Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon

Almost two years on since I visited – perfect time to write up a blog about it eh? With the help of my calendar and wiki camps, lets see what I can remember… 

It wouldn’t be a trip through the red centre without taking the detour west to the famous Uluru-Kata Tjuta National park – also known as Ayers Rock and The Olgas. To get there, after spending the morning in town, we headed out of Cooper Pedy and spent the best part of the day driving, crossing the border from SA to NT and turning off towards Yulara. 

We camped up at a local roadhouse called Mt Ebenezer, and were lucky enough to be arriving into NT on Territory day (1st July), so had an evening by our tent enjoying the fireworks being set off in the distance. Interestingly, its illegal in NT to set off fireworks any other day of the year – so I’m very glad we made it across the border on time – even if only just.

The next morning, it was time to go check out the scenery. Packing up our car and tent, we drove into Uluru and headed straight to the cultural centre for more information. After heading along to Uluru and deciding we wanted to hire bikes, but not having the foresight to have booked in advance, we instead opted to visit Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) on the first day. We spent the day checking out the spectacular viewpoints and exploring along the Walpa Gorge walk and Valley of the Winds walk. I remember the name ringing true – it was incredibly windy up there. 

Uluru is spectacular at any time of day – but particularly beautiful at sunrise and sunset. So, before taking up camp for the night, we pulled up and watched with hundreds of other tourists the light shift and shadows change as the sun set over Uluru. 

Being cheap backpackers, we just spent the night camping in sand dunes not far outside the national park area – it was listed on Wiki Camps, but was just a spot at the side of the road, which means no luxuries, not even a drop toilet. Fortunately though, it was close enough that it still offered a great view of Uluru, so the next morning we got to watch the sunrise before setting about our day.

Heading back into the park, we hired bikes and cycled round the base track. It’s not until you are up close, you appreciate just how huge Uluru is. In saying that, its still an easy cycle as its flat all the way around, and you can stop wherever you like to take in the view. Many of the areas are considered sacred though, and they ask you don’t take pictures of these spots. It was beautiful all around, and plenty of areas to stop and explore further and read about the history and culture.

After returning our bikes and heading back to the car, we drove to lookout point to have our lunch – the same spot we watched the sunset the night before – before then heading on to Curtin Springs roadhouse to camp up for the evening. 

To finish off our trip to this part of the country, we headed up to Kings Canyon. This is an absolutely spectacular walk around the rim of the canyon, and I honestly enjoyed this most out of our three days in the area. Maybe because it was more underrated, so I had no expectations going in – but the view was absolutely stunning the whole way around and I’d recommend anyone in the area to make sure they go do this walk! 

Wee update

Well, it’s been yet another long hiatus since my last update. One of these days I’m going to get the rest of those Australia blogs written – life just always seems to get in the way. 

Since moving back to Scotland, I’ve re-located myself to yet another new city to me, Edinburgh. Amazingly, I’ve somehow been here nearly a year already, though often it only feels like a couple of months – I swear time speeds up as you get older. 

I’ve settled in nicely, and I’m really enjoying the normality of routine and having my own place to live. I’ve continued to develop my career as a UX designer, and I’m about to begin an exciting new job at a local design agency in Leith. Not before going in for ligament surgery on my ankle though, because I’m still clumsy as ever and like a challenge apparently. 

Edinburgh itself is a beautiful place to live too – I love having places like Calton Hill, Water of Leith and Arthur’s seat (pictured above) right on my doorstep, as well being walking distance from anything I could possibly need. It’s not quite got the same place in my heart as Glasgow, but its great in its own right and I can see myself for the next few years to come at least.

Of course I still have the travel bug, so in the past few months I’ve had two incredible trips away, one to Japan and one to Denmark, with hopefully a few more before the year is up if everything goes to plan! More to come on those later I hope, if I manage to stick with writing up my blogs again. Wish me luck! 

A week road trip in Tassie

Right before leaving Australia my last adventure was to head across to Tasmania and go on one final road trip. I’d wanted to visit for so long, and even tried to find farm work in the area, but time flew by and before I knew it I was only a few weeks away from my flight home to Scotland. So I finished up work a few weeks early, booked a flight, hired a car and off I went!

