Australia – Beaches and Camper-van Cruizen

Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, Cairns, Airlie Beach, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Newcastle and Sydney

Welcome to Australia!

Melbourne

After a long 15 hour flight we land, head directly to check into our hotel and have a hot shower. Ditch the airplane sweats, get dressed up and go for a walk around the core of the city. Heading to the Central Business District, we first go up in the Eureka Skytower 88. A nice observation deck 88 floors up with breath taking views of the entire city and ocean. Next we head to the world famous Crown Casino to test our luck. Grab an expensive cocktail and throw a twenty sheet into a machine, like a fortune teller to see how the rest of the day would go. I ended up winning $50 and decided to take my money and run.  So we decide to run to as many roof top bars as we could find. work for the Aussie day was just getting out and being the British settlement they are, they flock for after work drinks making the perfect social situation.

After we finished hitting a few of the main roof top pubs, we decided it was time to head out of the CBD to another area called Fitzroy. A district of Melbourne city that is more hip coffee shops during the day and pubs and clubs during night. Brunswick street is a great place to start pub hopping and start meeting new Aussie and expat friends to guide you through the rest of your night! one shout out for fancy cocktails is the Rum Diary Bar. best cocktails and coolest staff in town. Our bartender liked us so much that he bought us free tequila shots which sent us well on our way to black out adventure. skip forward to flash backs of memories of security guards helping us jump over a construction fence to lead us on a short cut to who knows where and finally me being all alone with a dead phone and no clue where I was or what my hotel was called. luckily I had a hotel room  key card in my pocket and I convinced some lovely nice lady’s to book me an Uber home. Blackout Nick does magical things sometimes.

Great Ocean Road

The next day we rented a car and headed out onto the great ocean road. A 252 km stretch between Torquay and Warrnambool along the southern coast. In Australia a car rental will only cost you approx $50/day, so it is very affordable. Considering a single Uber, a short ways across town will cost you $30. We were planning to spend 2 days on this mini road trip which was a bit rushed, but it was definitely enough time to see all the sites. If you are looking for a little bit more of a laid back experience of the Great Ocean Road and you have a bit more time on your hands than I’d suggest spending 3 days with two over night stops along the way. Everyone we had talked to previous had recommended that we spend our overnight at Apollo Bay, so we booked a hotel there, but when we arrived and discovered Apollo Bay to be a very small beach town with only two bars along the main strip. But none the less we made a ton of cool international friends and had a great time. I’d recommend staying in the town of Lorne. It is a lot bigger with many more attractions to keep you entertained for the evenings.

The 13 main look outs and attractions along the Great Ocean Road are;

Bells Beach

Aireys Inlet

Great Otway National Park

Apollo Bay

Lavers Hill

Gibson Steps

The Twelve Apostles

London Arch

Loch Ard Gorge

The grotto

The bay of Islands

Cheese World

Warrnambool

Overall experience of Melbourne was awesome. I loved every minute of that city, It’s filled with cool and friendly people, it is very beautiful with its Professionally graffiti-ed streets such as Caledonian Lane, ACDC Lane and Duckboard Place, Cocker Alley, Rutledge Lane, Union Lane and Hosier Lane just to name a few. Melbourne is the very south of Aussie so expect much cooler temperatures. for myself as a Canadian it was perfect temperature in March, about 23deg celcius during the day and 15deg at night.

Cairns

The next day we boogie back to Melbourne, drop off the car and flew out to Cairns in the North East of Australia. The locals pronounce Cairns as ka-ns. If you pronounce it as Carns or Karens, they will not have a sweet clue where you are talking about!

We land in Cairns and get an Uber to our hotel. Immediately head out for a walk down the Esplanade and water front. Esplanade St is packed full of nice multicultural, water front restaurants with outdoor seating where you can watch the sunset while having a nice dinner.

In the evenings you can head to Shields St for a wide variety of pubs and bars for drinks and socializing. And then for late night drinks and dancing, head to Pier Bar.

In Cairns there are many attractions, with a population of 150,000 people, this is a moderate sized and laid back city. There are numerous day & boat trips you can do including an impressive Aquarium.

