Sydney Day 2 (19 May 17) – Yengo National Park – Viewing Mt Yengo From Finchley Lookout

Our plan today is to visit the Finchley lookout and the Chocolate Factory as well as some wineries in Hunter Valley, New South Wales premier winery region. However, we did some last-minute change in plans after we visited Finchley Lookout in Yengo National Park. It is autumn at this time of the year in Australia, this means that the sun will set at around 5pm, after which it would be dark. My previous experience with driving in Australian roads tells me that we would have to rely on reflectors along the road when driving after dark in suburban roads. Hence we visited the Finchley Lookout on our way to Hunter Valley.
Baby Ryker and mummy ready to go out
Pit stop at Mooney Mooney Rest Area
Mooney Mooney Rest area is about 1 hour from Sydney Olympic Park
My friend and I at Mooney Mooney Rest Area
My sister and her family at Mooney Mooney Rest Area
Taking a wefie at Mooney Mooney Rest Area

Towards Finchley Lookout

The drive to Finchley Lookout takes around 2 hours from Sydney Olympic Park. Finchley Lookout is located some 150km northwest of Sydney Olympic Park. We set out about 3 hours later than planned as my nephew, Baby Ryker, woke up pretty late. We wanted him to sleep a little more before setting out. As we were driving towards Finchley Lookout, the 3-laned highway turned into one-laned (2-way) country road, zipping pass some farmlands and rural areas. Whizzing up and down mountainous roads, we eventually ended up into a single lane gravel road. This is when a sense of adventure begins. There are no reflectors nor barriers as we were driving up and down slopes. The drive from where the gravel road starts to Finchley Lookout takes around 45 mins, longer than I had expected. From my research before the trip, I was expecting gravel roads before we reach Finchley Lookout, but I did not expect the drive to take 45 mins. At this point, we were glad that we made the decision to visit this lookout during daylight and I thought to me, the view better be worth the drive.
Our journey from Sydney Olympic Park to Finchley Lookout takes around 2 hours
As we were driving along the gravel road, a sign was in sight pointing to Finchley Lookout. We finally arrived at our destination after 2 hours on the road. There are no proper parking facilities, but just some space for us to park our vehicle. There is no one here when we reached Finchley Lookout.  We will soon find out if the drive was worth it at the bottom of a small flight of stairs that led to a  wooden platform – The Finchley Lookout. We reached the Finchley lookout after climbing up the stairs, the surrounding opened up from deserted forest to a remote land of wilderness stretching beyond the horizon. We were awed by the view and soon felt the drive was indeed worth it! Coupled with the fact that we were the only ones here at the time of our visit, it felt like we had the entire Yengo National Park to us. From Finchley Lookout, we spotted Mt Yengo standing majestically afar from the forest, as though it commands the entire Yengo National Park. We could almost see the entire Yengo National Park, which is one of the eight protected areas in the Blue Mountains Region that was inscribed to form part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. Yengo National Park holds a special place in the hearts of the Aborigines in this region as it is an important spiritual and cultural area for them for thousands of years. There are over 600 recorded Aboriginal cultural sites in this national park. It is a legend that the ancestral being stepped off Mt Yengo into the sky after finishing his creation. As it is getting late, we headed off to Hunter Valley before it turns dark.
We finally reached Finchley Lookout in Yengo National Park after some 45 mins drive on the gravel road
My friend and I at Finchley Lookout signage
Me at the Finchley Lookout signage
My sister and her family getting ready to climb up to Finchley Lookout
A monument beside Finchley Lookout 
View of Mt Yengo and Yengo National Park at Finchley Lookout
My friend at Finchley Lookout with Mt Yengo behind
My sister trying to take a family wefie at Finchley Lookout
A happy Baby Ryker at Finchley Lookout
Mt Yengo towering over the entire Yengo National Park
Panoramic view from Finchley Lookout
My sister and happy Baby Ryker at Finchley Lookout
The forest around Finchley Lookout
Mt Yengo at Finchley Lookout

A Change in Plan

As we were driving towards Hunter Valley Winery region, gravel road turned into tarred roads and civilisation were once insight. About 1 hour into our journey, it started to pour heavily. We were glad that we got off the gravel roads before it started to rain. Soon we found ourselves in the town of Wollombi, the last town before we reached Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory. Along the way, some signs point towards some Wineries. As we missed our lunch and we were getting hungry, we stopped by to grab some food. It is already 4.30pm now. Knowing that shops close around 5pm, a check with the Chocolate Factory’s website confirmed the closing time. At this time, I proposed to change in plan and head back to Sydney instead as the factory will be closed by the time we reach (we still have another 30 mins drive from Wollombi to the Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory). As we were driving towards the main roads, we spotted a shopping mall with a supermarket. My sister wanted to check out the supermarket and we headed there. We spent some time at the supermarket.

