Blue Mountains/Hunter Valley - Australia

Old May 29th, 2010, 10:49 AM
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Blue Mountains/Hunter Valley - Australia

Hello,

My husband and I are departing in late June on a RTW trip that will include a stop in Sydney. A few days after we arrive, we are renting a car and driving to the Blue Mountains, with an overnight there, then driving up to the Hunter Valley for two nights, then over to the coast for an overnight at Nelson's Bay, then back to Sydney for two more days. (I'll post any Sydney questions under a separate topic, as I do more research).

-- Does anyone have suggestions for lunch or dinner for restaurants that are less expensive (hoping for $15 - $20 US dollar range for a main course, or less, if such places exist) in the Blue Mountains or Hunter Valley? As this is a long trip for us (5 1/2 weeks) , we don't want to spend exorbitantly on meals.

-- Blue Mountains- I have planned for us to do either the Scenic Cableway or Scenic Skyway at Katoomba-any opinion on which is better? Is the walk to Echo Point a very long one? We are in very good physical shape, but I don't want to spend a huge amount of time on one long hike-want to see as much of the area as we can. Are there any other walks/hikes that would be scenic and take an hour or two max, round trip? We also plan to drive the Cliff Drive from Leura to Katoomba. Are there any other scenic drives that we might do? We will have the bulk of arrival day here, and up to lunchtime/early afternoon the following day before we drive up to the Hunter Valley

--Hunter Valley-We will tour and visit several wineries during our 2 days there, but are there any other off-the-beaten-track things of interest to do in the area?

Thanks so much in advance for any help you can give!
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Old May 29th, 2010, 05:19 PM
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For the Blue Moutains, if you are going on the weekend avoid the Echo Point walk that's the main place tourists and tourist buses congregate.

I'd recommend going on a walk further up the mountains around Blackheath or lower down at Glenbrook. At Euroka Clearing, near Glenbrook, you can usually see kangaroos. Also there's the Aboriginal Red Hand Cave there. Stop at the information centre to pick up free walking guides.

The Cableway and Skyway are tourist gimmicks, I've been on one of them (can't remember which) and didn't really think it was anything special. I'm not sure you get that much more of a view than you do from the many lookouts.

As the US dollar is now fairly close to the AUD, with the budget you are describing, you can certainly get a meal in a cafe or a pub.
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Old May 30th, 2010, 06:59 AM
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Thank you, Susan! I think, fortunately, we will be in the Blue Mountains mid-week...we lucked out on that bit of planning, it sounds like! Are the lookouts well marked along the road or will the information center have a guide for those as well?

We will definitely go to the Euroka Clearing--I'd love to see some kangaroos and the cave!
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Old May 30th, 2010, 02:25 PM
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Hi Florida1,

Looks like a great loop - you've picked some of my favourite spots. When will you be here? There are quite often interesting exhibitions/festivals/garden & art shows that might add to the local experience for you.

Are you going direct from the Blue Mountains across to the Hunter Valley (Blackheath to Pokolbin, for instance) or will you come back to Sydney & go up via the F3?

This is quite a good link for the Hunter Valley http://www.winecountry.com.au/LocalCommunities

It's easy to blow the budget on food on long trips, but we're fortunate in having good quality food at reasonable prices in a wide variety of places.* There are some "dine in the vines" options that can be wonderful on a sunny day and needn't be the National Debt.

Our restaurants, bistros & pubs are used to people sharing dishes, a good way of keeping costs down & still eating good quality in nice places. I often find an entree size ("appetiser" if you're North American) is quite adequate as a main.

As you'll be driving, you might consider buying some basic supplies & providing your own breakfasts; having a picnic, tea/coffee breaks occasionally. Our supermarkets(Coles,Woolworths) all sell cutlery,crockery etc., in single units and it's not expensive to put a simple picnic box together in a plastic container. You can buy a cheap esky (polystyrene container that keeps things hot/cold), some ice at a liquor store or petrol station - and there's your mobile refrigerator.

* Of course we also have $$$$$$$ restaurants and a few very ordinary places too, but it's not difficult to find a good quality/cost match. As a guide, I find Sydney:NYC prices about dollar-for-dollar for similar standard food/venue, but tipping is not mandatory here and with the AUD in the mid 80's at the moment, you get a conversion break as well.


