Jervis Bay, a wonderful stop on the way to Sydney

Returning from the Snowy Mountains via Tidbinbilla we had a few more days in Canberra with the family before Jervis Bay called us to the coast. We spent them exploring parts of the city we had yet to visit, the National Capital Exhibition was our first port of call. It was a fascinating insight into the history of the city from deciding where it should be based to choosing a winning town plan. The victorious designer was an American, Walter Burley-Griffin and the grand artificial lake in the centre of the city bears his name to this day. The view over the lake from the exhibition is a fine one and at certain times each day you can also see an impressive fountain reaching over 100 metres into the air, which forms part of a memorial to Captain Cook, along with a globe nearby on the shoreline which details the voyages he took.


Captain Cook Memorial Fountain, Canberra

The park behind the museum is also worth a wander, not only is it a beautiful, tranquil place for a walk, but for the naturalist it holds additional interest in the form of a Flying Fox roost. These are Grey-headed Flying Foxes, the largest of Australia’s fruit bats and their roost here is a little bone of contention for some of the locals who consider them a pest due to tree damage and their fruit based diet can bring them into conflict with fruit growers. Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to see these magnificent creatures and so we went for a walk in the sunshine.

Flying Fox Roost, Canberra

The noise was the first indicator that we were approaching the roost, despite them being nocturnal there was quite a bit of chatter and presumed disputes among them as they jostled for the perfect spot to hang out for the day. We were also lucky to see a few flying around trying to find a suitable perch and while my photos were not the best I thought I’d include one anyway because it gives a really clear indication of how the bat’s wing is basically adapted from an arm and hand structure not dissimilar to our own.

Flying fox

We also visited the Parliament Building which was very interesting and we were lucky to be there the day after the historic referendum for Gay Marriage was passed, which meant that we were able to witness some powerful and moving speeches in the Senate House. We spent an afternoon exploring the wine making region around Murrumbateman, particularly enjoying tasting at Clonakilla and lunch at Shaw Vineyard. At the suggestion of our niece, we also visited the War Memorial where we thoroughly enjoyed the museum exhibits. We were particularly moved by the tradition of sticking commemorative poppies into the gaps between the panels on the Roll of Honour.

We found ourselves in the right place at the right time as we were there for a Wreath Laying Ceremony too which was interesting to watch.

This marked the end of our time in Canberra though and having had a wonderful time with family we set out for the next leg of our Australian adventure. Having stopped for a few supplies for the journey, we set out towards the coast, heading for Batemans Bay. We stopped for a pastry in the small town of Braidwood and admired the views and the dense vegetation as the Kings Highway wound its way between Monga and Budawang National Parks. Reaching the coast we turned north before taking a right to get down to the sea. We ended up at Maloney’s Beach where Kagaroos lazed in a comical fashion on the short grass behind the sand and moody skies cut our visit a little short.

Our journey further north was a slightly winding one as we took the opportunity to explore a few side roads off Princes Highway and take in the scenery. We spotted a gorgeous Satin Bowerbird in a small residential area, watched Silver Gulls buffeted by strong winds, saw a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers flying over a rocky shore and passed some idyllic spots. We eventually arrived at our Airbnb for the next couple of nights in Vincentia, a small town on the shore of Jervis Bay, and having settled in we decided to take a walk. We headed out to Nelson’s Beach and found an Echidna wandering about on the edge of the sand. As the tide was out, we were able to walk round the headland at Plantation Point, along Barfleur Beach and onto Orion Beach before climbing up to the roadside to complete our circuit. As we neared the end of our walk, I came across an Orange Tiger Moth on the pavement. There are quite a few similar species and I’ve only narrowed it down to the Amata genus but it was something a little different either way and I took this image on my phone.

After a lovely meal in a local restaurant and a relaxing evening, we woke to find the garden of our Airbnb thronging with birdlife. These were new species to us and we enjoyed a happy half hour watching them over breakfast. They were feeding on flowering shrubs in the garden and it was a lovely start to the day. The first was a Little Wattlebird which seemed to specialise in reaching its food by hanging upside down.

Little Wattlebird, Jervis Bay

Next in were some noisy Rainbow Lorikeets, there were 4 or 5 altogether but they were constantly on the move and chattering to one another.

Rainbow Lorikeets, Jervis Bay

I did manage a clearer portrait shot of one of these stunningly colourful birds against a clearer background too. As a photographer I found them an enchanting subject albeit tricky to capture as they didn’t stay in one place for long.

They soon moved on, presumably to another garden full of flowers, and we set out for a day’s exploring around the bay. It was an overcast start to the day but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits. We began by visiting what must surely be the best known beach in the area, Hyam’s Beach which is reported to have the whitest sand in the world. Of course, I couldn’t go there and not record how white the sand really was so I took a silly snap on my phone comparing the whiteness of my very British feet to the sand around them!

