Australian Work Holiday Visas 101

Crash Course for Americans that plan on traveling to Australia

Americans have the ability to apply for a work/holiday visa in Australia for up to one year, as long as, you’re over the age of 18 and under the age of 31. *HOT TIP*  If you’re over the hill, like we are and very close to your 31st Birthday, you can apply before you turn 31--even up to the day before your 31st birthday.  You have one year to use the visa before it expires. So, you can technically go to Australia a few days before you turn 32 and the visa will still be valid.  It’s a very easy process that’s all done online and processed within a few days or weeks.  

Step 1: You’ll obviously need a passport. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to do this ASAP.  Passports can take up to 3 months to process. So, get on top of it.  You can apply for a passport at any post office in the US.  Also, if you’re a current passport holder make sure your passport doesn't expire for a few years, you may not make it back for a while.  If your passport does expire soon, don’t apply with your current passport you’ll need to wait to get your new one otherwise your passport number will be different on your visa and you will be denied entrance.  

Step 2: Visit the Australian immigration website https://www.border.gov.au/

Step 3: Apply for a subclass 462 visa https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1/462- you will also be prompted to pay.  The visa runs about $355. (2017)

Step 4: Wait. The processing time is actually incredibly fast and can just take a few days.  

Step 5: Approval!  Once you’ve been approved, it’s time to start saving cash and booking flights.  *Note: Take advantage of the current exchange rates for USD and try to bring plenty of greenbacks with you.  Remember, you have up to one year to enter Australia before the visa expires.  

Working in Australia can prove to be very lucrative. If you’re able to land a job strait away, you’ll be surprised at how much money you’ll be paid.  The Aussie minimum wage is around $18-$22AUD per hour depending on the state you're in. This visa allows you to work up to 30 hours per week and up to 6 months, with one employer.  If you’re able to work with one employer for 6 months and get a good amount of hours, this will most likely be more than enough dough to save for traveling around Australia.  

Common jobs in Australia, for tourists, tend to be in the hospitality industry.  If you have any experience in the service industry in America, you’ll have no problem transitioning into any Australian work environment.  You’ll actually find it to be a much easier, less stressful work environment. We have a high standard of service in America, compared to Australia, so you’ll probably exceed everyone's expectations.  If you don't have any service industry experience, lots of travelers work in agriculture, retail, and hostel work, which usually trades you room and board for your work.  We were able to find work pretty quick, in Surfer's Paradise, working in bars. Note that some clubs in Australia can stay open till 5am. So, be ready for long nights, if you want to work in the bar industry. 

You’ll also be able to find heaps of travel tips and vanlife advice on this blog. So use it as a resource to help plan your trip.   

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef Australia,

All I can say, is get to the Great Barrier Reef as soon as humanly possible, if you are planning onever seeing it. It is true that most of the reef is dying and becoming bleached from pollution and damaged from climate change. If you are a non-believer in climate change, check out how our ocean's largest reef is handling it at the Great Barrier Reef... you'll be a believer.

I don't want to scare you from spending your money to go see this magical place because it's epic. The Great Barrier Reef is enormous. Australia is enormous and it stretches along the entire northeast coast of Australia. We had a good friend that had family up in the Cairns area so, we decided to see it there. Trips from the Gold Coast were quite cheap, as well, if you bought your flights in advance.

There are plenty of boats that will take you the two hours out to see the GBR. We wish we could give you a run down of all them with price comparisons and everything, but a room mate of ours had already done a tour with Rumrunner Tours, out of Cairns, and had nothing but good things to say about it. So, we chose that one. We also have nothing but good things to say about it as well. They were very accommodating to three of the people in our group being vegetarians and vegans, which was unreal awesome! It was a two-day, one-night trip. We stayed on the boat and they cooked all our meals. Beers were $3 each; the cheapest beers in Australia.

Because we went in the slow season (just before the jellyfish infestation that usually happens over there), they offered all the snorkelers three free dives after a couple of skills lessons and safety exercises. No one in our group had ever done the scuba and we definitely did not expect to learn at the most epic place on earth to learn to dive, the Great Barrier Reef. But, we did and it was unreal. The things you see beneath the snorkel surface were crazy cool. We saw turtles, a color changing octopus, and we swam thru canyons of reef. It was epic. I felt like a mermaid.

Another highlight of slow season was there wasn't another boat insight. We had every reef we went to all to ourselves. But, I remember feeling terrible about the way that I felt after our first reef we stopped at tho. I felt like I must be jaded or the GBR had been over hyped. It was grey. The fish were colorful, but the reef was grey. People excited for my trip were telling my how mind blowing it was, as you swam face down looking into the deep dark ocean to the reef. Then, all the sudden, an explosion of colors would rise up out of the bottom of the ocean into tall reef-like skyscrapers with schools of colorful exotic fish swimming about. The only thing right about that statement, in my first experience, was the colorful fish swimming about. I was kinda bummed when we got corralled back onto the ship for lunch.

After lunch, we moved on to another reef location. The second location was just as epic as all my friends had promised. My mind was literally blown from all the colors. All of us didn't want to get out when they called us all in for dinner. I think a couple of us even pretended like we couldn't hear the bell. :)

If you aren't able to get the free scuba, I would say that you don't really need to spend the money on scuba. The times that I was snorkeling were some of the times that I saw the coolest schools of fish. Sometimes the bubbles from scuba equipment can scare the fish away. So if you are trying to save money and still have a great experience, I would say stick to the snorkel. You will have an amazing experience anyways!

Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island, Australia

We were welcomed to KI with extreme bipolar weather. Not knowing the area, we went straight to Pennington Bay, where we took the first of many unsealed roads. Pennington Bay is situated on the south side with nothing in between it and Antarctica, but the Tasman Sea. With that being said, we woke up to a shaking van from violent wind. We decided to get up to the protected North Side of the Island. We went to Emu Bay, a beach known for it's tranquil waters and hard packed beach access for most all cars. Being in a 2WD and always dreaming of driving on the beach like the 4WD vehicles, we could not wait to let our van dip his toes in the beach life.

Upon parking at Emu Bay, we had the most relaxing day we have had in a while. We chilled, we read, we cooked, we tanned, we did van life to the max. After being satisfied on our successful beach day, we left in search of a place to crash for the night. We heard there might be free camping opportunities at Stokes Bay so we headed there with plenty of daylight.

