Christmas Down Under

In the summer of 2016, after graduating from university, our daughter Charlotte moved to Sydney, Australia — her boyfriend, Jackson, was the main draw :).  Knowing that Jackson was planning to ask Charlotte to marry him, we knew that we just had to spend Christmas in Australia to be part of the excitement and to get to know the man our daughter is going to marry and his family better.  It was an amazing three weeks but if I had to share my top 5 highlights of our trip – this is what they’d be (in chronological order):

1. A Night at the Opera House

A visit to Sydney would not be complete without seeing the Opera House, and the best way to experience the Opera House is to see a show there.  So, on our second full day in Australia, that’s what we decided to do.  We had an amazing night, beginning with dinner at the Opera Bar, followed by the show Circus 1903 (part Broadway show, part traditional circus) in the Opera House’s Concert Hall. I don’t know what was more thrilling: being in the iconic Opera House or being mesmerized by circus performers who didn’t fail to impress!

The Central Business District seen from the Opera House. The quay was packed with tourists (note the cruise ship), and locals enjoying an after work drink.
Pre-show dinner at the Opera Bar

In the Concert Hall, waiting for the start of the show
Curtain call

2. Christmas

Our daughter had a seasonal job at The Grounds of Alexandria, performing as Mrs. Claus, so our family and Jackson and his family all went to the Grounds on Christmas Eve while Charlotte worked her last shift as Mrs. Claus.  We had an amazing brunch and a great time exploring the Grounds. Charlotte entertained the crowds singing Christmas songs with Santa — it was so fun to see her get everyone in the Christmas spirit, including us.

Less than a block from the Grounds, Sheas Creek trickles into the Alexandra Canal.  Sadly, plans to transform the industrial canal into a “stunning green corridor connecting Sydney Harbour to Botany Bay” were shelved in 2003, when it was concluded that the canal is so polluted that disturbing it would be dangerous to human health and the environment.

Sheas Creek flows into the Alexandra Canal

In the evening we attended a beautiful Christmas Eve service at Hillsong Church.

Awaiting the start of the Christmas Eve service at Hillsong Church
Yes, those are real camels in the auditorium!

Christmas morning was spent opening presents, first with just our family, then at Jackson’s house with his family.  After a Christmas brunch we all went to Pearl Beach, north of Sydney, to experience a traditional Australian Christmas dinner: a picnic on the beach!

Sitting down for Christmas dinner! We had a delicious feast of salads and cold chicken and stuffing.

I’m not going to lie; we missed the coziness and traditions of Christmas in Canada.  But we couldn’t have asked for a better “hot” Christmas and were grateful for our authentic Australian Christmas experience.

3. Hunter Valley

On Boxing Day Karen and I escaped to the Hunter Valley, Australia’s original wine region, for two nights of wine and romance.

We saw 4 horses running through this beautiful field along Tourist Drive 33 (the best way to get to the Hunter), sadly the horses were gone by the time I stopped the car.
View from the cellar door at St Clements Estate
Enjoying our morning coffee at Tonic, a boutique hotel in the heart of the Hunter
We loved seeing kangaroos each morning.
Karen outside the tasting room at Bimbadgen Estate Winery
The carnage after our tasting at Moorebank Private Vineyard (15 wines, 10 glasses!) The valley is best known for Semillon, Shiraz, and Chardonnay wines, probably in that order.
Del enjoying a craft beer on the verandah, Verandah Restaurant at Calais Estate
Hilltop view at Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard
Inside the Tyrrell Wines cellar

4. Our daughter’s engagement!

On December 29 our family and Jackson’s drove to beautiful Balmoral Beach to have dinner at the Public Dining Room.  Little did our daughter know that dinner would be preceded by a proposal!

Spending time with Jackson and his family was definitely the overall highlight of our trip, and we are thrilled to welcome him into our family!

5. Avoca Beach

We spent our last week in Australia with Jackson’s family in Avoca Beach, a laid back beach town north of Sydney, on the Central Coast.

View of Avoca Beach from our apartment
Karen walking on sandstone rocks at north end of Avoca Beach
Maybe only crazy people would swim here!?


Lorakeet on our balcony
Pelican at The Entrance

We now look forward to hosting Jackson’s family in Canada for the upcoming wedding in May, and we can’t wait for our next visit to Oz.

2 thoughts on “Christmas Down Under

  1. So cool! What a great recap! Glad you guys
    had such a nice time. I’m sorry I missed a
    visit with you. Next time!

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