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Cairns to Brisbane Road Trip: Travelling Australia’s East Coast

 

 

 

Ahh Australia’s East Coast… somewhere that should be on EVERYONE’S bucket lists if you’re heading Down Under! Whilst making my way around Oz on my six week adventure there back in March, I was really looking forward to exploring new states and cities on the East Coast after spending the first three weeks of my trip exploring Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory. My 10 day Cairns to Brisbane road trip took in the likes of Magnetic Island, Airlie Beach, the Whitsundays and Fraser Island along the way. I booked my East Coast trip through Topdeck Travel, a fantastic tour company who offer group tours for 18-39 year olds, similar to the Contiki I did in America back in 2016! I had an amazing time travelling Australia’s East Coast and really loved exploring a side to the country that was totally different to the vast Outback and the Great Ocean Road! Here’s the lo-down of my Cairns to Brisbane road trip, and everything I would recommend you see when planning your own East Coast adventure too…

 

Cairns – Magnetic Island

 

 

After meeting my new tour mates and having a full introduction from the Topdeck team at our Cairns hotel, the first day of our tour was spent exploring all that Cairns had to offer. Despite having already spent 2 nights in Cairns prior to the tour starting, it was actually really nice to spend more time exploring the city whilst getting to know my new tour mates at the same time. Some of the group decided to just chill out by the lagoon and stay in the centre, whilst others opted for high adrenaline sports including white water rafting and bungee jumping. I decided to join the rest of the group in doing a day trip to the Kuranda Rainforest after my trip to Cape Tribulation was cancelled the day before due to bad weather! We rode a cable car over the forest below, went on a boardwalk amongst the trees, admired the awesome Barron Falls waterfall and walked around the tiny village of Kuranda. After lunch we then hopped on the Kuranda Express and took the train all the way back to Cairns. I absolutely loved exploring the rainforest as it enabled me to see a totally different side to Australia.

After a heavy night of dancing and drinking until the early hours on the first night of our tour, we were all up early and were ready for a day some of us had waited our whole lives for… it was time to head out to THE GREAT BARRIER REEF! Ahhh I was so excited and couldn’t wait to get my wetsuit on and jump in that gorgeous blue sea. I have to say, snorkelling the GBR was absolutely incredible and one of the best things I’ve ever done. I saw hundreds of different species of fish of all sizes, shapes and colours, a whole host of beautiful coral reefs and even came face to face with a small shark at one point! We spent most of the day out at sea, enjoying lunch on the boat as we sailed and we did two separate dives; the day was truly magical and I am so happy I got to tick the snorkelling off my bucket list!

 

Magnetic Island – Whitsundays

 

 

After spending 4 long days in Cairns (2 on the tour and 2 just before the tour started) I was totally ready to move on and explore somewhere new so was looking forward to heading to Townsville ready for our next destination. After around 5 hours of driving we made it to Townsville in time to catch the ferry over to Magnetic Island where we were spending the night. The ferry was only a short crossing and we were soon arriving onto Maggie Island, a world heritage listed island right on the Great Barrier Reef that’s teeming with sandy beaches, tropical fish and brightly coloured reefs. Shortly after arrival, we were ready to check in to our cute little motel in Arcadia with gorgeous sea views. I joined a few of my tour mates on an afternoon hike up to the historic world war two forts which were used by the Australian army to defend their coastline. We passed some fantastic 360 degree views of the sea from the top of the fortifications along the way and even spotted a few koalas resting sleepily in the trees. After our hike we spent some time on the pretty Alma Bay beach before chilling at the pool on our resort.

After dinner at the motel, we headed out to watch the sun set over the sea and went to the nearby rocks to feed the resident wallabies which was super cute! Our evening was spent having drinks at the one and only nightclub on the entire island, Base Backpackers, before heading back to our motel in Arcadia to get a good night’s sleep. The next morning we headed to Bungalow Bay Koala Village, the only accommodation resort in Australia that has it’s very own wildlife park on site! Sadly we weren’t staying here and were just visiting for the day, but we got to meet all the classic Aussie animals including koalas, crocs, snakes, echidnas, possums and even Harry the wombat who was HUGE but just the cutest thing! We held tropical birds and snakes on our hands and round our necks and petted the koalas and wombats too. After our visit to Bungalow Bay it was time to leave Maggie Island behind as we headed back to Townsville to continue with our Cairns to Brisbane road trip.