The night was still young, we headed straight to The Star Casino in Sydney, hoping to find some food before we head back to our apartment to rest. The drive back to Sydney took another 2 hours. It is around 11pm when we reached The Star Casino. Most of the eateries in the Casino has closed for the day. We headed to the nearby Harbourside Shopping Centre for later dinner before heading back to Sydney Olympic Park.

The Star Casino in Darling Harbour, Sydney



Sydney Day 1 (18 May 17) – Arrival in Sydney – Shopping in DFO HomeBush and Rhodes Waterside Mall

My sister wanted to visit Sydney when she did not manage to visit the Gold Coast last year due to her pregnancy. As the rest of the party had never been to Sydney, we made a 6-day trip to the capital city of New South Wales state in Australia.
Sydney Opera House, an icon of Sydney

Arrive at Sydney

After a tiring overnight flight from Singapore, we finally reached Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, the city’s international gateway. Clearing custom was a breeze thanks to the efficient automated gate clearance and the numerous airport security staff directing visitors who are eligible to use the automated customs clearance. No pre-registration is required for visitors to use these automated custom clearance gates, which is a plus, unlike some countries where one is required to pre-register to use these facilities. We wasted no time and quickly got our SIM cards from one of the 2 telco counters (Optus and Vodafone) to the right of the immigration gates. Personally, I prefer Optus due to the value for money (we paid A$10, including SIM Card, for 5 days of data and phone usage) and the reliable connection from my previous experience last year while travelling in Gold Coast. After the staff had our phones set up for data usage, we proceeded to the car rental counters, located to the left of the immigration exit to pick up our rented car.
We got our Australian SIM Card from Optus, which is to the left of the immigration exit in Sydney Airport
Waiting for me to settle our car rental
My sister’s family at the exit of Sydney Airport

Sydney Olympic park

It is expected that we will be drained from the overnight flight, we intentionally kept today’s itinerary very light. We drove to our Airbnb accommodation located in Sydney Olympic Park, located about 30 mins drive from Sydney Central. Our host was already waiting for us with the keys to the spacious 2 bedroom apartment. Sydney Olympic Park was the venue for the 2000 Sydney Olympics games, complete with villages where the athletes were housed back in 2000. Today the Sydney Olympic Park is a major suburb, twice the size of Sydney Central Business District, where residential and commercial activities are located. Other than being a commercial and residential suburb, Sydney Olympic Park is also a major sporting hub, where sporting facilities used during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games are “recycled” for the public and professional athletes to use. There are shops, eateries and supermarkets within minutes drive from our accommodation, making it an ideal place to settle in for this trip. It is already getting late by the time we settled into our apartment, as planned we headed out to the factory outlet nearby Sydney Olympic Park.
View of Sydney Olympic Park from our apartment
My sister’s family happily settled in our accommodation for the next 6 days

DFO Homebush

The only outlet mall around Sydney, the DFO Homebush outlet mall is a mere 5 mins drive from our accommodation in Sydney Olympic Park. The 2-storey outlet mall is rather disappointing, compared to Harbour Town in Gold Coast. Unlike Harbour Town, DFO Homebush feels dead with not many people shopping around. There are no eateries, except for a few cafes that were about to close at the time we visited. The outlet shops are located on level 1 of the shopping mall, while the home living shop and a couple of sports gear outlet shop occupy the ground floor of the building. We only spent about 1 hour here in DFO due to the disappointing shopping experience. While some of the big brands such as Burberry, Calvin Klein offers good discounts, the goods on offer did not appeal to us.
Before heading back to our accommodation, we headed to the supermarket to get some food for breakfast in Rhodes Waterside Mall, which is a 5 mins drive from DFO Homebush.  This shopping mall is a vast world of difference from DFO Homebush, more people are shopping in this mall. Rhodes Waterside Mall houses Ikea, Coles Supermarket, Target and Priceline amongst other shops. One can find most of the daily needs here. We headed back to Sydney Olympic Park to rest after getting what we wanted from Coles Supermarket (which opens still midnight). Before heading back to our accommodation, we got our dinner from Dominoes which is a mere 3 mins drive from our accommodation.