Lightning Ridge – Part Two

There is a lot of unsealed road on this tour and it can be rough in parts. Located around 70kms from The Ridge, turning right off the highway, just after the big Emu, you will find the road leading you into the vast opal mine area. A 4WD isn’t required during dry weather, but definitely not a drive for a low hung sports car! Our Ford Territory took the trip easily in its stride.

The Emu

The longest of the car door tours, the Orange car door tour, does need a majority of your day put aside as it is a bit of drive, but one which is highly worthwhile.

Club in the scrub

The first stop on the Garwin Opal Fields Orange Car Door Tour, is the Club in the Scrub.  Fully licenced with food available from 10am, this rustic pub is a delight to visit.   Boasting its own 9 hole golf course, beer garden, as well as free camping, the sprawling club is full of charm, warmth and local characters.    An extra little note here, the Visitor Information Centre at Lightning Ridge has some of the tour maps for $1, but, here they hand them out free, along with a dose of goodwilled advice.

At the first stop, we explored the pub and the area around, wetting the whistle with some cold ones. It was a little early for a meal here, but, we could have easily stayed all day, however those opal fields were calling!

Sheepyard Community Memorial

On your way to the second pub, you drive through working opal fields (no stopping here!), as well as a beautifully set up area of remembrance. Quite a surprise to find his tidy, well kept Sheepyard Community memorial amidst the dusty, rocky fields.

The Sheepyard Inn, provides the fields area with another pub, as well as fuel and supplies. Meals here were generous and much enjoyed. Across the road from the pub are numerous vehicles from days gone by, including a double decker bus. Its very dry out here without salt water and humidity so vehicles don’t rust out as fast as they would closer to the coast.

The bra tree at The Sheepyard Inn

Once you’ve had your fill, head on round to the final pub, Glengarry Hilton. You will pass some interesting miners abodes during your journey, some are very basic, with the odd one a bit more like normal living. Never stop and fossick for opals around the mine fields, there are private claims everywhere and you don’t want to be stealing someones income.

The Hilton has a mound behind the back of the old toilet area, where you can fossick happily. It takes a good eye to find anything with colour.

Theres a quirky little shop, within a very short walk of the Hilton too, be sure to check that one out.  Even selling Air guitar strings and other humorous items, it really is worth a look.

Should you be expecting the Hilton to look like the Hilton Hotels, you might be in for a bit of a surprise! This pub is of similar rustic, quirky design to the other two. Once you’ve satisfied you’ve seen all you want to see and picked up some souvenirs, follow the circuit road back.

A memorial to those lost

Lightning Ridge NSW

Southern Outback Queensland & Lightning Ridge

Referred to by locals as The Ridge, this was definitely a highly entertaining part of our trip. You’re in Opal country now, the landscape has changed dramatically from rolling cotton and pastural fields to a much stonier view.

Sunrise next to the Artesian Baths, Lightning Ridge

What to do at The Ridge? Where to start! This place is packed to the brim with things to see and do. For a relatively young established area, with opal mining starting in the early 1900’s the history here is incredible. Even though it is suspected opal was first found here in the early 1800’s, it took a long time for the area to become popular for opal mining.

Stop by the visitor centre, that should be your first port of call and it’s easy to find, just on the outskirts of the township, right hand side as you arrive. The lovely, helpful staff there will run you through the car door tours, as well as everything you need to know for the duration of your stay.

Definitely worth a visit to The Ridge, and luckily, very close to the Qld border, so was safe then for us to pop over for a visit , before lockdowns. At least if anything changed, we could head back to Qld in no time.

Artesian water from the great artesian basin, supplies the area. Locals highly recommend heading to the free hot artisian baths on the outskirts of the township, to relax in the 40-50 degree C pools. Natural pressure sends this approximately two million year old water to the surface. If you don’t make the hot pools then simply savour the shower at your accommodation. Its exactly the same water. Whilst here though, do not drink the tap water.

Beautiful Sunrise

Our accommodation, Bluey’s Motel, was located directly across the road from the local Bowls club. Currently undergoing some extensive renovations to increase the already, large areas, the bowls club was a handy spot for a relaxing beverage and good meals.

One of the delicious meals at the bowls club

Bluey’s owners happened to be there when we were, with Robert narrating some highly entertaining stories on the local area. Have a chat with the Manager Corrina there too, she has a very interesting opal collection, as well as a lot of a lot of knowledge regarding the opals and the best buys.

