Friday, September 30, 2011

Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park

Fitzroy Falls
For most Australians, the first weekend in October is a holiday.  For those who have to work with customers around the world, it is not. We decided to ditch responsibility for a Saturday anyways and head to the huge Morton National Park two hours south of Sydney.  Fortunately the main attraction, a huge cascading waterfall, is on the north end of the park.  Morton spans 1757 square kilometers and is a series of several parks put together with long scenic drives.

Climbing the ridge trail around Kanga Valley
The area around Fitzroy falls is well laid out for tourists and families with a wide mostly flat trail following the ridge path.  There is a decent visitor center, cafe, and well illustrated wildlife guides. Eucalptus and red blossom Banksia trees are the predominant foliage, with the occasional termite mound big enough to house a small horse.  We packed an American style peanut butter and jelly lunch and made a morning of it. 

Warty tree Ent
There are five scenic drives you can take from Fitzroy spanning 30-100km at slow but scenic switchback pace.  We opted to head east through Kangaroo valley toward the ocean.  Nolan was not having a fun time in the car sprouting a bottom molar, so stopping ever hour slowed our pace. Bushwalker mountain is the main lookout of the park from the south end, closer to Eden.  It is doubtful we will ever return to Kangaroo Valley since there are so many places left to see in the world. I'm happy we got to enjoy it, only if for a day.

Kangaroo Valley view from Firetrail lookout

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sydney Olympic Park

Olympic Torch the "Cauldron"
Yesterday was a fun series of highs and lows, starting with a trip through the Lane Cove tunnel towards Homebush. My husband had business near Sydney's Olympic Park so we decided to spend the morning exploring the area.  Paul and I counted 16 previous trips to Olympic Parks between the two of us: Barcelona, Atlanta, Calgary, Helsinki, Lake Placid, Bejing, Rome, Athens, Los Angeles to name a few.  Sydney's does not dissapoint, and overall it feels less congested than Atlanta, but lacks the ocean scenery of Barcelona.  I was a little disappointed they place the complex so far from some of the prettier parts of downtown Sydney, but understand it is there to serve function beyond the Olympics.  We started at the ANZ stadium and "Cauldron" which looks like a spaceship on stilts (above).

Pole Artwork commemorating Olympic Athletes
After checking out long list of Ausi athletes commemorated on the poles outside the stadium, we took a short drive over to Wentworth Commons to enjoy another well-groomed playground just before being taken by a big storm.  I was disappointed we had to cut the trip short, as I was hoping to see the Newington Armory Wharf.  We will have to save it for next trip.  So what's to do in Homebush during a hale storm except go to Sydney's lone Ikea.  I in no way endorse spending endless hours at Ikea in spite of some of their more clever product offerings. My husband was intent on replacing a picture frame that broke during our move.

Ana at Wentworth Commons Water Recycling facility just before a storm
Our adventures took a long, drawn out dive into frustration when we went separate directions in Ikea without Paul having a phone.  We recovered TWO HOURS later with some meatballs and solar powered lamps.  Thankfully it was two stupid adults, and not one innocent child that was the victim of our careless planning.

Nolan riding a lizard statue in Wentworth Commons sandpit playground

Friday, September 23, 2011

Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo is on every tourists list of to-dos in Sydney. Rivaled in my experience only by the Columbus Zoo in size it has some amazing features no Ohio zoo could offer, views of Sydney Harbor.  The zoo is located in our home neighborhood of Mosman and has a FREE Gondola.  You can reach the zoo via ferry from circular quay, but it is not required to pay the $40 entrance for a ride to the top.

Taronga offers 8 different walking trails, each with at least an hours worth of animal experience.  The kid's trail offers a huge petting zoo and walkabout with kangaroos and emus. There is also a nice educational facility for kids classes and animal encounters.  Some encounters, such as entering the Koala cage, must be paid for and can book quickly.  Some of our favorite animals are the Dhole, Lemurs, Emu, and Tasmania Devils.