Stokes Bay has one of the most beautiful other worldly entrances to the beach. Seriously, I felt like I was in Star Wars or on Mars. We paused and enjoyed the scenery for a bit, but the camping was not really our style. We are more of off the beaten path type campers... where you go camping to get away from everyone. Here, the campsite was full with wall to wall campers with no room in between each campsite. So we moved on to the next beach, Snellings.

We pulled up to Snellings just around sunset. The car park was empty. There was the most amazing beach hut with a table and breakfast nook right on the beach. It was almost like our own personal Air bNb. We checked in with Mother Nature and made some dinner in the shelter. We hung out until the Milky Way came out to play and passed out in the van in the lower car park. The toilets were open all night. So convenient. This was by far the best night on Kangaroo Island.

We woke up in the morning and met another vehicle dwelling couple and talked with them for a bit about their KI experience. After spending breakfast in our breakfast nook beach hut, we moved on to see what else we would stumble upon.

We drove over to Flinders Range National Park to check out all the hype.  Since this is the only national park in KI we had top check it out.  We were welcomed by Koalas in the trees at the visitor center.  We headed out to the coast to check out the seals at Admirals Arch and then on to Remarkable Rocks.  It was incredibly windy. We sought out shelter in the van for a bit and braved the wind.  At the Admirals Arch, there are tons of New Zealand Fur Seals everywhere stinking up the place.  We then headed to the Remarkable Rocks.  We will admit they are some of the most bizarre rocks we've come across in our travels, even more so than the granite boulders in Girraween NP.

The rocks are remarkable, but boy are they crowded. The Sealink bus drops off tons of tourist as well as other busses, we chilled in the van until sunset when all the tourist headed to their accommodations and we finally had the place to ourselves.  You feel as if the aliens created these rocks.  We enjoyed the sunset and slept in the parking lot, at the rocks. We woke up for sunrise and once again had the place to ourselves for about an hour until the influx of tourist started coming through.  We left and headed back to the visitor center.  There's rumors of platypus in a few pools behind the visitors center . So we walked to the pools, but never saw any of these elusive creatures.  Since we didn't see any platypus we headed out.

Next up, was a quick stop to the Little Sahara sand dunes for a quick look and walk around.  It's actually pretty amazing how vast this sand dune section is for being in the middle of the island.  We walked to the top of the largest sand dune, then ran/rolled down it.  After an extensive sand brush off, we headed back to our favorite location on the island, Emu Bay.

We spend the next few days chillin at Emu Bay reading and relaxing. After some chats with some amazing locals, we received an amazing tip on some crown land that was available for camping. This is where we spent the next few nights.  On our last day, before the ferry back to the mainland, the weather finally cleared up on the west side of the island and we were able to get a nice surf session at Pennington Bay. With calm winds and decent swell, we finally felt like we conquered KI.  After the surf, we raced over to their ferry terminal and headed back to the mainland with a very satisfied taste in our mouth from our KI expiereince.  We drove on more dirt roads than we ever had, saw tons of wildlife, and just had an amazing time relaxing and winding down from an amazing road trip across the east coast of Australia.

The most disappointing thing about Kangaroo Island was the price of the ferry. In our ferry  experience, this 35 minute ferry ride was wildly overpriced at $190 AUD one-way. That is an international flight to New Zealand or Bali from Adelaide. But it was also the first time we actually stayed within our weekly budget due to the remoteness and having little access to stores. So that's a plus!

Little Desert National Park

Little Desert Victoria Australia


If you're looking for a low key spot out in the middle of nowhere, I reckon you head to Little Desert NP.  The park is located about three and a half hours west of the Grampians. We stopped here on New Years Eve to break up the long haul to Kangaroo Island. 

We had the entire campsite to ourselves.  Also, since the park is literally in the middle of nowhere we had the most amazing display of stars that we had seen while in Australia. We even caught a glimpse of the Aurora Australis. 

Apparently, Little Desert is Bird Watching haven.  As we were packing up our car we spotted an Emu and two chicks, which was the icing on the cake.  If you're passing by this small park and want a night of solitude, we highly recommend it. Bring firewood! There are sweet little fire pits in each campsite. 

 

Grampians

The Grampians is an amazing little National Park with tons of short hikes and plenty of camping options. It's an amazing park that you can tackle in just a few days.  If you're into exotic rock formations and picturesque lookouts then, we would highly recommend this awesome little park. 

We drove straight out of the Great Ocean Road, via Port Campbell, straight to the Grampians National Park. It was refreshing to go from dodging selfie sticks, to standing on mountain tops, in just under a few hours.  We stayed in this park for two days and were able to have an awesome experience. Here are a few tracks you should not miss if you visit this park.  

Mount William - More of a stroll than a hike, you basically drive to the top of this road then walk up a steep paved road to the summit.  It takes about 30 minutes to get to the top, but the views are well worth it.  

Grand Canyon - Another stroll in the park and probably the easiest stroll in the park. This 30 minute loop takes you through amazing rock formations in a slot canyon that looks other world like.  You can also access the Pinnacle lookout here, which is a rock formation that jets out from the cliffs over looking the valley.

The Balconies - By far our favorite rock formation in Australia.  If you go, you'll see why they call it the Balconies or the "Jaws of Death." We had actually used this area for a place to cook dinner while we waited for the crowds to die down for sunset.  Once the sun set, everyone leaves to head to their campsites. We packed up a few items and hung out on the balconies from sunset until the milky way graced us with yet another amazing star show.  Since it was so late, we ended up camping in the parking lot and catching an amazing sunrise at the balconies as well.

MacKenzie Falls - Once again, the Grampians delivers with another short amazing hike.  The walk to MacKenzie Falls is short and worth it.  Get there early in the morning, if you want it to yourself, because it's a major attraction of the area.    

There are plenty of other amazing hikes in the area and the park is currently working on a multi-day track that spans the entire park and it should be open by 2018.  The first half is already open if you wanted to hike to the first campsite and then back out the next day. Check at the i-center for more info. We highly recomend adding this park to your Aussie Bucket list.

Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road Loch ard Gorge


The first part of the Great Ocean Road was amazing. The two lane road tightly hugged the picturesque turquoise coastline as it snaked around lush green cliffs dropping straight into the ocean. 

