Friday, November 21, 2014

Grand Pacific Drive - Part 1

Last winter, Mr H and I decided to explore the scenic Grand Pacific Drive. We were not disappointed and were rewarded with scenic views/beautiful coastlines which made it worthwhile for a repeat drive. Hence on our recent trip to Jervis Bay with the family recently, we made it a point to take the same route.

From Sydney, we headed south towards the second oldest national park in the world, Royal National Park. There is an $11 fee if you intend to stop and park, free if driving through. The drive was pleasant through winding roads and lush green trees. You could count the number of cars you come across too. It made me forget that we were only one hour away from the city. If you get queasy on snaking roads (like me), just wind down the windows and start breathing in the crisp fresh air outside. The cold air against your face is refreshing and if it gets a tad bit cold, just throw on your cardigan/jumper.

You can count the number of cars you see when on this road. Most of the time it's just you and nature.
Despite the many activities one can do at Royal National Park - hire boat, have a picnic or a BBQ and even surf, we drove on and made a mental note to come back here later in future if circumstances permit.

Congress of birds - spotted at one of the parking areas in the park.
Surfers welcomed - the waves are probably surfer's heaven. There's a patch of green nearby too if you are game for a picnic.
At the end of our drive through Royal National Park, we reached our first stop - Bald Hill Lookout Point, Stanwell Tops. After a 2 hour drive , this would be a good spot for you to stop and stretch your legs to magnificent views of sea, beach, town and everything else that you can see as far as the eyes could go. If you are cold-phobic like me, don a jacket to keep yourself warm. Make sure you hold on to your hat/scarves and anything else that has the potential to fly off as the winds are quite strong too.

Bald Hill Lookout in spring. My brother and SIL look like they are on their honeymoon.
If you are hungry or itching for a snack, head over to the food van for a cup of coffee and/or soft serve ice-cream. They also have pre-made sandwiches, fruit salads and even chips. There is also a pie shop across the road that promises excellent views too. Unfortunately, they were closed for business on the two occasions we were there.

For the adventurous, you can take your sight seeing further by signing up for a hang-gliding experience. I am not sure if the hang gliding company entertain walk-ins at the look out point itself but it would be a good idea to get more information from the internet to avoid disappointment.

Bald Hill Lookout in winter. Imagine jumping off the cliff to hang-glide from here.
After spending about 20 minutes here, we left Bald Hill Lookout for Wollongong. Our drive took us across Sea Cliff Bridge - a balanced cantilever bridge located in northern Illawara. This bridge has two lanes for traffic, a cycleway and a walkway. 

One way to appreciate the spectacular views from this bridge would be to walk across it. During whale migration season, there's a good chance you might spot the gentle giants making their way to their destination. Another unique way to experience this bridge is to sign up for a Harley Davidson or Ferrari ride across the bridge. On this day we did neither as we kept on driving to our next destination, Flagstaff Hill in Wollongong.

Flagstaff Hill, Wollongong

We arrived at Flagstaff Hill mid-afternoon, when the sun was still high in the sky. This did not bother us much as sea winds cooled the temperature somewhat. Walking up the side hill from the car park, we were greeted with a panoramic view of the sea, the light house, cannons, Wollongong town and to our surprise, another lighthouse! 

The first lighthouse was built on top of a hill while the newer lighthouse is farther down (within walking distance). I believe both lighthouses are no longer in use.

One of the two lighthouse at Flagstaff Hill. The newer one is within walking distance on the opposite side.
Behind the older lighthouse, iron railings were put up to prevent visitors from falling down the edge into rocks and rough sea water below. Some visitors even thought this is a good spot to commemorate important events in the lives by placing padlocks at these fences.

Padlocks left by visitors to commemorate an important event in their lives.
If you are up for a picnic, there are several picnic tables scattered around the area and ample of grass space to place your mat. Else just sit down on one of the benches available to soak in the atmosphere and the view. Although the area is not exactly flat (it has slight gradient), it's not that steep either providing good space for kids to run around. In fact my niece thought it was a fantastic idea to "play catch" during our time there.

Pebbles posing with one of three cannons.
Pebbles looking all grown up in this picture with the lighthouse and cannon as the backdrop.
She managed to stay still long enough to take this picture before she went on her run again.
This area is not only good for a picnic, it's a fantastic spot for photography. In fact a search on the internet reveals that you can hold your wedding here! I can imagine how popular this place must be during wedding season. Who would not want a beautiful setting to celebrate one of the most important days in one's life right?

Unfortunately, we could not stay here long enough. We had to carry on with the program and headed towards our next stop, Kiama Blowhole.

Read Part 2 of our Grand Pacific Drive tour here.

No comments:

Post a Comment