Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover
– Down Under, by Men at Work –
I never thought Australia would fascinate me the way it did! It has everything: world heritage sites, sun, sand, stunning beaches, vibrant cities, a mix of cultures (European and Aboriginal) and the most beautiful nature. I spend two months traveling throughout Australia: from Cairns to Sydney, from Melbourne via Great Ocean Road to Adelaide to Uluru (Ayers Rock) Kata Tjuta Park, from Alice Springs to Tasmania. Especially as a female solo traveler, Australia is easy and comfy. The transport options are very good and safe and will connect you to wherever you want to go.
I started off in Cairns. Nice town. There is lots to do in Cairns and its surroundings. I was disappointed about the Great Barrier Reef. Maybe it was because I went to the wrong snorkeling spot, maybe it was because I’m spoilt with the beauty of the underwater world in the Caribbean. Who knows. Please check it out for yourself. I can imagine that if you have never experienced the underwater world before, it can be quite amazing.
If you are into nature, you should definitely visit Kuranda Rain Forest. It is recognized as Australia’s World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforest. At the entrance I would recommend you to buy a one way ticket with the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. This Skyrail experience takes you with gondolas over 7.5 kilometres over rainforest, allowing you to view this ancient tropical rainforest and botanically diverse area from above. If you are into eco-tourism, you should definitely do this. Go back by train. The Kuranda Scenic Railway is a spectacular journey along steep ravines which offers you magnificent views of the rainforest and the picturesque waterfalls.
Airlie Beach / Whitsunday Islands
When you love sailing, powder white beaches and all kinds of blue water, make sure not to miss out on a sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands! Sleeping on the sailing deck underneath a sky full of stars, isn’t it amazing? The Whitsundays are made up of 74 islands, right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. You can actually hear the white sand powder rustling underneath your feet on Whitehaven Beach, which is consistently rated amongst the top beaches in the world.
Only a few Whitsunday islands have tourists resorts. Airlie Beach, on the east coast mainland, is the hub and gateway to the islands. This town offers you plenty of accommodations to choose from (from budget to more luxury).
Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world (heritage listed). The island is made up of sand and has rainforests, mangrove forests, swamps and sand dunes. The gateway to Fraser Island is Hervey Bay. From here I booked a two-day tour. It’s a very entertaining and amazing tour and I would certainly recommend doing it. You can swim in Eli Creek, take a dip in the Champagne Pools and maybe if he wants, the dingo will find you….
Stay a day in Noosa on your way to Brisbane. Noosa can be described as a beach / resort town. One of Noosa’s best features, is its National Park. It covers various nice walks, great coastal scenery and bays if you are into surfing. Depending on what you prefer, you can start or finish your walk at the boardwalk which is located along the coast of the town.
Brisbane is the third largest city in Australia (after Sydney and Melbourne) and is located between the sunshine coast and the gold coast.
In Brisbane, South Bank is a vibrant area which you must definitely visit. Some of the highlights include parks, numerous restaurants, cafes, bars and boutiques; museums and galleries; and the Wheel of Brisbane. South Bank also hosts many events per year.
If you are a fashion and food addict, make sure to go to Adelaide Street. Which is also the place of some historically significant sites.
If you are in for hippies, you can decide to stay a couple of days in Byron Bay. I found the east coast kind of like a party coast. Beautiful nature though, but packed with young backpackers in their twenties.
So far, my favorite city in the world! Located in a bay and surrounded by nature, the city itself and the area around it offer plenty of things to do. Take a wine tour in Hunter Valley (you will be knock out on your way back) and do a hike in the Blue Mountains National Park. Wander around the city (you can’t miss the Botanical Gardens and the Opera House) and take the ferry to Manly. Hang out on Bondi Beach and bring your walking shoes, since the coast offers scenic walking footpaths. Please read my post 8 free things to do in Sydney.
In Melbourne I stayed in the lovely district of St. Kilda. It’s located along the marginal sea and the area hosts a nice esplanade, beach and pier from where you have an awesome view at the numerous kitesurfers who are showing you their skills in the air and sea. As a typical Dutchie, I rented a bike and explored the rest of the city by bike. For me, it’s one of the best ways to experience a city, since you can go to any place you like. You are not limited by the preset route of a bus, train, tram or metro. I biked through the areas where the locals live, cycled through the Royal Botanic Gardens and along the Yarra River. Don’t forget to visit Queen Victoria Market, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the immigration museum and the State Library.
From Melbourne I recommend you (no, you are almost obliged) to drive along the Great Ocean Road and view the Apostels. It’s such an amazing and scenic drive! Stay at the Grampians National Park and take a hike upwards from where you will have an awesome view and can take ‘put me in a photoframe’ pictures.
Head towards Adelaide to experience the laid back vibe of this city. It’s located along the coast and has very nice beaches. Of course I rented a bike here as well to explore the different districts.
From Adelaide move upwards to Coober Pedy. Also known als the ‘opal capital of the world’, because of the quantity of precious opals that are mined there. And yes, I also bought some very nice opals in different colors. In Coober Pedy we stayed at a below-ground residence, called ‘dugout’, which is built this way due to the scorching daytime heat.
Uluru (Ayers Rock) Kata Tjuta Park
From Coober Pedy we headed to Uluru (Ayers Rock) Kata Tjuta Park to learn more about Aboriginal culture. Uluru is a large sandstoned rock formation and sacred to the Aboriginal people of the area. Around the formation you can view ancient paintings. Uluru is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for changing its colour different times of the day. Most notably when it glows red.
From Uluru we headed to Alice Springs and I took a flight to Tasmania (Launceston). Tasmania is not a mass touristic place which I really appreciated as a traveller :). It has a number of National Parks and Conservation Areas and is sparsely populated.
When you are in Launceston, make sure to visit Cataract Gorge.
From Launceston drive along the east coast and stop in Binalong Bay and Bicheno for some beautiful beach walks. Drive towards the Freycinet Peninsula and Coles Bay which is a must see when you are in Tasmania. This unique natural environment is home to the world renowned Wineglass Bay and offers plenty of (water)sports activities to travellers.
From the peninsula drive towards Port Arthur. This authentic World Heritage convict site was built to punish prisoners (which were brought from England) through isolation. You can take a walk and boat tour along the several prisons and isolation sites.
From Port Arthur head towards the capital and port town, Hobart. This small city is nice for a day or two. From the city you can drive upwards to the 1271 meter Mount Wellington from where you will have amazing views on the city of Hobart.
On the way back to Launceston you can stop at the historic town of Ross.
If you are into hiking, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is a definite must-do. The park contains many walking trails (most of the time I was all by myself and just encountered a few other hikers), and is where the well-known Overland Track (bush trek) usually begins.
When I went to Australia the exchange rate was at its worst (Australian Dollar versus Euro). It turned out to be a very expensive trip (for example $55 per night for a four bed dorm in Sydney, OK it was during Christmas and New Years). In general I found Australia quite expensive for traveling. But hey, it gave me lifetime memories and in the end it’s the adventure that matters ;)