New South Wales

JUGIONG AND GUNDAGAI

June 22, 2017

There is a strong tradition of the road trip in Australia. It’s almost a rite of passage for most Aussie families; we all have a story of being bundled into the family car in the 70’s or 80’s, bickering with siblings the whole way, playing punch buggy and listening to whatever music your parents chose (for me this was Paul McCartney, Frankie Valli and random Brazilian music!) This country is huge after all, and there is so much to see, for a family it makes sense to take your time, and meander to your destination without the pressure of racing to make flights, stopping off and taking in the scenery along the way. The journey, as they say say, is just as important as the destination!

Sydney to Melbourne via the Hume Highway is hardly one of the greats. In fact I’d go so far as to say the the Hume is THE most boring stretch of road in Australia. It’s not all bad; there are beautiful old towns along the way, but sadly the highway bypasses most, and the scenery gets super repetitive after 3 or 4 hours.

An old friend of mine, Carlie, did the tree change from Sydney to Jugiong some years ago, and since then I’ve been Jugiong curious as we’ve zoomed past it on our cross country drives. This time, I decided to stop by, and I get it! I absolutely understand why she’s so taken with this little country town. It’s tiny, but picturesque, friendly, and for a small town it’s got a bit going on. Carlie owns The Curators Collective, a beautiful shop next door to the Sir George Pub. I met Carlie when she was fashion editor at the Sunday Magazine. With more than 10 years of styling under her belt, she was one of those girls who was effortlessly cool…so it follows that her shop in Jugiong reflects this. Everything is carefully considered, from beautiful Panama hats to lush Jac & Jack knits, stunning Nick Leary prints…pop your head in, say hi, I defy you to come out empty handed!

Around the corner, The Sir George Pub recently had a face lift, and is a top spot to stop with the family to stretch your legs and have a feed after a long drive. As well as the restaurant on site, it has a bakery, a nursery, a thriving kitchen garden, a petting farm, a cubby house and a huge lawn for kids to tear around on. Lunch is all about tasting plates and light meals, whilst the dinner menu features heartier fare. There are plans to add accomodation to the pub, but not until next year.

For another visit; the public pool, delightfully retro by all accounts, but closed for the season when we visited in April, and The Long Track Pantry…purveyors of fine regional produce and wine. A good reason to come back!

After having a feed at the pub, and re-merchandising The Curators Collective (thanks Kinga!) we needed a place to bed down for the night. Gundagai is pretty well the half way mark between Sydney and Melbourne, 30 minutes south from Jugiong. Kimo Estate is an easy 10 minutes out of Gundagai town, set on a 7000 acre working sheep and cattle farm. The property has several different accomodation options; the eco hut, set high on a hill with 360 degree views of the Murrimbidgee River flats and surrounding Kimo Valley (perhaps for a couples weekend away?) or a choice of 2 beautifully appointed family cottages (one with 2 bedrooms, another with 3) and the newly refurbished Shearers Quarters (6 bedrooms with a shared mess hall and bathroom). Kimo’s owner Emelia kindly showed me around the entire estate; in addition to the accomm, they also have a beautiful homestead and a cool old barn, where they host weddings and other private functions. We were in ‘Daleys Cottage’, the three bedroom option, and it was perfect. We had a picnic on the deck, taking in an incredible sunset (the light in the country is different somehow? Warmer? Beautiful!) before an early night…and an early start in the morning.

 

WE ATE AT

The Sir George, Jugiong

 

WE SHOPPED AT

The Curators Collective, Jugiong

 

WE SLEPT AT

KIMO ESTATE
For enquiries please phone Emelia on 0421505949 (tell her I sent you!)

 

GLOUCESTER, NSW

October 28, 2016

I always find that once one trip is done and dusted its a good idea to have another one in the works to keep everyone going. A carrot on a stick, of sorts. And so, upon our return from our last trip (to Vietnam), when our good friends asked if we’d come to the country next school holidays, we said YES!

