Bilpin

Paid Loots
Paid Loots
Granny Smith
Granny Smith
Halfway there
Halfway there
Lemon Loots
Lemon Loots

Went apple-picking at Bilpin today. Bilpin is situated in the Blue Mountains although it officially sits within the Hawkesbury Valley Region. The area is populated with variety of stone-fruits orchards which are open for your own fruit-picking depending on which fruits are in season. Whilst driving through Bells Line Road, you will come across many charming cafes and restaurants which offers gourmet food in their menu and sell a variety of homemade products like jams, tasty salad dressings, apple pies and local honey. It’s a good a spot to go for a Sunday drive and bring home freshly-picked fruits to make your own delicious homemade pies. It’s fun for the kids too.

Climbing Mt Kosciuszko

Chairlifts in Thredbo
Chairlifts in Thredbo
Chairlifts in Thredbo
Chairlifts in Thredbo
Mt Kosciuzko
Mt Kosciuzko
Snowy River from the melting snow
Snowy River from the melting snow
Rock Hopping
Rock Hopping
Lake
Lake
A kilometre more of this uphill
A kilometre more of this uphill
Trekking across the snow
Trekking across the snow
On top of Australia
On top of Australia
On top of Australia
On top of Australia
Heading down
Heading down
Top of Thredbo
Top of Thredbo

Mt Kosciuszko is the tallest mountain in Australia. It stands 2.2 kilometres above sea level.

Fourteen years ago, I climbed up to the Summit. The 18 kilometre return climb started from Charlotte Pass which took most part of the day. Unknowingly, I was pregnant with my first child.

Fourteen years later, we went back. With aging body and a little less fit, we started the climb from Eagle’s Nest in Thredbo. We took the chairlift to get to the top of Thredbo. From Eagle’s Nest, the steep climb to the peak of the mountain was 13 kilometres return. When we arrived at the peak, the weather suddenly changed. The vivid blue sky turned to a dark navy blue colour. It was windy and the rain was threatening to bucket down.

It’s spectacular to be on top Australia. It was incredibly nice to be closer to the clouds…

Collingwood Beach to Moona Moona Creek

Changing colours
Changing colours
Loving the sunset
Loving the sunset
Beautiful morning colours
Beautiful morning colours
Beautiful morning colours
Beautiful morning colours at Collingwood Beach
Moona Moona Creek
Moona Moona Creek

Beautiful colours changing during my 5.5kms run from Collingwood Beach to Moona Moona Creek and back. Collingwood Beach is in Jervis Bay which is just two and a half hours’ drive from Sydney and this beautiful beach occupies the western shore of the bay and curves south of Moona Creek mouth that extends for 2.2 kms.

Sydney Fish Market

Oysters
Oysters
Fresh Cooked Prawns
Fresh Cooked Prawns
Lobsters
Lobsters
Variety of Fish
Variety of Fish
Chef Statue
Chef Statue
Fish Market
Fish Market
Oyster Bar
Oyster Bar
Fish Containers
Fish Containers
Seafood Takeaway
Seafood Takeaway
Deep Fried White Tail
Deep Fried Butterres White Baits
Seafood Platter
Seafood Platter
Oyster Mornay
Oyster Mornay

Sydney Fish Market offers Sydneysiders and tourists alike the opportunity to experience an authentic working fish market. It is the largest market of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and the world’s second largest seafood market in terms of variety outside of Japan. The market opens at 5.30am when seafood buyers arrive to check the day’s catch before the auction, where 2,700 crates (52 tonnes) are sold per day. You can choose from a wide variety of fresh seafood and much more. You can buy fresh seafood for lunch, sit at the quaint tables at the wharf and enjoy the water view with many fish boats calmly resting on the water and the Glebe island Bridge. They also offer a Behind the Scenes Tour where you can see all the action. Sydney Seafood School is also located at the market; it holds a variety of seafood cookery classes including some hosted by Australia’s leading chefs!

So, if you are looking for a place to eat the freshest possible seafood in Sydney? Look no further. Go to the Sydney Fish Market. It is a unique market of its kind. It is a bustling place where everyday seems to be a festival of seafood! The Market has many little restaurants where you could dine-in or just buy some take-away and eat at the outdoor tables along the water and enjoy the scrumptious seafood and water view.

Tip: Many health experts recommended that if you include two portions of seafood in your weekly diet, you will reduce your risk of suffering from a heart attack by 50%.  Seafood is a nutrient rich food that is a good source of protein and it is packed with vitamins and minerals that provide a whole lot of health benefits.

