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Victorian Coastline, Sapphire Coast, Canberra, Christmas in the Blue Mountains and a HAPPY NEW YEAR from Sydney!

After a pit stop in Melbourne we were shortly back on the road and following the coast around the state of Victoria.

Stop one; Wilson’s Prom. The south point of Victoria and what is considered to be the area from which Tasmania broke free. A very beautiful spot, the spit of Tasmania but it was let down by its excessive camping prices and the class of people who visited. A lot of pompous idiots! I’d recommend a visit here in good weather to see the sights and the wildlife but we had the opposite TERRIBLE weather which I think we brought over from Tasmania! And, again, being brutal. We had seen every part of Tasmania in its full glory so Wilson’s Prom even though beautiful was a a little like a small copycat.

From Wilson’s Prom we followed the coast road along to Lakes Entrance stopping to see where the lake meets the sea and the rare and resident dolphins.

Unfortunately the weather kept getting worse the further we travelled around the coast including when we crossed the border from Victoria to New South Wales and so the Sapphire Coast, as glorious as it is, in my photographs is tinged with darkness which simply does not give this beautiful and popular coastline justice and it also meant we ended up covering distance very quickly as we simply couldn’t sit on the beach and soak it in.

*You may think I’m being dramatic about the weather but the hail was literally so bad it made it on to global news!*

It didn’t stop us though we followed the sea along to a little place called Mallacoota which is famous for its surfing and for its coastline. The rock formations look like a well made layered rainbow cake brightly igniting when different lights hit them. Sounds silly but it really was magic especially when the crashing colours of sapphire hit them…really Mother Nature at her best.

Not too far away is the area of Wallaga which (sorry to sound like a boring broken record) is also famous for its rock formations. This time it’s not colours but the shapes…animal shapes in the formation of a camel and a horses head! We couldn’t actually get to the horse’s head formation because the ocean was in so you’ll have to forgive me on that photograph.

The Sapphire coast definitely has the best rock formations! It doesn’t just have the camel and the horse it has again, great surf and the prettiest of villages alive with the most vivid purple flowers a bloom running up and down the small and windy streets. So quaint and picturesque; not how you imagine Australia at all!

The next day the weather was really pathetic and we ended up just driving up to coast until we reached Bateman’s Bay where, out of nowhere, a burning hot sun appeared and it would have been rude not to use the excuse to not visit a pool! That’s one of the best things in Australia. It’s reignited my love of swimming and there’s pools everywhere!

Further up we visited Jervis Bay and Hyams Beach. As soon as we got out of the car the heavens opened and at this point we were really fed up. We took in the blues and the fresh stormy salty air and headed inland towards the Nations capital; so much of a capital it’s a territory of its own, Canberra.

Small and circular but not lacking in size, Canberra is definitely the strangest and one of the better cities we’ve visited in Australia. Not as busy as Melbourne, a better layout than Perth and having more wits about it than Adelaide it’s up there with my favourites!

There’s an plethora of things to see in Canberra and what makes it so great is that most of the attractions are free of charge and there’s a bus service that operates around most of the attractions which makes accessibility absolutely easy peasy lemon squeezey.

We only booked a few nights but I would say to anybody making the trip try to have at least five days available to spend exploring the city. There were fabulous attractions such as the National Museum of Australia which is ginormous and we rushed around in an hour, but being completely honest, it was nothing different from what we had seen in previous museum so we didn’t mind.

Some must sees in Canberra;

  • Parliament House – even if it’s just to take a trip right to the roof for spectacular views over the capital. The Australian flag is also huge and very photogenic from there!
  • Old Parliament House and the Aboriginal Embassy (a protest camp outside of the house)
  • The National Library of Australia and a visit to the Cook and the Pacific exhibition. Genuinely fantastic and well thought out. There’s a lot to look at!
  • The Australian Mint; fascinating to learn about where Australia’s money comes from the glass windows give you a unique insight into the working world of the Australian mint. Tip; go on a weekday so you can see the plant in action!
  • Outside of the city is the NASA Deep Space Station and it’s bloody fantastic and the memorabilia and equipment they have there, pardon the pun, is literally out of this world.

The best attraction in Canberra and the most humbling is the Australian War Memorial. The Crown at the end of the Anzac Parade standing proudly parallel to Parliament House. I think that itself is quite profound but the parade has statue after statue representing a different war in which Australia fought not only for itself but for the Commonwealth. It’s not only a memorial but a museum and that’s why you must spend a whole day there. We only spent three hours there and t just wasn’t enough. The museum is full of displays, miniature scenes recreated and artificers from hard times gone by. It really is a beautiful tribute. And as if that wasn’t enough, at the end of the day, everyday they do a service to a fallen soldier and they aim to do a service for every soldier whose name is on the roll of honour. Each day there is a photograph, a service and loving relatives are able to place flowers and wreaths at the pool of reflection. Simply breathtaking and definitely worth a visit and a donation.

Sadly our short time at Canberra was over and, as it was Christmas Eve, we drove up to our home for the festivities. A cottage in the Blue Mountains. A very welcome change from the tent and in one of the most serene locations. We simply spent the period, opening tin foil wrapped presents, eating, drinking and playing frisbee! We even managed a Christmas Day walk to see the nearby falls. A strange but memorable Christmas that’s for sure!

The Blue Mountains National Park is a vast area which has untouched forest and mountain landscape which goes for miles and oozes this blue tinge upon the abundant green. It literally looks like it’s been conjured up by a wizard! The highlight was definitely the visit to the Three Sisters which allowed us to experience vertigo as the steep descent took us into the depths of the blue mountains giving us a taste for its beauty, it’s ferocity and it’s magic.

The limbo period we all experience between Christmas and New Year is something which isn’t missed out in Australia. We had a few days of keeping our heads down and then we were onto our stay in Parramatta; an upcoming city outside of Sydney which was a perfect spot for our trip to see the magnificent city and to finally witness, in person, the magic of a Sydney New Year.

Every bit of glory that Sydney has is deserved. It’s a cool, gorgeous city which is built around a spectacular harbour, has plentiful attractions, eateries and bars but most of all it’s got culture and it’s absolutely bustling with life. I think what I loved the most is, like all cities it has a train network, but the ferry network it has. We made the most of our Sunday travelling by getting the ferry to Manly beach and getting the ferry back to Parramatta!

Tip; If visiting Sydney and wanting to do a lot of trips using public transport do it on a Sunday where travel for the day is capped at $2.70 rather that the usual $15!

The ferry to Manly also gives the most glorious view of the opera house and the neighbouring harbour bridge. It also takes you past the convict site of Fort Denison. A cruel and isolated place which is close enough to enjoy but a long slog in the unforgiving sea. You can also see Ms Macquarie’s chair, a place in the botanic garden famous for a carved stone bench completed by a convict for the governors wife for her to enjoy untouched views. It’s also the best site to see the New Years fireworks giving views of the iconic duo! (Which we managed to get to!!)

Back to Manly, a popular beach for the people of Sydney but some of the roughest sea I’ve ever seen! It’s patrolled, full of surfers and there’s literally a queue of people who want to go into the sea! It was superbly busy and very hot! We didn’t stay on the beach for long and instead opted for the little beach by the harbour where a sea pool has been created allowing for care free sea swims and cool offs. Be warned it’s a bit chilly but oh so good!

After our trip to Manly we walked across the Harbour Bridge and what a beautiful marvel she is. The work that has gone in to building that bridge is spectacular! It doesn’t matter how many times you see it, or cross it every angle is a good angle for the bridge!

The following day was spent queuing and waiting as it was New Years Eve! It was a long 18 hour day and during the ‘unusual’ and dismal thunderstorm we really did think; is it worth this! But I can conclude, yes it was!

Not only do the fireworks go off at 12 but there’s also a 9pm show for the children and they’re just as good! I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of recollecting the 10 second countdown before new year and hearing the roar of the people counting and rejoicing! The fireworks go on for almost fifteen minutes and each is as dramatic, colourful and occult as the next. The sky is ablaze with rainbow colours and the bangs echo for miles around. I shed a tear or two because I’ve always watched them on the TV and now I can say I’ve seen them in person. Definitely a bucket list item ticked off and happily completed!

There aren’t many photographs of the firewalls because we simply wanted to be present and enjoy.

Bleary eyed and very sleepy we weren’t going to let being tired take away from our limited Sydney time so off we popped on the train this time tackling the Rocks, the Opera house, the Botanic garden including a picnic, the Queen Victoria building and all the other things in between! To top of a fun filled day we spontaneously decided to watch a show in the Opera House; ‘All you need is love’- an orchestra show based on the hits of the Beatles. A wonderful show which we thoroughly enjoyed although we had to keep pinching ourselves that we were in the Opera house!

Sydney; the gift that keeps on giving!

Our last day in the big city was spent in the particularly famous; Bondi Beach area. We spent most of the day in the chilly sea waters of the Bondi Icebergs pool cooling off from a relentless and unforgiving Australian sun. A very welcome and needed chilled out day after the craziness of the previous days. Bondi Beach is busy, like expected, but it’s intoxicating and addictive and I can definitely see why people love it so much! If you’re a bit of Bondi Rescue fan you can even see the programme being filmed complete with beach buggy, helicopters, tanoy warnings and life saving blue surfboards. Very cool indeed!

