After living in Melbourne for 5 months I really couldn’t wait to get on the road and see even more of the fantastic country that is Australia. I knew there was so much out there to see and experience.
I was buzzing on the morning we left Melbourne, with the sun shining and I certainly had the familiar excitement and butterflies I felt just before my cousin Jack and I left the UK to start our year-long backpacking adventure. This was a brand new chapter. Jack and I were travelling the East Coast with Jessie, from London, who is also on a year long working holiday visa. Her sister Annie flew out from England to join us too!
We picked up our campervan, which we named Melvin; an attractive bright green and purple colour! We loaded our backpacks into the back and headed on the first part of our itinerary, the famous Great Ocean Road. After relying on Melbourne’s very reliable public transport, it was still great to have the freedom of a car (or in this case, a big camper resembling something out of a cartoon). We stocked up on the essential pasta, tomato sauce, beer and cider and off we went.
We drove through Torquay, the famous surfing town and then reached our first overnight stop – Lorne, a beautiful little town near Geelong. We drove slightly inland to Erskine Falls, a rainforest area with a beautiful waterfall. Such serene surroundings. I’m glad I have photos to convey even half of how beautiful this place and others truly are – as I’ve discovered many times, words simply do not do these places justice.
We stayed at a lovely campsite, and despite the weather being persistently cold and damp, we enjoyed our expertly cooked pasta and tomato sauce and kept warm inside the camper with a hot chocolate. As night fell, I was once again in awe of the starry night sky just as I was when we camped in America at the start of our travels. It takes my breath away each time. Camping under the stars is a truly special experience and one I will remember with fondness from our time travelling.
We woke the next day to the loud sound of the many cockatoos which lived in the surrounding woodland. They were very tame and approached us, showing off their bright feathers on top of their heads.
I did a lot more driving on the second day, and driving the mountainous and green landscape of the Great Ocean Road is something I will never forget. The winding roads sat beside an endless stretch of beautiful golden beaches. We reached the famous 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge, which were as incredible as I had imagined. The weather, again, wasn’t great but nevertheless, we were all able to admire the incredible natural creations. The sea was choppy and crashed against the rocks; these sounds really added to the special atmosphere. We also visited Thunder Cave, which actually created sounds like thunder when the waves crashed into it.
We camped near the 12 Apostles in Princetown, and we were surrounded by wild kangaroos which were also very tame just like the cockatoos back in Lorne. The lack of light and the presence of the kangaroos made night-time toilet visits interesting, I didn’t really fancy getting into a boxing match with one!
So following this, it was time for some more emotional goodbyes back in Melbourne as we went out for drinks in St Kilda at a bar appropriately named ‘The Vineyard’. It was great to go back and say a proper goodbye to people and the city.
We have since spent a night at Mallacoota, a beautiful beach town on the Eastern edge of Victoria. We arrived late after a 7 hour drive, so it was special to wake early the next day to one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. It rose over the lake and mountains and really was an unforgettable sight. The orange and yellow hues provided a great photo moment.
We then moved on to Jervis Bay, another incredible Australian beach area a few hours south of Sydney. We stayed in Booderee National Park and it was great to be in the rainforest surroundings, with much wildlife wandering around overnight. We saw possums which were very friendly, and also many huge spiders which weren’t quite as cute! Waking up to the lush greenery and fresh air was wonderful and I was also lucky to see a kangaroo and its young Joey after my morning run on the untouched white beach after another impressive sunrise.
Following this we drove to Wollongong, where I participated in one of the best things I have ever done. That might sound clichéd but it is true! It’s hard to find the words to convey how certain experiences make me feel and my first skydive is certainly one of them. The feeling as we drove to the airport and boarded the plane is something I will hold with me for a long time. The loud sound of the plane engines starting up added to the feeling of how real this truly was. I had imagined my first skydive for a long time and the day was actually here.
The 8 divers in the plane were all sat in a row, each paired with their dive companion. We were all sharing a mixture of emotions; excitement, anticipation, anxiousness, pure adrenaline! We climbed over the Wollongong coast and admired the views before our eyes. Just like a postcard. I knew I would be down on the ground soon enough, but I wouldn’t be stepping off the plane steps. I would be jumping out. Diving and free-falling at 200 kilometres per hour.
