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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Weekend retreat – travel to the Blue Mountains

Located less than two hours from Sydney is the Blue Mountains, a stunning World-Heritage listed region attracting millions of visitors each year. Not only is it a firm favourite with international visitors but it’s a popular weekend retreat for local Aussie travellers.

With spectacular natural attractions, sights and a relaxed atmosphere – the Blue Mountains is a breath of fresh air after being consumed by Sydney’s hustle bustle lifestyle. Recently I was fortunate to escape to the Mountains for a weekend full of adventure and nature gazing.

Here are my top highlights and recommended things to experience in the Blue Mountains:

Three Sisters

One of the most famous landmarks in the Blue Mountains is the Three Sisters, an unusual rock formation towering high above the Jamison Valley. Standing over 900 metres tall, the Three Sisters is a spectacular sight and offers some beautiful and intense walking tracks. There is one trail ‘The Giant Stairway’ that takes you up close to the Three Sisters and then down to the valley floor via more than 800 steps. Learn from my mistake – be prepared and go early in the day to avoid missing out of the Scenic Railway that takes you back to the top, otherwise it’s a long thigh-burning climb.

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Jenolan Caves

Now this will take your breath away. The Jenolan Caves is renowned for its spectacular limestone cave formations. Dating back to at least 340 million years, the Jenolan Caves is the world’s oldest known open cave system. Fascinating thing is the cave network is so vast – it has over 40kms of multi-level passages and it’s still undergoing active exploration today. Over 250,000 tourists visit each year to get a glimpse at the cave’s magnificent limestone formations and underground rivers. There are a number of guided tours running day or night and they even have ghost tours and adventure caving for those thrill-seekers.

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Wentworth Falls

A great spot for outdoor exploring and waterfall chasing is Wentworth Falls. Suitable for all fitness levels, one of my favourite walking tacks is Fletchers Lookout– this easy graded track takes around an hour to complete (including return) and offers spanning views of Mount Solitary, Kings Tableland and Jamison Valley. During this walk you’ll comes across a lovely spot at the top of Wentworth Falls called Queen’s Cascade Falls. It’s a perfect scenic area to rest, take some photos and soak up the calming sounds of the rainforest and cascading water.

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Yellow Deli, Katoomba

For a dining experience that makes you feel like you’re on the set of The Hobbit is the Yellow Deli. This venue is perfect for a winter’s lunch serving up hearty soups, burgers, sandwiches, herbal teas and delectable desserts. Inside its extremely cosy decorated with log-carved booths, a stone fireplace, hanging vines and dim lighting. It’s definitely a quirky place packed with diners. Overall my experience was good – the food was delicious and affordable however only downside was the service. It was a little slow but at the same point it was nice not to feel rushed as it was so cosy and relaxed inside.

Only thing to be aware of before visiting is to understand that the Yellow Deli is a religiously run venue.  At the time I didn’t even realise it until doing research afterwards. I suppose my ignorance illustrates that it’s not in your face. If you can get past the religious factor then it’s a pretty cool spot to eat in the Blue Mountains.

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Have you visited the Blue Mountains? Let us know your favourite attractions?

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About the author

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

 

 

Hunter Valley romantic getaway

Hunter Valley romantic getaway

There’s certainly a lot of magic in a Hunter Valley romantic getaway, and if you’re in the region in Australia, we’d highly recommend it!

The Hunter Valley offers gorgeous scenery and much indulgence, it’s the perfect weekend away.

Hunter Valley romantic getaway from Sydney

With around 150 top-class wineries matched with numerous restaurants – no wonder it’s a tourist hot-spot.

Located two hours from Sydney, an impromptu trip to Australia’s largest wine region was on the cards just the other weekend, and we were not disappointed.

Hunter Valley romantic getaway - Kevin Sobels for wine tasting

Hunter Valley romantic getaway: itinerary

11am

Arriving into Pokolbin I didn’t waste any time to get our cellar door hopping on, and the first stop was Kevin Sobels, a family winery with over 150 years of history and tradition.

As you walk along the entrance path there are grapevines blossoming and barrels sitting on the veranda.