And just like that our trip in Sydney was over but I definitely feel it won’t be the last there’s so much to see and everything is always changing and the city feels alive, chilled out, but alive! I loved every part of it, even the torturous heat and never ending tourists, I think I’ll definitely be making a trip to see those fireworks again and hopefully, that time, it will be from a boat!From Sydney we took two little detours; one to the cinema so I could finally see Mary Poppins Returns! It was magic and there were absolutely no regrets. The second was down to the Sea Cliff Bridge north of Wollongong another marvel of engineering (lost on me). Still astounding to look at, just like the views of the ocean where you may even be treated with a view of some whales or dolphins!

Tasmania

Devonport – Railton – Cradle Mountain – Strahan – Queenstown – Nelson Falls – Lake St Clair – Gordon River Dam – Mount Fields – Cockle Creek – Bruny Island – Richmond – Hobart – Port Arthur – St Helens – Freycinet – Bay of Fires – Waterhaven – Low Head – Grindelwald- Launceston – Longford – Jacobs Ladder – Ross – Oatlands – Liffey Falls – Mole Creek – Stanley – Railton – Devonport


After much deliberation it was decided that we were going to visit Tasmania. There’s two ways to visit Tasmania; fly or sail.

Flying is the quick way but for us, we wanted to take our car/house across so we chose the ferry. The Spirit of Tasmania is the only ferry operator travelling across the Bass Strait from Melbourne to Devonport.

Sadly it’s a nine and half hour crossing across the roughest sea in the world so it’s not exactly plain sailing. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) If you’re planning on doing the journey stock up on travel sickness tablets and remember headphones/book/tablet because it’s a long old ride! But; it’s so worth it.

Tasmania is a wonderful part of Australia so different from the mainland and so much smaller meaning you don’t have to worry about long distance driving and you see a lot more over those distances.

We began our journey by driving down to Cradle Mountain which is home to several of Tasmania’s great walks namely Dove Lake which is the walk we opted to do. Between 2-3 hours dependant on how many times you stop to take photos! The mountain is pretty spectacular from all angles. If you’re feeling more adventurous you can climb to the top or even walk the length of the National Park to Lake St Clair. Our time was limited in Tasmania and we had so much we wanted to see we opted for the lake walk and it was everything we wanted it to be. We visited when the weather was rather bleak and it made for an eerie experience but it all added to the atmosphere and it was really cool walking through a silent and misty rainforest.

A point to note; the Cradle Mountain National Park has wals for all and abilities. The park itself only has a car park at the visitor information; from there you hop on to a shuttle and just get on and off at whichever destinations/however many times you wish! It’s also worthwhile buying a National Parks Holiday Pass which costs $60 and lasts for 8 weeks. This pass allows you entry into all the parks in Tasmania and also can give you a free night camping in certain areas! An absolute must if you’re planning on visiting more than one and even better if you’re camping your way around!

From Cradle Mountain we delved through the mountains to Strahan. A strange place, not very friendly to tourists but it has beautiful sunsets and it’s also home to the famous Wilderness Railway and Sarah Island ferry. Both are pricey affairs and unfortunately we weren’t able to get on to the train as it was fully booked. That was no skin off our nose as we went further along to Queenstown taking in the marvels that Tasmania had to offer. It’s no lie when someone tells you, ‘you’ll want to pull the car over every 100 metres to take a photo’. It’s the truth! The landscape remains, almost, untouched and the focus of Tasmanians and the tourist industry is the preservation of the land rather than human superiority. Just the way it should be!Queenstown is famous for its mining industry and it’s only recently discovered grass again; before that the land was orange from the mining of copper, gold and iron. The once used mines now house a lookout where you can see a blue lake created from the mining. The landscape is incredible, like something created on a green screen, the colours and textures layer after layer seduce you as they mingle and marvel in front of your eyes. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Queenstown also has a waterfall. High in the mountain with a boardwalk running alongside it high off the ground. The waterfall was full of life due to the recent and terrible rain but the star of the show was the views over Queenstown. Mountains after mountains, green and brown tinged with burnt orange yet another a feast for the eyes; a feast certain to leave you with goosebumps and an enormous sense of gratitude.

Inspired by our sights in Queenstown the following day we were on the road early to try and cram as much in as possible in between Queenstown and the Gordon River Dam (around a 5 hour drive) and the early start was well and truly compensated!

We began in Nelson Falls, a short walk through dense forest greeted by native noises, crashing water and isolated from everything and everyone we met the Nelson Falls. Yet another spectacular waterfall which, gave me goosebumps, it’s incredible how something you see so often can be completely different from the last. We’ve seen a fair share of waterfalls but we still keep going back! There’s something magic about them, so invigorating and refreshing.

The drive along had a whole host of stops mainly wilderness walks, waterfalls and rainforests. If you have the time they have a Frenchman’s Cap walk which boasts 3-4 days hard walking. We didn’t do the walk but we did make it to the suspended bridge..very cool but scary! The water gushing underneath due to the constant and heavy rainfall was exhilarating and a humble reminder that you did not want to fall in!

The drive continued and it had rivers, picnic spots, revolutionary energy systems, look outs, a wall art sculpture and then you reach Lake st Clair. The other end of the Cradle Mountain National Park. The lake was spooky and still as if it were glass reflecting the landscape beautifully but without losing its own worth. The weather was terrible and sadly the view wasn’t the best and the walks were too muddy and rough for us; the unprepared explorers! Nevertheless; a spectacular place for a moment of clarity.

We continued the long drive through the mountainous landscape built as if only for giants and enchanted creatures as if it were made for a film and finally managed to get to the Gordon River Dam. Now, this is a place that will make you feel small and make you realise you are a mere dot in the big wide world! Breathtakingly high, an isolated treasure of the Tasmanian southwest. What makes it all the more special is that, although a lot of people visit you never feel like you’re just cattle being herded from A to B. You’re free to explore at you’re own leisure. If visiting, I’d highly recommend being silent and, if you time it right, you’d be able to hear a pin drop.

Feeling very spoilt and overwhelmed by all the marvels that we had seen we headed to the Mount Falls National Park which was set to be our home for the night but it also delivered many more delights. We took the short stroll to Russell Falls. Hands down; the best waterfall in the world. It look like Jungle Book and it is otherworldly. So big, so many different layers and levels, so full of life (we saw two platypuses!) and just paradise. Out of this world spectacular. (I told you I liked waterfalls!)

And, as if that wasn’t enough, we also saw the rare glowworms only seen in Tasmania. All round; a perfectly brilliant dayNext up was a drive down to Cockle Creek; the most southernly point of Tasmania and therefore the southern hemisphere. You can even take the whalers walk which take you around to the very most southern point whilst displaying whale bones and remains from a tragic and distant past. The whaling in this area was so bad that whales don’t actually go there anymore! We went for walk and we made it back in time to sit on the beach, go fishing (Nick even had an encounter with a particularly big sting ray) and watch the sunset whilst playing cards. Another area of Tasmania which just doesn’t have the tourist footfall and therefore is idyllic and pristine. So much so, it’s where the Tasmanians go for a weekend get away! The marshmallow sky and gentle crashing of the waves is a wonderful way to end your day and send yourself to sleep.

Due to a mistake with the ferry booking we ended up having an extra week in Tasmania which meant we could now be more liberal with our time and therefore we decided to take the short ferry trip over to Bruny Island. An island, off an island off an island! Very cool!A small and beautiful place filled with culture and history; there’s a craft brewery, cheese factory, chocolate factory, a beautiful lighthouse, a museum dedicated to the a Pacific, a lot of Captain Cook history and a very creepy quarantine. If you’re lucky you may even be able to see a penguin or two! The sea around Bruny is so clear and blue it’s incredible. Unfortunately a little chilly whilst we were there so we didn’t get in it was still very lovely to admire.From Bruny we were off to the capital; Hobart. A place we really wanted to visit but it was an absolute nightmare to navigate and find somewhere to stay (Hobart showgrounds; don’t bother!) So to put it off a little longer we headed outside of the city to a little town called Richmond; like the whole of Tasmania its famous for its convict buildings and bridges. The Richmond Bridge is a spectacular piece of work which has stood the test of time and looks quintessentially British. It’s very strange and it’s a theme that transmits throughout the whole of Tasmania and elements of Mainland Australia. I love it.

On to the city! Hobart is a super cool city filled with pubs, bars, museums, old convict buildings, breweries, a prison, a spectacular harbour, the famous MONA art gallery and everything in between. It was a very busy few days!

The cascade area of the city was my favourite. The buildings are all old and all the walls have stories to tell both cruel and inspiring. The Cascade female factory was a perfect example of this! Unbelievable that a place of detention also housed a winery! The buildings here are all overlooked by the mighty high eyes of Mount Wellington. If there was ever a place to be incarcerated then I think this would be it!

Further up the road is the Cascade Brewery; the oldest brewery in Australia and it looks like it could House the Addams family or Dracula. It was superb! We opted to do the tour (it would be rude not to) and we were taken round by a very passionate Tasmanian lad and then we had four drinks of our choice. We loved them all! If you’re ever in Tasmania be sure to try a Cascade lager as you can only buy the beer in Tasmania and it is yum!

