More often than not you’ll find us exploring every nook and cranny of a country. But our trip to Australia was a wee bit different. We flew to Australia to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Sydney with family & friends we hadn’t seen in ages. Australia was also a jumping point for us to explore Fiji and New Zealand.
But you know us – we can’t visit a new country and not explore it. As you probably know well by now both of us suffer from a serious case of itchy feet. It’s a real problem 😉 So a week after landing in Australia we found ourselves renting a car to explore the cities and the countryside. We will probably go back to Australia soon to explore the outback around Perth and drive along the Sunshine Coast. But here are our Top 5 road trip experiences from our first trip to Australia 🙂
I) Explore Sydney
Sydney’s hectic pace and cosmopolitanism instantly transported us to London. London is our favourite city and we constantly miss little things about it as we travel around the world. But the gleaming Australian metropolis satiated our craving for London in ways more than one. We instantly felt at home in Sydney. We spent the first couple of days exploring prominent landmarks but soon enough we found ourselves exploring its street art, farmer’s markets, independent cafes, and open-air cinemas.
There is no dearth of articles on things to do in Sydney, but here are some of the things we loved in the city:
- The graffitti-laden by-lanes, vintage boutiques, and cafés of Newtown
- Picnicking at McMahons Point with Sydney Harbour in the background
- Watching Sydney’s iconic New Year’s Fireworks over Harbour Bridge and The Opera House from Milson’s Point
- Views of Sydney Harbour from the Manly Ferry. Manly Beach is quite commercial and can get very crowded, especially during summer months, but the trek is worth it for the ferry ride alone.
- Open-air cinema at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. If open-air cinemas aren’t your thing, this spot offers a perfect vantage point. Expect great views of the city, perfect for photographs.
II) Drive The Great Ocean Road
You probably know that Bruised Passports and Road Trips go hand in hand. So we just couldn’t leave Australia without driving the iconic Great Ocean Road, supposed to be one of the most scenic roads in the world. We didn’t book a car in advance this time around, so we quickly compared rates on Auto Europe, a price comparison engine for car rentals, and bagged the most affordable deal we could find (£25 per day for an economy car). We’ve used Auto Europe a fair few times for our road trips in Europe and found its service in Australia equally good! We picked our car in Melbourne and drove the entire stretch of The Great Ocean Road. The legendary coastal drive passes through rainforests, quaint coastal towns, beaches, and waterfalls and it should definitely feature on your itinerary of Australia.
The Great Ocean Road doesn’t disappoint. Some of our favourite spots include panoramic viewpoints around Port Campbell, the Otway Lighthouse (great for spotting koalas!), and the rural hinterland around Johanna. The entire drive is peppered with great restaurants, cafés, and eateries spilling with fresh produce and some of Victoria’s finest wines, so you won’t go hungry 🙂
We loved this area so much that we also went glamping and decided to hike the Great Ocean Walk and see the road from a different perspective. Read about our experience at Twelve Apostles Lodge (opens in new tab).
III) Take a City Break in Melbourne
Whether you choose to drive the length of the Great Ocean Road or complete the Great Ocean Walk on foot, one thing’s for sure – all that exploring is bound to leave you tired. Melbourne is the perfect base to unwind and work off the tiredness. The metropolis is a lot more laid-back than Sydney but it offers plenty of dining and sightseeing opportunities, making it perfect for an Aussie city break.
Try to stay in or around the CBD (Central Business District) if you’re in Melbourne just for a couple of days. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt, which offers stunning views of the entire city. We got lucky with a room on the thirtieth floor and woke up to gorgeous views everyday. We spent 4 days in Melbourne and loved exploring the exhibits at the The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), exploring fresh street art and graffiti at Hellier Street, and binging at Queen Victoria Night Market. The Royal Botanic Gardens are perfect for a stroll and St. Kilda beach is great for a relaxing day out. If you’re looking for a fun day trip from Melbourne, the Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley offer the perfect solution. Expect hidden villages, towering forests, hot-air balloons, enchanted woodlands, cosy tea-houses, and vineyards.
I’ll be honest – We were quite tired after our hike along the Great Ocean Walk. So the first couple of days of our city break in Melbourne looked a bit like this 😉
IV) Explore The Hunter Valley
If you, like us, like the finer things in life, The Hunter Valley is a must visit when you’re driving around Australia. It’s the mecca of wine. The Hunter Valley is a short drive away from Sydney and makes for a perfect weekend away. The legendary Hunter Valley Semillon needs to be the first item on your sampling menu because the wine is native to the Hunter Valley. You’ll find everything from younger acidic versions to mature toasty ones. Some wineries even have decadent dessert Botrytis Semillon on the menu. Try one of each, it couldn’t possibly hurt could it?! 🙂
You will also spot a host of traditional wines on sampling menus in Hunter Valley – Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay – you name it, they’ve got it! Both of us also loved the range of dessert wines, that pay homage to Canadian and French ice-wines, on offer – who can argue with notes of candied pineapple, luscious apricots, and honey on toast to finish off a meal eh?!
If you’re going to visit The Hunter Valley just for a day, then opt for a guided tour which will ferry you back to Sydney (drinking and driving is not recommended!). Pick a tour that specialises in smaller groups and visits boutique wineries instead of the larger, more crowded ones. We enjoyed the personal attention lavished on each guest by Boutique Tours. Insofar as the wineries go, we quite enjoyed the sampling menu at Lambloch Estate. Don’t forget to pick some bottles of wine for friends and family or your own wine cellar back home.
V) Take a day trip from Sydney
There are dozens of options for day trips around Sydney. If you have a relaxed picnic on your mind, Mooney Mooney provides a scenic waterside setting.
If you’re after a day trip in the countryside, drive down to Blue Mountains. The area is covered with dense Eucalyptus forests. The suspended particles of Eucalyputus oil interact with dust and water in the air to lend a distinctive blue haze to the entire area. Thus the name ‘Blue Mountains’. The rugged scenery here promises a perfect day out. Explore scenic spots such as Three Sisters and Katoomba Falls or sample one of the bushwalking trails in the area.
Getting to and exploring Australia is easy and the opportunities are endless. If your nationality allows, apply for the Australian visa online and enjoy all that Australia has to offer.
Have you been to Australia? What was your favourite experience in the vast continent? Leave us a comment below and we’ll try and include it in our itinerary on our next trip to Australia 🙂
Do you love experiential travel? Read about our dreamy glamping trip in Australia