After 7 months of living and working in Sydney (5 months in Potts Point and 2 months in Bondi) it’s time for the next part of our journey. We have rented a camper van for four and a half weeks, and on Saturday 18 November we’re setting off for our trip up the coast.
Stops include tourist classics such as Byron Bay, Gold Coast, Brisbane and Cairns, tours of Fraser Island and sailing in the Whitsundays, and explorations of Noosa National Park, the Atherton tablelands and the Daintree Rainforest.
Hopefully we’ll avoid the worst of the wet season, won’t come into contact with any stingers and keep well out of any crocodile territory.
Instead we’re hoping for lots of sunshine, more stunning beaches and lots of new adventures. Can’t wait!
During the Easter long weekend in Sydney we discovered that you can take the train anywhere you want for $2.50 on Sundays – and we decided to use the opportunity to visit the Blue Mountains. The train from Central Sydney took a bit longer than expected – it made many stops – but after about three hours we arrived in Katoomba.
It was sunny but significantly more chilly than in Sydney, and the air was fresh and nice. We walked down from the train station to the viewing platform for the Three Sisters at Echo Point. As you would expect on a Sunday in the Easter long weekend, the place was full of tourists. But the view of the mountains is truly magnificent.
Prince Henry Cliff walk
Mike had originally planned that we would go on a bush walk down into the valley – but the stairs down to the Three Sisters and further down were rammed full of tourists, and the line was barely moving. So instead we took the track to the left, and went on the Prince Henry Cliff walk. This walk was much less crowded, after an hour and past Gordon Falls we almost had it to ourselves.
We went around the cliffs, through the eucalyptus forest from one viewing platform to the next. The mountains really look spectacular from all angles, and you understand why they are called the Blue Mountains. We ended up taking the train back from Leura, tired and satisfied after our first long bush walk.
Upon arrival in Sydney we instantly fell in love with the city. We were originally planning on visiting only for four days, and then head up the coast to Brisbane to settle there – but after a day we decided to abandon that idea, and look for work in Sydney instead. Sydney is a beautiful and lively city, and of course it helped that it was really sunny and between 25 – 30 degrees when we arrived.
We stayed in a hostel in Potts Point, right next to Kings Cross station, for two weeks when we first arrived. The hostel was nice, but living in a dorm with 8-12 people quickly becomes old, so we were relieved to find a sublet for 2 weeks. Then Mike found a room for us in the area with a 5 month contract, so all we need now is jobs!
There are many things to love about Sydney, the fantastic views of the harbour, the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, the botanical gardens and more. Here are a few of our favourites – but as we’ll be staying in Sydney for the foreseeable future, expect more!
Both Mike and I agree that one of the best things about Sydney is the proximity to the beach. We live two stops on the train and a short bus ride away from Bondi Beach – my favourite of the many beaches Sydney has to offer. Me being a fan of Bondi Rescue it was great to see the place in real life – it looks just like it does on TV!
On our first visit to Bondi we did the Bondi to Coogee clifftop walk, which was great. The walk has some truly spectacular scenery and it also gave us the opportunity to see many other beaches and explore the area. On a later visit Mike went surfing (his third time ever), which he found enjoyable but also exhausting. I enjoy just lying on the beach watching people, there’s so much going on!
In the Easter long weekend we took the ferry out to Watsons Bay, as the guide book had said that this is one of the best ferry rides in the Harbour. It was a great boat ride, and Watsons Bay was nice. We did a little walk along the cliffs, and saw the lighthouse, before we chilled in the park.
Sydney has many great parks, and one of the things we’ve done a lot since coming here is having picnics in as many of them as possible. There’s no better way to spend a warm afternoon than in the park with a good picnic! Of all the parks, the botanical garden is the nicest. It has a great view of the harbour, and from many spots the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. There’s also lots of interesting birds to watch, and plants to discover.
The park with the most interesting wildlife is Hyde Park, however – the home of huge fruit bats and tame possums that come out at night looking for food! It was a very fun and exotic experience meeting them unexpectedly in the park for the first time.
We hadn’t originally planned on driving the Great Ocean Road in our first month in Australia. But the weather in Sydney was rainy, and there was a cyclone and flooding in Queensland, so we decided to stay down south for the time being. We looked for a campervan that needed to be relocated – so we wouldn’t have to pay to rent one – but no luck, so we went for the cheapest one we could find. Needless to say, we got what we paid for – a really old, really dirty van with some mattresses in the back and a whole lot of graffiti on the outside and the inside.
