Category Archives: East Coast

A Bit More of Sydney Pt.2

Continued from Part 1

Vivid Sydney

IMG_20170527_202727The Vivid event takes over Sydney for a couple weeks each year, and if you’re lucky enough to be in the area at the time, it’s highly recommended. There’s lots of spots that join in, from huge projections on the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge through to a walk through of artistic visions through the botanic gardens. Some of it is better than others that for sure, the stuff in Circular Quay is very impressive, while some of the smaller exhibits are more suited to kids and families. IMG_20170526_200526Be aware that opening weekend is absolutely packed out and it’s very easy to lose your friends. One highlight is the water and light show in Darling Harbour. They project animations and scenes up on a wall of water sprayed up from the harbour accompanied by orchestral music building to an impressive crescendo.

Blue Mountains, Three Sisters and Wentworth Falls

IMG_20170529_150733While the Blue Mountains are certainly a touristy spot, they’re still worth a mention. Without a car, getting up here is a little limited, with only bus tours or the public train to choose from. The tours are fine, and with good guides most of them allow you to see the highlights including scenic world with it’s funicular railway, while the train will drop you off in Katoomba, close enough to the Three Sisters to walk, but not see much more.

With your own car you can head out and see a little more, and avoid the worst of the tourist crowds. The Three Sisters viewing point is huge, with multiple levels which means there are some quieter spots for those typical photos. It’s a reasonable walk down to cliff edge though, and with viewpoints along the way it’s easy to find a good spot away from the masses. There’s a lot of hikes in this area, and a few days up in the hills would be a good way to see a lot more. You can even walk across the bridgeway to the base of the first sister, although the visuals are somewhat reduced when you get close, as you can’t see the other sisters.

PANO_20170529_165803

Wentworth Falls is a short drive back towards Sydney and is well worth the stop. The right amount of infrastructure to point you in the right direction but not so much that it ruins the environment. The view points over-looking the falls are pretty impressive, but as the fall cascades down near the cliff edge theres a good spot to explore and find some interesting vistas. Just be cautious at dusk, again we found ourselves finding our way home in the dark.

Royal National Park, Bundeena, Wedding Cake Rock and Wattamolla Beach

IMG_20170531_122603This was probably my favourite location on the visit. We started our exploration of the RNP near the main road, a little lake spot which also has the info centre and a little cafe. We strolled about the lake and despite the road running through the middle found it charming and quiet, a huge departure from the Sydney traffic we’d come from. It was a good warm up for the rest of the day.

IMG_20170531_145849We stopped in Bundeena for lunch, wonderful fish and chips from a cute cafe in the town, still miles from the tourists and it really felt like the little local place it looked like. Just around the corner is the walk around to the cliffs, and along to Wedding Cake Rock. The walk along is well maintained, and plenty interesting by itself, a few dips down where brooks reached the ocean and plenty of overhanging rocks to get the adrenalin pumping. Wedding Cake rock is now protected by a large fence, enough to put off some, but it seemed as though most tourists were hopping over to get their snaps on the rock itself. We were told that they have plans to make a visitor centre for it, both to prevent accidents, but also to stop it from cracking and a falling into the sea. The rock itself is made of a beautiful white limestone, a relatively weak rock and the fence is there to stop erosion or an accident if the rock does break away. A visitor centre would probably ruin the area somewhat though and potentially reduce the amount of the visitors to the site. Perhaps with more information at the location fewer people would be willing to hop the fence. It’s an impressive rock, and certainly quite unusual but not in need of too much infrastructure.

The last stop of the day, and of the trip was the pinnacle. The simply gorgeous Wattamolla beach and headland. The beach itself is tiny, it’s more like a small cliff right into a meander of the river. About 5 metres high it’s perfect to dive from and catch some sun. While there’s the typical Aussie safety rail around the cliff it’s easy to hop over. There’s a few rocks below and a tiny beach/slipway to climb back up. The spot would be ideal with a group of friends, some food and a summer afternoon. If you follow the path around you’ll find yourself at the end of the headland, a rocky outcrop pointing out into the wild Pacific ocean. amazing views and almost total isolation, it was blissful to clamber around in such a location, and so close to Sydney city as well. If I lived anywhere nearby, I’d certainly make that spot one of my regular haunts.

PANO_20170531_163027

So, all the way across the planet to spend not even two weeks, but so much seen in such a short time, and so much more than most ever see in 5 times the time. Comparing to the first trip to Sydney it was a real eye-opener, there’s so much beauty surrounding the city that is missed by 90% of the tourists there. Even some locals don’t know about these spots, so please go explore!