Drop into Morpeth on your way across to Nelson Bay. It oozes charm, history and you might even run into a hippy hitching his horse to a post outside the pub. http://www.visitnsw.com/town/Morpeth.aspx
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Old May 30th, 2010, 03:39 PM
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Thanks for your suggestions, Bokhara2! We will arrive in Sydney on June 26, and spend 3 nights there. We are in the Blue Mountains the night of the 29th of June, Hunter Valley on June 30 & July 1, and Nelson's Bay on July 2, then back to Sydney for 2 nights. We'd love to know about local festivals or shows! If you know of any, please post them here! We will drive straight from the Blue Mountains over to the Hunter Valley without going back into Sydney.

I will check out the links you provided for Hunter Valley-would love to do a "dine in the vines" somewhere. I'll check out the website you kindly provided for me-will it list options for this there? And the picnic idea is great-it seems like the national parks and scenic drives will lend themselves to wonderful picnics!

Morpeth looks like a great stop on the way to Nelson Bay-I've already printed out information from your link to put in my "Australia folder" for the trip!

Thank you again for your help! It's our first trip (and hopefully not last) to Australia-the more I read, the more I want to see and do there!
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Old May 30th, 2010, 05:56 PM
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Hunter Valley: http://www.thehunterblackboard.com/events

Blue Mountains: http://www.visitbluemountains.com.au/events.php

And, you're most welcome; love to see people getting out & about & spending a few days here & there, rather than trying to see the whole country in a week.
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Old May 31st, 2010, 12:50 AM
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The last time I was in Euroka Clearing there wasn't a kangaroo / wallaby / wombat or any other critter to be seen. I've seen plenty before. Talk about feel cheated!

It's a goodly drive between the Mountains and the Hunter Valley - I was just having a look on google maps. If you have the time, and are confident enough about driving on winding roads, the Putty Road, further inland than the main highway north, is a pleasant drive, mostly through bushland. And you don't need to come back, almost to Sydney, to get on it. You can take the Bells Line of Road through Kurrajong and nip across to the Putty Road. Less traffic, too. (careful in wet weather - this is not a 6 lane highway - although it is a sealed road)
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Old May 31st, 2010, 06:04 AM
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Thanks for the links, Bokhara2! I'll be going through both of those today. I can't imagine trying to see all of Australia in a week! I can see us making many trips back!

Thank you for the driving suggestion, margo! Winding roads don't bother us--we have done some mountain driving--so we may go by the Putty Road -- sounds like an interesting, scenic drive!
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Old May 31st, 2010, 03:34 PM
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margo's suggestion of the Putty Road route is a good one if you're not in a big rush. The roads are no worse than some I've driven in the US, especially the Pacific Coast Highway north of SF and back roads in hilly areas like Vermont.

(Obviously you'll need a decent road map to make sense of what follows, and you may wish to arm yourself with a GPS when you rent your car.)

As margo suggests you could take the Great Western Highway and Bells Line of Road from Katoomba, thorugh Mt Victoria, Bell and Bilpin to Windsor and Richmond, the principal towns of the Hawkesbury Valley. Putty Rad runs north from the village of Wilberforce, a few kilometers north of Windsor.

A somewhat shorter alternative is to take the Great Western Hwy east to Springwood in the central Blue Mts and hang a left onto Hawkesbury Road, which will take you straight down to Richmond. A few hairpin bends (switchbacks) but nothing to sweat over.

The Hawkesbury Valley is historic by Australian standards, being the third British settlement in the 1790s after Sydney and Parramatta, and becoming the breadbasket for the hungry colony. You could stop off for a coffee in Windsor and visit the Hawkesbury Museum and Tourist Centre. There are several well-preserved Georgian buildings in the town, including St Matthew's Church and Rectory, the Macquarie Inn and the Court House in North Street.

Actually, all three routes/areas mentioned have significance for the history of the colony of New South Wales. The Great Western Highway resulted from the first pioneering trek over the Blue Mountains, which led to the opening up of the Central Western plains; the Hawkesbury River Valley as mentioned; and the Putty Road allowed road access from the Hawkesbury north to the pastoral lands of the Hunter Valley.
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Old May 31st, 2010, 06:51 PM
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Thanks for even more great information, Neil_Oz! So many interesting areas and drives, so little time! Sounds like we have some thinking to do about which route to take. I really appreciate all this inside information--great stuff that isn't in the guidebooks!

