Now for part 2 of this mammoth blog! Good luck as you’re about to read (potentially) just under 4000 words.
It was FINALLY time to pick up our campervan. We were using a company called Travellers Autobarn and I was absolutely buzzing!
This was our lil van that would be taking us (hopefully) all the way up to Cairns. Now it was time to start the roadtrip.
FIRST STOP – BLUE MOUNTAINS!
The Blue Mountains I had heard about as one of my dads friends moved from the UK to Australia and decided to live in the Blue Mountains.
I really like beaches and being by the sea however I am far more of a countryside kinda gal and so I couldn’t wait to visit the national park.
Unbelievably, the Blue Mountains are only a couple of hours away, if that, from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. Looking out at the views anyone would think a city was hundreds of miles away.
The Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains
I will never ever get over these views. When people ask me “what was the highlight of the trip” the Blue Mountains without a doubt come up very high on that list. They were just incredible.
After seeing my dads friends in the Blue Mountains and staying 1 night in a campsite, we headed back towards Sydney and began heading up north.
Port Macquarie was our next stop and here was the next zoo – Billabong Zoo.
It reminded me a little bit of Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, very small and in my opinion far from adequate. Their main attraction is the Koala breeding centre and the wallaby walk through (Macropod Meadow). I’ve noticed so far that Australia is far more focused on educating people with regards to conservation and the need to look after species compared to the UK. They offer a far more hands on experience letting you feed the wallabies and kangaroos as well as holding the Koalas. Can’t say I agree with the holding situation however I think it is effective in making people develop an interest in these animals.
I also managed to not break anymore equipment!!!
The next couple of days we continued to drive up north stopping off at beaches and various other places. The next main stop was Byron Bay, the hippiest place on earth it was so cool!
Apart from the obvious things like flights and the Camper, we didn’t book anything until we were out there. To find campsites we relied on an app called ‘Campermate’ which was epic! Such a good app. You can download all the campsites and have them on your phone so you can look places up even when you don’t have internet. They also work over in New Zealand too so if any of you are planning a trip to one of these countries, this app will become your best friend. ( https://www.campermate.co.nz/welcome/index )
We struggled to find campsites in Byron that weren’t extortionate. It is like campervan central and so obviously all the campsites are pretty pricey. We had been recommended a place called ‘The Arts Factory’ which was a hostel but also allowed campervans to park up in their car park as long as you use their facilities. Obviously there was no electric or water point to plug the van into however we always tried to keep everything topped up and charged in case situations like this arose. There was also a lounge with plugs and free wifi so we could still charge our laptops, cameras and phones in there.
The Arts Factory is so popular, helped by the fact that it was also one of the places The Inbetweeners filmed at for their second movie.
The day after arriving in Byron Bay we ventured out quite early in the morning to mooch around the town. We had been into town the night before and had the $5 dominoes deal, yeah thats right – $5 pizzas!!!) and found a really cute spot overlooking the beach (not that you could see the sea at that time of night) whilst peopled busked and just enjoyed the atmosphere.
View Point during our walk (iPhone 7)
I thought we were just popping into town to look around the shops and then carry on the drive onto our next stop. Being quite early I completely forgot to put suncream on! It would have been fine had we popped into the shops and then into the van however 2.5 hours later we returned after doing a mini hike and I was burnt. At first I thought it was only a little burn but after a few hours of driving and me getting redder and redder I soon realised that I was extremely sunburnt. How I didn’t develop sun stroke after that I do not know.
Safe to say the next few days was spent wearing tops that covered my shoulders and moving very very carefully. I literally felt like I was on fire, I couldn’t even lay on my side in bed, I just had to stay laying on my back. It wasn’t fun.
The next day we drove to the next campsite early-ish as we wanted a day to just chill out as we were exhausted from having the busiest days ever. This campsite we had to book a few days in advance as it was Australia Day and so all of Australia has the weekend off. Because of this it was of course extremely expensive however it was the only one that had space left and we had to book it for 2 nights.
I was so shocked when we turned up. We got escorted, ESCORTED!, to our pitch and then shown around. It was pure luxury I kid you not. This was like some kinda 5* campsite that we had turned up to and I was loving it. They had a swimming pool, a HUGE luxury camp kitchen that had just been refurbished, and the most amazing amenities.
