Perth, Western Australia

After our awesome 12 days in New Zealand we made our way to Melbourne, again, for a night before hopping on yet another airplane to make the four hour flight across Australia to reach Perth. The fact that the flight itself was four hours really illustrates just how massive Australia is – interestingly our flight to New Zealand was actually slightly shorter.

We arrived into Perth airport and caught an Uber to our accommodation in Mosman Park. First impressions of Perth weren’t great as we drove through some run down looking areas but then we arrived to our place for the week – The Loft, which was a studio apartment in a nice suburb of Perth, which we didn’t get a chance to look around as it was dark by the time we arrived.

The Loft itself was a great space, which had everything we needed for our stay and was located above our hosts garage, separate from the main house – we were later told that this used to be their music room before they renovated and started to use it as an AirBnb.

During our stay in The Loft we were also able to use our hosts BBQ, which was located on the veranda at the front of their house. We decided to take our last opportunity to cook sausages and burgers and to enjoy sitting outside in the sun – the food was tasty.

Perth City

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On our first full day after arriving we decided to have a relaxed morning to recover after a really action packed and busy couple of weeks. So we didn’t make our way into the city until around 11am.

Upon arriving into the city we were extremely surprised at how nice and built up everything was. The main reason for our surprise was because we were expected a city that resembled Cairns which was pretty quiet and a bit older looking than the bigger cities of Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. This was simply not the case, it had a Brisbane kind of feel to it and felt really new and metropolitan. Also the Perth Fringe was on during our stay, which gave it a cool buzz as we looked around the city.

We wandered around for a few hours, made our way to Elizabeth Quay and overheard Aloe Black rehearsing for his performance later that night, which was unexpected as we didn’t know he was still around – he sounded pretty good.

For lunch we found a great little cafe which served some tasty bagels and decent coffee. This was close to the Botanical Gardens (Kings Garden) – yes another one we have visited on our travels, we cannot believe that there has been pretty much one everywhere we have visited.

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Once we arrived at Kings Garden we found one of the best lookouts over the city and Swan River.

As it was another hot and sunny day we decided to take a moment and grab a couple of beers at the Botanic Cafe. This was great as we really needed to get out of the sun and have a cold drink and it also gave us the opportunity to try a beer brewed in Western Australia, as we had tried a locally brewed one everywhere else we had travelled.

We visited the city on our last full day in Perth for a meal at a Cambodian restaurant called My Bayon. We decided on this restaurant as we had heard good things about it and wanted to try a different type of cuisine. We weren’t disappointed as the food was exquisite. We both tried the Ah Mok Curry which is a traditional Cambodian dish where barramundi fish is cooked wrapped in a banana leaf. What’s more is that each time this particular dish is chosen the restaurant donates $1 to Awareness Cambodia.

Fremantle

Before getting to Perth we had heard that Fremantle was a cool area to visit. We also knew that there was a market every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We found the market and enjoyed checking out all the stalls. There was quite a lot of cool and interesting items, but nothing that we wanted to purchase, which was a shame.

Afterwards we looked around the town itself and even found out that they have a one o’clock gun that is shot everyday. This was interesting as they have a one o’clock gun in Edinburgh, Scotland. We didn’t know that they had this anywhere else in the world. We leant that the gun was fired at the same time everyday to enable ships to set their maritime clocks they needed to navigate the world’s oceans.

Rottnest Island

We set off on our journey to Rottnest Island at 7:50am to arrive at Fremantle Quay to get our 30 minute ferry at 9:10am. It was another beautifully sunny day and we were excited to see the island and to hopefully see a quokka – a cute marsupial found on this island, known for their smiles while people take selfies with them.

Our first port of call once we arrived was a ‘Meet the quokka’ talk where they told us all about the little furry creatures. We were surprised to hear that quokkas can actually be found on the mainland but as they have a lot of competition and predators they are a lot rarer. However, on Rottnest Island they have what may be considered paradise for them. Other than an osprey nothing else hunts them and there is plenty of food around, so the island has a pretty healthy population.

We were pretty lucky that near the meeting point there were a little group of quokkas and we managed to get our ‘quokka selfies’. Although this was a lot more difficult that we initially thought, involving having to sit or lie on the floor to get to their level and hope they remained still and looked at the camera, so there were quite a few failed attempts! But our mission to find a quokka was complete and we had only been on the island for 15 minutes.

Next, we hired a couple of bicycles to get around the island. Overall we cycled 18km around the island, found some stunning views of bays and beaches and then pulled up to snorkel in Little Salmon Bay.

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The water was just what you wanted as it was cool as you walked in but then was warm as you swam around. There weren’t many fish around but the ones that were got pretty close. It was fun to be in the ocean again.

We then made the last 4.2km ride back to the main area of the island to return our bicycles and get a well deserved cold drink and some ice cream – yum!

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We didn’t catch a ferry back to the mainland until 6pm, which was pretty rough as the ferry was crashing over waves but we made it back safe and sound. We had a tiring but awesome day.

Mosman Park

We really liked this area as it was a short walk to the beach and not far to the main city or Fremantle via train.

However, our time in the area was made a little scarier as there were lots of magpies around, which we know doesn’t sound very scary! But the Australian magpie isn’t the same as the one found in the UK as they are known to swoop at passers by, normally this only happens during mating season (August to October) as they are trying to protect their nests, but they have rarely been known to swoop outside of this time. They also only usually swoop at cyclists and runners as their speed makes them feel threatened. Many people wear helmets with spikes on their heads to protect themselves. However, one day, out of season, and just walking by at a slow pace, Lauren heard a magpie hovering around but could only see it’s shadow so didn’t know how close it was. We certainly didn’t expect it to swoop down and peck at her head. As funny as it is now, at the time it was actually pretty scary and pretty painful. After that we felt hyper vigilant around the area as we read that magpies can hold a grudge against someone and will attack the same person again, and it is advised to find a different route. We don’t know what Lauren did to be victimised as she was.

On our last day we headed to the beach for the last time in Australia. It was a dog friendly beach so there were so many dogs running around like headless chickens having a whale of a time running into the ocean chasing tennis balls and waves. It was a lovely beach and the sun was shining so we really enjoyed dipping our feet in the sea and walking along the beach.

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Rockingham – Our wild dolphin experience

Another early start as we made our way into the city to be picked up at 6:50am to be transported by coach to Rockingham (40 minutes south of Perth) for our wild dolphin experience. This was something that Lauren had been talking about doing for our whole trip and even before we started travelling.

It was also going to be our last experience on our travels, so even more pressure for it to be an amazing one! And it was!

The dolphins were Indo-Pacific bottlenose and we managed to swim with a few males and then a mother and her calf sticking close together. We also saw them feeding and one of the dolphins catch an octopus.

For a lot of our swimming around we were actually following a stingray who the dolphins were following as they also hunt squid and octopus that hide in the sea grass. It’s a bit of a cheeky way of them trying to catch the food the stingray finds without having to work as hard for it. We were told that it was only one of two places this behaviour has been witnessed (the other being Mexico) and has even been documented by the BBC. We felt lucky to have seen them hunting in this way.

It was amazing to also hear the dolphins buzzing and whistling under the water, which was louder than we thought and were told that it can travel for 800 metres underwater which is very useful as these sounds are used to communicate with each other and for echolocation allowing them to picture their surroundings and to locate their prey. Another interesting fact we were told was that dolphins have semi-conscious sleeps in five to ten second naps, which equates to eight hours everyday.