  • Seafood is low in fat
  • Fish is low in cholesterol
  • Seafood is high in protein
  • Seafood is high in vitamins & minerals
  • Seafood is high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Lake Parramatta Reserve

Parramatta Lake
Parramatta Lake
Parramatta Lake
Parramatta Lake
Parramatta Lake
Parramatta Lake
Parramatta Lake
Parramatta Lake
Parramatta Lake
Parramatta Lake

Lake Parramatta Reserve is a 75ha bushland reserve which is located within two kilometres of the Parramatta CBD which is about 30 kilometres from Sydney. The entrance to Parramatta Reserve is from Lackey Street, off Bourke Street in North Parramatta. This reserve is popular picnic, swimming and fishing spot with local residents in the area. If you are a nature lover, you would like this spot with all its beautiful wildlife, flora and fauna and a stunning lake. What I like in this Reserve in particular is the walking tracks. It offers three well-signed walks, of varying length and difficulty, though none of the walks are very challenging. The three walks to choose from ranging from easy to hard are the following: 1) She Oak Track (1550m) 2) Banksia Trail (2450m) and 3) Lake Circuit (4200m). The Lake Circuit is a must do for those looking for a longer enjoyable bushwalking.

I went bushwalking in Lake Parramatta with a girlfriend. We did the 4 kilometre Lake Circuit Track around the lake which took us a good 1.5 hours (this includes the stops for some pretty photo opportunities). The track was beautiful. We came across a few wildlife such as; three quarters of a metre-sized goanna, lizzards of many different colours and sizes, native Australian birds and a variety of ducks. I stepped over a coiled brown snake hiding under a rock. (Surprisingly, I didn’t die of freaking out.)

I generally go all the way up to the Blue Mountains to go bushwalking which is about an hour drive from where I live. I didn’t realize that we have a local gem just 15 minutes away. Thanks to a ‘Sydney running track’ google search result. Having said that, I highly doubt that I will go back. The thought of that brown snake that I stepped over, still sends shivers down my spine. However, if snakes don’t bother you, I recommend to do the track or perhaps, go around Winter where the cold-blooded creatures are all hybernating. :D

Old Bus Depot Market

Colours of Pasta
Colours of Pasta
Pretty Macarons
Pretty Macarons
Bread Vendor
Bread Vendor
Variety of Bread
Variety of Bread
Fresh Orange Juicer
Fresh Orange Juicer
Colourful candle holders
Colourful candle holders
Busy Market
Busy Market

You may start to notice, I love going to markets particularly those ones that offer an eclectic mix of gourmet delights.  In Old Bus Depot Market in Kinston, Canberra, you will be delighted by the flavour, fun and its ambience. It is an in-door market.

It has a contemporary urban feel and with many providores offering delightful gourmet delicacies. There is a food court at the end of the market which offers international cuisines.  Apart from food, the market also offers arts and crafts. The market certainly promises a truly eye dazzling and sensory experience.

Nambucca Heads

Colourful rocks along the breakwall
Colourful rocks along the breakwall
Sunset
Sunset
White Albatross Holiday Park
White Albatross Holiday Park
Mosaic at the Twon Centre
Mosaic at the Town Centre
Nambucca Heads River
Nambucca Heads River

Nambucca Heads is one of the prettiest towns on the Coffs Harbour coast. It is situated off the Pacific Highway 15 minute drive South of Coffs Harbour.  The rendezvous of Nambucca River with the Ocean has a magnificent effect and provides a stunning view to holidaymakers who chose to go on detour from the usual driving stretch heading towards the North Coast.  Take a leisure walk along the breakwater called Vee Wall where some cheeky and almost witty holidaymakers have recorded their impressions of the little town with colourful graffiti which looks more like an outdoor art gallery.

TIP: The colours of sunset along the walk is amazing.

