The Southern Highlands

Hey guys and gals. I have wanted to write a blog for so so long regarding the Southern Highlands. Having been there three times now, it’s safe to say we have fallen in love with this area. For those of you who may not know where this is, it’s an area of NSW about 110km south west of Sydney. By car it’s an hour and a half away or you can catch a train to a number of towns within the highlands and takes about three hours. The highlands is a district that is centered on the commercial towns of Mittagong, Bowral, Moss Vale, Burrawang, Bundanoon and Robertson, as well as the historic town of Berrima. There are also some smaller villages that include Burradoo, Sutton Forest, Colo Vale, Avoca, Yerrinbool, Exeter and Welby. As you can see, there are quite a number of towns and villages that make up the highlands. I will showcase the ones that I have been fortunate enough to see and highlight some key places that I enjoyed that you may want to check out for yourself. When I talk about the highlands to friends here in Sydney, they all have heard of Bowral as it is the largest town there, however, there is so much more to see and do in the other smaller towns and villages. Please check out my highlights below. Any towns or villages that I have not mentioned are simply due to the fact that I haven’t explored them as yet but they will definitely be on my to do list.

1- BERRIMA

Leafy, historic and full of character, this is a town not to be missed. The main street of Berrima is extremely quaint and has a lovely rustic feel. Lots of quirky shops with hand made goods. If in Berrima be sure to check out Gallery Whitewall Arts Projects. Lots of amazing art on display, some of which is really well known all over NSW.

2 – BUNDANOON (BUNDY)

The village of Bundanoon is located on the edge of Morton National Park. It’s a really lovely and welcoming village, steeped in history and offering character in abundance. The local pub, The Bundanoon Hotel is a great spot for a drink and pub lunch/dinner. As the name suggests, you can also stay there. We have stayed before and loved it. Staff are also extremely friendly. There are many walks and trails, small or larger if you prefer within the national park. This park is massive. We took a short walk to Echo Point where the views were outstanding. Fitzroy Falls is a very popular feature of Morton Park so be sure to check that out too. I feel like Bundanoon is New South Wales’ best kept secret. I can’t even put into words the love I have for this town. It is also home to the famous Brigadoon Festival where you can see plenty of pipe bands, heavy weight championships and all things Scottish. It aims to bring tourists to the area and raise funds for local charities. This is an event that I cannot wait to experience when it comes back next year.

3 – MITTAGONG

This town is known as the gateway to the Highlands and is a good place to begin exploring the area. It has some funky stores and nice places to eat, with Hendriks being a highlight for us. This is a really cool place, Hendriks cognac and wine is a warm and cosy bar that also serves delicious food. Be sure to try the jaffles (see below). For those that have never heard of these (myself included prior to this), a jaffle is a toasted sandwich traditionally made in a jaffle iron (like a toastie maker). This did not disappoint. The fillings you can have are stunning and very filling.

The largest town of the Highlands and is considered the entertainment and business hub. I liked it because it had a lot to offer, yet managed to maintain its character and charm. Dirty Janes was a highlight. This antique store in is home to over 50 different dealers who sell vintage and eclectic items that you may not find anywhere else. This store is huge and you will simply enjoy becoming immersed and meandering around the many, many stalls. Next door is Plantation Café. This café just has a right feel about it. It’s bright and warm, sells amazing coffee and is situated on Green Lane (which lives up to its name, plants everywhere). Next thing to check out is The Mill. It’s basically a really funky outdoor community hub that has vendors in their own spaces, doing their thing and doing it well. The large area has been transformed from an old timber and hardware supplier from the 1850s. You can find cafes, restaurants, an amazing ice cream store and a few unique stores where you can buy some perfect gifts. You can also hire out spaces if you have an event happening. This space is pretty awesome!

A charming town with lots of stunning scenery. Also known for being the setting for the movie Babe! First place to stop and see for us was The Cool Room Emporium…and who doesn’t love a good emporium!? This is a really cool place if you’re looking for a gift, perhaps something a bit more unusual. There is a real mix of old and new items, from clothing to books, home wares to toys. The building and grounds are pretty spectacular and provide that country Aussie, rustic feel. Next door to the emporium is the Robertson Cheese Factory. If you’re a lover of cheese, this is totally worth checking out. Here they specialize in local and imported ”off the farm” cheeses, as well as providing more sweet items such as fudges or homemade jams. 7km from Robertson you can find Budderoo National Park, home to the well known Carrington Falls. This waterfall is really impressive at any time of the year and has become a very popular tourist attraction.

