The iconic Sydney Opera House at night
I spent nearly a week in Sydney, my final week in Australia. Although I tend not to enjoy large cities when traveling, as I prefer the charm and peacefulness of smaller towns, Sydney had an undeniable energy and rich history that made my stay there more than worthwhile.
Highlights of the city included the gorgeous Botanic Gardens, walking from Coogee Beach to Bondi, and of course Sydney Harbour with the bridge and opera house as a backdrop.
The iconic wedding cake rock on the coast walk in Royal National Park
The very last stop on my ten month trip through Australia was, finally, Sydney and the surrounding area. I met up with an old travel friend and he insisted we go on the Coast Walk in Royal National Park, which is just south of Sydney. We didn’t have time (or energy, frankly) to do the entire 26k trek, but we did about a third of it. There are gorgeous cliffs, a huge variety of plant and animal life, and swimming holes along the way.
A view of Wineglass Bay from the lookout on Tasman Peninsula
After finished up my teaching contract in Darwin I headed to Tasmania for a 17 day road trip. It was an absolutely stunning state and I met the kindest people, ate the most delicious local food (oysters, cheese, beer and wine, chocolate, salmon, beef…), and saw an abundance of animals. There are dozens of short hiking trails which I used as the foundation to plan my trip. I flew into Hobart and essentially made a big counter-clockwise circle, making my first major stop the Tasman Peninsula.
Most famous for Port Arthur (which I didn’t have time to see), the peninsula is also home to amazing cliffscapes and the postcard-worthy Wineglass Bay.
Hanging out at Poona Lake at the Great Sandy National Park
From the Sunshine Coast I headed up to Great Sandy National Park to do some hiking. I intended to get to Fraser Island, but realized too late that I would need a 4WD and I didn’t want to pay such high ferry costs. I feel satisfied with Great Sandy though, as I believe the scenery was similar and it was less crowded and – best of all – free!
I did some hiking around the Bymien picnic area to Poona Lake, a freshwater perched lake that is stained a rusty red because of the nearby tea trees. As usual I took tons of photos of mushrooms, trees, and logs.
Then I headed further down the road to Rainbow Beach where there are lovely red cliffs called the Colored Sands.
A view of the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road
Near the top of every Australia to-do list is a road trip on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, and it was one of the very first touristy things I did when I arrived. I rented a car with an Australian friend I’d met in Bolivia, and we headed out from Melbourne through Lorne to Apollo Bay, taking a detour to Cape Otway and spending some time in Port Campbell, before getting to Warrnambool and heading back – all in 48 hours. It was a whirlwind, but we saw some beautiful sights along the way, including some wild koalas!. Unfortunately it was too cold to go swimming in May, but we spent some time walking on the beach anyway.
I loved learning about the history of the area – from indigenous tribes and William Buckley to shipwrecks and lighthouses. I learned that the first American vessel to sink in WWII sunk right off of Cape Otway, something I’ll keep in my back pocket in case I’m ever on Jeopardy!
Additionally, there are several great hiking spots along the road, for short walks or longer ones that apparently can take several days. We did a few short walks, but realized at the end of the day that it had added up to quite a trek!
A view of the cliffs over Chiew Lan Lake
I spent a few days in the beautiful area of Khao Sok, hiking in the national park and taking an overnight tour to Chiew Lan Lake. Despite being a fairly popular destination in southern Thailand, both the park and lake are secluded and relatively untouched. I saw a lot of flying lizards, monkeys, and more geckos than I could count!
The limestone cliffs of Tam Coc
The surrounding countryside of Ninh Binh was highly recommended by some friends of mine, so I made sure to stop there on my way up north. The town itself is not very impressive, but there are several small villages accessible by bike as well as Tam Coc, a village near a gorgeous by surrounded by limestone caves and cliffs. You can also climb one of these cliffs, above a cave called Mua, to get a view of the area. In addition to the scenery, I was impressed by friendly people and cheap prices.