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Wooed by Wollongong in New South Wales

It’s a beachside destination that is sure to take your breath away. Located an hour’s drive from Sydney is Wollongong, a holiday hotspot for Sydney-siders after a weekend or full-time coastal escape. Boasting a relaxed vibe, incredible beaches (perfect for surfing and swimming), rockpools, ocean baths, BBQ parklands and scenic walking tracks – ‘The Gong’ as it’s known has plenty to offer every type of traveller.

Wollongong in New South Wales Travel Live Learn

It was during a day trip that I stopped by to see what all the fuss is about. I’ve heard numerous people say it was a must-do destination in New South Wales and they weren’t wrong. Only downfall to my visit was not spending more time there, as there was so much to see and do.

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Here is how Wollongong wooed a city slicker like me to want to escape to the coast:

The beach is your backyard

Being situated right on the coast overlooking the Tasman Sea, it’s no surprise that the main activities and attractions for Wollongong are water-based. From learning to surf its crystal clear waves to snorkeling its lively reefs to frolicking in its ocean baths, locals and tourists alike love soaking up Wollongong’s beach lifestyle.

Wollongong in New South Wales Travel Live Learn

I spent most of the day exploring and unwinding on Wollongong City Beach. Only walking distance from the city centre, this pure white sandy beach spanned for kilometres, allowing beach-goers enough space to unwind and sprawl out unlike most of Sydney’s beaches.

At the top of Wollongong City Beach is a lush green lighthouse lookout area. From this point you can see right out to the ocean horizon, see surfers riding the ocean waves below, and also catch a glimpse of snorkellers lapping up the rocky reef waters.

Wollongong in New South Wales Travel Live Learn

A spiritual experience

One of Wollongong’s most renowned attractions is the Nan Tien Temple. Opening in 1995, this Buddhist Temple is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and has thousands of visitors each year. Only a 10-minute drive from the city, the Nan Tien Temple is an unforgettable spiritual attraction featuring grandeur architecture, artwork and splendid gardens and lotus ponds.

It’s a great spot to roam around and learn more about the Buddhist culture and its various temples and sites. The main temple area is quiet spectacular featuring intrinsic artwork, manicured lawns and my favourite, a large gold wishing tree. Here you’re able to purchase a wish ribbon for the year ahead, which is thrown onto the tree to hang.

TIP: Ensure you wear appropriate clothing (skirts/shorts below the knee and no midriff or spaghetti strap tops, they need to cover the shoulders and torso).

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Grazing at Graze Cafe

After a busy day soaking up the sea and Wollongong’s Buddhist culture, a trip to one of city’s newest balcony restaurants was in order. Graze Café located on the main shopping strip, Crown Street – it boasts a Mediterranean atmosphere and has lovely balcony views of the mall. The staff are welcoming and the dishes are both warmly and deliciously prepared. From beef medallions; smoked salmon pasta; Tuscan salad; and fluffy Nutella pancakes, the food at Graze Café is pretty irresistible.

Wollongong in New South Wales Travel Live Learn

During my visit, I couldn’t help but try and demolish both the Angus beef burger with waffle fries, and the Philly steak sub with cheese and bacon melted fries. And, didn’t these go down like a treat! Even if you’re not in the mood for a meal, this spot is still a nice place to grab a drink or coffee, and simply watch the world/shoppers go by.

Wollongong in New South Wales Travel Live Learn

Have you been wooed by Wollongong in New South Wales? If so, tell us your favourite spots.

About the writer

Danielle Muller (@stuffitgotravel) is a Sydney-based travel blogger and communications professional. Follow her travel adventures, stories and recommendations at www.stuffitgotravelling.com.

Chic cuisine at Catalina in Rose Bay, Sydney

Chic cuisine at Catalina in Rose Bay, Sydney

It’s a restaurant favoured by the rich and famous, with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Beyonce and Al Pacino known to have made a culinary trip to Catalina in Rose Bay, Sydney.

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Opening its doors 20 years ago, Catalina is a Sydney institution serving up one hell of a fine dining experience that will makes you feel like royalty. Not only is the food spectacular but Catalina has stunning panoramic views as a result of being situated right on Sydney Harbour’s eastern foreshore. As you dine, yachts, boats and ferries can be seen travelling along the harbour’s pristine waters. There’s even a dock for seaplanes to fly in/out from Catalina for those wishing to fly and dine. Now that’s fine dining!

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As to be expected the service at Catalina is outstanding – it’s a place where your glass is never empty, dishes are elegantly explained and you’re never waiting long to be served. I was fortunate to spend a weekday lunching at Catalina and wasn’t it a breathtaking and opulent experience. The food is to die for – fresh produce, perfectly flavoured and succulent dishes, and heavenly desserts.

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As I was dining on the harbour I couldn’t resist sampling the local seafood. So I began my culinary journey at Catalina with natural and lime, chili and tobiko Sydney rock oysters. This was served on a bed of ice with a shot of special sauce (not too sure what was in it but it was tasty and went well with the oysters).

