Sydney airport was fab, loads of great shops and bars and loads of choices The hot food. Good as we had a few hours to kill there before our flight to Singapore. The flight was fine, we’d definitely pre booked good seats and the food was even okay too. We landed in Singapore at 2130 local time. The airport is really efficient so we were straight through and on a shuttle bus to the hotel. The driver was really nice, obviously wanting to practice his English and even gave us a little guided tour on the way into the city. The hotel looked amazing all lit up in the night and the city was heaving with people going out. We were staying at the Marina Mandarin Hotel, a 5 star hotel but we got a really good price and when we checked in we were upgraded to a premier room, 17 floors up in the very quick glass lifts over hanging the amazing atrium with the biggest chandelier we’ve ever seen! The room was really nice, the bed was huge and we had a balcony over looking the bay, across the the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Grand Prix track, what a great view day and night. You wouldn’t need tickets for the formula 1, you could watch it from the balcony.
It was a really early start for our trip to Sydney, 5am! We had to get a coach to the airport which was an hour out of Melbourne. The airport was tiny but at least the flight was early. When we landed in Sydney it was raining and cold! We found the hostel really easily, it’s right off railway square so straight off the train. A good location at the bottom of George street with all the shops, bars and restaurants. The hostel looks nice, it was a shame the staff were rude and there was no stairs, much to Cat’s dismay. Our room was really nice though, we even had a flat screen TV. The floor we were on too was nice, just high up enough not to hear the bar at night and the bathrooms were really nice, great for a hostel. The kitchen was absolutely pants though, probably because the on site bar and cafe want to sell their food instead.
We had an explore around George Street and then went and watched the christmas carols and light show at the cathedral. The shops were open until midnight and they were heaving, it was nice to llok around them when it was cooler and dark, it remind us of being at home. We also found there was a free shuttle bus which was good or us as it stopped right next to the hostel. We were staying in Sydney for 3 weeks and there’s so much to see and especially being here over christmas and new year too.
We spent a lot of time up at circular quay around the harbour as it was so pretty up there. We got our first glimpse of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House the next day and had a lovely walk along the waterfront to The Rocks. It was a bit surreal as we’d seen it so much on TV. We also found somewhere to book a meal for Christmas Day, although it didn’t really feel like Christmas because it was so hot.
On Christmas Eve we went our seperate ways for a few hours and did the last of our Christmas shopping and also bought loads of picnic stuff for lunch tomorrow. Christmas Eve was a big night out in Oz so we went to a few bars with our hats on including the hostels side bar as you got free drinks. The bars were actually quite cheap especially compared to the rest of Australia so we had quite a few. The shops were open again until midnight and we even got some stuff in the sales when we were a little bit tipsy, lol.
Christmas Day! It was a little bit surreal just being the 2 of us but the weather was perfect. We got the bus up to the quay then the ferry to Manly, it was so busy and really strange being able to get public transport on Christmas day too. We spent the day on the gorgeous beach soaking up the sun, it was really fun and we had our little picnic too. In the evening we got ready and headed out for our nice meal at the Radisson, we were early so went for a walk along the harbour and sat next to the Opera House when Ste said he had another present and pulled out a little blue Tiffany & Co box with a diamond engagement ring in and proposed! It was the most beautiful wonderful present, Cat was pathetic and crying something silly, it was a big surprise! We went to the Radisson for our lovely Christmas meal and got free champagne and even Annika, the Maitre De, that we’d met a few days earlier was crying, lol. The food was amazing, especially the dessert. The best Christmas Day by far!
Boxing Day we met our friend Ueli who had just arrived the day before and we had a walk around the harbour (its such an extra special place now). We sat at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race. And went for a sparkling drink at the Opera House to celebrate the engagement.
We also visited the Sydney Aquarium. The place was huge and they pretty much had evert sea creature imaginable. Our particular favourites were the little cute crazy penguins and the huge Dugong’s eating their lettuce. The long shark tunnel was pretty scary with the massive sharks swimming over your head and the great Barrier Reef section was very colourful and pretty. We spent a good 3 hours there, it was well worth the admission fee. Whilst around the Aquarium we also explored the Harbourside and Darling Harbour as well as walking of the Pyrmont Bridge and through the bustling Chinatown.
On another hot day we walked over (the very long, much bigger than the Tyne) Harbour Bridge over to Kirribilli. It was quite a walk, and the views were spectacular out over Sydney, we also waved off a huge cruise liner leaving the harbour from our great vantage point. Kirribilli was a cute little suburb with the fun Luna Park too. Back on the other side of the bridge was Observatory Park with more great views and the little very interesting Observatory Museum, especially the bit about old Cook. Around that area was the funky Rocks, with loads of shops and bars, a nice area to spend a leisurely afternoon.
