You haven’t truly been to the Blue Mountains unless you’ve viewed the spectacular landscape sights from a cable car at Scenic World. Or ridden in Scenic World’s steep rainforest railway; descending from the top of a rocky mountainside down a slow drop to the bottom of thick lush rainforest.
The Blue Mountains are a short two-hour drive from the city of Sydney, and well worth the day trip. Famous for the rock formations known as The Three Sisters, the Blue Mountains are also a great place to go for fresh air, relaxation, and especially winter festivals. The arty, crafty villages will charm your thermal socks off, and are all close to each other atop the mountain area making a village-hopping drive-by very easy.
You’ll find Scenic World well signposted with lots of parking. Scenic World is mainly a divine walking track looping through forest with a ‘choose your own adventure’ option on which path you take. Everyone will start off at the check-in. Take the steep railway to the bottom of the rainforest, and then pick a path to walk around the lush raised walking tracks through tall trees and flowing creeks. There’s a cable car to take from one side of the rocks, over the rainforest to the other, in super close view of the tumbling waterfall and three sisters.
The best way to experience Scenic World is with a guided tour. My tour guide was Murray, who grew up in the Blue Mountains, and whose grandfather was an original Scenic World railway engineer driver. Murray tells interesting stories of the land’s history of the great coal mining days, points out the tools & machinery left behind so camouflaged I wouldn’t spot it, and describe interesting facts about the fauna and flora which you will walk through. A tour guide is also brilliant because instead of iphone-googling for answers to all your hundreds of questions that pop to mind like ‘how can you tell how many billion years old that dicksonia Antarctica fern really is?’ Murray will tell you – count the rings. Murray even holds the talk on Carnivorous plants. Kids love it. I’ve seen Little Shop of Horrors - think I would too!
I entertain at the Yamba Golf Club on a Friday night every three months or so, and occasionally at the Yamba Bowls Club, and sometimes I stay over for a mini-break, rather than driving back to Byron Bay late at night. It's a price-driven decision where to stay, and on my last trip down I scored an online deal at the Aston Motel in Coldstream Street, Yamba.
It turned out to be a surprisingly good basic motel that is very close to the both the Bowling and Golf Clubs, and also an easy walk into the town centre. Super close to shops, restaurants, the pub and beach, and you must visit the quaint little fishing village of Yamba.
We were quite satisfied with our stay at the Aston, a calming and quiet stay, featuring a retro decor. The room, which had been expertly cleaned and presented, is quite large, cosy and comfortable. Featuring a large king bed with generous sized television, and free to air plus pay TV. We had an upstairs unit with a balcony overlooking an attractive pool area. It was a cold night, so luckily the room is equipped with reverse cycle air-con. If you are on a budget or prefer self catering, provided in-room are a microwave, cutlery, glassware and etc.
There's plenty of parking. The motel is located at the end of a road however, so there was little or no traffic noise and plenty of wildlife around. The grounds are manicured and the pool, spa and barbecue area looked well maintained and very inviting. Reception was friendly and helpful.
The little details are the most memorable. I appreciated fresh milk for tea, not UHF which I hate. An important drawcard for me was free wi-fi, but also Motel guests have free use of the adjacent fitness centre. The bargain rates and comfortable inclusions make the Aston a real gem for a budget stay in this laid back little town.
Yamba is on a river inlet and a nice drive from the highway through farmland, with river views - and as you get closer to town it's very picturesque with fishing boats and yachts moored in abundance at the marina in the river. There is a steep hill up from the main town centre to the headland and a small beach which is dominated obscenely by the big old Yamba Pub. The Yamba pub has bee turned into a backpacker style establishment with amazing views and live music on the weekends. There is a pretty lighthouse on the headland, and the town itself has plenty of interesting restaurants and cafes and some good antique op-shops. There's also good fishing, and a gentle, laid back, family friendly atmosphere.
We were looking for somewhere nice to stay in Coolangatta on Queensland's Gold Coast, not far from the airport as we had an early morning flight to catch and found Mantra. The Mantra Hotel is an upmarket tower, right on the beach, so the location is fantastic and within walking distance of the main CBD. Restaurants, cinema, supermarket are all nearby. Plus it's only about a 10 minute drive to the Coolangatta International Airport. Our three bedroom apartment (limit four people) featured self contained cooking with complete kitchen facilities, three tvs, two bathrooms (one ensuite) and a laundry. There were two King beds and one bedroom with two singles. It's always a bonus when traveling to be able to wash clothes without searching for the laundromat and it's awkwardness. Also an awesome balcony with a southern view looks out onto the beach on the 17th floor - and the views were just beautiful. The apartment was well laid out with privacy for each room, and is peacefully quiet. Some nice touches were detailed here and there in the decor. There is undercover secure parking and good security. The receptionist was very professional, friendly and informative and made us feel at ease. The hotel pool is positioned on such a superb beach with barely a soul in sight, making for a lovely private swimming day. Coolangatta has a nice mix of upmarket meets olde worlde beach village. For a night out on the town, you'll find is a first class venue at the Twin Towns Club. Just a block from the Mantra, major international, and local artists play, along with heaps of local music around the clock. Coolangatta Hotel is a big rock venue and the local Greenmount Surf Club has a jazz band and cheap meals on a Wednesday night. There is excellent dining nearby. We chose the O Sushi Japanese restaurant and the food lived up to it's award winning reputation. The second meal we had was breakfast at Belakai which was also more than adequate, and right next door. If you're exploring the main street there is a fascinating Antique market with a fascinating, quite mind boggling array of interesting olde worlde items well worth the view. Make sure you walk up to the lookout on the southern point, it's breathtaking and inspiring. Recommended: All-in-all a totally satisfactory and good value stay. Loved staying at the Mantra and would like to book that room permanently!