Four Weeks Down Under: Melbourne, Sydney, Byron Bay, Brisbane and Noosa

Australia has been a bit of a whirlwind so far, and with barely having any time to relax, comes barely anytime for writing.

I think there is a huge difference between travelling in New Zealand and Australia; people seem to be a little wilder here. New Zealand is beautiful and scenic – don’t get me wrong, we had some crazy party nights – but it was far more subdued. People were there to travel. People are here to party and are constantly on the go. I feel guilty for taking time out to write.

There’s a lot of young uns here too and, as a woman approaching her 30th birthday, it’s both liberating and depressing. Liberating because I can act like a 21 year old if I want (and this week I have been told I look 21 so I guess it’s what I like to call The Field of Dreams effect: if you build it, they will come. If I act like it, it will happen) but depressing because I feel nearly 30 and sometimes just want to chill out.

I am currently in Noosa which, although not the first place to steal my heart, (I’m currently head over heels in love with both Melbourne and Byron Bay) is absolutely stunning. I feel like I am on a holiday from my holiday in this upmarket coastal town. Admitedly I’d much rather be here with lots of cash (I’ve been walking past restaurants and pining after plates piled high with seafood and bottles of expensive looking red wine) and, since I’m wishing for stuff, a nice hot man to take me out for dinner, but even as a backpacker you can still have a bit of luxury. I am staying in the YHA hostel which is probably one of the prettiest hostels I’ve been in and certainly the nicest one I’ve stayed in in Australia (Take note Australia; you need to clean up your hostel act). I’ve mainly just been chilling out on the beach, working on my tan (although right now I am in the hostel bar as it is too freaking HOT for my English skin to handle) reading and chilling out with the lovely people I’ve been put in a room with. Tomorrow I’m going to attempt the coastal walk where koala bear sightings are common.

If you ever make it to Noosa, I highly recommend the YHA. With its heritage buildings, cute little bar and fairly cheap drinks ($6.50 for a nice glass of merlot isn’t too bad). Plus the beach is gorgeous. But be warned; bring lots of cash. You will want to eat and drink everything here. I’ve already blown my Noosa budget – nice, sunny days just calls for a nice glass of vino though!

So I’ve figured out I am roughly halfway through my Australia visit (and over halfway through my entire trip) which is insane! But with lots more to look forward to, I’m not about to feel sad just yet. Still to come:

Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island tour (5 nights) (*please keep your fingers crossed for good weather, it’s about to chuck it down for a few days*)

1970 (2 nights)

Airlie Beach and Whitsunday sailing trip (5 nights)

Magnetic Island (2 nights)

Caines plus Great Barrier Reef dive (7 nights)

Cape Tribulation (1 night)

Outback (Ayres Rock) (3 nights)

Melbourne for my last 3 nights and 4 days

I’m excited and apprehensive. Who knows who I’ll meet and who knows how crazy people will be along the way. One thing is for certain, I am going to need that hotel in Hong Kong and that trip to Bali after these next few weeks of travel. I am dreaming of villas and spa days and yummy food, and a cheaper place because I am fast burning through my money.

So what have I been up to so far?

I arrived in Melbourne late which was not a great start. My flight was delayed and a friend who had very kindly offered to let me stay with him for the weekend was meeting me on the other side. I was freaking out when I arrived but he was still there waiting when I finally managed to get in contact with him. Phew! After bar hopping in the CBD with my mammoth rucksack – who 1) still needs a name and 2) is wildly out of control – we headed to Hawthorne where I was staying for the next two days. My friend was a great tour guide taking me to the Melbourne Museum, China Town, to see the famous graffiti alleys, and through the weirdest street festival/market in Hawthorne. I was sad to head to a hostel late on the Sunday night. It was so nice to be normal for a while and spend time with people from the area. The next few days were spent sightseeing: the botanical gardens, Queen Victoria Markets, the state library; I also managed to catch up with an old friend for drinks and spend a night watching movies – something I have been craving since being on the move – and drinking Thatchers cider (for those who know me, this is HEAVEN because you can’t get decent cider here, it’s like apple juice). I loved my time in Melbourne – it fast became one of my favourite cities next to Cologne and Edinburgh – and I’m excited to spend my last few days of my Australian adventure in May.

I managed to find time to plan my entire trip when I was in Melbourne. I had started to realise that with my limited timeframe (six weeks of travel) I would really need to map it out and ensure all the trips are booked. I don’t usually like to travel like this – and certainly don’t intend to when I hit China and Bali – but Australia is just so freaking big – and CRAZY EXPENSIVE – that you need a game plan if you’re not here for a long period of time and want to keep the costs down. The travel agent I used were great as I told them my budget, what I wanted to do, and they tried to match this as closely as possible. While I wouldn’t recommend travelling this way all the time, if you are worried about budgeting, it’s possibly a good solution. It helped me ease my panic when I saw my dwindling savings keep reducing and really, I haven’t felt restricted at all as I have enough time in each place to hang out with new friends or go off somewhere if I wish. The downside is I am living on a miniscule budget but I have to keep reminding myself that this is just food and drink money, plus any souvenirs and incidentals that might crop up.

So next I hopped on an overnight bus from Melbourne to Sydney where it turned out a guy I’d met briefly in New Zealand had just moved to for work. After a nap and a shower we met to check out his new place of work in North Sydney and, of course, have a few drinks. It was so nice to see another familiar face although we soon realised that the bar we were sitting at was surrounded by the biggest bats we had ever seen. I have never seen a bat with a wingspan that enormous. There were other unwanted creatures including a few rats and an irritating lawyer called Joe. We decided we’d spend the next few days getting super touristy. I wasn’t sure I’d like Sydney as much as Melbourne when I first arrived (my hostel being bright yellow and seemingly in a dodgy part of town) but it really won me over (the hostel I’m still 50/50 on).

We spent the next couple of days doing a walking tour of Sydney to The Rocks and the Opera House, eating at amazing restaurants, drinking way too much coffee/beer/wine, heading over to Bondi Beach for a day of laze, discovering whiskey bars, and then one miserable rainy day at Manly beach.

Then it was on to Byron Bay. Now I am in lust with Byron. If it was a game of snog, marry, avoid, I would snog Byron, marry Melbourne and avoid Surfer’s Paradise (but that’s another story). So I found myself solo again which, although it allows me to do exactly what I want, when I want to, is pretty difficult after spending two weeks with other people. I needn’t have worried because Byron is really friendly and I was never really alone. With a really hippy vibe, Byron is all about chilling out in the day at the beach and partying like a crazy person at night. I met a lovely bunch of English girls and probably partied a little too much!


Next up was Surfers Paradise but I have NOTHING redeeming to say about this place and, in the words of Thumper from Bambi, “if you can’t say nothing nice, don’t say nothing at all.” In all honesty, I am going to employ this tactic for Brisbane too. It’s a nice city, it’s just nondescript.

So here I am in lovely Noosa, hiding from the midday sun because I haven’t burnt yet and I’m hoping to avoid it!

I’m a little in love with the way of life over here. It’s just such a shame it’s the other side of the freaking world!

Has anyone travelled Australia? What do you think of the backpacking culture on the East Coast? Have you arrived somewhere and felt instantly disappointed? Which cities would be on your Snog Marry Avoid list? Are you an “older” traveller? Share your stories with me!


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