They had found a great property in Gloucester, a 3 hour drive north of Sydney. Gloucester is in dairy and beef cattle country, surrounded by rivers (The Avon, Barrington and Gloucester) and in the shadow of the Barrington Tops national park. It’s a pretty little town, with pretty homes and cottage gardens. The cattle sale yards at the entrance to town are worth checking out, with all sorts of cows to moo at and fences to climb they were of great interest to the kids. For outdoorsy types there’s loads to do, from bushwalking in Barrington Tops, horse riding river side or kayaking on one of the three rivers.

The house we were staying out was near perfect! Set on a hill overlooking the surrounding valleys, with the Bucketts range looming over us in the background, it had a huge fire pit for bonfires at night, and a fenced in lawn for the kids to run free on, and a tire swing too! We were there with 3 other couples and a beautiful baby, and we all had plenty of space. The kitchen was well appointed, and having done a big shop at woolies in town we didn’t need to leave at all over the weekend.

There is a private path behind the property to the lower ridge of the Bucketts range, but failing to find it, we made our own path through grass trees and gums, coming to an abrupt end at a cliff face…time to turn back! Not before spotting a snake, coiled and poised ready to spring on a very wary king parrot guarding it’s nest nearby!

The kids loved running around, nature spotting (we saw a family of kookaburras, wallabies, cows, horses and of course, the highlight; the snake!) so much so that their Ipads barely made an appearance! Big city kids, getting back to basics in the country!

WE STAYED AT:
The Ridge
135 Thunderbolts Way
Gloucester NSW 2422
(02) 6558 4272

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CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL, AUBURN, NSW

August 18, 2016

The Japanese have a word for everything…’Hanami’ loosely translates as ‘flower viewing’ but really means much more than that. It refers to enjoying the transient nature of cherry (sakura) blossoms; these beautiful blossoms can only be enjoyed for a two week period, highlighting the beauty and fragility of life!

The Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan is a huge deal, so much so that the Cherry Blossom ‘Front’ is forecast each year, in previous years by local meteorologists, and now by private agencies. It occurs in late March/early April.

A little closer to home, we can all enjoy the Sydney Cherry Blossom Festival, held annually at the Auburn Botanic Gardens. This year, the festival kicks off on Saturday the 20th of August and runs that weekend, and the following weekend finishing up on the 28th August. It promises Japanese food and cultural experiences such as Ikebana (flower arranging), Origami and Kendo (martial art) demonstrations along with live music.

Despite having lived in Sydney for 17 years, I had never been to the Auburn Botanic Gardens. Kinga and I headed out to check it out before the weekend and were pretty pleased with what we found. The park is super seventies, (which makes sense as it was indeed opened in 1977) and evokes a sense of nostalgia, as it’s so much like parks my folks used to take me to as a kid. It is a top spot, particularly for families with younger kids, and it’s pram and wheelchair accessible.

It features a traditional Japanese garden (where the cherry blossoms are located) a scented garden, a rose garden and an excellent equal access playground. Animals are always a hit with the littlies, and at Auburn there is a retro Aviary (located across the road from the Botanic gardens main entry) and a sweet fauna reserve, featuring plants and animals that were indigenous to the Auburn area prior to its development…native geese (with black and white striped goslings, super CUTE!) wombats, roos and wallabies…even an albino wallaby! At 10am and 2pm on weekends you can watch the keepers feed the animals.

The gardens are free to enter during the week. During the festival it is $5 per person, residents of Cumberland council, children under 16 and cosplay and kimono wearers get in for free!
Auburn Botanic Gardens
Chiswick Road, Auburn
9am -5pm
Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st August
Saturday 27th & Sunday 28th August

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BANKSTOWN, NSW

June 23, 2016

I gave this post a lot of thought…I realise I may be in the minority thinking that Bankstown is an interesting destination, but hear me out! It actually is! This western Sydney suburb is a 30-45 minute drive from the CBD, but is well worth the drive. What makes ‘Banksy’ special is the Vietnamese population, and the Lebanese population, and how they’ve transformed this suburb into a cross section of life back home.

