Hi all! I’m writing this to you from the other side of the world – bit hard to do when you’re upside down…. (it’s okay, I know how funny I am..)
I’ve just finished an incredible two weeks travelling around Australia with my best pal, Katie. We stopped by Sydney, Brisbane, Byron Bay and Cairns, spending a few days in each along the way. And there’s no better way to sum it up really than to stay it’s been incredible. Australia is so huge, it seemed like every time we landed in a new place we’d landed in a new country.
We had a tick list of things to do before we got here, and thankfully we managed to do everything – surfing, snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef and meeting (and cuddling!!) koala bears.
The best way to describe this trip would be to call it an ‘Australia Highlights Tour’ – we did everything you’d want to do in a year long trip, but condensed into a small amount of time (and no, we didn’t go to Melbourne, and yes I know that it’s great but we only had 2 weeks so let’s let it go).
Below I’ve written a summary of our trip along with some of my favourite pictures. However it’s just a round up of a lot of things, as there will be mini City-specific posts coming!
After landing in Sydney, checking in at the Wake Up Sydney Hostel and trying to cope with the jet lag and heat, we set off to see the Opera House for the evening where we sat in the sun and enjoyed a ice cold jug of Sangria which, frankly, I’m still dreaming about. Visiting the Opera House was on the top of our list and being there and looking out on the harbour was a pinch-me moment.
After an early night (#jetlagproblems) the next day we took advantage of the free walking tours held at Wake Up Sydney, which even included a free ice lolly beforehand. We walked up through Hyde Park, onto the Botanical Gardens and then back to the Sydney Opera House again. It was such a great tour, and definitely a great way to see the city – but it was our first experience of the Sydney heat so we didn’t last long until we had to head back…
That evening we headed out again to go across the Sydney Harbour bridge and to Luna Park which is one of the most terrifying theme parks I’ve ever seen. Then we hopped on a ferry and headed over to the Rocks, which is a lovely little area filled with restaurants and bars to spend the evening cooling down.
Unfortunately on our second day in Sydney we were met with torrential rain, so after a brilliant brunch and then a marathon of different coffees and teas at our hostel coffee shop Roy’s, we just had to wait out the rain. Once everything cleared in the early evening we set out for Darling Harbour to try Kangaroo Steak for the first time! It tastes pretty much just like beef, but when in Rome and all that…
Next onto Brisbane, which I have to admit we found a bit.. odd.. It was a lovely city, and the Southbank area with the manmade pool/beach is so nice, with some really lovely restaurants surrounding it, it just seemed quiet and there didn’t seem to be any people around? We were only in Brisbane for one night, so after having a bit of a sunbathe we stopped by the nicest Mexican restaurant for a sharing chicken fajita platter, and of course some frozen margaritas. We also experienced ‘Donut Time’ which is a chain across Australia that sell absolutely huge donuts – I think mine had the entire calorie allowance I’m meant to eat in a day…
The next morning we set off for one of the main things on our tick list for Australia – The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Having a cuddle with a Koala was one of the main things I wanted to do in Australia – but I’m quite uncomfortable with zoos and the like, and didn’t want to end up at a Koala place that seemed too much like SeaWorld.
Because of this quite a few people recommended Lone Pine to me, and so we headed out on a 15 minute drive from Brisbane to hug some Koalas. The place was so lovely and we got to see Koalas (obviously), Kangaroos, Dingos, Wallabies and Crocs, to name a few. The whole hugging-a-koala bear part was great, and it didn’t feel like the koalas were being forced into anything. The amount of times I saw a koala refuse to hug someone and the keeper would just say okay, feed them some more leaves and take them back to their stand for a nap and look for a koala who fancied a hug instead. I loved it, and now I have a framed picture of me and a Koala bear, because who wouldn’t want that?
After we left Lone Pine we set off on a 2 hour journey to Byron Bay in our hire car – which was slightly terrifying, as Australian Automatic/Manual joint cars are not like English cars at all. But soon as we were on our way and on the Australian motorway everything was fine, we drove along the Gold Coast and finally arrived at Byron Bay, to stay at the Byron Palms Guesthouse.
The Guesthouse was – in my opinion – one of the nicest places we stayed during this trip and the weather was so lovely it felt like we’d landed in a little retreat. After sorting ourselves out (long story short – the hire car broke so we had it towed away and refunded) we headed into town for something to eat, and settled on a bar on the beach front for some prosecco and a good chat.
The next day I had booked myself in for a half-day surf lesson with Mojo Surf, so we spent the morning sunbathing at the beach, before hopping in a coach for the surfing lesson. They took us out to a beach (I can’t remember the name – but I think they like to keep it a secret anyway!) and after kiting up in rash tops and picking up a surfboard the lesson began.
For us beginners on the lesson (there were others who were on 3-day/week long courses which looked super cool) we had a quick run through of the basics on the beach, with lots of jumping-up practice. Then we were in the water trying to catch waves – and I was vaguely successful! I managed to get up on my board a few times – with the help of the instructors who are super helpful – but I kept falling off before I could fully get up.