Cairns is a quaint little beach city, with chilled vibes and great people. A lot of expats flock there for a laid back retirement feel. I would definitely recommend Cairns as a must with its tropical and humid weather it is a perfect beach town.

Airlie Beach

Next up, we rent a camper-van and head out to Airlie Beach. But first we decided to acquire some Akubra’s for the drive! Akubras are the authentic traditional outback cowboy hats of Australia. Akubra being the family name of the makers of this specific kind of hat but are easily the most famous of the traditional hats. Akubra of Australia is to the Stetson of American Cowboy hats, Akubras are made from rabbit skin and fur and will easily last you 30 years if properly maintained which makes the $250 price tag easier to swallow.  We were told the best place to go Akubra shopping was Donohues in Townsville. So we set a course straight for there. When we arrived we were pleased to see the information we had acquired was absolutely correct. Donohues was a large department store full of everything authentic country western imaginable. We both picked an appropriate Akubra that suited our style and mood and headed out. Now just as a little disclaimer, I had mentioned that Akubras are an outback style of hat similar to what Crocodile Dundee wore. The north-eastern part of Australia, Queensland to be more specific is by no means the outback. It is more so a tropical rain forest feel, with a very high humidity and plush green vegetation as far as the eye can see through the rolling hills.

So we arrive in Airlie beach late at night, since it was an 8 hour day of driving including the stop for Akubras. We find a campground in the heart of Airlie beach, right off the main strip of bars on Shute Harbour road. Shute Harbour road is where you want to be for night life in Airlie. A long street packed full of little patio bars and pubs. In Queensland you cannot buy shots after midnight. Due to Australia fighting culture! More on that later.

The next day we head down to the Harbor and see what we can find for boat excursion day trips. Although the Great Barrier Reef stretches over 2900km and has more than 900 islands as part of its chain off the coast of north-eastern Australia, Airlie beach seems to be the main launching point for day trips, and tourism out to see it. There’s obviously anything from snorkeling to cage diving with Great White Sharks available. One day trip I’d recommend you do is the Whitsundays island Hill Inlet Lookout. It is a full day trip which will require you to do a medium hike to the look out point. But once you get there it is totally worth it.

Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays is one of the most beautiful places you will ever find on earth. Those damn Australians are hiding it down there and not telling to many people since they want to keep it as pristine as possible for future generations! I highly recommend putting this place on the very top of your bucket list. Multiple Islands with white sand beaches as far as the eye can see. Also very humid, hot and tropical.

Sunshine Coast

We decide to make another straight shot to Sunshine coast from Airlie Beach. A 1000 km drive which should take you 11 hours. All the locals told us that Sunshine Coast was better than Gold Coast and that the locals would be hanging out there. Everyone we asked said that the Gold Coast is more touristy. So we decided to do one night in SC and honestly, when we got there, it was pretty dead. No one around at all and not much to see or do. I don’t know if it was the day or the time of year or something, but we were thoroughly disappointed and were sad we wasted a day there. But we took advantage of this mellow day and caught up on some laundry and other things. sleep mainly!

To be Fair we only toured around Caloudra and visited Kings Beach which some locals told us was lit! but turned out it was dead. And was a quite small beach to begin with. We toured around the town and checked out its little clothing and gift stores and little restaurant and street food shops. But honestly there was no one around much at all. I wouldn’t recommend even stopping here. Just sail on through Brotha.

Brisbane

The next day we head into Brisbane, a short 45 minute jaunt straight south and return the camper-van. After roughing it for 5 days in that thing, we had a nice 5 star hotel booked for some luxurious comfort. Honestly I slept on a sheet of plywood for the last five days in that van and was sweating profusely at night with no AC unless the motor was running and 30 deg temp outside even through the night with not a stitch of wind. It was nice to get back to a major city.