Little Havana

IMG_5573
Calle Ocho
Calle Ocho
Calle Ocho
Domino Club
Domino Club
Little Havana Cigar Factory
Little Havana Cigar Factory
Local Busker
Local Busker
Typical over the counter restaurant
Typical over the counter restaurant
Maximo Gomez Park Domino Club
Maximo Gomez Park Domino Club
Calle Ocho
Calle Ocho
Latin Walk of Fame
Latin Walk of Fame
Welcome to Little Havana Sign
Welcome to Little Havana Sign
Welcome to Little Havana Sign
Welcome to Little Havana Sign

Little Havana is located just west of Downtown Miami which is also known as the Latin Quarter. Little Havana offers a slice of Cuban culture transported in the middle of Miami. As soon as we arrived via a get on-and-off tourist bus, it was obvious that the colourful Cuban culture permeates everything in Little Havana from the vivid colorful murals, happy buskers playing traditional Cuban and Afro-American music along the main street, over the quaint counter-restaurants, monuments for the heroes, unique art galleries, Cuban gentlemen playing dominoes and that ever-present aroma of Cuban coffee and cigar. Little Havana’s colourful scenes and its festive ambience were intoxicating. A taste of Cuban culture made me want to go to the real-deal Cuba which is now included in my bucket-list.

The main drag of Little Havana is called Calle Ocho where they have a Hollywood-like Walk of Fame but mainly dedicated to famous Latin celebrities, such as Gloria Estefan and Celia Cruz. The colourful street is pepppered with fruit stands, over-the counter authentic Cuban restaurants, art galleries and cigar shops. At Domino Park, you would see the elderly Cuban migrants playing domino games for most part of the day and the scene is a tourist spot in itself. If you have time, you may want to see a show at the Tower Theater, a restored Art Deco theater and cultural venue. .

Tip: On the last Friday of each month, Little Havana hosts Viernes Culturales, or Cultural Fridays, a monthly gallery night showcasing the cultural arts scene of the neighbourhood.

Calle 8, Little Havana, Miami, Florida
Calle 8, Little Havana, Miami, Florida

Miami

Miami  Beach Lifeguard House
Miami Beach Lifeguard House
Lifeguard Stand
Lifeguard Stand

Miami has been featured enormously in movies and TV shows and it is one the most popular holiday spots in Florida. As a vacation spot, it offers many entertainments to suit everyone. For those visitors who would like to feel the beat and party, there is a trendy nightlife at South Beach including a fine beachfront dining experience from many different restaurants offering a variety of cuisines. For those who are looking for cultural experience, head to Little Havana for a more festive and eclectic mix of culture atmosphere. For the sunseekers, there’s the famous Miami Beach. For the shopaholics, go to Bayside Marketplace or Coconut Grove for a more personal attention from the boutique owners. If you’d a like a bit of history, visit the historic hideaways of Coral Gables. And if you are a photography enthusiast like me, enjoy the colourful Art Deco district for great colourful architecture photography.

We came here to board our Royal Caribbean Cruise. I arranged our travels of transits and accommodation so that we will have enough time to see the popular tourist spots that Miami has to offer.

Note: I didn’t include Little Havana below. I have a dedicated post for Little Havana.

South Beach
The sight of South Beach screams party – all day long. It is trendy and fun place to be. Everyone seems to be having a great time. It’s a place for the rich and famous and young at hearts. It is lined with 1930’s to 1940’s art-deco designed hotels, restaurants and spas.

South Beach Giant Cocktails Display
South Beach Giant Cocktails Display
Old Gianni Versace House
Old Gianni Versace House
South Beach
South Beach
South Beach - Art Deco Building
South Beach – Art Deco Building
South Beach - Humphrey Bogart's Car
South Beach – Humphrey Bogart’s Car
Giant-sized Mojito
Giant-sized Mojito

Miami Beach
Miami Beach is what you’ve seen in the movies. The colourful iconic lifeguard stands are scattered along the shore. You can swim, surf and jet ski in the warm and crystal-clear Atlantic waters or just simply lie on the sand and work on your tan.

Lifeguard Stand
Lifeguard Stand
Lifeguard Stand
Lifeguard Stand
Miami Beach
Miami Beach
Miami Beach
Miami Beach

Coral Gables
Coral Gables is popular for its tree-lined boulevards, grand mansions covered with ivy and historical 1920’s landmarks such as; Biltmore Hotel and the Venetian Pool.

Biltmore Hotel
Biltmore Hotel
Venetian Pool
Venetian Pool

Bayside
The Bayside Marketplace is an open Mall which offers a great variety of shopping and restaurants overlooking the Miami Marina populated with yachts, water taxis and water tours.