Taronga has a wonderful conservation effort and great labeling system.  They darken exhibits for nocturnal animals making them active for visitors during the day.  Since Australia is home to 20 of the top 25 world's deadliest snakes, this is a rare chance to see many of them up close.  Taronga also has one of the world's oldest elephant and bird houses. I'm glad we decided to join as our membership will help with conservation, there is a free bus running through Mosman to take us there, and the walk is such a good workout.  Most of the trails are shaded, but don't forget your hat mate!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

North Head Quarantine & Fort Hike

North Head in Manly is quickly becoming a family favorite hiking destination. With the sweeping ocean and city views, as well as abandoned military outposts and whale watching, it is really a great quick weekend retreat.  Only 4km from our home in Mosman is the North Fort, known for its Ghost tours of the quarantine station.  There is an erie quietness in the bush as you approach the old graveyard where nearly 500 Sydneysiders were quarantined and burred from small pox infestation.

The trail isn't very stroller friendly, and we ended up having to ditch it half way through the hike. There is a welcome center that accepts donations, had a bathroom, and large pictures of wildlife you can encounter on the trail including the endangered bandicoot! It is sobering to see the graves of so many young people.  I feel fortunate to live in a time and place where vaccinations for my children are possible. I can only imagine the difficulties these families faced through countless bedside hours, or perhaps not even allowed to see their child at all.  

Nothing says, "Come on in" like a missile lawn ornament.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Royal National Park

Happy Sunday to my American Family! Normally we would be enjoying a sporting event, doing a home repair, or going to a birthday party. But since we don't have a house, cable, or many local friends yet our weekend beckoned another National Park visit.  We chose Royal National Park just south of Sydney, the world's second official National Park. Spanning 26km, it has a hugely diverse habbitat of rainforest, beach, heathland, and volcanic cliffs. We parked at Wattamolla beach and decided to do a short hike to Providential Head.  Normally a spot for Whale watching, there were tourist groups hosting camping adventure excursions.  We politiely avoided each other (and their outhouse tents) and made for the cliffs

Providential Head Overlook - No railing!

This didn't turn out to be the safest vantage point to take kids, as there is a narrow trail that falls straight into the ocean.  My nervous nelly husband quickly took in the scene and did an about face with the children. I took a deep breath of ocean air and did my best to hold back the raw emotion you feel when encountering such a beautiful place.  We are so grateful to live within an hours drive of spectacular natural beauty.

After hiking back down to the lagoon and crossing the Wattamolla spit, Ana took a dip while Paul enjoyed the rising tide and trail mix.  The Wattamolla lagoon waterfall looked jumpable, maybe 30ft at most and I know a few people I'd like to bring back to give it a try... once the water is a bit warmer.  Cowabunga! We managed to stream the Purdue and Michigan games via pocket wifi to our car bluetooth radio on the way home. Technology wonders never cease.  I can remember falling to sleep to the exact same endless white noise while my dad would listen to sports games on the drive from South Bend to Detroit.  The torch has been passed...

A good time had by all, and all had by a good time

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park

I'd like to claim that hours of planning and research go into our weekly excursions, but usually we just pick a spot on the map and go.  Since purchasing a National Park pass, my frugal husband is intent on getting our moneys worth. This point was on our Sydney to-do map and we chose a beautiful Sunday to make the best of it.  A 30 minute drive from Mosman, Ku-Ring-gai Chase national Park is the original aboriginal name for what is now Sydney. It contains one very long Scenic ridge road that is very popular with bikers and hikers alike.

4km was too far for young Ana, but it ends in a beach Youth Hostile :)
 There are dozens of trails to chose from off the ridge road that offer 2-8km hikes down to several different private beaches, or in the case of Towler Bay and a Youth Hostile.  Its always exciting when we find a place I know we will come back to and bring other visitors or family.  This park has spectacular views, private hiking and beaches, and all within a mornings drive from home.  The north shore beaches and parks are increasingly making me happy we opted to live in North Sydney, otherwise we would have overlooked Ku-Ring-Gai.
Bush Hike sightings: kanga, bandicoot, fireants