Day one – Hobart and Surrounds

View from the top of Mt Wellington

After landing in Hobart at 7am, my first pit stop was Pilgrim coffee. I ordered their black pudding, and while nothing like the Scottish stuff, it was a satisfying start to the day and I’d recommend this independent cafe as a great breakfast spot. The rest of the day was dedicated to exploring the nature around the city; walking through the beautiful botanic gardens, driving up Mt. Wellington to check out the stunning views, to Russell Falls because I’m a sucker for waterfalls, then to the outskirts of the city to catch the sunset. I fell in love with Tasmania in my first day, and I was so lucky with the cool, crisp weather conditions that the scenery looked even more stunning than I could have imagined. That evening I spent in The Nook Backpackers, which was a pretty decent hostel in the city with secure parking.

Day two – Hobart, MONA and Port Arthur

Day two, I went for a walk around the Battery Point area and learnt a bit about the history of the area. After having breakfast at a hipster cafe called Machine Laundry (which was only okay, the staff weren’t the most welcoming), I then headed to the famous Museum of Old and New Art (Mona). While you can get the boat in and many reviews say that’s part of the experience, I just didn’t have the time to do it, so I drove on up and spent about an hour and half checking it out. The art was really cool and it’s certainly worth a visit, however it was much smaller than I’d expected.

Museum done, I then headed out of the city towards Eaglehawk Neck and Port Arthur region. This area is full of stunning natural geographical formations, and I spent the afternoon checking out the Tessellated pavement (pictured at the start of this post), Tazman arch, Remarkable Caves and a Blowhole lookout. After checking into Bluegum hostel, which was essentially just a little self contained lodge in someone’s back garden, I ended my day by heading along to Port Arthur for their historic ghost tour. I love learning about Australia’s convict history but I didn’t have time for one of the daytime tours so opted for the creepy evening one instead. It was fun and genuinely a bit jumpy at times, with a mix of supernatural and historic stories.

Saw this little guy by the lighthouse

Day three – Freycinet and Bicherno

Up bright and early for day three, I had a quick stop to take a look at the rocky hills convict bridge before heading along to Devil’s Corner cellar door. It was a stunning day and the location is just incredible, with lookout points and a few little food vendors to choose from to go with your wine tasting. I only had a small taste of course but I thoroughly enjoyed this stop! Next up was Freycinet National Park. I hiked up the famous wineglass bay to the lookout point, before checking out honeymoon bay, the lighthouse and sandy bay. Freycinet is beautiful and you could absolutely spend a day or even two just relaxing and going on the stunning hikes in the area. But, I had big ambitions for this trip so kept on going and headed to Bicherno late in the afternoon. Here I went and checked out the most impressive blowhole I’d seen in all my time in Australia, as well as watching the sunset over diamond island.

Day four – Bay of Fires and Launceston

The next morning I mostly spent driving, and I wish I hadn’t. I decided to go the long drive to Binalong Bay (also known as the Bay of Fires) to check out the views as I’d heard it was beautiful. While I could see the beauty in the landscape, it just wasn’t worth the extra driving time it took me compared to driving direct to Launceston (2 hrs vs 4.5hrs), especially considering I was doing this trip alone so had no one to share the drive with. However, I did enjoy my wee wander around the area, and also was able to head to St Columba Falls and take in the beautiful falls there en route to Launceston. However, if I was repeating this trip or recommending to someone else, I’d skip this day out and have the extra day on Bruny Island, which is one of the areas I chose to bypass due to time.

Launceston city park

Arriving in Launceston for 1:30pm (remember I was rising at the crack of dawn everyday!), I grabbed a delicious burger from Burgers Got Soul, before spending the afternoon wandering around the free Queen Victoria Museum and the City Park. This was a nice wee afternoon, and my hostel here, The Arthouse, was a beautiful old building with parking right outside as well.

