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Explore : The Central West

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The Central West region in New South Wales is the area west of the Blue Mountains and includes Young in the south, Dunedoo in the north and Parkes in the West.  It’s a wet region that’s high in elevation and hilly, making it great for vineyards, vegetable growing and sheep grazing.  While we were in the area, we went on the Rhino Adventure, looking for as many painted rhinos as we could find.

 

 

After having spent so much time up north in the tropics, we were still adjusting to the wintery weather of the south.  When we visited the NSW Central West Region in mid-July, the combination of increased altitude and the ‘big freeze’ weather phenomenon that came through during our visit made our nights very cold.  It even snowed when we were in Orange.

 

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Bathurst

Proclaimed a town in May 1815, Bathurst grew into a city by 1885, is the oldest inland settlement in Australia and just celebrated its 200th anniversary.  It’s also known as Gold Country, as it was the site of the first gold rush in Australia.  It was established to be the administrative centre of the western plains, but these days, it’s mostly known for motorsport.  Mount Panorama is the venue for many racing events including the Bathurst 1000, which attracts tens of thousands of people each year.  There’s also a National Motor Racing Museum beside the circuit.

 

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The Big Gold Panner

Located outside a hotel with the same name, the Big Gold Panner was erected in 1979 and kneels over 5 metres tall.

 

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Beekeepers Hill

About 22km outside of Bathurst is a café and farm shop that offers honey tasting, cakes and coffee, candles, antiques and collectables. There’s an adjacent brewery, the 1859 Brewery, and the café offers tasting paddles for $2.50.

 

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Orange

Orange is known as the Colour City not only because of its name, but because of the colours on show during Autumn.  It was established in 1846, is the birthplace of Banjo Patterson and has a beautiful collection of historic buildings.

 

We spent two days in Orange and got to experience a beautiful sunny day, followed by a snow white day.  We went for a stroll through the Botanical Gardens and climbed to Pinnacle Lookout before checking out some local wineries.

 

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In town, the Word of Mouth cellar door is a convenient stop for an enjoyable tasting session.  For us, the 2013 Petit Manseng was the winner – it was sweet and fruity with a ginger spice.  Brangayne was another great winery that gets its name from the story of Tristan and Isolde.  While their pinot grigio was lovely, the 2013 Isolde Reserve Chardonnay was smooth and fruity with a morish malolactic bloom in the mouth.

 

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Badlands Brewery is just out of town to the north west and gets its name from the Aussie outback.  We enjoyed tasting their beers, with a few that we had never heard of, like the U-Boat Märzen, which was floral and sweet with yeasty flavours and a bitter hops finish.  We particularly liked the Gloaming Cherry Baltic Porter, a smoky beer with dark cherry and bitter chocolate flavours.

 

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On our way to Parkes, we stopped by Borenore Caves Reserve and explored the Arch Cave, which turned out to be quite an adventure.  There was plenty of light left in the day so we stopped in at Orange Mountain Wines for our final tasting session of the day.  They had a great selection of white and red wines, but we really enjoyed their ice wine style sweeties, Mountain Ice Viognier and Rose.

 

 

Parkes

Once called Bushman’s, Parkes was renamed in 1873 in honour of Sir Henry Parkes, the premier of NSW and ‘Father of Federation’.  There’s a big statue of him located in the centre of town.

 

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Parkes is also known for its annual Elvis Festival and one of the museums at the Information Centre has the biggest Elvis collection in Australia.  Parkes also has a festival that caters for ABBA lovers.

 

About 25km north of Parkes is the CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope – or The Dish.  It’s been operational since 1961 and is an important tool in the field of astronomical science.  Admission to the Discovery Centre is free, and there’s also a café on site.  Unfortunately, it was closed when we got there, but we still had a look around.

 

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Within the garden at the front of the Discovery Centre is Newton’s Apple Tree, a direct descendent of the apple tree that inspired Newton’s Law of Gravitation.  Also in the garden are the Whispering Dishes – if you’re in the area, you’d be silly to miss the opportunity to play with these fascinating demonstrators of how the Dish works.

 

Utes in the Paddock is a kooky art project just over 70km west of Parkes.  About 20 old Holden utes have been turned into pieces of art that represent Aussie icons and various Australiana. It’s a great display that is well worth the drive.

