If you’d asked me which country was at the top of my ‘To Visit’ list anytime over the past six or seven years, I would have said Australia without hesitation. The south and east coast in particular, it’s a place I yearned to explore and a lifestyle I dreamed of immersing myself in.
When we touched down in Melbourne on the 21st July after a slow seven-hour flight from Singapore I almost cried with happiness. You know when you crave something for so long and the wishing and waiting takes over your brain a bit, and then you actually get what you want and don’t really know what to do with yourself? That was me, excited childish squeals included.
The cold 11-degree air hit us as soon as we loaded off the plane – a bit of a change from the 32°C heat in Singapore we had gotten used to!
Our apartment at The Jazz Corner Hotel was perfect, fit with a gorgeous kitchenette where we made dinners and chomped down on Cheerios every morning, and a massive living room / dining area. It was also in a great area near Latrobe Street – follow this road down through the shopping parades and past dozens of cafes for about 15-20 mins and you get to the Yarra River (Melbourne’s equivalent to the Thames).
We hit up some lovely touristy spots while we were there – a morning walk around the Queen Victoria Market, a browse through the shops in Melbourne Central and a football game at the Etihad Stadium on our first day. We admired the art at the NGV, took a walk down Hosier Lane to enjoy the street art and made a trip to see Parliament and the Melbourne Museum. We also spent an afternoon wandering through two funky inner suburbs, Carlton and Fitzroy, where we indulged in a pastry and one of the best chai lattes I’ve ever tasted at Le Gourmet Cakes on Brunswick Street.
One of my highlights though was the Eureka Skydeck 88 – the highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere at 92 storeys high (the public can only get to floor 88 though!). On our final night we waited until the sun set then made our way to the tower so that we could take in the lights of the city from above. To say the view was spectacular would be an understatement and I’ve been daydreaming about it ever since! The Skydeck gives you a 360° view of the city and beyond – it’s so high you can see part of the iconic Great Ocean Drive on a clear day (more than 100 miles away!).
After four nights exploring and enjoying what Melbourne has to offer we hopped on a short flight to our next destination, Sydney!
I visited this city around 12/13 years ago with my family. My dad travels a lot for work and we often tagged along with him if school holidays allowed for it. That year we toured New Zealand (another country I’m desperate to return to for a long road trip) and hopped over the sea to Sydney for a couple days while we were ‘in the area’. Unsurprisingly I don’t remember a lot from the trip but I do recollect looking at the Opera House from across the water in absolute awe. The city definitely made an impression on little me.
Almost as soon as we dropped our bags off at our Airbnb in Darlinghurst we headed back out and ventured to Circular Quay, home to the stunning Sydney Harbour. We ended up returning to the water almost every day, using it as a base from which we caught ferries to other parts of the city or to enjoy dinners with stunning views.
We did so much walking on this leg of the trip which made our diet of cookies and carbs all the more satisfying. As well as having our fill of Sydney’s beautiful CBD (including the gorgeous botanical garden) we managed to take a couple of day trips to the outskirts and beyond…
The Blue Mountains
This is going on my list of “Favourite Days Ever”. I’d heard about the Blue Mountains in passing a few times but had never originally added it to my mental itinerary for our time in Sydney. Thankfully Jacob suggested we go one day and I’m so glad we did.
We caught a train from Central Station to Katoomba, a quaint little town sat on the edge of the mountain range. We stopped for a hearty brunch before walking for about 40 minutes to one of the most beautiful views my eyes have ever seen.
From the viewing platform at Echo Point we could see the craggy Three Sisters (an oddly shaped rock split into ‘three towers’) and Mount Solitary nestled amongst miles and miles of eucalyptus trees. The oil from the trees diffuse in the air and combine with dust particles and water vapour to scatter light rays that appear blue – hence how this amazing landscape got its name!
After lapping up the views from various vantage points and platforms we followed a dirt trail round the side of the mountain for about an hour, past waterfalls and rockfalls and more stunning views, to Scenic World. Here we caught a carriage down the steepest railway in the world (it was almost vertical, I was pretty much standing in my seat as we zipped down the track; this is about as rollercoastery as I’ll get 😂). We then followed a wooden boardwalk through the forest at the foot of the mountains, learning about the area’s coal mining history as we went, and then caught a cable car back up the mountain – more amazing views!
After spending lots of time in big, built-up cities it was lush to spend a day appreciating nature’s own beautiful creations.
Manly is a super popular town a ferry-ride away from Circular Quay. We caught the boat fairly late in the day and with just a couple of hours of sunlight left we opted to head to the National Park just East of the main town area.
We initially started heading for North Head (beautiful views of the Sydney skyline, also meant to be a great spot for diving!) but with a 1.5 hour round trip to the jetty we aimed for the City View platform, about a mile or so nearer.
The journey took us through some deserted, slightly eerie barracks and down a long metal walkway through burnt bush land (perhaps a forest fire from the previous summer?) and eventually we reached the platform where we took in amazing views of Manly, Sydney’s CBD and clumps of skyscrapers from other towns as the sun glowed.
I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen Bondi, its beach or its beautiful Iceberg swimming pool plastered over my Instagram feed but I knew I had to visit to see what all the fuss was about.
Unsurprisingly it was just as pretty as all the photos portrayed and I got so excited when the sand and sea came into view as we walked through Bondi town.
The town itself is adorable, full of indie coffee shops and restaurants with tanned beauties munching on avo toast and sippin’ wine outside. Despite it being winter in Aus, there were hundreds if not thousands of people lounging on the beach or on picnic blankets on the grassy banks behind the sand.
We spent most of our day on the beach, dipping our toes in the freezing water now and again and lounging on the sand. I’m sad we didn’t get to see the Bondi Icebergs but we just completely forgot while we were there, too eager to enjoy the beach and the town’s cute lil rows of shops. Just another reason to go back, eh? 😏
Sydney’s going on my list of favourite cities – it’s bustling, it’s safe, it feels alive! Our stay here only made me want to come back and spend even more time experiencing what it has to offer. For the time being though we’d had our fix of cities and were reeeeally excited to be heading off on a beach break to Country Number 3 – a place I never imagined I’d ever get to visit let alone spend a couple of weeks enjoying.
Next stop… Fiji!