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Homestays in New South Wales (NSW), Australia
When my parents asked me to help plan a 10 to 14 days free and easy drive from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia, for the December holidays, one of my first thoughts was to book a caravan. That would easily settle both the accommodation and the medium of transportation for the trip. Thus, I went online to search about the costs of renting a caravan and was horrified when I looked at the exorbitant prices. Apparently, December was not the best month to book a caravan as it was the holiday season especially with the Christmas spirit in the air. Also, I read up more on the high fuel consumption and parking issues that come with driving a caravan and found that many reviews included complaints about the inconvenience of searching for holiday parks.
After further discussion with my parents, we decided against renting a caravan. Thus, we had to rent a car and plan our route and itinerary properly so that our vacation would go on smoothly. We booked a Toyota Camri for a fraction of the costs that would have been incurred when renting a caravan and we all agreed that we wanted to spend half of the time in New South Wales (NSW) and the other half in Victoria, Australia. This hub will mainly be about the wonderful accommodation experiences we had as a family for the first half of the trip within the NSW territory.
1. Chittaway Bay
1. Cottage in Chittaway Bay near The Entrance / Gosford
Cosy cottage at Chittaway Bay
On our arrival in Sydney after a 7+ hours flight from Singapore, my family was fetched by the East Coast Car Rental Company and we then settled the paperwork and administrative processes for the rental of the Toyota Camri. It took a bit longer than one would like possibly because we wanted to rent from Sydney and return it to their Melbourne branch.
After setting up the GPS, we took a short drive towards the Sydney city centre to see the Opera house (as seen in the poster above) and do a bit of shopping at the The Rocks Market. We had a good time exploring the most populous city in Australia and had the opportunity to visit the Australian Contemporary Art museum for free just before 5pm when most shops and museums close.
Getting hungry, we bought some seafood snacks for takeaway at the Sydney harbour and started our drive up north, passing by Gosford to a small town near the Tuggerah Lake called Chittaway Bay. We had arranged for a 3 nights stay there with a family friend. The couple who hosted us, M & W, were very welcoming and even cooked up a wonderful dinner for my family as we arrived at their place at nightfall. We had delicious 'surf and turf' for dinner which consisted of some well done pieces of meat, some prawns and yummy mashed potato. We were even offered desserts after dinner. We were then shown to our separate rooms and was informed that there will be hot water for us to shower before our well deserved rest. To top it all of, Ms W was very kind to prepare for my parents given their choice of hot tea and my younger brother and I had hot chocolate before we knocked off for the night.
The next few days passed by fast, a bit too fast. We had tasty tuna melts for breakfasts to start off our days. As Mr M was working, Ms W joined us in our car as she showed us around her hometown. She is friendly and easy to talk to so we enjoyed her company very much. We were brought to experience live Pelican feeding, some outlets shopping, and more sight seeing of the lakes and coasts. We went back to her place for dinner as she cooked up some pasta and her husband cooked some spicy chicken slices to go along with the main dish. They had the ability to cook western style meals that catered well to Asian tastes. Following that scrumptious dinner that second night, we had a fun time prawning at The Entrance. The prawning experience was definitely different from anything one would have in Singapore as we had to go into knee deep water in the pitch darkness with flashlights in hand and nets to scoop up prawns which were being swept away from the lakes towards the sea by strong currents. Although we did not catch much by their standards, Mr M and Ms W were very accommodating to our requests of extending the prawning experience. We truly had a good time and stopped by 11pm as Mr M had work early the next day. That experience was simply one of the highlights of our trip.
The folowing day we had toasts for breakfast and spent the day outdoors for more sightseeing. We went to shop for food supplies near Gosford and even had some time at the beach where the water was clean and clear but very chilly. Tired after a long day of exploring the area, we then had lamb for dinner after tasting some amazing cheese with its complements on the cheese platter as appetizers. We had a mini ice-cream buffet with flavours ranging from Salted caramel to Peanut butter. That guaranteed a good night's sleep.
Sadly, we had to leave for our next place of accommodation the next day. Our kind hosts had packed fried rice for our brunch and some supplies for the rest of our trip. They even offered us their cooler bags to store the items that they gave. We were touched and ran out of words to describe the kindness bestowed on us. We offered some gifts in return and was quickly asked to come back again in the future. Their hospitality and generosity was greatly appreciated and we hope to keep in touch with them in time to come.