There’s a picture below of me and the surfboard (unfortunately none of me in the water, but you’ll have to take my word for it) and you can see how absolutely massive it is. It was also really heavy, and so I shouldn’t have been surprised to wake up with really stiff arms the next day…
Anyway, for our final evening in Byron Bay we ate at Byron Fresh Cafe, which we had actually had brunch at the same day (it was really good okay…) and spent the evening with drinks watching a local band play on the street. I really loved Byron Bay and the atmosphere there, I would definitely say it was the best stop on our trip, and I really want to go back!!
And then we were off to Cairns! Told you this was a whistle stop trip…
Unfortunately in Cairns we started off with a few issues with our accommodation! Our first Airbnb was way out of the main city, despite it not really being highlighted in the description when we picked it. I won’t link/name it here, as it was a nice flat with it’s own pool, but we were after something in the centre as the outskirts of Cairns are very… quiet…
So once we arrived and both agreed it wasn’t for us, we put in a quick cancellation request through Airbnb and booked ourselves in for a two person room in a central hostel for the next night. So we started off in Cairns with an evening in our Airbnb with a bottle of prosecco and Japanese Take Me Out on the telly and seriously you need to watch this show, it’s on another level…
So after that false start to Cairns we finally kicked off our time there by checking in to the Jack Backpackers Hostel which was in the centre of the city. We spent the day looking around, and having a dip in the lagoon on the seafront. Then the next day we finally got to see what we were there for – the Great Barrier Reef.
We booked a day trip with the Reef Daytripper company, who were brilliant. We had spent a while (over pancakes at Helga’s Pancakes may I add) looking through all the options and decided on the Reef Daytripper because it involved travelling out on a Catamaran, and they mention unlimited tea and coffee which obviously sold it for me.
Our day on the reef involved a 2 hour boat trip out to the reef, two snorkel trips with the option for a scuba dive if you wanted to pay extra, a lunch in between and complimentary glass of wine on the way back – absolute winner. I’ve never snorkelled properly before, and whereas I can swim I’m not the most confident swimmer, but that wasn’t a problem and the staff onboard were great with running us through the rules and what we’d be doing, and one of the crew took us on a little tour of the reef pointing out everything to see.
Whilst on the reef I saw multiple turtles, a nemo and a dory fish, jellyfish, unicorn fish(!!), some huge clams and a massive barracuda which was slightly terrifying (follow the link to see what they look like). It was such a brilliant experience, and whereas I didn’t get many good pictures there as you can see from the blurry turtle pic above (the go pro broke on me) what I saw was incredible, so you’ll just have to take my word for it and go visit yourself 😉 But check below for a mini clip of a sea turtle!
So, after a day on the reef and some more drama with our hostel room (broken air con in 40 degree heat is not the one, but it’s cool (literally) as we got an upgrade) Our last day in Cairns was spent by the lagoon again, whilst also enjoying our upgraded hostel room and it’s air con, before going out for dinner at a ‘Bush Tucker’ restaurant called Dundee’s to try an ‘Australian platter’ which included emu, kangaroo, crocodile and baramundi. This was another thing on our list to try in Australia, and I’m glad we did, trying crocodile was an experience – and it’s also actually really nice!
Back to Sydney
Then we were back to Sydney! And this time we checked into a hostel called The Village Surrey Hills in an area just behind Central Station and near to our last hostel, but the atmosphere was so different and the surrounding area seemed really cool – it really reminded me of San Francisco. As with most places we had to wait around for check in so went to The Blacksmith cafe for a lovely little lunch.
That afternoon we met up with my friend Zoe – originally from Sydney but now living in the UK – who was back in Australia, and she took us on a beach-hopping tour of around the Sydney coast. It was so nice and such a great tour of the best beaches, with the loveliest, softest sand we’d experienced throughout the whole holiday. We stopped at a few beaches before finishing for dinner at one, which as you can see below.. was pretty delicious!
Our final full day in Sydney/Australia was spent at Bondi Beach, which everyone from Australia had told us not to visit (it is quite touristy) but we loved it! We had to go to Bondi beach as it’s such a Sydney staple to visit. The beach was great and the strip was lined with souvenir shops and little boutiques that were lovely to browse around.
We stopped for brunch at Speedo’s cafe which was fab, I don’t think I’ve actually ever had better smoked salmon before, it was seriously the best. And just look at my friend’s pancakes – so beautiful. So we spent our last day at Bondi, walking along the beach and picking up souvenirs for our families and friends back home.
Our last evening was spent back in the place we visited first of all – the Opera House! We wanted to go back for a visit, and to get a picture of the pair of us (it’s quite hard to do when it’s just the two of you!). We stopped by for some fish and chips and prosecco, finishing our trip in one of our favourite spots in our favourite way…
Just to quickly round up the post – we spent our last morning before catching our flights in a cafe in Surrey Hills called the Three Williams. It was so nice in there, and the staff were super friendly. We had a lovely brunch of eggs and toast, as well as iced coffee – Sydney is seriously good at coffee.
SO that’s it! Phew what a long post, possibly my longest? But how else to sum up such a long and jam-packed holiday. It was such a great trip, and as I sit here now back in England (this post writing has taken me from Sydney airport to my living room in London) I still can’t get over how much we managed to fit into that small amount of time. We had such a brilliant time, and I’m glad I have so many of these pictures to always look through.
Speaking of pictures, please check out my Grundy Travels Instagram which will feature pics from my trip, and also my personal account which has a few more!
I hoped you enjoyed this post, apologies of the long ramble, but shorter City guides will be coming shortly!