Monday, March 21, 2016

Kangaroo Valley and surrounding area

Kangaroo Valley is an easy 2 hour drive from Sydney and Canberra. It is near the Morton National Park, one of the largest parks in N.S.W. There are many activity's to explore in this area. A variety of bush walks, river based activities, picnic areas, scenic drives with so many opportunity's to get some great pictures. Also a historical town to wander through with many local stores and cafes.

Traveling around this area regularly  we live a good hour away but its an easy drive and has so much to explore, we often find ourselves heading out for day trips to explore this areas and surrounding sights. Besides the main road of quaint little shops, pub and museum and of cause the historical Hampden Bridge, its great to stroll down to the river to explore the natural surrounds and its wildlife. You can hire kayaks or canoes to paddle down the river, this is an easy couple of hours down the river where the owners of the kayak shop with collect you from down the river and drive you back.


The walking tracks are endless they vary from short easy strolls to long hard challenging ones. We have walked a few shorter tracks and have many more on our list to explore, (we general google areas of walking tracks before we head off) with the national park surrounding the area we also find some amazing photo opportunity's and generally take a packed lunch and find a nice quiet picnic area to relax.

There is a free camping spot at Bendeela on the banks of Kangaroo river, a popular picnic and camping area. This area has non powered site, flushing toilets, tap water, open 24 hours with no reservations.  Activities include fishing, swimming, non powered boats, bush walking. No fires permitted and no pets. it can be very relaxing at a quiet time of year, but on holidays and long weekends it can get very busy. Bendeela is a beautiful nature reserve, the river runs along the reserve and the wild life is always present. We were lucky to see a wombat wandering down the path last visit, and a couple of large water dragons, plus many native birds. 

The drive in and around this area is beautiful the roads through the national park has many areas to pull over and explore. Its peaceful and quiet. We came across a amazing river crossing where we pulled over and had a swim in the clear fresh water. Beautiful rock formations and amazing lookouts. Its the place to just enjoy the drive and you will always come across something amazing around the next corner that will catch your attention.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Yalwal and Danjera Dam

Heading to Yalwal

Danjera Dam is located in Yalwal which is 30km west of Nowra (Map Here) the road in is dirt and narrow at times 2wd in the dry and 4wd in the very wet. The dam was built over an old gold mining town. Today it is a free camping area with a few different camping areas, the main camping area is very popular right on the dam and we mean popular the place soon fills up on the weekends I'd hate to see it in peak holiday time.

 Danjera Dam

We found the toilet in the main camping area is a flush toilet while other toilets are long drop toilets, there is also rubbish bins in the main camping area.
The area around the dam is great for bush walking, bike riding or hit the dam for a swim, fishing for Bass and canoeing or kayaking.
Yalwal and the dam has some stunning country and worth a visit , but it can get very busy and noisy.
You can get more information by visiting Shoalhaven Visitor Centre.

 The waterfall after the dams spill way.

We left home on Friday night arriving around 8pm in the dark and set up our van and got the fire going and enjoyed the beautiful night with a few beers. Next morning we packed the van and explored the area some more and also decided the main camping area was a bit busy and noisy for us. We stopped at one camp area just after the dam spill way and had a look at the waterfall and decided to grab our fishing rods and cast a few lures for some Bass I managed a small Bass while Trish missed out. We decided to checkout the first camp area which is a few kilometers from the dam itself but it was much quieter there and only had to share with a young family, stacks of birds and the odd goanna.

The view of Yalwal and Danjera Dam from the top of the hill

We had dinner lit the campfire and enjoyed the evening with a few cold beers. Next morning we spent a bit of time cooking breakfast on the campfire and checking out the nearby creek, before heading home.    

Central West part 2. Australia Day Long Weekend

Another long weekend and we packed the van and headed back out west, so many beautiful places on our list to explore. Up early Saturday morning our travel plan for the extended 5 day long weekend :- Our itinerary is the Blue Mountains, Jenolan Caves, Wollemi National Park, Cowra, Grenfel and Junee.

Blue Mountains

Our first stop was Lennox Bridge it is the oldest stone arch bridge on Australians mainland opening in 1833, it was designed by David Lennox. The bridge is easy to access and has a car park  just off road with walking tracks also sign boarded, unfortunately graffiti has covered most of bridge but the walk down and structure of bridge is worth a look. Google Map Here

From there we ventured over to Glenbrook National Park a quick stop at the Jelly Bean Pool. As we arrived here early there were not many people around and although the day was heating up I felt it was still to cool for a swim but the water looked beautiful. We headed down the easy stepped track to the water. The water was clear with a small sandy beach, and walking tracks along the waters edge. We could of easily spent a few hours here relaxing but we had other plans for the day.
Google Map Here for Jelly Bean Pool and Red Hands Cave

Back into car we headed further into National Park to Red Hand Cave, the drive in is approx 13km, arriving at the end of the road is a small car park. The walk is an easy 2km return walk to cave from here, the alternate route is a 6km loop track that starts at camp ground car park. Red Hand Cave showcases the areas best aboriginal art and has been caged in with provisions to take pictures. The cave is a little disappointing due to the cage but understandable due to the amount of graffiti that is now spoiling our beautiful culture and natural surroundings. Imagining the history of the aboriginal community living in this area. Although unknown the art work is suspected to date back 500-1100 years.