 

 

Dubbo

We didn’t spend a great deal of time in Dubbo because we were busy meeting the animals at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, but we did make some time to find some painted rhinos before skipping town.

 

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If you’re looking for a nice place to camp for the night, check out Ponto Falls Reserve.  It’s off the road, alongside the Macquarie River, and the toilet facilities are new and clean.

 

Mudgee

Mudgee was a pleasant surprise.  It’s a small town that has earned the reputation of being a great food and wine area.  The Farmers Market was on the day we visited and we were able to taste all the delicious locally made foods, such as cheeses and olives, fermented foods, deli meats, wine and spirits.

 

There is even a brewery in town – Mudgee Brewing Co. – that has a great range of beer.  We met the brewer, Gary, who walked us through a few of his beers and revealed that the origin of the camel in the logo comes from the saying, “a man’s not a camel”.  There was a beer named the Camel’s Beard Black Sour, which had a sour cherry smell, fresh fruity taste, with clean and mild roasted malt finish.

 

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On our way to the Troopy Winter Ramble at Glen Davis, we stopped at Broombee Organic Wines for a quick wine tasting session.  The owner, Barrie Corner, was quite the character, and our two favourite wines were the Cabernet Blush and 2005 Muscat liqueur, which had that morish nutty aftertaste.

 

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Drink : Breweries in Sydney

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We went to five breweries while we were in Sydney, only missing out on visiting the Lord Nelson Brewery on the Rocks.  Still, we think we got a really good picture of how clever and crafty you can get with beer.

 

Young Henry’s

This place was cool.  Set in a colourful street art laneway in Newtown, this warehouse style tasting bar had high ceilings, grand fermenting tanks behind the bar, exposed brick walls, pop art hanging on the walls and an awesome soundtrack.  A paddle of six beers was $15 and we were really impressed with the variety.  The favourites were the Natural Lager with its crisp and refreshing taste with a warm yeasty finish, and the New Hop Ale with sweet hops and roasted malt bitterness.  The creative beers were the Young Mussel Wit, which was made with mussels but you wouldn’t know it if they didn’t tell you, and the Pink Lightning, a cloudy peach coloured beer with a floral perfume of rose, hibiscus and elderflower.

 

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Young Henry’s have been brewing for 3 years and they really take beer making to the next level.  Stop in for a beer or grab yourself a growler to take away.

 

Batch Brewing Co.

Another brewery operating out of a warehouse, you can see the operations behind the bar and get a good look on your way to the bathroom. They’ve been brewing for two years and have a fridge full of takeaway bombers (longnecks) and big growlers.

 

The place is a little hipster, offering a tasting crate of jars for $20, but don’t underestimate the beer because it’s fabulous.  We had a few favourites, like the Big Kahuna, which was made with coconut to give sweet coconut flavours to the smooth, rich brew, and the Elsie Milk Stout, a thick, dark beer made with lactose for a fine milky head.

 

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Sydney Brewery/Cidery

We stumbled across this place during our $100 Day and discovered that it’s actually the sister cidery to the Lovedale Brewery in the Hunter Valley.  We’d sampled their beers a few weeks earlier so we focused on the ciders.  They had a new concoction of mulled cider with various peels and spices, which was a great idea to release during winter, and we also tried a fantastic seasonal cider with agave and ginger.  What a great combination of sparkling cider and refreshing ginger!  We really loved it and ended up taking a squealer home.

 

After a tasting session, we went for a backstage tour of the cidery and learnt a little about making cider – who would have thought that the process is more like wine making that brewing beer!  Before heading off, we sat down in the stylish bar with our favourite Lovedale brews.  Dave went with the Rye IPA while Juz stuck with the crisp Lovedale Lager.

 

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4 Pines Brewing

The first brewery we visited in the Sydney metropolis, this location is more like a bar with timber tables and stools and an awesome view overlooking Manly Wharf.  We assume the main brewing operations are done elsewhere and this venue is dedicated to customers and small batch brews that are made in the small room behind the glass.

 

We sat down and ordered a Harbour Bridge inspired paddle of beers.  The cloudy Hefeweizen was full of banana sweetness while the Kolsch was more floral, crisp and dry with a hint of passionfruit.  Dave loved the Pale Ale with its balance of hops and citrus sweetness.  It was a pretty cool place with an awesome soundtrack – we can definitely imagine ourselves here for a Sunday session.

