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Trip Report Road trip to Canberra and Sydney

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We just completed a short ( 9 day) road trip from our home in Western Victoria to Sydney, via Beechworth and Canberra.
I'll paste the sections of the trip in the comments or you can read the daily posts with photos on my blog
http://demansersintheusa.blogspot.com.au

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    We haven’t had a road trip since our big adventure to the Red Centre last year, and we haven’t been to Sydney since before our 12yr old son, Taine, was born, and our September holiday buddy, Lyle, was desperate to try out a motorhome so this seemed an appropriate time to pack up the Kluger and head north for a week.

    Our first stop was Beechworth, Lyle’s old home town. Traveling around the ring road and out onto the Hume Highway, Beechworth is an easy 3 hr drive from Melbourne. We stayed at Lake Sambell , in a quaint little caravan park reminiscent of somewhere from a Lampoon’s pitstop. It has a home made mini golf course, a badminton net and a fascinating ‘hayride’ where a guy drags a cage full of kids around behind his four wheel motorbike! We stayed in a cabin – having cured our own motorhome itch in NZ many years ago– 9 days (on our honeymoon) with a 9 yr old- I still shudder when I think of it!

    The cabin was great, apart from the rock hard bed and the overnight temperature of .5 (weather app told me it felt like -3.5 at 6am). Unfortunately we didn’t find the spare blanket in the cupboard until after we’d shivered through the night .

    Traveling in our own vehicle has the added bonus of allowing us to bring our bikes on holiday and Beechworth is a beautiful place to ride. We set off this morning for a short ride down the Gorge Road, which Lyle assured us was gentle on both the descent and the ascent. Clearly her memory of this ride is a hangover from her teenage years, when no doubt it seemed like a gentle ride. By the time we reached the bottom my fingers were cramping from squeezing the brakes. At the bottom of the gorge is a lovely little pool fed by a waterfall, which in turn is fed with the icy water flowing down from the snow capped mountains. Maddy, Taine and Geoff all stripped off for a swim. Taine chickened out after 5 minutes but the others braved it long enough to get under the waterfall and out again.

    The (not so gentle) ascent gave me plenty of time to appreciate the beauty of the gorge because thigh burn forced me to walk the second half and by the time we reached town a trip to the famous Beechworth Bakery had well and truly been earned. The reputation of the bakery is well deserved. I had a Ned Kelly pie (oddly named because for sure Ned ate his meat pies topped with an egg, cheese and bacon!) and a bee-sting pastry that was more deliciousness than I could manage on my own, washed down with a bottomless cup of coffee.

    From there we spent a leisurely hour in the shops. The lolly shop was tempting but we were still too full from lunch so we feasted only with our eyes. The main street is book ended by honey shops, both full of all sorts of interesting honey products. I bought lots of honey. We also strolled down to the old convent, now a fascinating , 3 story, labyrinth of a guest house. If we weren’t at the Lake Sambell caravan park, that would be the place to stay.

    By the time we got back to the park our legs were a bit weary but we went for a walk around the lake anyway. Lake Sambell is a leftover byproduct from the Spring Creek gold diggings and the area around it has been lovingly landscaped by the local community. There’s a great playground and some interesting indigenous art work woven amongst the walking and cycle tracks. I imagine it is a really lovely place to be in the Summer.

    Taine made the most of the afore said activities, we sat in the sunshine and relaxed with our books and then we went to the bistro at the Hibernian Hotel for dinner. It was nothing special, an ok pub meal in pretty ordinary pub décor.

    Back at camp we hired a fire box, bought $15 worth of wood and shivered our way through a bag of toasted marshmallows and a bottle of red.

    Beechworth is very pretty and an interesting half way stop over on the way to Canberra. Hopefully we’ll have time to pick up another bee-sting on our way out tomorrow.

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    On the way out of Beechworth we made a stop at the bakery to grab a few supplies for the trip and then drove via Wentworth Falls for a squiz. This is a picturesque little spot, no doubt a summer haven for locals and tourists alike.

    We had a pit stop at the Dog on the Tuckerbox, 9 (or 5) miles from Gundagai to polish off the family sized bee sting we’d bought at the bakery. With Lee Kernaghan blasting from the café and bus loads of tourists flooding the area, I felt quite at home in my uggs and the Akubra I bought in Alice Springs. A little oasis of Australiana right there on the side of the highway.

