Surreal. That is the word I can best describe the feeling I had landing in Australia. This has been a country that I have wanted to come to for so many years. It feels amazing to finally be fulfilling this dream. I honestly wasn’t too sure where to start when I was trying to book my ticket here. I knew I wanted to travel the East coast however I hadn’t left myself heaps of time so realistically I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make to the Northeast region (in a happy turn of events I did end up fitting mostly everything in). I didn’t spend all that much time in each place so instead of having a blog for each city I’m going to try to write it in 2 parts.
I flew from Bangkok to Sydney and then right up to Brisbane. There was no rhyme or reason to why I chose Brisbane, I just looked at the map and figured it was about half way down the East coast and it seemed like a good place to start.
Brisbane is located in the Queensland state of Australia, although it just straddles New South Wales state. Unfortunately when I arrived in Brisbane all I wanted was to be back in Koh Tao so I didn’t give it a fair chance. Regardless, it wasn’t my most favourite city in Australia, it was very spread out making it less enjoyable to explore by foot, in my opinion at least. I stayed at a nice small hostel called Banana Bender Backpackers which was located relatively close to the South Bank area so this is the area I stayed around during my stay in Brisbane. It was a really nice scenic area along the Brisbane River. There was a large ferris wheel that people could ride on to get a fantastic view over South Bank, which I ended doing. You could also hop on a ferry and cruise down the river. I decided, however, to putter around popping into little shops and just taking in all of the scenery. I had previously been told about the lagoon that was made right beside the river for people to swim in, and of course I forgot my bathing suit. Oh well, it wasn’t really all that warm out anyway. I ended up stumbling upon an outdoor market as I was walking around where people were selling all kinds of things, from touristy trinkets to hand made soaps to ladies doing henna tattoos – they had a little something for everyone. I wasn’t in Brisbane too long before hopping on a bus and heading south. Next stop on the Greyhound: Byron Bay.
Byron Bay is located in the New South Wales state. This was one of those places that I found people either loved it or were very impartial to it/disliked it. I stayed at a relatively small hostel that felt more like a motel (aside from having to share the showers and toilets) that was called Backpackers Holiday Village. I personally enjoyed my few days here. It is a small surfing town with a hippie vibe. This is also (apparently) a pretty good place for diving however I was cursed with bad weather so I wasn’t able to make it out. This was a bit disappointing because I was told that this was the grey nurse shark migrating season and the pictures that I was shown at the dive shop looked pretty amazing! I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. Perhaps this is the universe’s way of telling me that I will have to make another trip back to Australia sometime 🙂 Don’t mind if I do. I don’t really think hat you need all that much time here as there isn’t a ton to do but absolutely worth the stop for a few days! I met some great people at my hostel! Right across from our hostel was a bar/pub so we all went out and indulged in a few pints which was good fun and a quite jaunt back to the hostel! I definitely enjoyed my short stay in Byron Bay and should I ever find myself in Australia again I would surely go back!
My next stop down the East coast was Coffs Harbour. I ended up staying at the YHA (a huge chain of hostels all over Australia and New Zealand). Most of the people I have met up until now have been traveling their way North and have visited most of these costal towns. I was told that Coffs Harbour was worth the visit. Having booked a dorm bed at the YHA though I found that I was quite far away from most things. I was lucky enough to be close to the marina and Jetty area where you could walk up this hill and overlook Coffs Harbour and thankfully we were finally getting some very welcomed sun and warm weather. Perfect day for a walk! Myself and few people I had met at the hostel decided to go for a nice stroll up there where we saw a snake! Or so we thought – it ended up being a lizard but we were only able to see its head at first which looked like the head of a huge snake! For those of you who have heard or read about all of the deadly venomous snakes, I am sure you can understand the fear that we felt. We had stop a couple walking up the hill telling them that there was a snake. They were clearly from Australia and were not fazed by our warning, they just came to get a closer look and informed us that it was a lizard, and as they did this the lizard came out of the grass and made its way across the walk way. We had a pretty good laugh about this.
I had also read about a tourist attraction called The Big Banana. What is here you ask? Well my friends you guessed it, you will find a big banana (as well as a water park close by). My hostel did offer trips around to many of these “must see” spots but wouldn’t ya know that the days I booked to stay weren’t the days that it was offered. Oh well – c’est la vie!
The next stop along the coast of the New South Wales territory was a small surfing town called Port Macquarie where I stayed at a small, cozy hostel called Beachside Backpackers. Many of these costal towns are filled with surfers during the summer. Since it is now leading into the winter most of these places are relatively quiet with very few people in the water. It is also coming to the end of the box jelly fish season so unless there are stinger nets set out or you’re able to acquire a stinger suit (lycra suit) it is not advisable to swim. Port Macquarie was a neat little town but not a lot to do it seems. Most of these stops have been to see what’s here but also to break up the long bus journey down to Sydney, which is actually my next stop.
I really wasn’t sure what I would think of Sydney as many people I spoke with were not too keen on this city. Although it is a very large and busy city, it was easy to get around on foot and lots to do! I stayed at XBase Backpackers which is, again, a very big chain of hostels around Australia and New Zealand. This hostel was probably one of my least favourite places that I stayed at mainly because the bathrooms always seemed to be full of garbage, especially the sanitary cans in the bathroom stalls (YUUCK!!!). A major pro about this hostel was its location – as they say it’s all about location, location, location. It was located just off of George Street which is one of the longest streets within the city. Taking this street will lead you right up to the famous Sydney Opera house as well as a beautiful view of the Harbour Bridge. Circular Quay can also be found here which is where you can board a ferry going to Manly Beach, Bondi Beach, Tauranga Zoo, and any other places. I opted to go to the Zoo where you can then catch a gondola to bring you to the top of the hill and walk your way down while checking out the many different species that call Tauranga Zoo home. The next day I decided to venture over to Manly beach. This was a small, quaint area with many people gathered on the beach and even quite a few people taking to the water to swim, surf and even a couple of paddle boarders. I found it a bit too chilly to jump in the water myself so I sprawled out on my towel in the sun and read my book. After what felt like no time at all, I had to head back to catch the last ferry back into the city.
While in Sydney I met a really cool girl that was staying in the same dorm room as me (shout out to Laura 🙂 ). Her and I got along really well and after talking for a while discovered we were both really into diving, she had been in Koh Tao as well as Indonesia to complete her open water and advanced open water course. We decided to both travel up to Cairns to do some diving on the Great Barrier Reef – what would a trip to Australia be without seeing this famous landmark. That’s the next stop..stay tuned for part 2 of my Australia blog!