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6 Weeks Down Under: How I Travelled Around Australia

 

If you’ve been following me on social media over the past few months you’ll know that I’ve recently returned from the trip of a lifetime over in Australia, where I spent 40 wonderful days exploring this beautiful country, taking in 10 cities, 5 states and covering thousands of miles of land. I planned my trip totally on my own, but had the help of my trusty Marco Polo Australia Guidebook with me all the way. Here’s my full itinerary in detail, and a breakdown of all six weeks so you can see how I planned my trip, and just how much I fitted in during my time in beautiful Australia!

 

Week 1: Melbourne – Adelaide

 

 

I kick started my tour of Australia with a couple of nights in Melbourne on my own, staying in a private room at the Melbourne Metro YHA, which was brilliant FYI. After a 24hr flight and HORRENDOUS jet lag, it was sooo nice to have my own room and just take things at my own pace for a few days whilst I started to adjust to life in Australia. You can read all about my time in Melbourne here. On my last day in the city I had an early 6am start as I embarked on my tour of the Great Ocean Road down to Adelaide. I booked this 2night/3day Groovy Grape tour through Ratpack Travel, a trendy travel company based in Byron Bay.

 

 

As I’ve mentioned, this tour was operated by Groovy Grape and there were 15 of us in total. Most of the group were solo travellers like me, but there were a few couples as well. There’s a fair amount of walking to do on this tour, including hiking the Grampians and trekking down to Mackenzie Falls, so you need a moderate level of fitness but it wasn’t too taxing. I’ll be writing a full review of this tour in more detail very soon, but my highlights included watching the sunrise over Loch Ard Gorge, visiting the Twelve Apostles and having lunch in the Tower Hill wildlife reserve, which is an active volcano!

 

Week 2: Adelaide – Alice Springs

 

 

Upon reaching Adelaide I spent 4 nights here with my lovely friend Jess, who I’d met in America three whole years ago! It was the first time we had been reunited since our US trip back in 2016 so I was so excited to get to Adelaide. Jess showed me allll the sights and we spent time wandering around the city itself (I was lucky enough to be there when the world famous Fringe Festival was on!) and we also headed to the German town of Hahndorf where I felt like I was actually in Germany and not in Australia at all. Other highlights included visiting the brilliant Cleland Wildlife Park, where I got the CUTEST kanga selfies, and we also drove to the seaside resort of Glenelg which boasted a gorgeous beach, promenade and plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. I was super sad to be leaving Jess behind in Adelaide but knew we’d be reunited once more in Sydney at the end of my trip.

 

 

In Adelaide I got picked up ready for my new tour, the Adelaide – Alice Springs Overland Adventure which was operated by Intrepid Travel. I’d heard great things about Intrepid but was super nervous about my outback tour as I had never been camping IN MY LIFE and I was about to spend an entire week sleeping on the floor with bugs and spiders ahhhh! I needn’t have worried though, from the minute I walked on board the tour bus to the minute I left all my new friends behind a week later I can honestly say I had the best experience of my entire life on that outback trip! Again, I’ll be blogging about the tour in much more detail separately, but my main highlights (god there were so many) included sleeping in an underground bunkhouse at Coober Pedy, skydiving over Uluru(!!), hiking Kata Tjuta and watching the sunset over the mountains in Alice Springs.

 

Week 3: Alice Springs – Cairns

 

 

After my outback tour ended I spent an additional 3 nights in Alice Springs just chilling out, walking around the town and spending time with some of my tour friends who were staying on in Alice too. I really wanted to spend a day hiking in the Western Macdonnells National Park, but unfortunately I didn’t have quite enough time to do a full day trip and I was exhausted from my tour so I just focused on recuperating in Alice instead.

 

 

My short flight to Cairns went smoothly and I spent 2 nights in the city ahead of my next tour starting. One of my outback friends, Rick, just happened to be in Cairns too, so I explored the area with him and we had a great couple of days wandering around the lagoon and esplanade, hitting up the nightlife and checking out the famous Rusty’s food market (which was recommended in my Marco Polo Guidebook). We also took a day trip to the Kuranda Rainforest after my Cape Tribulation tour was cancelled due to flooding. We got the cable car up to Kuranda village, stopping off at different parts of the rainforest and the spectacular Barron Falls along the way, and then hopped on the express train back to Cairns along the old fashioned railway.

