 2pm group dive off the shores in Jervis Bay. The day of we signed the waiver, got fitted with 5mm full suits plus a dry suit hooded top, checked the equipment we’d be using and boarded the boat. Their were 4 divers, one dive guide and the boat driver. The ride was surprisingly rough to the north shore dive sight since the wind had picked up. Waves crashed over the boat giving us a feel for the fresh water. Our first dive to 15 meters was around boulders and through holes of fallen rocks with coral surrounding them. Occasionally large fish would make an appearance. The current was strong and the heavy wind created poor visibility so staying in a group required more swimming than we were used. We all got shivering cold but welcomed a warm cup of hot chocolate post dive #1.
- Dive #2 was into a 10 meter long cave which was thrilling to check out as it got narrower and narrower. Our sightings included a huge blue grouper, shark eggs that I spotted with the other diver, a large rockfish, speckled starfish, white hairy caterpillar and sea plants. Will continued diving with the guide while I went up due to a chill. He met face to face with a large blue grouper as he turned around who apparently expects divers to fed him (some locals do). He also saw a cuttle fish and a blue devil fish before joining me to warm in the sun.
- Last Minute Booderee Botanical Garden – At 5pm, on our way to a picnic destination, we visited part of the lush botanical garden right before its gates locked at 6pm. We walked alone in the garden, since we were the only car in the carpark, for a peaceful stroll though the only aboriginal owned botanical garden in Australia. It was a beautiful, vibrantly green and well manicured garden with trails winding throughout.
- Picnic at Caves Beach – Finally, we ate our picnic dinner of smoked salmon, goat cheese and spinach on crackers with some salami and apples. We tried to eat on the beach but the wind disagreed as it blew sand everywhere. We went with our second spot up from the beach on a picnic bench next to a family of kangaroos eating their own (grass) dinner. It was fascinating to watch the mommy with a Joey in her pouch stay close to her other family members — assuming the father by his dominant presence and a young roo who seemed used to human passerbys.
On our drive from Jervis Bay to Sydney the rain made a harsh appearance. Here is how we wrapped up our road trip and our arrival in wet Sydney:
- Kiama Blow Hole – We used this tourist stop as an excuse to stretch our legs and see the water shoot up from a hole in the rocks. Haha… Yeah right suckers! The low tide meant no water shooting and us walking around in the rain with other road trippers. Oh well! We did spot our first of many ocean “baths” (pools built into the natural rock at the oceans edge). You see it below?
- Wollongong Uni Pool – We randomly swam laps at this outdoor Uni pool for the rainy afternoon since it was on our way to the big city. It was summer so few students were on campus or swimming and we enjoyed the workout in the temperate water.
Welcome to Sydney Summer – Lets just say entering a huge city in the pouring rain at rush hour while trying to navigate to a car rental return (The Domain) is frustrating! We drove across the Harbor Bridge without realizing it and saw the Oprah House in the drizzle, but we arrived in one piece.
- Sydney House/Dog Sit – Craig, a laid back middle aged Australian native who we were dog sitting for, kindly picked us up at the car park. We joined him and his wife, a talkative middle aged Russian native, for the commute out of the city. At their house we met Bruno, the big chocolate lab who loves his chicken bones, as well as their two sons. After unpacking and settling in a bit we enjoyed a big dinner and some wine over great conversation. We learned all about Saint Petersburg Russia, Sydney and their perspective of the Australian culture while we shared some of our travel tales. It was an enjoyable exchange of stories between different nationalities.
The morning of December 22nd Craig graciously drove us around Sydney to see a few sights and then to the airport. What? Why? We just got to Sydney for a housesit? Here, let me catch you up to speed…we are going to house and pet sit for Craig and family, but not until January 1st. Before then we accepted a house/pet sit for a family in Brisbane going away for the week of Christmas. Are you keeping up with us yet?
Hope you are finding some adventure of your own! We’ll be sharing our experiences in dog sitting for 3 families next time.
Jenny & Will