Australasia, Australia, Travel

Magical Melbourne

Melbourne is my favourite city in Australia, and one of my favourite cities in the world. Why? Melbourne is dynamic, its has character and flair. Its cosmopolitan vibe is exemplified through the numerous hip hidden bars and individual restaurants, whilst the city is defined by its every growing arts and cultural scene. Melbourne is a constant buzz of people from different places congregating together to create this city, nosily and happily swapping stories and sharing pints. The streets are elegantly decorated, however I think you can only discover true Melbourne until you explore like a local, or act like a tourist and get lost in it. That’s what we did. We got lost by accident and found ourselves down some cool alleyways with graffiti, artsy cafe’s and vintage shops called “Shag”. If I only I had money I could have experienced what true city life was like, which means one day I will grace Melbourne again, but with a suitcase instead of a backpack.

The city has much to offer and you can easily pass your time quickly here. Head to Collins Street or Queen Victoria Market where you can catch glimpses at other tourists who are aimlessly wandering and browsing the stalls. Check out the flurry of vintage clothes shops at George Street (which will make you wish you weren’t broke) and rest your feet at the beautiful botanical gardens.

Melbourne

The main tourist destination in Melbourne is Philip Island. Philip Island is an island where at dusk, flocks of tourists sit on tiered seating in street lamps and watch hundreds and hundreds of tiny penguins dressed in their Sunday best shuffle to the beach to their various nests finding their partners with their specific mating calls, hoping for a night of romance and romping. It really is a fantastic experience to see all these animals arrive at a specific certain time, as if all listened to an alarm clock whilst swimming in the ocean, to remind them off their important date with their loved ones, – just respect them by keeping quiet and not using your camera with a flash on.

After spending half our time in the city centre we took the tram to glitzy and arty St.Kilda. Another reason why I love Melbourne! Sydney has hectic Bondi but chilled Manly, whilst Melbourne has its only beach spot with the perfect vibe to it. The beauty of nice restaurants and cafe’s dotted along the sea front, while people skate and bike along the pier, create this funky artsy feel to the place. We spent our nights drinking goon and went to Fitzroy street, famous for its gay clubs and cocktails. Ending our night at The Vineyard we came to the conclusion that St.Kilda definitely made us fall in love with Melbourne even more.

Melbourne

The one thing that I couldn’t recommend more is the hostel we stayed in at St. Kilda: Habitat HQ. Although many prostitutes gather on the street outside, don’t be put off. This hostel has a friendly atmosphere to it with free internet, sofas and a community area as well as a kitchen that has free food. FREE FOOD. Not even noodles that people leave behind, but chocolate cake and sausages. That place won us over by the most amount of food we ate in 4 months.

 

Australasia, Australia, Travel

Adelaide Churches and Wine- Controversial?

Adelaide is a location that is not on many backpackers agenda, or even, anyone’s agenda. Even the locals were gob smacked to find out we were British backpackers and we’d stopped at Adelaide, staying in their small cosy city for two weeks. Although- don’t let that deter you from travelling here. We wanted to go to every state in Australia and we did.

Deciding to venture into the capital of Southern Australia, Adelaide, we were shocked to find the large number of towering spires popping out behind every major building. We could see why it was called “The State of Churches”. We were also shocked that there was nothing to do. Well, I’m lying, not nothing, I mean we went to the SA Museum where there was an interesting Aboriginal exhibition on, we went to the Botanic Gardens, National Wine Centre, River Torrens, Central Market and Victoria Square– but all of that took us about four hours? We had done all the tourist hotspots in 4 hours.

Driving in SA

Not my picture
Not my picture

Although Adelaide has very little to do in the city, like most of Australia, the sights are out of the city centres and in the country side, filled with nature and beauty. We hired a car (although only being 18 we were let off as the manager was a “pommy” too) and we drove around Barossa Valley, the heart of wine country. The landscape was incredible, with the wind in our hair and the thrill of adventure at the steering wheel; we passed vineyard after vineyard, some varying in wealth and style, golden hay stacks in cultivated meadows, clumps of purple lavender clinging on to side bushes, boutique shops selling home made honey and delicious cheese, we wandered why we hand’t explored sooner. We stopped off wherever we wanted too and devoured as much freebies as we could. We took a different route home which allowed us to pass small towns of 500 people and strange large statues of random objects, as well as us ending at Mt Lofty Summit. I really recommend either going on a tour so you avoid driving and can get pissed or rent a car and take your time driving around the lofty hills of Barossa Valley.