Although neither of us are into art, really, we were told by everybody to take a visit to MONA; the museum of old and new art. At $28 it was pretty steep entry price and although there was some spectacular pieces, some eye-opening piece (the wall of vaginas…pardon the pun) the majority I just couldn’t understand. A tattooed man sitting on a pillar for six months of the year until he dies to be skinned to be art; strange. My favourite though; the digestive system in art form it was literally fed and it literally pooed. Giving a whole new meaning to some art being sh*t! However, the building (it’s built underground) and the word waterfall they’re the real showstoppers and made the trip across very worthwhile!

Hobart is full of markets so be sure to stop by and enjoy the samples and bargains of local produce. We enjoyed some mac and cheese and a meat platter with absolutely no regrets! The Salamanca market by Kelly’s Steps on a Saturday is the biggest in Australia and is a must if you’re in the area! On the subject of food it’s infamous and a must to enjoy some fish and chips by the harbour whilst watching the world go by and battling the seagull mafia around. The fish and chips are served off a floating stall which is very quaint and adds to the experience! It was particularly good because the sun was shining brightly that day and that sometimes makes all the difference. If the harbour isn’t for you enjoy a picnic in the Tasmanian Botanic Gardens and be sure to check out the rose archway and Japanese garden which was completed so decadently you wonder in the splendour.

About an hour and half away from Hobart is the historic site of Port Arthur the harsh, brutal and ironically beautiful convict site where the baddest of the bad men would be sent. The site, mostly ruins, still has it’s remains and a few buildings still intact can tell a million stories! This was probably the best world heritage site for convict history that Australia, maybe even the world, has! With your ticket price you get two days consecutive entry, a 40 minute introductory tour and a 25 minute ferry taking you around the cemetery and Port Puon the young boys prison. It was brilliant for a nerd like me!

It wasn’t just the historic site that was impressive though; the drive in to Port Arthur was some of the best we’ve seen in Australia. The blowholes, the convict coal mines, the tessellated pavements but the best site was definitely the remarkable cave. Remarkable because of its formation but more so because it has an outline of Tasmania letting light in! If that’s not impressive then I don’t know what is!

Down Port Arthur is the famously lethal surf spot Shipsterns Bluff and Cape Raoul famous for its ‘organs’. The walk to both points is quite vigorous but would be so worth it! We walked to the lookouts of both and the views were second to none. Incredibly, five minutes before we arrived to the car park we had a big hit of snow and hail after the temperature soaring to 28! They’re right when they say Australia can have all seasons in a day! In hindsight we shouldn’t have done the walks, the wind was strong and bitter as was the ice cold rain but never-mind; we lived to tell the tale and could even see the storm over the sea.

A lot of people dismiss this area of Tasmania but it has so much to offer. Wonderful coastline and magnificent history all preserved and untouched. Well worth a visit; I mean we only plan to do Tasmania once so what’s the point in missing out key areas!

From Port Arthur we headed up the east coast where we were greeted with sun and much warmer climates. This was wonderful and much better than the snow which we hadn’t forecast or appropriately dressed for. Snow in flip flops? No good for anyone!

The East coast is home to two gems of Tasmania; Freycinet National Park and Bay of Fires. Our plan was to free camp around both locations due to their popularity so before we got there we stopped in St Helens for a very welcome rest day.

First stop; Freycinet. Freycinet is probably the most famous Park in Tasmania and it’s most popular site; Wineglass Bay. Wineglass Bay is a beach with a distinct shape and all the shades of blue. It developed its name because of its shape but also because of its whaling past. When blood came in to the bay it looked like wine. It somewhat takes away the romantic side of the name I think!

Wineglass Bay has a lookout and a walk which you can take down to the beach. There are a lot stairs to climb down to get to the beach so prepare because what you go down you must come up! The steps are absolutely worth it; the place is just paradise. There are also some other lookouts in Freycinet with my favourite being Honeymoon Bay. It was on par with wineglass and it didn’t have the same amount of visitors! However; seeing it on foot wasn’t enough for us so we decided to embark on a scenic flight over the Freycinet National Park. We rose early from a heavenly free campsite (Friendly Beaches in the National Park) and boarded a small aircraft. Nick was lucky enough to sit in the cockpit! The half an hour flight takes you soaring above the sea so you can get a Birdseye view of the park and the bays. Wineglass Bay is superb from aerial view as is the park; it’s vast and untouched and you get a feel for how isolated it actually is. Magic! The scenic flight we took was one of the best things we have done in Australia and I would urge anybody who is embarking on a trip to Australia to do it. It will give you goosebumps and it will take your breath away!A short drive up the road is Bay of Fires and Bingalong Bay. Again, we made it to one the most spectacular free campsites which, literally, opened up onto the beach. The short walk around took you to the rocks and stone formations laden in burnt orange. It looks like they have been painted and the contrast of the orange with the deep blues of the sea make this a real treat for the eyes. Strangely; the name Bay of Fires doesn’t come from the colour of the rocks but from the first voyagers. When they came into the bay they could see fires all along it from the Aboriginal tribes who lived there. Another breathtakingly beautiful place; the east coast has you spoilt for choice for things to look at!

From the Bay of Fires we followed the coast along the top all the way along to Low Head. Low Head is home to the oldest and still operational lighthouse in Australia. The lighthouse also has a penguin colony which is cool, sadly they didn’t want to come and see us whilst we were there! If you visit on a Sunday the volunteers actually ring the horn from the lighthouse and the power in the volume of the horn will leave your ears ringing!

Right from the top we decided to head back down to the south driving to Grindelwald (a strange Swiss village near the coast with the best mini golf!) to Launceston (Tasmania’s second biggest city) over the Ross bridge and down to the Oatlands; a convict built town which has retained most of its original stone buildings and its famous site; Callington Mill.

Launceston is a very hip city, just like Hobart, but it has a Manchester feel about it. It’s retained a lot of its old buildings and holds on to its industrial past. A few places we stopped to see and loved; James Boag’s brewery, Customs House and the gorge. We also visited Penny Blacks but it was a commercial tourist trap which we wouldn’t recommend!

Rather than the city we stayed at Longford a beautiful little town plentiful in history and heritage but not as well known. The campsite is right by the river and it was honestly one of the most peaceful night sleeps we had in Australia. Superb and serene!

Next stop; Ben Lomond National Park to climb Jacobs Ladder. An exceptionally high and steep incline in Tasmania’s ski region! And what a climb it was( I say climb but you actually drive up but still, difficult for a car!) The views from the top were exceptional and absolutely worth the detour. It wasn’t the ski season when we got there so it was deathly quiet at the top only making the peace and quiet in the mountains otherworldly.

Down from the mountains we stopped through Ross and, just like Richmond, it’s famous for a bridge but it’s not as well known. The bridge is pretty impressive but the real crowd pleaser in Ross is the bakery. Still in its original building with the original oven this place is tiny and always busy! The baked good, pastries and pies are all impressively displayed through the glass counter but people don’t visit for the pasties…they visit for the vanilla slice. Modestly titled; ‘the worlds best vanilla slice ‘ and I, humbly, agree. It’s well worth a stop BUT be forewarned you’ll want more than one slice of the delicious vanilla’ry goodness!

A short drive south took us into the realms of stone buildings and a blast from the not so distant past. Neither of us were born in the 1980s but it sure did look like an 80s filmset! The whole town is like a heritage listing. They leave postcards around with information about the buildings and some you can even get a key to look inside! The main attraction is the Callington Mill which has recently been refurbished to its former glory and is actually a working flour mill! A beautiful building which only gets better at night; when it’s lit up its absolute magic.

Tip; if you’re camping there’s a free campsite right by the mill which is provided by the council and runs off donations (optional) for great views and a night of peace then this is a stop for you!

Having ticked off everything we wanted to do in Tasmania at this point we had a few days spare so we took a long drive and managed to get to Mole Creek; a National Park with lots of camping spots! I can’t say we did much as we just parked up and ate birthday cake as it was Nick’s birthday! It was so quiet and we woke up by throwing ourselves in the river; how refreshing!

We spent our last days driving up to the north coast but, I can honestly say, it was not worth it. The Nut outside of Stanley was ok but it looks like a less impressive Great Orme! To top it off the weather took a horrendous turn and it must have rained for three days straight! Certainly not the perfect ending to what had been a perfect trip!

That being said; we’ll count our losses because Tasmania exceeded all expectations and certainly left us smitten and besotted with its beauty and untouched glory. Anybody who visits Australia but dismisses Tasmania, politely, is an idiot!

Final note; To anybody whose planning a visit to Tasmania and is going to camp a few tips we’d give are;

  • Use Wiki Camps it costs about £8 but it will save you a fortune as it gives all the best stop offs and free camps.
  • Free camp in Tasmania as they have the best campsites in the whole of Australia.
  • Be sure to have a few rolls of toilet paper and some hand sanitiser…just incase!
  • Prepare for mosquitoes and midgies; they are relentless! Everybody warns you about snakes, sharks and crocs but these guys are the real danger! They can ruin your day so just make sure you have some spray!

Melbourne (and surroundings)

After a short, choppy and scenic ferry ride from Queenscliff we were onto Frankston, a city outside of Melbourne, on the Mornington Peninsula where we were meeting Wendy and Stephen; a couple we met in Coral Bay who kindly offered for us to stay with them in Melbourne until we could get onto the ferry to Tasmania! A very kind offer which we simply couldn’t refuse.