 

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Rocks Brewing Co.

It was hard to find this brewery, and even harder to find a park, but we made it to the venue eventually.  It was a lot bigger than what we were expecting, with a nice beer garden outside and two clear areas inside, the brewing area and the bar area.

 

We ordered a paddle and sat down, shivering because the doors to the beer garden were open letting all the frosty cold air in.  We sipped the beers and found they weren’t that great.  In our opinion, the flavours weren’t balanced at all and many were just too bitter to enjoy.  At least they had an interesting convict theme with the names of their beers.

 

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Drink : The Hunter Valley

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The Hunter Valley Wine Region is located around 60km inland from Newcastle, with Pokolbin at the centre.  It’s the hottest wine region in Australia and despite the plethora of vineyards and wineries, the area contributes only 3% of the total wine production of Australia.  The area had established vines by 1823 and flourished as a wine region from then onwards.

 

The two predominant varieties that are grown in the area are Semillon and Shiraz.  Semillon wines are white, crisp and acidic with some citrus, apple and subtle spice and they get better with age.  As the wine oxidises, it changes to a deep yellow colour and develops creamy apricot flavours.  Due to the climate of the area, the Shiraz wines are a little different – they almost resemble a Pinot Noir.  Shiraz wines used to be known as Hunter River Burgundy but because of France’s copyright on region names (like Champagne), they are back to being Shiraz.

 

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Wineries

Saddler’s Creek

The first winery on our Hunter Valley adventure, it was a great way to get to know the varieties of the region.  We tried a young crisp Semillon and compared it to an older Semillon with a distinctly more mature and delicious flavour.  Our host was great to chat to and knew a lot about the region.

 

Lindemans

One of the oldest wineries in the region, Lindemans have been around since 1843.  Their cellar door is quite impressive both on the outside and inside, and their entire selection was fantastic.  We particularly liked the 2013 Shiraz Reserve 1300 because it wasn’t as dry as most of the other Shiraz wines, and it was full of raspberry and dark cherry flavours.

 

Tulloch

We had a great tasting session here – the guy who hosted us really knew his stuff – but instead of focusing on Semillon wines, we explored Verdelho.  We learnt that Tulloch was the first to use the variety to make a table wine instead of a sweet dessert wine.  We dabbled with the reds before getting into the fortified wines.  The Limited Release Crème De Vin was absolutely delicious, full of ripe apricot and honey.

 

Piggs Peake Winery

All of the wines are named after something to do with pigs.  The Hogshead Chardonnay was lovely, the Suckling Pig Shiraz was sweet and fruity, and the Little Pig Verdelho Swines Only dessert wine was to die for, but when we were presented with a Shiraz named Kevin, our questioning glances were answered with one sultry word… “Bacon”.

 

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Pepper Tree Wines

This is a fairly young winery, having been established in 1991, and their cellar door operates out of a renovated barn that is simply charming.  They do a wonderful NV Tipsy Muscat that is supposed to come with its very own ‘tipsy’ bottle, but they had sold out that day so we missed out on the novelty.

 

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McGuigans

These guys are fairly well known but because they were right next to a cheese factory, we figured we’d check them out.  Their cellar door is huge and they have won several international awards for winemaker of the year.  Our favourite was the 2007 Bin 9000 Semillon – a gold medal winner that deserves its awards – and the NV Personal Reserve Muscat that had amazing nutty butterscotch and caramelised fig flavours that would not give up.

 

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Peterson House

Offering something a little different to the typical Hunter Valley range, Peterson House likes to add bubbles.  We tried most of what they had, each one better than the one before.  Their best seller, Pink Blush, was a great bubbly with floral and candied orange tones but what we loved was the Sparkling Botrytis Semillon and Sparkling Fortified Shiraz.

 

Breweries

Hunter Beer Co.

What was supposed to be a quiet session with a paddle in the corner turned into an incredible tasting extravaganza when one of the brewers came over for a chat.  Not only did we try the four beers on the paddle, but he also brought over samples of his zesty Ginger Beer, sweet Barley Wine, and the Slaked Magpie, which ended up being Dave’s favourite because it was like drinking a chocolate milkshake.