 

Whitsundays – Airlie Beach

 

 

This was the part of the trip that I was actually dreading the most as I get sooo sea sick and was terrified it was going to ruin my entire experience! After getting off the boat back in Townsville, we left the bus (and our suitcases) behind and boarded our very own private yacht ready for overnight sailing in the beautiful Whitsundays, a cluster of 74 islands off the central coast of Queensland founded by Captain Cook. After we had left our overnight bags and ditched our shoes on the boat we set sail and cruised along the beautiful Coral Sea, lapping up the waves and gazing at the sparkling turquoise waters blow. Shortly after, we arrived at our first stop, Whitehaven Beach, a natural wonder famed for its pure white sands that should be on everyone’s Aussie bucket lists! Unfortunately the weather was awful whilst we were there and it rained non-stop (typical), but we donned our stinger suits and swam in the waters where we saw tropical fish aplenty and some of our group even saw sharks and sting rays.

Back on the boat we wolfed down our lunch that was cooked on-board and sailed further out to sea, stopping again for a second time a few hours later to give people the option for more snorkelling or swimming as the boat stopped in the middle of the ocean. We sailed for another few hours, enjoying an incredible sunset along the way, before having dinner and drinks as it started to get dark. The anchor then docked for the night as we settled down in our cabins ready to catch some Z’s. Unfortunately I was starting to feel a little nauseous by that point, although my sea sickness tablets/patches had been amazing, so I opted to go on the sleeper boat in the hope that I would actually get a good night’s kip. Most of my tour mates were getting drunk and I wasn’t really feeling it so I am glad there was a more chilled option for those of us who wanted to chill out and Topdeck catered well for instances like this!

 

Airlie Beach – Myella Farm Stay

 

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Airlie Beach… The heart of the reef, the gateway to the Whitsundays and one of the most laid back places in #Queensland! πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί Situated between Cairns and Brisbane, #AirlieBeach makes the perfect stop to break up the journey between these 2 epic cities, and will give you the chance to explore some of Australia's best beaches and it's gorgeous blue sea 🌊 I only spent a night here whilst making my way down from #Cairns to #Brisbane on my 10 day Topdeck tour back in March, but I had just spent the previous couple of days sailing the world famous #Whitsundays which was incredible βš“οΈ Have you been to this part of #Australia before? I'll be writing up my East Coast guide on the blog very soon and can't wait to share my next instalment from my trip Down Under with you all 🌎 #JessDoesAustralia #TakeMeBack #EastCoastin #DownUnder #Topdecker

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Our second day on board our boat was spent sailing further out to sea and taking yet more swimming stops as we visited Blue Pearl Bay to try and see some more amazing marine life. We had actually seen a shark and baby dolphins the night before from top deck of our boat which was a real treat so I was keeping an eye out for some more activity! Unfortunately it rained again on our second day so the water wasn’t as clear as we’d hoped for, and the snorkelling wasn’t great either, but we did enjoy sailing for another few hours and having another great lunch before we disembarked the boat. After our overnight Whitsundays sailing had come to an end, and as we made our way into Airlie Beach, we spent time exploring the lagoon and the shops before having dinner and drinks in one of the most popular backpacker resorts in Australia. Our hotel for the night was the Mantra Club Croc which was amazing and the rooms were so luxurious – something that was much needed after an uncomfortable night’s sleep on a boat and I was so glad to be back on land!

 

Myella Farm Stay – Fraser Island

 

 

The next morning we enjoyed a hearty breakfast ahead of our longest driving day of the entire trip – a whopping 8 hours – ready to head to Myella Farm, a traditional working farm ran by a local family who welcomed us all with open arms. We spent two nights on the farm and took part in activities including horse riding, lassoing and feeding the baby joeys as well as enjoying some of the best home cooked meals we’d ever had! We went for sunset walks on the ranch, drives around the estate and chilled out in our hammocks whilst catching some rays. I spent time reading my book, contacting family and friends back home and doing some laundry too as we hadn’t had much chance to do any since our tour started. It was so lovely to experience a traditional way of Australian farm life for these two days and we also used it as a chance to recharge our batteries after a whirlwind start to our crazy Cairns to Brisbane road trip.

 

Fraser Island – Brisbane

 

 

The penultimate stop on our tour, and somewhere that I was super excited to visit, was the one and only FRASER ISLAND! Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the largest sand island in the world, Fraser boasts Queensland’s longest beach which stretches for 75 miles. We made the long drive from Myella Farm, stopping at Bundaberg to check out their famous rum distillery along the way, and then caught a ferry over in the afternoon. We started our time on Fraser with a four wheel driving experience across the bumpy sand. Shortly after, we went on an epic rainforest walk swapping sand for trees, and were then taken back to our Wilderness Lodges ready for dinner and a night of dancing in the tiny nightclub! Day 2 of Fraser was probably my favourite day of the entire trip as we packed SO much in to such a short amount of time. First up was tubing down Eli Creek and exploring the Maheno Shipwreck before jumping on an optional scenic flight over the entire island below which was amazing! After coming back down to earth, we spent the afternoon swimming in Lake Mackenzie, the bluest water I’ve ever seen, and even did some stand up paddle boarding too.

