New South Wales

The Rocks

Right next to the new, shiny financial district, the Rocks is the historical district of Sydney.  Most of the buildings are built of local sandstone, which is where the area gets it name from.  Today, it is a tourist precinct and its tiny streets are filled to the brim with shops, restaurants, and museums in old buildings.  The Sydney Observatory is in this area and on one side the Harbour Bridge connects into this area.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

We actually drove into Sydney across the Harbour Bridge, which was a nice, close-up-and-personal introduction to it.  The wide panoramas from Circular Quay include the impressive sight of the bridge and the many boats traveling beneath it.  The Harbour Bridge is multi-functional and has cars, trains, and pedestrians on it all at the same time.  Later on it our trip, we walked across it, which was fun and afforded simply spectacular views of the harbour, Opera House, and CBD.

Circular Quay

This is the main tourist destination in Sydney; it is the harbour front area directly in front of the CBD and where the many ferries and cruise ships dock.  It is the most quintessentially Sydney area with views of the harbour, bridge, and Opera House.  All along the path around the harbour were shops, restaurants, and small metal plaques that marked the historical shoreline at various points in time, starting at 1788 with the first landing in Sydney.

Sydney Opera House

Out at the end of Circular Quay is the icon of Sydney: the Sydney Opera House.  The iconic pictures are usually taken from the side, probably with the Harbour Bridge in the background, so it was kind of weird to see it from all different sides.  However, it is just as beautiful no matter where you see it from and the views around it are breathtaking no matter which way you look.  And no matter what time of day.  At night, it is all lit up and is stunning to look at.

It is actually made up of three separate buildings: two opera venues and a restaurant.  The most shocking difference in real life is the texture.  It photographs smooth and pure white, but it is actually tiled in various shades of cream and tan.  Who knew?

Royal Botanic Gardens

Sydney’s Botanic Gardens are very similar to the Melbourne equivalent, except they are situated right on the harbour with amazing waterfront, and Opera House, views.  The gardens themselves are beautiful and a nice reprieve from the gray metal and concrete of the nearby financial district.

Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair

Right out at the very tip of the Botanic Gardens, on the peninsula Mrs. Macquarie’s Point, is the carved sandstone bench looking out over the harbour.  Mrs. Macquarie was the governor’s wife in 1810-1821.  She loved to sit out at this location and watch the ships sailing in and out of the harbour, her husband had this rock hand carved by convict labour for her.  The point and chair do have awesome panoramic views of the harbour, Opera House, and bridge.

Government House

The New South Wales Government House is open more often than any other Australian governor’s residence, which they pride themselves on.  We toured the state wing of the house, including the governor’s office, entry way, dining room, and ballroom.  The house is situated in an amazing location: on top of a hill in the Botanic Gardens overlooking the harbour and Opera House–great views.


State Library New South Wales

The library was an imposing building on a wide, palm-lined boulevard.  The main exhibit at this library was about gardens.  There were many books showcasing and discussing gardens as well as a public art wall where you could make and add your own flower to the wall.  Making the flower was harder than it looked, but it was fun to add our own and read all of the other messages written on others’ flowers.  Also, NSW’s big reading room has nothing on the Victorian one… just for the record.

Hyde Park

The Central Park of Sydney was very busy during lunch hour on a weekday.  People were lounging, strolling, and trying to find a patch of shade and some relief from the broiling temperatures and sun.  It’s a nice cut-through to walk south through the city, but surrounding by trees, sculptures, and fountains.  At the bottom of the park is Sydney’s ANZAC Memorial for WWI.

i-creamy Gelato

If there is a restaurant that serves a platter with 9 scoops of gelato, it’s a rule that you have to go there… right?  Offering 24 flavours everyday, i-creamy allows you to choose 9; they come on a platter that is also served with a mountain of whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and strawberries.  All of the gelato was amazing but my favorite flavours were Milo, Coconut, and White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake.

Flavours: (top to bottom, left to right)  Coconut, Espresso, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Black Sesame, Milo, Thai Tea, Cookies and Cream, White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake, Cream Soda

Queen Victoria Building

Taking up an entire city block, this building built in the 1890’s is one of today’s most popular shopping centres in the CBD.  The piece de resistance is the dome in the centre of the building that is full of color and made up of wonderful patterns.  The walls are painted in various vibrant colours that catch the eye.  Shopping in such a magnificent building makes the experience that much better.


Pacific Highway: Brisbane to Sydney

New South Wales, Queensland

After flying back into Brisbane from Lady Elliot Island, we picked up a car from the airport and started our drive down to Sydney.  The drive would take about 10 hours straight, but we broke it up into three days of driving.  Pacific Highway, or the A1, is the main highway that connect the two, but we took a few detours off the highway to see a bit more of Queensland and New South Wales.

Our first detour was only a couple hours outside of Brisbane: the Gold Coast.  It is the largest non-capital city in Australia and the population is still growing.  Gold Coast is known for their tourism: amazing beaches, theme parks, and nightlife.  High rises line all the beaches, which ruins the otherwise gorgeous scenery.  Its position as an up-and-coming city has been sealed by the fact that it will be hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

The Pacific Highway is close to many beautiful beaches.  We saw this one and had to pull over to see it better.  I can’t remember the exact location, but it was somewhere near Burleigh Heads in Queensland.  The Gold Coast can be seen in the distance on the horizon.

The first stop in New South Wales, Byron Bay is a very popular beach town that was swarming with summer tourists.  A little bit out of town is the lighthouse which marks the easternmost point on the Australian mainland.  Looking out from the point only ocean is visible.

Yamba, New South Wales is a small fishing town on the Clarence River whose population usually triples during the summer months.  Here we saw our first Australian pelicans, which are much larger than any pelican I’ve seen before.

Grafton Bridge is a double-decker (car and train) bridge that crosses the Clarence River.  The bridge also houses a water main and 2 footbridges.  Originally built in 1915, it is the oldest double-decker bridge in NSW.  Nearby is Port Macquarie.  It was founded as a prisoner settlement for secondary offenders; it was very isolated with rough terrain.  However, the settlement only lasted about 10 years before it became a civil town.

Today it has grown into a small city known for its koalas and beaches.

The most isolated spot we explored was Austral Eden.  Architect John Verge received a 2,400 acre land grant on the Macleay River in New South Wales in the early 1800’s.  He advertised parcels of land as Austral Eden, a farmer’s paradise in Australia.

Today it is just as farming orientated as it has always been.  Driving through the area and along the Macleay River, we didn’t see a single car or other person, only some farmhouses, horses, and cows.