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Merry Christmas – enjoy the holidays!

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Hi all,

 

We’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year… and what a year it’s been!

 

We started 2015 in Cairns, where we stayed until May, working and biding our time until we had to fly home for two weddings.

 

Australia Day 2015 Cairns

 

Once we were on the road again, our task was fairly simple – explore the east coast of Australia.  After a magical visit at Paronella Park, we passed through Townsville and Mackay before heading inland to the beautiful Lake Elphinstone.

 

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We cruised through the Central Highlands before returning to the coast. We ate beef in Rockhampton, drank rum in Bundaberg, then caught a ferry to Fraser Island. We gave the Troopy a 4WD workout at Landcruiser Mountain Park and watched the rain clouds come in on the Sunshine Coast.

 

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We spent about three weeks in Brisbane because Dave needed some medical attention, but it was great to spend time with friends in that beautiful city.  As we approached the Gold Coast, the dark clouds returned and by the time we got to the Best Of All Lookouts, we couldn’t see a thing!

 

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We crossed the border into New South Wales and bee-lined straight to Byron Bay for a few days in the easternmost town of Australia. We were lucky to get a few days of sun but the drizzle returned as we made our way to Coffs Harbour.  Finally, with some sun, we got to enjoy the beautiful coastline from Port Macquarie to Newcastle.

 

 

We enjoyed a tipple in the Hunter Valley before spending a week on the Central Coast, helping out a family with their household duties while Juz scored some work with a school holiday program in Gosford.

 

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Arriving in Sydney was a little surreal. It’s the biggest city in Australia and we spent a lot of time walking around the city getting exhausted. We also have a few friends in Sydney so it was great to catch up and spend time with them.

 

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We headed inland to the Blue Mountains and Central West just in time for a freakish cold front to sweep through the area. We had the pleasure of experiencing subzero temperatures and snow, as well as seeing the Dish in Parkes and exotic animals at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

 

 

With a few more friendly visits in Kiama and Milton, and a stop at the Big Merino in Goulburn, we finally visited our country’s capital. We called in at the War Memorial and National Mint and even saw our old travel buddies Tom and Bella.

 

 

Once we returned to the coast, the wet weather reappeared and we reached the Victorian border within a day or two. From then on, there was no point stuffing around – we were 4 hours from home.  On Sunday the 2nd of August, we rolled in unannounced and enjoyed a hot shower and warm bed.

 

Since our return to Melbourne, we’ve been busy.  We got jobs, reconnected with friends, and started making plans for the future.

 

We’re going to take a few weeks off to enjoy the silly season and spend time with our family and friends. We’ll see you all in the new year with more posts about the last leg of our lap around Australia, as well as our run down of Tassie later in the year.

 

Thanks for all your support,

 

Dave & Juz

 

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City Profile : Newcastle

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We had an awesome time in Newcastle.  The city had a lot to offer in terms of scenery, museums and history, and there were plenty of yummy things to eat and drink.  We got to experience a range of conditions from brilliantly sunny to miserably cold and wet, and looking for all the funky street art around town was fun.

 

We also got to share our dorm at the Newcastle Beach YHA with the most excellent and generous bloke, Blake, who shared his honey bourbon with us and started an incredible night of storytelling that left us feeling a little seedy in the morning.  Unfortunately, he had gone by the time we woke up, but we will never forget him and we officially dedicate our $100 Day in Sydney to him.

 

Fast Facts

  • Newcastle is Australia’s second oldest city, the second most populated area in NSW and is the biggest city in the Hunter Region.
  • People from Newcastle are called Novocastrians.
  • It’s the largest coal exporting harbour in the world.
  • Lots of famous people come from Newcastle – some include former Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins, the band Silverchair, and one hit wonder Yahoo Serious, who has disappeared from the face of the earth after that terribly quirky film Young Einstein, which was also filmed in Newcastle.

 

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History

Originally called Malubimba by the traditional owners, the Newcastle region was first discovered in 1797 by an English naval officer who was out looking for some runaway convicts who had stolen a ship from Sydney Cove.  He sailed into the Hunter River and after a bit of exploration, he reported back about a place with a deep water port and abundant coal.  In 1799, Newcastle recorded its first export of coal when 50 tonnes of the black stuff was shipped to Bengal via Sydney in the vessel ‘The Hunter’.

 

Unfortunately, Newcastle didn’t always have such a great reputation.  It used to be a penal colony where all the dangerous criminals were sent to work in the coal mines.  It was an awful place where harsh punishment was dished out frequently and conditions were terrible.  Newcastle remained a penal colony until 1823 when farming was introduced to the area.  Military rule was replaced with a free pioneer settlement.

 

Things to See & Do

It’s an absolute pleasure to walk around Newcastle.  It has such a great mixture of new and old.  Search for colourful street art while you admire the heritage buildings, and everything is within walking distance or on the free bus loop.