So on the first day of winter, my friend Lin, daughter Kinga and I jumped into the car, and headed off to ‘Saigon Place’ which is the south end of Chapel Road, a half a kilometre strip which may as well be in Vietnam! All the shop fronts are in Vietnamese; butchers, chemists, green grocers brimming with tropical fruits and herbs and other specialty stores. A few continental deli’s and butchers add to this mix. All around me I hear conversations, not in English, but in Vietnamese!

We’re on a mission, in search of a bowl of warming soup. Not the ubiquitous Pho (beef or chicken noodle soup) but the less famous, yet equally delicious Hu Tieu, a super savoury pork based broth with tapioca noodles, heavily garnished with celery herb leaf. Lin went for the original version, a combination of seafood and shaved pork, I went for straight up seafood. Kinga struggles a bit with the noodles, so she opted for a gingery, chicken congee. Washed down with hot tea, and Vietnamese lemonade; soda water, lemon juice and a heaped tablespoon of sugar that settles at the bottom and needs to be stirred between sips. Heaven.

We were spoilt for choice when it came to desert…there is the option of seasonal fresh fruit, (rambutans, dragon fruit, persimmon and pomelo, all of which the green grocers are happy to peel and chop up for you) or pandan waffles, green and coco-nutty hot off the waffles press, or a hot, strong, sweet Vietnamese coffee (though the coffee shop seemed to be the domain largely of older, smoking men!). We opted for pandan waffles, and enjoyed them sitting in the sun, watching the locals go about their business. Waffles scoffed, we had one last stop before heading home; the famous Lebanese El Bahsa Pastry shop. A bag of sugar almonds for Kinga, a kilo of mixed biscuits for Lin, and a slab of ashta for me. The ashta was a bit of a revelation, it’s milk that is boiled until it becomes thick like cream, crusted with semolina for crunch and texture, garnished with rose water syrup and pistachios…served warm, it’s comforting and very moreish!

A return trip is necessary, to further explore the Lebanese side of Bankstown…who would have thought that it warranted two trips, let alone one!

Do you have a secret food suburb? Please share!

We ate at:

Hu Tieu Thanh Van (for Hu Tieu soup)
327 Chapel Street
Bankstown

El Bahsa & Sons Sweets (for Lebanese pastries)
288 Chapel Road South
Bankstown

Huong Viet (for pandan waffles & sugar cane juice)
43 Bankstown City Plaza
Bankstown

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20TH BIENNALE OF SYDNEY, COCKATOO ISLAND

May 26, 2016

I really REALLY love Cockatoo Island. For starters it’s a beautiful open space which is free to enjoy. It’s on the harbour. It’s steeped in history. It’s kid friendly. I love the smell of old industry; oil, brake dust and old machinery. You can ‘glamp’ here (and one day, I hope to get around to doing it, and stop talking about doing it!)

Boy oh boy did we have an absolute SHOCKER here last Sunday.

The island is one of seven ‘embassies of thought’ (main festival sites) of the 20th Biennale of Sydney. The biennale is an international festival of contemporary art which is held every 2 years, running from the 18th March til the 5th of June…you still have a couple of weeks to get to it, if like me, you are not an early adopter!

Here are a few pointers to ensure you have a great time…

DO bring your own food. There are several food outlets dotted around the island, but they are expensive, and inconsistent. We were RAPT to spot a dumpling bar in the big old sheds, but $90 later, with dumplings that had been served to us frozen…we were not happy Jan! Needless to say these were returned and we were promptly refunded, but at lunch time on a weekend we expected more. Disappointing to say the least.

DO check the ferry timetables. I did, on both the Transport NSW website, and the Cockatoo island website. More than twice to be extra sure. And when it came time for us to leave the island, ferry services were only running city bound, leaving us stranded. I can’t imagine who thought it was a good idea to have fewer ferry services on a sunny Sunday, but whoever that person is, you owe me $115 for a 2 minute water taxi up river.