Night two of Fraser was our last official night on tour as a group as loads of us were jumping off in Brisbane the next day (myself included) so we wanted to enjoy one last evening together. We had a lovely sit down meal followed by more dancing and drinking at our lodges/the bar. Our last morning was spent enjoying one final breakfast together before we all hopped on the ferry back to the mainland and got back on the bus for the last time (sob!). We then had a 5 hour drive as we made our way over to Noosa where we had a few hours to stop for lunch and do some exploring. I had no idea what to expect from Noosa at all but really enjoyed walking up to Noosa Heads and the Fairy Pools for some epic ocean views. Only a few of us took part in this hike, and we were actually back late to the bus because we lost track of time (oops!) but I’m so glad we did it. Our final stop on the way down to Brisbane was at the Glasshouse Mountains, a set of dormant volacanoes that dominated the skyline. After a few more hours of driving we FINALLY reached the lively city of Brisbane ready to say goodbye to all our Topdeck pals. There were hugs and tears aplenty as those of us who were leaving got ready to wave everyone off, but I actually stayed one more night for a final dinner and drinks with the crew before my lovely friend Amy picked me up the next morning and my Cairns to Brisbane road trip came to an end!

 

 

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Dreaming of #Australia on today's #TravelTuesday πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί I had no idea what to expect from #Noosa before I arrived as part of my @topdecktravel tour when I travelled the #EastCoast from #Cairns to #Brisbane but I was pleasantly surprised β˜€οΈ I hit up the shops, explored the food markets, went to the beach and even hiked up to Noosa Heads and the magical Fairy Pools ✨ Me and some of my tour mates had so much fun exploring that we forgot what time it was and were late back to the bus that was waiting for us! πŸ™ˆ We ended up running like mad to try and make it to the bus as quickly as possible and I ran so fast I felt sick but it was allllll worth it for the incredible photos I took of these beautiful sea views 🌊 Has anywhere really surprised you before? I'll be publishing my East Coast Road Trip very soon on the blog and can't wait to share it with you all! 🌎 . . . #jessdoesaustralia #australia_shotz #australiagram #discoveraustralia #aussielife #noosaheads #noosanationalpark #noosafairypools #queensland #igersaustralia #igersnoosa #igersqueensland #roadtrip #eastcoastaustralia #topdecker #topdecktravel #cairnstobrisbane #downunder #australia_oz #australiatrip #travelblogger #darlingescapes #wanderlust #mytinyatlas

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As you can tell, I had a brilliant time on my Cairns to Brisbane road trip and absolutely adored travelling Australia’s East Coast. From snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef and sailing the Whitsundays to feeding baby kanga’s at Myella Farm and flying over Fraser Island, I ticked plenty of Aussie bucket list items off my list and made 30 new friends whilst I was at it! A Topdeck tour is a great way of getting around Australia and seeing a large amount of the country in such a short time, so I would definitely recommend them if you’re looking to do an East Coast tour like I did! The final instalment of my Australia posts will be coming soon, and I’ll be sharing the last part of my journey from Brisbane-Sydney. Writing these posts is so much fun and is giving me so much nostalgia, but it’s also giving me serious travel blues and making me miss Australia even more! Take me backkkkkkkk.

 

 

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How to Spend a Week in the Australian Outback

 

The Australian Outback is totally unique, and unlike anywhere else on this planet. I spent some time exploring this incredible part of Oz during my recent six week adventure and have never had a travel experience quite like my week in the Outback; I would go as far as to say it was a totally life-changing seven days for me. I swapped my bed for a swag, make up for a bare face and wifi for human interaction, all of which were welcome changes to my temporary Australian Outback life. I found that the phrase ‘sleeping under the stars’ quite literally meant sleeping in the open with nothing over me or around me whatsoever, and my fly net became my new best friend. Despite having never camped in my ENTIRE LIFE, I had an absolute ball and would do it all again in a heartbeat. Want to know how I did it? You’ve come to the right place! I booked my adventure with Intrepid Travel on their Adelaide – Alice Springs Overland tour; here’s my day by day itinerary, and how you can do travel the Australian Outback too…

 

