The journey from Hawks Nest and the Tea Gardens to Sydney may only be a hop, step and a jump down the road… but if you take the side trip there’s so much to see and do!

Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest…

Trekking north along the Pacific Highway we were very excited to be visiting the Myall Lakes region again!

The Myall Lakes is part of a huge network of interconnecting lakes of the wider Great Lakes region… a vast system of coastal lakes and postcard perfect beaches that wind their way through unspoiled national parks.

With a few days of glorious sun drenched beach in our sights we pulled off the highway onto Myall Way Road and headed towards the beautiful lay back coastal towns of Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest.

Just 6-kilometres in from the highway we came to Lions Park Lookout, a favourite stop of ours offering an amazing vantage point where we could gaze out over the twin towns, the Singing Bridge that connects the two, the offshore islands and the enormous headlands at the mouth of the Myall River.

A couple of kilometres on we stopped at Myall Quays to fill up with gas and stock up on groceries.

We knew from previous visits that although both Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest had small shopping outlets where we could buy essentials – if we wanted more than a few essentials Myall Quays Shopping Village offered a Coles supermarket, a hardware store, a bottle shop, a petrol station, a bakery, a pharmacy, a coffee shop and an ATM.

Further on we passed through the Tea Gardens and crossed the Singing Bridge into Hawks Nest.

Separated by the ever-widening mouth of the Myall River, one of several beautiful rivers born in the Barrington hinterland that runs through the Myall Lakes before emptying into Port Stephens, the twin towns are located opposite the township of Nelson Bay.

Hawks Nest is a favourite stopover of ours with our camp always the ‘Reflections Holiday Parks Jimmys Beach’ – otherwise known as Jimmys Campground!

Jimmys is a beautiful holiday park surrounded by nature at its best.

There’s plenty of space to spread out, lots of big shady trees, a great camp kitchen, amazing amenities, an abundance of friendly birdlife and wildlife including a very brazen dingo that can often be seen checking out campsites… and a stunning unspoilt beach and bay to play at!

When we first discovered Jimmy’s it was a picture of paradise sided with the calm waters of Jimmys Beach and the more windswept Bennetts Beach.

Hawks Nest only encompasses a small area of land… but what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in beauty with 40-kilometres of glorious sun drenched beach stretching from the magnificent Yacaaba Headland to Seal Rocks, a spectacular river – and beautiful lakes, parks and reserves to explore.

Being the main surf beach in the area, Bennetts Beach is the jewel in the local landscape… and whether its swimming, surfing, fishing or beach driving (further north), it caters for everyone!

From the southern end of Bennetts Beach, Jimmys Beach can be accessed via a few sandy tracks. This beach offers magnificent views across Port Stephens to Nelson Bay and follows the shores of the river back past one of the exit/entry points to the caravan park before extending further west to a sandy peninsula known as Winda Woppa.

Its a beautiful beach to swim at or just wander along and often on our rides to Winda Woppa we were privy to majestic water birds, dolphins leisurely making their way up the river… and at times we were just in time to witness a magical sunset of burnt orange and brilliant reds over the the calm waters of the harbour!

Surprisingly Hawks Nest’s name hasn’t originated from an Aboriginal word as have many we have passed through of late… but quite obviously a bird – of which a very intriguing history stems back to long before satellite navigation when a large nest of a hawk was used as a navigational marker to indicate the entrance to Port Stephens!

Once a service centre for the local fishing and timber industries it wasn’t until after the 1950s it became a holiday and retirement destination and today has a population of a little over 1,000 that dramatically increases during the summer months.

For us, no visit to Hawks Nest would be complete without a walk to Yacaaba Headland, a volcanic remnant which rises 210-metres at its southern extremity and presents a noticeable contrast to surrounding flat and scrubby land.

Offering a challenging walk and scenic views all rolled into one, grab your hiking boots and come with us as we make our way to where the open ocean meets the bay.

Starting from the southern end where Bennetts and Jimmys Beach meet, this walk meanders up and across the northern headland adjacent to Port Stephens.

The track starts by crossing the rocky coastline for a short distance before climbing steeply through banksia and grass trees where after a while it opens up into a small clearing. Here we stopped for a welcome break to rehydrate and enjoy magnificent coastline views.  