New Years Eve was a marathon of a day for us. We started out at 7.30am to get in the queue for Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, one of the best viewing points on Sydney for the New Years celebrations. We didn’t get through the gates until midday but got a good spot and played games and chatted with people waiting for the festivities to begin. The time did seem to go fairly quickly considering how long we were there and it was soooo hot after the rain first thing. The shows were great and the finale, the 12 minute fireworks show at midnight was out of this world. They really know how to put on a show. It was pretty cool knowing that your celebrating New Year before nearly everyone else in the world.
After New Year we bought a week travel pass to go out exploring the outskirts of Sydney, theres so much more than just the city. We headed back to Manly for another day on the lush beach there. We also got the bus south of Bondi to Bronte Beach, we got to go through pretty Hyde Park, Darlinghurst, Paddington, Centennial Park and Bondi Junction. Bronte was the cutest little bay and the beach was more of a shingle than sand and you could see around to exclusive Tamarama too. We obviously went to Bondi Beach too, its a must. The beach was so pretty and not actually that busy, the sand was so soft and white. We even got to see them filming Bondi Rescue. We had a couple of visits to our favourite of the souther beaches, Coogee, as it was just so nice there, the beach was never crowded and the water was really safe for swimming too. After visiting the southern beaches of Sydney we headed up the North Shore. It was like a different world up there, such a relaxed pace of life. We headed through Manly, Dee Why and Collaroy up to Narrabean. The beach was huge! and there was hardly a soul around it was great. And the sand was totally different to the southern beaches, it was a really dark yellow and really thick. The guys even got to have a surf without worrying about hitting anyone when they wiped out!
We had our own personal tour guide for the very top of the northern beaches, Cat’s Dad’s mate moved out here 6 years ago and loves it so met us in Avalon to show us around for the day. It was great fun and we got to see loads. Cat was especially excited to visit Pittwater and Palm Beach where they film Home and Away. It was one of the most beautiful places we’ve visited on our trip. Pittwater on one side of the peninsula was almost like a lagoon then there was the crashing surf of Palm Beach just the other side of the dunes. We also went to Whale Beach, Bilgola, Avalon and Newport. We saw all the celebrities houses and went to a very cool bar overlooking Pittwater and up to the central coast at Newport.
We got the train to the Olympic Park for the Apia International Tennis Championship. The village was very cool with all the different stadiums etc. It was a red hot day almost too hot and watching the tennis was a lot of fun. We got loads of free stuff too. The best match was between the 2 Polish Radwanska sisters, the younger one was particularly stroppy!
We absolutely loved Sydney. We had heard some mixed reviews about the place but we just thought it was great. The city has it all, great shops and night life, a mix of all different cultures then loads of unique beaches right on its doorstep. You might want a surf one day then might want to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city which you can do by just driving less than an hour up the coast and you’ll feel like your in a whole different world. The city was an amazing place to spend Christmas and especially to be one of the first to bring in the new year. It’s definitely a must do on everyone’s bucket list. Probably the place in Australia we would choose to live, and really not as expensive as other parts of Oz either, surprisingly. Sydney is obviously a particularly special place for us too and it was where Ste chose to propose, so we will definitely be going back there again.
We nearly didn’t leave Canberra, our alarm didn’t go off for some reason it was just lucky Ste woke up in time so it was a bit of a mad dash to be ready for the coach. Having no breakfast was probably why we both felt so rotten on the coach which made the 3 hour trip to the train station a bit rotten. We were starting to feel better by the time we got to the train station in the middle of no-where. The train ride to Melbourne was 6 hours but wasn’t too bad at all, there weren’t many stops and it seemed to go quite quickly.It was a bit crazy getting off the train in the massive southern cross station in Melbourne and it took us a little while to find our hostel in North Melbourne just a short walk to the city centre. The hostel was really really nice and clean especially. Probably one of the best we’d stayed in, good as we were here for 2 weeks. It had a great roof terrace with a BBQ and amazing views over the city.
Our first few days in Melbourne were spent exploring the CBD and doing christmas shopping. There were so many great shops including a Mango and Zara. Cat especially like this. We also watched some live show in Federation Square in the sunshine and visited the famous (from Neighbours anyway) Flinders Square Station. We also got the tram around to the trendy docklands and Etihad Stadium. We also went to the Queen Victoria Market, this amazing huge indoor and outdoor market where you can literally buy anything. We also took a walk over the Yarra River and walked along the Southbank which really reminded us of Newcastle Quayside with all the cool waterfront bars and restaurants, and, another shopping centre! We stopped at one place with some live music and had some very expensive beers, a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, just like being at home really.
We really then got our touristy act together visiting the Parliament House, treasury gardens and Fitzroy Gardens. We also rented bikes and went on a massive 27kms bike ride!! We rode down Swanston street to Kings Domain and onto Albert Park where we rode around part of the Formula 1 Grand Prix track, including the pit lane and start-finish straight, it was great and we took loads of photos. We continued south to the beach and St Kilda, which was a really pretty place, definately the place to live. We continued onto Chapel street and to the newly opened first Australian Topshop, Cat was so excited to see Topshop clothes again and she had to be reigned in from spending a fortune. The last part of the bike ride home was the killer, all back up hill. The only option after a day like that was beer.