The Park also has many picnic areas throughout. We stopped for early lunch before we drove over to Jenolan Caves for the afternoon to explore a few caves. We paid for one tour which was the Temple of Baal, what an amazing experience.The entrance to the Temple of Baal is a man made tunnel, which reminded us of the start of Maxwell Smart show. The cave is spectacular and also can be used for a wedding venue. The tour takes about an hour and a half with a length of 365 meters and 288 steps, which makes it and easy walk for all ages.
Google Map Here

The grounds of Jenolan Caves can keep you there for hours, wondering the grounds, walking the Blue Lake Loop via the Grand Arch, Jenolan River walk, Devils coach lookout and a self guided tour of Nettle Cave which is free.

A great place we could of stayed a few more hours exploring but the day was getting on and we needed to get to our campsite before dark.

Lake Wallace. Lithgow and Wollemi National Park

We spent the night at Lake Wallace approx 10km out of Lithgow, a free camp with hot showers and flushing toilets, play ground, boat ramp, lake view and very quiet. Google Map Here More Info Here

We were excited about the days adventures we headed through town were we stopped to take pictures of the twin railway bridges, just follow the road from Lithgow Tourist Information centre, turn left and follow the road around past the caravan park and the bridges are to your left, before the highway.

We then headed out of Lithgow along Old Coach Road to the Glowworm Tunnel it is a disused railway tunnel between Lithgow and Newnes, and it is well known for its resident glow-worms,  the 30km road in to the tunnel is rough, but easy enough for 2wd car in dry weather. Driving past a pine plantation the scenery changes into bushland, also glimpses of huge rock formations part of the Stone Gardens National Park. We were suprized to arrive at a huge drive through tunnel about 200 meters in length, it all connects the old train line along the way. It was exciting traveling through the tunnel but it's only wide enough for one car so sound your horn as you drive through slowly. Parking we walked along the track to the tunnel it was very wet but a nice 2 km walk return with lots of plants and what seemed like underwater caves, hidden underneath huge rock structures, also a small bridge with cobble stone stairs. Unfortunately silly me forgot the torch so mobile phones came in handy to guide us into the tunnel. We didn't need to go far in before we saw hundreds of glow worms, pretty amazing as we stood in silence in pitch dark and marveled at the spectacular show. There is a longer walk from other side of the tunnel a 12 km trek which leaves from the old oil shale, (Wolgan Rd) unfortunately you cant drive straight to the other side of the tunnel, so you needed to drive back onto highway and turn on to Wolgan Rd and travel in again 30km. This drive was amazing the huge mountains and the view of the national park and the garden of stones is breathtaking, the roads are narrow and windy but sealed. Google Map Here


At the end of Wolgan Rd are the ruins of the old oil shale factory. The township and shale oil mining complex was established in 1906. The Newnes Oil Shale Mine produced low grade oil. It was set within a beautiful mountain, with beautiful views. A collection of what remains of the factory is scattered around the area. Buildings, furnace, smoke stacks, machinery now all just a piece of history. The factory closed in 1932, today the hotel is all that remains.

On the right is the river crossing (4wd only) do not let anyone tell you it can be done by car or van! The river sand is very soft, and vans can get stuck!!! (embarrassing) but you can park car and cross river by foot as there are large stepping stones to cross. Follow road along there is also camping on this side of the river. Follow to end car park which takes you to beginning of trail, this is well signed with information and map. It is an easy walk with information and history along the way, we found the building structures amazing the pure size of some of the smoke stacks foundation, buildings, ovens, shales etc.

We wondered through taking out time and enjoying the moment, you could feel the history in this place a definite place to visit again.

Newnes campground is at the end of road in Wolgan Rd, its set on the Wolgan river on a grassy flat area, the view of the sandstone mountains and escarpment is amazing. The camp ground is free and has one toilet (long drop) and no other facilities. We found a peaceful space by the river to sit back and rest for a night, building a small campfire. Plenty of walking tracks around also, the neighboring Garden of Stone, Capertee valley and Glen Davis offering plenty to explore.Google Map Here More Info Here

Wedding mountain, Seatons farm house, Cowra

Our afternoon we set of again taking our time travelling over to Weddin Mountains National Park near Grenfield, an old historic town near Cowra. A beautiful easy drive, the drive into the National Park from Grenfield was a 20km straight flat long road, almost deserted, stopping and having some fun with a few local sheep that had escaped their paddocks. Turning into the state forest we drove a short distance to Ben Halls Cave Campground a small area nestled under the mountain. We set up camp and relaxed for the night. The area really reminded me of the Australian bush, hot and dry. The following day we were up early to a paddock full of wild kangaroos and a flock of some kind of baby bird.