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Advertisements

A Bit More of Sydney Pt.1

Many years after first visiting Australia an invitation that couldn’t be refused arrived. So an elaborate plan was formed – India, Sydney, Myanmar and back to the UK. Not the simplest route, but one that just about worked out.

Having been to Sydney before, this trip was about pushing out of the normal tourist spots and seeing a little more. With a wonderful local friend/guide and a car it’s amazing the spots you can find, completely off the radar for the average tourist, and invisible to unlucky backpackers. Perhaps the Aussies want to keep some of their beautiful country a secret, a special place for locals and the enthusiastic.

Clovelly, Gordons Bay and Coogee

IMG_20170523_154334Heading straight to the beach after the airport, what better way to get started on an Aussie adventure? But we skipped the typical tourist traps, instead hitting up the adorable Clovelly first, part way between Bondi and Coogee, then started to clamber up and over the headland. The east coast cliffs are a treat to climb, and are a heaven for those ‘candid’ instagram photos, perch yourself on a precarious edge and get a friend to snap away.  From Clovelly it’s an easy stroll along the cliff walk through Gordons bay (with a really cool underwater nature trail) around to Coogee beach. Coogee was pretty quiet as the sun was setting, but is so characteristic of the beach towns, wide streets, green grass and trendy fish and chip shops. It’s easy to understand why so many people move there.

Illawarra Treetop Walk, Belmore Falls and Fitzroy Falls.

IMG_20170524_144438This was a bit of a drive away, down past the Royal Nation Park and up into the hills. The area is packed with waterfalls, trails, walks and forest to explore. Theres a great site that allows to you get above it all though, the treetop walk of Illawarra. It’s a little pricey for a walk, especially as there’s very similar views for free a short drive away. The walkway is impressive though, especially the crows nest which gives dominating views in all directions, all the way down to the coast.

20170524_173145Belmore Falls was the next stop, a view point from afar is easy enough to find, but getting up close was much more spectacular. The top of a waterfall is an interesting lookout, while the bottom offers the more impressive spectacle, but the dense forested valleys block access from the base. Still the views are great, especially around dusk, the colour of the sky slowly shifting as the sun descends. Next on the list was the more touristy Fitzroy Falls, with it’s walkways and viewing platforms, certainly the Australian health and safety had got their hands on this place. But as it was getting seriously dark, perhaps it was a good thing we had the paths to follow.

We stopped off for a cheeky bit of Mexican food in Wollongong before heading home, a decent feed after a day of adventuring.

Wendy’s Secret Garden, Luna Park and Lavender Bay

IMG_20170525_151754Staying a bit closer to the city, some research came up with a couple interesting spots, the main one being the delightful Wendy’s Secret Garden, just a short walk from Luna Park. It’s a private garden that’s open to the public, filled with little seats and tables to stop and enjoy the surroundings, it’s a stones throw from the water, and the city, but with the foliage so thick you could be miles from anywhere. It’s romantic and charming in equal measure, perfect for a picnic with your sweetheart, or a lonely stroll before sitting with a book.

Luna Park was closed as we wandered past, but the boardwalk stays open and a selfie with that giant creepy clown gate is a must. It’s an odd place, but an interesting bit of history for Sydney, Luna Park has been open since 1935, slowly updating and upgrading as it went. Now it’s a modern and exciting theme park, but with no entry fee. Perfect for a short day, rather than trying to cram as much in as possible like many other parks.

Further around is the quiet Lavender Bay, it looks a lot like Mrs Macquaries point, but with no one around. It’s a blissful hiding place away from the tourists, and offers incredible views of the Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House in the distance. It’s a vantage point few people see, and in such serene surroundings as well.

Newtown, Surrey Hills and Alexandria

IMG_20170530_152406A few trips to Newtown during the trip, so we’ll roll them into one. Newtown is still the coolest area in Sydney, with funky alternative shops, rooftop bars and some incredible food choices. From excellent pizza to ice-cream made with nitrous oxide to giant cake like doughnuts which are doing nothing to help all the runners as they go by. The nightlife is probably the most accessible and welcoming, no aggressive bouncers with idiotic door policies or an overdose of testosterone, bar staff that understand your drink orders and music that doesn’t induce a headache after 30 seconds.