There’s a lot to see here and the locals are forthcoming with the stories, many a tale to be told! A couple of our favourite characters were Sean & Corey at Lunatic Hill. Drop by and have a chat to the boys, they were highly entertaining. These brothers love their animals, and were more than happy to pose for a photo.

Lunatic Hill Lightning Rodge
Corey & Sean at Lunatic Hill

After looking around opals and the prices, their pricing was really good. If you’re in the market for some opal, stop and chat to the boys. Lunatic Hill is not far past the incredible Chambers of the Black Hand.

Lunatic Hill open cut mine

Chambers of the Black Hand is breathtaking. If you were only going to visit one place with an entry fee, this is it. But, be warned, you need to be able to negotiate around 83 steps, steep, ones.

Steps down to Chambers of the Black Hand
Carved Sandstone

The story behind this mine and the carvings is mind blowing. Ron Canlin, accidentally turned to carving when he made nothing from the opal mine

Superhero’s carved into the mine

Once you are down those steps, you will be met with a guide who gives you a quick briefing, then sends you on your way to explore this incredible chamber of hand carved walls. What you will see will amaze you, and if you can handle those steps, I would highly recommend checking this out. The $40 cover charge per person is high, but as a once in a lifetime attraction, don’t miss it.

Everywhere you look more carving some

40 feet underground, a totally fabulous display awaits you. Ron Canlin started Chambers of the Black Hand in 1996 and he hasn’t stopped since. Originally, he spent 6 months digging a tunnel with the idea of showing off the opal mine. However, the first carving was the simple word ‘Welcome’. From there the carvings grew into the breathtakingly accurate images you get to see today.

For a mine which firstly earnt Ron a mere $27 000 over 25 years of hard work, to have evolved to the popular tourist attraction it now is, in itself is astonishing. You will be in awe of what this sandstone has been turned into so take some time to drink it all in, check out every nook and cranny, before you make your way up those steep steps to return to the surface.

The Visitor Information Centre can provide you the information on the innovative Car Door tours. A great way to visit the highlights of this area, where you simply find the first colour door propped at the side of the road, of your chosen tour, then follow the arrows. More about the Car Door Tours in Part Two.

This shot of the Last Supper gives an idea of the sheer scale of these carvings
Life size Star Wars figures

Jenolan Caves to Brisbane, via Dubbo

Whenever you go away, there comes that inevitable time, to head home. After our drive to Bathurst, we eventually needed to return to Brisbane. Dubbo is a short drive, of under 4 hours from Jenolan Caves.

Heading through all sorts of changing landscapes, we could be forgiven for thinking we had ended up in the wrong country! But, through Wellington we went, as we headed to Dubbo.

We had a late start on this day, only due to an unexpected breakfast delay. This meant the planned stop was shortened to 10 minute breaks a rest area. Interesting to pass through Orange and many other country areas. Each unique in their own way. Orange itself a lot more spread out than I had imagined.

After lunch, we arrived in Dubbo where we stopped by the Zoo. On this occasion we personally didn’t do the rounds of the zoo, choosing instead to settle in for a bite to eat at the cafe. Quite an interesting spot to sit, while you watch the monkeys on their nearby island, and view the bird life just casually, swimming or strolling around the area. One of these was this magnificent peacock.Not too concerned about visitors, he was happy to meander around the tables, checking to see what might be on offer before heading out to the wide open space for a bit of lunch.Monkeys are always fascinating to watch. They don’t stop, constantly moving around their island, interacting, playing, just generally entertaining the public. You could easily wile away the hours out the front of the cafe, relaxing and receiving the free entertainment on offer.

Should you decide to go into the zoo, which if you havent done, you should, then dont forget you can take your own vehicle round or hire one of the golf buggies. Great idea if you are short on time or simply not really up to the walk.

With a lot of accommodation choices on offer, it can be hard to decide where to stay. On this occasion we were booked into the Abel Tasman Motor Inn which is conveniently located near the zoo, and even more conveniently located across the road from Club Dubbo. Awesome venue if you’re after some hearty bistro meal, quiet drink or even a dabble on the pokies. Great way to finish the day!The following day, was a short drive to Narrabri. However, after passing through Gilgandra, we headed up to Siding Spring observatory at Coonabarabran, for an informative experience, before continuing on to Narrabri.