Brisbane is a city I wish I had more time in. I loved it there and it was unfortunate that we had heard there wasn’t much to do in the city so we only planned for one night. Hearing previously that it was basically just a business hub and not too much was going on. That advice was dead wrong. A lot of the advice we had received about Australia was absolutely backwards. Brisbane was my favorite city with what seemed to have the most going on out of any city. There are magnificent walking areas with nice shops and patio pubs everywhere. The CBD is very clean and modern. So we noticed that there were lime Scooters just laying around on the streets everywhere and discovered that you could download an app, link your credit card and jump on any scooter for the low cost of 30 cents per minute and cruise at uncomfortably high speeds for these tiny little things and check out the city in style. so we did that for about an hour and finally stumbled upon a long strip of deck pubs under the Story Bridge that was a totally lit scene! So we ditched our scooters and headed in for drinks. Hundreds of really well dressed Aussies, the girls and guys alike were all beautiful people. something out of a magazine all having drinks and laughs and good times. It just so happened to be St Paddys in Brisbane. We finished up a few drinks under the bridge and then headed to Fortitude valley. Another well known pub and club area. We tested out a few pubs and drinks there then down into the CBD where we found multiple St Paddys day party’s booming. So naturally we bar hopped and  made some friends and as the night got older, we decided to go check out a bar we had heard of called Brooklyn Standard. A little hole in the wall down a shady dark alley. Nothing out of the ordinary for us two experienced travelers. We stand in the long line and finally get inside. This place was booming! A live music venue and bumping scene it ended up being a blast of a night!

Brisbane is underrated in my opinion. It is a large city with lots of different areas and cultures. One day was definitely not enough to explore nor give proper advice. All i can say, is definitely go, rent lime scooters, explore in style such areas as Fortitude Valley, Kangaroo Point Cliffs, South Bank Parklands, bars underneath the North end of the Story Bridge (they are lit), the CBD is excellent and I never went myself but i have to go back to explore North Stradbroke Island where apparently you can surf with dolphins. Every single person i talked to told me i was missing out hugely by not seeing this Island off the coast of Brisbane. I will just have to go back. So definitely spend at least a few days in Brisbane.

Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise

The next day, we wake up and head down to the Gold Coast to Surfers Paradise via rental car. The Miami of Australia, with high rise condos right on the beach and a happening beach scene and pretty decent night life. I had heard bad things about this city but this turned out to also be one of my favorite towns. Pretty much every piece of advice i had gotten about Australia before hand turned out to be dead wrong! Contrary to its name there is not much of a surfing scene here. Although there is a surfing scene, if surfing is what you are after, there’s definitely better spots to go than here. But for luxury, good food, good vibes, I’d definitely recommend this place.

  

More of a chill out touristy town, there is no shortage of activities to go on. there are multiple boat day trips and Seaworld not to far away. mainly chill out by the beach during the day and head out partying at night. make sure you grab yourself a late night Kebab. i had the best Kebab of my life here at 4am on night, Mind you, the booze may have swayed my opinion of flavor. but hey!

So back to Australia’s fighting culture. I guess Australia has had some pretty significant death rates due to late night after bar fighting. Differnt states in Australia have enforced their own drinking and Alcohol laws, which can seem pretty strange at first. But through my experience of guys walking by you , looking you straight in the eye and telling you to “go F yourself” just hoping you will swing first. These laws seem like a good idea. for whatever reason drunken guys in Aussie just seem to love getting into a late night bar fights. Maybe its something in the water or they are getting practice in for a real encounter with a Great White Shark in the water, who knows.

Just south of the Gold Coast is the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the few spots on the planet you can hold a Koala. the line up is long so get there early! It also boasts an impressive array of exotic animals and birds, including but not limited to, Koalas, Dingoes, Kangaroos and rare Pandas.

Byron Bay

Byron Bay, a small extremely laid back beach town with lots of hipsters and hippies lounging around smoking pot and having a beer. Byron Bay is the one town in Australia where it is not legal but yet acceptable to have a beer in public. While hanging out on a park bench or walking down the sidewalk, there are many people doing it and I personally walked by police officers that looked at me and looked at the beer in my hand and didn’t say anything. I’m not saying you will end up with the same result, but more than likely if you are acting sober and not making a scene, the most they will do is ask you to poor it out.

There are many great hikes and a few main beaches in this small town. There is Byron beach, the main beach which is magical, the way the tide comes in forming many little ponds and streams through the sands. Then at the peninsula is Wategos Beach, a laid back beach with surfers hanging around, there is an excellent view point up there to hike to as well. Then on the other side of the town is Tallow Beach. Also laid back, very wide and open. All these beaches are great for kayaking and stand up paddle boarding.

