After our epic trip to Ikea we headed north up to Nelson Bay just beyond Newcastle. During the 2 hour drive up the coast we discovered that Australians love suped-up cars, the flashier the better they zoomed past us on the motorway at terrifying speeds. From the passenger seat I was on alert for koalas and kangaroos, we saw 4 kangaroos chilling out in a field the jury’s out on whether they were wild or not. Kangaroos and koalas are one thing but nothing could prepare us for what we saw next, a massive swarm of bats. We couldn’t decided for a couple of kilometres if they were birds or bats as their wing span was impressive, however the closer we got it became clear we’d entered bat country.
Nelson Bay is perched on the tip of the southern side of Port Stephens, a wide bay which extends 25km inland. We arrived late afternoon and as we were quickly losing the daylight we decided to hit the pool instead of heading to one of the nearby beaches. This was our first venture outside of Sydney and we were not prepared for the early closing times of restaurants, everywhere we went was closing and we ended up at an Indian restaurant. It was pleasant inside and as we had few other choices this was us for the night. On this night of new discoveries we found that practically everywhere is BYO. This is the first thing that tourists should be made aware of when landing in Australia as we have been caught short on more than one occasion.
The next day Jon headed out on a early morning bike ride and discovered the Nelson Bay Lighthouse. So after a quick dip in the pool we headed over to the lighthouse and had breakfast in a lovely little cafe at the foot of the building. There were fabulous views out over Port Stephens. One of the waitresses told us about a mountain we should climb, Mount Tomaree, don’t worry it would only take us 20 minutes she assured us. Mount Tomaree is in Shoal Bay a couple of kilometres west of Nelson Bay. We started our sharp ascent of 161m, it probably took us a bit longer than the estimated 20 mins as it was incredibly hot and we were stuffed with scrambled eggs. We had to navigate our way around some nasty looking spider webs but it was worth it when we got there. We were rewarded with 360 views around the bay and a pod of dolphins playing in the sea below us.
Then we headed back to the motorway on to our next stop Forster. We took the scenic route up through the Myall Lakes National Park. We had to cross the lake at on point, Bombah Point Ferry, the smallest car ferry we’d seen. Lots of pelicans hanging out also made it the one of the more pleasant places to wait for a ferry. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for poor Forster, a very tired suburban town. The hotel was ok, nothing to write home about and the pool had more plastic bags in than is preferable. The next day we headed to Seal Rocks and the beach. We settled at Number One Beach, beautifully nestled between two headlands it was a good swimming spot. Late in the afternoon we headed to Sugar Loaf Point Lighthouse, it was another really steep walk but there great views of the coast.
Another early morning bike ride for Jon and his first snake sighting(!) we headed back to Sydney the long way through the Wollemi National Park, dense forest and dirt roads, it was a little hairy at times but much more interesting than the motorway. We saw more Cockatoos and had to stop for a large (Monitor?) lizard to pass. We had our second ferry crossing of the trip, this one was more substantial and free! We wound our way back to Sydney content after a great few days away relaxing on the beach and exploring.