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We had the most incredible day and to have the experience we did swimming amongst all the wild dolphins in their natural environment was truly wonderful.

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Final thoughts

We were only in Perth for a short time but we found ourselves very surprised at how much we liked the city as it was a lot livelier and built up than we anticipated after being told by people on the East Coast of Australia that it’s quieter on the West Coast. We thoroughly enjoyed the experiences we had in Perth and can’t believe that we managed to get a selfie with a quokka and were lucky enough to swim with a group of wild dolphins.

Perth is a place that we would probably visit again if we ever made our way back to Australia in the future.

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Lauren’s favourite thing – swimming with wild dolphins 

Daniel’s favourite thing – cycling around Rottnest Island 

So that’s it for Perth and Australia, now to make the long way back to England via Doha, Qatar…

 

New Zealand

After not being sure about visiting New Zealand on our travels, which now we cannot believe, we arrived feeling really excited to see somewhere new. It was feeling like we had been in Australia for a while and we were both ready for something a bit different. Plus, after researching the North Island we found so many things we wanted to do and see. 

We arrived late at night into Auckland airport after a relatively short (everything felt short after flying to Singapore from the UK!) three hour, 40 minute flight. We had also lost two hours as the time difference here is two hours ahead of Australia, now putting us 13 hours ahead of the UK. 

We were staying in our own studio apartment about a 20 minute drive outside of the main city. It was such a lovely space and we were so comfortable there for a few days. 

Day 1

On our first day we decided to first head to the highest of the mainland volcanoes in Auckland – Mount Eden, which stands at 196m. Auckland is built on a volcanic field and there are 50 volcanoes in a 1,000km square radius, forming hills, lakes and basins of the city. The volcanic field is referred to as monogenetic, which means that each time there has been an eruption it has been in a new location and each eruption has been the result of a single batch of lava rising from its source in the mantle, 100km beneath the city. This means that in the event of an eruption it would unlikely be one of the volcanoes that has already erupted becoming active but that a new one would be formed. 

The crater left from the eruption was impressive and the height of the volcano gave some great views of Auckland city, which we visited next.

Maybe because since deciding we were coming to New Zealand we’ve been thinking about Lord of the Rings, but walking around the volcano area reminded us of many of the scenes from the films including running through and down some of the hills. 

Next we visited the city and were a little underwhelmed, although it was a nice city, there wasn’t really much to do. We wandered around and then stumbled across an interactive art installation called 1000 doors, which sounded quite interesting… how wrong we were. It was definitely the worst NZ$20 we’ve spent so far on the trip, maybe ever. It was sold as an immersive experience walking through each door like you were stepping into a different world and not knowing what exciting thing would be on the other side; it turns out really not a lot. Each room looked like part of an old derelict house and this didn’t change no matter what room you went through. So we paid NZ$20 to walk through a load of doors, which now feels pretty silly. 

We headed home for dinner before making our way to the Stardome Observatory for a Summer night sky talk and viewing. It was really interesting in the observatory looking up at the sky projections and learning about our galaxy and further. We were also shown how to spot constellations including Orion, and his dogs (Canis Major and Canis Minor), The Southern Cross, and Taurus. In addition we were shown how to find South using the Southern Cross and Orion’s belt. 

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After the presentation in the observatory we went outside to find these constellations and look through telescopes to get a closer look. We also used a telescope to look at Mars, which was in our path that evening. We had a great evening and it was something neither of us had done before. 

Day 2

We were carrying on the theme from yesterday and visiting the volcanic island of Rangitoto today, which stands 259m above sea level. It is Auckland’s youngest volcano erupting from the sea a mere 600 years ago. This volcano’s birth was witnessed by the neighbouring island of Motutapo, which had Maori people living on it at the time. 

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We arrived via ferry in 25 short minutes and once we arrived began our summit walk through lava fields and forests to reach the top. Again, this definitely felt like we were in Lord of the Rings territory but luckily we weren’t climbing up Mount Doom in Mordor.

As we had been doing so many coastal walks including big ascents, climbing summits, mountains and just walking in the bushland in Australia during our travelling, we felt like it really should be getting easier, but each one felt just as exhausting. Maybe they were getting harder, lets go with that! 

We were very happy to reach the top and have some great views across the water to Auckland.

Then we climbed through some very tight and dark lava caves. This was something we had never done anything like before and after Lauren hesitating slightly at first, especially as we didn’t have proper torches, we decided to go for it, following a group ahead who had a decent torch. We did use our phone torches in the end, which weren’t too bad. The entrance into the caves was very narrow and tight and you had to crawl to get through. There were people around talking about spiders but luckily we didn’t see any, just lots of cobwebs, and to be honest, it was a pretty brisk climb through where we didn’t really look for them (well, Lauren didn’t).

We had a great day on Rangitoto Island, we were really glad we visited it!

Day 3

Today we visited two of New Zealand’s black sand beaches – Piha and Karekare. These were both on the West coast of the North Island, just over an hours drive away. These beaches have black sand because the sand is composed of volcanic minerals and lava fragments and volcanic minerals and rocks are dark coloured. 

It was really strange to see and as we were getting a little bored of visiting lots of ‘normal’ sandy beaches, these were something different to experience. Looking at the sand it looked like soil, it wasn’t until you felt it under your feet that it felt like sand – it was pretty strange. 

We had a fun afternoon walking around the beaches, especially as the scenery around them was so stunning with lots of rocks and mountains. 

Day 4

We were moving on from Auckland today and heading down the North Island making our way to Wellington. Our first stop was Matamata, aka Hobbiton. We were very excited that the day had arrived where we were visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set, both being Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fans. 

Before we started our drive down we stopped at One Tree Hill in Cornwall Park, which is yet again another volcano in Auckland – we were starting to feel like enthusiasts! 

It was another beautiful day and we started walking around the park and then up the summit for some more brilliant views of Auckland. 

Then we started to make our way to Matamata, which was about two hours away. We checked in to our Airbnb and met our really nice hosts. Then we walked into the town centre, which was a five minute walk away, and found a late lunch/early dinner. We ate at a local eatery called Redoubt, and enjoyed some of the best burgers we’d ever eaten (even though Lauren could only eat half) and a ‘handle’ (pint) of Ale – a great Kiwi meal. 

Next, it was time for Hobbiton! We made the short drive to the movie set, which was in the middle of wonderful rolling hills filled with sheep and cows. The set is actually part of a farmland, it is 12 and a half acres in total space, which is actually only around 1% of the farms total land – so the Alexander family own a huge amount of land!

We excitedly boarded the shuttle bus to the set and once we arrived it was really magical and completely like the Shire you see in the films. The paths were narrow and long and it was filled with green fields, trees and of course lots of hobbit holes. It was a guided tour, which meant we learnt lots of facts about the filming like how they achieved the height difference between Gandalf and the Hobbits using perspective shooting. We learnt that they used different sized Hobbit doors according to the actor and whether they wanted them to look small or tall. The scene where Gandalf walks into Frodo Baggins home and bangs his head near the beginning of the first LOTR is actually completely real and unscripted. We also learnt that the end scene with Sam and his daughter, is actually real, as it is his daughter in real life and they hadn’t seen each other for months, so the emotions are real. Sam’s wife is also holding her own baby in real life. 