For dinner, head down to the main area in between Jonson St and Middleton St. Where you’ll have a wide variety of restaurants to choose from. For after dinner drinks, definitely head to Railway Friendly Bar for live music and a calm sociable atmosphere to make some great international friends. When the mood is right, take your new found friends to Cheeky Monkeys Bar where you literally dance on tables all night long to the sweet beats of a live DJ! it is so much fun, and can get a bit dangerous depending how drunk you get! High heels are not recommended.

Definetly put Byron Bay on your bucket list for an in the middle of your Australia adventure break from the hustle and bustle of the city’s and your busy jammed packed schedule.

Newcastle

Next up we fly down to Newcastle! A shipping and Exporting Harbor city with many signs of being an oil & gas city. It’s not really on the tourist radar, but i’d definitely recommend you check it out if you have the time. It boasts many beautiful cliff side beaches and has great vibes, extremely friendly locals, a great night life scene, great surfing, great shopping, great restaurants and excellent food. Head down to Nobbys beach for the day hike down to Nobbys lighthouse and pier. Another fantastic Beach front walk is Mereweather beach  through Bar beach and then up to the Memorial walk way which is called the ANZAC Bridge which stands for Australian, New Zealand Army Corps. A tribute to fallen soldiers of WW2. Then stop by the Mereweather Surf House for a refreshing drink. For nightlife in Newcastle, I’d recommend Honeysuckle Dr and Wharf road for many great activities and restaurants such as Honey Suckle Hotel and the Queens Wharf Brewery.

Sydney

Next up, Sydney. Now of course you have to go check out the Sydney Opera house. Whether it is just to grab that totally Instagram-able picture with the Opera House and the Sydney Harbor bridge in the background or to go catch a show. An early day show could cost you as little as $60 AU and a night time show will be somewhere in the hundreds. The shows are very random. They use this venue for anything and everything that comes through town from opera to theatrical plays to rock music venues. It’s a great architectural wonder of the world and its a must visit. The water front it is built on is just stunning with its high rise buildings it reminds us Canadians of Vancouver.

The Sydney Opera House is Located across from an area called The Rocks. A gorgeous wharf area embedded in the downtown core of the city which harbors many taxi boats and ships. Another area you must walk to and see is King Street Wharf. A lovely array of pubs, restaurants, shopping and patio bars over looking the water. You can spend many hours here and you must find Bourke Street Bakery to try one of their many different types of in house made meat pies. they are to die for!

If you are going to Visit Sydney, it is a must that you make time to head over to Bondi beach. A totally hip party beach just out of the city to the east which accommodates approximately 40,000 people on any given day. It has got a row of bars just up across the road that are excellent for relaxing and making new friends. This beach hosts many surf competitions and has dangerous rip tides, which make it a perfect place to have launched a lifeguard TV show called Bondi Rescue. An average of 800 lives per year are saved by the Bondi beach lifeguards and another 10,000 warnings are given each year for struggling swimmers due to uneducated tourists and big city living Sydney folks who are not familiar with swimming in the ocean.

I recommend you make time for the incredibly scenic Bondi Beach to Coogee walk.  A 6 km coastal walk that will take you from Bondi beach through Tamara Beach, Bronte Beach, Clovelly Beach and finally ending at Coogee Beach. Then reward yourself by heading into the Coogee Pavilion for a cold refreshment. I was extremely surprised how Lit that bar was! Trust me!

Overall, Australia is fairly expensive with an average beer at the bar costing you $12 AU, and a hotel will be roughly $100 per night. If you are as smoker, a pack of ciggys will cost you $40-$50 per pack of 25, so bring your own and bring some to sell to Aussies. Many of them still smoke even with this hefty price tag. But, Australia is a little, or rather large, slice of heaven that they are hiding down there from the rest of the world. Like a well kept secret they don’t want getting out, i was utterly surprised how beautiful every single place we visited was. With the worlds most beautiful beaches you didn’t think could possibly get better, the next place in Aussie on your list would surpass the last beaches beauty. Save your money and head to Australia as soon as financially possible.

Australia

Landscape – 10/10

Food – 9/10

Price – $$$$

Alcohol Price – $$$$

Locals – incredibly friendly

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