Christmas Holidays in Sydney and Central Coast (Part 2)
Day 4 – It was now Boxing Day, so we were off to the races! We got up nice and early as we were heading up to Newcastle to visit Gail’s best friend Narelle and her husband Dane, and the six of us would be going to the Newcastle Jockey Club for the annual Boxing Day horse races. Desta had also met Narelle in Egypt on that same trip with Gail in 2008, so this would be a much needed reunion as well!
We arrived at Narelle’s, had a few nibbles, toasted with Champagne, and then it was off to the races! In Australia, the races are much more of an event, and everyone gets dressed up to have drinks at the course and cheer on their horses. We all made a few small bets over the course of the day and had so much fun just hanging out with one another. Not surprisingly, we forgot to take any photos of the actual horse races to document the occasion, but we did manage a group shot!
We returned home later, just in time for dinner and and finished off the evening with a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity!
Day 5 – Narelle prepared a delicious egg, bacon and hash brown breakfast for us, but then it was time for Gail, Glenn and the two of us to say goodbye to her and Dane, because we were getting back on the road again – next stop on the Central Coast tour was the famous Hunter Valley wine region! Our first destination was Potters Brewery, which would also be our home for the evening. We started the day by taking their brewery tour and beer tasting – never too early in Australia for beer tasting! The guide was really great, and told us quite a few interesting facts about beer – for instance, the whole ‘low carb beer’ thing is more of a marketing tactic than anything else, because normal beer is already quite low in carbs!
After the beer tour, we grabbed some lunch then started a little self guided tour of some of the many wineries scattered across the Hunter Valley Region. Our favourite by far had to be Audrey Wilkinson – Desta really liked their Rosé! The wine was perfect, and the views were some of the best in the area! On the way home, we also stopped at a chocolate factory, where we picked up some chocolate covered sultanas to snack on.
When we got back to the brewery we all decided that a little power nap was in order before reconvening for a delicious Thai dinner in town. Once dinner was done and the sun started to set, we headed to the Hunter Valley Gardens for their Christmas Lights Spectacular. This place had every light display you could imagine! The photos really don’t do this place justice.
Day 6 – Unfortunately Glenn had fallen under the weather during our time in the Hunter Valley, and he still was not feeling better when we woke up the next day, so we decided that we would head back to Glenn’s place in Umina Beach so that he could get some rest. However, when we arrived back in Umina, we all realized we could all use some rest! We grabbed some healthy take-away salad lunches from in town, and settled down at Glenn’s to watch a movie (we decided on the first Hobbit film, as Desta has never seen any Hobbit or Lord of the Rings films…).
Later that afternoon, Gail drove us (minus Glenn) to Mt. Ettalong lookout for some amazing views of the local beaches in Umina. We got dinner to-go from a local noodle shop and went down to the Ettalong Beach foreshore for a little picnic. Even though it was a bit breezy, it was still so nice to get to soak up the beautiful waterfront views over dinner!
Day 7 – We had a leisurely morning at Glenn’s and then headed out to a nearby town called Patonga. Gail explained that this area was where most of the tourists in the area visit, and we can see why – everything about this little beach area was so beautiful and the place had a great relaxed vibe. We started our tour of the area with a steep climb to another amazing lookout point. The views were unreal, and definitely worth the climb!
The climb really stimulated our appetite, so we headed back down the hill to go grab some delicious fish and chips before heading back to Umina to change and head back out to a place called Erina for the rest of the afternoon.
Day 8 – More town-hopping around the Central Coast was in store for us today! First stop was Norah Head to visit the lighthouse and take a stroll on the rock platforms.
Next stop was The Entrance (yes, this small town is literally called The Entrance, named because it’s channel is the entrance to the Tuggerah Lakes), a popular holiday destination in NSW. One of it’s most popular attractions is the daily pelican feeding, so we had to check that out!
Day 9 – New Year’s Eve was finally here! We were so excited to be heading back to Sydney where we would be watching the iconic fireworks display in Sydney Harbour. We wouldn’t be going down to Sydney until the afternoon however, so a morning beach session/surf lesson was in order at Umina beach. Glenn was kind (and patient) enough to take Dermot out in the water for his first attempt at surfing. Hoping he’d take to surfing naturally due to his experience snowboarding, the ocean was quick to prove Dermot that was not the case! He admits it was a lot harder than he originally thought, and only ever managed to get to his knees on the board. So no cool surfing photos, sorry blog followers!
We took the train down to Sydney just after lunch. While the New Year’s Eve festivities wouldn’t begin until later in the evening, Gail and Glenn had booked the two of us in for a Sydney Tower Skywalk experience at 4:00! The Sydney Tower is the tallest building in Sydney, and we would be taking a 360 degree tour outside on the top of the observation deck – 268 metres in the sky! Needless to say, we were super excited.
The Sydney Tower Skywalk was amazing. The views of the harbour and the surrounding Sydney area were breathtaking, and our guide during the walk was really informative, always pointing out what we were looking at while giving us interesting facts about Sydney. It was also neat seeing so many boats parked in the harbour, all waiting for the fireworks.
After waiting in a very long line to go back down the Sydney Tower, it was time to meet back up with Glenn and Gail, who had headed over to Barangaroo Reserve early (a park along the harbour where we would watching the fireworks that evening) to get us a good fireworks-viewing spot!
The time flew by as we chatted, played cards, drank a few bevvies (and if you’re Desta and Gail, took a quick nap), and before we knew it, the 60 second countdown to New Years had begun! The fireworks display was more incredible than we could have imagined. While we were taking the fireworks in, we couldn’t help but think about how we would see these amazing Sydney fireworks on the news back home as Australia rang in the New Year’s before the rest of the world (well technically second, sorry New Zealand, you don’t get much TV coverage in Canada), and just how fortunate we were to now be in Sydney, Australia to witness them in-person together! It’s a moment we will truly never forget, that’s for sure.
Day 10 – It was back to Melbourne this evening. We were so sad to say goodbye to Central Coast and our wonderful hosts Glenn and Gail, after having such an incredible Christmas holiday.