    Accommodation is scarce in Canberra at this time of the year so we had booked into the Queanbeyan Riverside Caravan Park. Canberra is a beautifully set out, abeit kind of empty and sterile, city. Queanbeyan is like it’s bogan cousin who lives just down the road. The park brochure said the tourist park was ‘tranquil and leafy’. I guess we are just coming out of winter so I’m prepared to reserve judgement on the leafy bit and there are definitely pockets of tranquility here. A river runs through the back of the park. It has a lot of signs; no swimming, no boating, no fishing. It looks very dodgy so no one goes there. I can, therefore, imagine that it might be tranquil down there. Up here where our cabin is parked – I say parked because it’s sitting on blocks just waiting to be carted away – beside the major road, it’s a bit (very) noisy. Most of the residents are weekly permanents and Thursday must be pay day. When our neighbor arrived home at 4am, you could almost taste the tranquility!

    The plus side is that the local shopping mall is right next door so we were able to walk there to pick up a few necessities; pillows, a fleece rug because we’re freezing at night, some duct tape to cover the draught coming through the hole in the wall and a heater for Lyle and Mark because there isn’t one in their motorhome. Unfortunately there were NO heaters for sale at K Mart or Target because ‘Winter is over, we only have fans’. Dudes, it was 0C here last night. Run your stock by the weather, not the calendar.

    This morning we drove into Canberra and parked (for free) beside Lake Burley Griffin, unloaded our bikes and did almost the whole lake circuit. What a beautiful place for riding with 28kms of bike path taking in plenty of Canberra’s monumentsin their stride. We stopped at the Old Parliament House for our first coffee stop and then at Floriade for a peek at the flowers.

    Floriade is lovely and the admission price is excellent (it’s free). We were able to park our bikes at the entrance and just wander in. There’s a bit of everything at Floriade. It’s a bit like the Melbourne Show with flowers instead of horses, no crowds and reasonable prices for food and drink. We showed our appreciation by buying things; beautiful hanging chairs for Lyle & me (but shoosh because they’re being delivered for Christmas), hemp hats, again for Lyle and me and a lavender heat bag for Taine. Mark and Geoff bought a ridiculous amount of gourmet nuts and challenged each other to eat increasingly hot chilli samples. Small things ……

    From Floriade we rode ALL the way back around the lake through picturesque little groves of trees that I could not identify and through a mob of collared kangaroos who barely glanced up at us as we rode by. I was pretty impressed with my own survival of such a long ride and I would certainly recommend it to anyone else traveling to Canberra. The city is made to be seen by bicycle.

    A trip up the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain gave us the chance to see just how far we’d ridden. I guess a trip up the tower is important to get a bird’s eye of the city but it’s pretty tame compared to the Eureka Tower or Sky Tower (or Eiffel Tower – excuse my tower dropping).

    On the way home we stopped at Parliament House to see who was in charge today. It was closed for the business and there was no sign of Julia/Kevin/Bill/Tony or Malcolm but Taine did get to see the view down ANZAC drive toward the War Memorial.

    For dinner we walked across to the Canberra Raider’s Leagues Club. I had a parma that I think came from the breast of a pterodactyl; great value for money.
    Now it’s time to hunker down in our little cabin of serenity and watch the footy before we drive to Sydney tomorrow.

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    Lane Cove Tourist Park in Sydney is wedged between the cemetery and the crematorium and under a flight path. None of that looks particularly inviting on the map but the park is actually beautiful with the other boundary opening up onto the national park. After the cramped, cold and sparse conditions of the last couple of nights, the spacious 2 bedroom log cabin, complete with a full fridge and oven, lounge room furniture, split cycle air con, a queen sized bed AND pillows is palatial! We have a lovely outside deck that overlooks the national park and (with the exception of the planes overhead) no noisy neighbours or roadside noise. There is a prolific and friendly bird population, including a few huge bush turkeys who roam about at will.

    Yesterday we ventured into Sydney on the train. North Ryde station is only a 10 minute walk from the park and, as luck would have it, there’s a special family pass available on Sundays that gave us unlimited travel, all day, for just $2.50 each. Bargain!

    I think Sydney Harbour is spectacular and it doesn’t matter how many times you see it, it’s always an ‘ahhhh’ moment when you get a glimpse of the bridge and the Opera House. This was Taine’s first visit and he was suitably impressed.
    We went for a walk through the market at the Rocks, where, unless you are an overseas tourist there’s actually nothing to buy. I think every last ounce of Australianism has been wrung out to capture the tourist dollar; racing wooden kangaroos, 3D postage stamps, soap in every imaginable bush scent, gilded gum leaves, dubious health products derived from various native animal organs….
    We tried for a cup of coffee in a couple of hip/retro coffee shops but the wait time was 30 minutes just for coffee and the Devonshire tea (best scones in Sydney) was $14 a person.

