Mother-Daughter Bonding Down Under – Week 2

I can’t believe the second week with my mom has already drawn to a close. I am so thankful she extended the trip to three weeks because the original plan was just for two. We still had to cut out some major things to fit into a doable itinerary, but we are having a blast.

Our first week, we spent mostly exploring Sydney and the surrounding area. For week 2, we left New South Wales and technically stepped foot in three other states (Northern Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia). I say “technically” because SA was only for a layover and I don’t think that counts, but in the same regard I can now say I’ve “technically” been in all of the Australia’s states. Don’t worry SA/Adelaide, I promise to visit soon. This week was a lot of firsts for both my mom and me and I’m so glad I was able to experience it with her! 

Monday/Day 8 – Early morning flight from Sydney to Ayers Rock airport. We are going to the OUTBACK, BABY!! Major bucket list item for both of us, but for different reasons. Full on blog posts coming soon, but I’ll just highlight for now. We had avocado toast at the airport before taking off. We arrived around noon and were able to check in to the resort straightaway and had a small lunch at the resort. After cool and rainy Sydney, we were shocked by the heat, sun, and flies which met us in the Outback. Our first priority was to buy fly nets and a hat for myself. We have big dinner plans tonight at the Sounds of Silence dinner. We start off the evening with sunset canapés and bubbly with a breathtaking view of Uluru. Then we had a gorgeous dinner and ended the evening with a viewing of the Field of Light exhibit.  

Day 9 – Had a chilled morning and rode around the property, saw an educational talk on aboriginal culture, and had a dip in the pool. Later in the day we actually enter the Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park and do a guided tour. Concluding the night with sunset, small nibbles, and bubbles. 

Day 10 – Our last full day at the resort. I make use of the pool again and we go to a “Bush Talk” at the resort and learn about Australian and local native bush foods with a tasting of seasonal seeds, fruits, and spices. The evening brings what I was most looking forward to in the Outback – the camel ride. We leisurely ride for about an hour and watch the sun set. 

Moose the baby camel

Day 11 – We again have a chilled morning before departing via bus to Alice Springs. My mom acted very motherly here and did some laundry before we left. In the meantime I made a stop to the “Funny Farm” and spent some time with the baby camels and misfit animals. It’s a long scenic ride, but the commentary from the drivers was great. Along the way we saw wild horses, camels, dingos, and others four legged animals. I also may have gotten some shuteye. It’s already getting dark when we pull in so we explore the hotel and have dinner onsite that night. 

Day 12Valentine’s Day – I snuck in a cheeky swim in the AM before heading into the town for brunch. Then this was a full on travel day as we were heading to Perth connecting via Adelaide. We arrived in Perth in the evening and opted for dinner at our hotel. The air is so refreshing here and we take an evening walk. 

Day 13 – Vegan brunch and then my mom’s dreams came true when she held a koala. She can now leave Australia content. Her dream became a reality at a visit to Cohunu Koala Park, which we took Uber to and from. For dinner we went to the hot spot, Petition Kitchen, and had a really great meal. 

Day 14 – Tried to get an early start and headed to Fremantle in the morning. We spent some time exploring the area, had lunch, and walked around the markets. Then we took the train to Cottesloe Beach. We strolled on the beach for a bit before heading into Cottesloe Town for an early dinner. Taking the train back into Perth my mom somehow convinced me to get a pedicure, but with the store’s credit card machine not working I ended up paying for it myself…. treat yo’ self, right? We have an early morning ahead of us with more excitement ahead for my mom’s last week down under. 

Catch up on what we were up to our first week. 

Last week I had my mom rate the restaurants we had eaten at. This week I asked her to rate the accommodation we had stayed at to date. Obviously, all of the properties were very different and across the entire country (you can’t really compare a basic NYC hotel to an Arizona resort to a Chicago high-rise hotel – if you get my drift), each with their quirks, but this is her opinion from best to least favorite of the properties we have stayed at during her two week stay in Australia: 

  1. Hunter Valley Crowne Plaza 
  2. Sails in the Dessert – Uluru 
  3. Doubletree Alice Springs
  4. Fraser Suites Perth 
  5. Sydney Novotel Darling Harbour
  6. Sydney Rydges Sydney Harbour 

Hotel Review – Hunter Valley

In true Sylwia fashion I waited to the last minute to book our Hunter Valley trip. In my defense I was waiting for the weather and thought that since we were going on a weekday there wouldn’t be any issues. I was in contact with one hotel, but never actually made the reservation. When we finally decided to book, our first choice actually ended up being sold out so we had to go for a plan b. That took form as the Crown Plaza Hunter Valley. Not really sure what to expect we were blown away when driving up to the property. It was huge! Even including a golf course, two onsite restaurants, a fitness center, two pools, and more. The property itself was gorgeous. 