From then on up it was rocky and considerably steeper to climb and after a bit of rock hopping along the wooded ridge we finally reached the trig point at the top.

Here, we were treated to more stunning coastal views of Seal Rocks and Tomaree Headland on the Port Stephens side of the bay, out to sea, Cabbage Tree Island (also known as John Gould Nature Reserve, which protects the only known breeding colony of one of the world’s rarest birds – the Gould’s petrel), right along Bennetts Beach… and as it was a clear day we could just make out the distant blue ridgeline of Barrington Tops.

Along with our compulsory hike to the headland, a ride along the shoreline of Jimmy’s Beach to Winda Woppa or over the bridge to Tea Gardens for a feed of fish and chips or an ice-cream is usually on our agenda… and there’s lots of geocaching fun to be had also!

For those who haven’t read my previous blogs – a few years back a young girl at the Newman Visitor Information Centre in WA told us about Geocaching and we downloaded the free app – then one find, led to another and now we’re hooked!

Geocaching is a worldwide outdoor treasure hunt game that requires participants to follow GPS coordinates to a location where a cache is hidden.  There are millions of caches all around the world! It’s fun for all ages, takes you on lots of adventures and encourages you to take a break from driving on the long roads! If you’re interested in adding a little more fun to your trip then download the app at >> https://geocaching.com.au/

There’s no better way to learn about the history of a place than to take a leisurely ride, and with the roads and tracks in and around the Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens area so flat, it’s the ideal place to cycle around and enjoy the breathtaking scenery both towns have to offer.

Leaving the caravan park, a paved path meanders for a short distance through bushland before traversing a couple of back streets past mangrove flats, oyster beds and boat ramps to the Singing Bridge – named for its tendency to act like a wind harp in a strong south-westerly breeze.

Built in 1974 this bridge was constructed to replace a punt that serviced the area from 1928 and is an photo-worthy spot offering stunning views out to the coast and Port Stephens with the Myall River as a magnificent backdrop.

Crossing the Myall River from one town to the other a cycle paths winds its way along the water’s edge… and the best way for us to learn of the Tea Gardens past was to continute our leisurely ride along the Marine Drive Waterfront.

The twin towns are both impressive spots but whereas Hawks Nest has the beautiful sea front – the Tea Gardens is set on the shores of the attractively landscaped Myall River that features beautiful parklands, a few restuarants, and a large pier where boats and yachts are moored. It is also the jump on, jump off spot to catch the ferry to Nelson Bay at Port Stephens.

It might be a small town but it is rich in history dating back to the beginning of the century with a a Police Station and a Courthouse dating back to 1912, an Anglican Church dated 1910, ‘Tria’, the Ripley Family home built from the winnings of a racehorse of the same name and a Boat Shed dated 1934.

Back over the bridge to Hawks Nest you can’t help but notice the caution signs advising you are entering koala country with the Jean Shaw Koala Reserve just beyond the bridge. Here it is possible to spot one or two in the eucalypts and swamp mahoganies and occassionally they are even known to cross the full length of the bridge.

These beautiful, but endangered creatures also inhabit a strip of land to the west of Mungo Brush Road north of the town.

Myall Lakes National Park…

The road to the north of Hawks Nest leads to the Myall Lakes National Park where there’s no better place than Mungo Brush Campground to park up for a week or so… but just a word of warning – make sure you complete an online booking through NSW National Parks prior to making it your home!

Mungo Brush is a picturesque and peaceful campground situated among lots of trees on the banks of ‘White Tree Bay’.

Set right on the water’s edge it’s only a short stroll to take a dip, kayak or go paddle boarding and there’s lovely walks in the area that are easily accessed from the campground, which include Mungo Rainforest Walk to the north and Tamboi and Mungo walking tracks to the south… then after expelling a bit of energy sit back in your camp chair, soak your feet in the cool waters of the lake and enjoy another incredible sunset – with a nice glass of red!

The facilities include composting loos (no showers – so you do need to be well prepared with your own water), picnic tables, shelters, bbqs, the sites are grassy, there’s lots of trees and there’s tons of birdlife and wildlife… so don’t be surprised if you are visited by the very friendly kookaburras, a stealthy goanna or two… and there’s always a few dingoes lurking in the shadows!