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The last stop on the tour was across the bridge and into the Green Dragon for a  complimentary drink of cider for Lauren and ale for Daniel. A great end to the tour!

All in all we had a great time. Walking around was fantastic and even though it was packed you managed to have time and space to take photos around the set. The only thing we were disappointed by was the lack of Hobbit hole to walk inside as the scenes in these were all filmed in studios and on the set it was just the doors built into the landscape.

At this point of being in New Zealand we were absolutely loving our time and what we’d seen of the country.

Day 5 

We were moving on from Matamata to visit Lake Taupo before our stay a further two hours South in Taihape. 

We arrived in the Lake Taupo area planning to complete a walk to Huka Falls following up the Waikato River. We read that Huka Falls is the most visited natural attraction in New Zealand and it is where around 220,000 litres of water plunges over an 11 metre waterfall every second. The flow of the falls is so powerful that it prevents the upstream migration of trout and native fish.

We parked up and began our walk, although feeling like we had somehow turned the wrong way as we seemed to be heading away from the river. We were in fact going the wrong way as we discovered a sign telling us we were now another 1.5km from Huka Falls than when we started. So as we were already going to be pushing it a bit for time as Daniel had a Bungy jump booked for that afternoon, we turned back and drove to the falls. Luckily, there were some nice trails around the falls and also somewhere nice to sit and have our lunch. 

Huka Falls were also awesome to see. The walk gave lots of different vantage points and we enjoyed about an hour wandering around. 

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Then it was time for Daniel’s Bungy jump, which I think Lauren was more nervous about. Doing a Bungy Jump was something that Daniel had wanted to do as we were in New Zealand, the home of the bungy and where the adventure sport was first invented. Tapuo bungy is the highest water touch bungy jump in New Zealand with the platform being 47 meters above the water of Waikato River. Daniel felt pretty relaxed while getting kitted up and was asked whether he “wanted to go for it” when jumping, asking how much he wanted to touch the water whether just hands reaching the water or more. Daniel opted for a full dive into the water as he thought it would be refreshing on another hot day in New Zealand. 

Daniel reached the edge of the platform and on the count of three he jumped. The jump itself lasted approximately 11 seconds before hitting the water below. The freefall was awesome. After bouncing up and down a few times he was lowered into a boat and released from the harness. Daniel loved this experience and would most certainly do it again, and would go higher next time.

After Daniels exciting experience we found a cafe in Taupo to relax in for a while. Then we went for a gorgeous walk around the lake, which is the largest in New Zealand, and is also around the same size as Singapore. 

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Whilst walking around we came across a Hole in One Challenge to a floating green in the lake, which Daniel was eager to complete. Unfortunately he didn’t get a hole in one but a lot of close shots, and it was good fun. 

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At the end of our day we treated ourselves to a lovely Thai meal in Taupo before making our way to Taihape, where we were staying on a farm. 

We arrived on the farm and met our lovey hosts. We sat with them and had a cup of tea and some Hokey Pokey ice cream, which we learnt is a bit of a New Zealand delicacy they said we had to try whilst over there – it was pretty tasty. 

Day 6

As part of our stay on the farm we had breakfast included, which was an impressive spread including some dairy free muffins the host had baked especially for Lauren. We spent a lovely hour or so enjoying our breakfast and chatting to our hosts. Then it was time to make our way to Wellington. 

We didn’t arrive in Wellington till around 4pm. We checked into our place, did a quick shop nearby and relaxed for the rest of the evening. We were staying about 15 minutes outside of the centre and in an area called Johnsonville. 

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Day 7

As it was our first day in Wellington we thought it would be a good plan to head into the city. We got the bus from pretty near our place and after arriving in Wellington, walked along the harbour and to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. We were pleasantly surprised with this museum and really enjoyed spending a few hours here. 

We then began to make our way to the Botanic Gardens and after walking uphill for what felt like an eternity and still being miles away from the Botanic Gardens we gave up and decided we would maybe drive there another day. 

Day 8

We were a little unsure what to do today, with a few things we fancied in and around Wellington but none we were completely sold on. 

We settled on first going to the Botanic Gardens and this time we made it there! We enjoyed a short walk around and then our lunch.

Then it was on to Mount Victoria, which is the highest point in Wellington and did have spectacular views across the city.

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Next and very much keeping it theme with LOTR, we visited the WETA studios who produced the LOTR and Hobbit films. We booked in for a guided tour and were shown around the studios hearing lots of stories, learning about production and seeing lots of props. We learnt about the time taken to produce some of their models, which was pretty unbelievable. For example, they created a war exhibition at the local museum where they created soldiers and we were told to create the lifelike appearance that just for the persons hair someone would spend six weeks individually placing hairs on the models head. A lot of the weapons would take hours and hours to make with casting, shaping, painting and then even battering a bit to give the effect it had been in battle. We were also told when working during filming working around 100 hour weeks was not uncommon. It was an interesting tour and we enjoyed seeing lots of the props and learning more about the production process. 

Day 9

We had an early start to make our way to Tongariro National Park where we were pretty excited to first discover is where Mount Doom is from LOTR, obviously without the spouting lava. The mountain is actually called Mount Ngauruhoe and was awesome to see up close.

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We began the 9km return walk to the foot of Mount Ngauruhoe and we were so impressed with the views and how spectacular the mountain looked. It was probably our favourite walk we had done since we’d been away. It was a lovely morning and the views around the whole area were incredible.

 After this we made our way to Tawhai Falls, aka Gollum’s Pool and were impressed with this area too. 

Overall an awesome geeky day!

Day 10

Next it was off to Rotorua. We had been warned that Rotorua was very smelly being an active volcanic area and it definitely was! The sulphur in the air was pretty poignant and we could smell it on some of our clothes even days after we left. 

We started our day visiting the Lady Knox Geyser at Wai-O-Tapu, which they induce to erupt at 10.15 every morning with surfactant. The geyser would erupt naturally everyday but unpredictability, which is why they induce it for tourist purposes. Adding the surfactant, which acts like a detergent causes the geyser to bubble and then spurt upwards. This can be up to 20 metres and can last up to an hour. It didn’t reach heights of that when we saw it but it was very impressive to see. 

Next, we walked around the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal park. It has been sculpted over years of volcanic activity and it was stunning to see. It is also known as New Zealand’s most colourful and diverse geothermal area. It was surprising how true this was with so many colours including one steaming hot spring they had called the Artists Palette, which had yellows, oranges and greens in it. The colours are caused by the mineral deposits that streak its surface and are then distributed by the wind. These included yellow/green from Sulphur/Arsenic, orange from Antimony/Arsenic, and grey from Carbon.

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We saw lots of steaming craters, hot springs, lakes and mud pools. All the while being very smelly, it was a great thing to walk around and see and learn about. 

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Next for the day was a visit to a traditional Maori village. The one we visited was an actual village where people lived and the people there had been showing people their way of life for around 100 years. We were keen to visit an authentic village as when we looked into different ones around the area, we found that most were actually set up purely for tourism purposes. 

The village was called Te Whakarewarewatanga-o-te-ope-a-Wāhiao, which we were taught how to pronounce, although would have no hope in doing that now!

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We started our visit with a steam box cooked lunch, which is a traditional method of cooking they use in the village facilitating the natural steam from the hot springs. It consisted of chicken, beef, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables and a corn on the cob, followed by a steam pudding for dessert. We were really impressed with the food, it tasted really fresh. 

