PLUS I’VE INCLUDED SEAFOOD AND VEGETARIAN RECIPE AT THE END😋

I ended up getting into writing therapy a bit on this post (nothing v exciting I’m afraid!) so if you’re more interested in travel destination ideas etc. maybe check out photos and skim read…particularly captions and bold text😉

We have a small house on the South Coast (Mollymook Beach) which we purchased on retirement after our 40+ year careers. On moving to Canberra in 1975, I had always missed the beach after living in Sydney for my first 20 years and regularly getting to either the beach or the harbour.

Felt so excited as this was day we bought the coast house – 9/6/10

The day our offer on house was accepted, we were half way through lunch at Rick Stein’s restaurant celebrating Tony’s birthday and recent retirement. We (particularly me) had the hardest year of my life during the 12+ months leading up to this more happy occasion…difficult times that just about everyone goes through in some shape or form (loved ones dying/work stress etc) so I won’t go into much of that. However, as often happens too, after tough times the sun usually appears again and makes those bright and happy days even sweeter!

A bit on my personal journey related to health problems at this time (skip over if you prefer to focus on good times!):

On day above photo was taken, it probably wasn’t a good idea to go paddling in the water in the late afternoon sunshine as I was on pain meds for my lumbar back which had been bothering me for some time and a major surgery was planned for 22/7/10. I now have a straighter lumbar spine and 28 screws – some will possibly be removed in future years…maybe but hopefully not! Let sleeping dogs lie!…I say! If our grandkids are reading this one day you might need to look up the meaning of that old saying😉

I’m smiling but some spinal surgeries cause a roller coaster ride with pain management

Only just smiling in photo above!...I wasn’t going to let Tony take a photo but then I thought, “oh well I survived it so a good reason to celebrate!”. When Drs tell you the risks associated with major surgery (8 hours this 1) it is quite terrifying and I then explored so many other ways I hoped would improve my quality of life. Yoga/Physio etc had worked during the decade before but was no longer helping. I could just feel things getting worse and worse and the x-rays and scans indicated rapid deterioration too. The thought of continuing to be in pain when standing or even when sitting was depressing – so glad I can now sit for many hours without any pain meds.

Tony did check out this shallow area of water first and noted there were no slippery rocks so in I went – well just up to the ankles as the water was cold!

6 months later in summer I was swimming at the Bogey Hole (Sth end Mollymook Beach…just around corner from the Golf Club). I’ll look for a photo to post here soon. It’s a stunningly beautiful spot plus a very calm and safe place to swim as the huge rocks form a natural sea pool. It can get quite crowded with young families in the peak Christmas/NY holiday period but at all other times it is so peaceful – one of my favourite places in the world.

It was great to have the old house as a project to look forward to although after being told the risks by Dr Cree in Sydney and tearfully repeating them to Tony, he said “you can’t die, we have an old house to renovate!”. He did hear the risks for himself at the next appt with Cree – it was comforting to have him with me and something I recommend to anyone undergoing a major surgery. If you don’t have a partner, ask a good friend to go with you as it’s sometimes hard to take it all in, especially if you have the ups/downs of pain.

Our sons were also great – drove from Canberra-Sydney on same day to see me when I just left ICU. I wasn’t up to spending time with them as I was feeling either so weak/sick or asleep. Once I was well enough to talk, our plans for renovating the coast house lifted my spirits as they were the ones helping with that. I’ll look for some house Reno before/after photos to pop into my next blog on the coast. Just knowing there was so much to look forward to helped so much…my advice to myself (and our family) in tough times is to search for rainbows – they often arrive after a storm…

Mollymook Beach – Spring 2010
Spring 2010 – cloudy but warm enough for building sandcastles.
Photo above is the South end of Mollymook Beach…if you get a chance do walk around (further Sth) to the Bogey Hole – a natural rock pool below the Golf Course which is on the hill above. The Golf Club is to the right of this photo – more about Golf Club below.

End to an eventful year! Loved our family home in Canberra too.

Some background on why I missed the seaside so much (skip over if you’d prefer to hear about good places to visit on South Coast…more for family if they’re interested one day!)…

As a child/teen I loved visiting our Grandparents who lived in Balmain on the harbour from 1920s. So it took a lot of adjustment when Tony and I first moved to Canberra – so he could continue his studies at ANU. He later moved to UC where I also completed my Education Degree in 80s.

I came from a loving/loud family of 5 girls (7 if you count Mum & the dog!…poor Dad – in some ways!) so there were lots of comings/goings etc. with friends and neighbours as well. It came as a shock when I developed spinal problems at 12/13 (scoliosis…quite common in girls) as I had been so fit and well with ballet classes/rehearsals etc almost every afternoon. I even obtained a BDA Scholarship and danced regularly at Sydney Uni Theatre.