Once you leave the main road to head up to the observatory, the road is rougher in places and a little isolated. Still fine for cars plus the diversion is well worth it, when you can view with you own eyes, not only a stunning view, but Australia’s biggest telescope.Housed inside the huge white 6 storey high dome, you can see from miles away, the telescope is quite fascinating.

Theres a cafe on site, plus a gallery costing a mere couple of dollars to enter, which gives some amazing history on the universe and this entire set up. Check out the weights of those milk cartons throughout the universe! It’s incredibly addictive!

Now stick your head through the gap and become a part of the universe…

The vistas from here are amazing. Looking out over the Warrumbungle National Park is quite heartstopping. For as far as the eye can see theres an incredible array of Australian trees, rocks and infamous red dirt. If you haven’t dropped in here in the past (as we hadn’t), then I strongly suggest you take the time to stop in. We had storm clouds rolling in and yet the scenery was still breathtaking. In some way, those storm clouds really fitted into the area, giving a subdued moody look.Keep your eyes peeled too, there are some totally awesome art creations as you head up the short hill to the observatory.

Our last overnight stop was Narrabri. Totally surprising to find we were booked in to a very unique hotel, named the Crossroads Hotel. Looking pretty slick with a modernised look, the rooms surprised, not only in spaciousness, but in the clean modern feel.

But, the icing on the cake, well there were a couple of things. Check out the in house bowling alley, how cool is this!Not only a two lane bowling alley, there are video games, machines and your own bar. Sweet!!

Or perhaps you just want to chill in the tasteful garden area,Another option, book a private room if you have a group. That way you can all eat together, or just sit back and have a conversation away from the general public. Whatever you choose, this country hotel is ready to provide. Enjoy!

Our last stop on the final day, was the truck stop in Goondiwindi. What a hearty lunch for only $12, and this was the small plate! No cooking when we get home!

Thank you for joining me on this road trip, it was truely enjoyable and so interesting to see a bit more of this massive continent we live in. Cheers!

What to expect on your road Trip – Brisbane to Oberon NSW (Bathurst)

When reside in, or visit Australia, road tripping is mandatory. It can be a mere hour, or days from point A to point B. With 6 States, all differing in what they have to offer, this huge continent filled with everything from red dirt and desert, to rain forests and snow, has so much to offer, more of which you will see when you road trip.

We started our trip in Brisbane, heading through the Great Dividing Range to our first stop Stanthorpe. Even this sector has a myriad of landscape changes. Red dirt proudly dominating cliff faces through Cunningham’s Gap, whilst rich newly turned soil amongst green pasture, leads to a long flat vista, ending in a mere handful of hills.Road tripping requires frequent breaks. Our trip had been split into roughly 2 hour driving sectors with a stop at iconic Australian towns along the way.

After leaving the horticultural area of Stanthorpe, we headed over the border into NSW. I didn’t take any photos, but simply have to note, Tenterfield is an incredibly pretty area. With tree lined main road, and gorgeous buildings, it really is very appealing to the eye. Our goal for stopping tonight was in Tamworth. Prior to this though, we had a couple of breaks along the way.

Next stop, Glenn Innes. A township and surrounding area, originally owned by the Ngarabal people, marking the intersecting New England and Gwydir Highways. Glenn Innes has a population at last census, of around 6 000, with some beautiful heritage styled buildings throughout the township. Watch out along the roads you travel, just never know what might be around the next corner!120kms after Glenn Innes, we stopped briefly in the township of Uralla. The local Anaiwan people’s dialect was where the European Settlers derived the name for the town. Meaning Meeting Place, Uralla is located at the meeting of the New England highway and the historic Thunderbolt Way.

Captain Thunderbolt (aka Frederick Wordsworth Ward), was the last of the NSW bushrangers , who during the 1860’s, ruled the highways and byways of this New England high country and surrounding areas. Again, the history behind this area is fascinating, much to learn!

Our final stop for the first night was Tamworth. And yes, I wasnt visiting here without stopping at the iconic Golden Guitar!Our overnight stay at the Golf Links Motel, was clean and comfortable. Located a short stroll from the Golf Course, our band of weary travellers was pleased to head up to the Golf Clubs “The View” restaurant, where we enjoyed hearty meals, good service, and a relaxing drink.