 

 

Civic Park has a beautiful fountain and is sandwiched between the Newcastle Art Gallery and City Hall. Nearby is Darby Street, a bustling little precinct with cafes and restaurants.  A short walk away is Queens Wharf along the Hunter River, as well as Hunter Street Mall.

 

Lock Up Cultural Centre

An old police station and prison that has been turned into an art gallery.  Wander through the cells of the heritage building while you browse the art, keeping in mind that the venue’s original use ceased in 1982.

 

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Christ Church Cathedral

If you enjoy a church, then by all means visit this one.  There is plenty to see – pretty stained glass windows, custom embroidered prayer cushions, beautiful architecture, and there’s even a hole in the floor where you can view the foundation stone.

 

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Newcastle Museum

One of the best museums we’ve visited on our journey.  There’s an eye-popping giant illuminated earth overhead as you enter an awesome interactive science display.  Play with magnets, lift cars and create tornadoes while you learn stuff!

 

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There’s also a great display on the history of the area where we learnt about the devastating 1989 earthquake that rocked Newcastle, and the industry exhibition gave insight into the regions coal mining and BHP steel production works.

 

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Coastal Highlights

There is plenty to see along the coast.  If you start from Nobby’s Lighthouse and Breakwall, which seems to be a popular exercise spot amongst the locals, and head south along the east coast, you’ll walk past a few landmarks.

 

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Fort Scratchly sits atop the hill and overlooks Nobby’s Beach – it was a commanding post built in 1882 to protect the city again Russian attack.  However, the guns weren’t used until WW2 when Japanese submarines fired on Newcastle.

 

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Further down is Newcastle Ocean Baths, a historic site that opened in 1922.  It has a beautiful art deco façade and the pools overlook the ocean.  The day we walked past, we were lucky to see a whale not far from the shore.

 

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The Obelisk

With origins dating back to 1819, the obelisk started out as a windmill that ground flour.  Its position not only allowed the windmill to catch the wind and grind flour at great speeds, it also became a landmark for sailors along the coast.  In 1847, the windmill was sold and sailors were pissed off because their marker was missing, so in 1850, the local government erected the Obelisk.

 

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Over the years, the Obelisk has been damaged by lightning strikes, and an explosion caused by a gas leak ignited by two girls playing with fireworks.  These days, it’s a great place to get a panoramic view of the city.

 

Bogey Hole

Despite seeming quite dangerous, Bogie Hole is a popular swimming spot amongst the locals.  It’s one of Australia’s oldest ocean sea baths, carved out by convicts in 1820.  It used to be known as the Commandant’s Baths but colloquially became known as Bogey Hole from a native word for ‘to bathe’.

 

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Food & Drink

Foghorn Brewery

Serving directly from the tank to the tap, the Foghorn Brewery produces a great selection of craft beers in a big warehouse-style space.  Dave enjoyed the Sligo Extra Stout with its rich coffee and chocolate flavours and balanced bitterness while Juz liked the big 7% Belgio Blonde, which was ridiculously drinkable with fruit and yeast characteristics.

 

http://www.foghornbrewhouse.com.au/

 

Harry’s Café De Wheels

This historic Novocastrian icon started back in the 1930s as Harry’s, with humble ‘pies ‘n’ peas’ that were popular with sailors, soldiers, taxi drivers and policemen.  The café operated until 1938 when Harry was sent to the war, where he earned his nickname, Tiger (hence the signature dish of a pie topped with potatoes, peas and gravy).  When he returned to Newcastle, he reopened his café and renamed it Harry’s Café de Wheels because council regulation required mobile food vans to move at least 12 inches a day.  Over the years, many celebrities have visited Harry’s – Brooke Shields, Frank Sinatra, Russell Crowe, Elton John, Anthony Bourdain, even Colonel Sanders!

 

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We stumbled across Harry’s during a massive walk around the city to shake off our hangover from the night before. The timing was perfectly aligned with lunchtime so we stopped for a Pie & Peas, as well as a Hot Dog de Wheels, complete with mushy peas, chilli con carne, garlic onions and stripes of cheese sauce and chilli sauce.  Neither fancy nor gourmet, but totally delicious.

 

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http://www.harryscafedewheels.com.au/

 

The Grand Hotel

For a cheap lunch, you can’t go past the Grand Hotel.  Dave scored the $10 chicken schnitzel with chips and salad while Juz paid a little extra for the New York sandwich with fries – tangy and juicy with just enough chips.  Both were absolutely delicious and satisfied our midday hunger.

 

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While we were there, one of the bartenders came out and told us about his motorcycle trip around Australia.  It’s always great to hear about other people’s travels, but we were amazed that he did the whole lot in only two months!