We spent our first night on the Great Ocean Road in Lorne. The first day there was a nearby music festival and great summer weather. The beaches were definitely being taken advantage of by locals, festival goers, and tourists alike. I hadn't realized such a small beach town could adequately accommodate such an influx of visitors all at once. They must have come enjoyed the beach and weather and then passed thru to the rest of the Great Ocean Road because by the time sunset came around there really wasn't too much going on....although, I was surprised there was a bar pumping out dance music on the esplanade. Not sure if anyone was actually in there, but past that there was really no cars or people on the esplanade after a certain hour.

We sussed out a cozy secluded spot for the night in the hinterlands. We knew the weather was going to be stormy and rainy the next day so we planned on taking advantage of the waterfall territory Lorne is also known for.

From Lorne, there are about 12+ waterfalls that you can either start your walk from Lorne or drive to the trail head a couple kms up the hill. We started with Erskine Falls. From the parking lot, it is a couple minute descent down some stone stairs to the viewing platform.

The weather got real hectic and in passing some rangers, they had advised most everyone to head back down towards Lorne as the amount of rainfall was making some of the trails unsafe.  We headed to another waterfall anyways. We noticed people must have cleared out and followed the advise because there was virtually no one on the trail. We had the waterfall all to ourselves and the weather had actually cleared up to sunnier weather.

Once we felt satisfied with our waterfall chasing, we continued on the Great Ocean Road to see how else it was going to surprise us.

The Great Otway

This Park was an unexpected treat. We stopped thru this park solely because it was on our way to the 12 Apostles and the rest of the iconic Great Ocean Road.

We had researched a couple roads that never failed on Koala spotting and they were tried and true. We parked our car at the first location and got out and walked a couple meters before spotting one in a low branch on a tree near the road. Stoked on seeing our first Koala out in nature, we wanted to test out our luck on the other known spots in the Otway. The second road we took was the road that takes you to the lighthouse. If you take this road, look for cars and tourist pulled over pointing up at the trees. We stopped every time we saw this and saw heaps of Koalas. We saw baby koalas climbing around being independent while their mom slept on a nearby tree branch. It was such a cool experience. I always look at animals and think I wonder if they are as stoked to see a human as I am to see them. I often hope so, but who knows...they probably feel Hollywood stars feel where every move they make is photographed and watched by someone :-/

After Koala spotting success, we continued on to Hopetoun falls. The parking lot was tiny and packed with cars and more and more kept arriving. The walk down to the base viewing platform descended many flights of stairs.

After hanging around the waterfall for a bit, we headed back up the stairs to the car park and to find a place to have a nice picnic. We read about a California Redwood Forrest that was planted in the early 1900s with a nice picnic area. So we headed there. We whipped up some lunch, impressed some older ladies with our portable stove as we made healthy and fresh veggie bowl. One of the ladies had come over to tell us how inferior her sandwich felt next to our colorful vegan dish. We told her how they worked and how convenient they were and I am pretty sure she went straight to the nearest K-Mart to pick one up. :)

We finished our chin wag with the ladies and headed into the the Redwood forest. The drive to the Redwood forest and even into Hopetoun falls snaked its way thru some of the most beautifulvibrant fern and Gum tree forest. A bit of fog made for a great ambiance as well. It was crazy how quickly the terrain changed into a little rainforest oasis right when you got over the hill from the great Ocean Road. Even if you didn't get out of your car in this area, the scenic detour would no disappoint.

The Redwood plantation was genuinely awesome. The ground was soft and hollow just as any other redwood forest I had ever been to in California. The air was crisp and misty like Redwood forest usually are. It felt like you were transported to another place when inside the plantation. There were some nearby gums that were equally as old as some of the redwoods and still the Redwoods dwarfed them. If you have never experienced breaking your neck looking up at the tallest growing trees in the world, I would recommend it. In your mid-neck break gaze towards the top of the tree keep in mind that this plantation is quite "young" for the species of trees. And some of them in California are hundreds of years old tripling the girth and height and they really do make you fall a bit backwards trying to look towards the top of the tree.

All in all, we were grateful that the Great Ocean Road had broken away from the ocean and made it's way thru the Great Otway. It is some beautiful country to be experienced in there.

We made our way towards the 12 Apostles. This part of the trip was probably the most tourists I have ever seen in one area. Seriously, I am sure it pulls in more visitors than the Sydney Opera House or Harbor Bridge or maybe even the Great Barrier Reef for that matter. There were tour buses after tour buses parked at this place. It was too crowded for our liking. So we decided to wait out the crowds by cooking an early dinner in the van. We've noticed in more remote places that involve a drive back for tourists, people seem to clear out around 6 pm or just before dusk to avoid road encounters with kangaroos and other wildlife. And that's around magic hour for pictures anyways. We stayed out and around in the area till the Milky Way came to hang out. The stars were so bright without any light pollution near by that we would turn off our head lamps and be able to navigate down the path pretty easily just by starlight!

We sussed out a sleeping spot that was close enough to make a sure we were the first ones to the parking lot at Loch Ard Gorge in the morning. We got up 40 mins before the sunrise to make sure of it as well. We had the place to ourselves till about 8am when cars began arriving. It was really a magical time. The day previous had me wondering if I was allergic to crowds of people ;)  With the popular area all to ourselves, we were really able to explore and enjoy the epic scenery nature has carved out of the cliffs with it's pounding ocean without getting smacked in the head with a selfie stick every 5 minutes.

Tasmania

dani sunset dec 6 2016 (72 of 80).jpg


Tasmania in Two Weeks

Tasmania where do I even start? I guess I can start with the advice stay as long as you can. We had a little under two weeks on the wild island and really felt like 12 days just didn't give it enough justice. But if 12 days is all you got and you want to make the most of your time, we can give you the route to see and experience some epic areas. We will also tell you some spots you should spend more time for those that have more than 12 days. Another word of advice, plan it yourself. This is a wild island and traveling around with a bunch of kooky tourists on a tour bus can really take away from the experience as well as your wallet.

If you are taking the Tasmania Spirit Ferry from Melbourne to Devonport, we recommend taking the over night ferry. Not only do you wake up in Tasmania at 6am with an entire day ahead of you, on the overnighter, you also get free comfy recliners with a view, pillows, and blankets all with the base price. You can pay to upgrade to a room, but we felt that was overkill and we save money where ever we can to make the adventure last longer.