6 – MOSS VALE

Known as the agricultural hub of the Highlands, this town has grown a lot and has some really cool places to check out, including cafes, restaurants etc. This is one town that I am eager to see more of. We were only able to check out this one place but boy it did not disappoint. I don’t even know where to start with this place. It was absolutely stunning. It is called Mount Ashby Estate and it brings a taste of France to the Australian countryside. Enjoy a glass of wine sitting around the French Farmhouse tables, sample some delicious cuisine and have a stroll around the vineyard for some epic insta worthy photos. There is also a furniture store on site known as Sally Beresford Antiques Shop. This shop show cases restored antique furniture items from Europe. These items are very stylish and definitely worth checking out.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing a little more of the Southern Highlands. It really is such a special place in NSW and deserves to be visited. If you want some local insights to the Highlands, check out The Fold Southern Highlands here Home Page | The Fold Southern Highlands. It also has a really helpful App that you can download for free from your App store. Also have a look at Visit NSW, it’s a really good place to have a look for anywhere in NSW and it’s my go to site for new places to visit. New South Wales, Australia | Official NSW Tourism Website (visitnsw.com). You can also check both of these out on Facebook or Instagram too.

I will be 100% heading back to the Highlands as soon as I can too, to see what else there is to be discovered in this amazing region.

Take care and thanks everyone for reading,

Wayne 🙂

12 months and 12 photos (2020)

What a year it has been. I think most of us will be glad to see the back of 2020. Coronavirus has a lot to answer for…but it hasn’t been all bad. For me personally, it hasn’t been the worst year. It was sad not to be able to go home this year to see family and friends but thank goodness for the internet and learning to socialize online with video calls etc. Here is a look at my year with 12 photos for each month of 2020.

JANUARY

I was starting the new year on a high. We had just completed a cruise holiday for Christmas and I was feeling my best with my weight gain. I was at my heaviest here at 77kg. This was such an accomplishment for me and I was excited to see my progress continue with the gym and eating well.

FEBRUARY

It was AMAZING to have family here from Ireland. When friends and family come to Australia and love it like you do, it’s priceless 🥰

MARCH

The pandemic reached Australia and everyone went crazy for toilet roll. (I think this was world wide). We were in an 8 week lockdown and people were panic buying. It was insane, however, this was just the beginning.

APRIL

Celebrating the main man’s big birthday. We were in lockdown so all holiday plans were cancelled. However, we had a lovely party at home Mexican style 🇲🇽 🌵

MAY

All gyms are closed. Home workouts ensued. They were fun enough but I lost a lot of muscle mass. Sad times after all the work put in but at least I maintained my fitness and you ALWAYS feel better after a workout 🏋🏼‍♀️ 🤗

JUNE

Hooray! Our 8 week lockdown was over and restrictions started to ease. Pubs opened and we went for our 1st schooner in what seemed like an eternity.

JULY

Visiting Madame Tussauds was awesome. Healthcare workers were given free entry to some venues in Sydney and this was one of them. This was a nice touch! Hiya Oprah!

AUGUST

A little local holiday to Hunter Valley for my birthday. We feel really fortunate to have so many great places to travel to within our state.

SEPTEMBER

We’re still travelling local but Sydney never gets old. I love living in this city. To be confined here is not too shabby.

OCTOBER

Trying to see as much of NSW as possible, as that’s all where we can go. This is Ballina. Make sure to stop here before heading on to Byron Bay (see previous blog post).

NOVEMBER

And after being back to the gym for a few months, I am finally getting back to the shape I was in pre Covid. I honestly never thought it would take so long but hey ho, thankful to be in a position to even visit a gym these days.

DECEMBER

Back to Byron Bay for a 2nd time. Our Queensland trip was cancelled again (3rd time now, sooooo over it) but this was the best place to spend Christmas with close friends. Grateful for small mercies and staying healthy.

Happy New Year everyone! May 2021 be better for you than 2020.