The Mornington Peninsula is a beautiful area outside Melbourne which has more wineries than the Barossa valley but also has an abundance of beautiful beaches, a wealth of golf courses and lots of winding roads! We visited Arthur’s Seat (a mountain) which offers the opportunity to go up in a cable car to take in the spectacular scenery and the distant Melbourne skyline. We took a one way trip and met Wendy and Stephen at the top to explore more of Arthur’s Seat and then enjoy the steep descent and all the views of the ocean. We carried on along the peninsula until we reached the lighthouse of Cape Schanck. Another wonderful lighthouse along a rugged and treacherous coastline which has boardwalks along the rough terrain. After a busy day of driving and exploring we stopped in at the Red Hill Bakery; a bakery and restaurant famous amongst locals (including Wendy and Stephen) so we popped in and it didn’t disappoint! It was so good we even went back; the lamb and rosemary pie comes highly recommended!

After exploring the Mornington peninsula we decided to visit Melbourne. With lots of things on our ‘to see list’ we were in for a busy day which quickly turned into two! After a wander around the cool and quirky Federation Square we strolled along to Hosier Lane, probably the most famous but certainly not the only one, the lane famous for its street art. Political messages, quirky characters and even a marriage proposal Hosier Lane was very cool (as was the neighbouring AC/DC Lane which I think Nick definitely preferred!)

We visited on Remembrance Day so, out of respect, we didn’t visit the cathedrals or churches. We simply admired from the outside. Old and graceful and still prominent in the modern hustle and bustle of the city. There’s a lot of that around where the old city meets the new and nowhere is that more apt than Flinders Street Station. The famous saying for Melbournians is ‘meet me under the clocks’ a practical and, almost, romantic place to meet I’d say. The dome windows and plethora of clocks make this a must visit place in Melbourne (and its definitely a must if you have to catch the train!)

Quick tip; if you’re planning on visiting Melbourne then look at buying a Myki Card (a bit like an Oyster card) as you’ll need this to ride the trams, trains and buses. They do have a free city loop tram aswell which is handy when the walking all gets a little too much!

As you pass by Flinders to see the neighbouring Fed square you also get a glimpse of Birraung Marr and it’s noodle market as well as Alexandria gardens on the opposite side of the river. I didn’t expect there to be such an extensive haven of greenery in the city but there’s gardens left right and centre. It’s lovely to stroll to your destination away from the main roads. That’s exactly what we did, we strolled through Alexandria gardens to get to the Royal Botanic Gardens (apparently this has become a thing we do in all cities!) Ginormous in size compared to Adelaide but still special in its own unique way. The gardens overlook part of the river and the sport precinct giving an excellent view of the Melbourne cricket ground and Amii Park whereas the other side takes you into the heart of the gardens with its lakes, lilies, fern forest and conservatories filled with beautiful plants both native and exotic. It’s a beautiful walk around and if you follow it will take you around to the Shrine.

The Shrine is the most humbling and beautiful war memorial I have ever seen. Not only is it beautiful but, like I said, it was Remembrance Sunday so there was a huge crowd of young and old together and united for a single purpose. When the clock struck, the city fell silent and it gave me goosebumps. It was an emotional and moving experience.

After all that walking we were hungry! Undecided on what we fancied we walked to the main shopping street (Bourke Street) to see the Christmas displays which had been all over the television. They were quite impressive; a very quirky take on the classic Alice in Wonderland, but I don’t think they match those back at home! The mission for food didn’t take too long from here because being in the ‘main area’ you’re close to the Greek precinct and also close to Chinatown. A little bit too much choice but we settled on Chinese going to a popular little jaunt called Juicy Bao. Vegetarian dumplings for me and pork and prawn dumplings in chilli sauce for Nick. Perfection! Chinatown was so impressive and the restaurants so plentiful that we decided to go back on our second visit to Melbourne this time opting for Shanghai Street and again the dumplings were so good (veggie for me and pork for Nick) in fact I’d say they were even better than the Juicy Bao! Yum yum yum!

Chinatown road stretches down to Parliament House which, unfortunately for us, was being refurbished but it leads on to Fitzroy Gardens which was another green area that we really wanted to visit. Not only are the gardens beautiful; laden with fountains, statues and colourful flowers but also home to a whole host of quirky things. For example; a model Tudor village sent over from England, a fairy tree which has carvings of fairies, elves and Australian wildlife and coolest/strangest of all is Cook’s cottage. The cottage has literally been picked up and taken from England and planted in the gardens of Fitzroy as a memorial to one of the infamous British explorers. I loved Fitzroy Gardens because there’s something different everywhere unlike the botanic gardens which has all the typical things you’d expect in a garden. I loved the uniqueness of Fitzroy!

Next up was a visit to the Queen Victoria markets host to the markets but also lots coffee shops (Melbourne is the coffee capital of the world) and boutiques. Unfortunately the actual market was closed on the day we visited (rookie mistake) so we could only admire from the out and look in the shops surrounding.

It was almost a good job that the market was closed because next up was the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere; the Melbourne Museum. And, crikey, it was big. It’s home to one of the world’s most famous (the most famous in Australia) race horses which has been stuffed and is still encased at the museum (from the 1800s!) and it has a whole area dedicated to him due to his tragic and questionable demise. The horse was an old fashioned celebrity and the propaganda and merchandise that has survived was really interesting albeit strange! The whole museum is brilliant but it’s very tiring seeing it all! There’s a rainforest in the middle of the museum, an area dedicated to the history of Melbourne, aboriginal history, science and nature including a lot of taxidermy (something I personally don’t like) and an area dedicated to the brain and mind. A really cool museum which has something for everyone but definitely requires a day!

After a lot of walking both in the museum and the city we were onto our last Melbourne ‘to do’; the Eureka Sky-deck. This is the highest building in the Southern Hemisphere and it takes you to a scary 88 floors above Melbourne city giving you superior views of the city and its surroundings. Scarier still is the fact that the building has been built to move up to 30cm in each direction in order to be able to deal with the extreme weather Australia offers. And, if you’re brave enough, you can even go on to do ‘The Edge’ a glass box which actually comes out of the building giving you a full on experience of towering over the city below. Absolutely no thank you, watching it was scary enough! I’d say it’s not for the faint hearted!

And just like that, it was done, 40,000 steps later and our time in the Melbourne city was complete. And what a wonderful city it is; it’s home to such a diverse multicultural community, it’s laidback but busy and it’s fun. So far Melbourne has been my favourite city and I wouldn’t mind coming back!That being said, it wasn’t the end of our time in this neck of the woods, we still had plenty of exploring to do on the outskirts. Our next stop, two hours outside of Melbourne, was Phillip Island.

Made famous, especially because of a certain David Attenborough, mainly for its penguin parade. However it’s also famous for its Grand Prix circuit! It’s an interesting and picturesque place full of life and a little bit of magic.

First stop; Phillip Island circuit where we were fortunate enough to watch new Lamborghinis being tested out at very high speeds. Deafening and exhilarating the speeds at which these alluring cars travel is fascinating to watch and it sometimes leaves you gasping for air! We travelled along the coast visiting all the sites including a shipwreck, peculiar shaped rocks and phenomenal views of the sea. My personal favourite was The Nobbies because not only did it have the strange rock, it had a blowhole, a fur seal colony and, best of all, a penguin nesting just close enough for us to see. So tiny and cute and we’re very lucky we could actually get so close!

Our penguin escapades weren’t over because later in the evening we were going to see the Penguin Parade. The Parade is made up of hundreds of penguins returning from a hard days work to return to their nests and, at this time of the year, to their partner and young.

When you first enter the centre and go down to what can only be described as a beach auditorium where you’re seated to watch the fleets coming in you do feel that it’s all very touristy and we did feel a bit uncomfortable. However, there’s a ranger who gives you a talk about the penguins, what to expect and what the money from your ticket actually pays for and then you realise that the amount of tourists is, arguably, a good thing. As the sun sets you can see groups of penguins coming in and searching the shore for potential predators. They’re intelligent animals and wait for the light to disappear so birds of prey cannot see them. Then they take the mission of getting back to their burrow a mission they have memorised so that they always take the same route; fascinating to watch and even more spectacular when you see how small they are! Absolutely tiny and very, very cute. Once they come in, the show isn’t over, you have the opportunity to walk along the boardwalks (for 50 minutes from the first penguins returning whilst the rangers count the numbers; the day we were there, there was 832!) where the penguins walk besides and sometimes underneath you. Honestly; it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen and before you know it the heavy touristy feel disappears and you’re there to marvel at this unbelievable display of nature. We thought it was a bit expensive ($26.20) when we first got in but it’s definitely worth every cent! You’re also not able to take photos which means you completely enjoy the experience rather than see it through your phone; a rare occurrence but a very welcome one. We continued the drive around to Cape Paterson and to Inverloch taking in the scenery and visiting the seaside caves where a lot of fossils have been discovered! Once we were finished we headed back to Frankston and from here we were going to explore Frankston city. Lucky for us, Wendy offered to be our guide so we visited the jetty for the strong sea winds and a spot of fishing, then along the beach walk we headed taking in the fresh air, cool breeze and stunning scenes until the breeze got to us and we had to warm up with a coffee and then it was on to Sweet-Water Creek for a walk. Unbelievable that somewhere in the city could feel so un-city like. The wildflowers were blooming, the butterflies were fluttering and the water lilies just stood tall looking spectacular or as the Australians say ‘pretty speccy’. What a lovely way to kill a few hours!