We were booked into a standard room, but were upgraded to a villa. However, this was a bit too much space for two people for one night (and it was also away from the main building and its amenities) so we opted for a normal room instead. The room was spacious and clean. The bed was super comfortable and they also provided a deep sleep pillow spray – what a cute little touch! 

Both on-site restaurants were yummy and our dinner at Redsalt was fantastic! Lovedale is a slightly more casual and has a sports bar feel, this is where we had lunch the next day and again it was delicious. They even had the option of making a pizza with vegan cheese and/or a cauliflower base. Two thumbs up for the food. 

I utilized the gym, but with the weather I wasn’t able to make the most of the onsite pools. There was also a spa and on weekends they have a brewery tour. If we stayed longer we would have made use of everything available. 

The amenities were nice, food was great, room was above average – what else could you ask for? Well the staff and all the workers were so professional and we were impressed by how friendly and efficient the reception staff was. They really were the icing on the cake for the entire experience. 

I would highly recommend the Crown Plaza in Hunter Valley if you were to stay in the area overnight. 

Hunter Valley

Besides being known for its beautiful beaches and wildlife, Australia is also known for its wine. The hot, dry climate is similar to other more well-known wine regions. Australia’s history is filled with European expats, and much like the coffee culture, it makes sense that the European wine culture also made its way to Oz. Growing and producing wonderful wine was never an issue, but the far distance of exportation and travel time, mostly by boat in the earlier days, made it difficult for the wine to become well known around the world. 

The five main wine regions spread across Australia are the Barossa Valley and Coonawarra in South Australia, Yarra Valley in Victoria, Margaret River in Western Australia, and Hunter Valley in New South Wales. 

Hunter Valley is a day trip away from Sydney. Hunter Valley produces many kinds of wines, but they are most well known for Semillons, Verdelhos, and Shirazes. My first trip to Hunter Valley was actually back in October on a day trip and really loved it. Hunter Valley is just under a two-hour drive from Sydney’s city center and there are about 150 different wineries/cellar doors to visit. You pretty much have to drive here or take a coach. Public transportation doesn’t really get you into this area and you would still need a way around once here. Given that there’s a lot of drinking involved my first trip to Hunter I opted for a bus day-tour

With my mom visiting, I wanted to go back so she could also experience Hunter Valley. I had such a great trip back in October I decided to book the same exact tour, but we would stay a night and be picked up the next afternoon instead of squeezing everything into one day. Booking was a bit of a pain and if it was my only experience with the company it wouldn’t have been positive, but in the end it all it worked out. 

The tour was exactly the same as the one I did in October, but it was equally as enjoyable. We started the day with the De Iuliis winery. We tried three whites, three reds (including one rose), and a sweet wine. The next stop was at Hermitage at Hunter Valley Resort and we had four wine and cheese pairings and at the same location we had our lunch. After lunch we stopped by Leogate Estate’s cellar door, which is a gorgeous property and events venue, for five or six more tastings. Finally, we were done with wine and went to the Hunter Valley Distillery for some vodka and spirits tastings. The trip rounded off with a stop for something sweet at the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company. 

Normally, the tour would go straight back to Sydney, but we were dropped off at a hotel for the night. Not only were we spared the normal bus ride back after a day of drinking, the next day we also learned that the bus we would have been on broke down an hour and a half out of Sydney and everyone had to get Ubers back into the city whist it started raining. My mom and I had an awesome evening safe and sound/oblivious to what everyone else was facing in our hotel and spent the following afternoon relaxing around the hotel until our ride came.

Hunter Valley was a success! I really enjoyed the tour again, but probably wouldn’t do it a third time, however, if I lived in Sydney I would make it a weekend getaway every once in a while or for special occasions. If you’re in the Sydney area I definitely think this is a must do to get out of the city for a day.