Keep safe everyone,

Wayne ☺️

Byron Bay – My top 5 highlights

Returning to Byron Bay has been my dream for a while. Luckily for us, Byron lies in NSW, meaning we were allowed to travel there as it’s in the same state as Sydney. Being able to catch a flight was surreal. We had contemplated driving the 8 hour car journey to Byron, however, the flights were too cheap to pass by and it’s only an hour and a quarter journey. Being in the covid era we were wary of taking a flight but taking the necessary infection control measures, we were hoping it would be ok. Also the case numbers are very low here in NSW with none having been reported in Byron for a looooong time. Hands sanitized and masks on (provided by the airline) we were happy enough 🙂

Anyway, yes we had been to Byron before, 10 years ago and we were intrigued to see the changes, whilst reminiscing and creating new memories. See below for my top 5 highlights of our trip to Byron Bay. Hopefully, they can provide you with some ideas if you decide to travel there soon (seems like everyone from Sydney has either been recently, is there now or heading there soon!!).

1 – Ballina

When travelling to Byron by flight, you will fly into Ballina Byron Gateway Airport. Most people will catch a coach from here straight to Byron. However, we wanted to stay in Ballina to see what this seaside town had to offer. It did not disappoint and therefore is my first highlight. Just a tip, the bus to Ballina town only accepts cash. I haven’t used cash in about a year so this was a hassle trying to find an ATM. (Covid times I’m surprised cash is still being used but thats beside the point). Otherwise, just grab a cab.

We stayed in the Ramada Hotel and I couldn’t recommend this hotel enough. Situated on the Richmond River, the views are spectecular. You can sit outside for food and drinks in a really stunning setting and watch the dolphins swim by. We couldn’t beleive our luck but apparently this happens all the time. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful, rooms are class and the pool area is fantastic.

Best pool ever
Drinks outside the hotel. Such a lovely spot just at the water’s edge.

Take a walk along the North Wall and you will be in awe of the scenery Ballina has to offer, from little bays and rockpools to the ocean on both sides of the breakwall. You can then walk to Ballina Lighthouse and stop for an ice cream at the Lighthouse Beach Cafe.

Ballina Lighthouse

Best places to eat – The Point Ballina, situated at the Ramada Hotel. Great food, atmosphere and scenery. We also loved the Wharf Bar and Restaurant. This is perfect for watching the sunset and the decor is really cool and chilled out.

Wharf Bar & Reataurant
Stunning sunset

2 – Byron Bay town and accommodation

The actual town of Byron Bay is really cool. It has this really unique vibe of being quite relaxed with a great community spirit. It has that holiday/hippy kind of feels about it. You have the beaches, the quaint shops and restaurants and quirky bars, all on your doorstep. There are so many cool hotels and air bnbs to choose from. We went with Aloha Byron Bay, beautiful villa style apartments in the heart of Byron within walking distance to the town and beaches. We loved it here as the apartment was fully equipped with everything you need as well as having a pool and BBQ.

3 – The restaurants and bars

There are so many to choose from. Just be sure to book your restaurants in advance as they book out quickly due to so many people heading to Byron and the fact that social distancing has to be adhered to. Our favourite was the Balcony Bar and Restaurant. I remember going here 10 years ago so its pretty impressive and a testament to its service that it’s still as popular. Great vibe here and the food/drinks are amazing. Be sure to try the oyster shots! We also loved Miss Margaritas. If you love Mexican food then this is the spot and the margaritias are stunning (as you’d expect). Beach Hotel was our go to bar, you never tire of this place. It has a real Byron Bay feel, chilled out and with everything you would want food and drink wise.

We loved The Balcony 🤗

4 – Byron Bay Solar Train

This world first solar train only lasts about 15 minutes but it’s a fun excursion that you don’t see every day. It provides a unique way to see some of Byron’s country side and it allows you to experience the antiqueness of an old train but with the modern twist of being powered by the sun.

5 – Cape Byron Lighthouse

I feel like this lighthouse is the heart of Byron Bay. This is a must see. Not only the lighthouse but the walk to get there is really something else. The scenic route to the lighthouse can be tough enough as there are a lot of steps and it’s a pretty steep ascent but it is totally worth it. Otherwise, you can drive to the lighthouse or walk to it from Byron via the main road. The lighthouse is so impressive I think due to its size and stage presence. It is situated on Australia’s most easterly point on top of a rocky headland. It towers over you and it’s situation really allows for some epic photographs to be taken (I’d say the most photographed thing in Byron).

Ok that’s my top 5. There is honestly so much more to do and see in Byron. Pretty much everyone these days is heading to Byron if you’re living in NSW. With all the borders closed, it’s the closest thing you will get to feeling like you are on a summer holiday. Since writing this blog we have returned to Byron again there for Christmas and had the best time again. The vibe here is unreal and the people are so so friendly. Big up Byron Bay! It has been our saving grace through the pandemic.