On the ship, you can buy a parks pass. It's around $60 and well worth every penny. It lasts for 8 weeks and grants you free access to all Tasmania National Parks. Some parks are $15 a day so if you use it at least 4 times you get your moneys worth.

 Day 1: Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake

There are many day walks around the Cradle Mountain area that have beautiful scenery. Your best bet is stopping at the the information center and talking to one of the friendly knowledgeable rangers. They will give you some good advice for hikes that take into account the weather and your hiking experience.

 Day 2: Nelson Falls and Lake St Clair

Nelson Falls is very accessible and right off highway A10. The walk from the car park to the falls is about 10-15 minutes and is easy as. If you are in this area, stop for this waterfall. The walk to the waterfall is worth it alone. This was our first stop of the day, as we stayed on Lake Burbury in a free camp site right on the lake. Being so close, I think we were the first people there. We had it to ourselves for about an hour.

Lake St. Clair this was also right off the highway A10.

 Day 3: Ben Lamond National Park

In the winter, Ben Lamond is a popular spot for snowboarding and skiing, with the highest peak in Tasmania. In the summer, when we went, the only people you will see at this spot are hardcore friendly-as rock climbers stoked on life. We made the drive from Lake St. Clair to this spot and arrived at night. We parked and camped in the parking lot and woke up to quite a scene we didn't expect. Huge dolerite cliffs jumping out of the earth. Make sure you drive up Jacobs Ladder. It looks intimidating, but if our van can make it up the hill, so can yours. There is a lookout point that looks over Jacobs ladder and the surrounding areas just at the top. It's quite a scene. Once you've sucked in the experience, head to the east coast for some beach life.

 Day 4: Bay of Fires

The Bay of Fires is an awesome and will have you wanting to stay for more than one night. This is a spot recommend staying a couple nights. The white sand beaches, crystal clear water, and huge boulders with red algae make for some eye candy at it's finest. This whole area has free camping everywhere and most have toilets. For the ones that don't, please make sure you have a shovel and bury your black snakes AND ALL toilet paper so that this area remains free for all to enjoy for many years to come. This place is magic please don't ruin it!

 Day 5: Freycinet National Park

Get out your tent and backpacking gear. There's free hike-in camping on Wineglass Bay with composting toilets. This is a very popular national park, with tour buses dropping kooky tourists off from dawn to dusk. But if you hike into the secluded wineglass bay camping area, you won't even realize how many kooks are out there in their heels and white chucks hitting each other in the head with selfie sticks. The hike to Wineglass Bay was short and moderate in difficulty, but the bay, glass pebble sand, and crystal clear water more than make it a must do when in Tasmania.

 Day 6: Russell Falls & Southwest National Park

Russell Falls is easily one of the most photographed waterfalls in Tasmania. When you get there, you will see why. It is enormous. You can end the short walk there or you can follow the trail up to Horse Shoe Falls. The trail is well maintained and doesn't disappoint. There are also glow worms along the trail to Russell if you happen to be there at night.

Southwest National Park There are many free campsites with firewood and curious and friendly wildlife over there. We stayed on Edgar Pond and had the entire campsite to ourselves. The views are spectacular. We were lucky enough to have a clear night where we saw tons of stars and even got lucky enough to see the Aurora Australius! (There is a Facebook group dedicated to reporting on solar flares and the Southern Lights... give them a follow if you want to get a heads up on your chances of catching it while you are down there) We attempted the Mt. Anne trail, but the weather did not cooperate. Sadly, we almost made it to the hut, but we had to turn around due to sever bipolar weather. If I went back, i would do the LAKE hike. You get to see some pretty indigenous plants only found in Tasmania. It's what we hoped to see once summiting Mt. Anne.

 Day 7: Mount Wellington

The Springs to Pinnacle Loop (8.2km)  Steep Zig Zag track where views of Hobart can bee seen from 1270M above sea level. This track is very exposed, windy, and rainy even in summer, which in our case made us skip this epic hike to the summit of Kunanyi (Mount Wellington). There is a sweet shelter at the top to view the city below. Per usual in Tasmania, always check weather conditions at the information center to see if it is safe to summit. And make sure you have the proper attire!

Day 8: South Bruny Island

They Ferry to South Bruny is $30 with free return. This is the only place you can find the white wallabies. It's what I originally went in hopes of finding, but had no such luck. But, as we were leaving, I stumbled across an area where there has been known sightings. We didn't have time to see it thru, unfortunately. There is great surf in South Bruny with the coolest drop toilet I have ever used. If a drop toilet is cool enough to mention, it really is cool. It had a one way mirror where you could see the entire beach while you sat on the throne. There was free camping near by to the surf spot, but it filled up quickly around Holidays.

Day 9-12: Tasman Peninsula (Cape Pillar hike)

This is a 32km hike (round trip) and was probably the highlight of our entire Australian experience. The hike begins from the Fortescue Bay campground area. There is a hikers car park area. Park there. The first night camp, there is a platform campsite at Wughalee Falls with toilets and water (I can't say if the water was drinkable. We brought enough water to not have to test it out) The hike down to that campsite is kind of obnoxious, as it desends down so far that you kinda dread the walk back up in the morning. For the second day of this hike, you can leave your bags at the campsite and just bring a day bag to Cape Pillar with enough water and food for the day and then you can hike back to the campsite. Cook some food and pass out and head back towards the parking lot in the morning, if your legs are beat.

If you slept over night at the same campsite and are still up for an adventure, I reckon you could pack up your bags early in the morning and continue the journey towards Cape Hauy, via the Three Capes Track. This track takes you up a lot of stairs thru a mossy forest that is much different from the terrain on the way to Cape Pillar.  If you want to check out Cape Hauy, you can stash your backpack at the trail head leading towards the Cape. Plenty of people do it this way. That way, you don't have to carry all of your gear all the way to the Cape. I think this is a 2-3 hour detour, but from what I have heard it is well worth it.

On the last day, you will head towards Devonport thru the center of Tassie. We thought it was pretty cool that we zig zagged across the entire state and then went straight up the center on one of the only roads we hadn't driven up on our way out. We hit the free two minute hot showers and stayed near the ferry, as we had booked an early morning ferry out. We even saw the ship pulling in the harbor as we were eating our breakfast. One word of advice about the ferry, bring a jacket or blanket. They keep that thing as cool as a restaurant walk in fridge.

