sunrise at Lake Macquarie

Always ask a local. Ours this week happens to be a lady quite in the know. Having lived on the gentle slopes of Lake Macquarie for some 47 years, she knows a thing or two about why the lake district is such a perfect spot to unwind for a day, a week or a lifetime. Her bayside B&B Overnight Reflections is perched right on the water where you can hear the soft waves lap against the jetty. There’s a little stretch of lawn decked with colourful chairs just waiting for you to open a good book and a bottle of blanc.

As the mid-morning trade wind blow in, the whisper of thin clouds pulls westwards across the sky and the lake chops and changes. I love places that remind me they were there long before we were. I’m not sure why it’s taken us so long to explore this vicinage of the Central Coast and now that we have, here are the 5 things to know before you go:

1. The largest lake in the southern hemisphere

Firstly, Lake Macquarie is vast. Being 3 times the size of Sydney Harbour it takes a good hour to drive around, longer if you stop at some of the little townships tempting you along the way. Knowing this helps you navigate your holiday and pinpoint where to stay. With some expected Covid restrictions, you’ll need to plan ahead for boat and water sport hire. But on a whim, you’ll always find a grassy patch on the lake’s edge. Towards the ocean, the jagged headland of Redhead Beach, rocky outcrops and cavernous stones of Caves Beach edge the bay where surfers sit on the clear wild waves. 

Sunrise on Lake Macquarie

2. City of villages

While your choice of holiday spots might land you in a locale unfamiliar to you, as your criss cross the more familiar towns, you’ll pass dozens of little villages. It’s helpful to know before you go which is which and who’s who of the lake’s little black book. As you drive north into the city of Lake Macquarie Toronto offers plenty of café’s, restaurants and shopping. Along the esplanade of Warners Bay the line of stores and cafés provide a picture perfect view of the water. It’s here the Sculpture trail, cycling and walking tracks attract tourists, evening joggers and playful pups.

3. Nature walks calling

Offering stunning views of Lake Macquarie and nearby Hunter, Mount Sugarloaf gives nature lovers the choice of several trails leading from the car park to the picnic areas and amazing lookouts from the incline along the summit. Starting at Teralba, Yuelarbah Track leads you to the shores of Lake Macquarie, heading along Speers Point and continues past the Warners Bay foreshore. The trail finishes at the Glenrock State Conservation Area where you can soak up views of the lagoon and surrounding native bushland. 

Green Point Foreshore Reserve is one of Lake Macquarie’s most scenic natural attractions. From Shores Way in Belmont you can follow the walking track taking in the Lake as well as the rainforest. There’s also the Belmont Lagoon Walk tucked between the ocean and the Lake and home to a large variety of birds and marine life. 

Discover more nature walking tracks here: https://lakemacholidayparks.com.au/lake-macquarie/attractions-and-events/explore-these-scenic-walking-trails

Readhead Beach, Central Coast

4. Chasing sunsets

You don’t have to be a keen photographer to go in search of the setting sun. For many, it’s the quintessential way to soak up the ambiance of a holiday. Listed in Australia’s 101 Best Beaches, Catherine Hill Bay has clearly earned its place. The coastal stretch and village forming Lake Macquarie’s southern peninsula is also a heritage-listed mining village.

The wharf at Belmont with its picturesque jetty, the 100 year old wooden (and now much loved) shark tower at Redhead Beach, or the sun dipping into the horizon at Warners Bay esplanade make wonderful backdrops. An evening walk on Mount Sugarloaf during the golden hour is magnificent!

5. Food, glorious food!

When you find a beachside café overlooking a roaring sea, it kind of feels like an unexpected prize. Fortunately, two of the best views of the coast also boast tempting bites at Red Head Beach Surf Lifesaving Club and Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalows. For a more café feel, try Canon at Warners Bay, Casanova Italian at Toronto’s, Crusoes on the Lake at Belmont or nearby Sesame’s for an Asian fusion twist. If you’re looking for a taste of the familiar, Kotara’s roof level of Westfields is beautifully decked out with open restaurants (Thai, Greek, Steakhouse) under fairy-lit treetops. 