 

Week 4: Cairns – Brisbane

 

 

My 10 day Cairns – Brisbane tour was operated by Topdeck Travel and I was so looking forward to joining another tour, especially as I’ve always fancied doing an 18-35 Topdeck one! The first half of the trip took us from Cairns – Airlie Beach, where we went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef (BUCKETLIST RIGHT THERE), went hiking and koala spotting up to WW2 forts on Magnetic Island, and we stopped off at the stunning Whitehaven beach after our epic overnight sailing on the Whitsundays.

 

 

After Airlie Beach (and it’s crazy nightlife) we headed onto Myella Farm for a traditional Australian farm stay. We got to see how everything works and how well the animals are looked after and we even hung out with the resident baby joeys! Next stop was the beautiful Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, which fast became one of the highlights of my entire trip. We went 4 wheel driving on the sand and river tubing down Eli Creek before stopping off at the Maheno Shipwreck then catching a scenic airplane flight over the island below. Our last stop was Brisbane and I was super sad to say goodbye to my new friends but also excited for the next part of my adventure.

 

Week 5: Brisbane/Gold Coast – Sydney

 

 

I spent the next 3 nights with my lovely friend Amy, another of my Contiki pals who I’d met in America 3 years ago. She showed me everything there was to see in beautiful Brisbane, including the vibrant Southbank and lagoon, the botanical gardens and the magnificent Story Bridge. Brisbane turned out to be one of my fave Aussie cities, and we then went on a road trip of the Gold Coast which I absolutely loved!

 

 

We spent a night at Byron Bay, hiking up to the lighthouse to watch the sunset and enjoying the nightlife on the main strip. We also stopped off at Surfers Paradise, Coolangatta, Tweed Heads, Rainbow Bay and Snapper Rocks so I saw a fair bit of the Gold Coast and really adored my time there with Amy! I then hopped on my last domestic flight of my trip and headed to Sydney for my final week in Australia.

 

Week 6: Sydney/Umina Beach – Bondi

 

 

I reunited with my friend Jess and more of my Contiki pals Tamara and James in Sydney which was amazing and we spent 3 nights exploring a city I have wanted to visit for sooo long. We did all the typical touristy stuff like the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Darling Harbour as well as the quirky Paddys Markets and we even hopped on a ferry over to Manly Beach for an afternoon. I really loved my time in Sydney and feel like I saw such a lot there during my visit. After leaving Sydney, Jess and I headed to nearby Umina Beach to stay with Tamara for a few nights. We really enjoyed the laid back vibe in this pretty area and took a day trip to Palm Beach, where the long running TV soap Home and Away is filmed. We enjoyed seeing different parts of the set and hiked up to the lighthouse for spectacular views over the bay below.

 

 

After Umina we headed to Bondi Beach for 2 nights and I was pleasantly surprised by this place; it wasn’t what I expected at all! It wasn’t particularly touristy (probably because we were there before the weekend rush) and I really liked the beaches of Clovelly and Tamarama as well as Bondi. Jess and I met up with another of our Contiki pals, Matt, and the three of us spent an afternoon hiking the epic Bondi to Coogee coastal path (recommended in my Marco Polo Guidebook) which was amazing and boasted some incredible views along the way. Bondi was the perfect place to spend my last few days in Australia and it was so beautiful I just didn’t want to leave!

 

Ahh writing up this post has brought back sooo many wonderful memories from my Aussie adventure. What an absolutely AMAZING time I had on the other side of the world; I would go as far to say that this trip was totally life changing for me and I had the most incredible experience out there! I hope this posts helps you if you’re thinking about planning your very own trip Down Under. Let me know if you need any tips as I’d be more than happy to help and share more knowledge from my own experience, but the Marco Polo Australia Guidebook will work an absolute TREAT as well!

NB. This post was sponsored by Marco Polo Guides as I am one of their brand ambassadors for 2019, but all words and photos are of course my own.

