I have already discovered during my various trips to the U.S.A. over the years that some of the most beautiful places are the ones your have never heard of. The rural towns and villages are where you see ‘real life’ away from the typical tourist attractions and cities. Often I have only come to discover some of these smaller more remote places due to staying with friends and family members and now Australia has very much proved to be the same.
We booked our first two weeks here in Australia in Sydney – Surry Hills to be precise which I had never heard of prior to booking, but still isn’t far at all from the central business district and only around a 30 minute walk to Darling Harbour and Circular Quay where you will find the Sydney Opera house and equally famous Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Now of course these central areas are always going to be a ‘must do’ on a first visit to Sydney, along with the likes of Bondi Beach, Manly Beach and The Blue Mountains etc, but like all major tourist areas they are generally heaving with people.
However our own visit to Sydney took an unplanned de-tour out to the Suburbs at the end of last week, and boy I am so pleased to have visited these lesser known areas as we have seen and experienced some of the most spectacular beaches and dramatic sights I have ever seen in my life.
Sydney has a fantastic rail network so if you are staying in the city do look up where the trains will take you out to because the suburbs are very easy to reach.
We ventured down on the train from Sydney Central Station to Cronulla, it’s about a 40 minute direct train ride south but absolutely worth it.
I admit that I had never even heard of Cronulla until just a couple of weeks ago but it is the most beautiful beachside suburb which whilst still lively and vibrant isn’t over run with tourists. If you like surfing then it is surfers paradise but much less crowded than Bondi Beach.
Beautiful Cronulla Beach
Whilst the surf is great and quite mesmerising to sit and watch, there are still areas of the beach which are perfectly safe for swimming (just make sure you stay between the red and yellow flags).
Cameron had so much fun on the beach and just loved jumping the waves and playing in the surf closer to the shore. We also loved walking along the soft golden sands of an evening and sitting on the beach listening to the crashing waves as the sun went down.
For those who fancy the water a little calmer for a ‘proper’ swim and to practice some lengths there are also two salt water pools just along the esplanade.
Sea Pool at Cronulla Beach
We stayed for two nights at the Rydges Cronulla Beachside which we found to be faultless. The hotel is located just across the road from the beach and has a true seaside ambience to its interior decor. We were only on the 4th floor but still had great views out over the ocean. We also took good advantage of hotel swimming pool and hot tub.
Within just a couple of minutes walk of the hotel you will find a vast array of bars, restaurants and diners to suit pretty much every taste and budget.
Cameron is very used to travelling and moving from once place to another without any fuss but he actually cried when we left Cronulla as he loved it there so much and didn’t want to leave. I won’t lie, if I had the opportunity to get a visa I would be moving there tomorrow. It is a place which for both of us was ‘love at first sight’. The energy, the atmosphere, the beach; something about it made me feel happier than I have been in a very long time and I know Cameron felt it too, he kept saying “look how happy I am Mummy, look at me smiling”. How could I not want that life for him on a full time basis?
There were still more adventures to follow though because from Cronulla we caught the train down to Wollongong. My Uncles wife has family there whom we had never met but they kindly invited us to stay and it was a very special time getting to know them. We all enjoyed every minute together and said at the end how we all just clicked very naturally from the second we met. By the end of just 2 days we felt like we had know each other all our lives, 3 generations of their family, 2 generations of ours, and Cameron just adored having two new little cousins to play with, as they did with him.
Wollangong or ‘The Gong’ as it is better know by the locals is the first major city south of Sydney but still a lot smaller and quieter.
On the first day we are driven up to a place called Bald Hill, a popular spot with both cars and motorbikes. You can see exactly why when you get up there and look back down along the coast. It was another of those moment when photos really don’t do it justice, we could see for miles back along the green bushland, sandy coves and turquoise waters.
The next day we were driven by our cousins out to another small seaside village called Kiama, which translated means ‘where the sea makes it’s noise’.This makes perfect sense once you stand on the imposing rocks and experience the ocean crashing through the spectacular blowhole. Unfortunately when we saw it it was not at its most spectacular due to the calm state of the sea, but nevertheless was well worth experiencing:
Our final morning was spent on the North Wollongong Beach, another spot with warm sea, great surf and long golden sandy beaches lined with pine trees. I admit I have had worse Monday Mornings!!!!
We swam, we played in the surf again, we lazed in the sun before enjoying a leisurely lunch before heading back to Sydney City and our hotel at Surry Hills (The return train Wollongong to Sydney Central is direct and runs hourly, taking around 90 minutes.)
We had the most beautiful 4 days and are so grateful to our new found cousins for introducing us to the small towns which we previously had never heard of!! Without any shadow of a doubt if we ever heard this way again we will most definitely stay in the suburbs and not the city!