Back in Europe there is nothing we like more than a camping holiday be it a weekend in Devon or 3 weeks exploring Scandinavia. We have reservations about camping in Australia due to the wildlife, venemous snakes and spiders are not my idea of fun! However our desire to go camping became too strong and so we decided to be brave and buy camping equipment. Just a small tent and a couple of roll mats nothing fancy just enough to protect us from the elements (and fauna!).
Our first trip was a long weekend up to the Hunter Valley one of Australia’s more famous wine regions. Only a few hours north of Sydney it was an easy drive after work on Friday. We decided on Cessnock as our base as it had camp site not too far from a few wineries (it seems ‘vinyard’ isn’t a word used in Australian). It was august so the last month of winter the camp site was fairly empty, a few camper vans and caravans but we were the only tent. The other campers thought we were mad but it really wasn’t that cold, especially when compared with English weather.
After Jon got back from his morning ride we got back on the bikes and headed off to a few winerys. It was quite warm that day so we didn’t go too far but we still managed to visit 3 places and try lots of wine! With a bottle on board for dinner we headed back to the camp site. We enjoyed the sunset from our pitch with a glass of wine before heading for dinner at a Thai restaurant at the entrance to the camp site. We have been really pleasantly surprised at the quality Thai food in Australia, it doesn’t matter how small the town is there is always a decent Thai restaurant.
The next day the weather wasn’t great, heavy rain, this was forecast so we were prepared to change our plans. Even though the forecast wasn’t good for all of NSW we decided to try and chase the sun and head further north to South West Rocks. We succeeded for the most part it was dry enough for a fun bike ride to a nearby lighthouse. I didn’t make it all the way to the top as it was really steep, this seemed like fate though as where we stopped gave us a front row seat of a whale breaching in the water. On returning to the camp site we found we were now sharing our pitch with several kangaroos! The next day we had a look around and found another camp site, Trial Bay Gaol Camp ground. It is on the grounds of an old prison, out on the peninsular and a bit more rustic than where we had stayed. We will definitely return to South West Rocks and try out this other site and I’ll make it all the way to the lighthouse next time!
A few months later for the last weekend of spring we headed to another of NSW’s wine regions, Mudgee. Mudgee is inland beyond the Blue Mountains and an area we hadn’t explored. This time we left on Saturday morning and arrived in Mudgee for early afternoon. It’s a fairly small town and the camp site is on the river, walking distance from the centre of town. It was a really hot day so after we erected the tents we just had a short cycle to a High Valley Wine and Cheese it was a cafe that also had wine tastings for wineries that don’t have their own cellar door. It turns out they make their own cheese so it seemed rude not to stop for a cheeseboard and a glass of wine. During our ride through town earlier in the day we had noticed Mudgee Brewing Company so we headed there for a couple of drinks before having a slap up steak dinner.
The next day we planned to get up early and have a bike ride before the sun became too oppressive. This didn’t go quite to plan but nevertheless we set off on what should’ve been a relatively short loop. It soon became clear that we had misjudged the heat and I kept having to stop for more water! We had almost made it back when we were suddenly attacked by a magpie! It swooped us several times, Jon shouted ‘pedal faster!’ luckily we were heading downhill so it wasn’t long before we had left it’s territory. After a nice lunch in a local cafe we set off on our long journey back to Sydney. We had a couple of detours to interesting ‘ghost towns’ such as Hill End, heavily populated during the gold rush it now has a mixture of inhabited and abandoned houses.
This was another fun weekend and we will be sure to return to Mudgee for more wine tasting and bike rides.