Our pick? Takeaway or a picnic on the grassy knoll at Rathmines or Caves Beach. It reminds me when I asked our B&B host what was it that makes the lake so special for her. “There’s never a crowd” she replied. It’s also what makes it a truly peaceful getaway for many Sydney-siders too. Really, I can’t think of a more compelling reason to go. See, the locals always know best.

Sunset at Redhead Beach

Like to read more about our favourite Hunter Valley getaways?

As the saying goes, a rolling stone gathers no Moss Vale deep in the Southern Highlands is just that, a town going places. Edged in by thick green pines, the cooler climate even in springtime is like a pretty English summer. Evergreens, hedges and conifers lining the hillside and pops of tulips and daisies fill the wild winter landscape, front yards and streetside parks. It’s as pretty as a picture but look beyond and you’ll find a town and region still on the move.

On the village greens

There’s no shortage of towns and villages to wander around once you pass through Mittagong, about 90 minutes inland south of Sydney and they’re each made unique by the abundance of local produce, artisan cafes and handmade goodies. Some like Bowral, are full to the brim of restaurant choices, designer tourist stores and mainstream brands and others home to a corner General Store and one Pub. Moss Vale on the other hand, being a little deeper into the Highlands feels more like you’ve landed in an upmarket country town rather than gone in search of one.

Fresh character, old charm

Moss Vale has a little quirky side too with a traditional 1950’s style US diner sitting alongside highbrow homeware stores and artisan cafes. The retro inspired Wine Mosaic Lounge incidentally is straight out of the pop art era, lovingly renovated from the original Bank of NSW built in 1958. With original artwork, it has private dining in what was once the vault. Within minutes walk to Main Street The Old Nunnery has been watching the passings of village life since it’s days as a Catholic Dominican Nunnery in the early 1900’s and is now a contemporary and welcoming B&B.

There’s no question that Moss Vale is home to lavish homesteads and the retired wealthy, but unlike other upmarket small townships, it’s not trying hard to be what’s it’s not. And so you get a warm vibe from the locals who are chatty and interesting, with stories from their animated history and lively rural past.

Southern comfort

The greater surrounds of Moss Vale take you past green dairy pastures east towards Berrima or south west along the meandering road winding into picturesque Kangaroo Valley. The wooden suspension bridge overhanging Upper Kangaroo Valley River or the single lane stone turret bridge as you enter the Valley tell the story of settlers past. You’ll find sandy spots by the side of the gurgling river and feel a million miles away from the ordinary.

Even as a small township Moss Vale punches way above its weight when it comes to eating choices. Thai Som Boon is better than your local favourite Thai dining experience, there’s an authentic Tapas Bar and the renown one hat restaurant Birch, set in the quaint old Post Office. With a spontaneous mid week getaway in mind, you’ll enjoy the spoils of fine wine and food in the surrounds of mythical forests and the gentle countryside.

You might also enjoy Backyard Backpacking to discover more local getaways close to Sydney.

Cultural mis-appropriation

I think I might have just stumbled across the most crazy buzz phrase in my news feed. And by crazy, I mean #hastheworldgonemad? Is nothing sacred from the ambush of political correctness anymore? Before the fun police stole our personalities (and by fun police, I mean a teeny tiny minority of radicals who are determined never to smile again), there once was a time when we went to fancy dress parties.

If the theme was to dress up as something starting with H (and it’s just an example people), someone would slip into a Hawaiian hula getup; you’d find someone dressed as a hippie, maybe even a 2 piece horses’ outfit. Despite being bent over all night, stuffed into a velour pinto costume, even the wearers of said costume never seemed to mind or feel offended. But that grass skirt and plastic Hawaiian Lei you were wearing, well, the new founded cultural appropriation trustees must have been tripping over themselves. 