Bayside
Bayside
Bayside
Bayside
Normal-sized Mojito
Normal-sized Mojito

Key West

Southernmost Point of USA
Southernmost Point of USA
90 Miles to Cuba
90 Miles to Cuba
Southernmost House in USA
Southernmost House in USA
Working Dog
Working Dog
Duvall Street
Duvall Street
Shipwreck Museum
Shipwreck Museum
Duvall Street, Key West, Florida
Duvall Street, Key West, Florida
View of key West from the Cruise Ship
View of key West from the Cruise Ship
Souvenir Dolls
Souvenir Dolls
Souvenirs - Coconut Head Pirates
Souvenirs – Coconut Head Pirates
Key West Museum of  Art and History
Key West Museum of Art and History
City Tram
City Tram
Train Tour
Train Tour

Key West is in Florida and it is the southernmost point in the United States. It is a relatively small island and a famous holiday destination for its watersports activities, happy-hours (which is all day), lively nightlife, beautiful beaches and historic sites. The town is only 90 miles to Cuba. It separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico, however, the town ambience and the attitude of residents are more like the easy-go-lucky Caribbeans.

Souvenirs
Souvenirs

We took the Conch Tour Train which provided us a great history lesson on Key West and it took us to the popular landmarks. The tour took us through the main Duval Street which is colourful and has an energetic vibe. The street is lined with an eclectic mix of shops, bars and cafes. There are many train tours to see the colourful town but a walking tour is a great way to see the island’s intresting architecture, courtyards and gardens. We are relatively fit so we just walked the island independently after the train tour. The town has an amazing free-spirited and quirky atmosphere which makes it a uniquely beautiful American town. Everyone appeared to be happy which is quite contagious.

Conch Tour Train Station
Conch Tour Train Station

We also patiently lined up and visited Ernest Hemingway’s Home and Museum. The home served as Hemingway’s base from 1928 until 1940. The house is a great to experience to visit and it is worth lining up for for 30 minutes. The tour guide gave us a comprehensive biography on the famous author as well as in-house gossips about his personal affairs. It is incredible to look into the office where Hemingway’s desk, chair, typewriter and wall ornaments are supposedly just as he left them. We also encountered a graveyard of past generations of his beloved cats.

Ernest Hemingway's House
Ernest Hemingway’s House
Cat Cemetery
Cat Cemetery

Coco Cay Island

Floating Mats for Hire
Floating Mats for Hire
Royal Caribbean Cruise
Royal Caribbean Cruise
Barefoot Beach
Barefoot Beach
Colourful Kayaks
Colourful Kayaks
Coco Cay Island
Coco Cay Island
Rain is coming
Rain is coming
Barefoot Beach
Barefoot Beach
View from the bar
View from the bar
Coco Cay Island
Coco Cay Island
Lifeguard on Duty
Lifeguard on Duty
Royal Caribbean Cruise
Royal Caribbean Cruise
Coco Cay Island
Coco Cay Island
Early morning serenity
Early morning serenity

Coco Cay Island (previsouly know as Little Stirrup Cay) is one of the Berry Islands in the Bahamas. It is located approximately 55 miles north of Nassau.The island is about a kilometre wide from East to West and about 183 metres from North to South. The island’s east end is the heart of the island where all recreational activities are. They have beaches fronting a coral basin where all the island’s marine life can be seen.

We came to this beautiful island as one of the stops in our Bahamas cruise. Royal Caribbean has lease on the island for their exclusive use so the island is private for the Royal Caribeean cruise passengers. Our Royal Caribbean cruise ship anchored off the island and brought passengers ashore by ferries. Apart from the beautiful vivid turquoise-coloured, crystal-clear and warm water at the beach, the island offers a variety of water activities which includes swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, parasailing, scuba diving, and Waverunner piloting. There are shops where water sports gears can be hired. The island also features nature trails that run the entire length and width of the island. If you just want to relax, soak up the warm Caribbean sun and enjoy the paradise-like atmosphere; you can just hang-out on the blue and white beach chairs under a rainbow coloured beach umbrellas sipping your favourite cocktail from the island bar or hire a mat and float on the water to work on your tan. The island also holds an ocean Snorkel Adventure and treasure-hunt competition where we participated and won a little prize of free floating beach mat. It is nice to just stroll around the island and visit the Straw Market for some souvenirs made of…wait for it…straw and other crafts souvenirs. The cruise provided a nice BBQ lunch and buffet with nice island flavours. We had a fabulous day! You would too!

