A journey through Australia > the temperate lands of New South Wales
It's here in the subtropical climate of the Northern Rivers region, along the coast and near New South Wales' boundary with Queensland, that macadamia nuts, avocados and sugar cane are grown. In Kangaroo Valley, they harvest guavas, passion fruit, pepinos (melon pears) and another very special fruit called "chocolate pudding." Further south lies a mostly shrimp fishing area. Cattle and sheep raising is concentrated in the lands of "New England." In Tamworth, halfway between Brisbane and Sydney (403 km away from the latter), you'll find the only Jackeroo/Jillaroo school for farm workers. The west central region is fertile and famous for producing certain grape varieties that prefer a cooler climate. The town of Orange not only produces wonderful oranges, but also pears, figs and berries.
The further south you go in New South Wales, the more temperate the climate. Every seaside village has its traditional fish and chip shop, where you'll enjoy some of the freshest fish you've ever tasted.
The region along the Holiday Coast around Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour is famous for its banana plantations and other crops, including aboriginal pepper. Though the grape vine plantings are still young, they are already producing some excellent Chambourcin and other light wines.
About 160 km from Sydney extends the Hunter Valley, a long coastal plain famous for the 40 vineyards that dot its gently undulating land, bordered by eucalyptus and fenced in to keep kangaroos from stomping the plants and filling their pockets with grapes! There are 2000 hectares here that produce young vigorous wines.
In the Blue Mountains around Katoomba, 104 km from Sydney, you can take in "Yulefest" and celebrate Christmas in July. Have turkey dinner with all the trimmings in front of a blazing hearth in the Victorian dining room, since here it's mid-winter… and occasionally it even snows.
82 km to the south of Sydney, you'll come to Illawarra where the fishing boats shuttle between Wollongong and Kiama, passing in front of one of the loveliest rock formations, called the "Blowhole." But to fish for the abalone so prized by the Japanese, you have to go down towards Jervis Bay and Nowra. If you're a crayfish lover, then head for the Riverina dams. Locals tempt the crustaceans by attaching a piece of raw meat to a string tied to a wooden pole - a tree branch works quite nicely. When they feel a pull on the line, they go get the crayfish with a spoon-net. It's a task that demands patience, but the gastronomic payoff makes it all worthwhile.
Trout also abounds in the rivers that run in the shadow of the Snowy Mountains, Australians' favourite skiing destination.
The outback is populated with livestock, particularly beef cattle, and this is the place to dig into some authentic "outback tucker."
In Sydney, you'll enjoy the wonderful big plump Sydney Rock oysters that are collected all the way to Port Stephen. Sydney is the hub of the agricultural economy since products from every region are shipped here and then redistributed across the country or abroad. Sometimes products travel thousands of kilometres before they finally reach the table.
Sydney's icon, of course, is its famous and fantastic Opera House, with its white ceramic veils that slice into the blue sky. They actually represent shells, linking the opera house to the sea, for it sits on a point of the Circular Quays, a few cable lengths away from the Sydney bridge, which is in itself another Sydney icon. If you have time, spend a while facing the harbour, sitting on one of the restaurant patios in The Rocks district, and enjoy a big platter of steamed or grilled seafood. Downtown, sushi bars are everywhere, while the Chinese quarter is located across from Haymarket, the Italian at Leichhardt, the Korean at Campsie, the Jewish at Bondi, and Mediterraneans of every background have opted for Pottsa Point. But there are also Australians restaurants, both traditional and modern, that bring the ocean to the menu. Order the catch of the day, red mullet, tuna, whitefish or John Dory.
Take the train: in a few stops, you'll be at the Sydney Fish Market where you'll find the most beautiful assortment of seafood in the whole country. There are even half-day cooking courses offered. Ask for a Balmain Bug, a short round lobster that comes from the island of the same name, which can be reached in a few minutes by ferry from Doyles patio, while the pelicans make themselves at home along the dock and outside the kitchen doors.
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