The visit also included a guided tour around the village, which was really interesting to hear about their way of life and also how it is changing and has changed with Western influences over the years. 

There was also a cultural performance from a family living there, although our guide did say that everyone living in the village was related in one way or another! It featured chants, dances and songs, including the well known Haka. 

The last thing for our volcanic day was to visit Hells Gate Geothermal Park for a mud bath and sulphur spa package. This involved covering ourselves in mud and soaking in the mud water, which is meant to have lots of natural healing properties. This was followed by three sulphur hot spring baths you could soak in, which were really relaxing. It was a strange but really cool experience, even though after a shower we still smelt of sulphur, which only subsided after a couple more showers over the next couple of days. 

Day 11

We were both really excited to be completing a zip lining canopy tour through the forest today. We had opted for the ultimate tour, having more zip lines, more height and other experiences such as bridge walks and descents. It was brilliant! Lauren was pretty nervous before beginning but the experience built up gradually with the zip lines getting higher and higher and faster and faster and after the first one down, the nerves were gone and it was just so much fun! The zip lines sped through the forest in some places and then above the forest canopy on others where the views were spectacular. The highest was 50 metres above the forest floor. After completing the first zip line and asking how high we were, to be told nine metres (thinking we were at least around 20) was pretty scary to then think we were getting to heights of 50 metres!

We even had the opportunity to race each other, where Daniel won, but we all know the more mass something has the more speed it will pick up, so it was an unfair race really! 

The last zip line we both went off backwards, which was awesome and then the final challenge was a controlled descent that involved falling backwards off the edge of the platform before being lowered down. Pretty terrifying to start with but then the descent down wasn’t as bad as we thought! 

Overall we had a great time! The guides were great, the forest was stunning and it was so much fun flying through an ancient forest. 

After our action packed morning we headed to the Redwood forest in Rotorua known for its gorgeous towering Californian Coast Redwoods. We went for a walk around before hitting the road for Auckland. The forest was beautiful and the redwoods were really special to see. 

This had been our final day in New Zealand and we then hit the road to begin our three hour drive to Auckland before flying back to Perth, Australia. 

Final thoughts

We had both been surprised as to how much we loved New Zealand. We found the scenery stunning and did so many things that we absolutely loved. The environment and nature was wonderful and we both felt that we would have liked to stay longer and also gutted we hadn’t visited the South Island, which just means we’ll have to come back one day! 

We met some really lovely people through our Airbnb stays and found the New Zealander’s really friendly overall. 

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Daniel’s favourite thing – Hiking to the foot of Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom)

Lauren’s favourite thing – Our zip lining forest canopy tour

We couldn’t believe that we were now heading to Perth for the last leg of our adventure…

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The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road (GOR) was something we had talked about doing before coming to Australia after seeing pictures and reading about the beautiful coastal drive and places to visit on it. It was created as a memorial to those who fought in the First World War. The GOR wasn’t quite as long as we first thought, which was a welcome surprise as our previous road trips had felt pretty long. This time we were able to take everything a little slower and not have to fit quite as much driving in. We were excited to begin!

Day 1 

Our first day started when we collected a rental car from near Melbourne Airport. From there we made our way out of the city and towards Jan Juc, where we were staying that night.

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We arrived in Jan Juc and after checking in our first stop was Bells Beach. This is an iconic beach along the GOR as it’s arguably Australia’s most famous surfing beach and has been included on the World Competitive Tour since 1973 and has since been known as the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Most of the surfers that have won the coveted trophy have been home grown Australians. In addition, it was the birth place of modern surfing when the first 3-finned surfboard was used, which has now become the norm for the majority of surfboard used today. While there we saw a lot of surfers attempting to catch a wave or two, a couple actually looked pretty good. We stood and watched for a little while before moving on. In truth it wasn’t the most impressive beach we have seen during our travels in Australia but the swells of the ocean were what made this place impressive and perfect for improving your surfing skills and walking in the footsteps of the pros. Unfortunately, we weren’t quite good enough to tackle some of these massive waves!

Afterwards, we made the short trip to Torquay, a small but popular beach town. It was made busier by the fact that it was an Australian Bank holiday for Australia Day which was at the weekend. While there we wandered along the esplanade and went in search for some fish and chips – what’s better than that at the beach.

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Feeling full we enjoyed a restful night sleep in preparation for an early start the next day.

Day 2

This was a day that Daniel had been very excited about. Today was ‘golf day’. It was the day, hopefully, that we would play golf alongside some well known Australian wildlife – kangaroos!

We had read the best course down the GOR for this was Anglesea Golf Course. This course did not disappoint as there were kangaroos everywhere!

From practically the first hole there were kangaroos everywhere. One hole in particular they were casually sitting in the middle of the fairway. Daniel had to hit a decent shot to ensure that the ball cleared them – the last thing he wanted to do was hit and injure one.

Before we tee’ed off we were told that the kangaroos wouldn’t run away if you were holding a golf club, but would if you weren’t. At first we couldn’t believe this local titbit but found it to be quite accurate as we made our way round.

This was a fantastic experience. An experience Daniel was talking about well before we left.

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From Anglesea we stopped at the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch. This arch is one of the most photographed spots along the GOR and it acknowledges the challenges faced by workers in construction of the road.

From there was an easy access point to a beach to stretch our legs. Although it was very busy around the arch, not many people ventured to the beach so that was peaceful. 

Then it was on to Teddy’s Lookout (somewhere we were told to visit by Sarah and Kris) for a great view of the road hugging the coast. It was quintessential of the GOR.

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Kennett River was our next stop. We had read that this was a popular hang out for koalas and therefore one of the best places to, finally, see a wild one. We were walking around for approximately 40 minutes and we still hadn’t spotted one. We turned back feeling a bit dejected. Then, one appeared on a tree just off of the pathway. It was amazing to see one and it was like he was waiting for us to wander past.

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Feeling satisfied after seeing a koala we headed to Apollo Bay, the location of our next place for the evening. It was another beach town and we had a lovely walk along the beach soaking up more sun.

The place we stayed for the night we had read on Airbnb had some resident koalas, which could sometimes be seen around the property. Once there we had a good look around and happened to find four of them up in the trees. Unfortunately, they were a touch too far away to get any good photos, but it was wonderful to see so many. So going from struggling to see any to seeing five in one day – too easy!

Day 3

We started our travels today by making our way to the Cape Otway Lightstation.

Unbeknown to us there was a charge to get close to and into the lightstation, so as we weren’t too fussed we decided against it and opted for a walk nearby with a ‘distant view of the lightstation’. It wasn’t the most interesting route but it delivered on a very distant view. Overall we weren’t too impressed with this area but on the upside, the ocean looked amazing.

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Afterwards, we wanted to look around more of Great Otway National Park so we decided on Melba Gully as it was almost on route for our next stop. When we arrived there were only two other cars in the car park, which was unusual as for the most part the GOR had been very busy – this wasn’t a good sign. We sat down, had our lunch and then followed a trail around the forest. It wasn’t one of our favourite walks. The only thing of note there is the ‘Big Tree’ which would have been very impressive had it not collapsed in 2009.

Once we had finished we made the decision to drive to Port Campbell, drop our bags off and grab some food before going to see the main event along the GOR – The Twelve Apostles, even though there are now only eight of them.