Day 1: Adelaide – Flinders Ranges

 

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Every once in a while do something that scares you πŸ’« I've never been camping in my ENTIRE LIFE and for the past two nights I've been sleeping under the stars in the Australian friggin outback!! 😩 On night 1 I was terrified and slept in my hoody, pjs, fly net and sleeping bag with the zips done all the way up to to the top! I got woken up by kangaroos bouncing around my head but apart from that I actually slept pretty well πŸ˜‚ By the second night I'd got the hang of it and literally just wore tiny pjs and slept with my legs out the sleeping bag as it was sooo hot! Kept flinching cos thought I had bugs on me when in reality it was just my hair πŸ˜… Tonight we are sleeping in an underground bunkhouse 😳 (I hope there are no spiders πŸ•·) What an amazing adventure I'm having – experiencing the nature of the outback, not wearing a scrap of make up or having any wifi, pushing myself out my comfort zone and embracing every second. ✨ The stars here are so incredible, I've been gazing up at them every night before falling asleep realising just how lucky I am to be on a journey like this one 🌟 #JessDoesAustralia #Days8-9

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Starting in Adelaide, I joined my 16 pax group and got acquainted with my tour leader (Kieran) and fellow tour-mates, where we got brief intro’s and awkward hello’s out of the way; little did I know that these people would become dear friends to me by the end of the week, and that I’d still talk to some of them every single day. Once on the road, on our comfortable coach with plenty of room for suitcases on the trailer which lagged behind us, we headed straight for Flinders Ranges, where we would be spending our first night on tour. We passed by Wilpena Pound (an incredible rocky landscape which was an epic backdrop for those all important Insta pics) and stopped for lunch before ending up in Flinders after around 5 hours of driving, where our camp was waiting for us. We went on an afternoon hike around the national park before heading back to camp for a tasty BBQ and then setting up our swags for the night. Let me just be clear with what I mean by the word ‘swag’ as you’ll hear it a lot throughout this post. A swag is another word for an Australian bedroll, which is basically a sleeping bag with a small foam mattress so you are sleeping slightly raised off the floor, but there is no tent/cover around or on top of you. I was terrified about sleeping on one of these, but honestly they were sooo comfy and I had an amazing night’s sleep with no interruptions from any bugs/spiders crawling over me (thank GOD), although there was a kangaroo or two hopping around at 4am πŸ˜‰

 

Day 2: Flinders Ranges – William Creek (via Oodnadatta Track)

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So my Adelaide to Alice Springs tour has come to an end and I am soooooo sad 😭 This adventure has been one of the best weeks of my entire life and I've enjoyed every single second of it! πŸ’– We've done everything from sleeping under the stars and hiking national parks to watching countless sunrises and even doing skydives πŸ™ˆ I've pushed myself out my comfort zone every single day, forcing myself to embrace sleeping outside when I'm terrified of spiders/bugs, throwing myself off a plane when I have a fear of heights and making sure I continue to hike even when I feel exhausted and am suffering from the heat 😩 I've surprised myself by embracing everything and just living in the moment, but the best thing to come from this trip is the people I've met. Seven days ago these 18 people were just a bunch of strangers from different ages, countries and backgrounds, now we are a family who have enjoyed the trip of a lifetime together and I will never forget any of them ❀️ I love travelling on my own, but I do it to meet people like these 🌟 #JessDoesAustralia #Days8-15

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Day 2 saw us leave Flinders Ranges behind at around 7am (we soon learnt this would be classed as a lay in!) as we headed north towards William Creek, the smallest ‘town’ I have ever visited with a population of approx 10 people! We made stops at Lyndhurst, an outdoor sculpture park, and Parachilna, home to some of the world’s oldest fossils, before driving for around 5 hours, following the old Ghan railway & overland telegraph line where we stopped for lunch at the town of Marree, right next to the Ghan station. Once we’d hit the famous Oodnadatta track we stopped at Lake Eyre, Australia’s largest salt lake, and tasted some of the well known salt water itself – be warned, it tastes every bit as salty as it sounds! Dinner was cooked and eaten round the campfire that evening, and the stars that shone above us as we settled into another night in our swags truly took my breath away. I got to really know my fellow campers a bit more that night as we played card games, exchanged travel stories and just generally embraced Australian Outback life.