There are 18 camping areas in Myall Lakes National Park and aside from a couple on a small peninsular between the lake and the ocean and a few only accessible by boat, almost all are on the water… but to us, none are as inviting as Mungo Brush!

If you’re heading north from here, the gravel road continues to a ferry crossing, and then exits further along on the sealed Pacific Highway at Bulahdelah.

Bulahdelah derives from the language of Worimi Aborigines and is thought to mean ‘meeting place of two rivers’. Here you can refuel both car and body… but a must visit while you’re in the area is Australia’s tallest tree, just north of the tiny township! The Grandis Flooded Gum is a huge 400-year old tree, which stands at a height of 76.2-metres and is 11.5-metres in diameter. 

Leaving paradise…

For us, our road was heading south… back through the Tea Gardens then along a back road to Stockton Beach.

Stockton Beach is situated at the southern end of Newcastle Bight, and considered a ‘northern suburb’ of Newcastle.

Its glorious sweeping expanse of sand and sand dunes stretching 33-kilometres to the north all the way to Port Stephens… plus the Hunter River, the city of Newcastle and the gorgeous harbour make it another very popular holiday destination.

We usually travel the Pacific Motorway when we travel this part of the world but this trip we decided to follow the old route through some of the smaller townships and places of interest now bypassed by the new highway.

Leaving Myall Way Road our journey took us back to the Pacific Highway then after leaving the high speed tarmac it was an easy trip to Karuah, a small village that straddles the Karuah River.

Here we pulled into the Memorial Park just over the bridge where we enjoyed a short break to pay tribute to a few monuments dedicated to our war heros – three stone monuments, two flagpoles and a centre monument featuring a sculpted lion on the top ( the original memorial which was dedicated on 21 December 1918). 

The geocache here is just on the edge of the Memorial Park on the truss work of the historic bridge… then after you’ve found that make sure you take in the information plinths on the riverbank that display historic facts about Karuah.

Leaving here it was a lovely drive through beautiful, lush countryside before turning off onto Raymond Terrace Road.

To continue along the Raymond Terrace Road Port Stephens is another adventurer’s playground and one place you should put on your Aussie holiday destination list to check out.

Port Stephens…

Just 58-kilometres from Newcastle this popular tourist destination makes for an easy day trip. It is most famous for its 26 beautiful beaches and bays, national parks, water activities galore, interesting history, lovely little villages… and the vast Stockton Bight Sand Dunes that stretch all the way to Stockton.

On the way in you’ll pass through Millers Forest and then Raymond Terrace where there’s plenty of places to stop along Grahamstown Lake. From then on its beautiful koala country as the road passes through the relaxed Anna Bay then on to Nelson Bay, the largest town of Port Stephens.

Nelson Bay, located on a bay of the same name, is the tourist mecca of Port Stephens and is an eye-catching array of moored flash cabin cruisers and yachts with some interesting shops and cafes to check out.

A few of the sights at this iconic destination include Nelson Head where you’ll find an old lighthouse and lighthouse keeper’s cottage, dating back to 1872.

Further around is the town of Soldiers Point. Lying on a peninsula that juts out from the southern shores, Soldiers Point is home to another lovely marina with beautiful calm waters offering great fishing for the avid fisherperson.

At the little beachside village of Fingal Bay, a short walk or ride to Fingal Head offers views of the surrounding bushland area of Tomaree National Park, sand dunes and the rocky coastline and beaches.

Leaving Fingal Head a longer stroll will take you to the Tomaree Headland Walk where a 2.2-kilometre return walk to the summit will reward you with a birds-eye view of its twin, the more rugged Yacaaba Headland at Hawks Nest.

With steep sections and steps to negotiate on this walk too, in contrast to its twin, this headland is paved all the way around, and home to a little more history with two large gun emplacements (sans guns), which are part of the ruins of Fort Tomaree that was established on the headland during World War II… and once you’ve conquered the relatively steep climb, you’ll be again rewarded with breathtaking views taking in the offshore islands of Cabbage Tree and Boondelbah, Shoal Bay and the less protected ocean beaches of Wreck and Zenith.