The areas around Melbourne, the Victoria state actually, make it a desirable location to come on holiday as it offers so much variety in its ecology. There are rainforests, beaches, cities and also mountains (complete with snow!) this diversity makes it a seriously interesting state to visit.

Next on our list was the Dandenong Ranges. Dense rainforest filled with trees, wildlife and waterfalls all alongside quirky German pubs and Miss Marple tearooms. It was beautiful and very different to what we ever expected. We got lost a few times and ended up driving around the National Park but it really wasn’t an issue because there was so much to look at!

Sky High Mount Dandenong is a great complex which houses a maze, a restaurant, a cafe, water fountains, wishing wells, wishing trees, a mythical giant’s chair, carved trees and secret English gardens. So much to see but the highlight of a trip to sky high is the view over Melbourne’s surrounding and the Melbourne skyline itself. We were there when a mist had settled over the tops of the sky rise buildings and it just looked so cool. The $7 entry fee was an absolute bargain for the views and the various things to see! Getting lost is sometimes a brilliant thing to do because you stumble across great places like this!

We also happened across the Dandenong Ranges Botanical Garden which we thought we might aswell visit but we weren’t particularly ecstatic at going to more gardens. How ungrateful! We soon came to realise how lucky we were to have made the effort to come in because this garden was home to lyre birds. The elusive bird so hard to see because of its incredible ability to mimic the sounds around it whether that be other birds or even chainsaws! Nick had gone on and on about seeing one after watching them (again) on David Attenborough’s show. Little did he expect that we would come across one in this garden completely by chance and we would be able to get, somewhat, close to it and actually have it all to ourselves. All the tourists going by had no idea what it was and I did a very good job at pretending there was nothing to see! Naughty but oh so worth it! The bird is the size of a chicken but looks more like a pheasant and is incredible to watch. They get spooked quite easily and are very fast! We can’t believe we saw one and we feel really lucky and very grateful to have had so much time observing one completely in its own environment.

Almost seven months in to our trip and we still see brand new things everyday. Feeling incredibly spoilt for the opportunity to explore such a wonderful country but also for the luck we’ve had finding so many lovely people who have taken us in to their homes and welcomed us as if we are a members of family. Some things we won’t remember but we’ve met people we will never ever forget. Melbourne; you’ve been a blast and you’re definitely a cool city but the time has come to leave for Tasmania!

The Great Ocean Road!

Travelling across the border from South Australia to Victoria was the first time I had felt apprehensive and nervous…yet, I was very excited. I felt a little like Bilbo Baggins does when he takes off on his ‘unexpected journey’. This feeling wasn’t due to be scared about doing something new, I’ve gotten use to that, rather it was because I had set a high expectation for this part of our trip because I had googled the photos, read the blogs and followed the Instagram account for a long time ogling the photographs of all the wonderful sites. I was scared of disappointment…although I needn’t have worried!

Being the most unconventional travellers we didn’t even do the great ocean road the ‘correct’ way around rather than start from Geelong we started from Nelson. We travelled west to east rather than vice versa.

Now there’s not much to see in Nelson but it’s the beginning of the shipwreck coast aptly named due to the high number of ships that have collided there and met an unfortunate end. That being said it’s a great location as it’s close to Cape Bridgewater, Cape Nelson and Portland. Some dispute whether this area is actually even part of the great ocean road but we’re convinced that it is. There was so much to see! From lighthouses to ‘enchanted’ forests, to petrified trees and seal colonies and an excellent maritime museum complete with whale skeleton! All of these sights follow the rugged coast and the viewpoints give second to none views of the harsh seas and the beautiful damage it’s caused to the cliffs over the years. After a day of exploring we made it to Narawong where we met up with a couple that we met in Carnarvon and they very kindly let us stay the night at their farm. So lucky again!

After a wonderful night of yummy home cooked food and a proper bed we set off for our second day of the ocean road adventure. Our first point of call; Port Fairy. A short but beautiful walk along the beach and through the grass lands you soon reach a spectacular lighthouse. It stands tall in the face of adversity and this mimicked by the fact, spectacularly, you’re practically alone with he lighthouse. Unlike the more famous sights further along the road this lighthouse was all ours! A beautiful experience; especially in the rough weather it just makes it that more exquisite.

From Port Fairy we moved on to Warrnambool which has an island of penguins which are guarded by dogs! Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any but the boardwalk was still lovely! Just outside Warrnambool we set up camp in a scouting ground tucked away in the forests where we saw the most beautiful jet black night sky brought alive with twinkling stars. It was spectacular as was being woken up by flocks of loud native Australian birds!

From Warrnambool we drove to Peterborough which also has some beautiful stop offs and, again, due to the dispute of where the road begins lots of people miss them out so they’re also really quiet and therefore some of the most significant sights to see!

The complete length of this coastline is rough and the wind and sea are relentless in showing off their power and presence and it’s amazing how, even though you’re seeing the same thing repeatedly; the powerful sea against withered limestone stubbornly strong but slowly crumbling to the inevitable ocean, everywhere you look it’s different and everywhere you look takes your breath away. This particular day we visited to Childers Cove, Bay of Isles, Bay of Martyrs, the Grotto, the Arch, London Bridge, Gibson’s steps, Loch and Gorge and everything around it and we finished off with two visits to the infamous Twelve Apostles. We visited once in the afternoon and then later that same day for sunset. It’s remarkable how a few hours; actually, a few minutes make such a difference to the colourings of the rocks. They were spectacular but it’s worth noting that there’s only seven left but they’re just as superb as the photos you see even when the wind threatens to pull you off for a swim!

Although it was a day looking at similar things it couldn’t have been more varied. I sound like a broken record but Mother Nature astounds me and it appears she did a pretty spectacular job of Australia because it’s so beautifully diverse!

Although everything that we saw was worth it and certainly lived up to expectation one thing we hadn’t anticipated was the volume of tourists. The more famous (instagrammed) sites in comparison to those we saw earlier in the day was stark. At one point there was sixteen tour buses at one location and it was so overwhelmingly busy! My tip would be; keep your patience, have five minutes whilst you wait for the buses to leave and then enjoy the views with less people (albeit it doesn’t last long!)

At this point we were well ahead of schedule as we weren’t expecting everything to be so close especially after the vast distances we had been covering up to this point.

So from Princetown we planned to get to Cape Otway to see the koalas and the *very* popular lighthouse and to get there we headed to Lavers Hill delving through the rainforests and the hills. It was incredible the trees were so tall, so green, so prodigious. On a whim we took a turn off to go and see Melba Gully. A rainforest boardwalk which takes you high into the trees and descends to wild cascades vibrant with wildlife and elusive platypuses! It was only a short walk but it was nice to stretch your legs, breath in the fresh cool air and be alone with nature. It only takes a walk through a rainforest to be made aware how tiny we are!

This particular day we wanted to be in the rainforests so we went on to see the triplet falls and then back to Otway Fly. The triplet falls is a spectacular waterfall with three layers with another lovely walk which is so vast, even when busy, it makes you feel like you’re all alone.

The Otway Fly however was very busy and quite touristy. The Fly is a treetop walk which takes you gradually higher into the trees (mainly majestic mountain ash) until you’re around 30m up into the canopy and from there you can climb the tower which takes you to around 50m and then there’s a suspension bridge which overhangs into the forest. It was beautiful, it was serene but crikey it was scary. At one point I thought I was going to be sick I was so high and, although I got to the top of the tower, I clung on for dear life as it gently swayed with the breeze as did the trees around us. It was a great thing to do and to see but I will never do it again, and that’s a vow!

Back on solid ground, with a normal heart rate, next we headed right back down to the coast where we set up camp near Cape Otway lighthouse. It was a rough campsite but what made it cool was the koalas, completely in their natural habitat and in the trees. I was woken up in the night by a koala moving along the trees above our tent. You can’t mistake a koala because they sound like pigs!

As for Cape Otway, we opted not to do the lighthouse because it was expensive and very very busy so we chose to do a lighthouse further down the line and honestly, I’m pleased we did. Cape Otway I, personally, felt was over exaggerated and oversubscribed. The lighthouse at Port Fairy was much more impressive!

Unfortunately, the busy vibes of Otway was also present in Apollo Bay and we only made a fleeting stop seeing the jetty and the bakery (how typical!) and then we were off again.

Now from Apollo Bay we wanted to get to Wye River which, wasn’t too far, but it was bank holiday weekend for the Melbourne Cup and so this explained why it was all so busy! Business aside though it’s at this point in the drive that the Great Ocean Road started to live out my expectations. It became a long and winding track which circled the hills as we followed the ocean. Some sights were so fantastic that we’d turn around and do the drive twice…just because! There’s cliff lookouts, waterfalls, trees to see koalas and cheeky birds, whale watching spots and, especially due to the bank holiday weekend, lots of people getting their surf on. Watching people surf has become a little fascination of mine. It’s amazing but uncomfortable to watch yet you cannot take your eyes off. It was so good and it felt very Australian even if the weather felt like winter at home! That evening we walked to the beach, about 300 metres from where we were camping and we watched the sunset on a beach that was, again, practically our own. It’s the small things like this that I’ll cherish the memories of forever.Our next day, awakened by the sounds of crashing waves, was a big one. We wanted to make it Torquay which is pretty much the end of the Great Ocean Road but there was a lot to see in between, thankfully we saw everything that we wanted.