DO listen to the volunteers! They’re there to help! Some exhibits are interactive, and others are delicate and are not to be touched. I’m sorry I got tangled up in William Forsythe’s ‘Nowhere and Everywhere at the same time, no. 2’. Those pendulums!!!! Very tricky.

Go early! And go during the week if you can! As ever when attempting/attending festivals, the later in the day it is, the longer the queues. Queues for interactive exhibits, queues for food, queues for loos, queues for ferries…

DO go!
Don’t miss out!
It is a great day out, all things considered…Biennale or no Biennale!
For more info…
https://www.biennaleofsydney.com.au/20bos/
http://www.cockatooisland.gov.au

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Belanglo State Forest, NSW

May 12, 2016

School holidays present all manner of challenges for parents…perhaps the biggest challenge of all is how to keep the kids occupied in a healthy fashion, without relying too heavily on technical intervention (foxtel/ipads).

I was keen to find something outdoorsy and a bit unique to keep my two busy for a day, and in my googling, came across a foraging excursion. The timing however didn’t suit, and it was more geared towards adults, so I tracked down the guy in charge of the forage, and asked if he’d be keen to take a private group, made up of our school friends and their folks. He was!

Our professional forager and guide was Brendan Cato, a chef (Seans Panaroma and Bistro Moncur are both on his CV, as well as stints on the super yacht circuit) who switched life in a professional kitchen for an approach more in tune with the environment, cooking seasonal, locally sourced, sustainable and organic pop-ups as The Farmed Table.

We meet bright and early on a beautiful autumns morning at the entrance to Belanglo, under the ominous sign, that asks that you “please be careful”. Poor Belanglo gets a bad rap because of it’s ‘shady’ history… (sadly famous for Ivan Milat and the Backpacker murders)

It is a planted forest, primarily of pines, but has native bush interspersed, with random rocky outcrops and termite mounds jutting out in the midst of the perfect pine rows. Light struggles to filter down through the huge trees, the effect is eerie yet beautiful, and is perfect for funghi growth in amongst the needles. Brendan leads our convoy to his secret spots, and instructs us which mushrooms are safe to pick, and which to leave alone. (We were after Pine mushrooms and slippery jacks.)

The kids loved it! There are tree stumps to climb and hide behind, pretty speckled red mushrooms to poke and prod, but leave alone (red = poisonous!), wombat burrows, and when we find bones, the kids lose it! Not human remains…what we imagine to be wallaby skeletons. We let them keep some for show and tell once school starts again. Gross. (but also SO cool at the same time!)

After a few hours collecting at several locations, Brendan returns to base and sets up a campfire. We present our findings, which he sorts, discarding the dodgy ones, and gets the older kids to clean them for him to cook up. They go into a hot pan with olive oil/butter and garlic. The smell is PHENOMENAL! He pours us a glass of local red as a reward for our efforts, and offers us a snack of humous he has knocked up the night before whilst we wait, then presents the mushrooms to us on bread he baked that morning! There is nothing quite like eating something that was growing in the ground not even a half hour before…DELICIOUS!

The season for Pine & Slippery Jacks is short, perhaps 5 weeks or so in late April- early June. In the interest of safety, you MUST only forage with someone knowledgeable in funghi! There are many mushies that look safe, and indeed delicious, but can send you straight to hospital, or worse!

It’s good to be aware that some of the roads in the forest are best suited to larger vehicles, as they uneven and steep in parts; my low profile hatchback was not super impressed by this!

Belanglo is a 90 minute drive south of Sydney, just south of Berrima.

Brendan Cato can be reached on facebook at
https://www.facebook.com/thefarmedtable
or via Instagram https://www.instagram.com/brendancato/

Thank you to Jessie, Ginie, Sohani and Lin not only for loaning me your beautiful kids, but also for taking beautiful pics x

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THE INDIAN PACIFIC, WA, SA, & NSW

April 28, 2016

Just like that, our five weeks driving came to an end.
We had seen so much of this beautiful, vast country, crossing 4 state lines and 4 time zones, stopping at near private beaches and lakes, pausing to climb ancient trees, and playing wildlife spotters in the desert.