Snorkel Adventure and Treasure Hunt prize
Snorkel Adventure and Treasure Hunt prize
The Straw Market
The Straw Market

Nassau

Junkanoo Beach
Junkanoo Beach
Local Chap
Local Chap
Junkanoo Beach, Nassau, Bahamas
Junkanoo Beach, Nassau, Bahamas
Cruise Ships from Junkanoon Beach
Cruise Ships from Junkanoo Beach
Soaking up the Bahamas sun
Soaking up the Bahamas sun
Nassau
Nassau
Pink Flamingos
Pink Flamingos
Ardastra Gardens, Nassau, Bahamas
Ardastra Gardens, Nassau, Bahamas
Colourful Restaurant
Colourful Restaurant
Atlantis
Atlantis
Straw Market
Straw Market

I will move to Bahamas in a heart beat. Who wouldn’t? Even King Edward VIII gave up his throne to marry the woman he loved and settled in Bahamas. It is a paradise-like island full of beauty and life seems easy. The Bahamians are friendly, the weather seems eternally beautiful and the vast 1000,000 square miles of crystal clear and turquoise coloured water is enchanting. They will tell you that for a true Bahamian experience “all you need to do is relax”. English is generally spoken so it is very easy to get around. The colourful colonial architecture, pink buildings and English Georgian-style architecture of Government House and Parliament Square provides the island a unique charm. Nassau has an extra ordinary mix of culture. They are part British, part Spanish and part West African. The eclectic mix of cultural influences here gives Nassau a unique spirit on its own. It is rich in history and certainly rich in culture.

Nassau, is the capital city of The Bahamas and it is in the New Providence island which is 21-mile-long which is surprisingly on the 11th largest island. Nassau’s main harbour is protected by Paradise Island. History says it that Nassau’s population was consisted mainly of pirates until 1718. The Bahamas first Royal Governor, Woodes Rogers expelled them, restored order and built Fort Nassau. Bahamas has kept its strong ties to England, remained within the Commonwealth and declared its allegiance to the Queen.

We only had a day trip experience in Nassau as one of the stops in our Bahamas Royal Caribbean Cruise and obviously, it left me a lasting impression that I know I will go back to savour the warmth of Bahamian sun and people, its remarkable beauty and the rich culture. For the limited time that we were there, we joined a Sightseeing Tour for most part of the morning, then we hired a Vespa to tour the island which I think was a great way to explore the island.

Below are some of the popular points of interest that we visited within our limited time.

    • Ardastra Gardens Zoo- The marching flamingos are the star of this garden. They provide a fun entertainment to visitors by marching in formation to commands. This zoo is also a Conservation centre which specializes in the conservation of Caribbean species including the endangered Bahamas Parrot and several species of iguanas.
Marching Flamingo at Ardastra Gradens
Marching Flamingo at Ardastra Gradens
    • Atlantis Paradise Island – Atlantis is a luxury hotel and an entertainment complex at the same time. It has massive aquarium and huge water park. It is great for the kids but adults young at heart will love the water park too.
Atlantis
Atlantis
    • Straw Market – As the name suggests, you will find a lot of souvenirs woven in straw from hats, mats and baskets. You will also find souvenirs such as wooden carvings (being carved on spot), colourful fabrics and many other tacky souvenirs as well as fake designers goods.
Straw Market
Straw Market
    • Queens Steps – The 66 steps were carved by slaves in the late 18th century popularly known as Queen’s Staircase. The staircase was named after Queen Victoria to honour her her role in abolishing slavery in the Bahamas.
Queen's Steps
Queen’s Steps
    • Junkanoo Beach - It is public beach closed to the Port. The view of the harbour where the Cruise Ships are all calmly lined up and the light house from the beach is stunning. The beach has the basic amenities and lined with colourful bars and restaurants where you could buy your delicious Bahamian cocktails and local conch as well as shops where you could hire beach chairs from.There are also a few pop up tables selling souvenirs.
Junkanoo Beach
Junkanoo Beach
    • Fort Montagu – Fort Montagu is a small fort of four cannons and the oldest fort in Nassau. It is at the eastern end of Nassau harbour along the waterfront. It was built from the local limestones and named after the Duke of Montagu.
Fort Montagu
Fort Montagu
    • Fort Charlotte – Fort Charlotte was built by the British to defend the island for supposedly a French invasion. The French must have been scared because they never came. A tour guide will take you around the Fort and provide a comprehensive Bahamas history lesson. The view from this spot is stunning.
Fort Charlotte
Fort Charlotte

Harbour Bridge from Lavander Bay

Harbour Bridge from Lavander Bay
Harbour Bridge from Lavander Bay
Harbour Bridge from Lavander Bay
Harbour Bridge from Lavander Bay

I go for a run during my lunchbreak at least three times a week. Running around Sydney Harbour is one of my favourite life’s simple pleasures. Not only it doesn’t cost me anything, it also makes me feel good as well as it makes me look good.