So from Wye River we drove to Lorne, one of the more prominent stops along the road, here they have a museum dedicated to informing tourists about the ‘The Great Ocean Road Story’ which was really worthwhile because they have some epic photographs and videos of the soldiers who built this road and who; literally carved it out of the rock.It makes the trip a little more special because you associate it with the tribute to all fallen soldiers and sailors (it is, in fact, the largest memorial in the world) but also to the soldiers and sailors who put a fair bit of hard work into the creation of Great Ocean Road which we are so lucky to be able to see today. I really enjoyed this part of the trip because I wasn’t aware of it being such a touching memorial rather, I thought it was a very picturesque road which had been taken over by visitors! How ignorant of me!

Lorne also has the famous Erskine Falls which you really do delve up, down, in and out of the rainforests to see. It was amazing! We were lucky that the weather had been rough and the rain plentiful because it made the waterfall even more spectacular. The falls was bursting with life and crashing continuously onto the rocks below. It’s a popular waterfall because Lorne is a popular place and it’s one of the most instagrammed places along the road but, it was absolutely worth it. To be truthful, photos do not do it justice! Lorne carried on giving out the goods in the form of Teddy’s lookout. Teddy’s lookout, unsure of the origins of its name, is a lookout across the ocean and the rainforest; the epitome of the Great Ocean Road. It would also be a great place to whale watch if you were in the area at the right time of the year! No whales for us but we did see another koala which…you just can’t tire of seeing!

From Lorne we were going to finally drive under the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch (Nick did it three times just to get a photograph!) and what a beautiful tribute it is, again, so simple and very humbling when you see the statue with the arch in the background. Australia and those lucky enough to get the opportunity to travel this wonderful road owe those men an awful lot!

After Lorne we had a fleeting visit to Angelsea and then onto Aireys Inlet. Now, *controversial opinion* the lighthouse at Aireys is so much more impressive than the lighthouse at Cape Otway. It’s still perfectly white and vividly vibrant red even in its old age and there are lots of lookouts dotted all around it so you can see at all angles! It’s much more impressive and (sorry for always using this phrase) picture perfect.

About 12 kilometres outside of Aireys Inlet is the Great Ocean Road Chocolatier and Ice-creamery. It would be rude not to pop in. The free samples were divine but, unfortunately, we left empty handed. It was well worthwhile even if only to see the factory in operation!

Now our final stop before Torquay was Bells Beach. The beach famous to surfers worldwide for being host to the Rip Curl Pro. The famous phrase ‘you have to win it to ring it’, I think, speaks for itself! We must have spent a good hour or so here just watching the surfers. They were everywhere! For a while it looked a bit of a rubbish surf beach but patience is a wonderful thing and those wanting to get their fix of the waves had a lot of patience because Bells beach is famous for producing great surf waves intermittently but consistently throughout the day. A pretty cool place to stop by! As for Torquay our main point of interest was the National Surfing Museum (not that either of us has surfed!) It was brilliant! There was a very thorough history and collection of all surfboards; loved, used, abused, crazy and just downright eccentric! It was ace, so much to see and good for those who have no idea because there’s tips, tricks and a jargon buster plus fascinating videos and footage of surfers in the craziest of swells and waves. I really loved the museum and, although doubtful at first, am very glad that we visited! After Torquay we were onto Melbourne.

Fed up of driving and not wanting to pay tolls we decided to use the ferry from Queenscliff to arrive in Sorrento and from there we would take the drive up to Frankston where we would be staying with another lovely couple we met in Coral Bay. We really are so lucky to have met all these wonderful people. I’ve said it once and I’ll say I it again; something as simple as ‘good morning’ goes an awfully long way.

The Great Ocean Road was wonderful. It definitely met my expectations and, if you’re thinking of doing it, it should not be rushed because there is simply something magical to see around each winding bend. We were unlucky that the weather was poor but, really, it didn’t matter because it’s still so beautiful even when the skies are grey and dull. Another thing to note is how busy it was but; how could you expect it to be quiet when there’s so many spectacular scenes to see?

South Australia Roadtrip

Ceduna – Streaky Bay – Elliston – Port Lincoln – Glendambo – Erldunda – Uluru (Ayers Rock) – Coober Pedy – Port Augusta – Barossa Valley – Hahndorf – Adelaide – Naracoorte – Mount Gambier


As we drove out of Ceduna happy that the Nullarbor was well and truly behind us we still had the worry of the temperamental car and we were thinking how long can we go on like this? So, our goal was to nurse the car down the coast to Port Lincoln; a few hundred kilometres. (Only!)

Port Lincoln is one of only two places in the world where it’s legal to go out on a boat and go shark cage diving! (The other area is in South Africa) Now, sharks are not my thing and it’s an expensive experience so I chose not to do it but Nick had, had this on his bucket list for a long time! We booked in to Port Lincoln for a few nights and Nick was booked on to shark cage diving experience. We had visited a mechanic before the campsite and he advised us to just enjoy our time in Port Lincoln and then pop back on our way out of town which is exactly what we did.

A quaint seaside town which offered something for everyone. A vibrant shopping scene, quirky coffee shops, plentiful bakeries and an abundance of sea views and fishing spots. It’s an idyllic location and its understandable why lots of Australians travel here to get away from it all. During our time there we took the drive around the townbut mainly lazed about in front of the sea, read and fished.

The shark cage dive; Nick went out with Calypso Star Charters and was picked up at a bright and early 6am! He was taken to the marina where he boarded the boat which was about to head out an on epic three hour journey to the Neptune Islands where they’d dock for a whole day of shark watching and, when it was Nick’s turn, he’d enter the cage for 45 minutes and hopefully get a glimpse of some great white sharks!

The Neptune Islands is home to a New Zealand fur seal colony which is the reason the great whites like to visit so much! Nick was able to see the sharks from of the boat and was astonished at the size of them. He couldn’t believe he was seeing them in the wild after watching them for so long on the television! He’s always wanted to see one in real life and (still!) can’t quite believe he’s been in the sea with three of them! They glide through the water gracefully and majestically sometimes appearing as if by magic.

Nick has said that it was the best thing he has ever done, the amazing experience will stay with him forever and he feels very lucky to have had the opportunity.

So feeling refreshed and reenergised we decided to leave the day following the dive. We ummed and ahhhed as to whether to go back and see the mechanic but at the last opportunity something pulled us in and John did the rise test as he promised that few days earlier. John was a genuine and kind man and our gut was telling us that he wasn’t going to fob us off like the mechanics before. He desperately wanted us to be able to get to Adelaide but he wouldn’t let us. He told us the car was dangerous to drive and at the time it was repairable but if we continued we’d cook the car. So… yet another car drama!

We were so lucky to have chosen this mechanic and to have gone back at the last minute because…not only was he upfront and honest, not only did he fix our car but he also let us stay at his farm and seaside shack for ten days aswell as feed us and welcome us into his family. We had the most incredible ten days!

Whilst we stayed with Janene and John we experienced life on an Australian farm, we got acquainted with Australian wildlife including koalas and a brown snake (yikes!), we went fishing and dolphin hunting, we collected oysters from the sea and ate them fresh in the boat and I got to spend my birthday in the most beautiful and picture perfect place. It made up for all the dodgy mechanics and heartache every time something new went wrong with car. What John and Janene, their family and Digger the dog did will stay with us forever because we have never known kindness like that. What a truly amazing and unique experience!

From Port Lincoln with a fixed car which now possesses a new lease of life we started our long drive up to Uluru which is actually Northern Territory but for ease I’ve placed it with the south!

We were going back into the desert and back into the outback which, although very cool, is quite scary. So, we tried to do it as fast as we could and with only two night stops we made it to Uluru and it was absolutely worth the wait.

Australia’s most famous rock and one thing that was a must on my bucket list. What a sight! The drive in to the National Park is astounding! Your eyes marvel at the feast of limestone outstandingly carved by all of nature’s forces. And after seeing it on the drive in you think that you’ve seen it in all it’s glory but, no, Ayers Rock is the rock that keeps on giving. You can drive around the base, walk around it, take a guided tour from an Aboriginal ranger (recommended), cycle around, walk to the top and…take a helicopter around the rock.

We walked around with an aboriginal ranger who told us the story about how the rock was formed, what it means to the aboriginal community and he took us to a cave and showed us the cave drawings which have been there for around 10,000 years! He told us the meanings and put a magical touch to the rock and it just made the already magical place feel more special. As he was Aborigines he was impassioned about the protection and preservation of the rock and it was because of him that we confirmed our plan to not walk to the top of the rock and respect the wishes of the true custodians of the land.

Instead of the climb we opted to take a helicopter ride. An experience I’ve only ever dreamt of doing but I am so pleased to finally say that I’ve done. It’s only a short experience, one hour in total with only fifteen to twenty minutes in the sky but it was amazing! It was only the two of us and the pilot in the helicopter which made it far more surreal and special! Kind of makes you feel like a rock star (pun intended!) The rock is even more spectacular from the air, especially, when coloured by the early morning sun. Majestic and stand alone the rock stands proud and tall in its isolation. The stand alone image only hindered by the distant shadow of the magnificent Kata Tjuta (The Olgas).

