Some say, with Australia you get it all: the continent, the country, the island. It’s the land of kangaroos and crocodiles, hippies and surfers, cricket and Vegemite, Aborigines and Kylie Minogue. But for most Europeans it’s simply the “Unknown Southern Land”. To be fair, it’s really far away and the jet lag kills you but it’s all worth it! Read our travel journal along the East Coast, written by a VISIONAPARTMENTS employee. One thing first: Australia is a huge country – almost as big as the whole Europe and 186 times bigger than Switzerland to be precise. Consequently a lot depends on where in Australia you are. Whereas the densely populated East Coast is very touristic, Western Australia is more laid back, and up North you can still find Aborigines. The eight Australian states not only differ in climate and time zones but also in the population and mentalities. You could easily spend months in this fascinating and diverse country to get to know the different territories and cultures. However, most people start with the popular East Coast and so did we. 3 weeks and over 2000 kilometers ahead – let’s get this road trip started!
Sydney and Manly
After 24 hours of travelling we have finally arrived in Sydney. For such long flights it’s very helpful to have some useful gadgets at hand. Apart from the long flight and the time difference something else bothered us: starting the day with 5 degrees in the morning in Zurich and arriving in Australia with 35 degrees at night! We were more than happy to find out that our modern Serviced Apartment in Sydney was equipped with air-conditioning. Moreover, the spacious accommodation provided a kitchenette, floor-to-ceiling windows with a beautiful park view and a furnished balcony which made us feel at home immediately. There is so much to explore in Sydney – the world famous Opera House, Harbor Bridge, Taronga Zoo, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kings Cross or Bondi Beach. This dynamic metropolis is not only the largest city in Australia but also the oldest one, and offers a thriving economy, enthusiastic nightlife, diverse culinary scene and scenic views. To explore the true beauty of Sydney there is no better way than a coastal walk. Our favorite was the cliff walk from Bondi to Coogee – you will find many coves, parks, restaurants and stunning ocean views on the way. Even though Bondi Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the area, the real seaside awaits in Manly, a suburb of Sydney. Take the ferry from Sydney Harbour and explore the stunning Northern Beaches including Freshwater and Curl Curl. Before you take the ferry back to Sydney make sure to try one of the award-winning pizzas at Hugos on Manly Warf. Some might say the pizzas are better than in Italy… find out for yourself.
Apart from the dynamic city life New South Wales offers a plethora of beautiful National Parks. Most of them are not National Parks as we know it from Europe because you basically drive through by car and you find beautiful beaches, stunning lookout points and hidden waterfalls. Watch out for parked cars on the side of the street – it might be the car of some locals swimming in a secret waterhole. It goes without saying that Australians could not live without their cars because of the immense distances and the air-conditioning on hot days. There is another sacred thing for the local people: an Esky. It’s a portable cooling box where they put in beer, soft drinks and snacks for a picnic. Everybody has it and they bring it everywhere! On our way up the coast we visited one of the biggest National Parks in the region, Blue Mountains National Park. The World Heritage area offers many attractions and adventure tours for the whole family. Our minds were blown away by the view of the Echo Point Lookout in Katoomba. Here you get an impression how wide this country really is! In front of the valley you discover the iconic Three Sisters – a spectacular stone formation with an Aboriginal history. There are many walking tracks starting here and if you are fit enough you can take the Giant Stairways – 998 steps into the Jungle. After the effort you can cool down in the lovely waterhole of Minnehaha Falls. Other National Parks along the East Coast such as Ku-ring-gai Chase or Booti Booti are also worth visiting. Our favorite National Park was the Noosa National Park where we spotted the first wild koalas on our trip.
A popular spot on the map of the East Coast is Byron Bay. The small beachside town south of Brisbane is famous for its relaxed vibe. You will find many hippies and street artists, small colorful shops and unique dining places that express the alternative lifestyle of Byron Bay. Not only city dwellers from Sydney or Brisbane come here for a weekend get-away but also people from all around the world: backpackers, artists, families, business travellers, surfers. Surfing is very big here. You can either give it a try yourself on one of the many beautiful beaches or pass the time watching the pros hitting the waves. Don’t leave Byron Bay without visiting Cape Byron Lighthouse. From up here you have a breathtaking view over the cape and can take a short walk to the easternmost point of the mainland of Australia. Make sure to bring your Esky with food and drinks and watch the sunset, it’s terrific! With a bit of luck you might also see dolphins, turtles or whales. If you want to do something good for your body, take a swim in Lake Ainsworth. The “Tea Tree Lake” is well known for its rejuvenating effect on the skin. However it takes some courage to step into the brown broth.
After the stop in Byron Bay, we left the state New South Wales and entered Queensland where we got very confused by the different time zones. While New South Wales changes between summer and winter time, Queensland does not! Who understands the Australians? Driving on the wrong side of the street, reverse seasons, doors lock the other way around – only to point out a few examples. To understand the Aussie slang is also quite a challenge. Brekkie is breakfast, hooroo means goodbye and togs are supposed to be swimwear. Back to Queensland, our next stop was the Gold Coast. Ever wondered where the coastline got its name from? That’s easy: 300 sunny days a year. Paired with kilometers of long sandy beaches, breathtaking landscapes, shimmering skyscrapers and a wide array of entertainment offers like theme parks and vibrant nightlife. While Surfers Paradise attracts young party animals the other neighborhoods of the Gold Coast have a distinct charm of their own. About an hour north lies Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. Apart from fine beaches, great outdoor activities and historical sites, the metropolis provides diverse restaurants, bars and a flourishing cultural scene. We had some delicious meals in extraordinary atmosphere here. But be careful, the Australians have a totally different rhythm when it comes to eating. While breakfast is served almost the whole day (every day!) you are lucky to get dinner after 8.30 pm. This is why we were happy to have a fully equipped kitchen in our Serviced Apartment in Brisbane. It was nice to cook our own meals from time to time as a change from the eating out routine.
Contrary to expectations, we did not see a lot of wild animals during our trip. A few koalas here and some kangaroos and spiders there but this was it basically. So we decided to visit the Australia Zoo. The impressive animal park is the heritage of the word famous Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. You will find there all sorts of Australia’s wild animals such as crocodiles, Tasmanian devils and wombats.
These 3 weeks on the other side of the world broadened our horizon. Even though we have only seen a small part of this big country it was a diverse and unique experience and we will for sure come back one day. To summarize this journey we would recommend the following to people who want to visit Australia: Whenever possible stay at a Serviced Apartment. It gives you the opportunity to cook your own meal from time to time and saves you a lot of money. If you are renting a car make sure it has air-conditioning and a GPS – you can get lost in this big country pretty easily. Adapt to the Australian rhythm: get up early, enjoy a proper breakfast, visit tourist attractions whenever possible in the morning (most of them close early in the afternoon), use the afternoon for a swim in the ocean or a dip in a waterhole and don’t go out for dinner too late. Don’t plan too much. Live for the moment, go with the flow and experience the Australian lifestyle to the fullest.