Kangaroo Island

Another main reason why there were backpackers in Adelaide, was to visit to Kangaroo Island. Now as negative as you might have noticed my tone is about Adelaide, Kangaroo Island is one of my favourite moments in Australia. After an early pick up, (6am- we normally went to bed at that time let alone wake up for it) we hopped on a ferry across the sea. The benefit of having such a small tour group meant our travel guide was the same guy throughout the entire trip and we got to know the people we were with well. We spent the first day driving round areas of the island lush with vegetation, with Kangaroos roaming wild and free all over- we had some very close encounters with our car! We saw the Remarkable Rocks, a set of rocks which had been eroded by the weather and had created marvellous structures one could climb up on, a koala walk where we walked underneath peaceful sleeping koalas in ecstasy, climbed hills to see fantastic views of the lapping shore merging with mountains, and at night walked the rocky cliffs to see penguins waiting in eager anticipation in hidden rock crevices for their partners. After a seriously good steak like tasty meal of Kangaroo, we had a go at blowing a didgeridoo around the camp fire, whilst the stars were painted all over the night sky. That day was one of the best moments of my life and it felt so perfectly Australian.

not my picture
not my picture

The next day we woke up early to walk along an animal reserve where sea lions were bathing, monstrous in size and sheer forces of power, calling out for their partners with gusto that sounded like shrieks and wails. This was an amazing experience because of the close proximity we had with the animals, that we were so close to these tremendous beasts, we could see drops of the ocean roll down their thick furry skin. As I avoided eye contact- so I wouldn’t be impaled by a sea lion (what a thing to tell my parents), I watched in awe at their body movements, how they used their fins to stand and how they threw their bodies against one another in anguish, acting territorial and embellishing their male attributes to all the females who looked their way.

Kangaroo Island

Pelican manResearching the city centre in advance, we booked accommodation at the seaside town of Glenelg at Glenelg Beach Hostel. This meant we were able to wander along the sea front as we pleased, passing boutique shops, pubs, bars and dozens of fresh and tasty fish n chip shops. The atmosphere reminded us of Torquay in England: the vicious seagulls and the smell of vinegar, but the sun shining reminded us gently where we were. Over time, (as we had lots of it), we found more things to do. We swam with “Dolphin Temptation” in Glenelg, where you would wear a snorkelling mask and hold on to a rope whilst being dragged behind a boat and spot dolphins. It was the strangest experience I’ve ever had which involved swimming with dolphins- though we were told it had this cautious aspect to it because of the Great White Sharks, which made it all a bit more terrifying. I would have loved to cage dive with sharks here but the price was 500 dollars and being ridiculously broke, I decided against it.

Not my picture
Not my picture

We spent our first night meeting some locals at our hostel and we were taken to town the Adelaide way, filled with average night clubs, the night life wasn’t what I expected for the biggest city in South Australia. This meant we spent most of our evenings watching the sun set on Glenelg Beach with fellow backpackers, relaxing and getting some much needed rest.

Australasia, Australia, Extreme Sports, Travel

Sydney: A Sunny London?

Sydney was heaven for us. As my Aunt lives in Sydney, we were able to skip expensive hostels and stay in her lovely apartment overlooking the harbour. We had home cooked meals, drank wine that cost more than 5 dollars a bottle, and even had our own pool where we could recover from Sydney’s wild nights. I say it was heaven because of our accommodation, but the place itself I was confused by.

In Sydney, people ran early in the morning and worried about their mortgage, they sat on the metro and didn’t speak to one another, and they even rushed past each other avoiding eye contact. This place dare I say it… reminded me of London. It didn’t have that same welcoming feel of Australia, of what we were used to. We were both swept under this huge tidal wave of tourists that stumbled around Sydney and felt spat out. Although my reaction was of disappointment because of the superior attitude Sydney has as a city and on its people, looking around at its stunning coastal views, spectacular architecture and its healthy glowing people, you can see why the city seems brash- its because they have something to shout about.

Sydney Opera House

We spent our first day exploring The Rocks, the Sydney Opera House, the Botanical Gardens, Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, China Town and the Museum of Contemporary Art. I would recommend having a look at these famous sights of Sydney, at the beautiful architecture of each place and the individual style, how expensive restaurants and hip bars line each street, and where business men arrange plans of action whilst pigeons peck at their remains beneath them. To escape the daily grind of work and business, head to the Botanical Gardens, a vast park of manicured gardens with brightly coloured flowers and quirky designs. It acts as a place to escape from the noise and glamour of Sydney.

Chinatown in Sydney

Not my picture!
Not my picture!

To get away from the traditional postcard sights of Sydney, and to really explore the inner makings of this world famous city, head to George Street where great vintage stores (If you’re a fan I couldn’t recommend this street more) are in abundance. As well as QVB for its historical value and significance, Paddy’s Market for its range of sales and Hyde Park, where one can rest your tired and shopped out feet. Although I felt privileged to be walking and exploring one of the most well known cities on the planet, I didn’t feel a connection, until we were taken to Newtown. Newtown ignores Sydney’s pristine glamorous facade of opera, ballet and swish bars. Its like the skeleton in Sydney’s closet, where I finally found an essence of quirkiness to this seemingly perfect city. It is like Sydney’s Brick Lane, with that artsy unique feel, with graffiti lining the streets and small kitchens selling cheap and steaming Pad Thai. I fell slightly in love with this place, and it really is the only reason I didn’t run for the hills away from Sydney, so if you prefer a place with character and a little rough around the edges, head here to escape from traditional Sydney.