Thanks for reading guys and gals.

Wayne 🤗

Malabar Headland National Park

If you are looking for an awesome way to spend your day off in Sydney then this is the place to visit. Many people have done the Bondi to Coogee walk but have you done the Coogee to Malabar walk via Maroubra? If that’s too long, you can catch the bus to Maroubra and walk from there to Malabar. The beginning of the National Park is only a 10 minute walk from Maroubra beach.

Maroubra Beach
Entering the Malabar Headland National Park

Malabar Headland National Park boasts dramatic coastal views and walks between Maroubra and Malabar beaches, in the east of Sydney. Follow the path within the National Park. There are many steps, areas of bushland and at times rocky terrain so my advice is to wear comfortable footwear. It takes about 20 minutes to reach Malabar Beach along the western section of the walk. The views on the route are incredible. The beach itself is quite small but has lots of character and is a really beautiful spot. From the beach you then follow the path along the eastern section of the park. This can be closed at times so be sure to check the opening times at https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/malabar-headland-national-park. The views on the return leg to Maroubra are stunning and you can often see whales here migrating from May to November on their annual migration route.

Honestly, this is one park you will want to check out. I had no idea it was there, a real hidden gem in the eastern suburbs that’s right on your Sydney doorstep.

All the best,

W 🙂

Bundeena

Hi everyone. As previously mentioned, due to Covid, we are only permitted to travel within our state of New South Wales (NSW). I’m going to kick off my short trips within NSW with our latest trip to Bundeena. It is just over an hours drive from Sydney and lies within the Royal National Park. Although you are literally only down the road, you will seem a million miles away. You have to drive into the National Park to find this seaside village. Alternatively you can take the small ferry from Cronulla.

This village is really quaint, lies between the beach and bushland and has numerous walks to undertake. My go to website for things to do in NSW is http://www.sydney.com. A simple web address but is really useful for finding the main attractions to see and do and also provides restaurants, bars, cafes etc to check out. For us, the main things to undertake were; checking out the local area, scenery, places to eat etc, explore some of the Royal National Park, see the famous wedding cake rock, explore the walk to the indigenous rock engravings, drive to Wattamolla Beach and stop at the Audley Dance Hall on the return home.

We stayed in a really cool Air BnB, if you want the details you can let me know. We just wanted somewhere cosy and close to all the sights. I really wanted a hot tub (just for the novelty factor 🙈) and the BBQ was a nice touch.

It was really close to the village (10 minute walk) and a 5 minute walk to Jibbon Beach. The local area has a beach found at Berenice Forster Park, just across the road from the main street. It boasts a selection of eateries and a supermarket. Bundeena has a bowling club and RSL, these are the 2 places if you want a beverage (whilst social distancing).

Royal National Park

This park is huge!! There are many walks and trails to explore with varying distances to suit all. With bushland, insane rock formations, ocean views and beaches, this park has it all. We headed to wedding cake rock which is only 3.6 km round trip. I would loved to have explored further but we were racing against time as the sun was going to set in a couple of hours.

Wedding Cake Rock

Amazing landscape piece. Such a shame you can’t get closer but many people have ruined it for others, trying to get that perfect shot. People have lost their lives here trying to sit on the edge. We see this time and time again, those competing for the most daring shot. As a further result the landscape has been compromised and become very fragile. You can even see a large crack in this photo. The area has had to be fenced off as the rock could crumble and fall into the ocean at any time.

Indigenous Rock Engravings

Follow the beach along to the bushland area and follow the directions to the indigenous engravings. The walk takes you along the coast and boasts some really stunning views.
Follow the beach along to the bushland area and follow the directions to the indigenous engravings. The walk takes you along the coast and boasts some really stunning views.

The engravings here are over 3000 years old.

Wattamolla Beach

I have always wanted to check out this beach and it didn’t disappoint. Not only is the beach amazing and quite unique but there were also some really breathtaking waterfalls that I had had been unaware of but pleasantly surprised with.

Audley Dance Hall

This is a great spot to stop on the way back to Sydney. The dance hall is a lovely spot to grab a bite to eat and the grounds here are really beautiful.

These photos are just highlighting the spots that we were able to see in a couple of days. There is so much to see and do in and around Bundeena and within the Royal National Park. Hopefully, I will be able to return here one day to explore the area further.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more days trips in NSW.

W 🙂