 

Day 3: William Creek – Coober Pedy

 

 

After leaving teeny tiny William Creek behind we headed towards Coober Pedy, the opal capital of the world. Before arriving there though we admired the incredible desert landscapes as we drove straight through the iconic Red Centre and then passed by Anna Creek Station, the largest cattle station on the planet. After a long 6.5 hours of driving we finally arrived at Coober Pedy where we had a quick bus tour of the town and familiarised ourselves with our new home for the night. As Coober Pedy is incredibly hot, with temperatures reaching almost 50 degrees in the summer months, most of the houses and shops here are actually built underground as it is much cooler for people to live there. We went on a fascinating tour of the Coober Pedy mine and even tried our hand at ‘noodling’, or searching for opals in the sand. Afterwards we went to a local art gallery called Josephine’s which stocked Aboriginal paintings and doubled up as a kangaroo orphanage for rescued joey’s which were the cutest things I’ve ever seen! This evening we headed out for pizza (the only time on the tour we didn’t cook/wash up, hooray!) before making our way to the accommodation for the night, an underground bunkhouse with ACTUAL bunk-beds which felt like heaven after 2 nights of sleeping on the floor!

 

Day4: Coober Pedy – Yulara

 

As we were on our way out of Coober Pedy we made a quick stop at The Breakaways, one of the best natural landscapes I have EVER seen! This place was seriously stunning and reminded me so much of Arizona and Nevada in America, where you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d stepped into the Grand Canyon or Mojave Desert and would expect to see a Western film being shot at any moment! After taking literally HUNDREDS of photos, with me and some of the girls having a full on photo shoot, we reluctantly made our way back to the coach for our longest day of driving yet (a solid 9 hours). Our journey took us across the Moon Plains and past the Dingo Fence, which is the largest fence in the world, and we stopped off for a selfie at the Northern Territory border, officially marking my third Australian state during my trip so far. Upon arrival at our camp in Yulara we made headed to Uluru, or Ayer’s Rock as it’s more commonly known, where we eagerly awaited a special sunset and had drinks and nibbles to pass the time. Unfortunately there was no sunset at all as it was super cloudy and started to get dark very quickly, so us and the hundreds of other people who were also there were somewhat let down! To pick us back up again though we headed back to camp where a wonderful BBQ dinner was prepared and we enjoyed a great night’s sleep in our permanent tented camps.

 

Day 5: Yulara – Uluru

 

This was without doubt one of my FAVOURITE days on tour and when you look at that impressive red rock, it’s not hard to see why. We started our morning with a sunrise hike around the base of Uluru; our 4:30am start was tough but the hike was incredible and we were rewarded with the most amazing sunrise at the end of it. We then headed to the cultural centre/museum to learn more about the Aboriginal history of Uluru and why it is one of the most sacred sites in Australia. We also attended a talk from an Aboriginal woman, with the help of a translator, who told us some interesting stories about Aboriginal life and its connections with Uluru. After lunch we had a free afternoon at camp to do whatever we fancied. Some of the group used the on-site pool to cool down from the mid-day sun whilst others went for a small walk around the area. I did something a little different to that… I just happened to jump out of a plane and do A FRIGGING SKY DIVE over Uluru!!! Seriously, what is wrong with me?! It was a total last minute decision which I made on a bit of a whim but it was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my whole life and a real highlight of my entire Aussie trip. I didn’t tell anyone back home about it either, I just face-timed my parents once I’d done it and their faces were an absolute PICTURE! I don’t think I’ll ever do a skydive again, but it was something I wanted to tick off my bucket list and what better place to do it than in the Australian Outback?!

 

Day 6: Uluru/Kata Tjuta – Kings Canyon

 

I was still on a high from my skydive on the previous day so barely slept at all and went straight to sleep after dinner, but this campsite had purpose built huts with proper mattress style beds so I actually felt I could relax a little and it made a welcome change from sleeping on the floor! Our 6th day gave us yet another 4:30am start as we took on another sunrise hike, this time over at Kata Tjuta, or The Olga’s as it’s also known, one of the most popular national parks alongside Uluru. I think I actually enjoyed this one more than Uluru, because it wasn’t as crowded and we had a bit more time to stop and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. The afternoon saw us spend a lot of time driving (around six hours) but we had a few lunch/gas station/toilet stops along the way to break up the journey. Upon arrival at our campsite for the evening, Watarrka National Park, also known as Kings Canyon, we made dinner and played games around the campfire before getting an early night ahead of another early start the next morning.

