By Chris K

Today’s Itinerary

  • 8AM – Find peace relaxing in the placid waters at Balmoral Beach.
  • 9AM – enjoy the best brunch in Sydney at the Bathers’ Pavilion.
  • 11AM – take a relaxing drive down to Wollongong.
  • 2PM – find your centre at the Nan Tien Buddhist Temple.
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The theme for today is peace and relaxation. We’ve heralded the brand new year in Sydney with a celebration of all things pyrotechnic, watching the Harbour Bridge light up at midnight. After a day to slowly recover from all that excitement, we’re going to find some time and space today to centre ourselves, and set ourselves on the path we want to follow for the coming year.

We don’t have a jam-packed agenda today, but what we do have planned, we’re going to immerse ourselves in. Literally and figuratively!

Bather's Pavilion at Balmoral Beach is the best place for a relaxing brunch in Sydney

The view from the Bathers’ Pavilion out towards the Sydney Harbour headland.

8AM – find peace in the placid salt-water at Balmoral Beach in Sydney’s north

Bather's Pavilion at Balmoral Beach - right on the water at Balmoral, so a swim is essential before brunch!

A gorgeous day looking in the water at Balmoral beach, looking back to Bathers’ Pavilion. Photo by kerno.

You could easily visit Sydney and pass right on by Balmoral Beach. This almost hidden suburb, nestled off the busy Military Road that leads over the Spit Bridge to Manly and beyond, is tucked away from sight. And yet if you drove on past Balmoral you’d miss an amazing experience.

Driving down the incredibly steep Awaba Street, foot firmly on the break, we’re amazed to see people running up the hill! They’ve started their New Year resolutions with admirable dedication.

With our eyes firmly fixed on the horizon, with stunning view that stretch to Sydney’s North Head and beyond into the Pacific, we park the car and head down to the beach. At 8 AM in summer the water is going to be wonderfully refreshing, and no matter what you have to stay in the water until you’ve gotten used to the temperature.

It’s time to shake off the excesses from New Year’s Eve and put in for some vigorous splashing about.

There’s a brunch to earn, after all.

9AM – the best brunch in Sydney at the Bathers’ Pavilion

We shake the water from our hair and head just across the sand into the Bathers’ Pavilion salivating at the thought of the food that awaits.

The amazing brunch at the Bathers' Pavilion in Balmoral, Sydney, Australia.

The amazing brunch offered at the Bathers’ Pavilion includes the best baked beans you’ll likely ever eat! Photo by kerno.

There really is no brunch like a Bathers’ Pavilion brunch. Serge Dansereau has turned a run-down old bather’s building into a Sydney institution, with both casual cafe and more formal dining areas. As we are still in out

The food is wonderful, and with amazing variety. Just a few favourites are the house-made baked beans, the french toast, and the oven-roasted tomatoes sprinkled with oregano. We’ll have several coffees here, but an additional treat with our meal is the cranberry and watermelon cocktail – perfect for a summer’s day that is already warming up.

It’s easy to lose track of time here, watching the passersby on the promenade and the endless swell washing onto the beach. As they say in ‘The Castle’ – how’s the serenity?

11AM – take a relaxing drive down to Wollongong

Our bellies full and our heads slightly buzzing from all that coffee, we pile into the car and hit the open road.

From Balmoral, it is just a one and a half hour drive down to Wollongong, where our next destination awaits. A real highlight are the views from the high bluffs as we approach Wollongong, with a great view over the southern beaches of Sydney.

2PM – find your centre at the Nan Tien Buddhist Temple

You can see the Nan Tien Buddhist temple as you approach, and we all agree it is an odd sight.

A tall tower and massive orange roof rise above the city of Wollongong, looking lost amidst modern Western architecture. And yet, it does exists, and what’s more, we’re visiting today!

The Nan Tien Buddhist temple is reputed to be the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere, and it is easy to believe when we arrive and see the size of the structure.

The imposing steps leading into the main temple, flanked on either side by stone lions, lead up to a place of worship and of great beauty, with panoramic views stretching to Mount Kembla.

Nan Tien Buddhist Temple in Wollongong, Sydney, Australia, is the place to relax

Photo by woof69, CC License

The smiling Buddha statue in the grounds of the Nan Tien Temple, Sydney, Australia

Photo by ss2001, CC License

We begin our afternoon with a Temple tour, which costs $4.00 per person. The guide explains to us the origins of Buddhism, the history of the temple, and leads us around the incredible grounds of the temple. Populated with statues representing Buddhist faith, they are both solemn and amusing.

Once our tour is complete, we have the option of participating is several choices of course. We can choose from Tai Chi, Calligraphy, Meditation, and Basic Buddhism.

Personally, the appeal of relaxing the mind and finding our centre is very strong, especially at such a reflective time of year. All of us complete the Meditation session, and then awaken our bodies with a course on Tai Chi.

The temple runs intensive courses, including weekend retreats, throughout the year.

Invigorated and inspired the leap ahead into the new year, we watch the setting sun fall behind the distant mountain ranges, and ponder – where are we going next?

What amazing travel destinations are you hoping to visit this year?

Tell us in the comments!