There are a couple of walking tracks scattered around the area but our main focus was on the Ben Halls Cave, so up the hill we ventured. Ben Hall was infamous bushranger and the cave believed to be his hideout and shelter. Walking up the track we stop a few times and looked at the view, but on arriving at sheltered cave at top the view is awesome your can see for hundreds of miles across the landscape surroundings.

From here we headed over to Seaton's Farm, an abandon farmhouse left intact and now preserved. Wow this was a huge step back in time, the farm house has been closed off but can be viewed by pulling a large wooded lever to open door.

The yard still has all the machinery, farm tools and equipment scattered around everywhere. There are information boards around to describe the living conditions and working life back in their time and how hard it was living in the great depression back in 1930. An amazing historic site and well worth taking a look if in the area. Google Map Here

Driving back into Cowra we stopped at the information centre, they were screening a hologram on the story of the prisoner's of war, and the breakout, as I knew little about this history it was a great way to inform people of the POW story in Cowra.

Taking a few more hours to explore Cowra we visited the POW memorial park, the Aboriginal artwork under the bridge, which was awesome.

Bethungra Dam

Our nights accommodation was spent in a cow paddock at Bethungra Dam, I could say it was the funniest accommodation night this far, cows and bulls wandering around making all kinds of noises and funny behavior's. We had to get the binoculars out as we watched a cow trying to get out of knee high sludge across the water, although it wasn't in to much danger it was quiet funny watching as it looked as though it was drunk trying to roller skate. The Dam itself is a lovely quiet area used mainly by locals to fish and kayak, it has toilet facilities (long drop), picnic tables and picnic shelters.Google Map Here and More Info Here


The next morning our last day and it was bucketing down with rain, we were up and out on the road really early before the road became to muddy. Quick drive into Junee and we found a cute little café for a coffee and some breakfast sat in to keep out of the rain. We were both needing a hot shower so we approached the local van park and paid $5 each for use of amenities, they even supplied bathmats and the bathrooms were spotless.

By 9am we were at Junee chocolate and licorice factory, Andy was waiting for this visit, he was like a big kid. We paid $5 to make our own giant Freckle, it was fun, and the best hot chocolate! Over to Monte Cristo's haunted homestead, I was excited to visit this place.. and it was closed! Dam!!! We checked out a few other quick spots in Junee the old railway, museum, then unfortunately we needed to head home via Gundagai to see the dog on the tuckerbox.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Central West Part 1

For our Christmas break we decided to escape from the south coast population explosion and head inland to explore the Central West of N.S.W. Our travel route started in the Illawarra to the Capertee Valley to a small town called Glen Davies , on to Wellington, Dubbo, Parkes, Peak Hill, Orange, Hill End, Lithgow and took the long way home via Wombeyan Caves.

Travel route - here. After Wombeyan Caves we took a crazy narrow dirt road to Moss Vale to Maquarie Pass home.   

Glen Davies - Capertee Valley

We took the tourist route to Glen Davies which is an old oil shale town. Which started in 1938 and soon a small town grew until 1952 when it was not viable anymore, it left a very small community of properties. The area was turned into Wollemi National Park were a good tourist industry has started.

There is a tour conducted on Saturdays of the old factory ruins, but we missed out on the tour. The area is scattered with historical ruins and the landscape is magnificent. Glen Davies has two free camp grounds, one in the town centre and the other by the river (4wd road in the wet).


Arriving later in the afternoon to Wellington, we set up camp at a free rest area approx 7 km out of town, opposite from Caves Rd, (Wellington Caves entrance) no facilities at rest stop but quiet and safe.

Wellington caves are open every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day, we purchased a multi-pass for the Cathedral and Gaden Caves, all tours are guided. The Cathedral Cave is the largest and most popular of the caves, the highlights of this tour include the Altar (a 15m tall stalagmite), Thunder Cave, Headache Rock and the Well.

We then headed over to The Gaden Cave it is the smaller of the two caves but very impressive it contains large amounts of stalactites, cave coral, flow stone and helictites. 
The Wellington Caves complex offers accommodation for all budgets, with beautiful picnic areas scattered throughout property. There is also a Japanese garden across from cave entrance, a lovely Zen feel small but nice for a quick wander through before we hit the road again


We arrived at Dubbo late afternoon and decided stay at the Dubbo City Holiday Park. The park is well set out very clean and secure , we settled in and enjoyed a few beers and a nice hot shower.
Next morning we started early and went to Dubbo Zoo the entrance price gives you a two day pass to explore the zoo, which gives you plenty of time to see all the animals and keeper shows. We spent hours wandering through the park, being self drive there are lots of parking along the road to stop and watch the animals, bike and buggy hire also available, picnic areas and café. A great day out, plenty of opportunities for some amazing pictures. The variety of monkeys and chimpanzees would have to be the most entertaining animals to watch along with the hippos and turtles. Great day out for any age group.