Following this entrée I ordered the pan-fried snapper with potato and garlic mash and lemon caper butter. Simply delicious! During these courses the matching drinks were a glass of Moët & Chandon and Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc – these went down a treat.

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Then onto my favourite part of any dining experience being the dessert. I selected the off the menu raspberry soufflé with fresh strawberries, sorbet and ice cream. It was divine and decadent – a perfect end to a lovely meal!

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How to get there

There are a number of ways to get to Catalina. Parking is available at the Woollahra Council Car Park surrounding nearby Lyne Park. Bus services are available with services 323, 324, 325, 326, 327 and L24 stopping near Catalina. And, my most preferred way is by ferry as the Rose Bay wharf is directly next door to Catalina. You can jump on the Rose Bay ferry from Circular Quay.

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What celebrity hotspots have you dined at? Was Catalina in Rose Bay, Sydney one of them?

About the writer

Danielle Muller (@stuffitgotravel) is a Sydney-based travel blogger and communications professional. Follow her travel adventures, stories and recommendations at www.stuffitgotravelling.com.

 

Discovering Bowral in New South Wales

Discovering Bowral in New South Wales

After a relaxed retreat boasting wineries, stunning gardens, mountain hikes/lookouts and a world-famous cricket museum? Well, Bowral in New South Wales’ southern highlands should be on your holiday hit list. Nestled at the base of Mount Gibralat and just 1.5 hours from Sydney, Bowral is a cute town full of things to do for a country escape.

As you explore Bowral you’ll notice how serene the place is, especially during spring when its country gardens and fields are alive with tulips.


Here are some of my favourite things to do in Bowral in New South Wales

Books and breakfast

For a unique café experience be sure to head to the Elephant Boy Café. From the moment you enter you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a 1920’s novel. The walls are lined with books, 1920’s antiques, spices and jams and tea merchant posters. It’s the perfect spot to grab a coffee, write/work, read a book or simply sit back and relax.

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The meals are delicious and the portion sizes are generous. During my visit I couldn’t resist the Big Breakfast with everything you would expect (sausages, beans, eggs, bacon, mushrooms and even black pudding). Also the salmon omelette with chives is scrumptious and filing.

Tip: Go early to avoid the crowds and to secure a table.

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Home to Australia’s greatest batsman

One of the most famous attractions in Bowral is The Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame. For any cricket fan this is a must-do activity as it commemorates the game’s greatest batsman, Sir Donald Bradman who grew up and learned his craft in Bowral.

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Even if you aren’t a cricket enthusiast it’s a pretty impressive museum featuring state-of-the-art interactive experiences, theatre screenings and rare memorabilia and exhibits, all showcasing ‘The Don’s’ significant contribution to cricket and Australian history.

Tip: Don’t forget to explore outside and see the Bradman Oval.

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Follow the wine trail

No visit to Bowral is complete without sampling the Southern Highland’s vineyards. With over 60 wineries to visit in this region (spanning across the towns of Bowral, Exeter, Moss Vale, Sutton Forrest, Berrima and Mittagong), you’ll have a blast wining, dining and soaking up the views.

Producing award-wining sparkling wines and specializing in pinot noir and pinot gris, you’re sure to walk away with a few new favourites and bottles for keepsake.

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One of my favourite spots is Mount Ashby Estate, a charming French farmhouse style winery. On the property you’ll see cattle grazing, a provincial 17th to 19th century antique shop and of course, its cellar door and Café La Palette which serves delicious pinot gris, merlot and chardonnay wine and modern-French cuisine.

Tip: It’s a nice spot to grab lunch, soak up the vineyard views and unwind with a bottle of vino.

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About the writer

Danielle Muller (@stuffitgotravel) is a Sydney-based travel blogger and communications professional. Follow her travel adventures, stories and recommendations at stuffitgotravelling.com.

Feature image via Flickr creative commons.
Explore The Grounds of Alexandria, Sydney

Explore The Grounds of Alexandria, Sydney

It’s a haven for foodies, market-lovers and families – The Grounds in Alexandria is one of the hottest café spots to experience and workout your tastebuds in Sydney. Located in an old pie factory from the 1900’s, The Grounds is now a whimsical secret garden that has a rustic/industrial feel. From the outside you never expect such a sanctuary to exist – a lovely surprise making you feel like a kid in a candy store, wide-eyed and excited to explore. On any given weekend The Grounds is jam-packed with visitors, especially over the ‘holiday weekends’ which hosts sprawling market stalls and live music.

 

Here’s why it’s a perfect spot to check out – explore The Grounds of Alexandria

Kevin Bacon calls it home

Unfortunately not the actor, but The Grounds has its own Kevin Bacon celebrity – a lovable pig who made headlines all over the country for being kidnapped last year. He is now safely back home and can be seen lapping up the attention in his barn. Along with Kevin Bacon, there are sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits and more in the petting zoo area.

