Morning, afternoon, night and in between we could not have asked for more. The G.O. and I spent a series of flawless days around Port Stephens highlighted by my sister’s simple, stunning wedding day at Nelson Head Inner Lighthouse and a relaxed, fun, beautifully personalized & crafted reception at the ibis Styles Port Stephens Salamander Shores Hotel at Soldiers Point.
Practically, unusually warm May weather enhanced the celebrations. We, and more importantly the bride, were graced with 14-15 to 22-23 degrees C (57-59 to 71-73 F) clear sunny days and fresh, full moon lit nights.
Before, during and after the big day we caught up with family, friends and as happens on these occasions made the acquaintance of a few more.
But while the wedding party et al had a go-carting post-wedding day recovery session we took some time out. The G.O. and I, just because, shouted Dad an excellent seafood lunch at The Deck at Soldiers Point Marina, afterwards wandering around the shiny nautical vessels dreaming of the boating life. Although, I think Dad would have liked to be able to drop a line and catch a fish or two amongst the tauntingly visible shoals safe in the clear waters of the no-fishing marina zone.
Any free time we had the G.O. and I sat on the balcony absorbing the views over the garden and bay, or walked on the beach.
I could not ask for more, Ed McCain
“…These are the moments I thank God that I’m alive
These are the moments I’ll remember all my life
I’ve got all I’ve waited for
And I could not ask for more…”
The event that might have rivalled my sister’s wedding in appeal fortunately happened the morning after. Walking in the direction of breakfast we crossed paths with my uncle and aunt, who advised us that Dad and co. were sitting at the garden tables watching the koala.
We picked up the pace pausing only to be disappointed as we passed the non-functioning coffee machine, resorting to instant coffee to carry out with us.
The koala, which at first I couldn’t see obliged by moving and draping itself over the limb of the Casuarina (she-oak tree) where it was soaking up the sun over the beach, and becoming visible. After breakfast we walked down and snapped a few pics of the only koala I’d ever seen in the wild.
After which the G.O. and I did a circuit of the beach. Upon returning, at the tap washing the sand off my feet I saw a lump move in the tree above me. The koala was on its descent, it was lunch-time so perhaps looking for a snack in one of the neighbouring eucalypts.
I sat where I was, the G.O. a little further back. The koala paused, settled, regarded me, and resumed its downward path. On the ground it gave me a glance then moved toward a slender gum about 2 metres away, and ascended almost to the top where it paused, ate a few leaf tips, ascended further and settled.
On Sunday morning the koala had moved from where we’d last seen it, and nor was it the she-oak. Eagle-eye G.O. spotted it nearby in a different eucalypt, luckily as we’d been about to walk adjacent to it to return to the hotel, just as the koala made its presence known to me by taking an elevated pee.
*How much can a koala bear? Australiana, Austen Tayshus
The G.O. didn’t take much convincing to go up to Port Stephens the day before my youngest sister’s wedding, so we left Sydney at a civilized hour and arrived at d’Albora Marinas in Nelson Bay in time for lunch overlooking the water.
After lunch we strolled around the marina and spotted 3 pods of dolphins cruising the bay. Of course, the phone-camera we had to hand wasn’t up to capturing pics.
Post-stroll we headed around to our accommodation, the ibis Styles Port Stephens Salamander Shores Hotel at Soldiers Point, also the wedding reception venue, set in beautiful gardens on Salamander Bay.
After a brief chat with family who’d arrived we wandered down to Wanda Beach for a quick walk before getting ready for an evening of pre-wedding drinks and dinner. That was the beginning of not only socialising with family and friends but what seemed to be non-stop wildlife encounters.
We walked along the jetty looking down into water so clear that if you’d had a fishing rod you could see a delicious dinner of black fish or whiting, as well as myriad tiny neons.
On the sand I slipped my thongs (flip-flops) off to go for a paddle, looking back to suggest the G.O. do the same… wondering why he was wearing joggers on the beach.
As I stepped further into the water, I looked down, luckily, as right at my feet was a baby stingray which checked them out then seeing the G.O’s feet also, decided to move off just far enough.
Not far along from that encounter the Cancerian G.O. met up with a crabby cohort and nearly dunked his good watch attempting to shake hands-pincers.
Returning to our room, our balcony was beset with native birds, who maintained a constant presence over the weekend, one cheeky native myna bird even venturing inside.
At the start of our next morning walk we were greeted at the beach by a pelican who led the way towards a bevy of black swans, a threesome of white ibis, the good ship pelican, a flock of seagulls, a brace of mallards, and a raft of wood ducks – all of which made daily repeat appearances.
We had only had one other glimpse of dolphins in the bay from the balcony of my sister’s 5th floor honeymoon suite. So, on Saturday afternoon a little before dusk the G.O., my uncle, aunt and I drove around to The Anchorage Marina at Corlette where the G.O. and I stayed previously and saw dolphins dining late in the day, but to no avail this time.
Heading back to the car, disappointment somewhat mollified by the spectacular sunset, there was just enough light left in the day for us witness a wild rabbit nibbling the lawn near the car park supervised by a black cat from its vantage point on the brick wall.
Earlier in the day walking along the beach, seeing many people with dogs, I’d jokingly commented to the G.O. the only thing we haven’t seen is a cat [who’d appreciate the beach as a big litter tray]. Well, now we had, with a bonus bunny thrown in the mix.
Added to all of that, enroute driving along the the freeway I’d spotted a trio of big white billy goats lounging in the morning sun on the edge of a cutting way up high, and on the way home a couple of kangaroo’s reclining on a front lawn.
“Each day provides its own gifts”, Marcus Aurelius
…But there was one other wildlife encounter, wonderful enough that it deserves its own post.
