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PORT STEPHENS: 5th January

It was time to leave Sydney – and I have to say I wasn’t too sad about it due to the poor location of our hotel, the huge amounts of people in the city and the poor air quality putting me off the place somewhat.

Our plan was to pick up the car from the city centre and then hit the road to Brisbane, stopping at wherever took our fancy along the way. It all sounded so simple. Obviously, it didn’t turn out quite so easy!

The main problem we hit was the queue at EuropCar and how slow the EuropCar staff were at processing each car. Well, to cut a long story short, it took about an hour for us to get on the road, driving slowly through the Sydney suburbs thanks to all of the traffic lights.

A cockatoo in a tree on the waterfront at Nelson Bay. A large flock of screeching Cockatoos inhabited this area, intimidating the seagulls on the beach.
A pair of Pelicans drift on the waters at Nelson Bay. These large birds showed little fear as they parked themselves on the water, just offshore.

Our first destination was the scenic coastal region of Port Stephens, a couple of hundred kilometres North of Sydney, just past Newcastle. This stretch of journey was pretty fast, taking the motorway to its end at Newcastle before having to slum it on the more rural stretches of the Pacific Highway which makes up the kilometres between Newcastle and Surfers Paradise.

It was afternoon by the time we arrived at our accommodation in Port Stephens in the village of Salamander Point. The hotel was pleasant enough, if a bit Butlins-esque. It boasted a private beach, a small swimming pool and a sports bar. The wind was quite strong and gusted along the beach making it tough to comfortably sun bathe. Instead, we headed to a nearby internet café to catch up on the latest news.

After returning to our hotel, we donned our swimming togs and drove to the main Port Stephens settlement of Nelson Bay. Here, we met up with a sea kayaking company for an evening kayak-and-champagne experience. It had been a while since we’d done any sea kayaking – the last time being when we’d visited Able Tasman National Park in 2002, but it came back to us quite rapidly. The strong wind blew into our faces as we progressed up the coastline in the little tandem kayak. The strength of our strokes and the good sense of timing we had enabled us to make light of the wind whilst some of the other kayakers struggled. A couple of kilometres up the coast, we beached and hopped out to drink the promised champagne. A pair of large pelicans sat motionless on the fairly still waters of the sheltered cove as we drunk our champagne whilst the sun set.

The sunset at Nelson Bay from the beach after kayaking out from the main marina, parallel to the foreshore to a more Easterly beach. We sat here drinking champagne as the sun slowly set.
Jen and I with our champagne on the beach with the setting sun still shining behind us. Some of our fellow kayakers drinking alongside us.

Soon enough, it was time to go – kayaking back the way we’d came whilst there was still some light. Along the way, some dolphins leapt out of the water beside our party, clearly content to show themselves off and play in the wake of our oars.

Once we were back on dry land at Nelson Bay, we had some light dinner at the marina before heading back to the hotel to settle down for the night.

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