 

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He also told us a great story about how Hefeweizen beers existed in Germany before bananas, so when bananas finally arrived, everyone thought they tasted like beer!

 

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Lovedale Brewery

Located at the heart of the Crown Plaza Resort, the Lovedale Brewery offers a paddle of four beers for $9, which is pretty cheap.  We got the Lager, Pale Ale, Rye IPA and Porter, and while the Rye IPA was a pleasant surprise with deliciously sweet aromas and a toffee flavour, the crisp and refreshing lager was the clear winner.

 

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Matilda Bay Brewhouse

We broke all the rules at the Brewhouse, choosing our own selection of beers to taste instead of choosing one of their pre-selected paddle options.  While Juz favoured the Small Batch Bright Ale, Dave enjoyed the IGP (Itchy Green Pants).

 

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Hunter Distillery

With a massive range of spirits and flavours, there is something for everyone here, but our favourite by far was the honey vodka – it was like having honey on toast. The drinking vessels were very cool too.

 

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Food

The Hunter Cheese Factory

This was one of our favourite cheese tasting experiences.  We got a platter for $6.95 to share and it included five cheeses varying from a soft fromage to a creamy blue vein.  We loved the Sicilian style feta for its great savoury balance, as well as the Branxton blue brie for the rich earthy and mushroom flavours.

 

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Binnorie Dairy

The cheese tasting was free, fast and without any fuss, and before we knew it, we walked out with a tub of herb and garlic fromage frais.  This was an easy choice, but if we had more room in our fridge, we would have taken a jar of their labna and marinated goat fetta too.

 

Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop

Stocking local and imported cheeses, this was our only chance to sample some Hunter Belle cheese, made with Murray’s Beer.  The cheeses were odd – they had a strange yeasty flavour – but they were still good.  We also got to try some St Agur, a decadent blue cheese from France that costs around $100 a kilo.

 

Hunter Valley Chocolate Company

While we didn’t really taste any chocolate, there was a counter offering fudge tastings.  There was a massive range of flavours, but we loved the Australiana with lemon myrtle and macadamia, as well as the salted peanut caramel.

 

Hunter Valley Cookies

Located at the Village Shops near the Gardens, this little cookie shop makes huge cookies, and even has an interesting and eclectic collection of cookie jars.  We sampled the gluten free Florentine, which was a big, fat disc of chewy deliciousness.

 

While we were in the Village, we checked out the Tunnel of Beer in the Garden Cellars.  The selection of local and international beers was huge and it’s definitely worth having a look.

 

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Hotel Cessnock

Set in a swanky old building, the Hotel Cessnock has a few cheap lunch specials.  After doing a few wineries in the morning, we stopped for some lunch.  Dave got the rump steak and chips for $11 while Juz splashed out on a chicken schnitzel burger and chips for $12.  Both were tasty and adequately portioned to keep us going for the rest of the day.

 

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Information & Accommodation

Self-drive tours of the Hunter Valley are fine, but you will need a designated driver.  There are so many wine tours available for the area, it would be a shame not to take advantage of someone else driving you and your friends around.  Accommodation and wine tour bookings are available at the Hunter Valley YHA.

 

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If you don’t need the comfort of a tidy kitchen and warm bed, there is a rest area north of the region about 5km west of Branxton.  It can be a little noisy there though because it’s between the highway and the railway that transports all the coal to Newcastle for export. We didn’t mind because we had friendly neighbours JK and Oona to keep us company!

 

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The Hunter Valley YHA

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The Hunter Valley YHA is located in the heart of the wine country and is the perfect place to stay while you taste the region.  The purpose built hostel is set in a quiet location and is surrounded by beautiful countryside.  The onsite vineyard yields grapes that are sent to local winemakers for bottling.  The resulting wine is available for purchase at the hostel.

 

We spent only one night at the Hunter Valley YHA.  It was a great way to get settled in the area and with the winter chill settling in, having a warm meal and a warm bed was priceless.

 

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Facilities

The hostel sleeps 48 guests, and each room opens out onto a veranda that wraps around the whole building.  During the winter, extra blankets are provided to keep you toasty and warm.

