Having only ventured to the capital cities in NSW & Victoria a Christmas road trip was the perfect opportunity to explore. 4139.3km of exploring to be exact. Packing the car we thought we may have underestimated how much is needed for a baby. Between pram, cot, nappies and toys we somehow managed to squeeze in some presents and clothes for ourselves.
We had 2 days of travel ahead of us Toowoomba – Dubbo & Dubbo to Mansfield. Both were approximately 8 hours without stops however due to lunch breaks, Tilly’s feeds and driver swaps we clocked up around 11 hours each day.
On the second day we had the pleasure of catching up with Jo a friend we had met in London who had ventured back to Aus just before us. This was a welcome break in Wagga where we enjoyed coffees and a chat before hitting the road again. We were quite lucky that our 4 month old daughter seemed to handle these long days well only becoming upset about 2 hours from our destination on the last day.
Arriving in Mansfield we discovered it was a lot larger than either of us had thought. The sleepy ski village we expected to see was alive and buzzing in the summer as well. The main street had many boutiques, cafes and sporting stores & there was even an armchair cinema. Mansfield also seemed to be a hub of many sites to see only a short distance apart. In 6 days we took in as many of these sights as we could.
Mansfield Zoo is located only a short drive from town and is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Arriving just after lunch we noticed no other vehicles in the car park, we had the Zoo to ourselves. This gave us lots of opportunities to feed the Alpaca’s, Kangaroos, Peacocks, Ducks & Deer that roamed through the park. Throughout the afternoon we had some persistent friends who attempted to snatch the whole feed bucket, the animals roaming free are tame and friendly. It was the perfect opportunity to introduce Matilda to “Bambi”. The zoo also hosted a range of monkeys, camels, antelope, ostrich, wombats, emus, and dingos in its open plains. The laid back atmosphere and quiet surroundings made our time at the zoo relaxing and enjoyable. Later that afternoon we watched the lion feeding show and learned that 2 of the lions had come from Darling Downs Zoo near home. Having previously witnessed a lion feeding in Africa we were not disappointed by the animal instincts on display. The lions paced up and down the fence line as the zoo attendant placed all of the food into the cage before being released to hunt for the food out. This obviously was the main attraction with many more zoo visitors arriving just in time to view the feeding.
Lake Eildon took our breath away as we arrived. The water seemed so blue, still and clear. Only a few boats attempting water skiing could be seen. The quietness added to the serenity and we enjoyed taking in the scenery.
Stringybark Creek is infamous for a shoot out between a certain Ned Kelly and accomplices and police officers on October 26th 1878. Three police officers lost their lives as a result of this shoot out and the event marks the creation of the Kelly Gang. A memorial to the officers is only a few meters away from the start of a short circuit walk which includes the Kelly Tree. Arriving at the Kelly Tree we were informed that this was in fact the 3rd location of the Kelly Tree. Unfortunately due to logging, decay and a change in the area due to gold prospecting. The current Kelly Tree is standing on the wrong side of the creek and several hundred meters away from the actual site. However there is a still feeling as you walk around this area and imagine how difficult it would have been for police officers to locate the Kelly Gang in these surrounds. A metal plaque that looks similar to Ned Kelly’s armour has been placed in the trunk providing a memorial to the police officers. From the tree you continue past some gold prospecting sites and a old wombat hole. Due to old mine shafts you are limited to where you are able to walk however the designated walk provides you with information about the occurrences in this area.
Another notorious bushranger in these surrounds is Harry Power & Powers Lookout Reserve boasts some spectacular views. From the lookout you are able to see King River Valley, Mount Buffalo, Mount Feathertop and the Victorian Alps. On a clear day the view overlooking the mountains from the platform was amazing. Looking down it was hard to believe how high up you were.
