New South Wales: Tales from a rustic journey

By Chris Gorman

Chris Gorman finds a great place for a midwinter break

I like the word rustic. It makes me feel relaxed, warm and comfortable. Our accommodation in the Blue Mountains - they call it the "Milking Shed" - has the same effect.

We are staying at the Old Luera Dairy in the Blue Mountains, a 90-minute drive north of Sydney. With a log burner, beautiful crockery and the smell of freshly ground coffee, the property reminds me of old family holidays staying in gites in France. We don't have a bedroom, we have a hayloft - albeit one with a luxury double bed. The bath is an antique claw-foot thing; paintwork peels artfully off the doors, all perfectly in keeping with the luxurious nature of the "Milking Shed".

We have come to stay in the Blue Mountains in midwinter and for the first time since my move to the Southern Hemisphere four years ago, I'm getting that midwinter Christmas feeling. The beautiful town of Leura even has a Christmassy feel to it similar to old Suffolk villages I lived in back in the UK. At one point, we even have a total white out, except it's not snow but very thick fog that shrouds the region.

For our first day, we're at the Lilianfels luxury resort in the most stunning location beside the cavernous Jamison valley with jaw-dropping views across to the mountains. The 85-room hotel has the feel of an old English country manor and - to this Englishman's delight - it even has a full-size snooker table.

On an afternoon trip to Scenic World Blue Mountains, we take a trip on the revamped $30 million scenic railway, the steepest in the world. It feels rather like travelling on a slow rollercoaster. The railway originally serviced the coalmines in the Jameson Valley. Stepping off the train we immediately feel like we have been transported into some prehistoric rainforest world of bird noise and exotic vegetation.

Once back above the valley we take a ride on the Scenic Skyway which travels from cliff face to cliff face. Only Skyway operator Patrick Kelly's moonwalk demonstration on the toughened glass floor takes our minds off the drop to the valley below.

Our next excursion is to Waradah Aboriginal Centre for a fantastic display of indigenous culture. We learn, too, just how hard it is to play a didgeridoo.

We explored Leura's boutique shops and gorgeous little cafes on Saturday - my partner hitting shopping overdrive. I find my nirvana at Josophan's chocolate shop and at the Leura Garage cafe we are served possibly the finest coffee on that side of the Tasman.

Our Sunday morning starts early with a brisk walk around Echo Point. As fog clears there's an eeire view across to the Three Sisters and the vast valley beyond. The photographer in me is in awe at the beautiful vista. Sometimes it is impossible to capture something so beautiful in a single frame. You really have to be there.


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Chris Gorman travelled as a guest of Destination New South Wales.

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