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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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Town Profile : Port Macquarie

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We arrived in the town of Port Macquarie after completing our tour of New England.  It was just before sunset so we settled in at the Port Macquarie YHA for a quiet Saturday night that turned out to be quite a social event.  We met a few people that night, including Brian, a bloke from Louisiana USA who looked very much like Anthony Kedis from The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  We ended up hanging out with him the next day at the Black Duck Brewery.

 

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History

Port Macquarie is 390km north of Sydney and is located at the mouth of the Hastings River.  The area was first explored by John Oxley in 1818 and named after the Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie.  It began as a penal settlement in 1821, replacing Newcastle as the destination for convicts from the UK.  There are two things needed to make a good penal colony – isolation and labour – and Newcastle had lost both of these elements, with farmers moving into the Hunter Valley reducing isolation and the cedar industry winding down and producing less work.

 

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The rugged terrain around Port Macquarie was overgrown, providing a great amount of isolation, and there were plenty of aborigines in the area who were more than happy to return runaway convicts for some tobacco or blankets.  The first man to run the penal colony loved dishing out lashings as punishment, and the penal colony soon earned the reputation of a hellish place to be.  By 1840, the penal colony was closed and Port Macquarie became a town for free settlers.  These days, it’s a popular place for retirement.

 

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Things to Do and See

Hello Koalas Public Art Sculpture Trail

This is the coolest and most colourful thing about Port Macquarie – it was like a treasure hunt to find all the koalas.  Many of the koalas are within the city centre and along the foreshore, but there are some further out past Wauchope and there’s one at Bago Winery too.  While you’re on the hunt, keep an eye out for the genuine Chinese Junk at the marina and the cool graffiti on the rocks of the breakwater.

 

Koala Trail

 

Tacking Point Lighthouse

South of the city centre, on a headland by the coast is Tacking Point Lighthouse.  It’s a great lookout over Lighthouse Beach and a perfect spot for whale watching.  The reason it’s called Tacking Point is because when Matthew Flinders was exploring the area, the headland was a tacking point on his map.  Unfortunately, it took scores of shipwrecks around the headland before the lighthouse was built in 1879.

 

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Koala Hospital and Roto House

Established in 1973, the Koala Hospital treats sick or injured koalas and educates the community about how habitat destruction and disease can affect koalas.  You can visit the koalas during the day or arrive at 3pm for feeding time.

 

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Nearby is the Roto House, a late Victorian house that has recently been bought and restored by NSW National Parks.  It used to be owned by the Flynn family and was built in 1890.  It’s open for display and there’s a retro café onsite.

 

Black Duck Brewery

We visited the Black Duck Brewery with an American guy we met at the Port Macquarie YHA, and were greeted at the entrance by a huge Great Dane called Murphy.  With the big black dog by our side, we met Al the brewer, and passed on a message from Ben at New England Brewery.

 

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“So busy that his customers can’t find a park, aye?” Al said. “Tell him it’s standing room only here…”

 

We settled at the bar with a huge line of tasting paddles for the ten beers they had on offer.  A paddle of four beers was $5 so it’s around $10 for the full range, including two special beers.  Juz’s favourite was the Summer Swallow, an easy drinking session ale with apple and banana on yeasty bread and a refreshing finish.  Dave’s favourite was the Heron’s Craic, an Irish red ale with a delicious apple pie smell and a creamy caramel flavour.

 

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Black Duck Brewery has been operational for 5 years.  It’s the perfect place to sit down for a Sunday session, have a beer and a delicious pizza, or take a tour of the brewery.

 

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http://www.blackduckbrewery.com.au/

 

Bago Vinyard and Maze

Bago Vinyard is located about 25 minutes south west of Port Macquarie, and is worth the visit, whether you’re interested in the wine or the maze.  The wines are great, and include a few varieties we hadn’t heard of, like Chambourcin and Savagnin.  Once you’ve done a wine tasting and swooned at how delicious the mulled wine is, go check out the biggest maze in NSW.

 

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http://www.bago.com.au/

 

Tuncurry-Forster

On our way to the Hunter Valley, we deviated from the highway to pass through Tuncurry and Forster.  Regardless of which side of the bridge you are, the little parks on either end offer a great view of the bridge that spans the Coolongolook River.

 

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Just as the sun was setting, we made it to Cape Hawke Lookout, a platform on top of a hill that offers great views of the coast and town below.  Before we ran out of light, we drove past Lake Wallis and watched the sky change colour and reflect on the still water.

 

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Information & Accommodation

The public transport system around Port Macquarie is operated by Busways and the network covers the city and outer suburbs.  However, if you stay at the Port Macquarie YHA, you will be within walking distance of the city centre.  If you need to travel further, there are buses that travel on nearby Park Street and Gordon Street.

 

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Port Macquarie YHA : Ozzie Pozzie Backpackers

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Centrally located within walking distance to everything you need, Ozzie Pozzie Backpackers is the perfect place to spend a few nights while you relax in carefree Port Macquarie.  The hostel has a very cool vibe with a surf shack feel, and there are a few feathered residents to get to know, like Cheeky the rainbow lorikeet.

 

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We rolled in on a Saturday night and while we were hoping for a quiet night, we got swept up in the social vibrations of the other guests.  We met a few internationals from Holland and Austria, as well as a friendly American named Brian who we ended up hanging out with the next day at Black Duck Brewery.

 

Facilities

The hostel sleeps 68 guests, with various rooms available like multi-share dorm rooms and private rooms.  Each room opens to a lovely courtyard and the surrounding common areas.

 

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The kitchen is spacious with conduction stoves and plenty of bench space and storage room for food.  Outside are a few picnic benches for socialising, and on cold nights a wood heater keeps everyone warm.

 

 

One of the most impressive things about the Port Macquarie YHA is the theatre room, which has couches arranged like a cinema and the best and biggest VHS collection we have seen at any hostel.  There’s also a games room with a pool table and a quiet reading room as well. At the back is the swimming pool, with a poolside cabana.

 

Book your tours and activities at reception.  While you’re there, hook yourself up with free boogie board hire (deposit required) and cheap bike hire (deposit required).

 

Things Nearby

Within 1km

  • Supermarket – there is an IGA around 800 metres away on Gordon Street, along with a few pizza shops and a bakery, but if you’re looking for a major supermarket, you will have to walk just over 1km either way.

Surrounding attractions

  • Town Centre – just over 1km away, the Town Centre features a shopping centre, the information centre, and the Town Green. Follow the Hello Koala Sculpture Trail or watch the boats cruise through the mouth of the Hastings River.  Nearby is the Breakwall, which is colourfully graffitied with various pictures and messages.
  • The Black Duck Brewery – only 3.5km away, the Black Duck Brewery has an awesome selection of beers so there is something for everyone.

 

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The Essentials

Ozzie Pozzie is located at 36 Waugh Street near the town centre. Reception is open from 8am to 2pm, and 5pm to 10pm.  To contact the hostel, phone 02 6583 8133 or email portmacquarie@yha.com.au.  More information can be found on the website.

 

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The Big Lawn Bowl, Lake Cathie NSW

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When we heard of the Big Bowl, we were expecting a big bowl… something that you eat your cereal out of, not a big lawn bowl!  For that reason, we nearly drove past this big thing!

 

The Big Lawn Bowl was erected in 1975 out the front of the Lake Cathie Bowling Club.  It’s 1.9m in diameter with a 5.98m circumference and weighs 2 tonnes.

 

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