Port Stephens is a busy little place, which is mainly why we tend to bypass it – however, we constantly view it across the water from Hawks Nest and if you don’t want to pay $2.60 an hour for parking, there’s always the ferry service from the Tea Gardens.

Medowie and Willamtown…

Back on the road to Stockton and just a few kilometres from the turnoff, Medowie Macadamia farm cafe-shop is a great stop… and grab some fresh fruits and veggies from the Little Tin Shed along the way!

Further on we pulled over to the side of the road to watch the very noisy fighter jets take off and land at incredible speed from the RAAF base at Williamtown.

Stockton Bight Sand Dunes – Worimi Conservation Lands…

As well as being home to Newcastle Airport, Williamtown is also where the adventure starts for the famous Stockton Bight Sand Dunes.

These Worimi Conservation Lands are where you can freely roam the beach and drive alongside an ocean packed with views and sand dunes.  

The Worimi Conservation Lands are Aboriginal-owned and home to the largest sand dune system in Australia where over many years winds, currents and coastal erosion have dumped massive amounts of sand.

Covering 42,000 hectares, reaching up to 40-metres high and stretching 19-kilometres from Williamtown all the way north to Anna Bay at Port Stephens, these dunes are a very popular playground for 4WD enthusiasts… and at times, home to hundreds of campers. However you do need a permit to access them, and its important to remember that like most beach driving in Australia all road rules apply on this beach… and the speed limit is 40kmph!

Stockton Beach…

Finally, we arrived at NRMA Stockton Beach Holiday Park where we booked for three nights.

Just a short ferry ride to the city of Newcastle, this park provides the perfect base to enjoy the breathtaking beaches, rich history and laid-back lifestyle of the area.

It offers a range of grassed camping sites, the convenience of a great shared walking/riding path, a beach on our doorstep… and three of the most important things I judge a good caravan park on – friendly and welcoming staff, a great camp kitchen, and very clean amenities.

What we always enjoy when we visit here however is swimming… but this time swimming was off our agenda after we were told Stockton Beach formed part of a larger nursery for great white sharks where the bities were thought to range in size from 1.5 to 3-metres.  

In saying that however, we weren’t that disappointed at the time as it was very windy, and the surf and beach wasn’t that great… and access from our campsite to the beach was fenced off due to a very serious erosion problem!

It’s quite sad that this beach, one of the largest beaches in NSW, has a severe coastal erosion issue, which has seen stairs to the beach left hanging in mid-air and unusable, and the beach gradually disappearing. This in turn has caused a substantial loss of tertiary vegetation in the dunes which has also led to a noticeable decrease in the numbers of native species sightings including the eastern grey kangaroo and the sugar glider.

Over the next three-days we wandered Stockton Breakwall, walked what beach was left, rode the foreshore, explored Newcastle, and met up with our friends to discover many hidden gems along the coastal path.

Stockton is an interesting little town that was once known as ‘Pirate Point’, a name that to me conjures up a vision of  the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and the image of Captain Jack Sparrow sailing in to town aboard his ship the Black Pearl then whiling away hours with his mates and acquaintances at ‘The Washtub’ Hotel – now known as the General Washington Hotel…

… but in actual fact it didn’t happen like that at all!

It’s name came about following a rather boring legend of a gang of convicts who seized a 25-ton sloop called the ‘Norfolk’ back in 1800 in Broken Bay as it sailed from the Hawkesbury River to Port Jackson ladened with wheat.

Stockton is also well known for its many shipwrecks and ‘Shipwreck Walk’ is a great 2-kilometre return pathway along the Stockton Break wall, named obviously due to many ships coming to grief in the 19th and early 20th century around here.

Built to protect the harbour this Breakwall has also created one of Newcastle’s most popular beaches and, as it is a south facing beach it has also helped to create some of Newcastle’s best surfing breaks.

From the Breakwall we could take in the views of Stockton Beach, back across the harbour to the city, which of an evening was exceptionally stunning with the city lights twinkling across the water… and watch the maritime traffic as big ships were manoeuvred in and out of the harbour by what appeared tiny tugs! Even from our campsite at the caravan park we could hear the ship’s horns and see the occasional superstructure slipping in or out of port.