Dandenong Ranges

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Maybe looking at the Dandenong Ranges on the map is the only reason we under rated this place. We figured any National park that accessible to a major city has to be over run with tourists or it just couldn't be that cool. The second we rounded the couple turns leading into the National park we found we were completely wrong on both accounts and stoked we made the detour. The road snaked thru the Dandenong Ranges canopy of towering Mountian Ash trees, Palm Ferns and at their base, heaps of vibrant green elegant ferns. The drive in got us even more pumped for what some of the trail head descriptions promised. 

We had actually detoured to the Dandenong Ranges with the slight hope that we might see the elusive Lyrebird. We heard about the fern dwelling bird known for their mimicry of other birds' calls and any other sound for that matter, we researched a little further to hear what their song sounded like and realized that they are some of the natures best beat boxers. They can mimic not only bird sounds, but cellphone sounds, car alarms, construction noises, etc. They have the vocal equilevent of a photographic memory. It is actually mind blowing. The males have showy tail feathers they use during their dancing ritual along with their songs, if you are lucky enough to get both song and dance. 

With our minds blown and our sights set on seeing one of these amazing creatures, we headed to Grants Picnic area and started the Lyrebird trail just before sunrise. We figured that is when the birds are guaranteed most active. We started the trail and I know both our hopes were sky high to see this bird. Maybe 15 minutes into the trail, we both anxious to see one, start joking about one just jumping out on to the trail and dancing for us. Turns out one really wanted to. We thought we had heard a Koala sound and we followed where that was coming from then it quickly changed into a collection of different bird calls and we knew we had stumbled on a Lyrebird! It was crossing the trail in front of us when we finally spotted it. It saw us when we saw him and he booked it up the fern hill. We lost him pretty quick but his song echoed through out. 

Ten minutes later, we hear the same back to back sequence of bird calls and we follow the trail around towards the sound. Another Lyrebird! This one found a nice little fallen down tree. He was using it as a stage where he stayed and had a little concert. A couple minutes later on the other side of the trail one started mimicking the first one's song. We could see both birds being either territorial or exchanging digits and we didn't even have to veer off the trail. For our first experience in the Dandenong Ranges that we had overlooked we were over the moon with excitement about our experience. I seriously don't think I was breathing and I know my jaw wide open the entire time because I did't want to scare them. I didn't want it to stop. I was beyond amazed watching different parts of his chest or throat move to make such complex sounds.  

Vanlife Australia Style

Vanlife Australia

What you get when you mix Night Moves, Van life, and some camera equipment and haul it across the east and south coast of Australia for a year. 
 

Music:
Night Moves
Border on Border

Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island

Phillip Island VIctoria

Before arriving to Melbourne, we knew there would be no options for surfing. And we aren't the biggest fans of hangin' out on beaches, in a bay, with no waves, nor coastal breezes. So, we decided to post up on the beaches of the Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island for a few days to get our fix before heading to Melbourne. 

Phillip Island

We headed to Phillip Island in hope to see some penguins on the Western tip.  We did see a few little penguins shacked up in their homes and waddling around so far away you had to imagine what they were doing.  We also saw about 200 asians getting dropped of in tour busses taking iPad pictures.  With that being said, we left the cold parking lot with a cloud of dust behind us.  

We then searched all around the island in search of swell.  We headed to Woolamai Beach and accidentally caught the most epic sunset we've ever experienced. There was absolutely no one on the beach or in the parking lot. So naturally, we busted a sneaky camp after watching the sun put on a show.  This is a good surf spot, as well, it's one of the better surfing options in the Melbourne area for all surfers.

 

Mornington Peninsula

The next morning we headed to the Mornington Peninsula just west of the Island.  This peninsula is pretty awesome.  You have the calm beaches on the Port Phillip Bay side and the surf of the back beaches on the pacific side.  There are tons of awesome walks on both sides of the peninsula.  The north end back beaches have a more rugged coast with lots of coves with cool rock formations and tidal and rock pools. The southern back beaches near St. Andrews offer more surfing options and classic sandy beaches.  The Port Phillip Beaches are the place to go for safer swimming/boating and to avoid the wind.  BBQs at Sorrento Park were provided and are a popular activity.  Make sure you enjoy a sunset over the ocean from the back beaches like Bridgewater Bay or another more off the beat cove. 

The Peninsula is your closest and best best other than Torquay for good surf and "real beaches" near Melbourne.  

Wilsons Prom

Wilsons Prom Victoria Australia

If you're traveling across the south coast, make WIlsons Promontory a mandatory stop.

The Prom, as referred to by the locals, was one of our favorite spots in Victoria.  We don't have tons of pictures from this amazing location mainly because we spent the entire time hiking and surfing.  

From amazing surf, awesome beaches, and even small mountains, The Prom reminded us of a small Tasmania.  We later found out that Tasmania actually broke off from The Prom.  So, this place has it all.  We weren't able to spend as much time here as we would have liked to but, it's one of the most beautiful national parks in Australia. Squeaky Beach is easily the most popular beach around the area. If you haven't heard the quartzy sand squeaky beneath your feet yet, then you could go with the crowd and check it out, but while everyone was there we were hanging out at Picnic Bay with hardly anyone but surfers. Most tourist that ended up at Squeaky Beach stop by Picnic Bay and walk to the vista and then move on. So this spot feels like you are all alone if you make the truck all the way to the beach. Whiskey Bay feels even more secluded. If you are looking to avoid the crowds, these are your beaches. 

If we could have gone back, we would have planned on backpacking on a few of the amazing trails. Most of the Prom is inaccessible by car, which is what makes it so special and unspoilt. From The Prom, you can access mainland Australia's most southern point, by foot.  We had just gone on a hunch for surf and we were blown away by it's beauty and remoteness. 

Although The Prom can be one of the windiest places in Australia, on a beautiful sunny day, The Prom is a place not to be missed by any traveler on a Austrialian Road trip. The crystal blue waters and surrounding island landscape will leave imprints in your memory forever. 

Sapphire Coast

Saphire Coast New South Wales Australia

Cruising through the Sapphire Coast

South of Sydney to the Victoria border is the domain of the Sapphire Coast.  This stretch of coast is surprisingly quiet once you get south of the Sydney city limits.  Technically, Sapphire Coast starts around Narooma then South past Eden to the Victoria Border. It lives up to it's name with some of the most crystal clear sapphire water and unspoilt empty beaches we've ever laid our eyes on.