After that spinal surgery + year long rehab, I would often arrange with a group of friends to catch the train from Mortdale Station to Cronulla Beach. The freedom was exhilarating for me after being flat on my back in a plaster cast around my torso for 9 months!

It was in the days when Cronulla was still very Anglocentric although the negative side of that hadn’t hit so much at that stage ie. you may have heard the “Puberty Blues” stories (set in late 70s) and later the Cronulla riots 2005 (a “dark stage in Australia” – see Net if interested)?

Good news is that Cronulla village/beach has changed for the better with a range of cultural groups working together…I recommend a visit if you’re ever in Sydney for a longer stay! A beautiful coastline too. A post for another day!

However, Mollymook is just as beautiful + not as developed of course and unlike Sydney’s suburban beaches like Cronulla and Bondi, you can almost always find a parking space and a quiet spot very easily! Photos of Mollymook below:

Mollymook Beach, NSW – looking North

The Australian East Coast Climates – When To Go…

When to visit depends on personal preference and interests of course, but the following gives an outline of what the weather can be like in different parts of the country – Australia is a massive continent. To get a better perspective there are maps that overlay Australia with other continents eg. Europe. It’s easy to see why we’ve encountered people who underestimate the time it might take to get from one place in Australia to another! Of course, unlike even a decade ago, there are free apps to help estimate distances/travel times more easily – we like free app Rome2Rio.

The advantages of visiting the Australian Sth Coast in winter is that, like most places in the world, accommodation prices are much lower and there are fewer tourists which makes getting out and about more peaceful. The climate is sub-tropical – in winter, generally very mild during the day but nights can be quite cool. All the surfers we see wear full body wetsuits in winter (June-August). Most accommodation now has both heating and cooling, although during the day we rarely use it as our house now has good insulation. It didn’t when we bought it so we took a portable heater down after I had spinal surgery in 2010 and just warmed 1 room at night.

If you prefer a warmer climate at this time of year, consider Queensland instead – especially Far North QLD. We lived there (Townsville) from 1996 – 2000 and have re-visited a few times since then so a blog post for another day.

The Far Nth remains pleasantly warm in “winter” – locals sometimes call it that but of course, in the tropics it’s more like “the wet” and “the dry”. Once you get as far Nth as the Great Barrier Reef there’s no surf and in summer you need to wear body protection against dangerous stingers – there is a scientific name of course which I’ll note here later. However, I think we were still swimming in the sea up to about April most years…photo below was taken near Cairns, QLD in 1998. My hair changed style/colour often in 1990s/2000s! Our older son had braces put on his teeth not long before this so probably why he is grimacing a bit! It was younger son’s turn for braces a few years later.

Near Cairns (Far Nth QLD – Aust’n East Coast) – April 1998

Summer is also the cyclone season in Nth QLD (also NT eg. Darwin and Nth of WA eg. Broome) so while we did enjoy our time in the Tropics, we’re happier dealing with Canberra’s cold winters, especially now we have Mollymook to visit, rather than the heat/humidity/cyclones etc. of summer in the Tropics. Canberra also has so many great galleries, museums, cinemas, theatres, indoor sports facilities, bookshops I love eg. Muse etc. (post for another day) so during wet/windy weather at the coast we sometimes choose to stay in Canberra and have a cosy cook up/night or sometimes day inside at home/or somewhere interesting! I quite enjoy putting a warm coat/scarf on and walking to our local village in Canberra – Manuka Village.

Back to our current 2nd home – Mollymook Beach:

We often walk along Mollymook Beach from one end to the other – it’s approximately 1.3 km. There’s also a pedestrian/cycle path – the above photos taken from that path. Our house is a couple of streets back from the beach which we quite like at the Christmas/NY period as the beach front area can get quite crowded with tourists – from both Sydney and Canberra.

Mollymook/Milton/Ulladulla region is equidistant from both Sydney and Canberra although often takes less time on the road to/from Canberra as traffic is lighter and population of Canberra smaller of course. However, there is the winding Clyde Mountain (takes about 15 min to drive up) of course but once at the top the scenery (mostly farmland) is beautiful especially if it has been raining during the weeks before.

We often take our own coffee to the beach front tables (photo below) and spend time reading, watching the surfers and quite often dolphins diving over/through the waves. Very occasionally we’ve spotted a whale in the distance. There’s also coffee (fish/chips/salad) at the Mollymook Beach Hut cafe – next to the Surf Life Saving Club. It also has a gorgeous seafront view – in Sydney you pay double for the same food in similar surroundings.