This wall is the resting place for the Adolphe, a sailing ship that came to grief at the mouth of the Hunter in 1904 when the rope of 1 of 2 tugs bringing the ship into the harbour broke loose in rough seas. With the other tug unable to hold her she ran aground and quickly filled with water… and can now be seen in her rusting glory by the edge of the Breakwater as you wander along.

Over many years Newcastle harbour has proved treacherous to many vessels with at least 200 coming to grief navigating their arrival or departure. This includes the Uralla running aground during a gale in 1928 and the MV Sygna Norwegian bulk carrier running aground during a major storm in 1974 with attempts to re-float her initially unsuccessful.

As well as its history with shipwrecks, Stockton played an important role during World War II when it too was fortified against any possible attack by Japanese forces.

During that time it served as a bombing and gunnery range as well as a dumping area for unused bombs by aircraft returning to the RAAF Base at Williamtown from training raids.

There is also another interesting fact of history on this beach that often goes unnoticed by passers through – and that is the story of ‘Tin City’. 

As a result of the many shipwrecks on this beach in the late 19th century, 2 tin sheds were constructed on this beach 11-kilometres south west of Anna Bay (on what is now Bobs Farm near Salt Ash). The purpose of these sheds was to hold provisions for shipwrecked sailors.  Later, during the Great Depression of the 1930s a group of squatters constructed a series of more tin shacks at the same site.

Then came World War II – and many were torn down to make way for an Army camp.

However, 11 shacks still remain today and are now known collectively as ‘Tin City’ which, along with the famous sand dunes in this area were used for several scenes in the 1979 Mad Max movie.

Over our stay, our day usually finished with an easy ride from the Holiday Park to Shipwreck Walk then along the flat path to the Stockton River Foreshore where we were rewarded with great views of Newcastle CBD, the Hunter River, Newcastle Harbour and Nobbys Lighthouse.

From here the path follows a history trail past the Stockton ferry wharf towards the Stockton boat ramp, the sailing club with its many resident pelicans – to the Stockton Scout Hall… then further afield to Stockton bridge (15-kilometres return)! 

If you’re staying at Stockton the seafaring path of Stockton’s passenger ferry service to see Newcastle up close is a must do… and a pleasant journey!

This ferry service has been running continuously for almost 170 years with the very first service starting in 1853, a rowing boat!

Newcastle…

From Stockton we enjoyed the ferry across the harbour to Queens Wharf a couple of times to explore Newcastle and its surrounds. 

Newcastle claims to be the second oldest city in Australia and maintains that it is Australia’s oldest city after Sydney – but I think my Tassie counterparts would disagree with that, especially those from the capital of Hobart.

It was originally occupied by the Awabakal and Worimi Aboriginal People… and is a city with lots of history!

It was first settled by the British in 1804 but has a history in coal as far back as 1799 with the first Australian export of 50 tonnes shipped to Bengal via Sydney. 

Named after another old coal port in the motherland, it was home to Australia’s first coal mine in 1801 that was constructed under the present site of Fort Scratchley using convict labour.

It became a penal settlement upon European arrival and continued that way until 1822 – and the following year became a pioneer settlement with free settlers teeming in.

Around the start of the 19th century the most dangerous convicts of all were sent there to dig in the coal mines as punishment for their crimes… and thus it became known as the ‘hellhole’  a nicknamed given to it because of its sordid past, which is still evident in the 19th century Fort Scratchley, and the Convict Lumber Yard archaeological dig site in the heart of the city.

It’s heavy-industry era ended in 1999 with the closure of the steel works however, the city continues to host the world’s largest coal export port and a shipbuilding industry with the cities industrial side very much visible on the western end of the  harbour.

Fort Scratchley, situated atop Flagstaff Hill, overlooking the Tasman Sea and the Hunter River, less than 1-kilometre from the Newcastle central business district was built on top of one of these mines to protect Newcastle from Japanese invasion during World War II.

Guns were manned on top of the fort and in the tunnels below and with them all aimed upon the ocean, harbour entrance, and river, Newcastle is the only place in Australia that has returned enemy fire!

Today, the guns are only fired for special ceremonies such as Anzac Day.

Strolling around the streets of this city was very interesting taking in the heritage buildings but its not a big city and it seemed Darby Street was the place to wander for boutique shopping and the café scene… otherwise the streets appeared empty with all the action happening at the café and restaurant boulevard along the waterfront – resulting in day one being only a brief visit for us!

