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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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Glamping in the Cotswolds: Croft Farm Waterpark

 

 

Last week I was invited to go glamping in the Cotswolds at Croft Farm Waterpark, a resort in Gloucestershire that boasts a variety of lakeside accommodation and a whole host of water based activities for all the family to enjoy. Located in the small village of Bredons Hardwick, just 5 miles from the pretty town of Tewkesbury, Croft Farm Waterpark is perfectly positioned to explore the surrounding Cotswolds countryside. Here’s what I got up to during my stay, and why I absolutely LOVED my first ever glamping experience…

 

The Accommodation

 

Lakeside glamping pod

lakeside pods at Croft Farm Waterpark

Croft Farm Waterpark is home to a variety of accommodation types to suit every guest. You’ll find pitches for caravans and tents, good sized cabins, chalets and lodges with hot-tubs as well as two bespoke lakeside pods which are used for the glamping experience. My friend and I stayed in a lakeside pod during our visit and we were so impressed with it! I wasn’t really sure what to expect as I have never been glamping before, but our pod was the perfect size for us and was actually pretty spacious with plenty of room for your luggage and clothes etc, a dressing table with a seat and a mirror, a kettle, mini fridge and numerous plug sockets.

 

Interior of lakeside pod with bed, sofa bed and dressing table

 

view from the lakeside glamping pod

The pod had space for a good sized double bed with bed-side tables as well as a sofa that doubled up as another single bed, although I think three people in one pod may be a little cramped! There were two chairs on the outdoor decking enabling you to sit and enjoy the fresh air and lakeside views right outside your pod, and there was room for 1-2 cars either behind or right beside the pod. Obviously the toilets/showers are communal, but this didn’t bother us at all and is to be expected when you’re staying on a camp site! We had a great night’s sleep and loved waking up to the pretty lakeside views the next morning.

 

The Facilities

Onsite gym

Kayaks and watersports equipment on the lake

 

Boasting an onsite gym, beauty salon, clubhouse, lake with water-sports and a spacious function room for events, Croft Farm Waterpark has plenty to offer to guests who are wanting to go glamping in the Cotswolds . The gym, aptly named Gym & Tonic, costs Β£5 to use and is equipped with treadmills, bikes, cross trainers, weights and more. In the same building as the gym you’ll find Beauty Tonic, a popular salon offering numerous treatments including massages, spray tans, manicures and pedicures. Unfortunately the clubhouse was closed during our stay (it’s closed Mon-Thurs except from school holidays throughout July & August) but when it’s open guests will be able to buy breakfasts, lunches and dinners at great prices and enjoy live music during weekends.Β 

 

Sun shining on the lake at Croft Farm Waterpark
green grass in front of the lake at croft farm waterpark

 

I think the real stand out feature of Croft Farm though has to be the fantastic lake which is the focal point of the entire site. The lake is large enough to comfortably accommodate plenty of people, but not too large so that it feels overwhelming. There were lots of school groups taking part in activities during our stay, but we got up early one morning and to hire a pedalo and enjoyed the entire lake to ourselves for half an hour at 9:30, before the kids started their sessions. Activities on offer included stand up paddle boarding, windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing, sailing and power boating. There are so many things to do on the lake and it’s certainly got the wow factor; I can see why glamping in the Cotswolds at Croft Farm is such a hit with families, and when the sun is shining the lake looks truly mesmerising!

 

The Location

Welcome sign for Croft Farm Waterpark
Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire

 

Situated in Bredons Hardwick, Croft Farm is sign-posted just off the B4080 and is super easy to find, making it a great place to goΒ  glamping in the Cotswolds. The closest big town is Tewkesbury, where you’ll find plenty of high street stores, independent shops, cafe’s, pubs and restaurants as well as Tewkesbury Abbey which is absolutely stunning and well worth a visit! Others areas of interest nearby are the Malvern Hills, listed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a 30 minute drive away, as well as the thriving town of Cheltenham Spa (20 min drive) which boasts great nightlife, a fantastic high street and of course the famous racecourse. Ellenborough Park, a 16th century manor house offering fine dining and spa retreats on the outskirts of Cheltenham, is well worth a visit too. There’s a local pub just opposite the entrance to Croft Farm, which is perfect for walking to and enjoying a drink or a bite to eat, or you can head to the clubhouse for a meal if it’s open. We actually went in to Tewkesbury for the evening and found a great spot for dinner, but you could also order takeaways to the campsite too, and there’s information on local takeaways in reception.

 

The Staff

croft farm welcome sign
a swan on the lake at croft farm waterpark

Perhaps the most important part of any campsite is the people who run it and who are onsite 24/7 to ensure that everything runs smoothly with their guests. The owners of Croft Farm, Alex and Martin, are the absolute life and soul of the campsite and couldn’t have done enough for us during our stay. I had contacted them a few times prior to our arrival with a few questions regarding onsite activities and bed linen etc for the pod, and Alex was super helpful with her responses, ensuring I fully understood what to expect upon arrival. Alex and Martin also helped with access to the onsite gym as well as recommending what we should do for dinner as the club house was sadly closed during out stay. We hired a pedalo on the lake during our stay and another staff member, Jake, was on hand to ensure we were well looked after whilst we were on the water. The staff at Croft Farm are an absolute credit to the site and go above and beyond to ensure all their guests have the most fantastic time during their stay!

As you can see, I had a wonderful stay at Croft Farm Waterpark, especially as the sun was shining and we had glorious weather that was perfect for doing outdoorsy activities. The lake was so well equipped for water-sports with something to suit all ages and abilities, and the surrounding countryside made the resort such a relaxing place to stay. I would highly recommend Croft Farm Waterpark to couples, groups of friends or families looking to go glamping in the Cotswolds for a fantastic getaway in the heart of the Gloucestershire countryside and would like to say THANKYOU to the team for a wonderful stay!

NB. I was invited by Croft Farm Waterpark in association with Campsites in exchange for my review, but all thoughts and words are of course my own.

 

jess on the lake