[Click on the image thumbnails, and they’ll open up into (slightly) larger images]
The G.O. and I awoke somewhat bleary eyed on Sunday morning after my youngest sister’s Friday wedding at Port Stephens. No, we hadn’t tied one on. Our muzzy eyes were more to do with NSW Rural Fire Service hazard reduction burns across the bay at Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest evident by the plumes of smoke we’d seen the previous day. The morning sun was a little hazy too.
[Smoke gets in your eyes, The Platters]
Late in August the G.O. and I made history. In the eight year epoch of our relationship within a twenty-plus year friendship, although a few have been planned, we’ve never managed a romantic weekend away to celebrate the anniversary of the day it became apparent our ships had the potential to dock at the same port…
…But, not too early on the Saturday morning, we set off for Port Stephens, a couple of hours drive north of Sydney, our destination The Anchorage at Corlette, located on the opposite side of the bay from Hawks Nest, so beloved by my family.
Enroute we stopped briefly at the Port Stephen’s Winery and Murray’s Brewery. The brewery began its existence at The Pub With No Beer at Taylor’s Arm, so we were interested to see its new incarnation. It’s no better than it was, so we moved on.
Arriving at Nelson Bay, we drove around to Fingal Bay, and strolled at Shoal Bay, before it was time to head to The Anchorage.
We’d been warned the hotel was slightly shabby. However, only the bathroom showed slight evidence of its age. Otherwise, The Anchorage accommodation is true to its website word:
“Nestled between rugged bushes and built in the style of a cosy fishing village, Peppers Anchorage is a boutique resort offering luxury seaside accommodation in the beautiful New South Wales region of Nelson Bay, Port Stephens. Overlooking the Anchorage Marina, Corlette Beach and the unspoilt waters of Port Stephens, allow the sea to soothe your soul with a seaside weekend escape.”
Even had the room been less than we’d expected, we would have forgiven it anything as the view rendered the lodgings more than satisfactory.
Being the time of day for a late lunch, we reconnoitred with the aim of locating the café/restaurant. Prior, I’d done the online research de rigeur to a weekend away, and we were anticipating :
“Nautical High Tea on the waterfront. The English tradition of High Tea is a wonderful way to enjoy an afternoon with good friends or family, whatever the occasion.
With stunning views of the 90-berth marina, Corlette Beach and the sparkling waters of Port Stephens beyond, enjoy High Tea in the Verandah Tea Room, Main Guest Lounge or in Merretts Restaurant. On warmer days, you are welcome to indulge in the outdoors with a table set on the deck. With a distinctive seaside ambience, unrivalled views and the attentive service of the Peppers team you’ll be assured of a delicious afternoon.
Includes Chefs selection of finely cut finger sandwiches, a range of delicate pastries and petit fours and freshly baked scones with jam and cream, plus a cup of tea or coffee.”
Sadly no. Merretts restaurant was undergoing refurbishment. A set lunch (2 courses for $35) was on offer in the conference room operating as the restaurant, but at 2.35 pm, we’d missed it by 5 minutes, not that we’d have taken it up, as diners were agonizingly confined to the “restaurant” interior with no tables set up on the terrace on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon.
Room service and a BYO bottle of Chardonnay provided the solution.
The obligatory post lunch stroll entertained us, and fed day dreams of a boating lifestyle.
The clear waters of the bay offer fish viewing but not angling, as within the marina it is prohibited, other than by local dolphins partaking of a late lunch also.
After quick visit to the local Salamander Bay Shopping Centre, where Woolworths and K-mart impinged on our respite from reality, we settled on our patio with cups of tea, and later glasses of wine, to appreciate the nautical view.
At 8pm we adjourned for dinner to the makeshift restaurant to find it also meant a makeshift menu, rather than the anticipated:
“Relax and savour the delicate flavours of the ever changing menu at Merretts Restaurant, complimented by an extensive wine list featuring local, Australian and wines from around the world. A typical three course dinner might include citrus cured salmon or Redgate farm quail followed by pot roast belly of pork served with granny smith puree, summer slaw, peanut and chilli dressing and shrimp wontons. And to complete your culinary journey an apple tasting plate of jelly, crumble ice cream, tarte tatin and delice or caramel parfait with flambéed bananas.”
The meal was more than adequate but uninspiring, so no photo’s of our repast but our choice of wine to celebrate our anniversary speaks volumes.
“There’s no thrill in easy sailing when the skies are clear and blue, there’s no joy in merely doing things which any one can do. But there is some satisfaction that is mighty sweet to take, when you reach a destination that you thought you’d never make.” – Spirella
Note for Ship’s Log: I would like it documented for the record, my patience in this instance (not always evident), as I have been desirous of sojourning at this particular establishment for over 25 years.
Ref post title: http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/62/messages/529.html
“The things which the child loves remain in the domain of the heart until old age. The most beautiful thing in life is our souls remaining over the places where we once enjoyed ourselves” Kahil Gibran
Hawks Nest is a small coastal town on the coast of NSW, Australia, linked over the river to the equally small town of Tea Gardens, now via a bridge, 40 years ago by ferry.
You’ll often find me in spirit at Hawks Nest. When I do a meditation journey exercise, my special places might be Main Beach or Jimmy’s Beach. If I’m daydreaming at my desk, I may be walking along the beach with my dog Bo, searching for shells or starfish in the rock pools. Hawks Nest has a long history with my family. My grandparents were farmers, and the few holidays they took with their children were to Tea Gardens & Hawks Nest. Some of my earliest memories are weekends spent at Hawks Nest with Mum & Dad, and later trailing along with Dad searching for bait pippies as he fished. Winda Woppa/Jimmy’s Beach was the location for several years of family get-togethers infamous for the amount of food and liquid refreshments consumed. I don’t get to Hawks Nest so much as I’d like these days but it’s never far from my thoughts.