 

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Travel Guide to Melbourne, Australia: Top Things to See and Do in Melbourne

 

With its impressive skyscrapers, quirky street markets and pretty waterfront setting, Melbourne is one of the trendiest cities in Australia, and it’s not hard to see why. I spent two nights solo in Melbourne right at the start of my 6 week Australian adventure and it was the perfect city from which to begin my time Down Under. With plenty of cheap flights from numerous worldwide cities, flying into Melbourne is hassle free and makes getting to Australia super straight forward. Once you’ve touched down at Tullamarine Airport you could easily spend a week wandering around the city or heading a little further afield. However, if, like me, you only have a couple of days to explore, here’s my recommendations of what to see and do and how to maximise your time in Victoria’s biggest city…

 

Check out the Queen Victoria Markets

 

 

Located in North Melbourne, these markets are one of the biggest in Victoria and attract thousands of people each week. With hundreds of stalls and market traders set up, you’ll find everything from souvenirs and ornaments to clothes, shoes and jewellery. Established in the 1860s, they are the largest surviving 19th century markets which continue to trade five days a week and are popular with both locals and tourists alike. I loved wandering around the markets on my first day in Melbourne; they were located just a 5 minute walk from my hostel (YHA Melbourne Metro) and were the perfect place to pick up a bargain before venturing into the city… don’t forget to pop into the meat and fish food courts for delicious snacks, meals and fresh local delicacies.

 

Wander down by the Southbank

 

 

I wasn’t intending on seeing a huge amount on my first day in Melbourne as my jet lag was HORRENDOUS, but somehow I just kept walking and walking until I eventually came to this pretty part of the city which I had no idea even existed! After ending up at Federation Square, the focal point of Melbourne, I crossed underneath one of the cities many bridges and found myself walking alongside the River Yarra. A short stroll took me past all the impressive skyscrapers and right into the heart of the Southbank. This area is very much for the commuters and city workers and the vibe was much less touristy and much more local which I absolutely loved. Understated bars and restaurants were dotted between office buildings and apartment blocks, giving the area a real buzz and an insight into Melbourne life away from the tourist traps.

 

Have lunch at Federation Square

 

 

After hours of walking I found myself desperately hungry and in need of some fast food, so I headed to one of the stalls on the main shopping street in the CBD and grabbed myself a bit of lunch which I devoured whilst doing some serious people watching. Located right at the heart of the city, and exactly opposite the landmark Flinders Street Station, Fed Square is brimming with people at any time of day, but particularly with commuters in the CBD taking breaks or heading to and from work. Home to a couple of convenience stores, museums, bus stops, tourist info stands, public toilets and even free wifi, the Square is the perfect place from which to recharge your batteries for an hour and watch the world go by.

 

Climb the Eureka Skydeck for panoramic city views

 

 

Located in the Southbank, just across from the River Yarra, the Eureka Skydeck is one of Melbourne’s most visited attractions. Standing 297m tall, and officially listed as the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere, this gold plated skyscraper is also home to the world’s first and only ‘Edge Experience’ – a glass cube projecting out from the 88th floor that suspends visitors high above the city for incredible panoramic views over Melbourne’s lively neighbourhoods below.
There aren’t many places you can get a birds eye view, so this place is an absolute must see during your time here. I’d recommend going at dusk so you can see everything in the daytime and then watch the city come alive at night as it starts to light up after the sun sets.

 

Go penguin spotting at St Kilda

 

 

Sadly I didn’t get chance to do this during my time in Melbs, but I’ve heard that the beautiful St Kilda beach is one of the best things to see in the city. Located just a short tram stop (6km) from the CBD, St Kilda is a quirky area brimming with bars, cafes, shops and restaurants as well as plenty of hotels and hostels. The Esplanade hosts Australia’s biggest music festival every February, attracting crowds of 40,000+ to the huge event, which is completely free to enter. In addition, the iconic pier attracts beach lovers whilst the retro Luna Park is great for thrill seekers. The famous penguins (pic above was kindly sent to me by one of my friends!) can be spotted every night of the year on St Kilda beach at the breakwater and the best time to see them is just after sunset. I drove past St Kilda when I left Melbourne to head on my tour of the Great Ocean Road, but I know I’ll be back one day to explore this fantastic part of the city.

 

As you can see, Melbourne is a really diverse city with attractions appealing to everyone. If you’re a foodie and a shopper, the Queen Victoria Markets will be right up your street. Or if you’re more of a sightseer, head to the River Yarra to hit up the Eureka Skydeck for awesome city views. I really loved my time in Melbourne and would definitely go back for a few days if I were to return to Australia in the future. Have you been to Melbourne before? I’d love to know what you thought of it!

 

NB. This post was sponsored by flight company JustFly but, as always, all words, thoughts and opinions are of course my own!