We waited until just before sunset before making our way there. It was only ten  minutes away, which was great. From the viewing platforms you could see the eight apostles still standing. They we very impressive indeed and left us asking why they had weathered the elements when the rest of the cliff side had fallen away.

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Day 4

Our final day along the GOR.

Before leaving we stopped at Loch Ard Gorge. To our surprise it was actually really windy and rainy – we had forgotten what this weather felt like! So after being very unprepared for this, we had a brief look around before heading off.

From here we drove directly to Melbourne Airport to catch our flight to Auckland, New Zealand. 

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We are glad that we had this experience and explored the GOR as it’s one of the most iconic roads in Australia and we saw and experienced lots of great things. There were great beaches and views, The Twelve Apostles were impressive, golf was really fun, and we stayed at some great Airbnb places. We did however feel that many of the other roads we had driven, especially in Queensland were equally as impressive and filled with many great spots too. We think if we would have driven the road earlier on in our travels we may have been more impressed but we still had a fab time! 96642E96-57F0-4B09-A7AD-60990ED4AD7C

Daniel’s favourite thing – Playing golf at Anglesea Golf Course with the kangaroos

Lauren’s favourite thing – Finally seeing a wild koala

So that’s it for the Great Ocean Road and Australia for a couple of weeks, now on to Auckland, New Zealand…

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Melbourne

Melbourne was all about the food and coffee. Luckily and by a happy accident we were staying right by Lygon Street, which is famous for its Italian community and excellent food. The street has a great bustling vibe and is full of wonderful looking restaurants, which were so busy every single night of the week. They had alfresco dining and for a moment you felt like you were in Italy. 

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By the time we arrived in Melbourne it was late and we were starving so having all these restaurants so close was great and we enjoyed our first delicious Italian meal, which by chance was one of the highest rated down Lygon Street. It was so good it was hard to not go back to but with so many great looking places we didn’t want to go back to the same place twice. 

On our last night staying near Lygon Street we went to the top rated Italian restaurant for pizza, one that had been recommended to us and one we had seen queues outside every night. Luckily, we arrived early-ish and didn’t have to queue like many of the people after us. The pizza and wine were delicious – one of our favourite meals of the trip.

We loved our time in the ‘Little Italy’ of Melbourne and the place we stayed in, which was also only a 20-30 minute walk into the centre of the city. 

Our second place was at the seaside area of St. Kilda. We stayed there for five days. We weren’t too impressed or happy with our accommodation here but we were grateful that at least it had air con as we experienced two days reaching over 40 degrees whilst staying – It was difficult to be outside during these days. 

St Kilda was a cool place to stay and it was nice to be beside the sea for a few days. 

Highlights from Melbourne

I’m Free Walking Tour

This was a free tour with the premise of tipping at the end for what you thought it was worth. It was a long tour being over three hours and with a lot of walking. Our guide Andreas was full of interesting facts and we felt like we knew the Melbourne area pretty well by the end. We learnt that Melbourne has been voted the most liveable city in the world for the past seven years until this year where it missed out to Vienna, but second in the world is still pretty good. We also learnt that Melbourne had an era called ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ where the city boomed after the gold rush in the 1850s. In this time Melbourne’s population exploded from 20,000 (in 1850) to 125,000 (by 1860). During this time most of Melbourne’s institutions were established, such as the first railway line, the telegraph, the university, public library and museum and its famed Royal Exhibition Building. For a short time Melbourne was actually the temporary capital of Australia, but this didn’t last and as the decision couldn’t be made between Melbourne and Sydney at the time, they created a completely new city – Canberra, which was in the middle of both, naming it the capital of Australia. There is still a big friendly rivalry between the two cities, especially when it comes to sporting events. 

As we have been travelling we have noticed that Australians like to give things a grand title and claim to be the best or top something in the world as much as they can. We found they will give this title to random things such as in Tasmania with the ‘worlds longest single charlift span’ and Australia claims to have the ‘world’s longest fence’. We were told by our tour guide that when they cannot use the best in the world they claim it is the best in the Southern Hemisphere, which when you consider only has 10% of the world’s population isn’t quite as impressive.  

Eureka Skydeck 

This building was the ‘highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere’ and boasted views for miles across Melbourne. The lift shot you up 88 floors within 60 seconds (9 meters a second) so we did feel our ears popping. When we arrived at the top we were a little underwhelmed. It was great to have such a good view across Melbourne but it was all through glass, meaning that it was difficult to get that many nice photos without a reflection or glare. We also paid extra for the ‘Edge’ experience. For this you stood in a glass box, which then extended out of the building three metres so you had the view below your feet. It was quite crazy that only four centimetres of glass stood between you and the floor below. Again, though it was a cool experience we were a little underwhelmed especially after the first minute where it was quite exciting and then after that you were just walking around a glass box, feeling like David Blane, looking down not really sure what else to do for the next five minutes. Not only that, we were unable to get any photos as they didn’t allow you to take your phone or camera into the glass box. 

The Laneways

The hidden laneways were really cool and had some great little cafes, bars and restaurants but we were a little disappointed with the ‘iconic’ street art. There were some really impressive paintings but then a lot of it just looked like messy graffiti over graffiti. On our walking tour we did actually see some people spray painting in one of the alleys and you could see the layerings of paint in some places as they were starting to peel off. We were told that we could add some ‘art’ if we wanted but unfortunately we had forgotten our painting supplies!

The Laneways were where we finally had some kangaroo burgers, after months of talking about it. We found a small independent burger bar called Metro Burger and, we must say, the burgers were pretty tasty.

Another foodie item we got while down Degraves Street was some extremely good gelato, another recommendation. We really needed the cooling ice cream as it was another very hot day in Melbourne.

ArtVo

One day we walked to the docklands area to visit an immersive art gallery called ArtVo. We had lots of fun posing with the different works of art and illusions and we had a good laugh looking back at all of the photos. 

State Library of Victoria 

During our Melbourne walking tour we were told about an exhibition in the State Library dedicated to the infamous bushranger Edward Kelly, more commonly known as Ned Kelly. He is known as one of the last bushrangers – a thief who lived in the Australian Bush to evade capture – and is by far the most famous. He is best known for wearing a suit of bulletproof armour during his final shootout with the police where he was shot in the legs and arrested. He was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. His final words are said to have been “such is life”, where the now popular phrase comes from, so the story goes. 

This armour is now showcased in the State Library, so we were able to view it. We both found it very interesting to read about his life and crimes, but could not quite understand why some consider him to be a national hero and in some ways a national symbol of Australia, as the exhibition didn’t provide any information about this. We have since read that he has been mythologised into a Robin Hood type character with stories being told of him burning mortgage deeds during one of his bank robberies and fighting for the poor against the rich.    

Penguins on St Kilda Pier

To our surprise we were told that Fairy Penguins visit St Kilda Pier every evening after their day out at sea fishing. For some reason they have decided that it’s a good idea to nest on the pier, a man made structure, and we were informed that it is only the second place in the world where they have nested in these conditions. After dinner we made the short walk of 15 minutes down to the pier, honestly, we didn’t expect to see much as it was free to visit the area. 