    We pushed on to Circular Quay and used our bargain Sunday pass for a ferry ride around the harbor. This took us past Kirribilli House and Luna Park and gave us the money shots of both the bridge and the Opera House.

    For lunch we ate a little bit of food for quite a lot of money at the Opera House Kitchen on the water’s edge. Location, location and the food was pretty good too. A walk around Farm Cove and Government House presented an opportunity to give Taine a history lesson about European settlement and then we jumped on another ferry to Darling Harbour where we wandered around until it was time for an early dinner before making our way to the theatre to watch “ Matilda”.

    Matilda was every bit as good as we expected it to be. Tim Minchin is a genius and the young cast pulled off his lyrics perfectly. We had learnt a couple of the songs for State School Spectacular last year so it was fun to sing along with ‘When I grow up’ and ‘Revolting Children’.

    To get home we had to take the light rail to Central and then wait awhile for a train back to North Ryde. Not quite as efficient as the Metro or Underground but much cleaner and an easier to use system than Myki and our Sunday pass meant that each of our trips for the day worked out to be 50c each. Pretty good value!

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    On the map it looks like a long and windy drive to the Blue Mountains. In fact it’s a really simple, one hour run along the M2 from Lane Cove to Katoomba, so leaving at 9am gave us a full day to take in the rugged beauty of this area.
    We based ourselves at ‘Scenic World’. This is an apt, if unoriginal name. Scenic World boundaries the gorge with amazing views out to Echo Point, the Three Sisters and Orphan Rock. For $35 per person you have unlimited use of the cable car, gondola and scenic train (the steepest in the world apparently).

    I must admit I wasn’t looking forward to the day; my overwhelming fear of heights doesn’t really sit well with cable cars, gondolas suspended over gorges, or trains that plummet at a 52 degree angle down the mountainside! However, I was determined to enjoy myself and with a bit of mindfulness and self talk, I managed the day quite well – I even did the train ride twice!

    From the bottom of the train track there is a fantastic boardwalk that takes you right down into the valley and up again, past the old coal mines and through the rainforest. It’s quite stunning.

    The view from the other side of the valley, at Echo Point, is equally stunning; Australia’s own Grand Canyon’ish’ view. It was the end of a long day so we didn’t do any walks from there but if you had a few days to spend in the mountains you would certainly walk out to the Three Sisters.

    By the time we got back to Lane Cove there was just time to pick up food for dinner and admire the super moon leering down on us through the gum trees at the park.

    This morning we woke up early with our friendly parakeets joined by a couple of kookaburras wanting to share our breakfast.

    We have kids from our school riding at the National Interschools’ Equestrian Championships so we headed over to Hornsby for a quick look at the horses. What an amazing venue the Sydney Equestrian Centre is! Built for the 2000 Olympics, it covers hectares with beautiful indoor and outdoor arenas, and a cross country course built into the natural bush, just metres from the Motorway. We were lucky enough to see Lizzy and Asha both ride clear rounds and place 3rd and 6th in today’s event. It was quite thrilling to hear them read out ‘respresenting Mortlake College’ twice in the one presentation ceremony!

    From there it was back to the Macquarie Shopping Centre to pick me up a new iPhone. It’s hard to believe how quickly those two contract years come and go but Taine is now the happy recipient of my hand me down and I’m pretty happy with the improved camera and extra 64 gb of storage on my new 6s.

    Back at the park we finally found time to venture into the national park. The path from the caravan park wends its way along the river and is populated with lots of little BBQ and picnic spots. We saw a variety of birds and several huge lizards who were very non plussed with our appearance. Taine and Geoff had a very quick swim ( the water was freezing) and then we enjoyed Lyle’s home cooked chicken casserole for dinner.

    Unfortunately it will be time to go home tomorrow. I’d certainly come back to Lane Cove. You could easily spend a week here.

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    Thanks for the report Kwaussie. It was interesting to read what all you chose to do, particularly as we did a very similar Canberra/Sydney road trip out of Melbourne late last year (my first out of state road trip, as an transplant to Aus. We didn't include Beechworth area, as we'd been recently on a separate trip).

    You've given some good ideas for the next time we go back. We missed a lot, as one does when there's not enough time. I agree - Canberra is very nicely laid out. That came as a pleasure (everyone bad mouthed Canberra for some reason).

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