Christmas Holidays in Sydney and Central Coast (Part 1)
The moment we decided we would be heading to Australia for a year, Desta was messaging her good friend, Gail, who lives just north of Sydney in Central Coast, New South Wales, and making plans for another reunion. Her and Gail met back in 2008 while on the same tour in Egypt. Since then, they have always kept in touch, and have even found ways to meet back up despite living across the world from one another. When Desta came to Australia for school in 2010, Gail flew up to the Gold Coast with her friends to give her the best welcome. In 2012, when Gail and her boyfriend, Glenn, were travelling, Desta met up with them for the weekend in New York City. Then last year, Gail and Glenn happened to be in Canada on another big trip, and so they made the quest all the way to Cobourg to spend Christmas with Desta’s family, and then to Collingwood to visit with Dermot and his family.
So after almost exactly one year since our last visit, we were in the airport preparing to board our flight to Sydney, so excited to spend this Christmas and New Years with Gail, Glenn and their families!
When we arrived in Sydney, Gail and Glenn picked us up from the airport and immediately took us on a sightseeing tour of Sydney. We first hit up Bondi Beach, one of the most visited beaches in Australia. On a hot summer day, it can be difficult to find a spot to lay on the sand, but because of the overcast skies, we almost had Bondi to ourselves that day. Our next stop after Bondi was Circular Quay, where we got amazing views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Just when we thought the view couldn’t get any better, Gail and Glenn bought us all ferry tickets, and we rode the ferry out of the harbour and into the beautiful beach suburb of Manly. It was still overcast and starting to lightly rain – not ideal conditions for a beach day unfortunately. So we did the next best thing and headed to a local pub to wait out the weather and catch up over a few bevvies. After our drinks, we caught the ferry for another scenic ride back to Circular Quay, and headed to our hotel to check in and get ready for the evening.
Later on, we walked down to another must see spot in Sydney, Darling Harbour. We walked part way around the harbour when we found a restaurant offering a great happy hour, so we parked there for a drink before continuing our tour around the rest of the harbour. By then, we were also hungry, so we left the more touristy Darling Harbour, in search of some decently priced pub food. After a bit of searching, we found a great Irish Pub, PJ O’Briens, right down the street from the hotel.
After dinner, we were all pretty tired from a very full day, but we decided to say goodnight to Gail and Glenn and head back down to Circular Quay to check out the harbour by night. When we arrived, we walked all the way to the foot of the Opera House to get a different view of the harbour bridge, which looked so gorgeous let up against the dark sky.
We stayed around the harbour for quite a while before heading back to the hotel. We just couldn’t believe we were in Sydney, Australia!
Day 2 – We checked out of the hotel and Gail drove us across the Harbour Bridge to another spot we could get pictures of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge together. After a few more pictures, we bid farewell to Sydney (for now at least) and began making our way towards to the Central Coast area, where Glenn and Gail live.
On our way to Umina Beach (where Glenn lives), we stopped at the Australian Reptile Park, where we got a chance to see some of Australia’s wildlife up close! Not only was there an area of the park where we could walk right up to kangaroos and pet them, but we also had the chance to fulfill a huge bucket list item here – take a selfie with a koala!
The park had a bunch of shows on throughout the afternoon too, so we got to watch alligator feedings, and learn about what to do if you ever get bitten by a snake (hint: don’t bother trying to suck out the venom, just wrap up your bite tightly and get to the hospital).
Needless to say, we had such a great time at this park! But, we still had more sightseeing planned for the day, so we left the park and headed to Somersby Falls, where we could take a little hike to a gorgeous natural waterfall. During the small hike, we continued to see so much wildlife, including a wild turkey, a salamander, and a real life Australian snake (yikes!).
That night, it was Christmas Eve, so we made one last-minute shopping trip to Kmart for a few Secret Santa gifts, and then headed out to the local RSL for drinks and dinner on the balcony overlooking the waterfront. After the sun started going down, we made or way back to Glenn’s to make some very Aussie desserts for Christmas Day – Gail made her famous pavlova while Desta started on Tim Tam balls. Dermot got into the Christmas spirit too by putting on some Christmas carols and wrapping up the gifts. Once the baking and the wrapping was done, it really did feel like Christmas Eve, and it was off to bed to let Santa do his thing!
Day 3 – 16 hours before Canada, Christmas morning had arrived for us! We woke up to unexpected prezzies from Gail and Glenn. Among other gifts, they had bought both of us a skywalk experience in Sydney that we would get to do before heading to the fireworks on Christmas Day! So nice.
After opening presents, we were off to Gail’s family home to have Christmas lunch. The spread was delicious, and after eating, we all played a Secret Santa gift swap game (some of you may know it as White Elephant or Yankee Swap), which was really fun! We hung around for a bit longer, played a Family Feud board game Gail had won in the Secret Santa, but then it was back to Glenn’s to prepare our bellies for another big meal.
We had a bit of time before dinner, so in true Aussie fashion, we headed down to the beach to soak up a little sun.
When we returned to the house, Christmas dinner was just about ready to be served, and we enjoyed another mouthwatering meal with Glenn’s family. After dinner we got to play another round of the gift swap game, and then everyone returned to the kitchen for dessert – Gail’s pavlova and Maria’s lemon tart – both so delicious.
We had such a great day participating in Gail and Glenn’s family Christmas’ and we are so appreciative to have friends that so readily welcome us into their families at this special time of year. We went to bed that night so happy to have such a memorable first Christmas with one another in Australia!