After many Aussie hiking adventures and road trips with the boys, which we hope you’ve been following, the accusations of favoritism and neglect had reached a deafening crescendo from Claire and Cate…The girls wanted their own special trip with Mom and Dad…And not camping or dodging snakes either.. The girls wanted bright lights, soft pillows, great food….a little luxury….SYDNEY!!!

We found a couple of beautiful heritage listed B&B’s in Sydney on Trip Advisor, that were of an acceptable level of comfort for our dear daughters, though they didn’t really get the “no pool” concept. They provided the perfect bases for exploring all that Sydney has to offer; an amazing, and busy, working harbor, world class botanic garden and zoo, leafy restored neighborhoods, and of course the Opera House and Harbour Bridge…

Pott’s Point neighborhood
Simpson’s of Pott’s Point


My best girl


Simpson’s interior

Princess…. for a weekend…


The Royal Botanic Garden entrance

The Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney sits right on a small cove in the center of downtown, on the site of the original convict settlement’s farm. It’s nearly 200 years old, extensive, beautifully maintained and free to the public. The vegetation is very varied with graceful walkways and lawns, it’s the best Botanic Garden I’ve yet seen. As the walkways lead you down to the water’s edge, the below view of the Opera House is revealed; surely one of the world’s great urban designed landscapes. Much has been written about the Opera House, but as a newcomer to Sydney a few immediate realizations came to mind…It’s much larger and more complex than expected, as well as seemingly closer in, and even intimate, in it’s setting. It also feels unexpectedly organic and “right” for such an astounding structure…Intriguing….

Holding up the world..

Funky Tree

Just lounging around




Sweet dreams….

 The semi-outdoor Fernery is an especially nice spot to sit and contemplate life under a primordial green canopy.

Next morning, we were up early, across the Botanic Garden again from Pott’s Point to catch the ferry across Sydney Harbour out to the north arm of the headlands and Manly Beach. The ferries are fast and cheap, and a wonderful way to see one of the finest natural harbors on the planet.

A bit more about the Opera House…The project took almost 15 years, and went over budget by 15x the estimated cost. Jorn Utzon,the Danish architect, quit in disgust before completion and never returned to Australia to see the completed structure…So, a difficult birth for a remarkably singular structure. That said, as a non-architect, and from a layman’s point of view, when you see the genius of the conception up close, almost every other building you have experienced looks somewhat more humble and prosaic..Just another in an endless series of boring boxes and rectangles, however cleverly gilded.  To compare in musical terms, this thing is a John Coltrane “sheets of sound” free-flight solo compared to a high-school marching band…Both musical, yes…but on vastly different planes of creativity and execution….Simply stunning..
Manly Beach gymnasts

Manly Beach heritage building

Regatta in the outer harbor

Seagoing transport, ancient and modern

The whole shebang; CBD, Opera House and Harbour Bridge coming up river

Another amazing aspect to the Opera House is it’s skin.. I always thought it was encased in white aluminum clad, or maybe vinyl perhaps… (!)……Not so, the skin is actually composed of almost one million ceramic tiles, computer designed to lay perfectly flat in a subtle mosaic pattern. This gives the structure a creamy, earthen warmth that reflects light with a soft, subtle glow…never harsh; a magical trick of the light……I had some beautiful close-ups lost due to some injudicious editing of my flash drive, 250 or so shots, gone in, well… a flash…..So, you’ll have to go see it for yourselves someday…
The main “sails” rising over 200 feet above the water
The Circular Quay, a busy working waterfront

“Captain Undie-pants”..frightening…!

The Russell Hotel in the Rocks
Harbour Bridge at night

We then moved over to the Rocks, the oldest part of Sydney, dating to the 1820s. So named for the rocky peninsula that convict laborers spent decades hacking apart with hand tools to build the original stone buildings of the nascent city. It’s an interesting blend of heritage buildings, restored warehouses and high-end cafes and bars.. A lively section of central Sydney, right on Circular Quay. A large portion of the area was razed when the Harbour Bridge was built in the 1920-30s; and incredibly, the entire Rocks district was slated for complete demolition during the urban renewal craze of the 1960s. It was only saved when the construction worker’s unions went on strike and refused to do the work. The first such “Green ” strike in history.. So much for listening to “expert” guidance…

Russell Hotel Wine Bar

First Mate Cate

The next day’s journey took us again across the harbor by ferry to see Taronga Zoo, another Sydney landmark with excellent hilltop views of the city CBD from the north shore. It’s a vast, well-designed park, a few shots only included below….

The goat that head-butted the Opera House…Love this shot….

Pub scene, the Rocks


The other landmark that dominates the skyline down at the Rocks is the Harbour Bridge. Impressively massive, we walked up on the pedestrian walkway two nights in a row to see the lights of the entire Sydney metro area, 4 million, strung along the undulating waterlines, inlets and islands of the harbor for miles towards the east and the open sea. We even got fireworks over the Opera House below on Saturday night.. Sorry, no photos again, due to operator error. A sublime memory anyway..!
The Bridge from Observatory Hill looking north
Finally, all trips have to end, and it was time to say farewell to the Rocks and Sydney . It was perfect to spend three nights exploring right in town and harbor. We were glad to have cancelled a side trip to the Blue Mountains 2 hours west…that’s a whole ‘nother adventure. It was also a wonderful time spent bonding with our rapidly growing-up young ladies. And in retrospect, I like the way these girls travel…pretty deluxe indeed…! Maybe they’ll invite Dad along on the next girl’s road trip….