I often think that the best part of a trip or a journey is coming home, and certainly no trip is complete until you’re home, back to your point of origin. For us, driving home was not an option (no more driving! please!), and flying home whilst very practical seemed like an anti-climax after all our adventures.

The solution: rail!

Mez and I have always loved train travel, and together we’ve ‘trained’ through Japan, France, Italy…in fact, the first time we met was as a result of my travelling from Melbourne to Sydney on the interstate express. There is something so romantic about train travel; time slows down somehow, you can walk about, share a meal, watch the world go by.

The journey from Perth East takes 3 and a bit days, and 3 nights, though magically once on board, time has an elastic quality. I was content to stare at the ever changing scenery for hours on end, never losing interest. There was so much to see, I didn’t want to miss out on any of it; kangaroos, wedge tail eagles & their gigantic nests, camels, emus, grass tree forests, a million rabbits, an airstrip, abandoned towns…endless ochre earth.

Phone reception is limited, and with no internet or tv, it’s a media black out, instead I read a book. The gentle rocking of the train is very soothing, and with nothing to concern myself with, I feel the most relaxed I have felt in a long time!

We have two cabins, side by side, and it’s decided that we will time share the kids. They can come and go between cabins as they please, and it seems that all the younger families have been allocated cabins in this car, so there is a fun vibe, and little chance of disturbing our neighbours.

The cabins are beautiful. They are vintage, without being old…they have a sense of old fashioned glamour about them. It’s easy to imagine early travellers on this same journey, though theirs taking 75 plus hours and requiring more than 4 changes of train! I can’t enough of all the details, all the wood finishes! For a moment, I am living in my own Wes Anderson ‘Darjeeling Limited’ fantasy! I have anticipated this old fashioned travel vibe, and have packed nice clothes to wear at meals times…I miss those days of dressing up to travel!

At dinner time, the banquette is flipped and transformed into a perfectly turned down bunk, with another popping out above, and in the morning when we return from breakfast, the transformation is reversed, and bunks disappear, and the banquette returns.

Meals and beverages are included in the fare, as well as a complement of Australian wines, and basic spirits. The food is excellent. 3 courses at lunch and dinner, showcasing the best local produce, and every effort made to impress junior diners too. We have a dessert at each sitting, as well as cheese, because it would be rude not to! The highlight at meal times (aside from the actual meal) is dining in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant cart, with all its curlicues and ornate details, all of us piling into a booth and enjoying a changed perspective of the passing landscape.

There are four included whistle stop tours; Kalgoorlie open cut super pit gold mine (sadly cancelled due to delayed departure in Perth), a self walk tour of Cook (a near abandoned desert township), Adelaide (We went straight to the Central Markets!) and Broken Hill. The Broken Hill stop is particularly special for our family; we excuse ourselves from the scheduled tours (Desert Art or Mining History) and head to Mez’s mums childhood home… There are no longer any family members living there, but it’s a poignant moment nonetheless.

This experience really is bucket list worthy, and now that I’ve done west to east, I’m thinking of getting onboard The Ghan, starting in Adelaide and heading north to Darwin, or the other way round.

Uniquely Australian, no doubt about it.
We travelled courtesy of Great Southern Rail

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THE ROYAL NATIONAL PARK, NSW

March 31, 2016

Living in a big urban city such as Sydney, it’s easy to get swept up in everyday routine, and to forget about all the wonderful things there are to do on your doorstep. I’ve lived here for sixteen years now, and for years as we’ve returned from holidays and flown over the Royal National Park, I’ve commented that ‘one day’ I’d really love to get down there, and see those beaches for myself. So this Easter long weekend, we became ‘home town tourists’ and did the 11km walk from Wattamolla to Big Marley beach.