The next day was the big day, Australia Day. I didn’t know what it was or what they were celebrating until I googled it. I also didn’t realise how many people detest Australia day but I won’t get into that. If you want to know then have a google!
Our campsite wasn’t too far away from Surfers Paradise. Surfers Paradise is another popular spot amongst tourists as you’ve got the city behind you full of skyscrapers and the beach directly in front of you.
Surfers Paradise was packed! We hadn’t done much swimming by this point and definitely wanted to have a swim at one of the most popular beaches in Aus.
Before we went swimming we ended up getting cornered by this Essex bloke trying to sell us these pub crawl tickets which, for some reason, we felt obliged to purchase…what a rubbish bar crawl that was! Literally it was awful however I bumped into one of my old school friends randomly in the bar which was pretty crazy and unexpected!
There was also a market before the pub crawl ,along the seafront, which was nice to look around however in all the markets that we went too I kept seeing stalls selling Crocodile skins etc which wasn’t the nicest thing to see.
Stall selling Croc leather, taken on iPhone
After spending a couple of nights in the luxury campsite and looking around Surfers it was now time to carry on.
We wanted to visit another national park after seeing what the Blue Mountains were like and Jake really wanted to find a waterfall and so we headed towards Lamington National Park.
Again it wasn’t too far of a journey from the city to the National Park, probably around an hour. Much like the Blue Mountains it had epic views!
We were planning on staying in the National Park at the campsite however it was fully booked and so we had to head out of the national park and find somewhere else to stay.
We ended up travelling 1.5 hours up to Brisbane which meant that we were one day ahead of our plan which was good. It meant we would have an extra day in the Whitsundays.
Brisbane to me was like London. On the day we went it was pretty unfortunate that it was POURING down with rain and so I didn’t get to see it looking all lovely and pretty. I didn’t think the place was anything special although I reckon if I was to go there again on a sunny day I’d love it.
We spent the afternoon wandering around the city and trying to dodge getting soaked before carrying on a bit further and ended up in Sunshine Coast. I knew one of my school friends was out in Australia and so had planned to meet up with him at some point whilst out there. This was the closest stop to his before we carried on and so we met up with him as well as a couple of others I knew from school which was nice!
It was really nice to see familiar faces but also weird to think we are literally thousands of miles away from home and still seeing people you know.
The next day it was time to visit the Zoo I had been so interested to visit….Australia Zoo! Being such an iconic zoo worldwide and having that link to Steve Irwin, I wanted to see how they worked as a zoo and how they dealt with the fact that they probably are the most famous zoo ever due to Steve Irwin.
As soon as you get there you see pictures of Steve Irwin. Allll over the place which is so understandable! If it wasn’t for him, this zoo may well not still be here and be as recognised as it is today.
The zoo was originally opened by his parents in 1970 as a reptile park predominantly focused on Crocodiles. In the 90’s Terri and Steve renamed it to Australia Zoo with their philosophy being:
The zoo animals came first, the zoo team came second, and the zoo visitors came third.
The Zoo itself was pretty big and some enclosures seemed a lot more suitable than others which is to be expected. Obviously like I said, they are very much Steve Irwin focused. This helps as they are very conservation focused too and by having Steve Irwin as the face of not only the zoo but also their conservation projects, people develop more of an interest as he was such an iconic and well loved man.
Compared to other zoos I did get the sense that they do actually care. They have a wildlife hospital on site that has helped save thousands of animals. The hospitals mission:
To rescue, rehabilitate and release sick, injured, orphaned or displaced native wildlife and contribute to research that supports conservation of Australian native fauna.
Australian zoos seem SO much more focused on the conservation of specie compared to the UK. I don’t agree with holding, petting and feeding these animals however in Australia you get a better opportunity of doing just that which in turn is helping with conservation efforts. By letting people touch them, they develop an interest in that animal and hopefully want to conserve it. Again, like I said, I really don’t agree with these methods but they do seem to be working…
After visiting the zoo we then headed on to Hervey Bay. From there we would be doing the Fraser Island Tour.
Fraser Island was such a crazy place, their highway is the beach!
Fraser Island is a heritage listed island and is considered to be the largest sand island in the world at 1,840 km (Sq). It is made up of sand that has been accumulating for approximately 750,000 years on volcanic bedrock that provides a natural catchment for the sediment.
It has an abundance of life including birds, reptiles and amphibians including the saltwater crocodile! The island also has rainforests, eucalyptus woodland, mangrove forests, wallum and peat swamps, sand dunes and coastal heaths.
