Christchurch is situated north of several extinct volcanoes, which make up the areas of Banks Peninsula and Akaroa. Millions of years ago these volcanoes created cones, which were then flooded as sea levels rose. The resulting hills and harbors are a major attraction for hiking, fishing, and other water activities. The Port Hills in the southern part of Christchurch are the closest for city dwellers and it’s an easy trip to walk or bike to the top and get fantastic views. It’s especially nice at sunset!
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.
I took a pretty big detour to head up to Ross, which is nearly in the middle of Tasmania. I had seen pictures of the famous convict-built bridge and wanted to see it. I definitely wasn’t disappointed. The tiny town (pop. 272) feels completely different from anywhere else I’d been in Tassie and there is loads of history to see. I stayed at the Man O’Ross hotel, which was built in 1825, and it definitely added to the atmosphere.
The bridge is certainly a highlight of the town. It was built in 1836 with excellent craftsmanship and intricate carvings. There are also lovely churches and bakeries.
On my way back to Hobart I stopped at Oatlands, which is home to the Callington Mill. Built in 1837, the mill is still operational today and is the only tower mill of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
Following my day on the Tasman Peninsula I made a stop at Triabunna, hoping to make it to Maria Island. I didn’t realize I was meant to book the ferry to the island in advance, so I wasn’t able to go. However, I did meet some hilarious and hospitable fisherman in the tiny town and I spent a day playing pool and hanging out on their fishing boat. It’s cliche, but that’s the best thing about travel… you never know who you’ll meet or where the road will take you.
After spending some time in Triabunna, I made my way further north to the Bay of Fires, which is consistently ranked among the best beaches in the world. It’s a quiet place with free camping spots and nearly endless walking opportunities. There are fairy penguins and wallabies and loads of other creatures to see, in addition to the striking red rocks along the beach. Contrary to common assumption, the bay is not actually named for these red rocks but for the fires that the European settlers saw the aboriginals making along the coastline.
Near to Uluru on the private Curtin Springs cattle station is yet another massive geological formation known to aboriginals as Attila, to European Australians as Mt. Conner, and to my tour guide as “Fuluru” because many a wanderer has mistaken this mountain for the famous red rock.
As it’s on private property it’s not easy to approach the mountain, but there is a hill near the road where you can get a nice panoramic view of Attila and the surrounding area. It’s also a great place to get up close to the red sand, and even take some home if you’re keen.
After driving past Attila our tour group stopped to see the sunset over Kings Canyon, our next destination.
Of course the main draw of central Australia is Uluru – one of the largest bornhardt formations in the world and a sacred site for the local aboriginal people. I decided to do a 10-day group tour from Alice Springs to visit Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, Devils Marbles, Katherine Gorge, Mary River, Kakadu NP, and Litchfield NP, finally ending in Darwin in plenty of time to begin my new job. While I would have loved to do this trip on my own as a massive road trip, after adding up all the costs I just couldn’t justify it – it would have been nearly triple the price to do it alone. Of course there are benefits to the tour – being able to sleep during long drives, not worrying about getting lost or finding an appropriate place to sleep, etc., but I definitely realized that my personality and travel style does not lend itself well to being in such close quarters with so many strangers for such a long time. It was a massive relief to be done with the tour and back in a private bedroom, despite how beautiful and exciting everything I saw was.
Anyway, the first stop on this 10-day tour was the magnificent Uluru. We did a little bit of walking around the base (of course we did not climb up it) and heard creation stories about different features on the rock.
On the fifth day of my road trip I spent some time in Townsville, a small city just south of Cairns. I walked along the esplanade, got some ice cream and then went up to Castle Hill to see the views of the surrounding areas and yet another gorgeous sunset. There was also some nifty street art, including a beautiful wall on the outside of a hostel filled with reef-themed images of fish and mermaids.