Next morning, after a visit to the Golden Guitar, we left the sprawling city of Tamworth, an area seeped in country history, which is also the major regional centre of this New England area, and headed towards Scone. Here, the delightfully detailed Gabriel Sterk bronze mare and foal sculpture commemorating horses and their considerable contribution to history, graces local Elizabeth park. At an original cost of $65 000.00, the sculpture is now fixed to a 6 tonne foundation, after the first prototype was stolen. Wonnarua & Gamilaroi People were the first in this area, with Scone being named after Scone in Scotland, by Jason Kent Toth in 1831.

Landscapes had been ever changing on our road trip, and we had seen so much dry in the surrounding areas, but the worst part of the drought was sill to come.

Merriwa was out next brief stop. Fascinating to see this group practicing their moves on horse back. Not sure what they were training for, but, it certainly brightened an otherwise overcast, dull day. This charming little rural township, is located in the upper reaches of the Hunter Valley. The rural feel, is definitely fighting the history for dominance. Unfortunately the rest of our journey was still ahead. Next stop, Mudgee.

Now the true extent of the drought in the area, was laid bare. So much of this area was bare soil, too dry for grass to even grow. We were grateful to endure the wet conditions, knowing it was helping these farmers in need.

You could literally see the line between drought and rich viticulture/horticulture area. Not long after this we were surrounded by the lushness of Mudgee, sporting vineyards, orchards and looking prosperous.

Mudgee’s development has been into a wine growing region, and is also heavily dependant on the local mines. Many boutique wineries offer their chosen varietals to the interested wine taster. If only there had been time for a few visits! But, today was a quick stop for lunch before heading to our final stop Oberon.

And what better way to fill the belly than with a stop at Kelly’s Irish Pub for some homestyle hearty meals.

As you continue on the road to Oberon, Wallerawang boasts a huge reservoir, which is part of the local power station. Reasonably new on the Australian map, Wallerawang only came to be in the 1950’s when the power station was under construction. The Wiradjuri name for the town means “place near wood or water’.

A short 45 minutes from Wallerawang, and you arrive in Oberon. My previous article, covers Oberon, Bathurst 1000 and the surrounding area. I hope you’ve enjoyed this road trip as much as we did!

Go to for your insight in Brisbane City Cycles.

Oberon, NSW

Oberon is a delightful area, a couple of hours West of Sydney, and close enough to Bathurst’s famous Mt Panorama, for the rev heads. Our group was fortunate enough to stay in Oberon, taking over a huge house, Frogspark, for the duration of the big Bathurst race. Location wise, it was superb!

At Frogspark, you could head off for the day, down the tree lined driveway, immerse yourself in the local area, including the delightful Mayfield Gardens or the local Saturday Farmers market, then drift back to the beautifully secluded property for some well earned R & R.

Sleeping up to about 16, Frogspark is well equipped to handle a large group, even providing a pool table and bar area downstairs. Add in the 3 bedrooms and full bathroom also downstairs, additional to the main house above, and you have an awesome space.

But its the wildlife that will keep on giving you that country feel. We had a kangaroo bouncing past the house, a fox at the end of nearby driveway, with visitors to the house including cats and birds.

There’s plenty of room in the house for everyone to spread out. The huge hewn timber dining room table makes for an awesome central hub for everyone. Comforts of home are provided here, including a wonderful welcome basket containing some treats, left for us from our hosts.

Drive the local country roads and explore the area. There’s a lot to see and do here, with Oberon making a very good base for your explorations. The township itself has everything you need for your stay. The local IGA caters for the grocery needs, a selection of shops including cafes, clothes, bakery etc, also line the Main Street.

We can highly recommend DJ’s cafe if you are looking for a tasty hearty meal, served quickly and efficiently. Great way to start the day! Scenic world, Jenolan Caves, Bathurst, all are within an easy 30-45 minute drive from this location. Next time you’re heading this way, consider Oberon as your central point, and definitely check if Frogspark is available!

Jenolan Caves, NSW

Picturesque, depicting a bygone era, Jenolan Caves House is one of Australia’s historic relics. Maintenance plus considerable changes over past years, has kept this interesting building retaining its grandeur from the early days as well as remaining modernly functional. Originally designed and built n 1897, this “wilderness” resort was designed with high society Sydney siders in mind. They would travel out here for rest, relaxation and to rub shoulders with the elite of their era.