Day five – Launceston and Tasmazia

First thing I did was head back to the City Park to look at the sweet little macaques in the park and have another wee walk around. They live in an enclosure here but head inside at 4pm everyday so I’d just missed them the night before. Heading back to the hostel having decided to extend my stay, I then drove on over to Cataract Gorge, which is right at the edge of the city. There are plenty of walks around the area, lots of wildlife roaming around to see and you can also take a ride in the world’s longest single chairlift (which I did). It was absolutely beautiful up there and I thoroughly enjoyed my morning just taking it all in. That afternoon, I then drove out of the city to Tasmazia Village. This was a bit out of the way to drive to, but SO worth it. It’s a series of hedge mazes, with a few smaller ones (all of which were really difficult and some made me dizzy!), and then one huge full size maze. I spent a good few hours here and had great fun getting lost and trying to find all the checkpoints.

Day six – Cradle Mountain and Launceston

To finish up my trip I headed to the iconic Cradle Mountain. This national park area is host to a huge variety of walks to chose from, including the overland track if you’re after a multi-day adventure. I opted for the Dove Lake Circuit, which takes you right around the lake offering beautiful views all around. Unfortunately this was the only day of my trip with awful weather, and after completing my first walk and grabbing lunch, the heavens opened. I did set off to try a second walk but within a few minutes I was freezing and miserable, so called it off and headed back to the city. I’d love to come back and spend more time in the area, and perhaps even do the overland track next time. To finish up my trip I had a little explore around the city of Launceston again, grabbed dinner from a tiny selection of market stalls before getting an early night ready for my 6am flight home in the morning.

To sum up

Tasmania is pretty tiny as far as Australia goes, and you can get from the North to the South of the island in just a few hours, but the week I spent there absolutely wasn’t enough time and I do hope to go back one day. I think you could easily dedicate two weeks to exploring this beautiful island, though it’s definitely for those who enjoy the great outdoors and not a city break.

This was also my first totally solo trip, and I honestly really enjoyed myself. I spent my evenings striking up conversation in the hostels so never felt lonely, and loved the freedom of doing what I wanted when I wanted everyday. I still love sharing travel adventures with other people, but it’s absolutely given me the confidence to just go out and do it myself too!

Back home to Scotland

Well, it’s been about seven months since I last wrote a blog. Every time I’ve tried I’ve been more and more overwhelmed with how behind I am that I instead ignore it and get even further behind! So, I’m going to ease myself in with a nice easy one as to where I’m at now, and work my way back through my travels from there.

In the middle of May I finished up my adventure in Australia and jetted back home to Scotland. My visa wasn’t due to expire until August, but my brother was getting married so I cut my trip slightly short as I obviously couldn’t miss that – the wedding was great by the way!

In total I was travelling in Australia for one year and nine months. Its pretty crazy it was that long, time really does fly by. I lived in Cairns, Shepparton, Darwin and Melbourne and many places in between for anywhere from one night to a couple of weeks. The whole country is beautiful and extremely diverse in nature and culture. I encourage anyone thinking about visiting or living there to take the plunge and go for it – you won’t regret it.

People keep asking me why I’ve come back to Scotland, or if I’m going back to Australia. I’ll admit when I initially bought my plane ticket I bought a return flight, sure I’d want to see out the last six weeks of my visa with another epic trip around the country. But in the end, I’d seen and done everything I wanted to do, Australia was going into the cold(ish) winter months and I couldn’t stay at my current workplace without applying for another visa.

I absolutely loved living in Melbourne, and if it wasn’t a 26 hour journey away, I’d live there in a heartbeat. But, Scotland will always be my home, and having familiar faces and places on my doorstep can never be beaten. I think I’ll always see Australia as a second home to me now, and who knows, maybe I’ll be back to live there one day in the near future.

Now, wheres that hypersonic travel at?

Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy is a small town in northern South Australia famous for its opal mining, and is a fascinating stop on the road trip through the red centre. Before visiting I’d heard all about this ‘underground town’ and was so excited to see a whole town built underground, expecting a barren wasteland overground. In reality, it’s not quite like it sounds. The buildings are less so underground and more dug out from the sides of the limestone, and the town has plenty of regular overground buildings too. However, the way the town has developed with lots of buildings blasted out of the limestone is truly fascinating and makes it a very worthwhile place to visit.