Peak Hill - Old Gold Mine

Peak Hill gold mine was established in 1889 and shut down in 2002 and later turned into a tourist attraction. There are a few walks around the mine from easy to hard with many old mining artifacts on display and the colours of the earth are amazing. An good stop off along the way from Dubbo to Parkes.


A quick stop at Parkes, we found a great over night rest area where we could stop for the night, located on the Newell Highway, 3 kilometers north of Parkes, beside the highway on the northbound side it has some shady trees, picnic tables, toilets, no water, also a popular truck stop so it became a little noisy throughout the night.

On the way into Parkes from Dubbo is "The Dish" it is the CSIRO's radio astronomy observatories, collectively known as the Australia Telescope National Facility, (ATNF). It supports Australia’s research in radio astronomy and can be used by researchers from institutions all over the world. You can see the dish from the highway as you approach it, with signage well displayed.

The drive towards the dish was great, with fields of beautiful sunflowers for miles, quiet amazing. The facility had all the usual attractions inside, displays, information, 3D theater with short displays, Café with a great view of the dish. Its a place you could spend hours exploring or a quick look to satisfy your curiosity. Parkes is a cute country town we spent a few hours looking around, a beautiful park, main street with the usual stores. A nice stop over place.


An hours drive on from Parkes we arrived in Orange, a beautiful little town of old houses and tree lined streets, we headed to Mount Canobolas state conservation area. Mount Canobolas is an extinct volcano that erupted 13 million years ago, at 139 meters above sea level it is the highest peak between Sydney and Perth. The drive up we stopped at the pinnacle reserve/lookout for some lunch the area was so quiet and relaxing. We then decided to walk up to the lookout. Its a short walk up but intense, maybe the fact it was very hot and midday didn't help but getting to the top was worth it the view was amazing, pretty much a 360 degree of Orange and its surroundings, from here we also had a good view of Mount Canobolas.

We kept driving up the hill and spent the afternoon on top of the extinct volcano exploring. We decided to spend the night on top of the volcano, so we found a good spot to watch the sunset and the sun rise. It was Amazing!!

The following day we headed down to Borenore Karst Conservation Reserve, we explored the Arch Cave an easy walking track, a short walk from the picnic area. The caves were inviting lots of stalactites, stalagmites, a small river running through, the walk stated 30 minute walk, I'm sure we were there over an hour the place was amazing. the reserve had longer walks with more caves to explore, Orange is defiantly on our list to return and explore this beautiful place and its amazing surroundings.

Hill End and Sofala

In 1851 gold was discovered in Hill End and by 1872 the towns population exploded with gold rush fever. Hill End is surrounded by mountains and gorges, the country side is magnificent and the town is a strong reminder of yesteryear.

Hill End has two campsites one in town and the other a couple of kilometers from town, we opted for Glendora campground which is run by the National Park and has a honesty box at the gate, there is hot shower for $1. There are plenty of walks around town and around the old mine ruins and well worth a look, the visitors center is a great place to start with heaps to see.

We traveled a little out of Hill End to Golden Gully walking track, the walk is short and relativity easy. The gully is a huge erosion of old mines with a huge arch, the colour was amazing and the feel of walking in the footsteps of miners from years ago was amazing.

We took a quick stop in at Sofala which isn't to far from Hill End, Sofala is like Hill End an old gold mining town full of history and well worth a stop to explore.  


Heading toward Lithgow later in the afternoon we came across an amazing find a free camping area on lake Wallace about 9 km west of Lithgow. it has free hot showers, toilets, picnic areas and kids playground. Arriving new years eve, we set up van with lake view in a quieter end of the park. We enjoyed a quiet night with a couple of beers to relax.

The following morning we headed up to Hassans Walls Lookout it is the highest lookout in the Blue Mountains 1,100 metres above sea level. The view is amazing over blue mountains and beyond. The rest of the day we explored the local surrounding area and the history of Lithgow. Another place with so much to explore and put back on our list of places to return.

The drive home

Driving a long detoured trip home through Wombeyan caves, we were planning to spend the night at the camp ground there, but when arriving to the camp ground it was very crowded and when inquiring about cost found it a little over priced, so we decided to keep driving and find another spot. The drive from caves to Moss Vale was scary, nail biting, windy cliff hanging journey extremely dangerous but darn scenic. We decided to continue home instead of camping for the night.An amazing week out west we cant wait to head back and explore some more.