We spent our final few Australian days in Melbourne, roaming the city’s endless vintage and coffee shops. It’s a super eclectic place with all sorts of interesting markets, galleries and eateries. We swung from inspired to depressed in equal measure as we realised we couldn’t buy everything we saw even though we loved it all.
One thing we did not love however, was our hostel for the first couple of nights. A big converted house with the definite feel of university halls and a constant smell of urine and weed. We had our own private room (aka a shed in the garden) and the hundreds of people who seemed to be staying there were friendly enough but it just wasn’t quite our vibe. Luckily, we had previously tried to sort out an Air bnb place which turned out to be available for the last few days of our trip, so we made the trek across town with our rucksacks but were more than glad we did. The home of two lovely artists with great style (we want everything in their house), this place was so perfect for us to do our own thing and explore the other end of the city.
Despite getting lost, a lot, and our initial bad housing situation, Melbourne has been an arty haven and we definitely see the appeal of the city.
We decided to rent a car to get down to Melbourne as it’s a fairly long way and we’d heard great things about the coastal drives; and we weren’t disappointed. Following a vague plan we’d found online, which highlighted good places to stop and where to spend the night, we had a rough route. However, we quickly went off track as little towns or beaches caught our eye – or if the satnav decided to take us somewhere entirely different which often meant dirt tracks or dead-ends. Literally the worst satnav.
On the first day we drove out of the city and onto the Grand Pacific Drive, weaving around mountains and beaches with the most insane views of the crystal clear waters and white sand. We stopped along the way for photos and coffee and spent the night in a classic Motel in Nowra.
The next day we drove through a beautiful national park where we very excitedly stopped for a snack with a group of kangaroos, some even had various Joey limbs sticking out of their pouches which we greatly enjoyed. One inquisitive little fellow came close enough that Emma offered out a little bit of her blueberry muffin to him. The situation quickly escalated and ended up with us standing atop a picnic table surrounded by muffin hungry kangaroos at our feet. We also nearly ran over a huge snake, spotted a little porcupine and whale watched (unsuccessfully).
Trying to be savvy we thought camping would be a good money saver. Unfortunately we had no camping gear at all so we decided to make do with the car. We unintentionally stumbled across a near empty campsite by a river with the loveliest owner who, when we explained our plan to sleep in the car without blankets, sourced 2 double duvets and a sleeping bag for us. Even with our two burning candles and plethora of blankets our excitement dwindled when we realised how uncomfortable the seats were. Minimal sleep that night for sure.
The next few days were mainly spent driving through forested roads, dairy farms and vineyards. We would stop at tiny villages when we could find them to source some food and an opp shop or two for bargains. After a massive detour through the Baw Baw rainforest we were back along the coast to stock up on our windy coastal walks. On the long drive down to Torquay we did a quick stop on Phillip Island which is home to some pixie penguins. We only saw one and did some potential illegal moves to try and snap a good photo which ended up not even working.
The last day of our trip was on the Great Ocean Road which is one of Australia’s most famous drives. It again weaves along the coast and through mountains and forest. The views are insane and roads are amazing to drive if you don’t get stuck behind a camper van. We stopped along the way to enjoy the last of the white sand and blue sea before heading to Melbourne. By this time we’d had 8 days with no issues and we nearly ruined it on the last evening as we realised too late we had no petrol left. Stuck in the middle of nowhere with the satnav telling us the nearest pump was nearly 30 km away, we swiftly drove some bumpy back routes to get some petrol. We filled up at the dodgy looking pump only to find the gauge was still stuck on empty. Without knowing if there was actually any petrol in the car we risked the long drive back and were rewarded with an insane sunset and the gauge gradually moved up to half by the time we got home. Even with an hours detour we made it back in time to watch the Bachelorette with dinner (Australias favourite programme and we are definitely hooked).
We were offered another few days of free accommodation up in Cairns, so we rocked up at Grandma Faye’s house to stay in the caravan under her house, pure 1960’s equipped with everything, ever, including a fridge full of towels.
Everyone lives on the flats in Cairns but the whole town is surrounded by mountains.
We journeyed up the mountains through the supposed oldest rainforest in the world
(we thought we’d already been to that in Malaysia – controversial) and came down over
a sick waterfall on the skytrain which is a faster, higher, luxury cable car. Lex took us up the mountains again the next day to a series of waterfall/creeks. We swam in the freezing water and slid down the natural slides in the waterfalls. Literally so much fun. Our last day was spent out on the Great Barrier Reef. The coral and the fish were next level but the sea was rather choppy making it not quite as relaxing as some other snorkels we’ve done. The currents were so strong we kept loosing each other and could only be re-uinited was to look for the others bobbing bun. Our last evening was spent having fish and chips on the esplanade donning hairband hats to play some hilarious games of celebrity… something with grandma Faye and the Norrie’s.
We flew down to Sydney and spent our days sitting in Hyde Park, walking to Kings Cross and going through Paddington- they’re very unoriginal with their place names. We day tripped to Manly beach and regretted our clothes choice as we lay on the beach in the wind. The next day we vowed not to over estimate the temperature so wore jeans to Bondi and ended up regretting that too, it was flipping hot. Sydney’s weather is hard to judge. We met up with Roseanna’s uni friend Jem by the harbour with a view of the opera house and harbour bridge and wandered round Sydney all evening discussing all of Australia’s weird traits.
We arrived in Australia with a sigh of relief to be back within the familiarities of Westerm culture. An added bonus was that we were staying with Roseanna’s friends who she hadn’t seen for nearly ten years, they met us at the airport and we felt immediatley that we would like it here.
Our days in Brisbane were quickly organised by Charissa and we had an itinerary before we knew it, this was something of a shock to our system as we’re much more see-how-it-goes kinda girls but it was pretty nice to not have to think about our plan. Emma had also been warned that Charissa and Tiff are serious gamers and was thrown into it right from the start; a theme which continued throughout the week as a board or cards were whipped out at any opportunity.
One of the highlights of our trip was going to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary / zoo. We got to see all kinds of Australian critters- galahs, kookaburras, wombats, platapi, dingoes (not birds as Roseanna first thought) and emus. We also got to feed and hang out with some very tame kangaroos, had to shield our head from being attacked by swooping plovers and Roseanna touched a koala.
We were lucky enough to borrow a car for a few days and drove down the Gold Coast to Coolangada where we stayed for free in a swanky seafront apartment with Tiff and John. The next day we did a road trip to Byron Bay with some sick stop offs to a couple of seaside towns for beach walks and great food. Byron itself is a long beach and little town, with very surfer-y vibes, which we enjoyed mooching around.
Because we had our own local ‘tour guides’ we were taken to all the Brisbane highlights, including view points, a river cruise, the art gallery and pancakes in an old church.
All in all we’ve been particularly jammy so far and really appreciated the incredible hospitality of the Norries. Their generosity gave us a taste of normality after four months of strange lands and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks guys!