We wanted to get the underground living experience, and on our first night opted to stay at Radeka’s backpackers hostel. Honestly, it was pretty average and not worth the money for us when we could have camped for less. Nothing wrong with the hostel itself, but it just wasn’t impressive and didn’t live up to my expectations of underground living. So, on the following night Adam decided to treat us to a more extravagant experience and booked us a night in the Dug Out BnB. This was an absolutely beautiful home set back from the town. The owner had completely built the home from scratch and it was really interesting to hear all about it as we checked in – I’d highly recommend this as a place to stay in the area.

With plenty to do despite its small size, we spent around two days exploring and still didn’t manage to see it all. There’s some great free view points you can visit, and I’d recommend taking time to look at the Big Winch, Beetle Car, Spaceship as well as visiting the various underground churches which are typically entry by donation.

In terms of Museums, we opted to visit the Old Timer’s Mine museum and went on a self guided tour through the labyrinth of old mining tunnels and the 1920s style dug out home. It was really enjoyable navigating through the tunnels and learning all about the history, and I’d really recommend this as a museum worth visiting. We also headed to the Umoona museum, which was more information heavy – interesting, but a less exciting experience as you really had to focus on reading lots of information.

On a whim we also stopped off at a shop that had a sign outside saying ‘kangaroo feeding’ – and we loved it! They had rescue joeys that they cared for and hand fed by the bottle and regularly had new ones coming in. It was very interesting hearing about how they care for these orphaned animals and we also got a chance to feed some of the more grown up ones.

Finally, we chose to eat out once at John’s Pizza place. This restaurant has (at the time of writing), has remarkably gained spot #2 on the list of best pizza restaurants in the whole of Australia on TripAdvisor! I would describe the pizza as okay at best, so I have no idea how it’s managed to gain such good reviews. I honestly wouldn’t recommend it, and even months later I’m still bewildered as to why it’s got such rave reviews – from ambience, to staff to the food itself, there’s just nothing noteworthy about it!

That’s all for Coober Pedy, it was a really great town to stop and one of the highlights of the red centre. Next post will be all about Uluru (Ayers Rock), Ogles and Kings Canyon.

Road trip through the Red Centre

Setting off from Adelaide with the aim to drive to Darwin, Adam and I began our road trip through the ‘red centre’ of Australia. We had no time limit for how long the trip should take us, we just took each day as it came, deciding there and then whether to carry on or spend an extra night in places we stopped. I didn’t feel rushed at all, but you could certainly be more relaxed and spend longer doing the trip. I’ll give more detail on some of the stops in future posts, but below is our itinerary to give you an idea of the places to stop and time taken to do the trip.

In terms of where we camped, all spots were found through Wikicamps and we always made our decisions based on reviews, facilities and cost! We spent around $1000 each on all food, petrol and accommodation.

Adelaide > Port Parham

Spending the morning in Adelaide and visiting Mt Lofty before we left, meant we didn’t travel very far on the first day. Port Parham was just a nice little remote spot we found through Wikicamps, with a gorgeous sunset over the beach to end our first night.

Port Parham > Port Augusta > Pimba

Day two and we headed to Port Augusta for the day, stopping at the outback centre museum, water tower lookout and the arid lands botanic gardens. That night we headed past Port Augusta in search of a free spot to stay, and spent a very windy night in our tent in the Pimba roadhouse car park.

Pimba > Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy was one of the highlights of the red centre for me, and we spent two nights / three days here. Driving via Woomera to check out the missiles first, we then headed on to Coober Pedy and spent a few days checking out the underground museums, houses and stayed in a beautiful AirBnb. More to come on this in a future post, but this is definitely a town thats worth spending a few days in if you can.

Coober Pedy > Uluru

Probably the most famous of the red centre drive, we next headed on for a trip to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). We spent a night in a campsite on the way here to break up the drive, and after that spent two days exploring these beautiful sites, enjoying cycling, walking trails and viewing the spectacular Uluru by sunrise and sunset. We felt two days was enough for us, but you could quite easily spend more time here if you wish.

Uluru > Kings Canyon

The lesser known Kings Canyon is a few hours drive from Uluru, heading back towards Stuart Highway. We did the rim walk and I honestly thought this was absolutely amazing. Could not recommend it enough! Honestly, I thought it was more impressive than Uluru, but maybe that was down to it being an unexpected highlight for me, whereas there is so much hype around visiting Uluru.