Once we did reach the jump point, the door slid up and the sound of the wind hit my ears. Wow. This was it. No going back now. I was shocked at how quickly each diver left the plane. Out of the door… 1, 2, 3. Before I knew it, it was my turn.
I didn’t really have time to think as I approached the open door. And before I knew it I was flying through the air. What a feeling of complete ecstasy. The feeling of free-fall. The force of the wind against my face. The ultimate adrenaline rush. I was literally on top of the world. No feeling can beat it.
I felt like I was flying, and I suppose I was.
After about 45 seconds of free-fall, the parachute was released. Suddenly the speed of fall decreased, and we glided slowly above the breath-taking views before us. I was even able to steer the parachute. Whilst taking the views in, I was also reflecting on what had just happened. So crazy. So memorable. So special.
We landed on the ground and it was great to see Jack who had dived just before me. I knew he had just experienced the same feeling. It was special to share it together. It is something I will treasure forever. It is also something I will always encourage people to do. The feeling, the adrenaline, the buzz, the memories. Nothing can beat it!!! Or maybe a bungee jump can; I guess I’ll be finding that out soon enough…
Sydney was next on our list of stops and I couldn’t wait to see another famous Australian city after spending over 5 months in Melbourne. We stayed at a campsite just outside the city, with the main CBD a 20 minute train ride away. We arrived on a beautiful day which provided an excellent setting to view the famous Harbour and Opera House. Just as impressive as I had hoped and imagined! We had drinks at a rooftop bar overlooking the Harbour and visited Bondi Beach the next day before venturing on a Bridge Climb over the Harbour Bridge; more great views of the famous landmark, with a lightening storm in the distance. Luckily we avoided the rain until the next day…
The Blue Mountains promised spectacular views on our next stop had it not been for the persistent rain which lasted for 48 hours from the time we left Sydney. Despite this, we all had a laugh and stayed warm in the campervan watching Finding Nemo, quite relevant after our visit to Sydney. It was a shame we were unable to see the great views but it is all part of the backpacking experience! I just looked on Google images instead!
I woke on the morning of my birthday in Central Coast and was very relieved/happy that the rain had cleared and the sun had made an appearance. I opened some presents from home over our camp breakfast and we then headed towards Port Macquarie, with a stop at the Billabong Koala and Wildlife Park. We met many native Australian animals and I even got to hold a snake and a penguin! We then cooked up an Aussie BBQ including kangaroo burgers and enjoyed some beers. All in all, a memorable Aussie birthday!
We also enjoyed kayaking and paddle boarding at Settlement Point on an undisturbed tranquil river. It was such a relaxing and refreshing experience, we all soaked up the sun and drifted in the light breeze.
Coffs Harbour was next on the list, which boasted more incredible golden landscapes and breathtaking blue ocean waters. We had the unique experience of riding camels on this Aussie beach, and were even able to take selfies with the friendly animals.
The net location was probably my favourite during our East Coast adventure. I’d heard a lot about Byron Bay prior to our visit and listened to many glowing reviews of this famous chilled, hippie-like beach town. I couldn’t wait to see it for myself.
I certainly was not left disappointed. The atmosphere and feel of the place was as I had imagined. So chilled, relaxed and laid back. People were simply wearing flip flops and wandering the little shops and cafés in-between beach visits. And it indeed had a colourful hippie look throughout. It was filled with personality and individuality even compared to other Aussie towns and was, of course, filled with quirky and humorous Aussie residents, alongside many visitors who were in awe of the place just like myself.
We were lucky enough to experience another unique activity: kayaking with dolphins! I was simply amazed by my surroundings. Simply stunning. The golden sand was paired with the light blue hue of the sky which met perfectly with the darker colours of the sea at the point of the horizon, as the golden sun shone down upon us. We floated in double kayaks and paddled on the ocean surface. This was enjoyable enough in itself, and low and behold, a beautiful dolphin dived out of the water in front of us. Magic.
We then ventured up to another iconic city, Brisbane, and stayed in our first hostel since landing in Australia. It was great to be in the hostel environment again. This was another impressive city, but of a slightly smaller scale to Melbourne and Sydney. We were in Brisbane less than 24 hours before we flew from the airport to start another stage of our adventure in New Zealand. After seeing the beautifully impressive, unmistakably stunning Australia with its different cities and towns boasting many unique personalities, I can’t wait to explore its neighbouring country and see its beauty with my own eyes.