Still, we were lucky and had nice weather and great 5 days 4 nights on the road, with lots of stunning beaches, marvellous scenery, and all the classic Australian wildlife we could wish for.
Day 1 Melbourne to Lorne
Day 2 Lorne to Apollo Bay
Day 3 Apollo Bay to Warrnambool
Day 4 Warrnambool to Ballarat
Day 5 Ballarat to Sydney
Lorne and Erskine falls
The first part of the Great Ocean Road contains a lot of beautiful but dangerous beaches, and pretty little costal towns. We decided to spend the night in Lorne, a beautiful town by the beach, right next to the forest. One of the first things we noticed on arrival were the massive and super noisy cockatoos flying around everywhere! They must get fed on the campsite a lot, because they would descend in droves as soon as they saw a crumb of bread. Lots of them would even sit on people’s shoulders.
Erskine falls lies a few minutes drive from the town, and with Mike’s love for waterfalls we had to visit. It reminded me a lot of the waterfall inside the Cloud Forest Dome in Singapore!
Koalas and Otway lighthouse
One of my biggest wishes for the roadtrip was to get to see some Australian wildlife. We saw lots of kangaroos already on day one, on the golf course at Anglesea. (Our Lonely Planet guide book mentioned that there’s lots of kangaroos living there, and we were not disappointed.) On the second day we stopped in Kennett River on the lookout for koalas (also mentioned in Lonely Planet) and as we walked towards the campsite we spotted one instantly! Koalas look even more cuddly in real life than in pictures, if that’s possible.
Our other main stop that day was the lighthouse on cape Otway. The coast in this area is known for being really dangerous, and there’s been hundreds of shipwrecks here in the past 200 years. The lighthouse and the surrounding historical buildings have been very well preserved, and it was really interesting to learn about the history of the area. And the view from the lighthouse was amazing.
The Twelve Apostles are the most famous of the rock formations along the Great Ocean Road, but there are lots of other ones, including the Arch, the Gorge, London Bridge and the Grotto. The Apostles really do look spectacular, and are definitely worth a visit. Mike’s favourite of the formations was the Grotto. I quite liked London Bridge.
Tower Hill Reserve
Tower Hill Reserve is a nature reserve in a old volcano crater close to Warrnambool. According to Lonely Planet it’s ‘one of the few places where you can see kangaroos, emus and koalas hanging out together.’ The place is beautiful and teeming with wildlife, and on the nature trails we did indeed see all three species of animals. The view from the edge of the volcano crater is pretty cool too. However the emus in the picnic area were a bit to close for comfort!
We arrived in Australia really early in the morning after spending the night on the plane from Singapore. Needless to say on our first day we were pretty tired and spaced out.
We’d both heard a lot of good things about Melbourne, so had quite high expectations. Arriving in Melbourne it definitely felt like being back in the West. The city has a very European feel, and we got there just as the temperatures dropped and autumn really got going. In a way it feels kind of natural after 3 months of ‘summer’, but it also feels very strange that it’s Easter soon, and winter is around the corner.
Our first full day in Melbourne turned out to be the last really warm day (at least so far – the weather here is famously unpredictable) and we brought a picnic to the botanical garden to meet some of Mike’s friends from back home. In the city in Melbourne it feels like being in Europe, but once you go to a park or out of town it feels strangely exotic and familiar all at once. The botanical garden is wonderful, full of exotic birds and great gum trees, and ponds and different paths. We only saw a small area of it, but if we were to live in Melbourne I’d go there as often as possible.
St Kilda is one of the most obvious destinations for tourists in Melbourne. We took the tram out on a windy day to walk along the famous promenade, and look for penguins. Mike saw a baby penguin between the rocks far out on the pier – apparently the time to spot them is around sunset, but we didn’t stick around for that. We went for a nice walk and did some window shopping – there were so many bakeries with delicious looking cakes to choose from that I became quite overwhelmed, and I ended up buying nothing. For lunch we tried Parma, apparently an Australian speciality. It’s basically a chicken schnitzel with ham and cheese – Mike was a bit underwhelmed by it. But we both thought St Kilda was a pretty cool place.
Sate Library of Victoria
I love libraries, and the State Library is a worthy tourist attraction in itself. It has a great big dome in the centre, and two levels of free exhibitions. One of them was about the history of Victoria (the Australian state), which was really interesting. The second was an exhibition of some of the antique books the library has in its collection, which is right up my street. After the exhibitions closed, we sat for a while on the steps outside the library in the evening sun, listening to street musicians.