Stanwell Park

Bald Hill Lookout, Stanwell Tops, NSW
Bald Hill Lookout, Stanwell Tops, NSW
Stanwell Park Beach
Stanwell Park Beach
Sunset at Bald Hill Look Out
Sunset at Bald Hill Look Out
Locals
Locals
Sunset Stanwell Park Beach
Sunset Stanwell Park Beach
Sunset Stanwell Park Beach
Sunset Stanwell Park Beach

Stanwell Park is a picturesque coastal village and northern suburb of Wollongong in Australia. It takes about an hour to drive get to Stanwell Park from Sydney. It is situated in a small valley between Bald Hill to the north, Stanwell Tops to the west and Mount Mitchell to the south. The spectacular view of the South Coast from Bald Hill Lookout is just amazing. On a nice windy day, you will see many para gliders and hang gliders taking off from the lookout. And if you feel adventurous yourself, there are many tandem hang gliding operators waiting for you to have the time of your life taking off from the look out and landing at Stanwell Park Beach. The lookout is a popular spot for a stop-over to have a pit stop, coffee or ice cream whilst enjoying the view of the Ocean and South Coastline.

The Stanwell Park Beach can get crowded during warmer months as it is a fantastic spot for family picnics with its beautiful beach, huge picnic area and playground and a reasonably good kiosk for takeaway food and drinks.

TIP: Stay away from the hang gliding landing runway.

Avoca Beach

Avoca Rockpool
Avoca Rockpool
Lifesavers
Lifesavers
Avoca Headland
Avoca Headland
Avoca Headland
Avoca Headland
Avoca Beach
Avoca Beach
Local Restaurant by the Beach
Local Restaurant by the Beach

Avoca is in the Central Coast and it takes one-hour and a bit to drive north of Sydney to get to there.  Avoca Beach features rocky headlands at each end of a long, beautiful beach. It is a popular as a holiday destination, especially for families given the vibrant surf culture and a relaxed and friendly ambience. There are many actvities that you could do such as  fishing, beach walking, explore the nearby parks and headlands, or simply relax in a secret spot.

Old Bar

Old Bar Beach
Old Bar Beach
Sunset at Old Bar Beach
Sunset at Old Bar Beach
Old Bar, NSW
Old Bar, NSW
Old Bar Beach
Old Bar Beach
Hibiscus
Hibiscus

It’s so beautiful, we had to come back. Old Bar is three hours away from Sydney heading towards mid-North Coast. It is an attractive small fishing village. We again stayed literally on the beach.  It is a perfect location to go for a long weekend to wind down from a stressful week.  You can spend your weekend solely on walking along the beach, listening to the relaxing ocean waves from dusk till dawn.

TIP: It’s probably a good idea if you bring and cook your own food because there’s not many places to go for a nice meal unless you go to the other villages.

Beechworth

Main Street Shopping
Main Street Shopping
Beechworth
Beechworth
Beechworth Artwork
Beechworth Artwork
Beechworth Bakery
Beechworth Bakery
Arts and Crafts
Arts and Crafts
Horse Drawn Carriage
Horse Drawn Carriage
Ned Kelly Sculpture
Ned Kelly Sculpture

Travelling to Beechworth by car will take approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes from Melbourne.  It is a living legacy of a gold rush era and it is one of the best preserved gold rush towns with its carefully restored honey-coloured colonial buildings and historic precinct. The 19th century streets showcase an eclectic mix of collectables, handcrafts, galleries, cafes, old pubs, provedores and restaurants. There’s always something fascinating in one of those charming shops.

The little town offers a number of tourist attractions such as many family owned vineyards, the Beechworth Gorge, Woolshed Falls, national parks, the historic Rail Trail and gold diggings. We didn’t do any of that. We only stopped off at this town for lunch and to stretch our legs from a long drive. Going to Beechworth Bakery alone was certainly worth it.

TIP: You must try anything from the Beechworth Bakery.  Anything in that bakery is irresistible.

