The land down under – a place where drop bears rule supreme, an emu might steal your lunch, and where at some point, you’ll most likely have a standoff with the biggest, baddest spider you’ve ever seen!
Okay, going off that description Australia sounds pretty horrific, but honestly, it’s not! In fact, Australia is easily one of the most beautiful and unique countries in the world, and that’s not just our bias talking.
I mean, come on, where else in the world can you explore the outback, tropical jungles, rugged coastlines, golden beaches, native bushland and eye-catching mountainous zones? No where? Yep, that’s what we thought. And you know why we thought that? Because Australia is bloody grouse!
On a trip to the land down under you’ll hear the word mate, the phrase bloody oath, and you’ll be exposed to gorgeous surfer boys, ripped tradies and a few good old country blokes out on the sheep farms of rural NSW.
There’s a lot to see and do in Australia, but it begs the question, how can you see it all?
As the sixth biggest country in the world according to land mass, and with the smallest ratio of people per square kilometre, you need to cover a lot of ground to get from one point to another, but some of the best sites Australia has to offer can be found outside of the major cities and in some pretty remote locations.
To see everything, a lot of tourists choose to do a tour. But, one of the biggest pitfalls with many of the big multi-day tours that operators offer in Australia is that they focus too heavily on surf and sand or the outback and pretty much ignore everything else. For instance, poor old Western Australia barely gets a mention on most tour companies’ websites, while the Gold Coast and Port Douglas feature prominently in pretty much every tour going around.
While these hot spots are well and truly worth seeing, they’re not all Australia has to offer. I mean, sure, the Gold Coast is beautiful, but if you head a little further up to the Sunshine Coast you’ll find the beaches are much cleaner and there’s a hell of a lot less tourists standing in the way of you and your perfect sun tan. Likewise, Perth is pretty boring, but Fremantle and Rottnest Island are both a breath of fresh air.
So, as much as we love a good tour, Australia is a country that’s best explored solo (allowing you can read a map and can speak the lingo).
Want to know the real way to see Australia like a local? Well, luckily you’ve landed on the site of two travel hungry Aussies who have just about seen it all.
Let’s Start In Tassie
The often forgotten gem of Australia where the locals refer to Victoria as the mainland and Victorians travelling to Tassie for a weekend boldly claim they’re heading overseas for a few days.
It’s pretty lonesome down in Australia’s southernmost point, but if you want some cooler weather (possibly even some snow in winter), plenty of mountains, bush, and English-style beaches, Tasmania’s where it’s at.
Fly into Hobart and then work your way back up to Devonport where you can meet up with the Spirit of Tasmania cruise ship that will take you back to the ‘mainland’ aka, Victoria.
But while you’re there, make sure you:
Explore Hobart’s City Centre
If you happen to be in Hobart on a Saturday, make sure you hit up the Salamanca Market. You can shop local crafts and produce and binge eat as much street food as your heart desires – bring on the food coma!
You’ve also got the Maritime Museum, the Tasmanian Art Gallery and Museum and Parliament House (snore), but the Royal Botanic Gardens and Mount Wellington is where it’s really at.
Check in at Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park
We’re pretty sure nothing beats this view! You can hike to the visitor’s platform for a great view over wineglass bay, or tackle the harder hike right up to the top of Mt. Amos. Or, if you want to grab a bird’s eye view, book yourself on a scenic flight from as low as $175 per person (it might take a chunk out of your travel budget, but trust us, it’s worth it for the million dollar view, minus the blisters!)
Run Through Lavender Fields at Bridestowe Estate
If you’re visiting Tassie at the beginning of the year, make sure you don’t miss these impressive lavender fields in the North of Tasmania at Bridestowe Estate. While the fields usually bloom in February, the season can sometimes be brought forward to late January. Just beware, the bees will be running rampant!
You also can’t look past Cradle Mountain National Park, where you can test your hiking skills on a multi-day trek or explore the scenic selection of day walks, or the Maria Island Painted Cliffs that are a favourite among photographers and nature enthusiasts alike.
Honestly, there’s just way too much on show in Tasmania to put into one blog post, but the moral of the story is to make sure you go! A lot of big tours across Australia skip over this hidden gem, but it actually has more bucket list inclusions than we can possibly count!
