Australia – The Land Down Under

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Dora at home on Australian Beach

Since travelling Perth to Albany, Australia back in 2012 and loving it, I was sure we were going to enjoy travelling the East Coast just as much. For Michael, this would be his 3rd visit to Australia. We were really looking forward to the familiarity of the country, knowing what to expect and it being much like home, but with the added bonus of sunshine and warmth! We were about 70% correct…

These were our key stops along the way. We flew from Melbourne to Sydney, picked up our delightful little campervan, Murtle, and drove her north to Cairns over 4,244km in 7 weeks. From Cairns we flew to Darwin…

Melbourne

Having been so excited to reach Australia we got off to an interesting start. We were staying in an AirBnB in the St Kilda area of Melbs… With a bat shit crazy lady who thought it was fine to leave a broken lightbulb scattered all over the bathroom floor door for days. There was more to it, but the broken bulb was the icing on the cake!

We really enjoyed Melbourne with it’s vibrancy and culture, meeting up with friends from back home as well as watching our first game of AFL!

View of the River and Downtown Melbourne

From Melbourne we ventured out on a day trip to take in the sights of The Great Ocean Road. It was terribly beautiful, gutting that’s Michael’s SLR camera was off being mended at the time.

Sydney

We very much enjoyed being tourists in Sydney, enjoying the usual sights of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and the Botanical Gardens etc. Chilling out at Bondi Beach was the ideal spot for ending our time in Sydney before picking up our camper. On a side note, the only celebs I’ve spotted after 10 months of travel have been Shaun and Jess from Bondi Ink, and I’m not even sure you get that show back home…

Beautiful View over Sydney Harbour

From Sydney we took a trip out to the Blue Mountains and walked the trails through the valley. As fun and pretty as it was there, I’m pretty certain they’re not blue…

Panoramic View of Sydney's Blue Mountains

Campervan Road Trip

To say we were excited at the thought of not having to pack and unpack every few days was an understatement. We were bloody ecstatic! Murtle, our campervan, was to be our home-sweet-home for the next 7 weeks, driving us from Sydney to Cairns.

Murtle, our campervan from Travel Wheels

Hiring a campervan for 7 weeks was pretty daunting, especially when you begin to read some of the horror story reviews people have left! I’m very pleased to say we have no such horror stories to share. We hired Murtle through a company called Travel Wheels and they were awesome. We would highly recommend them!

Sydney > Gold Coast

Straight outta Sydney and our first stop was Newcastle. Really we were retracing some of Michael’s tracks from his bike trip, 8 years previous. From Newcastle we jumped up to Coffs Harbour to stay with a lovely young lady called Sarah, who had taken Michael and his pals in during their bike trip.

Newcastle Australia Waterfront
8 years ago he cycled through, today we drove...

Next stop Byron Bay. We watched a beautiful sunrise from the most easterly point in Australia, to be fair, the sunsets were pretty awesome too!

Bryon Lighthouse Sunrise

Travelling the east coast, I became a little obsessed with the notion of seeing as many ‘BIG things’ as possible. They crop up every now and again, enjoy! I do love a big banana…

From Byron Bay we ventured out to the very colourful and friendly town of Nimbin. We also did our first dive since Cancun! Wimpy me found it a little daunting when they asked us to put our own gear together. *gulp* Although, seeing 10’s of sleeping Wobbegong Sharks at the bottom of the ocean during the dive more than made up for my fears!

Big Shrimp vs Little Dora
Big Shrimp vs Little Dora

Gold Coast

The Gold Coast was a turning point in the way of the weather, finally it felt warm enough to want to jump in the water! We spent a good chunk of time at Surfers Paradise being beach bums…

Attempting a handstand at Surfers Paradise

After a bit of free camping with Myrtle, (which FYI, is darn trixy in OZ); we visited more spots from Michael’s bike trip including Hastings Point and the Natural Arch. As well as feeding some hungry pelicans and greedy seagulls!

Dora at a Surfers Paradise sunset

Brisbane

We love Brisbane! If we were to ever emigrate, the Brisbane catchment would definitely be the place we’d go. It’s such a chilled and vibrant city to be in with so much going on. The people are super friendly and we felt right at home there.

Welcome to Brisbane

Popping over to Stradbroke Island for the day was a beaut and a nice easy escape from city life! Travelling in the off-season meant we were treated to some pretty sweet deserted beaches!

Sunshine Coast

The big highlight from this area was Australia Zoo. It was so much more fun than I’d ever imagined! This is the 1st zoo I’ve visited that I’ve actually felt confident the animals are getting a fair deal. I particularly liked Australia Zoo because of all the references to Steve Irwin. Being a huge fan as a kid it was a shock when he tragically passed away. I just found it so nice and heartwarming the way he is remembered and that his passion for wildlife and conservation is so evident everywhere you look around the zoo.

Oi! Kangaroo at Australia Zoo

Learning about the crocs in the Crocoseum was particularly interesting. Looking down on them through the water, you can watch them manoeuvre and prey on their target. They think they’re invisible in the clear water as they’re used to the murky waters of the rivers! Scary stuff!