Echuca

Paddle Steamer on Murray River
Paddle Steamer on Murray River
Main Street
Main Street
Thong Tree
Thong Tree
Murray River
Murray River

I’d say, it’s in the middle of nowhere but it’s only 2 ½ hour drive from Melbourne. Echuca is situated on the Murray River and it is oddly known to be ‘the world’s paddle-steamer capital’  (I’m still thinking where else can one find a paddle-steamer? ) and it is apparently one of Victoria’s major tourist areas. If you have been to the Great Ocean Road, this would be a sure let-down unless you enjoy water-skiing or you like to spend your holidays on a houseboat.  It’s certainly not my cup of tea.  Honestly, how any times can you go on a paddle-steamer cruise on the brown-coloured Murray River?

Surprisingly, it is undeniably touristy at the Esplanade which is the dirt-road along the river. The town has an authentic old world charm to it and a good selection of restaurants and gourmet delis. I am quite happy not go back there.

TIP: If you feel obliged to do a paddle steamer cruise, a sunset  cruise would be a better choice.

Yarra Valley

Healesville
Healesville
Maroondah Dam
Maroondah Dam
Sunset Over the Valley
Sunset Over the Valley
Strawberry pickers
Strawberry pickers
Cherry Hill Orchard
Cherry Hill Orchard
Wall Art at Healesville
Wall Art at Healesville

Yarra valley is a pleasant one hour drive heading towards East of Melbourne. It is home to majority of Victorian wines.  It caters to visitors across the globe who would like to experience the three life’s greatest pleasures: 1) scrumptious food; 2) great wine and 3) stunning scenery of green rolling hills against a mountain backdrop.  Taste some wines at the quaint and welcoming vineyard cellar doors.  Dine in style and sample the region’s fresh local produce used by the renowned local chefs in preparing gourmet meals matching it with the locally produced wines at one of the beautiful restaurants scattered around the valley.

Whilst driving through the picturesque green valleys, we discovered many charming villages tucked into breathtaking scenery as well as the diverse range of accommodation from luxury resorts and spa to chic boutique retreat houses to self-contained cottages aiming to provide an ultimate relaxing break from the stress of daily life.

If you have kids (like myself) there’s also Healesville Sanctuary Wildlife Park that you could visit to keep them entertained for at least half a day. It is home to many native Australian birds and animals like platypus, koalas, Tasmanian devils, lyrebirds, echidnas and more.

Also, visitors don’t generally go to Yarra Valley to see a water reservoir, hence, Maroondah Reservoir Park is not known to many visitors. However, we were surprised (and so will you) by the magnificent panoramic views at the top of the dam wall. It’s an easy short garden walk to get to the top.

TIP: Try to visit when the local Farmer’s Market is on. It’s gourmet food on steroids.

Mornington Peninsula

Queenscliff Pier
Queenscliff Pier
Queenscliff
Queenscliff
Sorrento Pier
Sorrento Pier
Beach Huts at Dromano
Beach Huts at Dromano
Dromana Beach
Dromana Beach

The Mornington Peninsula is only an hour drive from Melbourne. Eventhough the humidity and hot weather is a little uncomfortable, I think Summer is the best time to come here because of its holiday resort vibe. We took a pleasant one hour ferry ride from Queenscliff to Sorrento. As soon as we arrived, I have noticed that the Peninsula has a Mediterranean feel to it. The vibe of the town is relaxed, happy and energetic. Sorrento in particular has similar aspects to an Italian seaside town (co-incidentally, the Peninsula has a geographical shape like Italy).  We travelled the stunning coastline and briefly stopped at a seaside village where we joyfully danced with the waves and felt the warm sand between our pedicured toes.  The beautiful white sand beaches are overly crowded with sun seekers and the chance of finding an empty car parking space is a lot slimmer than winning lotto. The beaches are occupied by many privately owned and colourful beach huts which is a popular subject in many tourist photography.

TIP: Book 12 months in advance if you want to visit this place in Summer.

View from the Ferry
View from the Ferry
View from the Ferry
View from the Ferry

Geelong

Big Wheel
Big Wheel
Cunningham Pier
Cunningham Pier
Pier
Cunningham Pier
Lifesavers Timber Sculptures
Lifesavers Timber Sculptures
Geelong
Geelong
Organ
Organ

Geelong is Victoria’s second largest city next to Melbourne. It’s the gateway city to the Bellarine Peninsula and the Great Ocean Road. Similar to Melbourne’s cosmopolitan culture, you will experience a diverse range of food & wine, cultural and recreational attractions and colonial history in this town.

