Not many people in the world would say “due north” when referring to New South Wales.
Going out to Bondi Beach makes me feel like I’m visiting Australia for the first time. This is the iconic scenery that is marketed and shared around the world, the imagery that comes to mind when “Australia” is mentioned overseas. I had the same peculiar feeling when I saw the Sydney Opera House a couple of years ago: this doesn’t feel real. I’m settled here now, I live in the same mundane, paperwork-filled world as everyone else, but this turned me into a wide-eyed tourist all over again.
We didn’t start our holiday in Sydney, though. Well, we did, but only to rent a set of wheels and immediately head north. The real purpose of this trip was to attend a wedding in the Hunter Valley, which we turned into a long weekend.
Newcastle is now the northernmost city I’ve visited in Australia. It’s a cruisy beach town that doesn’t feel like half a million people live in it. We stayed overnight in Cooks Hill, which is the hipster, uni-student-concentrated part of town. I gravitate towards areas with good coffee and interesting buildings, sue me.
No offense to the city, but the best part of Newcastle is clearly its beaches. That shoreline! That structure on the right is the Newcastle Ocean Baths, which lets people swim in the sea without worrying about riptides or bluebottle jellyfish or other horrors.
I watched these black cormorants groom themselves for a little while. They sat there for ages, preening and fussing over themselves. Cat birds.
From there we headed inland. Welcome to Everytown, Australia. I mean that in a nice way.
I stopped at a newsagency in Cessnock to pick up a card for the wedding, and the lady working there was pretty used to seeing people heading off to weddings. It didn’t take long to find out why: there must be over a hundred vineyards in the Hunter Valley. I don’t know how our friends chose a venue. Drawing a name out of a hat, possibly.
This guesthouse in Broke was so nice. It had a covered spa out the back, and a vine-covered wraparound veranda flanked by olive trees. It was a perfect little cottage that had every comfort you would need.
This wasn’t where Jamie and I stayed, though. Nope. We were parked in a campervan across the road. Accommodation in Broke was limited, so we figured that a weekend trip would be a good chance to test out a campervan holiday. Well, I quite liked it! I don’t know if I could deal with, say, six months in the outback, but a few weeks living out of a campervan could be fun.
A few of our friends reserved this villa, so we came over and hung out on the deck with them in the afternoon, as well as at the hangover-y post-wedding brunch the next day. I appreciated having use of a full mirror to finish off my makeup, the campervan rearview mirror wasn’t cutting it.
Here’s Jamie and I all suited up for the wedding. We’re not photogenic, we’re just a couple of normals, but sometimes we look all right. The wedding was a lovely affair with good company, and we’re glad we had the chance to attend.
We took the scenic route back to Sydney and had coffee in Wollombi, a neat little village nestled in the hills. This cafe was like a treehouse.
Before long we were in the big smoke again. This is what the Harbour Bridge looks like when you’re actually on it. We weren’t in Sydney very long, so I didn’t get to catch up with everyone I wanted to see. Next time! I swear.
Still, we made the most of our brief time there. Jamie and I went cruising along some beaches in the eastern suburbs. Just when you think you’ve seen the most beautiful beach in your life, you round a corner and there’s two more, each prettier than the last. Absolutely unreal. I might have had some fun assembling janky gifs of the currents. This one was at Clovelly Bay.
Not surprisingly, these areas are locked down. Have you ever wondered what a $4 million dollar house looks like? In Sydney it looks kind of like this.
These harbour suburbs are where you’ll find Australia’s one-percenters. Some of the most prominent members of Parliament represent these electorates, including the prime minister. Go figure. I really don’t mean this as criticism, but I imagine it’d feel easy to tune out and stay in your own little bubble if you lived in an area like this.
And yet, here in the middle of this cluster of wealth, is a long-standing reminder that you can’t take any of it with you. I’ve never given much thought as to where my body should go, considering that I won’t know anyway, but all of those laid to rest here could hardly be in a calmer, more picturesque location.
Jamie and I stayed in Newtown this time, rather than the CBD. It’s one of those areas where I’d rather wander and scope out the buildings and people than spend a bunch of money. It’s pretty busy at all hours. I rather like the combination of old and new, and how the old still has a bit of grime.
We went out to dinner with some old Tassie friends and had gelato afterwards. I had baklava gelato and it was SO GOOD. Like, I know that it’s just gelato with honey, cinnamon and almonds, but the taste was spot on. Like two desserts in one. I’m raving about it for days.
A brief holiday, but busy and good. There’s a lot of Australia that I still haven’t seen.
Meanwhile, back at home, I’ve got plenty of house projects on deck, including a major one literally sitting on the deck that still needs to be finished — live-edge slab benches! Time to get cracking.