What am I loving this week?

Last weekend, I had the opportunity for a long overdue catch up with some lovely friends who’ve recently relocated to the Port Stephens area. Uprooting your family and moving interstate can be rather challenging. It’s been six months since the move, so now they are settled, we thought it would be a good time to visit.

My son and I travelled together from the Gold Coast to Newcastle airport, and on to the Port Stephens area, which is about 30 minutes drive from the airport. Our friends have settled in Corlette, which is a great central location for exploring the greater Port Stephens region. I’m sorry to say that I’ve never visited this area before. Despite driving up and down the Pacific Highway for the past 30+ years, I’ve never actually turned off the highway and broken the journey with a visit to this beautiful part of the world. Anyway, I’ve been there now!

Our friends collected us from the airport and we wasted no time in chatting away, as though no time had passed at all since we last saw each other. It was lovely to see my friend, who is younger than me, but we share a lot of common interests, including a love of Bon Jovi – we even went to see them in Brisbane a few years ago, which was awesome (OK, so I’m an 80s tragic, shut up!). Our sons  are the same age and had been at school together when they were younger, so they were keen to catch up too.

Over the three days, we visited a great deal of the Port Stephens area, including Nelson Bay, Shoal Bay, Soldier’s Point, Anna Bay, Fingal Bay and lots of places in between.

Beautiful Shoal Bay

Beautiful Shoal Bay

Nelson Bay 4

Beautiful Shoal Bay

On Saturday, the boys enjoyed spending some time at Toboggan Park, where they did some rock climbing as well as riding the toboggans downhill… several times!

Nelson Bay 5

Fun at Toboggan Hill Park

Afterwards, as it was nearly lunchtime, the Mums decided it would be a great idea to visit a winery and enjoy some tasting. We would have loved to go to the Hunter Valley, but time didn’t allow – maybe next time. Still, we did manage to find our way to Wonganella Estate, where we sampled a number of delicious wines. I highly recommend their bubbles and verdelho… we may have purchased a couple of bottles, just to be sure it was OK :). Of course, the boys were starving, so it was lucky the winery offered a small menu. A large bowl of wedges lasted about 3 minutes between the two teenagers! I think the Mums may have managed to eat 1 wedge each!

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Nelson Bay 7

A metal Emu sculpture and wagon with barrels at the winery

Loved this painting on the wall of the tasting room

Loved this painting on the wall of the tasting room

Later in the day, we drove to Anna Bay and walked down to the Birubi sand dunes. What an incredible place! It looks more like the Sahara desert than coastal New South Wales! The boys (and the dog) loved sliding down the dunes on cardboard. We sat and watched them, while keeping an eye out for whales out to sea – as its migration season at the moment. We managed to spot a few whales breaching, which was a treat.

PicMonkey Collage 1

Nelson Bay 10

The view beyond the carpark at Birubi beach sand dunes via Anna Bay

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Looking south towards Stockton

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It’s not every day you see a row of camels on the beach!

On Sunday morning, the boys went fishing and explored along the waterfront. Afterwards, we went to Fingal Bay, where we parked the car and enjoyed part of the Tomaree Coastal Walk through the Tomaree National Park, which was so very beautiful. Again, we saw some whales splashing about and breaching up out of the water.

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PicMonkey Collage 3

Along the Tomaree Coastal walk

Nelson Bay 14

Rocky coastline

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Beautiful Banksia

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Looking north from Tomaree Coastal Walk, with Fingal Bay beach to the left. Fun fact: This beach was made famous in the Australian tourism ad featuring Lara Bingle asking “Where the bloody hell are you?”

We then went back to Nelson Bay for lunch – enjoying some pizza and a large bowl of fries at the Bay Harbour Cafe, right on the water’s edge. The place was packed and the food was delicious.

Nelson Bay 28

Fishing along the rock wall

Fishing along the rock wall

A very well fed pelican waiting for his next meal at Nelson Bay

A very well fed pelican waiting for his next meal at Nelson Bay

On the way home, we visited Gan Gan Lookout, Port Stephens highest and most accessible lookout, which provided breathtaking views and a great perspective of the area we’d explored earlier in the day.

The view from Gan Gan Lookout

The view from Gan Gan Lookout, with the striking red Gymea lilies breaking up the green of the bushland

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Nelson Bay 35

Late afternoon at Gan Gan Lookout, with Gymea lilies

The boys enjoyed sitting around the back yard fire pit for a while in the evenings, but it was a little chilly outside, to say the least!

Soldiers Point

Soldiers Point

On Monday morning, the boys went fishing again, while my friend and I enjoyed some “Mum time” at a gorgeous little cafe set on a pontoon at Soldier’s Point. There’s a collection of sculptutes at the Soldier’s Point Marina, and on the corner of the pontoon, there was a leaning man, which was intriguing.

Sculptures at Soldier's Point Marina

Sculptures at Soldier’s Point Marina

We wrapped ourselves in the complimentary blankets to keep warm and enjoyed hot chocolate and coffee, with a little treat – the most delicious chocolate brownie – mmmmmm!

Best brownie!

Best brownie!

Throughout my life, I’ve met a lot of people – some have become friends and a few other those have stayed friends. There’s a saying which I love, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold”. While there will always be room for new friends in my life, I enjoy nurturing my relationships with the kindred spirits who’ve stood by me through the years. Good friends are hard to come by!

Linking up with Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit for #LovinLifeLinky Lovin Life Linky

Also linking up with Kirsty @ My Home Truths for #IMustConfess I Must Confess, The Best advice I've ever received, Seize the day project