Riding the coastline…

Newcastle has some great rides with Newcastle Harbour up there on the top of our list.

You can ride to Nobby’s Lighthouse to the east and to Tighes Hill to the west and then loop around Throsby Creek and come back to the main centre for an enjoyable easy few hours of riding and fantastic photos… or follow the path that winds its way along the coast.

Next morning and another ferry crossing (this time with our bikes), saw us meet up with Noela, Pete and Kev at Queens Wharf to cycle the coastline.

Newcastle has three distinctly different sandy beaches all interlinked by a coastal pathway known as ‘Bathers Way’, which features magnificent, rugged cliffs and reefs, inviting rock pools, huge saltwater ocean baths, heritage sites, parklands, memorials… and stretches all the way to the coastal wilderness of Glenrock Reserve.

After leaving the wharf area our ride wound its way in and out of pedestrians to the southern entrance to Newcastle Harbour and the headland first sighted by Captain Cook in 1770, Nobbys Head. Here our ride took us along the breakwater to Nobbys Head Lighthouse (built in 1858).

Once an island, Nobbys Head is now connected to the mainland by another breakwater that has, over time, accumulated sand to create the lovely white Nobbys Beach.

From Shortland Esplanade we then continued to the iconic ‘Newcastle Ocean baths’

Designed in 1922 these baths are a heritage site and free to use all year round, with showers, changing facilities and a kiosk selling light refreshments in the Art Deco-style pavilion.

Further on we stopped at iconic Newcastle Ocean Baths (that opened in 1922) and watched the beautiful breaks that beckoned masses of surfers to Newcastle Beach.

Weaving our way through many more walkers, runners, day trippers, health nuts and those just wishing to sit and watch the world go by we made our way to King Edward Park where we were afforded spectacular ocean views, beautiful Norfolk Island pines and a sunken garden that was a mass of colour.

This park was dedicated as a recreation reserve in 1863 and within the grounds is a bowling green and the Obelisk, built as a navigational marker in 1850.

It seems wherever you wander in Newcastle everything is connected to history or a magnificent view in one form or another, and on the southern entrance of this park, still on the Bathers Way coastal walk, we came to the remains of the Shepherds Hill Battery and Gunner’s Cottage overlooking magnificent unimpeded views over the vast Pacific Ocean.

Built in 1890 and used in World War II for a brief time as a radar station this attraction also has links with Newcastle’s penal past with the nearby Bogey Hole one of Australia’s oldest ocean baths that was carved out of the cliffs by convicts on orders of Commandant Morisset in 1820.

From the Battery a path leads down to the famous ‘The Bogey Hole’ and after a trip down the steep steps to this popular swimming spot we sat for a while and watched the ocean crash in over the rocks before heading on again.

Our next stop was a heart pumping steep ride to Strzelecki Scenic Lookout as our friends cruised along beside us on their e-bikes… a special treat we had now decided to add to the top of our birthday and Christmas list!

Offering more incredible views over the coast and Newcastle this lookout was erected in honour of Sir Paul Edmund Strzelecki a Polish geologist and Australian Explorer who first discovered the vast coal fields inland from Newcastle.

Just around the corner we came to ‘The ANZAC Memorial Walk’… another must do – but we couldn’t ride it because of the steps!

Using 64 tonnes of stainless steel, this walk was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli in 1915 – and the beginning of steel making in Newcastle.

Having walked it on a previous visit this 450-metres-long cliff-top board walk winds its way around the cliff edge above Memorial Drive in the suburb of ‘The Hill’, and links Newcastle’s Strzelecki Lookout to Bar Beach… and is a picturesque tribute to honour the men and women of the Hunter Valley who enlisted during World War I – many of whom have their names inscribed on the steel silhouettes of the soldiers that decorate the walkway.

Dixon Park Beach is further on then comes the iconic Merewether Beach, home to the popular international surfing competition, ‘Surfest’.

This part of the beach reserve stretches from Dixon Park in the north to Burwood Beach in the south again offering superb views in all directions… then a bit further down the beach promenade, is the famous ‘Merewether Ocean Baths’ which opened in 1935 and is largest Ocean Baths complex in the Southern Hemisphere.

