How was your Easter long weekend? Was it treating you well?
To be perfectly honest with you, we had a bit of a rough start but it did get better over time. You see, normally we are celebrating the tradition of going away for a few days over the Easter long weekend, making the most of the four days off. This way we can enjoy a short break from the everyday woes and recharge our batteries for what lies ahead.
But this year I somehow didn’t manage to secure a holiday property in time, and so sadly we missed out on our short family vacation.
At first I was quite ok with that. Not going away over the Easter long weekend like the rest of Sydney would have meant that it saved us from hours locked in traffic jams on the motorways, and who wouldn’t want to avoid that? It also meant that we would save a lot of money as holiday rental prices are always spiking around that time, in particular around the wider Sydney region.
We also felt that we might as well enjoy our own home, our local beaches and the pool in our backyard – where’s the big difference to, say, the Central Coast?
But then after one day at home I had to admit to myself that I was almost killed by cabin fever. Going away, and if only for a couple of days, you could at least enjoy a break from the routine. Yes, you might still end up doing the washing up and making beds, but at least it’s washing different dishes and making different beds. This alone makes the stay in a holiday home more enjoyable than staying in your own house.
So by Good Friday afternoon the Easter eggs were painted, the kids had red eyes from too much screen time and I was close to a mental breakdown. No amount of chocolate eggs or white wine could offer the consolation to make this weekend work for me.
What was needed was a day trip, and we all agreed that just anywhere would do, really.
When I found this recent post by my blogger friend Carry about Anna Bay on the Central Coast of New South Wales I was immediately intrigued. Just look at the beautiful pictures that she put up there! I felt I immediately was inspired to check it out myself. The sand dunes promised a nice change from the current scenery, and the exotic shapes of the camels were new and unusual photo subjects that the hobby photographer in me just couldn’t resist.
So by Saturday morning I had the family all packed up in the car and off we went to Anna Bay, NSW.
Anna Bay is close to Port Stephens, an area popular with holidaymakers and day trippers from Sydney and Newcastle. And there is a good reason why. The coast here is simply spectacular – wild, teeming with fish, frequently visited by dolphins. A stretch of coast that is both untamed and pure. We were all looking forward to a sea-change.
Anna Bay didn’t disappoint. The beach at the northern end where we parked may not be as pretty as further down south, redder and with big sharp rocks, yet it is offering lots of space for sand castle building and for soaking up the sun. We spend the first half an hour here, just filling our lungs with the fresh salty air.
The real action happens further south towards the stretch of sand dunes that are rising in the distance. Not only can you go swimming and surfing here, Anna Bay is also famous for exciting sand-based activities: camel rides, quad bikes, and sand boarding. You can also park right on the beach with your car if you have a 4×4 vehicle. We saw plenty of cars and small busses pulling up right on the beach, with people having BBQs out and propping their surfboards against the car.
For me the absolute highlight were however the camels that took visitors across the dunes down to the water and back again. Caravans of tourists, sitting majestically on these proud beasts, swaying this way and that, in this amazing scenery of sand and salt water.
Camels, you might say. How come there are camels in Australia? Did you know that there are around 300,000 feral camels living in Australia? And this is the number after the A$19 million management program which was completed in 2013. Camels are part of the outback, brought here to help conquer the vast arid landscapes, and still bred today as race camels for the Arab élite in the Middle East. Camels are not an uncommon sight, in particular further inland, and it is not unusual to find real camels in nativity plays during the Christmas season.
So while the kids rolled down the dunes I spent some quality time with myself and the vast sandy landscape, reminiscent of the great deserts of this world. The illusion would have been perfect if there hadn’t been the rolling sound of the waves and the spray of the surf.
The dunes, under the wide Australian sky, encouraged me to put things a little bit back into perspective. The beauty of the landscape, the scale of proportions, helped me realise again what was important and where things were headed.
Sometimes it is really a good idea to just drive away and expose yourself to new experiences or landscapes. To break away from routine and just let the scenery make an imprint on your soul. Getting away from it all, and if only for a few hours, was a refreshing change that helped me get over my disappointment of a missed opportunity to travel.
Can you relate to this? Have you ever been away on a short day trip that felt like you had just embarked on a soul cleansing vacation? Let me know in the comments!
And here is a tip when visiting Anna Bay: Instead of looking for a parking spot near the life saving club, park further north near the Robinson Reserve. There were plenty of free spaces available here until late in the afternoon while the cars and busses were queuing up near the life saving club. You will also find a skate park, a small playground and BBQ facilities at Robinson Reserve, if you are looking for something to do with your kids and teens.
And here’s another tip. The restaurant right next to the life saving club, Crest Birubi Beach, offers decent meals and spectacular views, perfect for a relaxed family friendly lunch.