 

Day 7:Β  Kings Canyon – Alice Springs

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((Link in bio)) After weeks of writing and editing, it's finally here, my ultimate guide on How to Spend a Week in the Australian Outback πŸ”₯ This blog post is very special to me, which is why it has taken me so long to write since I got back from Oz in April! I would go as far as to say that this trip was probably the most life changing trip I've ever taken. Travelling from #Adelaide to #AliceSprings I crossed the borders from #SouthAustralia to the #NorthernTerritory and ticked off everything in between 🌎 From sleeping under the stars at Flinders Ranges to admiring views over the plains of #CooberPedy, hiking Kings Canyon & #KataTjuta and skydiving over #Uluru, I sure covered some serious ground during my week long Outback trip πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί But it wasn't the memories of the landscapes or the places we visited that'll stay with me most, it's how much I learnt about myself whilst I was there. I learnt that it's quite fun to sleep outside on the floor, I learnt that it's extremely liberating to go make up free, and I also learnt that it's bloody marvellous to have no internet for a week! πŸ™Œ I bonded with 17 camp mates from all corners of the world, with ages ranging from 20 to 70, and every day we sang songs around the campfire, took turns to cook dinner and pitched in with the washing up. On day 1 we were strangers, but by day 7 we were a family ❀️ Reconnecting with nature and embracing change is what travel is all about, and if my week in the Australian Outback taught me anything, it's that you've got to stop and look at what's around you, take it all in, and learn from everything that this world gives to us ✨ #JessDoesAustralia

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Our last day of the tour had rolled around and everyone was so sad that it was coming to an end, but we had one last day together and wanted to make the most of every second. We had our final 4:30am start (that’s the only bit I was glad to be ending) and headed straight to Kings Canyon, another of the incredible national parks that can be found in the Australian Outback. This was without doubt the hardest hike of the trip, starting with a taxing walk up the aptly named Heart Attack Hill, yep you heard me right, before making our way round the entire rim of the canyon (6km). It was an incredible walk though and we all stuck together taking it at a slow pace so that everyone in the group could enjoy it, no matter what their age or fitness level. We finished around 11:30am (just before they closed the park because the temperatures were reaching 40 degrees) and then headed for lunch back at our campsite. I was so sad at our final lunch as it really felt like the adventure was coming to an end, but I was looking forward to spending some time with my new friends in Alice Springs, once the tour was over, as I knew most of the group would be staying on in Alice for a few extra days. This evening our meal wasn’t included but we all went for one last group dinner together at a local restaurant in Alice and bid a fond farewell to our tour leader Kieran who was absolutely incredible throughout the entire week.

 

Can you tell that I had the most amazing week of my life travelling the Australian Outback?! I still can’t believe I conquered my fears and did some of those things; I never thought I’d be able to even camp in the wild let alone chuck myself off a bloody PLANE! Although it totally amazing, it was also incredibly tough at times, with 40 degree temperatures and gruelling hikes every day which I did struggle with, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world as it taught me so much about myself, and how strong I am as a person. It also taught me to just live in the moment, appreciate every single second of life and go back to basics sometimes when things are getting a bit overwhelming. I chose the perfect tour, met new people who are now friends for life and made memories that I will never forget. Travelling the Australian Outback is something that should be on everyone’s bucket lists, and I encourage you to do it if you get the chance one day, before it’s too late!

 

 

Like my Great Ocean Road tour, this one too was a very β€˜hands on’ experience, and we all pitched in with cooking, washing up, tidying away etc so that our tour leader Kieran wasn’t left to do all the work. All our meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) were made and served by us all, taking it in turns to do different jobs. As with most camping trips, this tour is pretty basic as you’re either sleeping in swags or huts, and there are only communal showers and toilets with no option to upgrade to anything, so please bear in mind that it may not suit every style of traveller. It is suitable for all ages though, from 8-99, and we had people of all ages and backgrounds in our group, from Brits in their 20s to Americans in their 30s and Europeans in their 60s and 70s. On this tour all your food is included, your campsites & swags are all there for you and your expert tour guides have knowledge which is second to none. For me, this really was the most authentic Australian Outback experience I could ever wish for and I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

Just FYI, here are the inclusions that were covered in this trip:

  • 6 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 6 dinners
  • 2 nights swag camping, 3 nights in permanent tented camps, 1 night in an underground bunkhouse (all with shared bathroom facilities)
  • All transport
  • Entrance to numerous national parks, plus many more activities (pls refer to webpage)

 

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So I have something to tell you all and I haven't told a single person (not even my parents or sisters so they're gonna get a shock when they read thisπŸ™ˆ) TODAY I DID A SKY DIVE OVER AYRES ROCK!!!! 😱😱😱 Ohmygodddddd best day ever, first ever sky dive, best thing I've ever done in my whole life in the best location with the most amazing atmosphere and I am soooo proud of myself!! Absolutely terrified of heights and thought I was gonna wet myself when I was sat on the edge of the plane at 12000 feet πŸ˜­πŸ˜‚ What an amazing experience and something I will never ever forget!! My bucket list is almost complete at the age of 26 and I've never been happier than I have been today! 🌟 You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough πŸ’« #JessDoesAustralia #Day10 #IAmInsane

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How to Travel the Great Ocean Road, the Ultimate Australian Road Trip!

