The best part about my job is that it allows me to travel. I really think travel gets to towards my main goal in life of being a more complete and understanding person. Seeing and experiencing people of other cultures really allows you to expand your world view and have empathy for people outside of your own experiences. I think empathy is greatly missing in our society at times so I view every travel experience as a fact finding mission about humanity.
That being said, a while back, my friend Margot and I were sitting on her couch eating Thai food and chatting about how we want to travel more. We both threw back and forth some ideas when we landed on Australia. She had friends in Melbourne that she met in summer camp and I had friends I met on Contiki that I promised to see about 5 years ago. Because it was in the middle of winter, Ben couldn't leave work and travel with me for 2 weeks so we turned it into a girls only trip! You wouldn't believe how many people were asking me why I was traveling without my husband. Um, hello, maybe because it's 2017 and women don't need a dude to travel.
ANYWAYS, Margot and I had 2 weeks in the Land Down Unda which is arguably a pretty short amount of time. We spent about a week in Sydney, a few days in Cairns and nearly a week in Melbourne. It was magical. Here is a break down of our time in Australia and some of my favorite travel snaps!
Day 1: Sydney
We took a flight from IAD to LAX and then landed in Sydney at about 9am. My friend Pat picked us up at the airport and we took an uber to Darlinghurst which I promptly butchered the name of and called Darling-House. We then met up with my pal Sally and jumped in a car to Bondi Beach where we ate at Porch and Parlor. After grabbing some Tim-Tams, we headed back towards the city and grabbed a pint or two at a local pub. We ended the night with a Mexican rooftop bar named El Topo in the seemingly gay district of Sydney. It was lovely.
Day 2: Bridge Climb
Day 2 we immediately did the harbour bridge climb like tourists. It was a bit expensive but not difficult or thrill-seeking like I expected. We then walked around the circular quay (said key) and went to the opera house bar! We wanted to catch a show but nothing truly interested both me and Margot. We ended the night with Ms. Macquaries chair and I managed to snap a proposal right at sunset!! After all of our walking, we grabbed sushi at this joint called Sushi on Stanley. It was incredible and cash only.
Day 3: Kangaroos!
On our third day in "Oz", my friend Pat knew that all Americans want to have the quintessential kangaroo experience while here. Because kangaroos are kind of like deer there, you only really spot them in the wild outback and they're not that friendly. Knowing we wanted more than just a passing glance he took us to Symbio Wildlife Park. It's about an hour outside of Sydney but totally worth the drive! We got to mingle with heaps of kangaroos and pet koalas! After, we drove to get burgers because they're all the range right now down unda.
Day 4: Manly Beach
If you have the time, I would definitely check out Manly beach! We took the ferry from the Circular Quay and spent the day basking in the sun in this little beach town. We then walked directly to 4 Pines Brewery before catching the boat ride back. When we got back to the docks, I got to meet up with Ashleigh and Ryan, a couple from the DMV area living on a visa in Australia! I got to snap their engagement photos with the opera house in the backdrop! We ended the night with dinner and drinks at The Glenmore which has a fabulous rooftop!
Day 5-6: Cairns
I didn't expect to like Cairns as much as I did! This northern city is kind of a tourist town but for good reason! You can see the Great Barrier Reef and some amazing rain forest! This was a nature lover's paradise. The main city had heaps of restruants and free WiFi around the main swimming pool. As for seeing the Great Barrier Reef, you can choose from a plethora of tours but you can also just book once you are there through one of the many booking agents. The summer season is "Stinger Season" so you're advised to wear a wetsuit! If you plan to scuba dive, bringing your GoPro is a must!
Day 7: The Skyrail & Kuranda
If you travel to Cairns, you should really make time to go to Daintree rainforest or Port Douglas. Since we we're on a quicker travel plan, we still got to see incredible "bush" doing the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. The little cars remind me of a warm ski-lift above a stunning rainforest. The trip drops you off in Kuranda which is full of little shops and the best falafel I've had in a while!
Day 8: Melbourne
We headed down to Melbourne (said Mel-bin) directly after Cairns. After meeting up with Margot's camp friend Tarnya, we grabbed some avo toast at Barry and then journeyed to the Queen Vic Markets, quickly followed by the Rose market. Nearby, I had the best doughnut of my life at this place called Doughnut Time. We ended our afternoon at this amazing rooftop called Naked for Satan. Here, we experienced true Melbourne weather: it was extremely sunny one minute, then poured, then HAILED. It was summer!! I guess that's Melbourne for you! Weirdly, my favorite part of this trip was Tarnya's hot tub at her house in the suburbs. As we drank our VBs in the outside tub, tons of bats flew overhead as the sun was setting!
Day 9: Fed Square
This day into our second week was dedicated to exploring Melbourne. We got off the train at flinders station and first grabbed dumplings in China Town. On our way, we saw some incredible graffiti which is a massive part of Melbourne's culture. I was surprised to find cartoons about American politics! Socially speaking, Aussies tend to be more liberal but I was more surprised that they would paint a wall about U.S. politics when I doubt many Americans even know who the Prime Minister of Australia is. After exploring these alleys, we then wandered Degraves Street for some good shopping and ate our lunch in Fed Square. After stuffing our faces and buying some amazing vintage, we hit Fitzroy gardens as a substitute total botanical gardens. All this walking had us wiped so we ventured to the swanky QT rooftop for a drink before driving to Germana.
Day 10: Wineries
Both Margot and I were told to try to get to the Yarra Valley for some wine country. We decided to have our wine day in Germana instead! We started by driving up to Arthur's seat, and then grabbed wine at Green Olive and lunch at Montalto. There are so many vieryards in the area that I could've stayed all day! We were also recommended to look into Dandenong Ranges but again, time was a factor. We ended our day with a drive back and dinner which consisted of "chicken parma" (a giant slab of chicken parmesan) in St. Kilda on Acland Street. I got a glimpse of Luna Park which has varying locations all throughout Australia! To visit the Mornington Peninsula check out this tour business!
Day 11-12: Camping & The Great Ocean Road
This was probably my favorite thing about Melbourne. I love road trips. Driving the Great Ocean Road reminded me a ton of the Pacific Coast Highway in California. There is a romance about this trip and heaps of people get big decorative wagons and camp along their journey. If we had more time, I would've loved to spend it here driving up the coast. We ended up camping in Lorne which was a great spot between the river and ocean. Normally, you can see koalas in the wild here! I was told the best place for that is Bimbi Park but time robbed us. When camping, there was a massive family of wild kangaroos outside of our tent! It was amazing. After our drive back, we did one last farewell dinner at Uncle in St. Kilda.
Day 13-14: Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow
I wish I had another week, at least, in Australia. Due to time, we didn't get a chance to explore the west coast or Tasmania at all. I also could've spent way more time in nearly all of our locations! However, if there is one thing I have learned from my Aussie friends it is to travel when you can. Just go! Pack a bag, take the time from work and explore. Even if you have a week, go somewhere new! I rarely meet any Americans on my travels and I think a big part of that is we feel as though we have so much to see in our own country, which is true BUT, I encourage all of my pals to get out and see something outside of their own experience. What you'll learn about different ways of life and global politics will astound you!