 

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Recent renovations have brought new life to the kitchen, bathrooms and lounge area, with plush faux leather couches, new tables and a brand new conduction stove.  Outside is a BBQ area that overlooks the vineyard, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see a cute bunny or two grazing on the grass.

 

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The adjacent shed houses the laundry, which costs $3 per load for washing and another $3 to dry.  There’s a clothes line as well if you have the time.  There is also a swimming pool with hammocks for the warmer months. While you’re at the Hunter Valley YHA, book yourself in for a wine tour.  Alternatively, get a big group together and rent out the entire hostel!

 

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Things Nearby

Within 1km

  • The Hunter Beer Co. – only 700m away, enjoy a night out drinking craft beer. Next door is the Potters Hotel and Brickworks Brasserie that pours Hunter Beer Co. brews and has a nice menu.

 

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Surrounding Attractions

  • Cessnock – only 2.7km away, this is the closest town to the hostel and has supermarkets, cafes and various other services that you may require. Hotel Cessnock does a great cheap lunch deal if you’re hungry.
  • Wineries – the closest cluster of wineries is around 3.5km away to the west.
  • Kurri Kurri – 15km to the east is Kurri Kurri, a cute little town with one of Australia’s newest big things, the Big Kookaburra.
  • Newcastle – the closest city to the Hunter Valley, Newcastle is only 1 hour away.

 

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The Essentials

The Hunter Valley YHA is located at 100 Wine Country Drive in Nulkaba.  Reception is open from 8am to midday, then from 5pm to 8pm.

 

To make an enquiry, call 02 4991 3278 or email huntervalley@yha.com.au.  Alternatively, you can visit their website.

 

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Explore : New England – Armidale to Walcha

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Sitting on the edge of the Outback, New England is an undefined region of inland New South Wales that includes the Northern Tablelands and North West Slopes.  It’s an agricultural and grazing region that also benefits from mining and fossicking.  Due to the cold caused by the high elevation, our time in New England was brief.  We did a heritage walk around Armidale, tasted beer in Uralla, gawked at the Big Chicken in Moonbi, shielded our eyes from the Big Golden Guitar and marvelled at the sculptures in Walcha.

 

Armidale

Not only the administrative centre of New England, Armidale is also the highest city in Australia at 980 metres above sea level.  This elevation provides the city with a mild climate with pleasant summers but long cold winter.  Therefore, it has a problem with pollution and respiratory complaints because during the winter months, every wood heater in the city is billowing smoke into the atmosphere.

 

The elevation may also be responsible for the number of churches in the city.  With a population of just over 23,500 people and more than 20 churches, it seems like Armidale is the place where you can be closer to God.

 

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We did a quick heritage walk around the bustling city to look at the historic buildings, as well as a sculpture of the Tightrope Man, an artistic piece representing Signor Vertelli, who walked across Dangar Falls on a tightrope in 1866.

 

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Uralla

With a population of just over 2,000 people, Uralla is a relatively small town and we were surprised to find out that there was a brewery in town.  The New England Brewery is based in a big shed on the main street and started in 2013.  They have a great variety of craft beers, each with their own unique characteristics. Juz enjoyed the Golden Ale, with its bready flavours, fruity citrus and a creamy malt finish.  It actually gets half of its yeast from the Farmhouse Saisson, another delicious brew.

 

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Just before we left, Ben the brewer asked if we were going to visit the Black Duck Brewery in Port Macquarie, and when we confirmed that we were planning to, he asked us to pass on a message to Al the brewer.  “Tell him,” Ben said, “that you guys had trouble finding a park…”

 

http://www.newenglandbrewing.com.au/

 

Kentucky

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Moonbi

We spent the night at the Moonbi Park Lookout and in the morning, we climbed the stairs atop the big granite boulder to get a misty view of the surrounding area.

 

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Around 7km down the road is the small village of Moonbi, home of the Big Chicken.

 

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Tamworth

After a cold night, all we wanted was a nice coffee so when we got to Tamworth, we went straight to the Old Bell Tower based on great reviews.  Unfortunately, the experience there was so shitty, we were consequently shitty for the rest of the day.  If we weren’t in such a bad mood, we probably would have stayed Tamworth for a little longer.