Go for a nice relaxing stroll along Geelong’s stunning waterfront with many tourist attractions and displays of public art, beautifully manicured gardens, art deco-style pool, promenade complex,  restored pavilion at Eastern Beach and The Pier.

TIP: Get on the big wheel for a spectacular view of Geelong from the top.

Barrenjoey Headland

View from the Top
View from the Top
Sandstone Lighthouse at the Top
Sandstone Lighthouse at the Top
View of the ocean from the Lighthouse
View of the ocean from the Lighthouse
Stunning view from the top
Stunning view from the top
Local fauna
Local fauna
Local fauna
Local fauna

I have been to Palm Beach many times and I’ve always enjoyed a brunch at The Boathouse. I could actually see the lighthouse from The Boathouse, however, the vision of a total hard yakka hill-climbing is slightly off-putting. Then just recently, to make the most out of a Spring week blessed with blue sky and to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, I have spontaneously planned to do some coastal bush walking and this track came up in my Google search. Without hesitation, off I went with bells and whistles. Barrenjoey Headland is a fantastic 45-minute walk for those wanting a great walk on Sydney’s northern beaches. The entrance of the walk starts from the beach and will lead you to the lighthouse. The features of this track include views of the Central Coast, Palm Beach, South Pacific Ocean and the lighthouse itself. The view from the top of the hills is absolutely spectacular. Every angle you look is picturesque. Besides the amazing view and steep incline cardiovascular activity, there is also a slim chance that you might spot a B grade Home and Away celebrity. We only saw the film crews at the carpark.

Tip: Go and do the Barrenjoey Headland Walk when you are around the Northern Beaches and have a nice meal at The Boathouse afterwards. You will feel good after the walk, then you will feel better after your meal from the The Boathouse.

The Boathouse
The Boathouse

wpid-20140322_111725.jpg

Long wait
Long wait
View from our table...
View from our table…
Oranges
Oranges
Limes
Limes
Fresh Flowers
Fresh Flowers
Milkshake
Milkshake
Tea
Tea

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden

Sweeping view of the Blue Mountains from the Restaurant
Sweeping view of the Blue Mountains from the Restaurant
The Rock Garden
The Rock Garden
The Jungle at Lady Fairfax Walk
The Jungle at Lady Fairfax Walk
Luscious Rainforest
Luscious Rainforest

What would you rather? Get on a gym treadmill and watch the four corners of the gym whilst listening to your ipod or go for a bushwalk in a beautiful Botanic Garden and discover about 40,000 native, exotic and rare plants whilst breathing in the fresh and cool mountain air. Both activities will essentially and equally burn the same amount of calories and make you feel good. Okay, you don’t always have time to do some exercise let alone go for a drive somewhere then, exercise. The thing is this, when you go for a walk somewhere where you enjoy the surroundings around you, you don’t realize how long you have been walking and it doesn’t feel like you are actually exercising. What I’m trying to say is I get a little bored just power-walking around the block or doing lapses in a sports oval so I try to do things that involve a lot of walking and yet I get to enjoy my surrounding whatever that may be.

Hence, the pleasant one hour drive to the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden in Mount Tomah via Bilpin coming from Sydney North-West (where I live). It is 1.5 hours drive from Sydney. The Garden is Australia’s premier cool-climate botanic garden, meaning – plants not suited in Sydney climate can thrive here given that it is 1000 metres above the sea level. It is perfectly located in the world heritage-listed Greater Blue Mountains. As previously mentioned, the Garden is home to about 40,000 native, exotic and rare plants.

There’s a restaurant at the Visitor’s Centre where you can relax and sit down for a cup of coffee or a nice light meal before or after your independent or guided tour. (But was a bit surprised that they charged me extra 50 cents for soy milk and extra 50 cents for a decaf coffee – yeah, I’m tight that way). The restaurant (there’s also a view deck) has a sweeping view over the mountains. It is utterly stunning! (So, the extra dollar charge for my coffee was forgiven!)  The leisure walk around the garden is a sure way to relax and breathe in the fresh and cool mountain air. The different variety of flowers and plants in the Rock Garden is always good photography.

You don’t have to go very far in the Blue Mountains bushland to experience a little taste of rainforest. In this Garden, there’s a short 20-minute bush walk track called ‘The Jungle’. It may have been a short walk (for me anyway) but the feeling of tranquillity is lasting.

TIP: Autumn would a better time to go for a more eclectic mix of colours in the Garden.

Leocospermum
Leocospermum
Orange Flower
Orange Flower
Succulents
Succulents
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