Kings Canyon > Alice Springs

Getting back onto Stuart Highway the next day, we headed to Alice Springs for two nights. We went to a few museums and points of interest and stayed in a really cool converted bus in Alice’s Secret hostel, but overall I didn’t think much of the city itself. Nothing about it made me want to hang around for any longer.

Alice Springs > Devils Marbles > Banka Banka

Leaving Alice Springs things start to become few and far between, we spent two days driving and camping with stops at Barrow Creek pub, Wycliffe well pub and Devils Marbles. Even though there wasn’t much to see, I enjoyed these two days. A big part of a road trip is of course spending time on the road and it was nice spending some time chilling out each night after setting up camp early. Banka Banka was an insanely busy campsite, so get there early if you plan to stop here!

Banka Banka > Daly Waters

Daly Waters pub is a famous stop on the red centre route, so we made sure to find the time to spend a day here, after camping only a short drive away the night before. It was a fun experience and definitely worth the stop to check out all the cool memorabilia on the walls and grab one of their famous ‘barra n beef’ meals over the evening entertainment.

Daly Waters > Mataranka

Mataranka was an absolutely stunning place to stop, and we in fact spent an extra night here we loved it so much! Driving through you wouldn’t expect the town to have much, but there are two beautiful thermal pools – Mataranka Springs and Bitter Springs that you can easily spend a day at each. It was very relaxing and a great way to spend a few days.

Mataranka > Katherine > Edith Falls

Katherine was the next big city on our route, but we chose not to spend the night here. Passing through and taking the opportunity to stop at a rarely sighted chain supermarket on this road trip, we headed to Katherine Gorge for the day and went on a beautiful walk up the gorge to Baruwei lookout. Finishing that, we headed to Edith Falls to make the most of another opportunity to swim in more of beautiful natural swimming holes that the Top End has to offer.

Edith Falls > Darwin

Obviously at this end, many people would also visit Lichfield and Kakadu, but as we intended to be in Darwin for a few months, we chose to save those trips for a later date. Seventeen days after setting off from Adelaide, we arrived in Darwin excited to check out what it had to offer.

Four days in Adelaide

To finish off our Great Ocean Road trip we hit up the City of Adelaide. After spending five nights camping, we chose to opt for a little luxury before another few weeks camping en route to Darwin.  After struggling to find nice accommodation at a reasonable price that wasn’t already booked up on my regular sites, Adam found us a beautiful Airbnb right at the edge of the city. The host had a keypad lock on her front door, which was brilliant as we could let ourselves in when we were ready despite her not being home. She’d put together lots of information booklets about the city and the house itself, and the whole place was modern and nicely decorated. We loved it after spending the past few nights in a tent!

After lunch at Prancing Pony Brewery as I mentioned on my GOR post, we arrived in Adelaide mid afternoon. We enjoyed an afternoon chilling out and settling in, before heading into town for a few drinks as it was a Friday night. I’d done some research on nice bars in the city, and we opted to try two; Maybe Mae and Clever Little Tailor. Maybe Mae was jam packed, and while it seemed like a great place to drink, it was just way too full with no where left to sit or stand that felt comfortable. After one quick drink we moved on, and headed for Clever Little Tailor instead. We luckily managed to nab two seats as soon as we walked in, and enjoyed great drinks with great service from the staff too. After a couple of drinks despite really liking the bar, it was time to move somewhere a little cheaper to drink! We ended up at Rocket Bar and sat out on their rooftop bar before heading downstairs for a dance. It was alright, but nothing special as far as nightclubs go.

The next day we finally got to meet our host who was lovely and we spent some time chatting with, before heading out to a local market at The Market Shed. We had a wander around but nothing called out at us so we didn’t end up purchasing anything and instead headed to the city centre to look around the shops there, before having a late lunch at Bread and Bone, situated above Maybe Mae. The service was very slow considering how quiet it was, I think our order had been forgotten about and didn’t appear until we asked, however it was delicious when it did arrive so that kind of made up for it.

