Victoria, it was nice seeing you, but it’s time to head off down the Great Ocean Road to take the scenic route to good ol’ South Australia; home to the Barossa Valley and Kangaroo Island (allowing you don’t mind jumping on a ferry).
But don’t worry, if rolling hills and mouth-watering wines aren’t really your thing, we’ll be heading off to Western Australia soon enough, so just hold your horses, we’re getting there, I promise!
Okay, so when you leave Victoria you have two choices. You can take the inland route, which is quicker, but way more boring, or you can take the coastal route, which will take you down the scenic Great Ocean Road past Torquay and Port Fairy and through Victoria’s first settlement; Portland!
This is a beautiful drive, so make sure you allow plenty of time to really soak it all up. Then, when it’s all over and you’ve made it across the border, your disappointment at leaving Victoria behind will be short lived because you’ll be on your way to Mount Gambier and all the other fantastic places in South Australia.
Welcome to Australia’s southern state! First stop, Mount Gambier (as if we’d have it any other way!)
Ever wanted to just pop in and casually explore a sink hole? Well, in Mount Gambier you can! Umpherston Sinkhole is basically a garden in a cave and not only will it score you the perfect Instagram pic, it will also tick a major Australian attraction off your bucket list.
Once upon a time, it was your typical limestone cave that was formed through coastal corrosion over a pretty long period of time – until the day the roof collapsed. Although, as far as Mount Gambier’s tourism industry is concerned, the roof collapsing is the equivalent of scoring a hole in one – AKA it’s pretty damn great! So, grab your camera and go explore one of the region’s most beautiful (and unique) gardens.
But, even a sink hole isn’t as popular as the Blue Lake (pictured above). It’s so stunning you might actually be fooled into thinking you’re in New Zealand. The large monomictic crater lake is located in a dormant volcanic maar that forms part of the Mount Gambier maar complex. Moral of the story, check it out!
Okay, so these are the best places to visit in Mount Gambier, but before you head out of town, make sure you hit up one of the local Aussie pubs, you really can’t find anything like them anywhere else in the world.
Just southwest of Adelaide in South Australia lies a true Aussie gem – Kangaroo Island. You can jump on a ferry to go across and spend the day, or even a weekend exploring the island, which trust us, is a must!
Some key spots you need to see are Kelly Hill Conservation Park where you can explore an actual cave, not just the remains of one, Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, because when you’re in the land down under can you really ever see enough kangaroos? The answer is no, definitely not! And, our personal favourite, Little Sahara, because who doesn’t like riding down sand dunes on a toboggan?!
Kingscote is also pretty good for a spot of local shopping, and the bakery on the main street is actually to die for!
The Barossa Valley
We’ve got one more essential pit stop before we hit Adelaide’s city centre – wine country!
The wines produced in the Barossa Valley are so good they can easily give French and Italian varieties, as well as bottles produced in the famous Nappa Valley a real run for their money.
Us, we’re quite partial to the cellar door at Jacob’s Creek. After all, there’s a reason they produce more wine than any other Australian vineyard, plus, they make a pulled pork burger that will literally make you drool!
Apart from the food and the wine, the rolling hills and picturesque vineyards are also a pretty good selling point.
Okay, before we talk about the sites worth seeing in Adelaide, let’s take a minute to talk about the food, namely the cronuts at Jenny’s Gourmet Bakery in Eastwood. The donut craze is far from dead, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stop in and enjoy the lightest, flakiest, most delicious cronut you’ll ever sink your teeth into.
Now that we’ve got that off our chest, let’s talk about Chinatown. We skipped over Melbourne’s Chinatown, but we won’t make that mistake here. You can find some authentic shopping pit stops and more dumplings than any one person could hope to consume in a lifetime. But the best part of any Chinatown is that you literally feel like you’ve stepped off a plane into a foreign country the minute you walk under the towering archway.
When it comes to the rest of Adelaide, there’s not a whole lot to see that’s overly ‘unique’. There’s a library, a zoo, botanical gardens and some pretty old buildings, but that’s nothing out of the norm for an Australian city, which is why we’ve concluded that South Australia’s charm lies outside the city limits.
Just a heads up, I’m skipping over Perth because honestly, ain’t nothing to see there! It’s actually even less notable than Adelaide’s city centre and given its current economic state, it’s not exactly a thriving metropolis like Melbourne and Sydney are.