We had so much fun learning and interacting with various animals. Michael even made some new friends…

Along the Sunshine Coast, surprise surprise, we played in more waves; visited the Bundaberg distillery and did a little more diving, this time with critically endangered Grey Nurse Sharks off Rainbow Beach. All pretty cool! Although, it was this dive trip that seriously triggered my motion sickness… I have NEVER been so sick on a boat in my life. That was until the next time I got on a boat…

Beautiful waves on the Gold Coast

Fraser Island

On wards to Fraser Island! It was ridiculous fun bombing around the sand dunes and dirt roads of Fraser Island in our own 4×4. Initially I was mighty fearful of the off-road driving but by the end I was so lovin’ it! As much fun as driving around the island was, we had to stop somewhere, bring on more swimming! This time in the lakes and rivers, (there were stingers, sharks and currents in the ocean so we couldn’t swim there!) There were other cool things to see and do around the island, the main one being a huge shipwreck on the beach…

Jumping down a sand dune on Fraser Island
Michael liked to see how far down the sand dune he could jump!

The mosquitoes on Fraser Island were horrific, especially so at night. Each evening was a race against daylight to get dinner cooked and off into our tent by dark. It got dark around 5:30pm – so we got some super early nights!

Whitsundays

Our Whitsundays trip was a bit of luxury that we were really looking forward to. To make it even better, our room was upgraded when we reached the boat. Score! We were sailing on a boat called ‘On Ice’ for 3 days and 2 nights, which I would highly recommend! She was very comfortable and we were with a great group of like minded people and crew, so it was even better!

Two things that weren’t so great… 1) the weather was not great for the most part. 2) I was still in denial that I got seasick, so hadn’t bought those magic tablets at this point!

Paddleboarding at sunset
Paddle boarding at sunset doesn’t get much better than this…

Whitsundays > Cairns

Travelling further up the coast, we did a whole lot of driving between stops. This is the point where the distances in Australia really become evident! There were a few stops and trip highlights along the way… The main one for me being the Big Mango. I’m kinda joking, kinda not! I really love the novelty of the big things. When you Google the ‘Big Things‘, there are literally hundreds but we only saw a handful. Boo!

The Big Mango

We had an amazing time just south of Cairns where we did a whitewater rafting trip on the Tully River. That was a whole lot of adrenaline and what rafting should be! There have been too many times where we go rafting and it’s just a little bit lame, this however was the real deal. Do it if you get the chance!

We had a splendid time visiting various animal parks en route. Michael always seems to attract the pretty birds, I on the other hand always get the raging, scratchy variety!

The Australian Platypus
Dream.Come.True!

While we still had Murtle, we drove through the Atherton Tablelands (the weather wasn’t great so we only stopped for 1 night!) and continued north of Cairns to Port Douglas where we chilled out for a few days. We were now very much in croc country, so it seemed appropriate we swot up on the facts and dangers! We visited Hartley’s Crocodile Park which was fun and gave us a great introduction to these prehistoric beasts!

Great Barrier Reef

With Myrtle gone, it was time to go diving… Ahh, the Great Barrier Reef. I was so seasick! We had opted for a 3 day, 2 night liveaboard trip to get in a solid chunk of diving on the reef. At first I found it pretty daunting diving just Michael and I with no instructor/guide, but I soon got over it and loved the freedom. We managed lots of dives, including 2 night dives and an early morning one! It was nice seeing the reef at the different times of the day and noticing how much it changes. The liveaboard boat moved everyday so we saw a decent variety of reef. My favourite dive was the last one. There just seemed to be so much going on, the water was beautifully clear and for the first time I felt comfortable under the water.

Aside from the seasickness, this was an awesome trip and I finally got to grips with diving. Unfortunately it was a bit overcast all trip, no problems for us under the water, but unfortunately the GoPro just couldn’t cope with the low light. Hence the lack of beautiful photos across the reef. But, I assure you, it was there!

Darwin

Darwin is a little different. The weather is so hot and humid, and the town, well, it’s a little behind the times! The biggest noticeable difference was that we were now smack bang in the centre of crocodile country. There was no swimming in the ocean or the rivers, instead were big “ATTENTION” signs warning us of crocs in the area! But we never did spot a croc outwith a day trip.

Needless to say, the main attractions in Darwin are croc related, so we jumped on the band wagon and embraced it! The crocs they have up Darwin way are the Salt Water variety (known as Salty’s) and they are frickin’ massive! Break your bones and swallow you whole kinda massive.

We took a boat ride out onto the Adelaide River so see these bad boys in their natural habitat. It was a cold morning (for Darwin!) so these guys were a little lethargic. But my goodness, they could still jump for their food! Hearing the noise their jaws make when they snap shut is like nothing I’ve heard before, it’s chilling.

Aside from the crocodile based activities, we took a trip inland to Litchfield National Park. Litchfield sits at a higher altitude, which thankfully means it’s croc free! We were safe to swim in the waterfall pools and rivers without worrying we’d be gobbled up. This was mighty refreshing considering the higher temperatures and humidity we were faced with!

In hindsight, arriving in Australia in April perhaps wasn’t our smartest move. The big downer being the weather, it wasn’t what you would consider to be the idealistic blue skies and sunshine you’d typically associate with Australia! Aside from that, we still had a brilliant time and I’m pleased we took the time to see so much of the east coast, with the most beautiful parts being in southern Queensland.

Life in Australia was easy, it felt very much like home and most importantly it gave us a chance to reset from our previous travels. We particularly enjoyed having Myrtle and the chance to unpack and have a home for 7 weeks!

Now refreshed and suitably tanned, it’s time to embrace South East Asia!

3 Responses

  1. Hi Dora & Michael!!

    Wonderful your blog! We love it, and so we love the fact that you mentioned us in it! We are delighted with your great feedback!

    Thanks and all the best,

    Your Travelwheels Team

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