There it is, another slogan sitting delicately on the very fine line between diversity & inclusion and bad taste. I don’t feel offended when I see other people wearing shorts and flip-flops. You could argue this is absolutely the cultural norm for anyone spending summer in Australia. But hey, knock yourselves out. I don’t feel violated that this icon of cultural heritage is now widely acclaimed as a mandatory must-have.

This week, the ever so talented Adele, dressed up with a with a Brazilian twist to attend a Brazilian Festival held in London. She had her hair in a bunch of cute top knots (bantu style) and heaven forbid, a bikini top with a Brazilian flag. I know, stop the press. It’s bordering on shameful. Quite ok to see a flag printed on t-shirts, cups, sports gear and caps, but on a bikini? It’s horrifying how debased Brazilians must feel that a multi award winning Grammy songstress would want to show support for a community clearly loved and respected by her. This would have been considered nothing more than a respectful cultural nod in years gone by.

The sombre brigade would have been beside themselves if they’d seen me when I lived in India. Swirling around shopping malls in fuchsia and emerald lenghas, wearing a crimson saree to a wedding. When westerners parade around in elegant Indian attire, it must drive the locals mad. We anyway look like members of the East India Company and should probably try to downplay our pomp and bad reputation. I didn’t do this. Instead, mustering up all the Bollywood bling I could find, I loved fashioning myself in the fabulous extravaganza of Indian clothes. No one ever gave me the death stare. Instead, they embraced it in the same way I embraced India. 

Until recently, I thought this natural curiosity and celebration of each other’s culture was just what humans did. Explore, learn, understand, adapt, celebrate. If we were all really on the inclusive bandwagon, our global kumbaya would be in full swing. Instead, cultural appropriation is yet another page in the ever growing rule book of glum. (And by glum, I mean how to live in the 2020’s.) I’m confused as to where we draw the line. Though I’m not the least bit offended that Adele’s yellow feathered cape looks just like the one I’m planning on wearing to my next zoom catch-up.

If as recruiters and hiring managers we’re thinking the numbers are stacked in our favour right now, think again. Less jobs / more job seekers may be a recruiter’s dream, but it’s still a candidate driven market and good candidate care is more meaningful right now than ever before.

It’s not an easy time for job searchers. It can be depleting and tiresome at the best of times. As we skim the surface of another potential wave of lockdowns, there are a lot of things about the changing world of work that are more important now than ever. More people today are applying to a fewer number of jobs than before we were impacted by Covid-19. That means more people to connect with.and more people counting on these connections. If we don’t set up smart candidate practices, more people than before will slip through the cracks. Not good for them, or us.

More candidates, more opportunity

With more people relying on new job opportunities and increased flexibility working from home, our talent pools are suddenly far reaching and our networks cardinally wider. Word spreads quickly about new jobs, who to deal with and what candidates’ experiences are like. As hiring managers, we want to be seen as employers of choice and making sure our interactions stand out from the crowd.

People need people

Candidates are job searching in a whole new world and the stakes have never been higher. Treating people with respect as they juggle a new norm will do more for your brand than any amount of mission statements. Think what connects with you when you are job searching and how the real gold is in the conversation.

Inspiring loyalty

By developing engagement, connection and trust, you build the stepping stones to a long-lasting association. Loyal and engaged teams come from trustworthy and engaging leaders. When longer associations are formed we grow and retain talent, expand networks and create alumni groups that strengthen our workplace community.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

The feedback loop

Understand what candidates want. Most of all, they want response. Follow up, feedback, responsiveness that’s both timely and helpful. Lengthy delays in response do nothing to foster trust or goodwill. A sophisticated candidate management system will ask candidates for feedback, tweaking processes along the way to reflect candidate expectations.

Values based recruitment

We may be inundated with expressions of interest, questions and applications right now, but if we are fortunate enough to be currently hiring, we have a duty of care to do it right. Good candidate care is about being clear on selection criteria, timeframes and what’s expected from candidates, so they’re prepared.