 

One of the most iconic road trips in the entire world, Australia’s Great Ocean Road is up there with America’s Route 66, South Africa’s Garden Route and Scotland’s North Coast 500 as being an itinerary that’s on everyone’s bucket lists. Starting in Melbourne, Victoria and finishing in Adelaide, South Australia, the Great Ocean Road spans a distance of 243 kilometres, boasting fantastic coastal views and offering some epic scenery along the way. Listed as an Australian National Heritage Site, and the largest war memorial in the world, the Great Ocean Road is a sight not to be missed during your time Down Under. I kick-started my own Australian adventure there back in March with a three day Groovy Grape Great Ocean Road & Grampians tour booked through trendy travel company Ratpack Travel, so here’s my highlights from that tour, and my guide on how to plan the perfect Great Ocean Road itinerary…

 

Day One: Melbourne – Twelve Apostles

 

 

A 6am start is never fun, especially when you’re struggling with jet-lag, but after a couple of nights in MelbourneΒ travelling solo I was ready to embark on my first tour to kick-start my time in Australia, so I joined the rest of my new tour mates onboard the Groovy Grape mini van. After heading out of Melbourne, our first stop was the seaside resort of Torquay, the official starting point of the Great Ocean Road, and the home of global surfing brands Ripcurl and Quiksilver. Next up was Bells Beach, the setting for the final scene of hit 90s movie Point Break, and soon after we were on our way to the beach village of Apollo Bay and the pretty town of Lorne, which was our lunch stop. After lunch we headed back on the road and stopped off at the famous Great Ocean Road sign, where the iconic Memorial Arch is located. The road itself was painstakingly laid by hand and was worked on by 3000 soldiers who returned from the war and began the construction in 1919. Some soldiers even lost their lives building the road, which is now the largest war memorial in the world.

 

 

Our penultimate stop of the day was the Great Otway National Park, home to some of the oldest rainforests on the planet, where we roamed through trees and admired the sights. The Mait’s Rest Rainforest was a real treat and one of my favourite stop offs; it was pouring down with rain whilst we were there but I think that actually made it better! Our final stop of the day was the one I was most looking forward to: The Twelve Apostles, even though there are only 8 now due to erosion but supposedly there were never 12 in the first place! Anyway, we arrived just before sunset to catch a glimpse of the famous limestone stacks whilst it was still light and the views were amazing. The site itself was pretty crowded, but the boardwalk allows you to get around as slowly or as quickly as you like, and you can get some fantastic photos without feeling the need to rush. Our first night on tour was spent in shared accommodation (13 people in one room) at a local hostel, where we were treated to a delicious home cooked meal by our hosts.

 

Day Two: Twelve Apostles – Grampians

 

 

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep (I wasn’t expecting much after my first experience of sharing a room with 13 people!) we were soon back on the road ready for day 2 of our tour. Our first stop was sunrise at Loch Ard Gorge which was INCREDIBLE. I had a real ‘pinch me’ moment here, as I had zero expectations from this place, and watching the waves crash against the rocks whilst feeling the wind in my hair and the golden sun on my face as it rose above the sea was truly breath-taking. We then made our way along the Shipwreck Coast, stopping off at the Bay of Martyrs, The Grotto and London Bridge all in quick succession. Lunch was eaten at the spectacular Tower Hill Reserve, home to a dormant volcano which was active 30,000 years ago, and is now a nature park teeming with Aussie wildlife including emu’s, koalas, kangaroos and echidna’s.

 

 

After a long drive we reached our next stop, the magnificent Grampians National Park, where we paid a visit to the Brambuk Cultural Centre to gain a good understanding of the local Aboriginal history. We then trekked towards the Mackenzie Waterfalls, which were incredibly powerful and a real sight to behold; it was also here that I saw my first ever wild kangaroo, just bouncing around in front of me! We then headed to the Reeds Lookout Point for sunset in the heart of the Grampians, which offered panoramic views out to the surrounding mountains and dramatic landscapes below. Dinner and accommodation was in a shared wood cabin on night 2 and it was a really peaceful place to unwind after a busy day on the road.