This building replaced the privately owned small original accommodation which was ravaged by fire. Unfortunately the owner at the time, Jeremiah Wilson, could not afford to replace, which resulted in the NSW government resuming the land, employing English architect Walter Vernon to design and construct a wilderness retreat for the elite.

Ceiling heights within are huge, chandeliers and antique lighting still hang in some places, stairs take you to many nooks and crannies, with lounges dotted closely around the building. Between our room and the lift, there were two original decor lounges. You can visualise socialites in their finery, stopping to rest and converse in these lounges. Maybe discussing the events of the day, perhaps forming ideas on the expected progression of the state of NSW or Australia itself.To cater for the financially elite of society, The Caves House featured a grand dining room, billiards and a coffee room. Built using limestone from the nearby caves complex, the first stage of this building cost the NSW government at the time 30 000 pounds. Today this would equate in excess of 4 million dollars.

Located in a gully, close to to the Grand Archway of the main caves complex, the hills behind rise up to around 1700ft above the buildings.

The caves complex is an incredible mix of limestone caves, formed centuries ago. Aborigines found the caves, prior to the Europeans who first discovered the area in 1838. The entrance on each side of the caves complex is impressively huge. There are a number of different caves within. Some require higher levels of fitness, whilst others may only have a moderate few hundred steps included in the tour.

We chose the Imperial Cave tour on this day. One of the options of this tour is an additional 66 steps down and then back up again. I should probably mention these steps for the main part are steep and narrow. But, to do so, is well worth while. Check out the incredibly clear water flowing through the bottom of the cave.You can drink this water, there are taps around the shop and complex where you can fill our water bottle with this clear, natural H2O. Guides on the tours are informative, have a sense of humour and are ready to reply to any question you may have.

Natural rock formations are incredible. They change throughout every cave.

Should you be visiting the Blue Mountains of NSW, you need to include a nights stopover here and give yourself time to immerse your soul in the grandeur as well as the incredible wow factor of the area. Don’t forget to enjoy a pre dinner drink in the bar, as well as dinner in the grand dining room. It’s all part of the experience and very worthwhile.

If you haven’t yet visited, I highly recommend you do so. It can be incredible what experiences nature has provided on our own door step, don’t ignore it.

More photos are displayed on facebook/dinelivetravel, instagram/dinelivetravel as well as other platforms. Enjoy your caves experience, it is quite soul reviving.

Bathurst – Supercheap auto 1000

The air is filled with the smell of high octane fuel, the roar of high powered V8’s fills the air. Such an assault on your senses fills you with the thrill of anticipation. The intensness of this race is increased with drivers mannipulating their powerful sleek machines, at incredible speeds, around this most challenging Motorsport track, Mt Panorama.

Every year Motorsport fans flock to the mecca of Supercar racing. All with one aim in mind, to support their chosen driver or team and have them crowned, King of the Mountain. Hold over 4 days, there is so much to see and do, you will wear yourself out with excitement. Shootouts for grid placements, all different types of races, eventually culminating on the Sunday with the gruelling 1000km race.

Campers fill the camping spots, some have family traditions of attending every year. Others decorate their camping site with signs, banners or anything they can find.

We were lucky to secure a house for our group a mere half hour from the track. Bathurst Tickets for our group included the paddock pass. If you’re a fan, be sure to make the trip worthwhile and add on the paddock pass. You never know who you will rub shoulders with!Bring in your own deck chairs and set up your camp for the day wherever suits. This year the return trip up to the top of the mountain on the continuous bus service was a mere $5. It’s worth it. You haven’t really been to the mountain unless you have been up the top. The atmosphere is surreal up here, staunch supporters have their own generators and TV’s to keep up with commentary.

The views from up here, back down the mountain, are phenomenal. Watching the race year in and out not the TV, does not do it justice. If you’re a fan, you need to schedule at least one trip to the mecca of Motorsport.So many view points to watch this epic race. Helicopters constantly circle, some TV crews, others give you a birds eye view of this incredible experience. In between the first and last two laps, you could score a trip in the chopper covering two laps for a fairly reasonable $90.00. Each lap covering a touch over 6km. Quite the experience. For me though, the top of the mountain was enough for the view.