Be decisive, be responsive, give honest feedback, share advice that helps people get job ready. When we live the values of our organisation, our action starts when a candidate pings a reply to an ad. By investing in conversations that add real value to candidates, it’s a win-win. 

Lessons from lockdown

Lockdown has shown us it’s possible to take candidates through the selection process virtually. We’ve become adept zoomers, all of us, learning to show our best selves without being face to face. We’ve been saved by our digital capability and have come to rely on providing service online. Sometimes a phone call, a genuine conversation, a check-in call can make all the differences in engendering trust and goodwill. Remember, even though there may be more people to choose from, it’s still an individual choice for a candidate to choose us. So now, more than ever, our people skills and ability to deliver good candidate care must be at the forefront of every selection process.

get me home

We started our blog as storytellers of travel. Exhilarated by big cities and charmed by waterside villages, for a while the world seemed smaller and travel was easy. Considering we are caught in a year gripped by panic, travel stories are taking a very different turn. Many of them unheard and unseen.

Some years ago, I was slighted with Airport Security when they impounded my 120ml bottle of hand lotion.  It seemed trivial and pointless, taking me out of a jam-packed line to interrogate me over an unnecessarily generous jar of cream. But being in bottle neck airport lines is exactly what most of us are craving these days. Tantalizing beachside images of long sunny days splashed across our TV screens and insta feeds. It doesn’t help that it’s peak winter in Sydney as we are threatened by another wave of lockdowns. But holiday blues aside, the real business now is getting a one-way ticket, with people yearning to criss-cross the globe to get where most of us have been for the past few months, home. 

Homeward bound

What would you do if you were the young woman in Dubai, caught in the Covid travel crisis unable to return to Melbourne as planned? Struggling to pay her rent back home, she’d overstayed her holiday and struggled to scrape together her airfare. It had taken almost 2 months. When she reached the Airport with her ticket finally in hand, she’d been bumped off the flight for being the plus one when the passenger log reached 50. Still in Dubai, it’s unknown when she will return. It’s a waiting game for her and many others.

Or the father in Malaysia who decided to take his 3-year-old son across the border to meet his grandparents. When his job called him back urgently, they willingly offered to have their grandson stay with them for a week or two. Then the borders closed. It would seem unlikely to most of us that this little boy is still overseas with his grandparents. With no special permissions being given, it’s hard to explain to a child why he can’t be with his parents.

Running out of money, losing jobs back home while still paying rent and taxes, people are becoming desperate and frustrated. Landlords or hotels/guesthouses can’t operate without charging and some people are being asked to leave. Where will they go? There are people selling their clothes and belongings in exchange for an exorbitantly priced ticket. Many of us might think boarding a plane is just a few clicks away. In reality with the limited flights and passenger numbers, even when a flight opens up, the wait can take weeks.

We’re all in this together 

The ground swell of collective thinking and community action in these times is absolutely what we expect and need from governments right now. But it has come at a cost to people, one by one. These are the stories we don’t hear every day. Yet Facebook groups and others are alive with very real struggles that people are facing.

Think what it’s like to be the woman from Brisbane who was overseas when she received news that her mother had been hospitalised. She did manage to return to Australia and is now in quarantine. Hers is a unique situation as her mother lives on a small farm where there are two houses. When her mother was released from hospital, she tried to get an exemption to quarantine in the other house. This way at least they could see each other, if only though the lounge room windows. Her request was denied. It seems hard to understand the logic. Wear masks and play by the rules? Absolutely. Yes, we have each other’s backs and a way of life to protect, but the sometimes-heavy hand of the law seems misplaced in the middle of family.

Travel memoirs of a different kind

Mainstream media (that’s another blog for another time) reels over and over again the same dozen or so stories, mostly local, carefully selected and we are so often sheltered from the bigger picture. Even as we move around freely, people have some unimaginable experiences they will carry with them forever about being locked down and locked out. The personal weight of these stories is heavy. You’d be forgiven for wondering if our reaction isn’t a little farfetched. Especially when the real motive for many people right now is just to get home.

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