 

Day Three: Grampians – Adelaide

 

 

Our third and final day saw us get up at the crack of dawn, ready for a two hour sunrise hike right in the middle of The Grampians.Β  We hiked a mountain called The Pinnacle, which was pretty tough going as some of the rocks/boulders on the main path were quite big, and the altitude was high so I struggled a little with my breathing. Any worries I’d had soon vanished though as I made it all the way to the top of The Pinnacle where my group and I were rewarded with the most spectacular views over the Grampians below. This was my first hike of many during my time in Australia and it was a really special time for me. I really enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone and reaping the rewards at the end.

 

 

We didn’t do much else on our last day, other than having lunch and spending lots more time on the road driving before we reached our final destination and cruised into the vibrant city of Adelaide. Groovy Grape offer a very ‘hands on’ kind of tour experience, so breakfast, lunch and dinner was always made and served by all of us in the group, taking turns to do different jobs each day. We were also responsible for washing up and tidying away after meal times, and for sorting out all our linen etc too at our accommodation stops. This style of trip is pretty basic and doesn’t offer any luxuries so it may not suit every style of traveller, but your food is included, your accommodation is clean and tidy and your tour guides are excellent. I’d really recommend Groovy Grape for those travelling Australia on a budget, and don’t forget to contact Sammy at Ratpack Travel for all your Aussie needs!

Just FYI, here are the inclusions that were covered in this trip:

  • 2 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 2 dinners
  • 2 nights dorm accommodation (shared with the entire group)
  • All national park entry fees
  • All transport from Melbourne – Adelaide, or in reverse from Adelaide – Melbourne

NB. I received a small discount off this tour from Ratpack Travel in exchange for social media content and this blog post but, as always, all words are of course my own.

 

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Last night my Great Ocean Road tour came to the end 😭 I've had an amazing three days travelling from Melbourne – Adelaide with some lovely people from my tour and have seen some INCREDIBLE sights 😍 On day 1 we ticked off Bells Beach, Lorne and Apollo Bay, wandered through the Maits Rainforest & watched the sun set over the 12 Apostles. On day 2 we saw sunrise at Loch Ard Gorge, made our way to London Bridge & The Grotto, had lunch inside a dormant volcano (whilst emus strolled by!), marvelled at Mackenzie Falls and I saw my first ever wild kangaroo! On day 3 we took a difficult 2 hour hike up to the top of the Pinnacle, in the heart of the Grampian Mountains, and were rewarded with the most incredible views from the top before crossing the Victoria/South Australia border and cruising into Adelaide. What an adventure it has been! 🌎 I booked my trip @groovygrapetours through the fantastic team @ratpack_travel – go check them out for all your Aussie tours and itineraries! #JessDoesAustralia #Days2-5

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6 Weeks Down Under: How I Went Travelling Around Australia

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Swapping Scotland for Sydney 😎 Some of you may have noticed on my Insta feed that I've been reading a fair few travel guides lately, and that I've been on an awful lot of trips too, but there's one travel company who have really helped me whilst I've been away, and that company is @marcopologuides πŸ“š I absolutely love their travel guides, so it gives me great pleasure to finally let you know that I am one of their Brand Ambassadors for 2019! ❀️ I'll be putting some of their brilliant guide books to the test on my upcoming travels and telling you all about them in my blog posts tooπŸ’» First up is a round up of my epic 6 week Australian adventure which is now LIVE on the blog – go check it out for all your Aussie travel tips and to relive my wonderful experiences! (Link in bio)πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί Stay tuned for more epic travel guides coming soon to Journeys with Jessica – i can't wait to share more of my adventures with you! 🌎 #ad #brandambassador #gifted

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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 travelling around 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 travelling around 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. You can read my full review of this Great Ocean Road tour in more detail here, 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 of travelling around 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 travelling around Australia! 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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5 Marvellous Things to Do in Melbourne, Australia

 

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 flightsΒ 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 things to do in Melbourne and how to maximise your time in Victoria’s biggest city…

 

Check out the Queen Victoria Markets

 

queen victoria markets, melbourne with skyscrapers in the background

 

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

 

a boat crossing the river in melbourne with skyscrapers in the background

 

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

 

federation square, melbourne with skyscrapers in the background

 

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 and decide what other things to do in Melbourne you want to tick off next.

 

Climb the Eureka Skydeck for panoramic city views

 

Eureka Sky Tower, Melbourne in the distance with river and palmtrees

 

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

 

a little penguin on the rocks at St Kilda, Melbourne

 

Sadly I didn’t get chance to do this during my short time here, but I’ve heard that visiting the beautiful St Kilda beach is one of the best things to do in Melbourne. 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 ticking off plenty of things to do 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!