Seasoned road warriors…

Departing airport scene…next stop, Brisbane…

Thanks again for following along. And here’s our wish that you also have the time and means to get away with your kids and teach them the “rules of the road”. whenever you can….They are growing up, in almost the blink of an eye.. All the best in your adventures, Claire, Cate, Stephanie and DDU….!


Old Brothers, still exploring together

We finally had our first visitor to Australia, my brother John (‘Uncle JJ”), from Cooperstown, NY. We tried to fit as much variety into nine days as possible, and John says we well and truly succeeded. Revisited a few favorite haunts, as well as some brand new experiences.

Nolan family– ceremonial welcome dance


Stephanie, the lady of the house
Fresh grilled snapper and shrimp
Welcome to Australia Uncle JJ!! Also, Claire’s 12th Birthday.

To get John adjusted after the long flights, first we went into Brisbane for a cool urban experience…Hip city!!


Brisbane pedestrian bridge


City Cat ferries
Southbank pools
Southbank Brisbane
Chinese lanterns and the Brisbane Eye


 Next it was off on a 4 day boys camping, hiking and exploring road trip. We went S, up 3000 ft onto the Lamington Plateau at Binna Burra, through the Numimbah Gap into NSW and climbed Mt Warning. It’s the remnant cinder cone of one of the largest volcano calderas on earth, that blew out around 20 million years ago. All of the mountain ridges you see are in fact the rim of the ancient caldera, stretching some 70 miles in diameter…


Heritage cabin, c 1930s, Binna Burra

Economy digs, but dry… 

On the trail, Lamington NP
Luke in a Volcanic Cave

Chillin, and Grillin’, I love camping…!
Natural Bridge cave
Mt. Warning, a NSW landmark for miles

Roots devour rock, given time enough…

The trail up Mt Warning was amazing, climbing around 2000 ft. Starting in a dense palm forest, through massive, virgin tropical hardwoods and up into sub-alpine Antarctic Beech..The final half mile is a steep ridge up the terminal cinder cone, culminating in a tiny summit with lookout towers in all four directions. As we ascended, the weather cleared, and we were rewarded with stunning views E towards the Gold Coast and Byron Head, W over the wild, remote, Border Ranges between NSW and QLD and N towards the Lamington and Springbrook plateaus we’d come from…Even though the old knees were feeling their age on the 5 hour hike, the trail was well maintained and we got back to the carpark at dusk feeling exhilirated..

Antarctic Beech, high on Mt Warning


The final ascent

Summit scene, looking East

Gold Coast high rises over the ridge


#1 Son Luke
Palm flower stalks

Next am, it was SE down the coast to Brunswick Heads and Byron Bay, two favorite haunts for some sun, surf and sand….


Aidan, the camp cook

Easternmost point return


Beach Bums, Byron Bay
Gold Coast High Rise Bling….

Finally, it was back to Cleveland, to pick up Stephanie and the younger kids. One night layover, followed by the Big Red Cat ferry out to Straddie for a two night beach house adventure in the  Green House at Point Lookout, on Stradbroke Island…..It only gets better and better….!

Big Red Cat…literally


Young lovers on Straddie…

Straddie is an offshore barrier island of great beauty and diversity right off Cleveland. It has over 230 species of birds, none of which you’ve ever seen before; kangaroos, bats, whales, dolphins, mantas and sea turtles. It feels as if you are 1000’s of miles away, after only a 45 minute ferry ride.. Sublime, and exciting……
Eastern grey mother and joey

The North Gorge

Petting a wild Kook at the Green House, Not kidding…

The Green House, there’s also a Blue one next door…

We spent three days boogie boarding, grilling, lazing about…even had soft acoustic guitar music to go with the wine….Life doesn’t get any better for me…


Flying fox bat colony, right across the street


Koalas too….!
Hello from the Nolan kids!!

Beach Beauties…

We took a trip up to Brown Lake, so named because of the tannin stained, but pristine waters.. Very brown indeed, like a rootbeer. As I was wading out in the bush I had a sudden surprise when a large, black, very toxic looking snake swam right by me in knee-deep water…I snapped a few quick shots and moved back, as he was only 4-6 ft from me….Turned out to be a Red-bellied Black snake…Not lethal on the nuclear scale of a Taipan or Brown snake, but quite venomous indeed…around 10 times as venomous as an Eastern Diamondback…Another reminder, that whenever you are out and about in this splendidly beautiful country, real danger lurks very close under foot…..Steady….

Nolan beach-boogie dance party…F-U-N….

Wading flooded Malalueca, (caution Dr Nolan…!)

Big, black and mean..I will ruin your day…
See that evil eye…cut off his nose, sorry I was in a bit of a hurry….

Bush Clown….

So, having survived yet another close snake encounter, we retreated back to the safety of our home in Raby Bay to have a send off dinner for our beloved Uncle JJ… Safe travels, God speed, return to us another day.. Meanwhile, I resolve to be a bit more careful as to where I place my feet while wandering the bush of Australia…It’s a dangerous thing, leaving your house for an adventure…..Best and safest travels to all family and friends, near and far…Until next time!  DDU

Uncle JJ’s sendoff party. Fish n Chips…yummm…


Old mates with the next generation, coming up….