But, when you head out of the city you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you’ll find.
The Maritime History and Victorian architecture are rampant in this quaint port that bears a strong resemblance to its penal colony days. You literally feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you walk down the main street, which is already super appealing thanks to its countless restaurants and cafes that smell absolutely incredible!
Speaking of food, I’m going to let you in on a little secret… Fremantle is great and all, but it’s architecture, markets and museums don’t even come close to being as good as the food. Man, the food is so, SO good! Like, imagine you’re Hansel and Gretal and you’re absolutely starving and then suddenly, you come across this incredible house made of candy. In fact, it’s so amazing, you actually think it’s an illusion. Now, take the child-eating witch out of the picture and that’s what it’s like walking down the main street in Fremantle. It’s like you’ve never really eaten before and you’re faced with so many options all at once. Talk about heaven!
But, all of these options come with one major problem… which place you should choose.
Little Creatures is popular (and comes highly recommended pretty much everywhere). It’s right on the harbour and serves an okay pizza and has a great vibe, but the food is mediocre at best and it’s really crowded. We’d recommend ducking in to grab a drink, but when it comes time to eat, nothing beats the little Italian joints scattered around town. Or, the town is pretty renowned for its seafood. I must admit, I hate seafood, so sadly I don’t have a lot to offer on this topic. But, and this leads me to my next point about Fremantle, everyone there is so friendly, you’ll have no shortage of people offering you suggestions (almost annoyingly so!)
Okay, so enough about food (I must admit I’m a tad distracted by my stomach because as I write this, I am devouring a lamington of epic proportions!), let’s talk about stuff you can actually do that won’t cause you to gain a few unwanted kilos.
The Fremantle Markets, the Maritime Museum, the Esplanade, to name a few. For such a small area there’s actually a surprising amount of stuff you can do in Fremantle. But, the number one thing you absolutely must do is jump on a ferry and head out to Rottnest Island.
One word, fricken quokkas! Okay, that was two, but these little guys are so cute they definitely deserve the emphasis. These little guys call Rottnest Island home and they’re super approachable (like they won’t run away like a kangaroo would or steal your lunch like an emu would). You can get right up close to snap a photo, but please don’t harass them or do anything to hurt them (treat others as you wish to be treated, guys), I would insert an angry face here but I trust you’ll all do the right thing!
Personally, I think Rottnest Island’s best feature is its natural landscape. If white sandy beaches and tree lined streets are totally your thing, I’m fairly confident you will agree with me! Although, even if they’re not, they will be after you see all 63 of the stunning beaches On Rottnest Island. And before you say it, no, that’s not a typo, there are legit 63 beaches on Rottnest Island (now do you believe me when I say it’s pretty damn great?!)
Snorkelling is also on the cards as well as a nice leisurely walk (unless you’re super unfit like little ol’ food addict me) to view the island’s lighthouse. Apart from these things, my best advice to you is to take a wander and make your itinerary up as you go. Even if you do plan out a list of things to do in advance, I assure you, you will get distracted by something amazing and your plans will probably go out the window!
This place is just a tad isolated, and an absolute bitch to get to, especially if you want to fly there in the wet season, but trust us, it’s totally worth it!
Okay, so remember in our last post how we said that Australia is a pretty diverse country, where you go from beautiful beaches to arid landscapes in what feels like a blink of an eye? This is pretty much what we meant.
I mean come on, you’ve got white sand and the chance to ride a camel at Cable Beach, boat rides and waterfall viewing at Horizontal Falls and what’s possibly the world’s oldest outdoor cinema, Sun Pictures, which has been through a hell of a lot, including countless floods but is still standing, and operating, after all these years.
So, South and Western Australia are pretty great! Am I right, or am I right? But seriously guys, a lot of the big tour companies skip a lot of these places in their jam-packed itineraries, but their loss is our gain. Trust me when I say that you can’t visit Australia without at least spending a bit of time in what basically makes up half the country (have you seen the size of Western Australia on a map? It’s bloody huge!)
These states might be big and beautiful, but if we have any hope of making it around Australia in four measly blog posts, it’s time to move on. In our next installment of ‘How to Travel Australia Like a Local’, we’re heading right into the thick of it – say hello to the red centre and the Northern Territory, so really hope you don’t mind flies!