So now that my time in New Zealand is done, I headed across the ocean to the bigger of the Oceana continents for a big trip up the Easy Coast of Australia. One of my best friends, Heidi, flew into Sydney and we traveled together. It was so nice not to be a solo traveler anymore and I had a blast over the twenty days I was there.
My wonderful New Zealand host mum was actually not a kiwi at all, but Australian. She’s born and bred in Melbourne, and sold it to me as a place to visit, so I flew down a few days earlier than Heidi to check it out. Long story short, it did not disappoint. It did, however, get off to a rocky start. I arrived at 11:30pm Australian time, which is 1:30am New Zealand time. I had a grumpy (and expensive) taxi ride to my Airbnb near the airport and checked in there for the night. Then I woke up the next morning to find my purse gone. Now I wasn’t sure if I had left it in the taxi, near the door of the Airbnb, or if it had just plain been stolen. At first I stayed calm and just tried to make phone calls to the Airbnb site manager, taxi company, and Police but no one was answering. By this point I was a bit more distraught and right before I left to actually find the police station, the Airbnb people called back to say they had it and all was resolved. Well, resolved after a very expensive phone bill as I had to use my New Zealand account for all these calls.
I had an easy train ride into the CBD and could properly begin exploring Melbourne. I could tell I loved it right from the start. The architecture is fantastic, there’s a good amount of hustle and bustle, and it’s full of cool quirky places. I spent four nights total and saw heaps of amazing places. One day I’d like to live here, Toronto, Wellington, or Austin and work in a cool museum I think.
On day one I explored the city centre and got acquainted with the amazing tram system. Day two took me to the really cool city market, the Italian precinct, a nap in the park, the museum, and St Kilda Beach to watch Penguins return to their nests. Day three involved the bohemian suburb of Fitzroy and its quirky Brunswick Street, I went down to the up-and-coming dockyard neighbourhood, and to the cool Federation Square harbour front area. Then early to bed for a 6am flight the next day.
After very little sleep, and a lot of flight delays, I finally made it to Sydney and was reunited with Heidi. There may have been tears as we were both a wee bit overtired and emotional. We essential had one day to see all of Sydney and headed straight to the hostel and then walked 10 miles around most of the city. We walked through the gardens to the opera house and Bridge, along the harbour, through the old colonial neighbourhood of “The Rocks,” through the CBD shopping area, across to Darling harbour, and home through Chinatown. Didn’t see everything we wanted to but definitely made the most of our one day!
The next morning Heidi and I hoped on with our Loka bus. If you remember the Stray Bus company I used in New Zealand, Loka is the same idea. A big backpacker party/adventure bus. On our first day we stopped off in the Hunter Valley to do a wine tour. I had some delicious wine, and a surprisingly tasty chocolate stout beer. Then we went up to Barrington Tops national park where we went tubing down river rapids and had a big old Australian house party. Not going to say too much about that night because my mother reads this!
The next morning we headed further up the east coast with a stop at a koala sanctuary, which was adorable. Most of them were in there for bad cases of chlamydia (which they cannot pass on to humans thank goodness). Then we headed to Spot X surf camp for the night. Our bus driver Fraser cooked us an amazing meal of chicken fajitas and we sat around a campfire for a bit.
The morning at Spot X we got to do a surf lesson which was observed by wild dolphins! Then we headed to a river for our accommodations and a canoe trip. It was really nice and relaxing to be out on the river. We had a chance to maybe see wild platypus families and a massive python, but neither animals were out that day. Sad. Had a big group barbecue and campfire. Not going to lie, my fear of seeing massive spiders at this location was very high and I refused to go to the toilet because I thought that was where they would be hiding. Fantastically chilled out vibe for the night. The group of us on the bus get along really well and it’s been good fun.
The next stop was Bryon Bay for two nights. Byron is what I like to think of as the hippie capital of Australia. Everything is patterned and baggy and there’s a drum circle on the beach every sunset. My friends from the bus and I participated in it and it was fantastic. Nothing like dancing in the water slightly tipsy at sunset. I spent most of the two days chilling on the beach and Heidi and I went sea kayaking with humpback whales one day. They swam right up to the boats and it was absolutely magical. They’re so big and graceful and I’m totally in awe.
The next place we went for the night was Noosa. We drove through the Gold Coast and Brisbane dropping some people off and picking up more. Heidi and I would have liked to hop off and see the sights but we just don’t have enough time. Noosa was fantastic and probably the Florida of Australia. A big retirement community and a popular holiday destination. The town had a very Mediterranean feel which was a bit odd. We had a great time exploring the shops and the beach costal sites for the evening and next morning.
Next place we went was called Emu Park. There were no emus. To get to there we had to go on a seven-hour train and it was beyond boring to put it nicely. From this part of the Loka trip onwards we went by trains and local buses. We arrived super late and basically went straight to bed. The next morning we had to get up bright and early to catch a ferry to Kepler Island. We spend the day snorkeling and lounging on the beach. I swam with a sea turtle for about ten minutes and got sunburnt. Then we went back to our accommodation for a BBQ and drinks before catching an overnight train very late in the evening.
We rolled into Arlie beach bright and early the next morning and just had a free day to explore. I went to a cool market, read on the beach, and spent a while sorting stuff out for university next year. Arlie is the gateway to the Witsundays, Australia’s most popular destination. We were suppose to go on a day tour there but misread our bus trip itinerary and didn’t have time. Gotta save something for my next trip to Oz!
After a very early train journey we made it to the next island where we would stay for two nights. We were able upgrade to a better room at our hostel and then went on the best tour of a wildlife park. Animals galore and Heidi and I were in heaven! Then the next day our bus group rented out open-top Jeeps and drove around the island beaching it up. It was really fun but the rentals were really crappy and we broke down halfway up a mountain in the dark. But I felt like Malibu Barbie so it was all good.
Next morning we drove the jeeps and took the ferry off the island. It was actually a really nice morning being in the open car and then the top deck of the ferry. Super relaxing. Yet another train brought us to Tully. Not really sure why we came here. We could pay extra to go to a swimming hole or climb the big Mt. Tyson the next morning, but that’s about it. I got up very early the next morning with intent of climbing, but it’s straight uphill for three hours ,and I quickly realized I just didn’t have the energy and turned back.
Final stop of the trip, and it was a great one! After a hiccup with our hostel, we finally settled in and got ready to go out for the night. We went to a club where there is always a a big party for the end of Loka trips and had a great night out. The next day was one of the highlights of my whole life, we snorkeled and sailed the Great Barrier Reef. It was outstanding and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Finished the day with a great Korean BBQ for dinner. Then things got a little out of hand. We were suppose to have half a day in Cairns before flying home, but Sydney airport had high winds and 80 flights, including ours, were canceled. After a very long and frustrating process it was determined that Heidi would fly home on the 19th, our original date, while I couldn’t get out until the 20th. We still got part of the day to shop and explore cairns though!
Heidi couldn’t get on her morning flight so we’re back to flying together again. We flew from Cairns to Sydney the day after we were supposed to. Easy flight down and we had a really nice last dinner in Oz on Sydney harbour front. Early cab to the airport the next morning then off to the states. Super easy, but long flights back home to Rochester. After 222 days I made it back alive!