There's some amazing surf opportunities all along this stretch of coast.  As you travel from Sydney south towards the Sapphire Coast, check out the famous Sea Cliff Bridge just south of Royal National Park. As you travel even further south, make sure that you check out Mollymook. We've had some epic beach days, surf sessions, free hot showers, and even bioluminescent waves at that cool little beach town!

Just south of the town of Narooma, you'll find Camel Rock Surf beach. From the car park, you'll be able to access Camel Rock and Horse Head Rock just around the corner from Camel Rock formation. The safest route to Horse Head Rock is a trail that leads up the headland from the car park for a view of Horse Head Rock from above. But, if you wanted to get up close and personal with the famous Horse Head, at low tide, you can access it by a short beach walk past Camel Rock, hugging the coast line and up to a little rock scramble to get to that part of the beach. Make sure you check the tide so you don't get stuck in an unfriendly area. If you were going to get an epic shot of this famous rock, the tide seems to cooperate around the best times to take pictures, around sunset and sunrise. I've even seen some cool Milky Way shots. We would recommend planning out your route ahead of time and bringing shoes that can get wet and grip like Keen's, Teva's, or Chaco's to name a few.

After you've got your rock formation, surf or beach life satisfaction, check out Bermagui blue pool a couple minutes south of Camel Rock beach. There are so many amazing natural rock pools from Sydney south. It is hard to choose a favorite, but this one had to be one of our favorites. The shower at this rock pool blew my mind. It easily was one of the best beach showers I have ever enjoyed.

With so many empty and unspoilt beaches along the Sapphire Coast, you can almost turn off at any beach of the Tathra-Bermagui Rd and find yourself a private beach to lay the first footprints of day. Grab your beach gear, beers, and snacks to settle down for the day.

Northern NSW

Northern New South wales Australia

In our opinion, this is the jewel of Australia.  Where do we even begin?  With easily over 150 surf breaks and some of the most picturesque beaches you really can't go wrong with any detour in this area of the country.  We found so many amazing places. It would be hard to list them all. So we boiled it down to our 5 favorite places on this stretch of coast.

1. Smoky Cape and Arakoon National Parks - These two parks are pretty much combined into one NP.  If you head out to this area, you must check out Little Bay Beach were you will find the most amazing miniature beach and by far the most friendly kangaroos that you'll meet in all of Australia.  While we were there, we were fortunate to see at least 5 joeys in pouches. They were hopping around so curious of human life that they would come right up to you.  It was one of our most memorable Aussie experiences.  

2.  Dorrigo National Park - If you're into rainforest, waterfalls, and exotic bird calls then, you'll be into this park.  The drive into Dorrigo is amazing on it's own. It's even deemed "Waterfall Way."  If you catch it on the right season, you'll pass by multiple cascades flowing down the mountain and under the highway.  We stayed overnight in the park and woke up at sunrise. Then, we watched the sun come up over the Gondwana rainforest from the Skywalk that extends over the forest.  After sunrise, we walked down to Crystal Shower falls and had it all to ourselves for easily an hour.  We had walked to the other falls but, Crystal Showers was easily the best falls in the park.  There is also a bird watching platform with plenty of cool information that we checked out in the evening after we used the amazing picnic facilities inside the park. 

3.  Seal Rocks and Myall Lakes National Parks  -  In order to get to Seal Rocks, you'll have to drive through Myall Lakes so we just decided to spend a night in both of them.  Seal rocks has some amazing surf and that classic turquoise water you've come to expect in Australia.  We stayed the night in Seal Rocks and watched the sunrise over the pacific and just had an incredible time walking the beaches and surfing the point there at seal rocks.  You can even walk to the lighthouse and see a fairly large colony of seals on the "seal rocks".  Once we had enough sun and sand, we headed about 30 minutes inland to the quiet campgrounds of the Myall Lakes where we spent another night in solitude and watched the Milky Way reflect off the glassy waters of the Myall Lakes.  

4.  Crescent Head - The quiet surf town of Crescent Heads was just what the doctor ordered.  We arrived to relatively flat conditions, but received a hot tip form a local to head around the head down to Goolawah National Park.  We found some amazing surf and indulged in the Aussie laid back beach lifestyle.  If you continue down Point Plomer Road, you'll run into Point Plomer Campground and if you're lucky enough to score some waves here, you just might not leave.  

5.  Port Macquarie - Just a way down the coast from Crescent Head is the town of Port Mac. Per usual, chill as and amazing beaches.  This area caught us off guard, usually we kinda fly through the more "major" areas of Oz on our way down the coast but, we stuck around Port Mac for a few days.  The beaches and parks here were so amazing, we found friendly surf for all levels and advanced waves as well.  We also found small parks with amazing picnic areas and had no problems staying at the beaches overnight.  

Road trippin - Girraween to Bald Rock

Bald Rock National Park

At some point in your Aussie travels, you'll want to head away from the beach towards the outback.  If you're around the Brisbane/Gold Coast Area, there are two amazing National Parks that offer classic unusual outback terrain and it can all be done in a matter of three days.  So pack up your rigs and get ready to head into the outback territory on the Queensland/New South Wales border.

 Day 1: Driving out to Giraween takes anywhere from 3:30 min to 4 hours depending on where your coming from.  If you're into wine you can stop by an array of wineries in the Stanthorpe region before entering the park.  There are two campgrounds available in Girraween - Bald Rock Creek and Castle Rock, both are pretty much the same.  You can stay at either spot and access the park.  There are tons of day hikes inside the park.  We would recommend hiking to the natural bridge and onto the Pyramid summit where you will find an amazing balancing granite boulder.  Another great hike is to Castle Rock, where you can get killer views of the entire area.  Girraween is known for it's granite rock formations and I recommend taking some time to walk the tracks and marvel at how some of these rocks even exist in the middle of the outback.  Take an evening stroll around the park and you will definitely come across plenty of kangaroo.