Once there we spoke to one of the volunteers who helps to protect the penguins. While we were talking we saw our first little penguin make it on to the rocks below and start to make his way to the top. As he was only little this took a while and a great deal of effort on his part. While he was making his way up, another two penguins appeared and made the same ascent. We managed to get a prime viewing location and the penguins waddled right past us. It was a lot better than expected and another wonderful experience seeing Fairy penguins. 

Naked for Satan

Yes, a very strange name for a bar. We went here with two friends from the UK, Sarah and Kris, who are now happily living in Melbourne. The bar had a great rooftop with views across the city and a great atmosphere. This was on one of the hottest days in Melbourne, where it was still around 40 degrees when we went to meet them at 8pm. The best way to describe it was like a hairdryer been blown at you continuously – not very pleasant. Luckily, the bar was pretty cool inside and we had a great time catching up having a few drinks. 

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Australia Day 

In the end we weren’t sure how we felt about celebrating Australia Day. Before being in Australia we didn’t know of the controversy that surrounds the day and were up for celebrating it, but after being here and hearing more about the day and the history behind it we felt that it was a really insensitive day. 

The day is also now commonly known as Invasion Day, as that’s when the westerners first landed in Australia and began to colonise it. Unfortunately, this meant invading a home that had belonged to aboriginals many thousands of years before that. This colonisation meant many awful things for aboriginals, many being killed, children being taken away from them and after living on the land for thousands of years not even being counted in Australia’s population count – literally treated as if they didn’t exist. 

The government is trying to do a lot now to bring the two communities together, but a lot of hostility and anger still remains. Many people believe Australia Day should be celebrated on a different day, so not to be celebrating the day when so much tragedy occurred for the aboriginal people. 

We decided to head into the centre of the city to see the parade.

We also wanted to see the protest march being held, which actually looked considerably bigger than the parade. Many people around the whole of Australia were protesting against the current Australia Day and what it stands for. We hope in the future the date is changed and that both communities will live more at peace with each other.  

Final thoughts

We really liked Melbourne as a city. The best part was definitely the food and for Daniel, the coffee too. It is known as one of the best places in the world for coffee, which Daniel took full advantage of.

We loved living near Lygon Street and experiencing great Italian food. We also enjoyed eating in China Town, which is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the Western World (we told you about the titles!).

There is also quite a sizeable Greek community in Melbourne and we enjoyed a great Greek one night too. We ate out more here than we had anywhere else on our journey, but it was totally worth it!

It felt like we spent much of our time in Melbourne planning for our future travels, as when we arrived there we had no further plans as to where we were going 11 days later. After a lot of deliberation where our plans changed, not just daily, but hourly, even less at times, and after considering a range of countries including Argentina, Japan and even Los Angeles, we decided on the most obvious choice of New Zealand. So after lots of time and researching we had decided on the most glaringly obvious choice we probably could have settled on in half an hour! Even so, we were incredible excited for New Zealand and after researching we found so many things we wanted to do. We also planned our Great Ocean Road trip in this time to do before we leave for New Zealand. 

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Daniel’s favourite thing – All of the awesome independent coffee shops

Lauren’s favourite thing – The amazing Italian food we enjoyed down Lygon Street 

So that’s it for Melbourne, now for our road trip along the Great Ocean Road… 

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Tasmania

After an extremely short flight of under an hour we arrived in Tasmania, at Hobart Airport. The first place we were staying in Tasmania was a small town called Sorell, about 20 minutes from the centre of the capital, Hobart. We were staying in Sorell Barracks, which was a converted barracks built in the late 1820s that British soldiers who were responsible for helping maintain the law and order of convicts and locals used. It was a really cute place like a little English cottage. 

Mount Wellington

On our first morning we visited Mount Wellington early, although unlike us, we decided to drive to the top rather than climb. The top had some great panoramic views across the city.  

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MONA

After this we went into Hobart centre to catch the ferry to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). The ferry ride was about 20 minutes on a pretty strange jungle style boat, with tigers and monkeys on, and some music playing that sounded like it belonged in an ‘adult’ film. The museum brought more strangeness with a cave like building housing really unusual pieces of artwork. It was definitely different and we did quite enjoy wandering around. Unfortunately, as the day went on Lauren became more and more ill, coming down with a bad case of the flu so unfortunately we headed back for an early evening. 

Port Arthur 

The next day we travelled to Port Arthur. Port Arthur is a 19th century penal colony established in Tasmania, where many convicts from England were sent, many for very petty crimes such as stealing 50 yards of silk and 50 handkerchiefs (in this instance the boy was only 15 years old). Their youngest convict was only nine years old.

The prison was considered inescapable surrounded in bushland and water but many did try. The most notable was a man who disguised himself as a kangaroo, covering himself in the skin of a kangaroo he had killed, and even hopped away when he thought he’d been spotted out in the bush. However, the thing he failed to consider was that guards shot kangaroos to eat them, so ultimately he was shot. He didn’t die from this and after giving himself up he was taken back to the prison with 150 lashes as his punishment.

Port Arthur was a vast area with lots of interesting history and areas to wander around. Unfortunately, there has been two big bush fires over the years and some of the buildings have been destroyed and others damaged. The ticket included a really interesting guided tour and cruise around the area. We were glad we visited.

Tessellated Pavement

This was a place that we were told about by the owners of Sorrel Barracks described as, “nothing that you will see anywhere else”. They were right, the Tesselated Pavement is an extremely rare natural formation only being found a few places on Earth.

The Tessellated Pavement is a unique geological formation made up of a relatively flat rock surface that has been naturally subdivided into, more or less, regular rectangle blocks. These rocks have been fractured by the movement of the earth and have been eroded by the waves and sediment of the Tasman Sea. The result is what looks to be a man made structure but that is completely natural.

The most well known example of a tassellated pavement is the one we visited, found at Eaglehawk Neck on the shore of Pirates Bay found on the Tasman Paninsula.

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Driving from Hobart to Launceston (stopping in Ross)

We were really lucky to have Daniel’s step sister Carly and her partner, John, living in Launceston, to stay with. We made the now ‘short’ drive to us (a mere 201km) up from Hobart after spending the morning seeing more of the city. 

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We made a short stop in a historic village called Ross, where we had some lunch and stretched our legs. 

Our stay with Carly and John

We arrived in Launceston late afternoon and were met by Carly and John, who drove us back to their house. It was great to see them and to meet lots of their animals back at their place. They have dogs, chickens, goats, cats, ferrets and then visiting black cockatoos, possums and pademelons, which are small wallabies, plus the occasional other animal – you just never know in Australia!

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We spent the next few days at the house as Lauren was feeling under the weather and needed some recovery time. So we relaxed watched a bit of TV and caught up with Carly as it had been around three years since we last saw her. During the day, we had a proper look around the property, met the goats – Albert and Arthur, saw one of the two cats as Wuan was very nervous around new people, and saw loads of chickens. It was really fun exploring the land around their house as it felt like proper Australian bush – just awesome!

We were also taken off road around their property, which was 20 acres, in the ute (a 4×4 truck), which was a very bouncy ride ploughing over and through trees, bushes and even rocks. We couldn’t believe what the car could handle and how high up we reached. It was like driving up a steep forest. Daniel also had a go driving the ute, which he very much enjoyed!