 

Tamworth is known as the City of Lights, having been the first place in Australia to use electric street lights in 1888.  It’s also the Country Music Capital of Australia because of the Tamworth Country Music Festival, and the National Equine Capital of Australia because of the number of equine events held there.  After our crappy coffee experience, we drove down to see the Big Golden Guitar, drove up to the Oxley Lookout, and exited towards the coast.

 

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Walcha

Walcha was a highlight.  The tree lined streets were ablaze with red leaves and covered the gutters in crunchy curls.  There were sculptures everywhere, some welded from iron, and some carved out of wood.  On the outskirts of town was a deer farm, which can be an odd sight in Australia.

 

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On our way towards the coast, the road weaved through Cotton-Bimbang National Park.  The cold weather and lingering mist made the forest look sad and lonely and the dreary weather followed us to Port Macquarie.

 

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Mount Nameless - Tom Price

Top 5 Things about Western Australia

We had many discussions before deciding what our top 5 things about Western Australia would be. The fact of the matter is, it was really hard to pick just five things. Western Australia is huge and has so many fantastic aspects to it; there was a lot to think about.

 

A Geraldton sunset...

 

The history of WA is pretty interesting. Unlike most of the other states, the Swan colony started off as a free colony instead of a penal colony where convicts were sent. The capital was supposed to be Albany but ended up being Perth because of the fertile soils of the Swan River. We loved how big the state was – WA is the biggest state in Australia and if it was its own country, it would be the 10th largest in the world! It is ten times bigger than the UK and is bigger than Texas, California, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada all put together!

 

The sunsets were undoubtedly spectacular, and any beach along the west coast is an ideal viewing spot. There were lots of places along the way that we fell in love with – tropical Broome, funky Fremantle, the kooky Principality of Hutt River, the magical Stonehenge in Esperance, the massive meals at the Denmark Tavern and the burgers Alfred’s Kitchen. One thing we noticed when we stayed with friends in build up areas was that nearly everyone keeps egg laying chickens in their backyard. We don’t know whether it’s because eggs are expensive or whether they’re doing their bit against factory farming but we loved it!

 

 

So, without much ado, and in no particular order, here is our Top 5 for Western Australia:

 

National Parks

You can’t dispute that WA has some amazing national parks. Karijini National Park is probably the most well-known park with its beautiful gorges, waterfalls and swimming holes. We were really sad that we had to leave Karijini early due to heavy rains.

 

One of our favourites was Cape Le Grand National Park. We were originally going to skip it but a local insisted that we go. We are so thankful because it is one of the most beautiful places in Australia. We also loved the red soil and dynamic coastline of François Péron National Park.

 

Other national parks that are definitely worth a mention are Kalbarri National Park with Nature’s Window, Purnululu National Park and the Bungle Bungles, and Mitchell River National Park in the Kimberley.

 

 

Shark Bay

Shark Bay was added to the World Heritage list in 1991 because it displays biological diversity, ecological processes, geological history and natural beauty. We spent about a week in Shark Bay and were blown away by the scenery and wildlife.

 

On your way in, stop at Shell Beach and marvel at the turquoise waters lapping at the blinding white shores made completely out of little cockle shells. If you have a 4WD, head to Steep Point and stand on the westernmost point of Australia. Camping at Whalebone Bay was $10 for the night and is a magnificent place to watch the sunset before you head into Denham for a beer at the westernmost pub in Australia. Make sure you visit Ocean Park and learn about the surrounding marine wildlife from a safe but super-close distance.

 

 

Beaches

Western Australia has over 12,000km of coastline and most of it is made up of picturesque beaches. Hellfire Bay at Cape Le Grand National Park was by far the most beautiful, while Shell Beach in Shark Bay was also spectacular.

 

Cable Beach in Broome was great because not only were we allowed to take our clothes off in the nudist section, but we got to watch the camel rides during sunset. Greens Pool near Denmark and Coral Bay both had an abundance of colourful fish right near the shore and were great for snorkelling.

 

 

Fremantle Prison

We did all the tours at Fremantle Prison. For some reason, we were absolutely fascinated with the place – the history of how and why it was built, the stories of stupidity and escape – and we wanted to see every part of this remarkable prison.

 

 

Breweries

Western Australia has some fantastic breweries. Little Creatures in Fremantle is absolutely fantastic and offers the works – interesting tours, delicious food and awesome beer!