Surrey Hills is pretty good too, we didn’t spend a lot of time here though, just a drive through to grab some (more) ice-cream from Messina Gelato, apparently the best ice-cream in Australia

Alexandria of course is home of The Grounds, a collective of restaurants, shops and cafes spaced in amongst a green utopia within the suburbs of Sydney. An easy walk from from the accommodation and a real hipster treat. They probably brew their own beer and definitely roast their own coffee.

Continued in Pt.2

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Sex or Death

I was introduced to the game Sex or Death while working in the greater Sydney area in Australia.

I was told about it by an Irish guy, who was clearly more cocky than he should have been about his abilities with ladies. It’s a simple principle – don’t book yourself a place for the night, just leave your stuff somewhere safe, apply copious amounts of deodorant and hit the town. The aim is to meet a girl and go home with her, as the only other option is to sleep rough on the streets and probably die.

This is not a game I’d recommend to anyone, ever. But it is fun, watching your friend desperately hitting on every girl in the club trying to find somewhere to sleep. I saw him waste a half hour chatting up a rather large girl, only for her mate to whisper something in her ear, followed by a rather humiliating rejection of my friend. As the night progresses of course and the more the alcohol takes effect, the more desperate and rediculous the players get, and so the less attractive the girls get, and the more idiotic (drunken genius obviously) the attempts become. I remember at one point asking another guy why he had two drinks, to which he said it saved going to the bar to buy her a drink.

Despite never actually wanting to play, times got tough at times in Australia, so a night spent curled up asleep in the back of a small car on a backstreet in Sydney was my punishment for losing.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

East Coast – An Informal Guide

From Byron Lighthouse - versestravel
From Byron Lighthouse – versestravel

The following is an edited version of an email guide I emailed to a couple of friends who I met in Thailand. I have improved the language and added a couple little points, but left it essentially the same. This is not a formal review, but it gives you an idea of what I was doing while working in Australia.

“CAIRNS

Things to do:

Great Barrier Reef – this is the big one, have to do it. Currently a special with Ocean Free that’ll do you a dive for $20 and it’s a sweet boat. Bungy Jumping here, only place in Aus. Don’t bother with Cape Tribulation (Cape Trib) it’s a bit shit, but the Atherton Tablelands tour is good. Uncle Brians is the best tour, but Captain Matty’s is good too (and a bit cheaper) White Water Rafting, this is great, but a bit of a drive away from Cairns, you can use this to transfer down to Mission Beach though, which is a nice spot, and it’ll knock about 2 hours off the journey down to your next stop

Places to see:

The lagoon, lots of girls, sometimes topless. There’s another one at Gilligans which is smaller, but less kids/old people so better for the ladies.

Where to go out:

Gilligans is king here, it’s got a massive nightclub in the complex, during the week it’s quiet and they do some stupid backpacker things, including wet tee-shirt comps and other stupid stuff. At the weekends it packs out with Aussie locals, the atmosphere take a bit of a dive, but altogether it’s still good, and it’s a good time to meet some aussie chicks too. The Woolshed has a similar vibe, and allows people to dance on the tables, which people like. It seems to be the main competitor of Gilligans, nowhere near as big, but still a good party, and cheaper than gillis. Worth a night. Everywhere else… not a clue!

Cairns – Mission Beach = 2 hours

Mission Beach - versestravel
Mission Beach – versestravel

MISSION BEACH

White Water Rafting – same as above. Sky Diving [EDIT: It’s possible to skydive up and down the East Coast with these guys, and if a jump is cancelled due to weather, they will transfer your booking to another day and location]- a great place to skydive onto the beach. This place is really small and chilled out, a nice rest from Cairns, and some really friendly people in the hostels, but you’ll get bored after a day or so, not much going on here at all.

Mission Beach – Townsville = 3 hours

TOWNSVILLE/MAGNETIC ISLAND

Townsville is an Aussie tourist hotspot, but very few backpackers here, it’s only used as the port to get over to Maggie Island. This is a place that wants to be Thailand! They have a full moon party, but people have said it’s a bit tame, so don’t bother with that, but you can check it out for a day or two. Seems to be highly recommended by the Irish, so maybe head over and check it out. You can get deals that include your ferry ticket, accom and some meals at the Base hostel if you go to Peterpans. Again, it’s small and chilled, but I’ve been told it’s really good so up to you guys!