 

Good Brother Espresso Shop

A cute little café that makes a great coffee, and even offers blankets to customers sitting outside during winter.  How nice!

 

Information & Accommodation

Free public transport is available in Newcastle.  Catch any blue and white State Transit bus within the inner city zone between 7:30am and 6pm for FREE!  For more information, visit the City of Newcastle website.

 

For friendly accommodation that is centrally located, book yourself in at the Newcastle Beach YHA.  It’s located on Pacific Street within an historic building, complete with a grand wooden staircase and chesterfield couches.  For more information, check out their website.

 

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Big Things : The Big Mosquito, Hexham NSW

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The Big Mosquito was built in 1993 and is nicknamed Ozzie the Mozzie.  It is located outside the Hexham Bowls Club and is modelled after a local mosquito called the Hexham Grey.  The original Ozzie disappeared in 2010 and was never recovered.  The replacement Ozzie was put up around two months later, new and improved with eyes that light up at night.

 

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Newcastle Beach YHA

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The Newcastle Beach YHA is the perfect place to base yourself while you explore Australia’s second oldest city.  This friendly hostel is located in the heart of the city CBD and offers comfortable accommodation in a historic building, which at one point used to be a gentlemen’s club.

 

We shared our dorm room with two other guys, one of which was staying in Newcastle for work.  We liked Blake immediately, and ended up spending the night with him downstairs in the lounge room, sharing honey bourbon, wine and stories from our lives.  We finally went to bed at around 1am, but when we woke in the morning, he had already left for work.  We were sad that we didn’t get to say good bye properly, and he must have felt the same way because he had left a very heart warming note on the Troopy.  We truly hope that we cross paths with Blake again…

 

Facilities

The Newcastle Beach YHA sleeps 99 guests in a variety of multi-share dorms, double and twin rooms.  It can cater to families and large groups as well.  Some rooms even open out onto a communal balcony.

 

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The main lounge room is huge, and is cosily furnished in rich wooden furniture, mahogany chesterfield lounges, traditional rugs and a grand fireplace.  There are a few other little nooks and crannies where you can lodge yourself if you prefer a smaller space.  There’s a billiard table in the main lounge room, but there’s also a games room with a ping pong table and internet access, as well as the outdoor courtyard.  There is also a great selection of books under the majestic staircase.

 

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The kitchen is downstairs in the basement and has plenty of storage and seating.  The long, narrow kitchen has gas cooking and all the utensils you need to cook a nice meal.  There’s also a laundry and toilet downstairs too.

 

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Information about tours, surrounding attractions, and weekly hostel activities like BBQs and pizza nights is available on the ground floor.  The Hunter Valley Wine Region is so close – book yourself in for a tour so you don’t have to be a designated driver!  If the beach is more your style, you can hire surfboards and body boards for free from reception.

 

Things Nearby

Within 1km

  • Good Brother Espresso 200m – quite possibly the best coffee in Newcastle, conveniently located around the corner from the hostel.
  • Lock Up Cultural Centre 250m – the old jail has been converted into an art gallery, so you can appreciate creativity and Newcastle’s criminal history all in one go.
  • Supermarket – the closest supermarket is 300m away but it’s a little one, so if you need something in particular, the closest major supermarket is at Marketown Shopping Centre, 2.2km away.
  • The Grand Hotel 400m – the closest pub that offers awesome lunchtime specials. Get the New York sandwich – it’ll blow your mind.
  • Harry’s Café de Wheels 900m – great for lunch, a snack, or a seedy hangover cure, this historic food outlet is worth a look, if not a taste.
  • The Obelisk 1km – this landmark offers a little insight into the history of the area, as well as awesome views of town and the coast.
  • Foghorn Brewhouse 1km – set in a spacious warehouse with trendy fittings, the Foghorn Brewhouse offers a great selection of beers, but if you can’t decide, then go with a tasting paddle.

 

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Surrounding Attractions

  • Newcastle Museum 1.5km – one of the best museums we have visited in Australia. The interactive science section is so much fun.
  • Darby Street Precinct 1.5km – cafes and restaurants set along a funky street with plenty of street art.
  • Bogie Hole 1.6km – carved out by convicts in the early 1800s, this is the oldest surviving ‘construction’ in the city.
  • Nobby’s Lighthouse and Breakwater Walk 2.5km one way – this is a very nice walk, or run if you’re into fitness, and there’s a giant pencil.
  • Hunter Valley YHA 60km – Base yourself here while you explore the Hunter Valley Wine Region.

 

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The Essentials

The Newcastle Beach YHA is located at 30 Pacific Street.  The reception is open from 7am to 10:30pm, with check out at 10am and check in from 2pm.  To enquire about accommodation, contact them on 02 4925 3544, email newcastle@yha.com.au or visit their website.

 

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