Hyam's Beach, Jervis Bay

It may not have seemed at its whitest on that grey morning but it was beautiful nevertheless.

Our next port of call was Booderee National Park at the southern end of Jervis Bay. Here, we drove the small road through the park and walked to Murray’s Beach. Stopping for a drink at a picnic bench we found ourselves close at quarter with a couple of wonderfully charismatic birds, male Superb Fairy Wrens. These tiny birds are really very wren-like in their characteristics although a perhaps little larger and with longer legs and tails, they still behaved like our wrens at home, hopping around with confidence and sticking their tails in the air. The most striking difference of course was their gorgeous blue and black colouring and I may have got a little carried away photographing them… I’ll let you decide!

By now the sun had emerged from behind the clouds and the day was brightening up. Moving on we entered an area of woodland that had suffered a bushfire. It was a slightly sobering experience as the area of trees affected was quite large but it wa fascinating to see how it wa regenerating. There was green growth in the understory and new shoots were emerging from the blackened eucalyptus trunks. The larger trees retained their uppermost leaves and provided some dappled shade while the smaller saplings beneath had kept only the dry, burnt leaves that signalled their demise.

Among the dessicated branches there was still birdlife foraging. We saw a lovely Eastern Spinebill in the higher canopy which was amazingly camouflaged in this tawny, orangey dappled world, while a New Holland Honeyeater came amazingly close overhead.

Continuing on our path, we came to a clearing out towards the peninsula where a rowdy gang of Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos were feeding on the green seedpods of a type of Banksia, using their dextrous claws to hold the pod while stripping the seeds with their beaks.

Every now and then one would move to a different tree, prompting the rest to adjust their positions accordingly. Only in flight were their striking yellow tail feathers really evident.

We concluded our walk with a flutter of butterflies which were under the trees on the edge of the carpark and went for a lovely lunch in Huskisson before spending the afternoon enjoying some more of the local beaches.

The following day dawned bright and we decided to head out to the other end of Jervis Bay, aiming for Point Perpendicular. This is located on part of a military base and so you have to gain permission at the gates before entering. A rough, corrugated track then takes you the 8km to the end of the peninsula where the Point Perpendicular lighthouse stands proudly atop the cliff.

This spectacular spot not only gives a great view over the entrance to Jervis Bay but is also reputed to be a fantastic place from which to watch for cetaceans. This became my husband’s new mission in life and so we ventured carefully toward the edge for a better view.

Finding a safe spot to stand and scan the waves for telltale signs we settled in for a while to peer through binoculars in the hope of spotting something. I must admit I soon got a bit bored and wandered back into the bush behind to find things to photograph while he was happily occupied. There were some quite nice flowers, several I recognised as Banksia and Tea Tree species and several which were less familiar. I haven’t narrowed down this rather attractive and seemingly fluffy one but if anyone has any idea I’d be glad to hear!

I took a few more photos of flowers but I won’t bore you with them all. I did find a few with interesting critters on though so I’ll share one of those. This one is a rather nice dark purple beetle which was clearly enjoying its dinner.

There were also a number of robber flies around which hunt other insects. They were impressive beasts and I couldn’t resist a snap of a particularly smart one with red legs resting on a small dead twig.

After a little while my husband came looking for me. He said he had seen a dolphin with a calf. I went back to look with him but they were gone. Nonetheless he had seen something of what he was looking for and we moved to the other side of the peninsula to take a walk down a track a short way. The view from here looked back over the whole of Jervis Bay and was equally lovely as the one out to sea. Here though, the low shrubby vegetation was also recovering from a previous bushfire and there were all sorts of lovely flowers blooming beneath the bare, blackened branches. We saw an incredible, green Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo briefly perched on top of a shrub and on the way back to our car, a Wallaby which stopped grazing to sniff a flower.

As our second full day in Jervis Bay drew to a close we knew that we had made the right decision to spend some time here. We had had a wonderful stay, visited some lovely places and seen some great wildlife too. We celebrated in style with a lovely dinner out and prepared to make our way back to Sydney in the morning.

Setting out the next day we made a fairly routine journey back to Sydney, following the main coastal road north till we hit the city. We dropped our hire car off and caught the train to our hotel before hopping on the Manly ferry. We may not have done this if not for the fact that we were meeting up with a dear school friend of mine who lives in Manly with her husband. They are both doctors and were scheduled to work nights so if we were to see them it would have to be in Manly. The journey was great though as we got a wonderful view of the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the rest of the Harbour while on our way. We met up for drinks and they then took us to North Point to have a walk. The heavens opened while we were there but we carried on regardless with an umbrella and were rewarded with the most extraordinary view of Sydney Harbour in the afterglow of the rain storm. It was a truly memorable afternoon. We even saw Brush Turkeys as we left the car park and we ended our stay in Sydney with dinner in a restaurant overlooking Manly Beach before catching the last ferry back to the city. The following day we would leave Australia for the next leg of our adventure, New Zealand.

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