Townsville – Airlie Beach = 10 hours (overnight)

The view from Airlie - versestravel
The view from Airlie – versestravel

AIRLIE BEACH/WHITSUNDAYS

The Whitsunday islands are beautiful, and you’ll want to be on the Clipper to have the best time, it’s the biggest boat, it’s got the best vibe and the biggest party atmosphere. Slide, diving board and hot tub on board, it’s for getting loose and having fun. But you’ll still get plenty of time to see Whitehaven beach and do plenty of snorkeling and see the fish! Just don’t get too drunk and a hangover on a boat is no fun. [EDIT: Having been on the Clipper since writing this I would recommend New Horizon, the sister boat. I found the games and attitude on board a little too childish for me, so if you’re over 25 stay away. However if you’re happy to dress up, and run around like a fool, this is the boat for you]

Airlie: Stay somewhere cheap, that’s not nasty (Beaches is nasty, everywhere else is pretty ok [EDIT: Nomads has nice rooms, good facilities and a great atmosphere] Party anywhere you want, there’s one road in Airlie, and it’s pretty short. You can wander up and down fine and you’ll see where is busy and where’s not. Beaches is pretty good and Mambos in the middle is pretty cool. Mama Africa is the only club and stays open pretty late. Just keep it easy, and when you meet a chick who’s game, take her home quick!

Airlie – Agnes Water/1770= 10 hours

Waterfall in Queensland - versestravel
Waterfall in Queensland – versestravel

1770/AGNES WATER

This place has two names, it’s confusing. This is a good place to stop for a night or two, they really want to bring more people in here, so you can usually get a free surf trip or something while you’re there. Most of the hostels have free wifi, so make sure you get one of those. The best thing here is that it breaks up your journey to Rainbow beach, saves a long stop over at a bus stop in Hervey Bay, which you don’t want!

Agnes – Rainbow Beach = 8 hours

RAINBOW BEACH/FRASER ISLAND

Rainbow is a cool little town, good place to chill, but with enough backpackers coming through to keep it fun. Most people just rush through though, so it might not be a great place to spend too much time. The best thing here is the DINGOS tour of Fraser Island. This is rad, driving a 4×4 around on the beach and down sand/dirt roads, then jumping out to see some cool shit, or go for a swim in some really nice lakes. It’s the best things I did in Oz, so do it! it’s 3-day 2-nights, camping next to the beach, and pretty high chances of a lay.

Rainbow Beach – Noosa – 2 hours

NOOSA

This place is cool, and crawling with Canadian chicks, definitely worth a stop over, and possibly a good place to stop for a while, work for accommodation get into things a bit more. A good place for surfing as well, so give it a shot. Don’t stay in Dolphins! The town is also near Australia Zoo, which is the biggest and best, so hit that up on your way down to Brisbane

Noosa – Brisbane – 2 hours

BRISBANE

Boring. Good botanical gardens, great modern art museum, not much else. Some people love it, I was bored.

Brisbane – Surfers = 2 hours

SURFERS PARADISE

Not my cup of tea at all! But, very good night life, a little more dressy than other places (no flip-flops or vests) and lots of Aussies on the pull. A good place to meet Aussie chicks though, especially if you get out of the backpacker bars. Has Wet n Wild and Dreamworld, the biggest theme parks in Aus, so give them a blast, but not in the school holidays.

Surfers – Byron = 2 hours

From Byron Bay Lighthouse - versestravel
From Byron Bay Lighthouse – versestravel

BYRON BAY

There’s three places to stay in Byron 1) Backpackers Inn – the cheapest place, about 10 mins from the town, not great though 2) Nomads – right in the middle, big party hostel, but one of the most expensive 3) Arts Factory – funky place, lots of people love it, but it’s about 20mins from the town Very cool place, very hippy, loads of people love it, and it’s rad. Great for surfing, and even free board hire if you find the right place, but the boards are made of rocks, [RDIT: it’s worth hiring a decent one if you’re actually serious about giving it a go]. The town is EXPENSIVE though, it’s popular, and expensive to match. You have to go to Nimbin, it’s fun and cool.

Byron – Spot x – 2 hours

SPOT X

It’s a surf camp, nothing else there! Just surf, chill, flirt, and eat. All food provided, and it’s good food!

Spot x – Sydny – 8 hours

SYDNEY…. I’ll finish this later…”

I didn’t ever finish it for my friends, but there is a very brief guide on the Aussie East Coast. It’s good for those only planning a short trip, as it covers all the best bits and basics, so if you want to go for anywhere between 3 and 6 weeks, this will work out well for you.