From Tassie to the One and Only Victoria
Okay, since we’re born and bred Melburnians (my middle name is even Victoria) it’s safe to say that this little state/city is undoubtedly our favourite!
It’s also a good time for you to take a break from all the great outdoors of Tasmania’s wilderness and head into the flashing lights of the city – the one and only Melbourne. Voted the world’s most liveable city seven years in a row, it’s impossible not to fall in love with this place.
We’d recommend spending at least 2-3 days in Melbourne itself, before heading out to some of the more remote Victorian regions.
Take in the Best of Melbourne
Okay. I’m going to be straight with you; no trip to Melbourne is complete without a trip to Doughnut Time. Can you actually imagine a world where a vegan dessert (yep, you read that right, vegan) tastes like pure heaven on earth?
Well, the ‘Liam Hemsworthy’ is sweet, sugary goodness wrapped up in a red velvet donut with cookies and cream frosting. You can find this delightful little shop tucked away in Degraves Street, right next to the famous Flinders Street Station.
Now, in terms of sites. You have Melbourne’s laneway culture, which is great, but honestly, don’t pay for a tour.
You can stumble across street art almost anywhere in Melbourne and Hosier Lane is easy enough to find by yourself. A tour will just set you back $40 and leave you wandering alleyways with a questionable looking man that stumbles through his sentences like he just snorted a shit load of coke (I’m not even kidding).
But, the Queen Victoria Market is AMAZING, and you can find more donuts there, but this time they’re hot jam donuts straight from a good old fashioned donut van.
The Eureka Skydeck (which is terrifying if you’re scared of heights like I am) will give you panoramic views of the city, but strolling casually through Southbank will also give you some pretty good views of the towering skylines.
Drive Up Winding Roads to the Dandenongs
Honestly, people flock to the Dandenongs for the fresh air, stunning rainforests and local arts and crafts, but screw that – let’s talk about the food instead!
Where do I start, you’ve got The Cuckoo, where you can enjoy traditional German cuisine and some lame, yet extremely entertaining yodelling, music and jokes, Flippin Pancakes where you can eat pancakes for breakfast lunch and dinner, and Miss Marple’s Tearoom who serves up the best damn Devonshire tea the southern hemisphere has to offer.
Enjoy a Sip or Two in Wine Country – the Yarra Valley
Wine – enough said.
In all seriousness, wine snobs will tell you which vineyard has the best varieties to taste, but you really can’t go wrong – every winery is practically the same. Great food, great views, and a delicious drop can be found just about anywhere in Victoria’s wine country – just don’t drink too much, and if you do, stay the night instead of getting behind the wheel.
Climb to Great Heights in The Grampians National Park
Think of the Grampians as Australia’s version of the Rockies. They’re pretty damn big, they’ll make every muscle in your body ache, but they’ll also lead you to some pretty spectacular scenery.
When you get sick of hiking, head over to Halls Gap zoo where you can pay $20-30 to get up close with a koala, dingo or tortoise (we promise, there isn’t a drop bear in sight). But, steer clear of the emus – they’re real nasty buggers.
Soak up Some Sun Along The Great Ocean Road
They might not be the crisp white beaches of Fiji, but in summer, this sun drenched coastal drive will lead you through Torquay, right through to Sorrento – you’ll even get to see the 12 apostles, which aren’t really 12 anymore – you know, global warming and all.
Fish and chips on the beach and meat pies in the car will be the name of the game, and you better be prepared to get sunburnt because the Victorian sun can be a real killer!
These are the main Victorian sites worth seeing, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is all of them! You’ve also got beautiful weekend getaways like Daylesford and the Mornington Peninsula, and you have to let your inner child/gold digger out to hunt for treasure at the goldfields in Ballarat and Bendigo.
Shit. That was a bit long-winded. But, we’re not done yet! In fact, we’re just getting started. Next week, we’ll take a look at South Australia and what makes up the bulk of this sunburnt country – Western Australia. After that, we’ll head into the red centre, exploring our famous big red rock followed by the tip of this great nation, Darwin. Then, as we bid adieu to Australia, we’ll mosey down the east coast from Townsville to the one and only, Sydney.
Until next time!