With the Whitsundays being so close to the Great Barrier Reef, it seemed only right that we visit the worlds largest coral reef system and one of the natural wonders of the world. The Reef is composed of 2,900 individual reefs and stretches for over 2,300km along the North Queensland coast.
After looking into the different tour options we decided on a trip out to Hardy Reef, where we spent half a day on Cruise Whitsunday’s Heart Pontoon, which we had been told provides a unique way to explore the reef. It was an early start, and after a quick breakfast we made the short drive to the Port of Airlie, ready for departure.
The journey out to the reef took just over two hours, and despite the high winds, we decided to brave our chances on the very exposed top deck, taking in some great views of the Whitsundays as we travelled past. Some clearly enjoyed the journey less than others, and we were thankful not to be among the seasick passengers leaning over the back of the boat.
As we arrived at Hardy Reef, we first passed an older Pontoon, now in a state of disrepair having been badly damaged by Tropical Cyclone Debbie in March 2017. The new Pontoon is moored nearby and is located 39 nautical miles off the coast of mainland Australia.
Back in October we went on our first holiday since arriving in Sydney in June, spending five nights in Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands.
With Rachael’s parents, Paul and Lorraine, arriving in Australia to visit us, we decided it would be a great place for them to start their four week tour, before travelling back with us to Sydney.
The Whitsundays are a collection of 74 islands, located just off the coast of North Queensland. The islands are one of Queensland’s most popular tourist destinations, renowned not only for white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, but also as a great place from which to explore the Great Barrier Reef.
While a number of the islands offer accommodation, most notably Hamilton Island, we decided to stay on the mainland, finding a great Eco Cabin just a short drive from Airlie Beach. Surrounded by thick bushland and lots of friendly native animals, including wild turkeys and wallabies (but thankfully no crocodiles), it was a great introduction to Aussie life.
We decided to visit another of the National Parks surrounding Sydney with a trip to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Located just 25km north of the CBD, the park is very popular for a quick weekend escape from the city, with campsites also available for longer stays.
Our day started in Brooklyn, which is actually just north of the parks boundaries and located on the Hawkesbury River. Arriving at the Marina, we arranged to hire a small ‘tinny’ boat for two hours, which cost a very reasonable $70 (£44). After a very quick tutorial we were on our way out onto the river.
After lots of day trips out of Sydney, we decided to go a little further afield for our first Australian camping trip, heading a few hours south along the coast, past Jervis Bay, to Meroo National Park. Setting off on Saturday morning, we hit the road early in the hope of avoiding the worst of the traffic from the routine weekend exodus from the city.
With just a short breakfast stop in the picturesque little town of Berry, we arrived at Meroo campsite mid-morning and immediately began setting up camp. With the campsite well into the forest, and just a small number of fellow campers, there was a great remote feel to the place.
We made the trip with our friends Becki and James, who let us use their spare tent, as well as bringing a stovel and even more importantly – a hammock!
With Rachael’s working well outside of Sydney, she has been fortunate to receive a company car – a very sporty looking white Kia Cerato Sedan.
While making her commutes considerably easier, this has also meant we have been able to do lots of exploring outside of the city, without having to rely on the public transport network. With a ton of things to see and do within a two hour drive of Sydney, we have been trying to join the crowds heading out of the city at least one day every weekend.
One of the most popular weekend getaways for Sydneysiders is the Royal National Park, which is located just 29km south of the CBD. The Park was founded in 1879, and is the second oldest in the world (after Yellowstone). We made the short journey from Glebe and spent a day exploring the vast and beautiful park.
Our recent Sundays have been spent making the most of Transport NSW’s generous offer of unlimited travel all day for just $2.50 (£1.60). This includes all trains, buses as well as Sydney’s extensive ferry network, making it a great, cost effective way to explore more of the State.
Cockatoo Island, the largest of the seven islands situated within Sydney Harbour, is just a short ferry journey from Circular Quay, and seemed a great place to spend a Sunday morning, ensuring we took the early ferry to avoid the crowds.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Island has a lengthy history (for Australia anyway), and was opened to tourists only as recently as 2007. Much to Rachael’s excitement, after the colonisation of Australia, the island was originally used as a prison, housing convicts transferred from the overcrowded Norfolk Island. Continue reading
It was recently announced that Sydney has dropped out of the Economist magazine’s global top 10 liveable cities, plummeting all the way to 11th out of the 140 cities surveyed in 2017. However, despite this terrible result (London came 53rd) we still couldn’t be happier with our choice to live here!
Our first few months in Sydney have mostly been spent exploring as much of the city as possible. It has been a very mild winter (according to the Aussie’s in my office anyway), and we have tried to make the most of winter sunshine by enjoying lots of coastal walks.
After spending our first four weeks in Sydney living in Bondi, we were sure to revisit the famous Bondi to Coogee coastal several times. Although we had walked the route already while travelling, it was great to do it again, especially with it being so much quieter on weekdays, and the early morning lighting made the views all the more impressive. Continue reading