Before I gained ‘turncoat’ status, I used to visit Newcastle on a regular basis for Knights games. I use the term ‘visit’ very loosely here, as I would literally drive up for the game, then head home – and boy was I missing out on a good thing! How could I not have known that there was so much to do here?
My journey began at Treetop Adventure Park, which, I must admit, instilled the same fear in me as Year 12 camp did (I was not a fan of all those trust exercises and flying foxes). But once I got past my original anxiety, I ended up cherishing the flying fox as it was the only way to get a nice helping of a refreshing breeze against my face. Having not been to a gym in more than six months, I also appreciated the incidental exercise. Hubby loved it too. He made it to the end of all the courses and had an excited kid-like energy about him that I haven’t seen in years. Quick tip, though, spray yourself with Aerogard before you start the climb.
Next up was a trip to the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens. I’m not going to lie – this may not be as visually appealing as some other botanic gardens you may have visited, but it’s one place that’s built on the love of plants. Thanks to more than 160 volunteers, rare and endangered plants – including those specific to the Hunter region – are being nurtured. Highlights include the Tropical Orchid House, which, er, houses tropical orchids, and the alphabet alley leading to sensory squares (popular with kids). Can’t be bothered walking? For just $6 per head, you and your clan will be given a guided tour from the seat of a buggy.
The ‘Most Historically Eye-Opening’ award of the day goes to Fort Scratchley Historic Site. It is here that you will be able to see the inner workings of Armstrong’s disappearing gun and learn that what we all know as ‘canons’ are often not canons at all. You see, canons are loaded with a round ball-like ammunition, so those loaded with pointy ammo are actually referred to as guns. It seems Hollywood has once again lied to us. Mind. Blown. Did you know that this place is also the only one in Australia that has fired two land-based guns at foreign naval vessels? For the full story, you’ll have to book in for a guided tunnel tour. It’s worth it, I promise.
Even though we were exhausted, there was still an hour of business time left – and we weren’t going to waste it. After a really short drive we arrived at Newcastle Museum, where the team was setting up for a function (I assume it was a wedding, as a bride and groom were getting photos taken under the museum’s huge permanent globe). This place has all the things you’d expect at a museum, but the extras are what make it worthwhile for everyone, not just history buffs. Its kid-friendly space, Mininova, has the coolest play area ever, complete with an array of climbing equipment, games and scientific experiments. Kids at heart are bound to love this, too.
Tonight we’re staying at in a brand new villa Stockton Beach Holiday Park. Stockton Beach Holiday Park right on the beachfront of Stockton Beach, on the doorstep to 32 kilometres of white sand stretching from Stockton to Anna Bay, an excellent patrolled swimming, surfing and fishing beach. Our newly built villa can sleep up to seven people in three bedrooms and has luxurious fit outs, sleek kitchens and all the mod cons of a hotel suite.
Before we became too comfortable we headed off to our last stop of the day – dinner at Jonahs on The Beach I have paid through the nose to eat at a lot of fancy restaurants only to end up disappointed, so I’m ecstatic to announce I’ve finally found one that’s worth every cent. Complete with a pianist, luxurious high-backed chairs and a view of the ocean, Jonahs on the Beach serves up quality meals in every course. Never have I ordered a three-course meal and actually enjoyed every morsel of it. If I knew where the kitchen was (food seemed to come out of nowhere), I would have asked to go behind the scenes and hug the chef and his team. If, by any chance, anybody from the Jonah’s food team is reading this, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for making me believe in quality food and a heavenly combination of flavours once again.