My favourite spot on our tour was Lake McKenzie. It was absolutely beautiful. The water was so clear it was crazy!
It was an all day trip which was filled with so much to do. It was a really good tour.
The next day we were exhausted from Fraser Island but drove about 4 hours to Rockhampton on possibly the hottest day ever. There was a zoo I had seen something about online and so wanted to check it out and get some more photos. Jake was so done with all the zoos but I still dragged him along!
Rockhampton Zoo is like the UK’s equivalent of Dartmoor Zoo but even worse. It was the smallest zoo I have ever been to in my life. The weird thing about it was that it was free. You don’t have to pay a penny (or dollar!) to get in. The chimp enclosure was heartbreaking. I tried to get photos of them however they were all at the back out of site from the public.
The worst thing was the spiders. I happened to look up at one point and saw the biggest spider I have EVER seen. We’d done pretty well on the creepy crawly front having only seen one since we got there. Jake downloaded a spider identifier and it was so funny watching him try and work out what spider was what. Me on the other hand just wanted to run.
After seeing that one they just all seemed to appear. They weren’t even that high up so we were both petrified. We refused to go any further and went back to the van – successful zoo trip that was…
My idea of hell!
We then set off again driving another 5 or so hours (it was a very long day of driving) to Airlie Beach. Hands down one of my favourite places from the whole trip. If I was to live over there I’d either live in Melbourne or Airlie Beach, both such different places but both just as amazing.
Jake was lucky enough to live near Airlie Beach on the Whitsundays which was the most incredible place I’ve ever seen in my life. I am SO jealous that he lived here for a few months.
The campsite that we stayed in was another brilliant one. Literally a 5 minute drive from the centre. We booked onto a Whitsundays tour with a company called Ocean Rafting which was epic!
The ‘skipper’ was absolutely mental speeding along but it was ridiculously fun. There was 2 boats (our one pictured above) which were literally side by side going so so fast that you could literally pass food to over each other. It was petrifying but hilarious at the same time.
We had 2 snorkelling stops before we made it to Whitehaven beach. We didn’t see much sea life as it was the highest tide of the year when we were there but it was still nice to experience different areas.
Me, looking extremely happy to be in the sea!
Once we got to Whitehaven beach I was just blown away, it was just something else. Jake has had the picture of it as his wallpaper on his laptop since i’ve known him and so to see it in real life was just crazy.
Absolutely incredible – Whitsundays
It was the hottest day so far that we had experienced and so it was so nice being able to spend a lot of the day in the sea.
Walking up to the viewpoint where I got these photos (above & below) was absolutely ridiculous. Such a short walk but in that heat it was exhausting. I’ve honestly never sweated SO much in my life it was pretty disgusting!!
Jake and I
This was with out a doubt one of the most amazing days of my life. Standing there looking out at that view just didn’t seem real. Whilst we were up there you could also see stingrays swimming around in the shallows. It was just unforgettable.
We spent the next full day exploring Airlie beach. I very nearly booked a Skydive for over the Whitsundays however I wanted us to spend money on something we could do together rather than me just going off and skydiving on my own (Jake had already done it a couple of years ago).
When we were walking from the campsite to the bus stop this car pulled over with an elderly (ish) couple in and they offered to drop us into town. They were English and had seen us carrying our bags and lunch cool bag and didn’t want us struggling in the heat! They were so lovely. When speaking to them in the car they explained how they try and help travellers out when they can as they know that most are on a tight budget. Apparently on a certain Wednesday of the month they’ll take travellers out for free for a sail around the Whitsundays which is really kind of them.
In quite a few of the towns and cities they have these ‘lagoons’ which are basically big public pools. We had a swim and relaxed in there for a while before going back and cooking dinner.
From Airlie Beach we then headed to Townsville which would be our base before heading to Magnetic Island. To get there we had to get a ferry over. There is plenty of things to do over there with lots of hire car companies where you can hire these quirky vehicles to drive around the island. We wanted to save some money and so just got a bus to the spots we wanted to visit.
We hired a Kayak when we got to one of the main parts of the islands and headed out for an hour. There was quite a strong current so it wasn’t the most relaxing of kayaking trips but it was still fun!
The man who runs the kayaking place told us that just around the corner was a little beach that might be nice to visit so we headed there.