Bridestowe Lavender Estate 

The next day, Carly suggested that we visit the Bridestowe Lavender Estate, this was somewhere that we had heard about and read that it was very picturesque. It didn’t take long for us to arrive and we weren’t disappointed with the views across the vast lavender fields. The only problem we encountered was that we were not alone and that the fields are now a very popular tourist destination in Tasmania. We had fun wandering amongst the lavender. Interestingly the smell of lavender wasn’t as overpowering as you might expect from being surrounded by it and you were able to purchase pretty much anything related to lavender from the estates shop. 

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Cataract Gorge 

Cataract Gorge was right near the centre of Launceston and a beautiful place to visit. However, we instantly noticed a giant Buddha like inflatable in the middle of the Gorge when we arrived, which kind of spoilt the natural setting. From the suspension bridge and walking area the statue was also facing the other way, which meant you just had a view of his backside the whole time. Apparently it was there as part of a festival around the city and linked to meditation – we weren’t very impressed to say the least. 

They also had the ‘worlds longest single chairlift span’, which with a title like that we just had to go on… 

Fairy Penguins at Low Head  

Something we were very excited about was seeing Little Penguins, also known as Fairy Penguins. They are known by this name because even when fully grown they weigh only 1kg and grow up to 30cm high. We waited for sunset and to see them swimming up from the sea after a day of fishing and then making their way across the beach. We weren’t sure how close the penguins would come but were so happy that they waddled past us a few times really close. We also saw them coming up to the rookery area to feed their chicks, which was amazing to see. It was very difficult to not sneak one (or a family) home with us – they were just so cute! 

Cradle Mountain

We hired a car to make the drive to one of, if not the most popular spot in Tasmania, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. We parked up and got the shuttle bus to Ronny Creek in the hope of seeing a wombat…and we did! It was right by the boardwalk and was just munching happily on the grass by the side. We were very happy to have seen one of these cute and fluffy creatures! 

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We carried on our walk to Dove Lake, which is the most iconic part of the National Park and where you can see Cradle Mountain. 

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Surprisingly, we saw thunder and lightning and it began to rain. So, we took cover in the interpretation centre for a while and took on some of the smaller walks. Then we went back to Dove Lake a little later when it was sunnier and enjoyed spending a bit more time there admiring the view. 

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Final thoughts

We loved our time in Tasmania and all the things we did. It was a beautiful place with wonderful scenery and did remind us of England. Unfortunately, Lauren’s illness affected our trip a little in terms of things we did but we still managed to see lots and have a great time.

We absolutely loved staying with Carly and John and getting to know them better and hearing lots of John’s stories. It was also great for us to be living with all the animals especially the dogs, Betty and Judy, and we thoroughly enjoyed the evenings where lots of pademelons would come to the house to be fed carrots and apples – a wonderful experience. We felt sad when it was time to leave.

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Daniel’s favourite thing – Spending time with Carly, John and all of their animals

Lauren’s favourite thing – Staying with Carly and John and seeing all the fairy penguins coming up from the sea along the beach

So that’s it for Tasmania and now to back to the mainland and to Melbourne…

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Road Trip – Sydney to Melbourne (to fly to Tasmania) (1,237km)

Day 1 – Sydney to Kiama

We left the Blue Mountains in Sydney on what was one of the hottest days we had encountered so far, being around mid 30 degrees. We arrived in Kiama that evening and to our Airbnb place, which was a private space on the ground floor of someone’s house called the ‘Sea Temple’. The place was really high up and had incredible views over the coast and hills. 

Kiama was a cute little coastal town with some very old looking building, including the police station and court house. 

We covered approximately 113km.

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Day 2 – Kiama to Bega, with stops in Pebbly Beach and Mills Bay

We enjoyed our breakfast that came with the room and then made our way to the Kiama Blowhole, which is a rock formation on the coast that forms a hole where the waves crash into being blown through by the wind and up into the air. We weren’t very lucky with the wind as it was a calm day but we still caught a few awesome ‘blows’!

Then we began making our way to Pebbly Beach where we had read was a great spot for spotting kangaroos by the beach. We did see some and manage to get close, they were a lot friendlier than the last grumpy one we encountered, while we were staying on Straddie! We also saw two goanas strolling by, one when we arrived and the other when we had our lunch at one of the picnic areas. 

We then continued on our way, next stopping at Mills Bay Boardwalk near Narooma. It was a nice walk around the bay to stretch our legs before the final leg of our journey that day. Lastly, we arrived at Bega, which we were not very impressed by. It was a very old town, with next to nothing going on. Well, except a cheese heritage factory they seemed to be very proud of…not really something we were interested in! We wandered around the dead town looking for dinner and without much enthusiasm with the lack of choice settled on a Chinese restaurant, where we actually had a surprisingly good meal, so at least that was something. 

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We travelled approximately 304km.

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Day 3 – Bega to Bairnsdale, with a stop in Lakes Entrance

After a terrible nights sleep at our motel we made a very early start to Lakes Entrance. It was a gorgeous place where the lake leads into the sea and you can see the entrance point of this. It was very busy with lots of families enjoying their seaside holidays. We enjoyed walking around the lakes and on the impressive 90 mile beach. 

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After lunch we played a round of mini golf, which was unlike one we had played before. Part of the course involved mechanical instruments that sent your ball around different ways, so there was some luck involved, which meant that Daniel claimed victory!

We really enjoyed the 18 hole course, however by the 15/16th hole we were really struggling with the heat and when we made it back to the car to see the thermometer reading 43 degrees we understood why! We knew it was going to be a hot day but we didn’t realise how hot.

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We then drove on to Bairnsdale where we were staying for the night and retreated to our air-conned room for a couple of hours. Even when we headed out again at around 6pm, it was still 38 degrees. This was the hottest temperature either of us had ever experienced and for someone who is always cold Lauren actually admitted that it was too hot!

We drove approximately 326km.

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 Day 4 – Bairnsdale to Foster

After a much better nights sleep we woke up feeling refreshed and surprised to see that after it being 44 degrees yesterday, it was 18 degrees! We had heard of the big changes in the weather in Victoria State but we couldn’t believe it was less that half of the temperature a day later. It was pretty welcomed though and one of the very few times so far that we wore trousers and even a hoody! 

We had a lovely breakfast in Bairnsdale and then made our way to Foster. We had planned to do some walks around Wilson’s Promontory but it was later than we planned to arrive and it had started to rain quite a lot so instead we decided to check in to our hotel in Foster (about an hour away) and spend the afternoon there. We were staying at The Prom Country Lodge, which was a lovely hotel whereby we saw our first big spider; a huntsman, but luckily not as big as they can get!

Foster was a nice place, although not with much going on. We tried to find something to do for a few hours without much luck, so we had a walk around the small town and a park before having a delicious dinner at Foster Exchange Hotel.

We covered approximately 192km, so a slight shorter day of driving.

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Day 5 – Foster to Frankston, including Wilson’s Promontory

Our day started nice and early heading to Wilson’s Promontory. The National Park is the most Southernly point of mainland Australia and absolutely beautiful. We were driving through just after sunrise, which meant it looked even more spectacular and we caught sight of a big mob of kangaroos on a field we drove by – seeing kangaroos in the wild was still a novelty to us.

First we had a mountain to climb, we arrived at the foot of Mount Oberon excited to tackle the 3.4km ascent of 549m. When we made it to the top and felt a real sense of accomplishment and we were awarded by some astonishing views across the sea.

32f26087-609a-44cc-8690-2375e58a16dd After our tiring start to the day we then drove about 10 minutes to Squeaky Beach – a beach that actually squeaks when you walk on it, we had a lot of fun testing this out!

