What We Did:
From Port Stephens, we drove inland into Australia’s oldest wine region, the Hunter Valley. After seeing a couple burnt out abandoned cars on the highway (a strange sight given how NSW has pretty much been spotless) we turned off at Lovedale to find rolling hills of vineyards, and carried on towards Pokolbin with the hazy Brokenback Ranges in this distance. A sign outside one of the bigger estates told us we’d just missed Billy Ray Cyrus in concert. The next vineyard had a sign that read “Don’t break my heart, my grapy grapy heart.” Our destination is the gorgeous Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort, set on an 18-hole golf course. The next day, Dad and Jaci snuck off early to go skydiving in Lake Macquarie, and then it was off to the Hunter Valley Gardens, the largest show gardens in the country. We hopped on a train ride that took us along the 8-kilometres of pathways, through lovely Japanese, Oriental, Rose, Formal and Indian Gardens. Both kids lit up when they saw the 25-metre high Ferris Wheel, jumping castles and a Venetian carousal. The rides are only during events but the garden staff kindly let the kids have a spin. Compared to the carousal back home in Burnaby (one of the fastest in North America) it was pretty slow, and Gali had a hard time choosing his favourite ee-i-oh (animal). The highlight of the gardens was the Storybook Garden, which brought nursery rhymes and fairy tales to life with large models. The kids really enjoyed it, until an unusually hot autumn day got the best of them. We headed home for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon making arts and crafts on our patio, and swimming in the lovely pool and whirlpool overlooking the golf course.
What We Ate:
Breakfast: Hooray for hotel buffets! Eggs and chicken sausages and grilled tomato and crispy hash browns and toast and cereal and pancakes and porridge and….all Gali eats is blueberries.
Lunch: Chicken mayo-avocado sandwiches (avocados are $2.50 each, which is half price from what we saw in Sydney, positively feels like a bargain, although still an insane bargain).
Dinner: Dad and Jaci made fried barramundi with lemon zest and crispy garlic, served after a roasted camembert with olive sourdough, and accompanied by quinoa, sweet potato and diced carrots and celery. What can we say, the Hunter Valley inspired us.
Where We Ate:
In our villa at the Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort.
My Favourite Pictures Today
Where We Slept:
Recently awarded the Best Golf Hotel in Australia, we’re staying in a two-level, two bedroom villa just off the course at the Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort. We’re surrounded by vineyards, and it’s the greenest region we’ve seen in Australia so far (they just enjoyed some much needed rain before we got here). There’s a couple lovely pools, lots of polished wood, amazing breakfasts, and as usual the staff have been absolutely lovely (Shane at the coffee bar downstairs is the best!) Gali slept soundly through the night downstairs, here’s a kid who really loves his space and darkness. Raquel on the other hand needs to be on top of us, but we’ve figured out how to barricade her with pillows and a king size bed gives us a few inches on the side to get some sleep.
The Hunter Valley is the oldest wine region in Australia, with over 150 wineries. It’s super popular as a weekend getaway from Sydney, which is only 2 hours away (although that depends on traffic). Australia Post couriers are not immune to signing their own initial on receipt of deliveries (long story, but wow). It took 4 years and 40 gardeners to build the Hunter Valley Gardens, which was funded by a family that also owns a hotel, wine estate, shopping village and a couple restaurants around it. Tandem skydiving over Lake Macquarie, the largest seawater lake in Australia, is epic. Microlights are amazing too. Things are going to pretty crazy over Easter and will be with the upcoming school holidays (we’re going to miss travelling in the quiet shoulder season). Food colouring is fun for crafts. Australian schools won’t accept kids unless the kids know how to swim. Members lounges at golf clubs are very conducive for writing books.
Reflection of the Day
The Best Part:
For Dad and Jaci: jumping out a plane at 14,000ft. For Mom: Having local red wine on the patio under the stars on a cool evening with the kids asleep.
The Worst Part:
Raquel refusing to eat anything at lunch and becoming impossible for most of the afternoon.
We'll Always Remember
- Name: Dave
- Favourite Place: New Zealand
- I Love Travel Because: I love adventure
- My Advice for Kids: Never stop learning
- Name: Jo
- Favourite Place: Lord Howe Island
- I Love Travel Because: of the new experiences
- My Advice for Kids: Go hard
- Name: Ralph
- Favourite Place: Broome, WA
- I Love Travel Because: You meet new people and see new things
- My Advice for Kids: Experience everything
- Name: Rory
- Favourite Place: Lake Macquarie
- I Love Travel Because: To experience different cultures
- My Advice for Kids: Have fun and be responsible
- Name: Danna
- Favourite Place: Cape Treachery, NSW
- I Love Travel Because: You get to meet interesting people
- My Advice for Kids: Be open and flexible
- Name: Emma and Garett
- Favourite Place: Italy
- I Love Travel Because: you experience new places
- My Advice for Kids: Appreciate everything
- Name: Michael
- Favourite Place: Bora Bora
- I Love Travel Because: I get to experience new places, cultures and food
- My Advice for Kids: Take lots of photos to keep your memories alive, and be good to your parents
- Name: Caroline
- Favourite Place: Mendoza, Argentina
- I Love Travel Because: I something I’ve never seen before
- My Advice for Kids: Travel as much as you can, and as early as you can
- Name: Vicki
- Favourite Place: Japan
- I Love Travel Because: I like to see new things, people, food and cultures
- My Advice for Kids: Have fun
- Name: Roberta
- Favourite Place: Croatia
- I Love Travel Because: I get to escape the mundane
- My Advice for Kids: Don’t listen to your fears
Today's Random Thing
A Note from Mom and Dad
“Mommy, I forgot to tell you, I love the Argentinean flag.” Out of the blue at dinner, it seems Raquel instinctively knows how to go for her Mom’s jugular. Some context: we saw some flags a week ago in Canberra and she liked the Argentine flag best. She just decided to tell her Mom this fact tonight, with no context, and you know how Brazil loves Argentina (not very much). Anyway, that was pretty funny. It was great catching up with our friend Danna who we last saw in Vancouver almost a decade ago. She’s been following the blog and knew as much about our trip as we do! It’s a strange feeling to know that these words and images will form the basis of our kids memories in the future (not to mention our own). And of course there’s still two books to write…