Marvel at how the drivers handle those corners at such impressive speeds. Not only that their distances between each other are so close. They complete each lap in around 2.5 minutes. Pretty amazing when you see this track in real time.

Souvenirs, food, drinks, everything is available here. Sometimes those lines are long, but pick your moment and you can be served quickly. A little note here regarding the Red Rooster food van inside the Coopers Complex. The staff in here were amongst many at this venue, under the pump, yet held it together in noteworthy style. Well done to all the staff on the Bathurst site. Without your dedication to the cause this great event would come to a standstill.

Cleaners are constantly circulating the huge number of portable bathrooms, to ensure they remain at a reasonable standard of hygiene. Not sure what their schedule is, but these guys need a medal. Seriously, I saw some of the bathrooms they would have to deal with.

So many photos so many stories, yet this was the last year of Ford Falcons, the last year for Craig Lowndes driving as the main driver and possibly the last of the V8’s only. To witness Lowndes win this race was a truely heart pumping experience, no matter which team you follow. After 25 years, he deserved to go out as The King of the Mountain. Don’t forget the F18 who puts on the most impressive flying display, pre race. I was sooo lucky to be right place right time!

Would love to hear your feedback! Are you now keen to visit this Australian annual epic experience?

And for the record if you visit Mt Panorama during the off season, the speed limit is 60km. With around 40 residences on this mountain, I’m sure they dont want to have any of you chasing stars in your eyes and exceeding their speed limit and peace. Please respect that.

Scenic World – Blue Mountains NSW

The day may be dull, with fog and rain circulating through. But, nothing can dampen the sheer impressive beauty of this stunning scenery. No matter what the weather, take the time to stop in and explore the incredibly breathtaking scenes the Blue Mountain area has to offer.

At Scenic World, you can experience three heart stopping rides. The skyway has you suspended 270 metres above the ravine below. A glass bottom through the middle as well as the glass encased box gives you 360 degree WOW moment views.

Glide past the Katoomba Falls, check out the Three Sisters standing proudly near the cliffs edge.

Rides here are unlimited. Pay your entry fee then enjoy as any trips as you like on the worlds steepest railway, the cable car, or this suspended skyway.

Book tickets online or pay at the gate, around $43 per adult giving you that unlimited ride and experience.

Check out the angle of these seats on the worlds steepest railway! And yes thats the front of the seat pictured! Once seated on here, you are transported out over the edge of the cliff to roll down the rails into the enticing valley below.

Turn around and look at where you came from. That incline is unreal, and it is the steepest passenger train incline in this entire world. I’m not a heights or steep incline person, so for me, its a pretty big deal to do these things. In hindsight, I would have left this ride until last. Why? Just because the heights and steep slopes down are a big ask for me. I did feel if I had done both skyride and cable car, I would have dealt with the train much better, but, thats only my opinion.

Based on the recommendation of the entry staff, we took the railway down to the bottom of the gully, followed by the interesting and informative walk through to the forest to the cable car.

Not going to give away all the secrets here, as you really do need to experience this railway for yourself. Take some time here, go on the rides as many times as you like in the day. There is no limit and you don’t pay per ride. just scan your bar coded wrist bandThe area is seeping in history. As you make your way from train to worlds steepest cable car or vice versa, take a moment to check out all the historic features dotted along your walk.

Walk to the exquisite Katoomba Falls, its not too far from where the Skyway delivers you to the other side of the Jamison Valley. The incredible height of this flowing water will simply impress and amaze.

Just a brief touch on this incredibly breathtaking area of the world. Only because you need to go and experience this. The totally Jurassic feel of this forest and surrounds will have you checking out every corner for an approaching dinosaur. Enjoy!

Snapshot on Newcastle, NSW

As you fly into Newcastle airport, golden sands and clear blue waters stretch languidly beneath you. On this occasion the smoke haze from the many fires burning left a low fog, cloud impression as smoke drifted across the sea.

Only a very brief flight from Brisbane, it sure beats a 10 hour drive each way when time is limited.

Newcastle is morphing into its own true destination. Like a shy child who has found their identity, this seaside jewel is stretching its wings proudly for the world to see. And I believe we should be looking. There’s a light rail system being installed at the moment throughout the city, which, when finished, will be an added bonus to the area. Add that to all the construction and you can see this place is really growing. Its been a couple of years since we last stopped by here. This time, unfortunately was a very brief, less than 24 hour trip. Taking advantage of my Accor Plus membership, a booking at the fairly new Novotel Newcastle beach was organised. Take a look at this view! Shame in many ways we just didn’t have the time to sit and enjoy. Maybe next time.