To travel around the city there are two bus loops, one running clockwise and one anticlockwise which you can hop on and off completely free. Luckily our accommodation was very near one of the free stops, so we didn’t pay for transport around the city which was great. That evening we just headed back and enjoyed an evening in with a takeaway making the most of being indoors while we could!

Botanic Gardens

For our last full day we felt it was time to hit more of the tourist spots before we left. We had a look at the State Library, which was beautiful inside and full of really old books which was pretty cool. Next we headed to the National Wine Centre of Adelaide. Every morning at 11:30am they do a free guided tour of the centre, and we arrived in time to take the tour which was very informative and definitely worthwhile, however if you miss it you can do a self guided tour at any time. Once we were done and had taken some time to play with the interactive exhibits, we headed to their wine bar. It’s the largest wine tasting experience in Australia with a range of 120 wines to try, with all the bottles in a kind of vending machine style. You can pour yourself a taster, 1/2 glass or whole glass from the dispenser. I had tasters of around nine different wines in the end, and finished with a glass of my favourite. Adam being the bigger drinker had 1/2 glasses of most of the wines he tried! Feeling a little tipsy, we took a stroll through the Botanic Gardens, which was beautiful with the falling Autumn leaves, before heading back to our Airbnb for the night.

The next morning it was time to check out and get on the road. Before leaving the city, we headed to the Central Market to check it out and grab some lunch. It would be a great place to buy food from local suppliers with loads of meat, cheese, fruit and bakery stalls, but impractical for us about to get on the road again without a fridge so we just enjoyed lunch before heading off. Our final activity was to visit the Mt Lofty lookout, a viewpoint where you can see all around the city. I believe there are walking trails around you could do too, but we chose to just take in the great view before getting on our way.

Overall we felt Adelaide was a pretty average city. We did some nice things and had a good time, but I guess the problem was that arriving straight from Melbourne we were comparing it to a much bigger a city we love with so much more to do. Worth stopping for of course, but I don’t feel desperate to go back.

Great Ocean Road; Melbourne > Adelaide in ~5 days

It’s the ultimate Aussie road trip; the Great Ocean Road. With breathtaking views and lots of free places to visit and camp, it’s an unmissable trip for anyone backpacking around Australia. We took the road all the way to Adelaide, but you can finish in Allansford, the official last town of the Great Ocean Road (GOR) if you then wish to turn back. However, there is still plenty to see beyond this point if you, like we did, chose to continue on.

To make things easier, I’ve broken down our route into our daily itinerary. We found all our campsites through Wikicamps, a great resource and well worth the purchase!

Day one; Melbourne > Lorne

Okay, so we didn’t get very far on our first day. We had a slow start before we left Melbourne, having to pack up the car, get petrol and get ourselves out of the city traffic. We left around 1pm, and it was probably around 3pm before we hit Torquay.

First night camping

Torquay is the first official town of the GOR, with the beautiful Bells Beach and lots of other scenic viewpoints around. I’ve lost count of how many times we stopped to take in the views, which resulted in us not getting to Memorial Arch, just 30 minutes drive from Torquay, until the sun was setting. Still, it looked impressive in the evening light, and seeing the Memorial Arch and reading about the history of the road and the area really felt like the beginning of our road trip to me.

A short drive from here, we continued on to our free camp spot for the night, Allenvale Mill bush campground which is right outside the town of Lorne. Impressively for a free campsite it had a toilet and running water facilities, the only negative was having to camp away from your car, which meant hauling all our stuff backwards and forwards to get set up and take down then next day. A minor inconvenience really though, and it was a very quiet and peaceful spot to stop full of interesting wildlife.

Day two; Lorne > Port Campbell

Kanagroos outside our tent

Greeted by kangaroos outside our tent in the morning, we packed up camp and got ourselves ready to head off on day two. A short 15 minute drive from our campsite was the beautiful Erskine Falls. I’m a sucker for a good waterfall, and with a huge cascading drop and walking tracks to view it from both the top and the bottom, I really enjoyed our short stop off here.