 Day 2:  Wake up and if your feeling up to it, take a morning stroll and boulder around the granite, or have a cuppa and be on your way.  The drive from Girraween to Bald Rock is not very far. If you're low on gas, I recommend hitting up Tenterfield for fuel and supplies for your next evening.  The camping grounds are just right at the base of Bald Rock. Find a good spot, set up, and explore the area.  Bald Rock is Australia's biggest Granite monolith and it's an amazing rock to scramble up.  There is also an amazing old growth gum forest at the base of this monolith.  This park is seldom visited. So, don't be surprised if you only see a few other campers/hikers around.  We recommend catching the sunset over the outback from the summit.

 Day 3:  Set your alarm about one hour before sunrise get your headlight on and start the predawn summit up Bald Rock face.  If weather permits you will witness an amazing sunrise over a sprawl of gum and eucalyptus forest below.  Enjoy the solitude from this amazing rock and even take your shoes off for some of the best earthing in Australia.  After you're satisfied, head down, chill out at camp, and get ready to pack up and head out.

You can wrap the trip up by taking the B-60 to the A-1 and head north a bit into Byron Bay which is easily Australia's most iconic beach town.  Check out our Byron guide here.

Road trip Rainbow Bay to the Sunshine Coast

Sunshine Coast Australia Noosa

Grab your boardies, sunnies, and get ready to slip, slop and slap (Aussie jingle for being sun safe).  The Sunshine Coast is a beach haven serving up plenty of surf, sun, and natural beauty.  

Rainbow Beach - Sand dunes and sunshine - Start this journey off north, in Rainbow Beach, where you will find a quiet town with a massive beach and sand dune section that expands south as far as the eye can see.  Spend a day exploring the dunes.  Release your inner child and roll down the dunes into the beach below.  If your lucky enough to have a 4x4, you will be able to access some amazing camping anywhere along the beach.  If you don't have a 4x4, drive up north a bit and stay and one of the many campsites along Inskip Road. 

Noosa - Right point breaks and national park strolls - Noosa Heads is home to some of the friendliest right handed point breaks in QLD.  If you're luckily enough, you will be able to get some amazing rides here though, I recommend a long board.  If you're looking for more high performance rides, check out Granite Bay and Sunshine Beach on the south side of the headlands.  If surfing isn't your thing, there are plenty of trails to rock pools and more secluded beaches than you will find in Noosa's main beaches.  One of our favorite places to relax and surf was at Sunshine Beach. It was always amazing to us that once you drove to the south side how little people would be at the beach.  Noosa is a tough place for sneaky van camping. So, be careful and check out our guide to sneaky free camping.  

Sunshine Coast - Beach towns and mountains - After a few days exploring Noosa head, an 45 minutes or so down south the the Sunshine Coast where you will find an array of friendly surf and classic Aussie surf towns.  Start at Coolum Beach.  Walk up Mount Coolum (more of a hill) for some amazing views of the Sunshine Coast.  Head down the coast checking out all the small shops and cafes on your way.  We recommend posting up at Kawana Beach for the night, where we had no problems and met some amazing locals.  Wake up check the surf and then head out to the Glasshouse Mountains.  You'll find easy to difficult trails here.  If you're looking for something easy, check out Mt Ngungun for amazing views of the mountains.  The brave can head to Mt Tibrogargan for a rock scramble up to the top.  After this hike, you can head down and check out the Australian Zoo, which was home to to the late great legend, Steve Irwin. 

From here, Brisbane is just a short drive South.  We wouldn't recommend much in Brisbane it's a pretty boring city, in our adventurely opinion.  We say that you just power through and head to the Gold Coast for more options.  

Best of the Gold Coast

Gold Coast Australia Work Visa Travel Backpacker

 Out of all the places we visited in Australia, the Gold Coast is where we spent the most time.  We were fortunate enough to have worked and played in this amazing region for over 8 months.  The GC is perfectly situated near some of the worlds best surf, amazing bush walks, chilled out beach towns, wild night life, and some of Australias best vegetarian cuisine.

 Surf - If you've come to the GC to surf, well, you've come to the right place.  The region host 3 of the Australia's best right handed point breaks.  Snapper Rocks, in Coolangatta, dubbed the "Super Bank" is one of the most incredible waves to surf, when it's on.  Yes, it's incredibly busy but, if you have the patience and don't mind maneuvering through the massive crowds, you can easily get the longest barreling wave of your life.  Don't let the photos of the masses fool you. While this break can be the busiest wave in the world, on any normal day, you would be surprised at how little people are out. Currumbin Alley is the next point you'll come across on your way north up HWY 1.  While Currumbin can't hold as many people as the Super Bank, it's definitely a spot you'll need to paddle out.  Head just a few more kms up north and you'll run into our all time favorite spot, Burleigh Heads.  Burleigh is a far more consistent break and almost has surf everyday.  If you don't find it on the point, just check all along the beach you'll find a wedge somewhere to surf in North Burleigh

 Bush Walks - The Aussie term for a hike is a "bush walk" and the GC has plenty of them within a very short drive.  From lush rainforest to massive waterfalls and even glow worms, the hinterland, just outside of GC, delivers nature lovers much more than they would expect.  If your heading into the bush, I highly recommend Lamington National Park.  This NP is split into 2 sections: Binna Burra and O'Reilly's Plateau.  In our opinion, the O'Rielly's area is far superior to it's eastern neighbor Binna Burra.  Here, you can walk free of charge on the rainforest skywalk and tons of other short tracks to picturesque waterfalls.  Our recommendation is staying at the nearby $8 camping grounds and walking the Wishing Tree walk, at night, to the glow worm viewing area.  While the O'Reilly's visitor center does offer a $50 tour to the glow worm area, this is something that can easily be done for free.  Walk the short track in the day to get familiar with it and by night it becomes a glow worm grotto.  Other awesome parks in the area are Springbrook and Natural Bridge, where you can also see glowworms at night, but is much more popular.

 Beach life - Everyday that passes, I miss the chilled out scene from GC's southern less touristy beach towns.  Escape the madness of Surfers Paradise and head just a few kms down to areas where locals call home.  Out of all the suburbs of the GC, Burleigh Heads has to be our favorite.  The National Park at the Burleigh headland is amazing for afternoon strolls. Walk around the headland to the amazing Tallebudgera creek for a safe swimming haven in the creeks turquoise water.  Before you head out, hit the bottleshop for somesunset beers on the Burleigh Hill andwatch the surf while chatting it up with the locals.  All GC beaches from Miami south have amazing picnic facilities, with clean BBQ's, to throw a shrimp on the Barbie after a classic GC day of surf, sun, and relaxation.