Not a bad office now we’ve retired! We always have some project or another on!

We feel very lucky to have both small city life in Canberra and a more country/beach feel at Mollymook although it wasn’t just luck, it was also 30+ years of working/paying off mortgage + saving etc. to achieve that in our 50s. Now our 2 sons have their own homes, it’s good to have smaller living spaces…when everyone comes to stay in Mollymook the house is packed to the rafters as the saying goes! One day we might add a 2nd bathroom but, in the meantime, it reminds me of my childhood days – 7 of us sharing one small house and it wasn’t until mid 1960s that we had an inside toilet!

So some of our more recent travel experiences + some of those in Mollymook/Milton feel like high luxury when I reflect on childhood in Sydney + our early days as poor Uni students in Canberra!

A few photos of some of those recent experiences at the coast:

Bannister’s Pavilion Hotel, Mollymook, NSW

Sometimes when walking back to our house I stop at the Bannister’s Pavilion Hotel (there’s also another hotel/pool bar/restaurant Bannister’s by the Sea + Rick Stein’s restaurant near here). This pool bar and restaurant space is pleasantly elegant (a beautiful fit out as you can see) yet informal and open to visitors (other than hotel guests) from about 11.30…I think the official time is 12 but I’ve always been welcomed by staff even at 11. I notice some people go there with laptops to work…very pleasant with morning sun streaming in.

I usually just have a coffee and do some reading (many newspapers etc there) although occasionally we have a light lunch (not often). It looks like a lovely hotel to stay at…they have an open flame fire in the downstairs lounge off the lobby. Reminds me to take coffee there on a cold/grey day.

Music at this hotel:

On Sunday afternoons from about 4 or 5?…they have live/free music – a variety of local musicians. That also happens quite often at the other Bannister’s Hotel (by the sea) not far from this one (it’s a 15 min brisk walk). There are also many other places, especially around Milton and Ulladulla, where musicians play at various times.

Milton:

A small historic town 5 min from Mollymook (established in mid 1800s) that is worth a visit whether it’s summer, winter or in between although try to avoid the Christmas/NY period if you can as the crowds can make parking etc. difficult.

One of the best restaurants in this region is St Isidore (has received “a 🎩 Hat”…Aust’n equivalent to a Michelin Star). It’s set in a majestic country setting with rolling hills (usually green!) and their own gorgeous garden including a vegetable/herb garden from which they source some of their produce. Of course, it’s comparatively expensive but their food is beautiful…I’ll try to find a picture from a recent Thursday night set menu dinner we had.

If time/budget permits, we recommend lunch there so you’re able to take in the view or we have arrived early on a summer evening (we have day light saving so it doesn’t get dark until after 7 pm) – thoroughly enjoyed my birthday dinner there last January. My birthday is in December but we celebrate at home during that week with so many tourists in town and try to have a belated celebration once the crowds leave a bit later in January.

I do have a few photos from the places I’ve mentioned above; I’ll get around to popping them in here 1 day soon but, in the meantime, if you’re interested, take a look at photos on their sites &/or review sites photos are sometimes helpful we find eg. Trip Advisor. As the saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words”!

Word nerd in me off track again!...V quickly checked Net and it says above expression first appeared in a newspaper in 1911? (Wikipedia…not sure how thorough that research is of course).

So time for pictures…this time taken from ‘Bannister’s by the Sea’ Pool Bar – in late Autumn this year!

Bannister’s By the Sea – View from Pool Bar – Mollymook, NSW

People still swimming as perhaps the pool is heated? The pool is only for hotel guests of course, so I’m not certain on that one. However, in early Autumn at the South Coast the water (including the sea temperature) is usually fine for swimming, at least until Easter – maybe later if you don’t mind cooler water.

The sea temperatures around Sydney (a 2.5 hr drive; closer as the crow flies!) are much the same as this part of the coast. As you drive South and get closer to the Victorian Border/Melbourne the sea temperature gradually drops although it’s still fine for swimming most summers and sometimes into early Autumn. We did that drive a few years ago on our way to a wedding in Melbourne followed by the famous Great Ocean Road drive. A blog post for another day!

This hotel has both the formal restaurant (Rick Stein’s – the world famous chef) and a pool bar. We go to the pool bar often as they sell great pizzas (and other foods but we like their pizza + salads) and the view is gorgeous. I do have a few photos from those summer nights that I’ll get around to popping in another day. Even in winter it’s a lovely intimate place with a fire going – just one of those modern “fireplaces” but still very cosy.