Established in 1879, The Royal National Park is the second oldest national park in the world (Yellowstone in USA is the first), its purpose to be a dedicated area specifically for rest and recreation. At the time of its establishment, it was observed that the park should be ‘a sanctuary for the pale-faced Sydneyites fleeing the pollution – physical, mental and social – of that closely-packed city.’ Such foresight! If only they could see Sydney now!

It’s just over an hours drive from central Sydney to the park…We set out from the Wattamolla Lagoon (park your car here) and headed north, over the dam, past Deer Pools, through the bush, popping out at the cliffs (breathtaking!), finishing at Big Marley. I’m so taken with the bush, the smells and all those poddy wildflowers; banksia, hakea, flowering gums and the rest; native fuchsia, tiny purple fringe lilies, grass trees. It’s so good to be immersed in nature.

DO:

Take plenty of water.

Apply sunscreen and wear a hat.

Leave early if at all possible. It was pretty quiet when we arrived at 10am to start our walk, but it was chockers when we got back at 2pm. So busy that the road into the Wattamolla carpark was closed, and people were parking on the main road and walking 2 kms down to the water!

Reward yourself with a swim…Wattamolla beach is perfect!

Read up before you go. The track has subtle markers, but I only saw 2 maps with routes on the actual track. (I’ve included some useful links below)

Wear proper footwear. We spotted a young man who had done the 10km walk in flip flops.

Be sensible near the cliffs. There are no barriers, and it’s a long way down.

DONT:

Take off your wedding band to apply sunscreen, forget to put ring back on, pack up and continue your walk, SANS WEDDING BAND! (true story! We had to leg it back to where we’d stopped for lunch, the whole time praying that a magpie/bowerbird hadn’t spotted it and absconded with it! Luckily, it was exactly where I’d left it. Phew!)

Hike in denim cut offs. Denim rubs! Ouch.

Attempt to swim at Little Marley beach (too much seaweed!) or Big Marley beach neither beach is patrolled, and both have rips.

Royal National Park Visitor Centre
2 Lady Carrington Drive, Audley, Royal National Park, NSW

Park entry fees:
$12 per vehicle per day. Seasonal ticket booths at Bonnie Vale, Wattamolla and Garie Beach are cash only, as there is no power or mobile connection.

Royal National National Park is open 7am to 8.30pm but may have to close at times due to poor weather or fire danger.

WILD WALKS

NATIONAL PARKS

POSTCARD SYDNEY

EVERY TRAIL

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Wet’ n’ Wild, Sydney

March 3, 2016

This week, we celebrated a bit of a milestone event in the Watts household; Kinga no longer swims with floaties! To commemorate this, coinciding with the last weekend of summer, we surprised the kids with a trip out to Wet’n’Wild!

Whoa nelly!
This place is HUGE.

It was so much cleaner than I anticipated (I had imagined floating bandaids, sunscreen slicks & other peoples hair sticking to me! Gross!) and whilst busy, it was not crazy busy. It also seemed very safe, with people leaving their belongs on sun loungers or in cabanas and going off to enjoy the park. We found a spot near the kids area, and left our towels & sunscreen there safely for hours. (we stashed our valuables in a locker)

We LOVED the wave pool the most…and the best part about it is that the water is so nice & clear that you can see your kids in the waves, and yank them up and above the water should they need a breather. Lot’s of space, and no waiting in queues for this attraction. The little kids area was another big hit, with attractions and slides for little folk of all ages, with lots of shaded areas, and access to lockers, change rooms and bathrooms close by.

We had to wait 45 minutes for the river ride, whilst park management scrambled to find extra life guards, and in the end they were not able to open up the entire river as a result of staff shortages. Not cool. The river was overcrowded then, and we bailed. The worst wait was the boys last slide of the day…just under 1 hour for a slide that lasts 45 seconds at best (in fairness someone had injured themselves, so park protocol had to be followed, however we felt better systems needed to be in place to get things moving again.)
DO…

Book ahead online! This eliminates the need to queue on arrival; you scan your tickets on your phone, and walk on in. (We queued for 20 minutes, then bought our tickets online, in the queue!) We paid $300 for a family of 4, which on the day did not represent good value for money. For better options, check online, ahead of time!

