Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Exploring the Land of Oz!

Newcastle is a lovely area on the Tasman Sea
Australia is huge! Although the boat will be here for about 10 months, we will not. Visa restrictions require us to leave after 90 days and then return for another 90 day. We can do this for twelve months. So in between the trips outside of the country, we are trying to figure out when and where to go and this is very weather dependent.

At Swansea, NSW, you have to schedule a bridge opening
to enter or leave Lake Macquarie. It is too shallow for us.
It is now Spring and moving into Summer. We have had some 107 degree days here in Newcastle, NSW already. It doesn’t last too long as a Southerly Buster blows in with cold air dropping the temperature 30 degrees within minutes and shifting the winds 180 degrees. You can actually see it happening!
For us, the problem is that it is too hot to go to the Outback until next April. So we are heading to Tasmania in December and have been told that it is chilly down there and to take our woolies! It might be a welcome change for a while.

Lake Macquarie. Not even close to Michigan lakes!
We have started exploring the New South Wales coast area, in addition to the places we went with the Down Under Rally. One of our local excursions was to find a shopping center and Bunnings, which is like a Home Depot or Lowes.
Dennis is finding the driving similar to New Zealand as it is a right-hand drive car and they drive on the opposite side of the road as we do in the USA. The biggest difference is that they drive faster and cut in and out more than the Kiwis.  

Coal is the major product around Newcastle. There is very
little dirt or pollution due to modern techniques.
We are not buying a car here as the distances are too great between the sites we want to see. Instead, we will do Fly & Drive trips to the selected areas. The bus and train systems are very good here. And the walking areas are boardwalks and sidewalks with room for bicycles and they go for miles along the beaches. If you like walking, you can walk for miles and miles.

We drove south to Lake Macquarie, which is a large inland saltwater lake with a channel in from the ocean. The entrance is too shallow for us to enter so we drove all the way around the lake. It took a couple of hours, but is nothing like the Great Lakes.
Maybe put Houghton and Higgins Lakes together and you have the same size. Or maybe only Houghton Lake! We see no reason to go there to sail. Plus you have to call the draw bridge an hour ahead and wait for a time for it to open.

Dunes just south of Nelson Bay.
A drive to the north along the ocean took us to Nelson Bay and the Port Stephens area. Along the way we found a road to the beach and were delighted to see where were: at the north end of the 18+ mile beach that starts just across the river from the marina here in Newcastle!
The sand dunes at that end are awesome. They give Sleeping Bear Dunes a run for the money! The beach is enormous, but I think Sleep Bear Dunes are higher.

Lunch is always an adventure on our road trips as we like to find places where the locals eat. The experience at Lake Macquarie left much to be desired. In fact, neither of us felt like eating dinner and I still felt less than good the next day.
The Aussies live at the beaches: surfing, swimming, biking
and walking. A real outdoor lifestyle here!
However, we hit the jackpot in Nelson Bay. We ate at the Rock Lobster Seafood Restaurant. Dennis was like a kid with a super happy meal! He loves his seafood! The food was really good and we were so full that no dinner again, but this time, no crummy feelings either. 

Then we topped it off with ice cream which is a real treat when sailing. I am not sure the sundae was called for, but appeared to finish off the “happy meal!” I found a new favorite flavor of ice cream: Baily’s and Almond. Really good!

We have seen several of these chess sets in parks.
So far, Australia has shown us some really special things and then some ho-hum ones. I guess we are lucky to have so many wonderful places in America that it takes something outstanding to top it. There is no place like home, but we have seen some pretty amazing places!

Next exploration: We will go to Sydney for the holidays and to Tasmania by air for a driving trip along the east coast.

The harbor at Nelson Bay

Great lunch stop

Dennis' critter lunch

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