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7cc1bffa-385c-4013-9940-3fb805368adfLastly, we went on the Wildlife Walk and spotted one single kangaroo, so it wasn’t the most successful wildlife walk but as we were hitting around midday by this point it wasn’t the best time for the animals to be active, but we knew they must have been around somewhere because of the mob that we saw in the morning. 

We really loved Wilson’s Promontory and both said how much we would like to go back there and stay for at least a few days, which would mean we could be there for sunrise and sunsets and to complete many more of the incredible walks in the area. 

We arrived at our motel in Frankston and relaxed for a couple of hours before making our way to the Moonlit Sanctuary for a night time animal guided tour. The tour began, unexpectedly, with the opportunity to hold a carpet python. With some nerves Lauren did this first and was ‘kissed’ by the Python, which was a little scary. 

Then we headed into the sanctuary with lanterns. It was still pretty light to begin with so we didn’t need them to start with but by about halfway round it was pitch black. Firstly, we went to feed some Eastern Grey Kangaroos – yep, more kangaroos! During the tour we saw possums, koalas, wallabies, kangaroos, pademelons, spotted quolls, dingoes, wombats, Tasmanian devils and owls. We had the chance to feed some gliders nectar from a repurposed bottle cap on a stick, the gliders were clearly used to this as they held on to it and there was no sign of them letting go until all of the nectar was finished.  

It was a great experience to be so close to all the nocturnal animals and to feed, hold and stroke so many. Our best day of the road trip by far!

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Including a drive south to The Prom we drove approximately 222km.

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Day 6 – Frankston to Melbourne Airport to fly to Hobart, Tasmania

The last day of our trip was a very uneventful one, waking up in Frankston and going for a walk around the town to the beach and on the pier. 

We had lunch near the pier before heading to Melbourne Airport to board our flight to Tasmania. After days of little or non existent internet we were, shamefully, pretty excited to spend a few hours sat at the airport finishing our blog for Sydney and uploading pictures.

Our final day was an easy 80km to reach the airport and on to Tasmania!

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Final thoughts

We managed to pack a lot into this road trip from meeting some wild kangaroos at Pebbly Beach, climbing 500 plus meters to the summit of a mountain, visiting a sanctuary armed with solar powered lanterns to feed some nocturnal animals, and a bit of crazy golf thrown in for good measure. We also experienced our hottest and coldest days of our travels to date, one after the other in true Victoria style.

Overall, we fell as though the road trip was a mixed bag with lots of great experiences, but unfortunately some of our accommodation and places we decided to stay weren’t as good as we hoped. Despite this we both had fun on the journey to Melbourne, but we were happy to get on the airplane heading to Hobart, Tasmania.

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Daniel’s favourite thing – Reaching the summit of Mount Oberon and being rewarded with such an awesome view

Lauren’s favourite thing – Meeting all the nocturnal animal at the Moonlit Sanctuary 

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Sydney, New South Wales

We had really high hopes for our time in Sydney and were really excited to be spending Christmas and New Years there.

Our first Airbnb was in a place called North Balgowlah, which is in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney. It was a spectacular area filled with many million dollar houses and beautiful streets. The house we were staying in was no exception to this. It was a huge open plan house with five bedrooms. We loved it and we stayed in a great travel inspired room, with private bathroom and use of all the shared areas of the house. Our host Rob was such a lovely person who gave us so many great tips for the area, showed us around, took us snorkelling, and was really interesting to talk to and spend time with. She lived there with her daughter who was equally as lovely. We really felt we would miss them when we left.

The second place we stayed in was in Annandale, which was a short 15-20 minute bus ride into the city. It was a studio flat, which seemed pretty small after being in a big house, and on the hotter days which were between 32 and 35 degrees it wasn’t very comfortable without aircon!

City highlights

For our first day we headed to the centre, without really having a plan, except to sightsee, which was rare for us normally knowing what we wanted to see and do in a day, or at least having a vague idea. 

We did know that we wanted to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House and once we did later on that day, we both had a real sense of, ‘Wow, we’re in Sydney, Australia’. 

We first went to St Mary’s Cathedral and walked inside, it was very impressive. 

 Then we spotted Hyde Park, where we went for a walk and were very excited to hear a local musician playing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer on keyboard. We were determined to get into the Christmas spirit as much as we could, trying to look past the fact that it felt like the middle of summer! 

Next, we came across The Queen Victoria Building and thought we should have a look inside – I’m sure the Aussies are more passionate about our British royalty than we are… they even have a public holiday (a day off work) for the Queen’s birthday, which we don’t in England. Inside we found lots of shops, a ginormous Christmas tree and a school group singing Christmas carols – we were definitely beginning to get into the Christmas spirit.

Prior to arriving in Sydney, we had heard about Mrs Macquarie Chair as something to go and see, which was a chair built by the Governor at the times’ workers for his wife as she enjoyed looking out to sea from there. A bit of a underwhelming point of interest to visit, but then I don’t know what we were expecting from a chair! 

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You walked through The Botanical Gardens to get to the chair and through these gardens we got the first views of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Truth be told, we were a little underwhelmed by the Sydney Opera House at first glance but once we got closer it was more what we imagined and was pretty spectacular to see and to walk around. We decided to have a drink in the Opera Bar, which was really special and one of those times we really had to stop to take in and where we were and what we were experiencing. 

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Lastly, we grabbed some Opal cards (similar to Oyster cards) and caught the iconic Sydney to Manly ferry. The views were great and we managed to get a seat right at the top of the ferry. Although, it had turned into quite a windy day by that point and being sat at the top was very blustery. 

Art galleries

We visited the Museum of Contemporary Art, The Art Gallery of New South Wales and White Rabbit Gallery (a recommendation from our hosts). They were all really interesting and in particular the Masters of Modern Art exhibition at The Art Gallery of New South Wales was a highlight, as it featured many of Lauren’s favourite artists. We also really enjoyed the White Rabbit Gallery, which has the largest collection of Chinese art outside of China. It was contemporary and very thought provoking and we enjoyed the traditional Chinese tea room there.

The Australian National Maritime Museum

We were keen to visit this museum after discovering part of the ticket allowed you to explore some vessels including a submarine and a replica of the famous Endeavour (Captain Cook’s ship he discovered Australia in). Being on board the ships was really fun and we learnt a lot about the conditions living on board from some friendly volunteers and ex submariners.

We were also interested in seeing the James Cameron exhibition and film about his journey to the deepest part of the ocean – Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, which is seven miles below the surface. The exhibition and film were both really interesting.

The Pylon Lookout

After deciding against doing the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, as it was just too expensive for what we thought it was worth, we found out, whilst eavesdropping on a couple in a cafe one afternoon, about the Pylon Lookout. You climbed 200 steps to the top of the pylon, which was part of the bridge, and it gave the same views as the Harbour Bridge over Sydney, just not as high. We thought it was brilliant and well worth the $15 entry fee.

Manly

Manly has been one of our favourite areas of Australia so far. It is a wonderful beach town, with lots of great beaches, markets, the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, the harbour with restaurants and bars overlooking the water and just a great feel to it. We enjoyed walking around here many times, relaxing on the beaches, surfing, eating, drinking and snorkelling. Plus the ferry from the city (or to the city) was a fantastic experience.