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Greenhouse garden dining

For a dining experience that’ll make you feel like you’re in a greenhouse garden, drop by The Potting Shed. With hanging plants, flowerpots and garden tools everywhere, this venue is one of a kind. It also features a funky bar offering an extensive cocktail list and wine menu. The venue even has its own resident pet, Fluffy, a magnificent blue and yellow macaw that is perched freely on top of its cage and playing happily amongst the diners. What’s great about The Potting Shed is it’s open till midnight and the food is scrumptious, and surprisingly well priced. Some highlight dishes include the steamed black mussels, bite-sized pork-belly buns and buttermilk popcorn chicken. On the beverage side be sure to try a cocktail – my drink of choice is the Toiler’s Tonic.

Coffee is their passion

The Grounds is renowned for its coffee and it would be a sin if you didn’t get your caffeine fix here. With a coffee research and testing facility on-site – they mean serious business when it comes to brewing the perfect cup of coffee. Sourcing the finest beans from all over the world including Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia and India, The Grounds constantly change blends (largely determined by seasonality) to ensure the best-flavoured coffee is produced.

Tip: While waiting for a table at The Potting Shed, grab a coffee and sit in the main garden area.

The Grounds of Alexandria

Eat your heart out

On premises is the Salt Meats Cheese venue, a warehouse-style delicatessen offering the finest products stocked sky-high – from olives, antipasto, dips, truffles, prosciutto, cheeses, jams, gelato, pasta and more. It’s a gourmet foodie’s dream but it doesn’t stop there, with Italian cooking classes also available to indulge in. Each weekend they run classes in making fresh pasta and ravioli, woodfire oven pizzas (matched with a glass of wine) and mozzarella. It’s a great activity for families, friends and groups – bound to produce a lot of laughs and tasty treats in the process.

Find The Grounds of Alexandria at Building 7A/2 Huntley Street, Alexandria

Have you explored The Grounds of Alexandria? Tell us what you think.

The Grounds of Alexandria

About the writer
Danielle Muller (@stuffitgotravel) is a Sydney-based travel blogger and communications professional. Follow her travel adventures, stories and recommendations at stuffitgotravelling.com.

Bedazzled by Balmain in Sydney

Bedazzled by Balmain in Sydney

One of the most stunning suburbs I’ve come across on my travels around New South Wales is Balmain in Sydney. Located on the foreshore of Sydney’s harbour, Balmain is a chic and colourful neighborhood full of charm. Its million dollar views alone will leave you breathless.

The moment I arrived on Darling Street, Balmain’s main thoroughfare, I was bedazzled by the number of boutique shops, galleries, eateries, coffee shops and bars/pubs at my fingertips. Packed with locals and tourists – it’s a perfect destination to grab a bite to eat and relax and unwind. What makes Balmain pretty unique is it has a strong sense of community – something rarely found in inner Sydney.

Be warned the price doesn’t come cheap to be a part of this inner-city dream (trust me I’ve checked multiple times), and being 6km from the CBD with Sydney Harbour as your backyard pretty much explains why. For those who call Balmain home I envy you, you’re living in one of the most beautiful suburbs in Australia and maybe the world.

If a visit to Sydney is on the cards then Balmain should definitely be on your itinerary. Recently I explored this suburb and now I sort of wish I didn’t as I’m constantly daydreaming about going back.

Here are three cool things I got up to while exploring Balmain in Sydney

Balmain- Thyme & Basil

11am: Brunch is a staple activity for Sydney-siders and I decided to head to a funky little café called Thyme & Basil. It has a two-story outdoor deck seating area that overlooks Darling Street and is a lovely spot to soak up the sun and suburb vibes. Serving up fresh juices, aromatic coffee and hearty breakfast and lunch options, I couldn’t pass up the big breakfast and I wasn’t disappointed. Simply delicious!

Adriano Zumbo - Macaroons

1pm: Who can resist an indulgent visit to the master of macaroons, Adriano Zumbo. With a petite shabby-chic store on Darling Street – his Balmain patisserie features freshly baked tarts, brownies, artisan breads, pastries and a colourful rainbow of macaroons. My favourite flavours are butter popcorn and milkshake. You’re sure to walk away on a macaroon high.

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TIP: Gladstone Park is nearby and a good spot to laze about and enjoy your sweet treats!

 

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2pm: As there is no better way to explore Balmain than by foot, I made my way down Darling Street heading east towards the Harbour Bridge and ferry terminal. During this trek you can’t help but gaze at the residential buildings. The closer you get to the foreshore the more spectacular they become. Once at the foreshore of Balmain East, the view is incredible. Straight ahead is the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge; on the right is Darling Harbour and Pyrmont and on the left is Goat Island. It’s easily one of the best spots to go for a stroll, take some photos and you can even throw out a blanket and enjoy an afternoon picnic in the foreshore’s Illoura Reserve area. There’s also a basketball court nestled in this reserve if you feel like shooting some hoops with a stunning backdrop.

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How to get there

Ferries run to Balmain from Darling Harbour and Circular Quay. Alternatively you can catch the 431, 433, 441 and 442 buses from the CBD.

Balmain East Foreshore view

Have you visited Balmain? Let us know your thoughts – drop us a line in the comments below.

 

About the writer
Danielle Muller (@stuffitgotravel) is a Sydney-based travel blogger and communications professional. Follow her travel adventures, stories and recommendations at www.stuffitgotravelling.com.