Next up, we headed into Lorne for some brunch. The previous night camping had been our first night camping in Australia and neither of us were ready to brave the gas stove quite yet! After a search on trip advisor we opted for Bottle of Milk, a nice local cafe right on the waterfront and got a burger each. Both were delicious, and with us set up for the day, we then continued with our trip. Backtracking a little we headed back to see Memorial Arch in daylight this time for some quick picture opportunities, then the rest of the day was spent taking in the beautiful scenic views along the drive to Twelve Apostles. In our running theme of arriving everywhere late, the sun was setting again as we arrived at Twelve Apostles. At first I was a little disappointed to have arrived so late in the day, but it turned out a wonderful time of day to take in the view, and it looked spectacular in the evening light. Being winter I’d expect this not to be peak season for the GOR, yet it was still very busy here so be prepared to fight through the many tourists to get that perfect picture!

That night we camped at Port Campbell, this time a paid campsite but with an honesty box system. Wikicamps reviews said the ranger would occasionally come around, but we saw only the few other campers there that night. It was a nice campsite, with very good showers, toilets and cooking facilities. Despite actually having cooking facilities available here, we decided tonight was the night to crack open the gas stove and successfully cooked our first meal on the road (pasta if I remember correctly).

Day three; Port Campbell > Portland

The Grotto

Starting off in a similar fashion to the day before, we backtracked a little to go see Twelve Apostles in daylight. In this case I actually thought it looked better by evening light, but I imagine that was mostly due to it being an overcast day so that was a little unfortunate. Still, it’s obviously one of the highlights of the GOR so was well worth going back to see. While there we also took a walk down Gibson’s steps to take in the views from sea level.

Continuing our drive along the GOR, we stopped to look at lots of the amazing cliff side formations including Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge and The Grotto. The Grotto was probably my favourite of them all, but all are really impressive. We also made a quick stop for some fish and chips (you have to at the seaside), at a place named Frying Nemo in Port Campbell and sat and enjoyed them at the beach. This day actually took us to the end of the official GOR, but as mentioned before our road trip was far from over here.

To finish off our day we drove to Warrnambool to go whale watching at Logan Beach, a spot thats famous for whale sightings. The best time of year to see them is from June to September and we managed to spot a couple in the distance which was pretty cool.

That night we set up camp in Henty campsite, another free camp spot with a toilet block. It wasn’t until after we arrived we realised it was for self contained vehicles only (Wikicamps did say this, but I hadn’t read the listing properly), but it was already dark and we didn’t want to drive on, so we set up our tent anyway and had no problems. 

Day four; Portland > Mt Gambier

Cape Bridgewater walk

Packing up our campsite early, we first drove to Cape Nelson lighthouse to take a look around. It was pretty nice up here, with just enough to see for a short stop. Moving on we headed to Cape Bridgewater. Two seal colonies live along this shore, but the viewpoint isn’t accessible by car, so you have the option of two walking paths that take you there. On reading the reviews, one is shorter (5km round trip) but more difficult, and one is a longer (12km round trip), more leisurely walk. We chose the longer walk of the two, and absolutely loved it. We set off at 11:30am and with a stop for lunch to sit and watch the seals, we were back at our car by 4pm. This is up there with one of my favourite walks I’ve done, as the views were just absolutely incredible and we hardly passed anyone meaning we could enjoy it all peacefully at our own pace.

Walk finished, we were both exhausted and ready to camp. We had around an hour of driving to do before arriving in Mt Gambier, where we camped at the showgrounds. It took us a little while to find the camp spot, but we managed eventually and with a really friendly ranger we got set up in a nice camp spot for the night.

Day five; Mt Gambier > Naracoorte

Umpherston sink hole

Mt Gambier I hadn’t heard much about before this trip, but it turned out to be a fantastic little stop. There’s a couple of sink holes around the city, and the Umpherston sink hole was fascinating, both in its history and appearance. We were also lucky enough to get up close with the most adorable little possum while there. We also took a trip to Blue Lake, which seasonally changes colour from a steel grey to brilliant blue, though sadly was grey on our visit. Next stop was to check out the Lady Nelson Visitor Centre, which offers a free walkthrough experience explaining the history of the area. To finish off our time in the town, we headed to Engelbrecht Cave, and took the guided tour down into the cave to hear about its formation and history. It sadly was used as a dump until 1979, when it was excavated to reveal this amazing underground cave system that runs right under the town. It’s a very popular spot with divers, with people coming from all over the world to explore these cave tunnels, though I couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying myself!