 

In Kalgoorlie-Boulder, we were lucky to find Beaten Track Brewery, and learnt a lot about the beer making process and what hops looks like. Cheeky Monkey in Margaret River and Duckstein in the Swan Valley were also great breweries to visit, for both the beer and the atmosphere. Matso’s Brewery in Broome really blew our socks off with their chilli beer and their Smokey Bishop dark lager. We enjoyed it so much, we went there twice in four days!

 

 

Feral Brewery

Experience : Swan Valley Breweries

There are a total of five microbreweries in the Swan Valley and as much as we wanted to go to all of them, we simply didn’t have the stamina and only managed three.  Regardless, the breweries we visited were fantastic and each had their own characteristics that made them special in their own right.

 

Feral Brewing Company

This family owned and operated microbrewery is currently the Champion Large Australian Brewery, as awarded by the 2012 Australian International Beer Awards.  The venue has a great atmosphere with a massive beer garden shaded by gum trees and the staff are super friendly.

 

 

We took our tasting paddle outside and leisurely sipped Feral’s awesome range of beer before heading inside to sample a few more unique brews. We’d like to extend a big thanks to Trevor behind the bar for his hospitality, conversation and beer expertise.

 

  • Golden Ace – 5.6% a Belgian golden ale that was sweet and fruity with bitter hops and gentle yeasty flavours.
  • Feral White – 4.6% sweet, smooth and creamy with lots of banana and a clean finish.
  • Runt – 4.7% a lager-esque beer; crisp and refreshing with yeasty flavours without being too hoppy.
  • Smoked Porter – 4.7% an acquired taste!  A dark brew that tasted like smoked ham, cigars and burning.
  • Razorback – 10% a barley wine beer with a deep red colour and plenty of fruity, floral flavours with a hoppy finish.
  • Watermelon Warhead – 2.9% a sour wheat beer infused with watermelons that give it a great refreshing fruitiness.

 

Lunchtime

After all that tasting at Feral Brewery and a few wineries beforehand, we stopped for some lunch.

 

 

Duckstein Brewery

Imagine our surprise when we walked into this vibrant and friendly German-style brewery to find one of our Melbourne buddies in a chef uniform behind the counter!  After a quick catch up, we ordered two tasting plates and headed into the huge beer garden to get amongst the festive atmosphere.

 

 

There was a three piece band called the Canarino Trio walking around playing traditional German music on a guitar, squeezebox and a kooky-looking hurdy gurdy.  After they did the rounds, they got up on stage and did an awesome rendition of Smoke on the Water much to everyone’s delight.

 

  • Hefeweiss – 5.2% smooth and sweet with lots of banana and bubblegum, it had a great bready finish.
  • Pilsner – 5% a clean, crisp beer with hops and powerful malt with floral and fruity tones.
  • Dunkel – 5% Nutty, chocolate tones and not too hoppy with sweet malt finish.  Our favourite!
  • Altbier – 3.7% a crisp golden coloured beer with a creamy head and lots of malt and hops.

 

With Chef Dan at Duckstein Brewery

 

Mash Brewery

This brewery has a fantastic atmosphere – the industrial décor and brewery operations behind the bar worked well with the red feature panels and casual dining set up.  With a great menu, kids’ corner with video games and the perfect climbing tree, it’s a place that you could hang out all day.

 

  • Freo Doctor Lager – crisp and yeasty with a little bit of fruit flavours and minimal hops.  Perfectly refreshing and very easy to drink.
  • Pale Ale – rich, full bodied and hoppy with malty sweetness.
  • Wheat – a smooth beer with no hoppy bitterness and lots of banana.
  • Cider – a smooth, well balanced drink with no acidicty or biting tartness.

 

We also ordered a bowl of chips and it proved to be the perfect filler – hot, crunchy chips served with some flavoursome garlic aioli.

 

 

Wild Swan Distillery

This relatively new distillery in the Swan Valley started in 2002 and produces high quality whiskey, gin and vodka.  The gin was the first thing we sampled.  It was full of beautiful citrus tones and was surprisingly smooth.

 

They also had four varieties of vodka – pure, lemon, chilli and vanilla.  None of them have any distinctive smell so it was all in the tasting.  The vanilla vodka had a sweet bloom of creamy vanilla while the chilli vodka had both the flavour and the burn.