Newtown

We spent many days avoiding the cost of the metro and walking across the Sydney bridge to get from A to B. But why would you walk across it when you can walk over it hey? Although astronomical prices for what it really was, my friend and I walked over the Sydney Bridge seeing the whole of the harbour below, a magnificent experience, and surely one to tell the Grankids! I would go if you have the money and are not afraid of heights.

Sydney Bridge

A trip I would recommend to experience the countryside in New South Wales, is one to see the Blue Mountains. Set in the Blue Mountain National Park, it is known for its dramatic set of cliffs, its iconic oddly shaped rock formation of ‘Three Sisters’ and its dense eucalyptus forest. Walks can be arranged through the forest, although should be done well in advance. On a day trip, we took the cable car up to the viewpoint, allowing us to take in the full sight and splendour of the mountains, minus any exercise. A visit to the Jeholan Caves is also a must, with 11 caves and an abundance of underground rivers with cavernous craggy limestone, walk into the underground depths of darkness to this beautiful bewitching world.

Blue Mountains

I would really also recommend Manly Beach, a short ferry ride from Darling Harbour where life seemed to be more, well, Australian. The beach has more of a laid back relaxed feel then what we found at Bondi. Bondi was a constant fight over a patch of sand, where every bronzed bulky body competed against each other for attention. Manly, felt more authentic, more original and had some rewarding coastal walks along its shore.

Bondi Beach Art on the way Sand Sculpture

Staying in my aunts place meant that we didn’t get a first hand experience of night life, however that did not stop us! We went to a couple of house parties, Side Bar, The Gaff and Scubar, (these places are all backpacker places) as well as World Bar -where they sell their drinks in tea cups- a cute and deadly combination.

Not my picture
Not my picture

 

Australasia, Australia, Extreme Sports, Travel

Surfing in Byron Bay

Byron Bay is known as the surfing capital of Australia- the land of surf, which means essentially, Byron Bay is at the forefront of the surfing community. Here, endless breaks pile on the calm beaches of Byron Bay, and unlike Bondi Beach, it doesn’t matter how well your surf, or what waves you conquer, but the attitude you bring to each wave. The relaxed atmosphere of the beach town encompasses all those that visit, no matter how young and untamed they are, Byron Bay is a way of life, not a destination. Each person who joins as a member of the Byron Bay community seems to get stuck here and lose track of time, becoming barefooted, free spirited and open minded.

Our trip to Byron was a brief one, unlike most of the backpackers whom visit here, but jam packed I would say. Starting our stay with my friend skydiving (I skydived before in England and couldn’t really afford a second go) meant that we missed the bus tour to Nimbin. Well every cloud has a silver lining… or your friend jumps through them? I have heard great things about Nimbin, this little hippie village that every member smokes marijuana and even has a museum dedicated to the stuff! However, I have also heard that this hippie town is not so free as it once was, becoming a place for drug fuelled ambushes and a dangerous place for backpackers to buy their herbs from. Although many backpackers visit Nimbin and spend their evenings back in Byron Bay in hammocks and creating jamming sessions with strangers, I advise to take caution when visiting Nimbin, whatever your purpose, as I have heard a fair share of horror stories of what Nimbin is like after dark.

Byron Bay, the town part is small, so it doesn’t take long to wander around the arty shops and chilled out bars. We even walked up to the Lighthouse to see the whole view of Byron Bay which was beautiful. However, the main purpose of our trip was a crash course to learn how to surf with Mojo Surf in just two days. All I have for these guys is praise and recommendations as they were so professional in instructing us, preparing us and giving us the confidence to finally tackle some waves. After frequent waves of sea smacking you in your face, you feel a little disheartened, but with their support I finally managed to SURF. And more than once!

Surfing in Byron

We spent our first night in a hostel called Aquarius which I can’t recommend more, whilst we stayed the following nights in Nomad’s– a chain throughout Australia and New Zealand. Although a good hostel with great kitchen, nice staff, balcony’s and a HOT TUB, it didn’t have the same relaxed vibe as Byron Bay- probably as it was such a large and chain hostel, although we had a great time.

We were there for Halloween, which meant we were able to venture out and explore the fiery night life (despite our need to rise early to surf), after conjuring last minute costumes of our bed sheets turning us into “Greeks”, we headed to Cheeky Monkeys for a cheap meal. Cheeky Monkeys is a typical backpacker bar with games throughout the evening and similar wild behaviour. Don’t spend the whole night here, head to Woody’s Surfer Shack and La La Land to explore more of what Byron Bay has to offer.