2. Cabin in Wedderburn near Campbelltown
Secluded cabin in the woods at Wedderburn
The drive towards the cabin in the woods at Wedderburn near Campbelltown went rather smoothly. We planned and timed our stops near Sydney so that we would reach the place before nightfall as it can get pretty dark and difficult to drive in the woods at night as informed in advanced by out next hosts. This cabin is a second home to an Australian family of 4 who we found on Airbnb.com. Putting the given address on the GPS, we were easily able to navigate our way to the cabin despite it being off the nearest town or street. Apparently, the area where we stayed housed an artist community who preferred living in seclusion. The hosts Mr D and Ms L welcomed us on our arrival and gave us some tips on what to look out for and how to maximise the stay
The cabin as you can see in the pictures above is actually not too bad. Although the exterior may seem intimidating, the interior design is quite fancy and I must say that the hosts did a good job in ensuring that the cabin was a good place for rent. There were enough beds for the 4 of us and there was even a small hangout area on a lookout-like space on the second floor. The dining area and kitchen had a transparent glass panel stretching across the wall horizontally from one end to another. Some parts of the house had translucent zinc roof tat allowed sunlight to shine inside and reducing the need for lighting during daytime. Another special thing we noticed was that the toilet was a special compost based one with no need for flushing. The cabin definitely awed me but the bugs that come in through some of the gaps in the doors did irk my brother and mother a bit. After having noodles for dinner, all of us had a good rest with the sound of nature singing us a lullaby.
I woke up to the sounds of loud bellowing and grunting outside. It was actually the sound that wild koalas make as Mr D did mention previously that we could spot wild koalas if we are lucky but if we do not we almost surely will hear them make a sound that does not befit their appearance. I would recommend you to google or search on YouTube (or copy paste this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPdaU9A-RqU) the sound a koala makes and I think you will be surprised as well. After having some toasts for breakfast and making some sandwiched as packed lunch, we headed off to the Blue Mountains territory which was already relatively nearby. When we were there, we hiked a bit and captured breathtaking views of the Wentworth Falls and the '3 Sisters'. We also checked out the Katoomba Scenic World where we got to ride cable cars from one cliff to another as well as a scary steep railway ride that descended with a 52 degress incline to the Jamison Valley which used to be mined. The rides were definitely worth the money and time taken to get there as the view was surreal and even recalling the experience now brings shivers down my spine.
As we left the Blue Mountain territory when it was around 5pm we had to start our drive back lest it gets dark and difficult to drive. We stopped to get takeaway Kebabs and was lucky that we were in Australia during the Summer when the days are longer. We reached the cabin just before nightfall which was about 8+pm. That night we packed up our stuffs and prepared for our drive towards the next place of accommodation.
The next morning, our hosts greeted us and we thanked them for the interesting experience and stay in their cabin. They welcomed us back again in the future and suggested that we take the scenic route or coastal drive south towards Batehaven. We listened to their words of advice and truly enjoyed the coastal drive along the Sea Cliff Bridge. We stopped by Wollongong for lunch and a short rest by the 'The Gong ' harbour before continuing our journey to the private apartment along Beach Rd in Batehaven.
3. Apartment in Batehaven near Bateman's Bay
Lovely seaside apartment at Batehaven
The apartment is a lovely place with a balcony facing the sea near Bateman's Bay. There was a swimming pool for our usage and a carnival was being set up in a field within walking distance. It was nice that we had a private garage with shutters to park our car as we unpacked for a longer stay there.
One of the main reasons we reserved apartments or whole homes through Airbnb was because of the kitchen. My mother would normally cook up tasty meals with the limited supplies we bought or brought in advanced. Hence, as we reached the apartment relatively early, my mother prepared for us seafood noodles and hot chocolate to go with it. We went to bed all full and excited for the upcoming days which we would spend exploring the capital of Australia, Canberra.
Canberra which is not too far away from Bateman's Bay (as observable in the map above), had lots to offer tourists. We had to pick and choose which ones we wanted to go to as shops and museums close by around 5pm (again). We left Batehaven after breakfast and reached Canberra at noon. As it was on a Saturday, there were weekend markets where there were handicrafts and homemade items for sale. We went to the Old Bus Depot Markets and EPIC (Exhibition Park in Canberra) to shop for souvenirs and unique mementos. We also went to 'Questacon', the Science Centre there and actually got free entry as it was close to closing time. I had a good time learning through playing with the interactive displays and there was also a special exhibition on spiders where I tried to look out for the ones that I saw while walking around the woods during the cabin stay. We then set out walking around the park and drove through the shaded streets near the parliament building before stopping by the Canberra Mosque which was situated near many foreign embassies. The drive back was smooth as well as the roads leading to and from the capital were well maintained.
The next day we went to the Mogo zoo which was a private run one where we had the chance to feed giraffes and see some exotic and rare animals. We then headed to an Opal and Shell Museum which had an exhibition of treasures from the deep. That night we had good and fresh seafood for dinner at the Innes' Boatshed at Bateman's Bay. We could actually choose the fresh fish, squids and prawns before they were fried for us in our fantastic fishermen platter.
That summed up our stay in the state of NSW and we left with smiles on our faces on our next adventure to Victoria,
Driving to the state of Victoria, Australia
The drive down south took a bit longer than expected as we had plenty of stops and took the coastal routes when possible to enjoy the drive. I shall continue the sharing of the 2nd half of the trip another time. Hope you enjoyed the read.