 Night life - If you're on the GC, you have to at least have one big night out in Surfer Paradise. It's definitely one of Australia's premier nightlife destinations.  Down Cavil Avenue, there are plenty of bars and clubs to hop around and wet your pallet.  Out of all the clubs, the best in GC is by far Elsewhere and it's sister club just a few doors down Whereelse.  These two venues have live music every night with some big name DJ's that make Elsewhere a stop on their world tours every year. Acts like RUFUS, Flight Facilities, and Flume, to name a few, are some heavy hitters that come play at this GC underground electronic venue.  If electronic music isn't your thing, check out the newly remodeled restaurant/bar/club, The Avenue just down the way. They serve wood fired pizza into the early hours of the morning for those craving more than kababs.  Most clubs stay open till 3am, but have a lockout at 1am. Which means, once you leave the bar after 1am, you will not be able to get back in anywhere in Surfers. So, your best bet is to stay put. If you aren't into the bar scene, check out Miami Marketta on Friday and Saturday nights. They have live music and pop-up local food vendors serving multi-cultural dishes and desserts. It is an amazing time for the entire family.

 Vegetarian cafes - The GC has got to be one of the healthiest places we've ever lived. If the locals aren't hitting the gym, doing beach cross fit workouts, or running along the amazing coastline, they are eating at some of the countries best plant based restaurants.  If you're craving well crafted smoothies and the most delicious raw vegan deserts, then I highly recommend BlendLove, in Southport, just outside of Surfers.  Greenhouse Canteen, in Miami, has some of the coast's most creative vegan dishes.  Another option is Mandala's, in Mermaid Beach, providing a chilled out dining experience that has live music and events every week.  Make sure you go on a Tuesday night for all you can eat vegan pizza for $25pp. It's easily the best deal on the GC.  If you're going out with you're non veggie friends, go to the Pocket in Burleigh for the best falafel in Australia.  There are so many other options I could go on all day.  The entire coast is full of cafes serving up fresh pressed juices, acai bowls, and almost every cafe has a veggie/vegan options.

Byron Bay

Byron Bay Australia Travel Tips

Byron Bay is easily Australia's most iconic beach towns.  If you come to this laid back town, it's easy to get caught up in the tourist trap and have yourself second guessing about why the region gets so much hype.  But have no fear, we are here to help you steer clear of the madness and keep your wallet closed and enjoy this magical place on the cheap.

First of all, the town on Byron itself has gone from a small town bohemian paradise to what we like to call Byron Pay. The word is out about this sweet little town and there is massive influx of Euro backpackers trashing the area. In response, council has made every beach paid parking and they are on a daily hunt for vanlifers trying to bust a cheeky camp. They will not hesitate to issue you a hefty fine if caught sleeping in your vehicle. This entire town tries to cash in on their tourist reputation by trying to lure you in and get you to open up those wallets to have a unique laid back bohemian experience.  We write this blog for travelers that have their own vehicles and want to escape the ordinary and live as a local and experience this place and it's charm.  Here are 5 must do's and free activities to check out on your Byron Bay holiday.

1.  Wategos Beach - Get up at the crack of dawn and drive down to Wategos beach the only beach in Byron with free all day parking and watch a classic east coast sunrise.  The car park fills up quick but if you arrive at around 6am your guaranteed a premier spot overlooking the best beach in Byron.  Wategos has an amazing and very friendly right handed point break that is suitable for all surfers.  While it's more of a long boarders destination, it can serve up some great rides for all board sizes.  There are also a handful of amazing walks around Wategos you can walk to the most eastern tip of Australia, the iconic Byron Lighthouse, and all the way to Main beach in Byron.  Make sure to bring in food for the day there are nice BBQ's around but the cafe is a bit pricey.  We highly recommend visiting the Cafe on the Waves coffee van which is there almost every morning from 6am till about noon. 

2.  Broken Heads Reserve - Just a few kilometers outside of Byron is the Broken Head Nature Reserve.  Most tourists don't have vehicles or the knowledge of this hidden gem. So, most days especially weekdays, this reserve is almost empty.  Short walks can take you down to remote Kings and Whites beach where we have many times had this beach to ourselves.  Drive to the end of Seven Mile Road to Seven Mile beach and walk this long stretch of beach in solitude.  We've even seen bioluminescent algae here and have had some of the most amazing nights star gazing at the Milky Way Galaxy at this secluded beach.

3.  Mount Warning - Just an hour drive inland will bring you to Mount Warning.  Once an active volcano, Mt. Warning is the highest peak in the region and visible from Byron Bay.  During the winter months, the peak at Mt. Warning is the first place to see the sun rise in mainland Australia.  While it isn't the easiest hike, it is something that every traveler visiting the east coast should do.  In order to reach the summit by sunrise, you'll want to arrive around 3am.  We slept in the car park to make sure we made it up to the summit in time.  From the summit, it's an amazing experience to watch the sun rise over Byron Bay.  After the hike we recommend driving through the quirky town of Nimbin for breakie and maybe even a few brownies for your relaxing day in Byron.

4.  Whale watching - While there are numerous wale watching outfitters in the region, one of your best bets to watch these amazing creatures is from a short walk from the Wategos car park.  From July to October, Humpback whales dominate the ocean.  From cape Byron, you can see countless whales and calves breaching, tail and fin slapping, and preforming all kinds of whale behavior right from the point.  You'll be amazed a how close they will come to the rocks.  The whale migration it's easily one of our most unforgettable Aussie experiences.  If you really want to get up close and personal, you would want to board a tour but you will be amazed at what you can see from Cape Byron. 

5. Food and Drink - While never spending a dollar is ideal, eventually, we all have to eat. This is where I recommend opening up that wallet, because after all, ramen and PB&J get old. There is one cafe on the way into Byron that I just can't deny stopping at, Folk Cafe. I go in for a Beetroot Late and come out with a full tummy. I just can't help it. This down to earth spot has some of the most creative and interesting hot beverages you will ever encounter.

To top off your Byron Bay experience, pop on over to Stone & Wood easily one of our favorite beers in Australia. If you are interested in touring the facility and seeing how the magic is made, they do tours daily. Or if you were just looking to wet your whistle, they have inexpensive flights with the following beer just $5. Take advantage of the $5 beer... you'll never see a deal like that again in Australia.