Not only does Newcastle have an endless pick of ocean views to enjoy and paths to ride it also has the famous Hunter River that meanders through it… and being a port town, it was lovely to sit back and enjoy the view of busy freighters, small fishing vessels and cruise boats sailing in and out as we sipped coffee with our friends after our ride.

Having not really explored Newcastle to this extent before it was exciting discovering this city, which we soon discovered had plenty to see and do… and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit – however, everytime we visit they seem to be setting up for the Newcastle Super Cars and many of the streets are blocked off!

Newcastle is only 162-kilometres north of Sydney – in fact it’s an easy 2-hour drive along the M1 Pacific Motorway… so there’s really no excuse not to add another harbour city to your must-do-list if you’re spending a bit of time road-tripping up or down the Aussie east coast.

After arranging to meet up again in Victoria in late November to tackle the rails trails, we waved our friends farewell and headed back to Stockton for our final night on the Central Coast.

Our kindred spirits… these guys are vagabonding nomads just like us. They love off road adventures, sitting around the campfire, exploring the bike trails – and everything in between… and although we have only known one another a short time we had soon become good friends.

Even a minor graze can become infected, and Guy’s leg wasn’t healing from his disagreement with a log in the Barrington Tops… so it was now time to head into Sydney to see a doctor! Luckily, we had already planned to spend a few days with our children at Narrabeen. 

Our drive took us past the Central Coast, an area we loved to frequent. 

It’s a magnificent spot where you can spend time bushwalking in Bouddi National Park or the hinterland of Toowoon Bay.

Take the coastal walk to Bateau Bay, wander the many beautiful beaches, check out the views from Norah Head Lighthouse or pull on your cozzie and hit the surf at Shelly, Forresters, Avoca or Terrigal Beaches.

Feed the pelicans from the ocean beaches of ‘The Entrance’, ride the shores of Tuggerah Lake – it’s nearly 50-kilometres around, pitch your tent in the National Park at Pretty Beach…  or set up camp at the beautiful tranquil bay side Patonga Holiday Park near the tiny village of Patonga.

We had travelled thousands of kilometres over the last 9-months negotiating our way over the rugged mountain tracks of the Victorian High Country and the Flinders Ranges and the Bungle Bungles, crossed the water crossings of the Reynolds Track, the corrugations of the Tanami, 1100 sand dunes on the Simpson Desert and driven the sandy beaches of the Fraser Coast – just to name a few… and luckily we had never had a car problem… that is until now!

Well, I guess it was bound to happen – and when Harry began to lose power to 60-kph as we climbed the steep hills of the very busy Pacific Highway, we began to worry!

Finally, after limping our way through the Highway and Northern Beaches traffic we eventually arrived at Narrabeen Lakes.

I was so looking forward to catching up with our son, daughter in law and grandchildren again  but with Guy’s infected leg, and now car problems I was extra pleased to see their familiar faces… and what was to be a couple of nights before continuing south soon turned into a week camped out in their spare room with daily visits to the doctor – and a trip to the car hospital for Harry Hilux!

We love the Northern beaches with its stunning stretch of coastline that spans a staggering 40-kilometres from Manly to the famous Palm Beach the popular pilgrimage for fans of the TV soap ‘Home and Away’. Read more in our next blog!

Over the next week we spent our time enjoying the company of family, catching up with friends and generally taking a break from driving while grabbing the opportunity to offload some gear (fuel containers etc) and giving Harry a good clean!

Eventually we waved our family goodbye and after stocking up with chemist supplies and groceries we began the last leg of our journey south to meet up with friends from Victoria to complete the Victorian High Country that we couldn’t finish earlier in the year because of bush fires.

We are so looking forward to travelling the south coast of NSW again with the next part of our journey unfurling south from Sydney to Eden…

… but before we do, come with us as we explore ‘Sydney and its surrounds’.

We have discovered wonderful places on our visits to Sydney, from sun-kissed beaches to fascinating heritage and amazing attractions.

This city fans out from beautiful Sydney Harbour to Bondi Beach in the east, Palm Beach in the north, fun adventures in the west and Australia’s oldest national park in the south.

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