I think we could have easily spent a second day in Mt Gambier as it did have so much to offer, but we’d already made the decision (and booking) to stay in Adelaide the following night, so we continued on to Naracoorte where we explored the wet cave before camping at Naracoorte showgrounds.

Day six; Naracoorte > Adelaide

While I’ve titled the blog post five days, we did actually take six. However, all we did on the last day was head straight to Adelaide with a stop off at the Prancing Pony Brewery just outside the city on the way to check out their beers and tasty lunch menu. When planning the road trip I did find plenty to see between Mt Gambier and Adelaide, including wineries, Victor Harbour and Kangaroo Island, but we felt none of them called out to us as must see, so we skipped them this time around and headed straight for the city.

The Great Ocean Road is certainly an incredible drive, and even in the winter everything was spectacular. This will definitely stay with me as one of my most memorable times in Australia and I hope to get the chance to come back and do it all again in the future.

A day out on Phillip Island

A short drive from Melbourne CBD is the tourist hotspot Phillip Island. It’s a small island at just 26km long and 9km wide and is connected to the mainland by a short bridge crossing. Before packing up the car and beginning our Great Ocean Road and Red Centre outback adventure we decided to make the day trip here with Iona, a friend from back home.

After setting off a little later than we’d hoped, we luckily managed to get to San Remo pier just in time for the daily midday pelican feeding with a short presentation on the birds. Following that, we headed over the bridge to Phillip Island and began our sightseeing. We started with Cape Woolamai to view the beautiful beach and coastal scenery. Unfortunately being winter it was pretty cold and windy, otherwise this would be a lovely spot to relax for a few hours.

Next stop was the Phillip Island racing circuit. Being a big fan of Moto GP, Adam was really keen to visit the track, and hopes to return later this year to watch the race in October. They ask a fee of $17.50 to view the track, so Iona and I waited while Adam went in as we weren’t as interested. Unfortunately he said you could hardly see any of the track as most of the viewing area was closed off, and he felt it was a waste of money.

Starting to feel a bit peckish, we headed for lunch next. Searching reviews online, we opted to eat at Cheeky Goose Cafe in Cowes. The cafe was nicely decorated and has a well deserved rating of 4.5/5 on trip advisor for it’s excellent food and service. All dishes were delicious and served promptly and I’d recommend to anyone planning on visiting the area.

Image of kangaroo in the wild
Catching sight of a wild Kangaroo

Refuelled and ready to go again, it was time to hit up more of the scenic spots. We went for a short stroll along the boardwalk at ‘The Nobbies’, where you could see spectacular views of the waves crashing against the rocks and if you’re lucky spot some wildlife in the ocean too. We didn’t go into the centre itself, but this also offers an Antarctic Journey experience as well as a cafe and gift shop. Catching sight of some wild kangaroos, we then drove onto the famous Penguin Parade for our last stop of the day.

With an astounding 32,000 penguins, Phillip Island is home to one of the largest penguin colonies in the world, however don’t expect to see quite that many when you visit! Every night when the sun goes down, hundreds of penguins come up onto the foreshore and make their way back to their little burrows for the night. An equally large amount of tourists descend upon the place each evening to see this happen. At $25.70 per adult for basic entry with closer encounter experiences starting from $50, it’s not a cheap activity. While a wonderful sight to watch, we were disappointed with such a high price-tag being put on viewing animals in nature, when at St Kilda beach you can see the exact same thing on a smaller scale for free. It was very cute to watch, and probably what Phillip Island is best known for; so I guess in that respect it’s an unmissable activity, however I do feel it’s very overpriced for what it is. If you arrive early enough you’ll also have time to look around the information boards to read some fun facts about the penguins; such as the fact that the penguins keep the same burrow for their whole lives, however if the male and female separate, the male keeps the burrow and the female moves out! 

Penguins done, it was time to head back to Melbourne. All in all we had a fun day out, one which I think would be even more enjoyable had we visited in summer and had some great weather to go along with the great scenery and wildlife we saw.