On arrival suss out which slides have what height restrictions, and plan your day accordingly. Because Kinga is under 110cm she was unable to go on most of the big rides, so I spent most of the day with her, whilst Mez and Wolfie were able to hit the slides together.

Bring snacks…food and drink is expensive in the park. You are allowed to bring ‘small’ quantities of food and bottled water.

Go early, first thing to be first on all the rides…or after 3:30 for cut price admission.

Identify a meeting point, for parents who have to split up to take kids on different rides, or for kids should they get lost.

Bring hats, sunscreen, rashies…(if you forget sunscreen, there are pump bottles at the entrance to all change rooms/bathrooms, and you can buy sunscreen at the wet’n’wild shop too.)

Go with friends! The more the merrier! I think it’d be great to hire a cabana too, and share it among a group.
So, whilst some wait times seemed interminable, the kids seemed to not notice/care and had a ball… And I’ve just seen online that for the final month of the season (March) they have a monthly pass for just $69!!! March Madness! Who wants in?!
The low down…

$64 for children under 110cm
$79 for general admission (over 110cm)
$59 for ‘twilight admission’ (entry after 3:30pm)
$10+ for small locker

Wet’n’Wild Sydney
427 Reservoir Rd
Prospect, NSW 2148

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COFFS HARBOUR

December 16, 2015

This is the last post on our road trip from Albury to Brissie for Merrick & Australia…sadly the weather was pretty wet & wild; we were washed out on the Central Coast which was such a shame…our spot beside Lake Munmorah would have been perfect for the kids had it not been bucketing down.

Fortunately, by the time we hit Coffs, there was a break in the rain; the sun broke through the clouds!

We had an activity lined up that has always been pretty high up on my bucket list, though to be honest this was not how I imagined it would go down. In my mind, it was to take place somewhere warm, tropical, somewhere free & easy…not in a giant swimming pool in Coffs Harbour. I was apprehensive, but willing to give it a go.

We were getting in the water with a beautiful young specimen called Jet.
JET IS A DOLPHIN!!!!

I have mixed feelings about aquariums and animals in captivity, and I realise that people have very strong feelings about it, and so I asked lots of questions… Jets mum had been rescued and released back into the wild, not once, but twice, and so when they brought her in a third time, with her tail fluke all but severed by a fishing net, they decided to start a breeding/conservation/rescue/education program. This species of dolphin are not endangered here in Australia, irrespective of this, the program has helped hundreds of injured marine animals since its inception, and on the day we visited, there were kids and families everywhere enjoying the up close contact with the animals at the park. The keepers are big into educating visitors on human impact on marine environments, and how we can ensure their survival in years to come. I think that perhaps if more people leave the park in love with the animals and are more aware, then the park has done some good?

We have been to aquariums overseas, in Singapore and in Japan, where the animals were listless, bored, and obviously not thriving, and walked away feeling angry, and if I’m honest, dirty! This is not the case here in Coffs…the animals are obviously happy & full of beans, and actively seek out human interaction.

And so it was time to get in the pool, which was freezing, because that’s the way the dolphins like it! Jet reminded me of a boisterous puppy, and he was very obviously in love with his keeper. We played, we learnt all about dolphin anatomy & behaviours, and then we swam! It was exhilarating!!!!! It is not a cheap family day out, but it was a very special day out. Sealed with a kiss. From a seal, with super fishy breath!

After the excitement of the porpoise pool, we headed to our caravan park, with the obligatory selfie at the Big Banana of course. We arrived at the Lorikeet Tourist Park just on 3 pm, which is when they feed the local lorikeets….hundreds of them! It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen; both kids covered in rainbow birds! Love!

We stayed at The Lorikeet Tourist Park, Arrawarra

Dolphin & Seal swimming encounters with thanks to Dolphin Marine Magic, Coffs Harbour

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Coffs Harbour

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