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Why I'm not sure how my 2017 will turn out…

Back in my happy place 🌊🐬 #Cornwall #lovecornwall #stives #swisbest #GB #UK #visitengland #visitbritain #lovegreatbritain

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

Hi everyone,

So I’ve had a weird few days this week, and I just wanted to share something with you… I’ve got this thing in my little brain telling me to book trips, get out there and see as much of this world as possible, as quickly as I can. I don’t know what it is, but I desperately want to travel more than I ever have done before this year, and I want to see it ALL! I want to inter-rail across Europe, I want to road trip across America (again) and I want to travel around Australia. Yes I know that seems like an awful lot of places to go in the space of 12 months, but I just want to jet off and explore as much as I can…

I know I have this constant need to tick off countries, and cities, and my 25:25 challenge is probably to blame for that(!!) but this month I’m feeling the wanderlust more than ever and I just can’t understand why. I’m not complaining, I don’t think I could ever get bored of browsing Skyscanner for their cheapest flights to anywhere, or scrolling through Secret Escapes’ latest newsletter when it lands in my inbox each week. I won’t ever tire of booking those flights, searching for the perfect hotel room and finalising all my travel plans, but I guess I’m just itching to explore all of these places, and I want to see them all NOW! I had my birthday last month and I got sooo many travel related pressies that it made me more determined than ever to up my travel game for 2017.

 

 

Maybe it’s because I don’t know what I’m doing with my life this year. I’m toying with the idea of doing Camp America (or something similar) for a few months this summer, but I’m also considering doing some resort work abroad, or potentially a placement at Disneyland Paris if I get accepted. I have all these ideas floating around in my head but I just don’t know what to do for the best. Half of me wants to live and work abroad for a few months, just to see what it’s like, but the other half of me wants to continue to base myself at home and travel little and often instead. Do I bite the bullet and go and live in America, or do I stay here and book lots of short city breaks and then just jet off every few weeks? I’ve spoken to my family and friends about it but they’ve just told me that only I can make that decision, it’s just so damn hard!

My travel plans for 2017 are well underway and I’ve already got four trips in place for the first part of the year, with Copenhagen, Bratislava, Vienna and Tenerife firmly booked in! I’m so excited to be going to so many new wonderful places, all for the first time, and I’m genuinely looking forward to visiting each and every one of them. I’ve loosely planned an itinerary for exploring Europe this year, and it includes popping over to Slovenia, Croatia, Switzerland, Poland, Germany and Holland to name but a few! Some people have told me I’m trying to do too much too soon, but I’m young and I can afford it so why the hell not! My main goal though is to visit Australia for a month in January 2018 to celebrate my 25th birthday, and I’m aware that I have to save soooo much money if I’m going to be able to afford it, so some of my European dreams may have to wait until after this (boooo).

 

 

I did speak to my lovely nan on the phone the other day though and she told me to enjoy myself, take time on my travels and explore destinations properly so that I could appreciate it fully. She also told me that I’m never too old to travel, and I can keep on going for as long as I want! My nan and granddad didn’t start travelling until they were in their 40s, and they’ve been to hundreds of places so I know I will continue to travel for as long as I live, but I just can’t help feeling that I want to do it all now! It’s not that I want to get it out the way, I just want to get the big trips out my system so I can then look at getting myself a proper career next year when I come back from Australia.

I think I’m just a little confused about what I want at the moment, and where my life is going. I’m currently working two jobs, trying to save as much as possible, whilst balancing my home life, social life and my health. All my friends are in relationships, they have a partner to share their trips with, some of them are married/engaged and have babies or are expecting, and I’m just over here on my own trying to make my life the best it can be.

 

Don't look back… You're not going that way! ✈️🌎 #Venice #Italy #Venezia #wanderlustwednesday #noregrets

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

It’s hard, and I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I wish I had a partner to share things with, to snuggle up to on a Sunday night or to explore the world with one step at a time, but it’s ok, I have myself, I know I’m strong and independent, and I have my amazing friends and family and for that I am so grateful! I’m not trying to turn this post into a rant or a moan, I just feel so overwhelmed with my constant desire to travel at the moment so I’m trying to channel my energy and have things to look forward to whilst trying to cure this ever increasing wanderlust!

Have you ever felt the need to travel constantly? Are you not sure where your life is going at the moment? If you’re in the same boat as me PLEASE let me know – let’s talk about it and try and make ourselves feel better – after all, sharing is caring!

Love Jess x