Thanks again to everyone who has taken the time to help me! I am really enjoying planning this trip, but it is making me realize there is so much to see and do in Australia--I knew there was a lot, but I am nearly overwhelmed! Oh well, I guess we'll have to start planning our next trip back as soon as we get home from this one!
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Old May 31st, 2010, 07:16 PM
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Florida1, the NRMA (National Roads & Motorists' Association [Australia]) has a good range of regional maps at very reasonable prices. 74-76 King Street (cnr George & King Streets) in the CBD. Good idea to have a map as well as a GPS because, as I have found with my super-dooper expensive upgraded European model, they are not infallible.

The Sydney Visitors Centre in the Rocks is also a good source of information, maps, brochures etc. http://www.sydney.com/town/The_Rocks...ocks/info.aspx

Right opposite is Wine Odyssey; great spot to sample some Australian wines (you can have as little as 1/4 glass), learn about the various regions and some excellent food too, if you wish. http://www.wineodyssey.com.au/Default.asp?c=11244
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Old Jun 1st, 2010, 12:50 AM
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Hi Florida1

In the Hunter Valley, you get an excellent view over the whole area from Wilkinson Winery, on Debeyers Road Pokolbin. This winery is happy for you to bring your own picnic eats & enjoy the grassy expanse (complete with shade trees). See www.audreywilkinson.com.au

There's a little group of shops at Pokolbin Village (see www.pokolbinvillage.com.au/page.asp?pID=216 ) where you can pick up some excellent local specialty food.

When you reach the Hunter area - or perhaps even in Sydney - you can pick up a copy of the Hunter Valley Tourist Guide. This has an excellent map of the area, plus plenty of glossy pics of where to taste wines, eat, stay etc.

In Nelson Bay are you planning to take a cruise to see the whales? They are now heading up the coast, and there are a number of cruise boats that go out each day to spot them. The website www.portstephens.org.au has plenty of info about activities in the area.

Happy travels, Di
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Old Jun 1st, 2010, 08:12 PM
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If you're travelling east from Lithgow on the Bells Line of Road, towards the Putt Road, you can make a left turn at Kurrajong, along Comleroy Road. This joins the Putty Road. It does, however, mean you miss the historic towns of Richmond and Windsor.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 07:34 AM
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Thank you all again for even more great information!!

Bokhara-our GPS machines here in the US don't always steer us correctly either! Will definitely arm ourselves with maps from the places you suggest! Wine Odyssey sounds great too!

Di-the picnic at Wilkinson Winery sounds great-as does their museum!

I had thought we might take a whale watching cruise at Nelson Bay, especially if there was a good chance we might see one! Sounds like our timing might be right! Thanks for the website links!
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Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 05:32 PM
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"If you're travelling east from Lithgow on the Bells Line of Road, towards the Putty Road, you can make a left turn at Kurrajong, along Comleroy Road. This joins the Putty Road..."

With this minor amendment (based on having in-laws living in the area) that on Comleroy Road you'll eventually come to a RH turn onto Blaxlands Ridge Road, and rather than staying on Comleroy Road at that point you should take that turnoff, which will join up with the Putty Road north of the small town of Wilberforce (trivia - named by Gov. Macquarie in honour of the great English reformer who battled and overcame the slave trade).

Actually before that point there's a RH turn onto East Kurrajong Road - don't worry if you take that one, as it also connects to the Putty Road.

Google "map kurrajong" and open the Google map - all will be clear(ish).
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Old Jun 5th, 2010, 08:54 PM
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Well, I was close.....
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Old Jun 6th, 2010, 01:22 AM
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Margo, from grim experience (I grew up in the Hawkesbury) sometimes you need to be better than close - here there be yowies...
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Old Jun 6th, 2010, 02:23 AM
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.. and don't forget that black panther up there in them thar hills!
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Old Jun 6th, 2010, 04:09 AM
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No-one has mentioned the National Pass which is a bush walk around the cliffs in the Wentworth Falls area-(you actually cross the falls) - As a Sydney-ite I have walked this on a number of occasions and I suggest you call at the Information centre at Glenbrook for advice re this (it may take longer than the time you wish to allocate to a walk, but is very scenic) and to get general maps & info. re the Mountains.

Hope you enjoy your visit!!
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