It’s probably a wise idea to check if the leaflets in the house are still relevant before making plans to visit a winery. We enjoyed a short drive out to Growlers Gully Winery only to find it had closed 3 years earlier. Ooops! The previous owner found 2 cars of confused tourists and come up to inform us that they had lost their crops due to bush fires & as a result had closed the business. He also generously dug up a couple of bottles of wine. We went back to plan A, and headed to Delatite Winery where we were able to do some wine tasting from the cellar door. To celebrate Reece’s birthday we enjoyed a glass of our favourite wine and shared some delicious platters of local food. The views from the winery were spectacular, giving you views of the mountains and vineyards, however unfortunately due to windy we could not enjoy our wine in the courtyard.
Another little gem we came across in the surrounding countryside was Tin Shed Cider. A cellar door lets you learn about production and sample their 100% apple cider. Tin Shed Cider is made from pure apple juice and includes no added sugar or preservatives. After taste testing the ciders it was hard to choose between the dry and sweet cider as both were equally as delicious. To accompany our ciders we shared a massive platter of local produce. A variety of cheeses, grapes and meats all local to the area went down a treat with the cider.
Getting lost in a maze is fun even more fun when there is a group of 7 adults and 1 baby in different parts looking for gnomes. The High Country Maze gave us a chance to stretch our legs and have some fun. Informed that there were approx 17 Gnomes hidden we all set off to try and spot them all. Off course it didn’t take long for us to separate with us all choosing to take turns in opposite directions. Troy, Matilda & I quickly found the exit but only 4 gnomes so we re-entered in search of more. Giggling and chatter behind hedges let us know other family members were near as we continued the hunt. I’m not sure who won but it was a lot of fun. Tilly even tried playing peek a boo over the hedges. The gardens surrounding the maze were quite impressive with a range of metal statues and a pond or two. You could easily spend a few hours enjoying a leisurely stroll.
Summer or Winter, Mount Buller is a tourist attraction. In winter the ski fields are filled with skiers and snowboarders and in summer the mountain is full of hikers and mountain bikers. We caught the scenic chairlift from the car park area approximately 5 km enjoying the view as we went down and up into the mountain. From the chairlift we could see some crazy mountain bikers and their tracks. At the top we began a lovely walk up the mountain to Mount Buller Summit. Carrying Tilly in her harness this seemed easy at first until she fell asleep and became dead weight. However we managed to finish the 4.1km hike and at the top of the summit took in all the mountainous views before heading back through another scenic walk on the way to the chair lift. There didn’t appear to be a lot open during summer in the township however we did enjoy lunch at a local hotel. I guess the mountain bikers dont hang around for food at the top.
With so many sites to see it was hard to remember the reason we went in the first place… oh that’s right Christmas. The owners of the house we had booked had even left a little Christmas tree for us which was a lovely touch. The house provided the perfect surroundings for a traditional Christmas breakfast and lunch. Christmas day was relaxing and spent with family eating good food, opening presents and catching up.
A second Christmas was enjoyed in Melbourne 2 days later. Troy, Tilly and I headed off on a little road trip 2.5 hours to visit my family. Matilda was able to meet her uncle, aunty and cousins for the first time and catch up with grandma and pop who were visiting. Again the day was spent relaxing with family and eating more food. It was amazing to be able to share Matildas first Christmas with both sets of grandparents, all her aunties and Uncles and her cousins over these two lovely days.
The 2 days trip home gave us an opportunity to take a few little detours along the way. Junee Liquorice & Chocolate Factory gave not only our legs a little rest but the perfect way to break in the New Year with some taste testing. Unfortunately the liquorice factory was not in operation so we were unable to join a tour however we enjoyed an iced chocolate and scone before reluctantly leaving to continue on the road.
The Parkes radio telescope was the next detour. Having spotted it from the highway on our way I was not expecting to be so surprised at the size. But I was wrong. Built in 1961, weighing 1000 tonnes, being 64 metres in diameter and approximately 58 meters in height this dish was a must see. We enjoyed wandering around the museum and reading about the history and part Australia played in the coverage of men landing on the moon and the inner workings of the telescope. Wandering outside we could get a close view of the dish and be gobsmacked at its size, and ofcourse take mandatory photos. Day 2 we just wanted to get home only making necessary stops from Dubbo to Toowoomba.