We go to Rick Stein’s formal restaurant less frequently as it is very expensive and when we do go it’s sometimes for a locals’ lunch on a Wednesday now we’re retired although it’s interesting to see a younger crowd now turning up mid week. More people, even younger people, seem to be working from home and choose to leave Sydney now that it has become such an expensive city in which to live. I hear these stories from young couples sometimes when I take our granddaughters to swim lessons at the Ulladulla indoor pool complex. Another lovely place to visit especially if you feel like a swim during wet/grey/cold weather – they have 2 indoor pools including 1 warmer hydro pool + an Olympic outdoor pool. Also tennis courts next door.

Other popular sport related places in Mollymook are the 2 golf courses – one the seaside course (with large Golf Club) and also the hilltop golf course. Our younger son and daughter-in-law’s wedding reception was held there not so long ago. It was relaxed and informal + lots of fun. The reception space opens up onto the lawn area with sea views. The food at the wedding reception (mostly canapés) was beautiful and there was plenty of it late into the evening…just as well as the dancing and celebrations continued on for many hours.

However, our experience with the food at the Golf Club restaurant on Mollymook Beach hasn’t been very good – more like home cooking but at quite a high price in our opinion. It doesn’t cost much more to go to smaller restaurants like Tallwood in Mollymook – highly recommended!

So there are lots of food/restaurant and even vineyard choices in and around this part of the NSW South Coast. In fact the region has become a foodie destination – very popular with both Canberrans like us and Sydneysiders.

A FEW COOK BOOKS WE’VE BEEN ENJOYING LATELY:

Local South Coast Restaurantsfrom Kiama (quite close to Sydney) to Eden (closer to Melbourne) have compiled two cookbooks over the last few years – South Coast Cook 1 and South Coast Cookbook 2. They have maps and show where these restaurants are located plus give one recipe each of a popular dish.

Here are 2 of our favourite Rick Stein books, both featuring delicious seafood recipes:

In Stein’s book “Coast to Coast” he suggests that either “the Australians or Californians invented fusion food…there is a greater ease and informality about Australian cooks – the use of Mediterranean and Asian ingredients more than anywhere else, and a lot of dishes appear now as part of the local cuisine…I love the place; I’ve got a house with my partner Sarah…as I said during the first filming I did in Australia way back in 1996, every time I get off the plane in Sydney, I feel 10 years younger.” I always have a wonderful feeling as well when flying over Sydney harbour when returning home after a long trip away.

In the 00’s “the fusion” he talks about didn’t always work so well but in more recent years Australian chefs (and home cooks!) have been combining flavours and textures from various cultures in much better ways we think. Spices from Asia and India being added to what once were boring Anglo dishes of our childhood!…pies, stews and even the “traditional” roasts! There are many fabulous Asian restaurants in Australia today due to both our proximity to Asia as well as our Multicultural populations of course. There are also lots of Mediterranean (especially Italian) and an increasing number of Middle Eastern restaurants too.

For easy meals on busy nights we’ve often been using the following book helpful (One Pan Roasts – photo below)…the grilled squid recipe is one of our favourites. Very quick, easy, tasty, tender and delicious! I also love some of the vegetarian recipes which I’m happy to eat as a main meal – Tony usually prefers a small side of meat or fish though.

I added Turmeric spice to this dish – suggested by my Aust’n/Indian Dr

CAULIFLOWER AND LENTILS:

Serves 4

1 cauliflower, cut into small florets; 1 onion, thinly sliced; 2 tablespoons olive oil; 1 teaspoon ground cumin; salt & pepper; 260 g lentils (100 g dried if cooking rather than can); 2 tablespoons dried currants, plumped in hot water and drained; 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts. We also add Turmeric as noted in photo caption.

Method:

Preheat over to 200 deg C/400 deg F. On a baking tray, toss cauliflower florets, onion, oil and cumin (+ turmeric if you like that idea). Spread out in an even layer and season. Roast for 25 min or until cauliflower and onion are tender and beginning to colour. Add lentils, currants and pine nuts and toss to combine. Roast for about 10 minutes until vegetables are lightly golden. Serve warm or room temp (I prefer warm).

GRILLED SQUID

Served 4-6

450 g squid, cleaned, rinsed and patted dry – bodies cut into rounds; 200 ml olive oil;

2 garlic cloves (thinly sliced); 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes;

4 heaped tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs; 1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve

A little sea salt

Method:

Place squid, oil, garlic and chilli flakes in a bowl and leave to marinate at room temp for 1 hour. Position oven rack about 12 cm from grill and preheat grill. Drains marinade from squid and arrange squid on baking tray. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Grill squid for 2 min until just cooked through, taking care not to burn the breadcrumbs. Serve with lemon wedges and sea salt.