Sydney to Byron Bay

We moved out of our house in Bondi and picked up the van on Saturday. Our new rented Apollo campervan is awesome, a million times nicer than the van we stayed in when we did the Great Ocean Road.

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The nicest van, on the beach in Newcastle

It has a fridge, sink, water pump, microwave, hob, a very nice seating area and you can stand up inside it. All our stuff fits perfectly, and we couldn’t be happier with it. It was so worth splashing out and getting a fancy van this time.

Newcastle – Yamba 

We stopped by Newcastle and spent the first night in Myall Lakes National Park. We saw a dingo that night, and went for a walk along the beautiful beach in the morning.

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Checking out the local wildlife

Then we drove to Seal Rocks, another part of the national park, with a historic lighthouse and lovely views. Spent our second night south of Port Macquarie. It rained a lot, and in the ladies shower, on the back of  a shower curtain, I saw the biggest spider I have ever seen. I think it was a huntsman. It was the size of a teacup.

The next day Mike tried out the surf in Port Macquarie. 15 minutes after leaving me with a book on the beach, he came back with a broken board – it turned out the waves were a bit too big.

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First day of surfing

Stopped in Coffs Harbour for a picture with the Big Banana – one of the original ‘big things’ on the coast.

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The picture says it all really

We camped in Woody Head near Yamba for the night. There was lots of little kangaroos jumping around on the site, and it had a beautiful view of the ocean.

Byron Bay 

When you roll into Byron Bay you get what they mean about the hippie vibe – there’s a lot of long hair, people walking around barefoot, buskers on the street, and people offering tarot card readings. The main street is lively and vibrant, and there seems to be a lot going on. On our first night we stayed within walking distance of town and the beach, and went out to have a look around.

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The beach at Byron, Mike’s going for a swim

The beach is great, but then so are almost all the beaches I have been to in Australia. I definitely think Australia has the best beaches in the world. It’s crazy, almost all of them are spectacular. Mike rented a surfboard in the morning.

Then we did the Cape Byron walking track, which is a little track that goes around the Cape and up to the lighthouse and with great coastal views. It also includes Australias most easterly point.

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Byron Bay in the background

Mike went for a dive in Julian Rocks Marine reserve, he said it was spectacular and they saw nurse sharks, turtles, cods and lots of other things. Then we drove on towards the Gold Coast.

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Melbourne

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View of Melbourne from St Kilda

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.

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Laneways in the CBD

Botanical garden

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

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Baby penguin

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.

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Entrance to Luna Park

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.

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Love a good library