And what a nice touch! On check in, Accor Plus members are given a little gift bag, containing drink vouchers, wifi and water. Very cool, just unfortunate we could not utilise those drinks vouchers on this occasion.

But, should you be looking to fill in some time, or enjoy a leisurely meal, highly recommend the superb Bar Petite. Right next to the Novotel, with charge back to your room, this bar was a fantastic place to catch up wth friends. The day we flew in cold winds left you searching for inside warmth, and we found it at Bar Petite.Their large share board was not only superb, but also filling. Delicious, garlic baguette, mince in lettuce cups, duck pieces, bratwurst sausage, and even sauerkraut, we enjoyed this intensely appetising foodie experience. Chef did well to produce this delectable delight.

With a lovely smiling, helpful and knowledgeable staff member, tending to our every need, this really was a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.We would definitely return to this bar next time we visit Newcastle. It certainly filled the spot for us with the hotel restaurant not opening for lunch.

There’s plenty of comfortable seating choices too, with couches or rustic wooden tables to choose from. Too cold on that particular day for the inviting little outside area, otherwise would have been a lovely spot to sit.

Our day ended with a function at Paymasters, an easy downhill walk from Novotel. We were upstairs in the awesome little function room on offer, sporting a long balcony and views across the harbour.

Staff were really helpful and I’m sure they would have been worn out, by the end of the evening going up and down the stairs. Not a bad way to get your steps up for the day!

Should you be considering a function in Newcastle, be sure to drop by and have a look. They have the restaurant downstairs as well, where you too could try some of these delectable dishes if you would prefer.

Our meal started with interesting little platters, full of focaccia, olives, dips and among other things, the most deliciously tasty popcorn ever!

Main meals followed with many tempting dishes on offer.Given we eat wth our eyes first, the presentation left you simply salivating. This steak meal was an absolute joy to eat. Every morsel was quite a treat.

Should you be visiting Newcastle, drop by these venues for a meal, drink or comfortable stay. Lasting memories are formed from places like these, dont be shy, drop on by!

More photos from this trip are on facebook/dinelivetravel and instagram @dinelivetravel. Enjoy!

Novotel Sydney Darling Square

This sleek, refurbished establishment relaxes you instantly with its incredible spacious feeling. Enhanced by the fabulous floor to ceiling windows and giant sized bar shelves, the lobby and restaurant/bar areas are quite welcoming.

Our room was nicely appointed, with all the comforts of home. No balconies, but this is Sydney. We were here to explore and enjoy so in all honestly, we never would have had time to sit on a balcony and watch the world go by.

We had stopped in for a couple of nights to indulge in the delights of Vivid Sydney. As a loyal Accor Plus member, it was an absolute delight to have not only complimentary water delivered to the room, but a personalised tin of sweets as well. A nice, simple, yet welcoming touch.

That extra little step you take to make your loyalty guest feel welcome makes the recipient feel quite special. Well done 👍.

Buffet for breakfast was more than adequate. A selection of hot and cold foods, including pastries and delightful little bottles of yoghurts and muesli. Don’t forget the surprising bread and butter pudding included in the usual hot range! Enjoyable, as well as adding an interesting flavour to breakfast.

The other dining choice for lunch and dinner is The Pump House. On this damp weekend, we did not even have to get wet, just head down the hallway that connects the two venues, and you have an awesome pub atmosphere complete with massive chairs and beautiful fire. Guess where we ended each evening!

The locality of this hotel was simply perfect. With Darling Harbour restaurant and retail complex, Paddy’s Markets and the Chinese Gardens a mere few minutes traffic free stroll from your door, you really don’t want for much.

Facilities have all been revamped, with a very nice, comfortable indoor pool area and sparkling gym. Towels are provided at the pool, you don’t need to pack your own towel, even better when you’re travelling.

Any future visit to Sydney, we would not hesitate to stop in here. Staff, and I mean all staff, went above and beyond to make us welcome. Thank you Novotel Sydney Darling Square (ex Rockford), we hope to return someday!

Check Dine Live Travel on facebook for more photos on this trip!