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!

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.

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.  

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.