I say a little bit, because this incredible country is so large that we only gave it a fraction of the time and attention it deserves- BUT the parts we did explore were every bit worth sharing. We landed in Sydney too early to go to our hotel which was right down town in the middle of the downtown business and shopping district. So, since Alex had been there before and we were both excited for some hot beach weather- we got in our right hand drive Prius rental car and headed to Bondi Beach around 9 am. After a proper Aussie brekkie and a long black (translation: breakfast and espresso drink like an americano) we felt our feet back on the ground again.
I went off to explore the very cool shops around Bondi, and Alex down to the beach to rinse off his plane trip. I bought some new sunnies from a local designer and a new bikini- as the Australians have great beach fashion, and I am feeling pretty fashion-less at this point of our travels. We made our way back up north to another beach where the surf was a little better that day. Also, I want to apologize if my -ies on the end of words at first seemed cheesy and unnecessary to me- but its truly how Australians like to shorten words and make them cute. So, who am I to change it in writing? Plus, try it- its kind of fun haha.
Anyway we finally made it down to our hotel in the center of Sydney, which was a Hilton we got a great deal on Agoda. After a good night sleep we were back up the next day to walk down and explore Sydney Harbor and the famous Opera House skyline at Circular Quay. That day we saw an exhibit from Yoko Ono at the Contemporary Museum of Art Australia and some other very interesting permanent exhibits as well.
That night we walked into Darlinghurst from our hotel per the recommendation of a good friend and had a drink at a cool pub though I cannot remember the name.
We only spent 2 full days in Sydney, so Im sure we missed a lot of things, but we were anxious to get on the road and explore the rest of the east coast of Australia. On our way out of town, we made a detour to Manly beach which is another stop on the surf trail of life. The ferry stops here from Sydney, and Im pretty sure cruise ships as well. We had some lunch, did a bit of shopping and were on our way again.
We gave ourselves 2 weeks to drive from Sydney up to Brisbane where we had to return our car so we took our time cruising up the coast driving about 2-4 hours a day and choosing coastal towns to stop and explore. We stopped in Newcastle first, stayed 2 nights and explored the city by eating mostly. Newcastle has very nice beaches and we watched some hangliders take off and land on the cliffs. Then onto Forster which is a small beach town with ocean front shops, cafes and the coolest thing was the Forster Ocean Bath that is a an enclosed concrete pool on the beach that was built originally in 1936 that the residents enjoy still to this day.
After Forster, we went north to Nambucca Heads which was BEAUTIFUL. It is a beach where several rivers converge into the ocean, and the white sand and clear water create a rainbow of blue, green and very tropical looking waters. You can swim in the still river pools and walk along the rocks to the ocean where the waters mix and create some pretty intense currents.
Then we got up and moved northward to Byron Bay which is somewhere we both had been looking forward to seeing. Byron Bay is known in our circles for surf, fashion, art, hippies, and a cool Aussie beach lifestyle. We rented a little cottage in a resort just outside of town, and spent our days going into town, checking the waves and we even saw a Sufi music show. If you get to Australia sometime, Byron Bay is a must see and one of those special places in the world that are as much a vibe or feeling as a place to see.
After a few days in Byron, we moved just a few miles up to stay with a friend in Kingscliff. Kingscliff is a peaceful suburb on the ocean with very nice homes. We got to stay in one of these homes over the ocean with some locals who took us down to their surf club for Australia Day. Somewhat the equivalent to The 4th of July in the states, Australia day is a summer holiday where people bbq, party and get extra patriotic. Our friends showed us a good time, and one of them, Amy has a surf camp in Sumatra, Indonesia so we got to pick her brain a lot about how to go about the next part of our trip- while her partner Mark listened on. Just out of Kingscliff is a wild life reserve where I finally got to see the Koala bears and Kangaroos that I had been searching for along the roads while driving. These animals at Cirrumbin had been in captivity for generations and were peaceful and docile and so fun to watch. Koala habitats are endangered however as people are cutting down the Eucalyptus trees. And while the animals themselves are protected, this is their only food and home source in the wild so it is a bit of a problem.
After the park, we went on to Coolangatta to some more famous surfing spots and met up with another friend and fellow American who was in the area on business. He is a surf team manager for a major company and was traveling with some of his athletes, so we got to enjoy some meals and good conversation in between beach trips!
From Coolangatta, we drove up to Brisbane to catch our flight to Cairns, Queensland just north for an excursion on the Great Barrier Reef. Queensland is much hotter and more tropical than other parts of Australia we had been in. It felt like a completely different country! From the crocodile warning signs, and the jellyfish warnings on the beaches- we did not go swimming while up there with the exception of our Reef day, and we did that in a “stinger suit” which is like a thin wetsuit to protect from.. jellyfish stings. From Cairns, we took a boat out into the ocean about 45 minutes to the beginning of the Reef, anchored up and hopped in with our snorkels. We arent dive certified, so we missed a lot of the sea life for sure, but snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef is now a check on my bucket list! We saw a lot of fish that day, but the recent storms ruined visibility a little, and we could only see a limited area at Hastings Reef-when there are miles and miles of this wonder of the world that you can see from space and the airplane.
Also while in Queensland, we went to a crocodile farm. The price for skins of crocodiles is very very high and the demand was not going down so in order to control poaching and keep populations up, they began farming the giant prehistoric animals. This particular farm also had rivers and enclosures where very large old crocs live in peace as well. It was very cool to see these guys so close up and in a controlled environment. There was one 50 year old croc there who was captured because he kept eating the heads off a local farmers cows drinking in his pond. Kind of a hard dilemma about leaving them alone in the wild and coexisting with humans I think.
Total we were in Australia for a little over 3 weeks, and it was a great taste of adventure and culture. I hope to be back again to see all the things missed and left out, but until then, I will remember the great coffee, friendly people, wild animals, diverse land and cool beach culture and fashion. Two thumbs up for Australia.
Onward to Bali, and Indonesia.