Inside has a classic home feel – brightly lit with the sun shining through large church windows.

Awards and family photos line the walls and if you’re lucky you’ll see the resident St Bernard called ‘Archie’ roaming about.

The moment you chat with the team, it’s easy to see their love and dedication for wine-making.

From Merlots, Chardonnays and White Ports, the Sobels have a range of refined and classic wine. My favourite was the Verdelho 2013 – fruity, crisp and great with spicy Asian food.

12pm

Feeling famished, a lunch stop Bistro Molines at Tallavera Grove was in order – got to keep our energy up for our Hunter Valley romantic getaway!

This place took my breath away.

Located on Mount View, it boasts never-ending valley views and does alfresco dining flawlessly. Very romantic!

With its outside hilltop gazebo, you can’t help but feel like you’re in a cute village in France or Tuscany.

The food tops off the whole experience – delicious, tasty and to die for. It takes lunching to a whole new level – from pan-fried quail, stuffed calamari and braised black mussels for entrée to veal wrapped in prosciutto, pork cutlet with parsnip puree and char-grilled spitchcock for main.

It’s a culinary journey I recommend for any rustic French cuisine lover.

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3pm

Next stop on the our Hunter Valley romantic getaway ‘vino train’ was Brokenwood and it remains my favourite winery in the Hunter.

Inside is small and cosy and you’re immediately welcomed by the staff who have a witty personality.

Famed for its cricket pitch heritage and its dry table wines of Semillon and Shiraz, Brokenwood not only serves up exquisite wine but great conversation with many laughs.

Here you can experience a range of tours including private room and out of the barrel tastings.

My wine of choice was the 2013 Semillon Hunter Valley – citrus/lemongrass aromas with sweet fruit flavours.

8pm

After a siesta snooze, a trip to Hunter Valley’s finest culinary venue, Circa 1876 restaurant finished off our day escape to the Hunter Valley.

Situated in a stunning cottage dated back to 1876, it’s furnished with antiques and features a cosy lounge area with a fireplace to relax and enjoy a drink before dinner.

The main dining room is beautifully decorated with dim lighting, candle chandeliers and rustic wooden walls and beams.

For a more intimate experience, the restaurant offers three private dining rooms and a dedicated wine room.

Eating here is a memorable (and also expensive) experience serving delicious contemporary dishes matched with an impressive wine list of course.

Hunter Valley romantic getaway - Circa 1876 restaurant

Hunter Valley Wine and Food festival

A great time to come to the Hunter Valley is in June for Wine and Food month.

Whether for a romantic getaway or trip with friends, it’s a great reason to check out the region, and to experience its unique culture, fine wine and succulent food.

Got any tips of your own on the Hunter Valley? Let us know in the comments

 

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

A romantic Murray River cycling experience in Echuca Moama

A romantic Murray River cycling experience in Echuca Moama

Located on the banks of the mighty Murray River (Australia), the twin towns of Echuca Moama are the closest point of the Murray to Melbourne. Echuca Moama is known as Australia’s Paddlesteamer Capital and the region is gorgeous to visit because it represents not only a bygone era with horse-drawn carriages and blacksmiths, but also showcases all the travel and touring conveniences of modern times.

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News just in to TravelLiveLearn.com is that visitors to Echuca Moama can now enjoy exploring the region on two wheels – for free! With the Port Picnic Bike you can take advantage of the region’s flat topography (this area boasts some of the best off-road cycling and bike tours in Victoria), sunny climate and plentiful supply of open spaces.

Free of charge, you are invited to tour the area and visit the likes of St Anne’s Cellar Store, Echuca Farmhouse cheese, picnic spots and the Echuca Moama visitors centre in your own time.

Choose to collect a variety of wine, cheeses and other products in Echuca Moama whilst also taking the opportunity to experience, film and photograph (though probably not the latter two while riding) picturesque, classic Australian landscapes: bushland, river, historical sites and more.

Just imagine travelling here for a writer’s / creative retreat, or romantic break-away. Anyone remember All the Rivers Run?! … See you there x

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