Ayers Rock is somewhere I will never return to simply because I’ve ticked it off which is why we chose to spend as much time as possible there we saw three sunsets and two sunrises. Each more magical than the last. The rock always looks different because of different lights at different times of the day. It was so worth the 4.30am wake up calls!From Uluru we headed back down, unfortunately, the same way we came up but it didn’t matter as we’d planned to do a stop at Coober Pedy and the further south we got the views kept getting better, particularly the views of the Flinders Ranges.

Coober Pedy; the opal capital of the world, mostly underground due to the heat and a place seen in lots of films. Honestly, I think Coober Pedy is the coolest place I’ll ever go to in my life; we even managed to go to drive in cinema whilst we were there which was ace!

Whilst we were in Coober Pedy we visited the underground churches, the big winch, the museum, the spaceship which was used in Star Wars, noodling for opals, the Breakaways, the dingo fence (the longest fence in the world) and the Moon Plains which were particularly cool because Mad Max was filmed there! We did an awful lot on a short space of time but a particular highlight was the opal mine; ‘Old Timers Mine’. A passion project by a miner who was born and bred in Coober Pedy; anything he didn’t know about opal mining was not worth knowing! You don a hard hat and explore the mine following stories of former mining pioneers and can even see where they set up their homes and even a post office underground! It was brilliant! We also had a go of noodling where you go through the ‘scraps’ that aren’t deemed good enough by the miners and if you find any; you’re allowed to keep them!

Having a birthday in October means that the opal is my birthstone so I treated myself to an opal necklace because if you can’t do it in the opal capital of the world then where can you!From the barren desert of Coober Pedy we dropped in to Port Augusta for a night then we were onto the Barossa Valley nestled in the Adelaide hills.

Driving around the Barossa Valley made me feel like I was driving around Wales in the Summer except…there were a lot of vineyards! So many vineyards, more than you can imagine, more than your eyes can see and fathom!

All the wineries have cellar doors so it was lovely to pull up sample some wine and then move onto the next but there were some other great places to visit such as the keg factory which repaired and made kegs for wine; particularly French wine! As you enter you see the products they’ve made out of old kegs but there are windows into the workshop which allow you to watch the men working on the barrels. It was really cool! The other places of interest here (other than wineries) are the German villages, Maggie Beers farm and the Herbig tree. The Herbig tree was named after a settler who lived in the tree for six years with his family! The tree still stands strong and is well worth a visit just to try and comprehend so many people living in it!

But, really, you don’t go to the Barossa Valley for anything other than the wine! We visited a few but our favourites were;

  • Jacobs Creek; not necessarily for the wine but for the generous samples and the tennis court free to use when you’re visiting! We felt very fancy!
  • Kellermeister; the title holder of the best Shiraz in the world and, oh my, it’s good. Look out for Wicked Witch and sample if you can!
  • Sepplesfield; to get to this winery you go on the most beautiful drive with bright colours and palm trees all around and then when you get there it’s so much more than a winery! It has a restaurant, cafe, an art gallery and studios where you can watch jewellery making, blacksmiths and glassblowing and then make a purchase if you are so inclined! The wine was good aswell!

As lovely as the wine was we couldn’t stay in the Barossa Valley, not that it mattered, the south of Australia seems to be wine region after wine region!Next up was Hahndorf. Hahndorf is the oldest German settlement in Australia and even with its age it has not lost its roots and it looks like Germany (from what I’ve seen on photographs anyway!)

There’s a lot to see and it can be a little overwhelming when you only have a limited time there! Some of the things we did and would recommend are; the museum of Hahndorf, Beerenberg farm, walk the streets, see the shops and enjoy the smells! Definitely go on an empty tummy and enjoy German cuisine and some pretty damn delicious apple strudel! I loved Hahndorf but it is a bit touristy so that worth considering if you were planning on a visit!

From Hahndorf we took the scenic route via Mount Lofty to the capital of the south; Adelaide. A relatively small city and an eclectic mix of old and new. (Note; drive not for the faint of hearted very rugged and very high but spectacular scenery all the way through!)

The city had a caravan park which was conveniently placed so that we could walk to the free bus stop or walk into the city of the weather permitted! Luckily, everyday in Adelaide was glorious so we made the most of it and our legs relished the opportunity to get moving!

Adelaide is full of things to see and do and there are lots of events on throughout the year. We were lucky that we timed our visit in sync with the Moon Lantern festival and made our way to the festival late on to see the fireworks and the lanterns lit (they weren’t let off!) lanterns of all variations were on display and it was pretty spectacular to see; if only for the craftsmanship!

The actual city has the most spectacular Botanic Gardens and these were my absolute highlight of Adelaide. There was something so magical about the gardens like an enchanted garden filled with beautiful bold colours, flowers of no compare, statues, conservatories and a very Victorian feel! We were really lucky that the day we were there, a corpse flower that had been growing here had decided to blossom and the flower only blossoms for one days after taking seven to ten years to get to the stage. It was very impressive but crikey, it was very smelly and I can see where it got it’s name! Whilst we were there we were also able to see the Amazonian lilies which, again, were superb. We loved the gardens so much we ended up using it as our walk into the city and visited a few times!

Right next to the gardens is the National Wine Centre of Australia. An absolute must for any wine fans! The centre has a free centre dedicated to wine history and a information from the types of grapes used, the aromas in different wines and even the types of soil required! It’s an interactive experience and is very fun! There’s also the view into the wine cellar which can hold nearly 38,000 bottles at one time! If that’s not enough for you then there’s a bar and a restaurant in the centre aswell!

Next up on our touristy day was the South Australian Museum with a slight detour into the art gallery… Art is absolutely not my thing and I just can’t get my head around where people get their ideas from so…it was a very big centre where I felt very silly/confused but to art fans it’s probably a wonderland! However; history is my thing and I loved loved loved the museum of south Australia! It had everything, it reminded me of a smaller (Australian) natural history museum with floors dedicated to animals, marine life, fossils, aboriginal culture and history and the deep sea octopus! It was free of charge and really interesting! We were in there for a good few hours and burnt up a right appetite so we promptly finished and headed to find some food in the wealth of eateries in Adelaide. We both fancied trying some different and headed to a Korean restaurant to try some dumplings. Apparently it was a popular and well known restaurant and we even had to queue but it was well worth the wait and it’s well worth a visit if you’re in Adelaide! It’s called;

Full and happy we carried on our wondering around Adelaide visiting the town hall, the cathedrals and churches, Victoria Square, the central market and south Australia’s most famous chocolatier; Haighs (it happened to be a little posh for us so we left promptly!)

Next up was Adelaide Gaol because I really love visiting prisons especially based on Australia’s history but Nicks a bit fed up of them so I don’t think I’ll be going to anymore! Adelaide Gaol was actually a little bit scary but very interesting. The building was pretty much still as it was at its closure and there’s a lot history about its former convicts, it’s transformation to an army barracks during world wars and its haunting death penalty stories complete with grave descriptions of the punished and the reason they were punished. Very interesting to anybody who likes social history especially history which actually, scarily, is not that long ago.

That was the city completed and after a fleeting visit to Glenelg beach our time at Adelaide was completed and we were down to Naracoorte. We only stopped the night and took a visit to the famous caves the following day. Who knew Australia had so many caves! Nevertheless they were something to behold and once again, I stood in awe of Mother Nature!Our short time in Naracoorte finished and it and it was on to our final stop before we began our trip along the famous (and the thing we’ve been most excited to do!) Great Ocean Road. Our last stop was Mount Gambier, the second largest city in South Australia and the place everybody flocks to in the Summer to see its very famous blue lake! The lake that even has scientists baffled! You might think..it’s only a lake but my goodness me it’s beggars belief. It’s so blue even when it’s ‘grey’ I can’t imagine how spectacular it would be in the heights of summer! Aside the famous lake, Mount Gambier is also famous for its sinkhole cave gardens which again are so Victorian and impressively extravagant; I just loved the indulgence! They were amazing and I was quite jealous of all the families enjoying picnics in this cave which was literally on their doorstop!

We can’t quite believe that we’ve done three states in Australia and ticked off two bucket list activities! We’re feeling very lucky. Even all the car drama, scare and upset doesn’t actually matter because we’re living the dream! Even more exciting is that we’re about to embark on the Great Ocean Road the thing we’ve both looked forward to and talked about endlessly since the day we applied for our visas. This is it and aaaah it’s so exciting!

South Western Australia Roadtrip

Perth – Busselton – Margaret River – Pemberton – Northcliffe – Walpole – Denmark – Albany – Bremer Bay – Wave Rock – Lake King – Esperance – Norseman – Nullabor Plain


After a couple of quiet weeks back in Perth and a really lovely day out with Jan fishing and eating fish and chips at Hillary’s harbour we decided to take the plunge into the real winter weather and head down the southwest of Australia.

It was strange being back on the road again…it didn’t feel right because our trip up north was cut short and I think we both developed some car trust issues but nevertheless, as the famous song goes, on the road again. (Yay!)

Our first stop was Busselton, only a couple of hours away from Perth but home to the longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. It was pretty damn long! Due to strong winds we, unfortunately, were not able to walk across but managed to get to a lookout point to appreciate how far out it went. Except the jetty, probably because of the poor weather, Busselton wasn’t really doing it for us and so we decided rather than waste a night staying there we’d head straight to Margaret River. The place we’ve been excited to visit for a while!