Unfortunately when we got there it was evident to see that it wasn’t a sandy beach…it was just covered in coral. It was heartbreaking.
Literally everything that looks like pebbles and sand in this image is coral…
After kayaking back to the main land we took the bus to Forts walk which is really popular. Normally you can see wild Koalas but unfortunately we didn’t see any 😦
It was a nice walk though, we didn’t go all the way as we would have missed the last bus so just headed back down to the docks and got the ferry back over.
The journey that unfolded that evening was probably the most horrific journey and night I’ve experienced.
We planned to drive a good few hours after visiting Magnetic Island to Mission beach as we needed to get there in time for white water rafting in the morning. We ended up driving just 2 hours. It was torrential, and I mean TORRENTIAL, rain and our wiper started to really rub on the window. The rubber had come off. We pulled over and Jake wrapped some electrical tape just to try and keep it on and stop making such an awful noise.
Half an hour after putting the electrical tape on, the wiper literally flew off. On the drivers side. I could not see a thing. It was 8 or 9pm, I couldn’t see much as it was dark outside and so now I was having to contend with night driving and half a windscreen that you couldn’t see out of.
It was genuinely petrifying.
To make matters worse the closest campsite we could find was the weirdest place I have ever been to and we had a leak through the roof of the van. There were signs everywhere saying ‘BEWARE OF CROCODILES’ which was so unnerving. We literally parked up, plugged the van in and stayed in the van for the rest of the night. We both refused to even get out to go to the loo or brush our teeth! We were also the only van there…
We got up for white water rafting the next day pretty early as we still needed to drive a little bit further to get to the meeting point. We signed the papers for health and safety and got our shoes for the rafting. An hour or so after we turned up and had got ready they broke the news that the rafting had to be cancelled because it was too dangerous due to the severe rain fall we were having. I was gutted for Jake as he had done it before and was really excited to do it again. We booked it for the next day and headed to Mission beach where we just relaxed for the day, caught up on work and facetimed family.
The next day the rafting got cancelled again 😦 We got it refunded and did the last leg of our road trip up to Cairns. The trip had gone so quick!
I was getting so sick and tired of not being able to see out of the screen because of the wiper and so we got that fixed, even though we only had 1 day left. We then visited Josephine Falls. We weren’t planning on it however we saw the sign for it by the side of the road and so decided to check it out. It was magnificent!
We did get absolutely soaked…
It was very impressive to see. Due to the sheer volume of water that had fallen over night the waterfall was almighty.
After we had dried off from the walk, honestly it looked like we had gone swimming, we drove to Cairns. Our final campsite was pretty nice so was nice to end the trip there. We walked to the night market in Cairns which is pretty popular and big and then went back and cooked Fajitas. We did pretty well on the food front. Having a boyfriend as a chef is pretty useful even when you are living on a tight budget!
It was now time to return the van. Even though the wiper flew off, one side of the stove only worked and we had a leak, doing a road trip up the east coast of Australia was one of the best experiences of my life.
After going back to the hostel life we booked onto a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. I was so bloody buzzing to finally see one of the most famous places in the world.
Oh – my – lord… the journey on the boat out to the pontoon was horrific. I have never experienced sea sickness in my life and hope I never have to again. Jake was fine as he had taken tablets however I was like ” naaah i’ll be fine!” – famous last words. It was awful. It was a pretty big boat that had the capacity for a good 250 people however sea sickness got the better of a good few people.
Of course the journey was worth it. The company we went with was called ‘ Reef Magic Cruises’ and had its own private pontoon which was equipped with a kitchen for the buffet as well as diving equipment, snorkelling equipment, glass bottom boat and a couple of other new underwater technologies that are coming out such.
There was a really confident Humphead Wrasse which just wanted to be stroked it was crazy! He was called Wally and would swim up to everyone and have a photo with them.
There were so many specie of marine life there it was lovely to see although also again heartbreaking to see all the bleached coral.
We spent a couple of days back living the hostel life in Cairns and exploring what the city had to offer before flying back to Melbourne and spending the final night in Australia.
View from the airport
All I can say is that it was the best month of my life. Getting to travel over to the other side of the world and see the East Coast was something i’d do again in a heartbeat. For anyone thinking of doing it, JUST DO IT! You would not regret it.
If you’ve made it this far I’m actually shocked, this was one huge blog!
Thank you for reading!
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