Margaret River is a wine region and a foodies paradise offering delights such as chocolate, cheese and olives! It’s spectacular to drive through because each winery is in competition with another. However; not only do they compete with their wine but they compete by what each has to offer spirits wise and aesthetically. Each had there own reserve laden with waterfalls and statutes so over the top they look slightly out of place but it doesn’t matter because it all enhances the experience. We went on a brewery tour whilst we were in the region so that we could both enjoy a tipple (or seven!) without worrying about being over the drink drive limit which is much stricter than back at home. The tour (Margaret River Brewery Tours) was fantastic because it didn’t just cater for the wine drinker. You could choose beer, cider or wine! You got to see the breweries as the region is also developing its crafts ales due to popular demand. You see how the brewery works and…although it’s set out like you can only choose one of the drinks at each place our tour guide, Dicko, was bringing more samples for us to try and by the end of the day I had managed beer paddles, stouts, ciders, gin samples and red wine samples. They were all delicious but mixing wasn’t the best idea; especially after so long not having an alcoholic drink! Safe to say…we both paid for it and suffered the next day. The tour is expensive at $110 each but it’s worth it. It’s well worth it (it includes a meal) and it means you can enjoy yourselves without having to worry about who is designated driver and if you’re over the limit. They pick you up and drop you off! We absolutely loved it and were so glad that we opted to do the tour because it’s an experience that we’ll look fondly back on for years to come. We probably won’t be back in Margaret River ever so it was really worthwhile.

Here is the link if it’s something you might fancy; https://www.margaretriverbrewerytours.com/

If you’re planning a trip and are thinking about Margaret river here are our recommendations for a visit if you don’t fancy the six hour tour;

Cheeky Monkey Brewery; a really cool place in a lovely location with friendly staff who know how to brew a good beer!

Black Brewing Company; worth a visit just to walk around the reserve and see the fountains but the cider was lovely too!

Bootleg Brewery; we ate at this brewery the food is delicious as is the stout!

The Beer Farm; a place which you could easily find at home. Good vibes, good beers and a pool table!

Except for wines; Margaret river also holds a plethora of caves all unique and special to the region. Out of four we managed to do two; Ngilgi and Jewel cave. Sadly we missed out on Lake and Mammoth but we’re still happy with our choice.

Ngilgi Cave was a self guided tour and jewel cave was a guided tour. Although we were unsure that we’d see anything different because, ignorantly, we thought a cave is a cave isn’t it? How wrong we were!

Both boasted a whole host of limestone columns, stalactites, stalagmites and shawls. It was a different world. It was so peaceful and lots of fun clambering through tunnels and crawling under low areas and seeing all of mother nature’s work in some of its finest form! I’m no scientist so the science went over my head but it was still really cool to see! Out of both I preferred Jewel cave due to its sheer size it’s really difficult to comprehend but Ngilgi was great aswell because it had the more fun elements of exploring at your own leisure and being able to have a trip through the ‘tunnel of doom’!

Margaret River was our base stop for the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park and coastline. Both areas have their own lighthouses, beautiful walks around and, during winter, absolutely wonderful whale watching views! We loved Augusta (the most south western area of Australia) for Hamelin Bay which, had it not have been stormy, would have been a beautiful spot to look at the old and wrecked jetty, nearby mushroom island and, most importantly, the thriving reef under crystal clear water. It’s an area famous for its sting rays but sadly it wasn’t our day for seeing them. Nick however, managed to see killer whales just off the shore!

Personally; my favourite place along this coastline is Sugar Loaf Rock and I would urge anyone visiting this region to pay it a visit. It’s breathtaking and no photos can do its size justice! It’s like a mountain coming out of the sea. It puts it into perspective how tiny we are in comparison to the big wide world!


From Margaret River it was time to carry on and head off to Pemberton a place famous for its forests and for its old fire lookouts which are now popular tourist attractions for the brave hearted.

Wholeheartedly I can tell you…the trees are absolutely astonishing and very much awe-inspiring. They’re gigantic and, I know I do too many film references, they literally look like the trees in Lord of the Rings. Mesmerising. It’s wonderful to drive through the forests and to go exploring the landscapes south are so different from the landscapes up north.

As I said, there are four different fire lookout trees, three of which you’re able to climb to the top of. We visited the Gloucester Tree at 54m high and the Bicentennial Tree at a staggering 65m high. It was an absolute no from me and (unusually) a no from Nick after he had climbed the first quarter of both of these trees. It’s unbelievable that these trees are still open to public and that health and safety allow it but there’s been no deaths yet! There’s hardly any safety and you can’t clip on. Not for the faint hearted!

Standing at the bottom though still gives you an impressive view and you’re surrounded by a plethora of wild flowers only found in WA and the forest. It’s a walkers dream and there are many tracks which lead from tree to tree from forest to forest whilst offering cascades and waterfalls. My favourite was Beedelup falls which gave you the chance to see the bottom of the falls and then walk over a very wobbly suspended bridge and up steps to see from the top. They were very impressive due to the sheer amount of rain WA has had lately!

Although we loved the forests we still wanted our fix of blue so we drove to Windy Harbour and then through to all the stops and lookouts around to Salmon Beach. And just like that you’re away from the greenery and looking at rugged mountains standing tall even with the bustling sea putting up a strong fight whilst the wildflowers overlook but they still stand as beautiful serene pacifists tackling the salty ocean wind themselves.

Whilst we explored this area we stayed in Sid’s Campground. A gem of a campsite because it’s in the bush, it has a great keeper called Mick and it’s only $5 per night per person! A great spot to add in if you’re planning this route. Our next spot was Walpole where we were greeted by the biggest downpour we have ever seen. It didn’t stop! We managed to just see the giant tingle trees and a little bit of peaceful bay but that was it. I imagine if the weather was good they would be absolutely beautiful. Especially Peaceful Bay…look at all those shades of blue!The weather got worse and we ended up having to stay in a cabin to avoid it! Another great campsite Ayr Sailean it was absolutely spotless and the hosts were lovely and very kind! We were so ignorant to the weather when we flew out as we just assumed Australia had a moderate temperature during the winter which…quite frankly the south doesn’t!

Anyway, when the weather afforded us the opportunity. We decided to head for the ‘Valley of the Giants’ and to complete the tree top walk. A pretty spectacular piece of engineering 40 metres off of the ground which takes you through the immensely large and shockingly old trees. It’s amazing they’ve survived so long considering this area suffers with fires a lot; particularly in the Summer. As someone not great with heights I was superbly proud that I managed to complete this without breaking a sweat or crying! The trees are spectacular and for any nature lovers coming to this part of Australia. Just do it! It’s stupendous.

Albany was the next stop on our trip as it’s renowned for its whaling station museum which is the most complete in Australia, the Gap bridge and its pristine beaches. And there are lots of them! Sadly, the weather took another poor turn so we didn’t get to see the beaches in their full glory but my goodness they’re spectacular even in the winter. The sea is so pure that you can see the reefs from the cliffs and if you’re lucky you can see whales and dolphin pods mucking around in the hurtling waves. (A tip; bring binoculars!)

But we couldn’t let it dampen our spirits (pun intended) so we crammed as much in to our two day trip as possible. Stop one; the Gap and natural bridge and a genuinely spectacular sight to say the least. One good thing about being in Albany in the poor weather is the fact the bridge looks even better when it’s rough! This is due to the large swell of the sea bringing on thrashing waves which rise to the top leaving a sea mist which tickles your face and ears. The Gap has metal grid floor so you can actually see the water beneath you! Scary stuff! We’ve never seen the sea with such extreme ferocity and although it’s frightening it’s also mesmerising and you cannot stop watching.

We also visited the whaling station which was a worthwhile trip if you enjoy museums! It’s full of interesting information and is complete since it’s closure in 1978. It was strange as interesting as it was because it was tinged with sadness, it was not that long ago, as so many whales were killed for the benefit of humans. It’s also alarming the effect the closure had on Albany itself. That said; we enjoyed it! You can walk around one of the old whale chasing boats (literally used until closure) find out about the different roles with an abundance of photographs to help your imagination along, the place where they dismembered the whales and put enjoy valuable item of whale into the correct tank for it to produce the goods and they have also got a heap of marine skeletons which they have found locally or, in the case of the blue whale, what they have recovered from a tragic beaching. It was worthwhile if you’re only here for a short while because it gives you a lot of history quickly. That being said…spend a few hours or even a day there it’s something not to be rushed!

Our trip to Albany was short and sweet. If you’re planning a trip and only have a short space of time we’d recommend;

    The Gap and Natural Bridge; an absolute must. Breathtakingly beautiful even with all its mighty power.
    The Historic Whaling Station; a good place to go for history and to spend the day.
    Salmon Holes; just a pretty beautiful lookout. Great for watching marine life. We saw dolphins evens in the horrid rain and wind.
    Blow Holes; so cool! Natural blow holes from the sea and spectacular when the weather is rough. Make sure to wear sensible shoes and don’t get too close to the edge. The waves come all the way up!
    The tourist historic route around Albany; you’ll see the old pirate ship, the old gaol and dog rock! It’s only a 6km drive which is great when you’re on a time limit. You can see a lot more…a lot quicker!
    The VR in the tourist information centre; you’ll be swimming with killer whales as soon as you know it!
    As many beaches as you can! It’s not difficult to see why the south west has been voted some of the best beaches in Australia and Albany has its fair share but the coast is very different to anywhere else. It’s rugged, it’s harsh and it’s breathtaking. I can guarantee a visit to some of Albany’s beaches will not leave you disappointed.