We also had a great day doing the Neighbours tour. The tour guide was a hoot, truly obsessed with neighbours! We saw the high school, Grease Monkeys, the garage, Dial-a-Kyle and the famous bus stop. Then we went to Ramsay Street and took loads of photos with the street sign outside of the houses and even got to meet James Mason that plays Chris. We got to watch loads of old episodes and found out lots of spoilers. It was a really fun and red hot day.
On the hottest day in Australia so far we spent visiting the Shrine of Rememberence and the lush Royal Botanical Gardens. It was too hot to even play Frisbee, could only manage to sunbathe and have an ice cream. It was red hot again the next day so we wandered around the cool suburb of North Melbourne where we were staying and had a great lunch in a hip cafe before heading down to the MCG for the T20 cricket between Shane Warne’s Melbourne Stars and the Sydney Thunder. It was a great fun match, just like sport in America, loads of free stuff and fireworks. We had a few beers and even got some of the guys autographs. Shame the Stars lost, but you can’t have everything. Melbourne was heaving when we left the MCG that Saturday night, loads of really busy bars and street performers and people just generally milling about, good fun.
We spent a leisurely sunday taking the tram down to St Kilda and wandering around Luna Park, the victorian amusement park and walked along the esplanade looking at the market, we had a little wander along the beach too before having a look along the very cool Acland Street. Shame it had to rain to spoil the fun.
During our last few days in Melbourne we went on a great trip to Phillip Island. It was a really fun day, our tour guide ’Paul the snake catcher’ was mad as a hatter. We visited the southern hemispheres largest flying fox colony - it stank. Then went on to a wildlife reserve and got to feed Wallabies, we even saw a little Joey close up, it was so cute! We stopped and got our feet wet at the very pretty Woolamai Beach, the waves were a bit too crazy for a swim though. We also went to swan lake and saw a copperhead snake which Paul tried to catch, scary. Then we got our first glimpse of the little penguins in their burrows around Nobbies before going up to the breathtaking Pyramid Rock, the views were spectacular! We had a quick tea in Cowes then raced to the beach to get good seats for sunset to see the cutest little blue penguins emerge from the sea and run up the beach to their burrows in the dunes for the night. It was an amazing and a bit of an emotional sight you just wanted to pick them up and carry them, it looked like such hard work, it was such a great experience, a must do when in Melbourne.
Melbourne was absolutely amazing. There was so much to do and it really fulfills its name of sorts capital of Australia, there sport mad! There was also loads of great shops and bars which is quite different to the rest of Australia but in a good way. We had a really good time in Melbourne, especially having 2 weeks there to take our time seeing everything. The only thing we would have liked to have done which we didn’t was to take a trip along the Great Ocean Road, they seemed really expensive at the time but now we wish we’d paid and gone, maybe next time.
Next stop Sydney!
Another early start to get to Canberra. We had to get the train to just outside of Sydney then change to the 6 hour train to Canberra. We bought some cards so spent most of the time messing about with them, lol. We got to Canberra in the evening and went for a bit of an explore and found this ‘English’ style pub that brewed their own beer so we had a few tasters of that. We were about to go to bed that evening when Cat heard a familiar tune from the TV, Local Hero, they were showing the Newcastle - Chelsea match live, we ended up staying up to 6am watching that then the Man city match then the Middlesbrough match.
Canberra had loads and loads of museums and galleries, most of which were free so we tried to visit the most interesting ones. We went to the Canberra Museum and Gallery which had a good exhibition on this mad guy called King O’Malley who basically made Canberra but it turned out he was secretly American and lied about everything, he seemed like an intersting character. We also went to the New Parliament House on the top of captital hill, which was very modern considering it was finished in the 80’s, the tour was also good and we got to see where Julia Gillard sits etc. We went to the National Portrait Gallery too and we were the only ones on the tour so Katrina our guide basically showed us her favourite pictures, including one of Dame Edna naked!
On another day we went to the High Court of Australia and got to see the court in session, it was a lot of fun especially as the judges were clearly a bit bored and were really laying into one of the Barristers. We also went to the treasures exhibit at the National Library of Australia and mostly looked at the Captain Cook exhibits for obvious reasons.
The Australian War Memorial was an amazing, emotional place and we spent a whole afternoon looking at as many of the exhibits as we could and taking a very informative tour. There was so much to take in, we hadn’t realised Australia and played such a role in many of the wars. The closing ceremony was very poignant with a lone bag piper playing into the great hall.
Ste persuaded Cat to ride a bike for the first time in 10 years and we ended up doing a 15km loop over past parliament to the Australian Mint where we pressed our very own $1 coin then back along Lake Burley Griffith to see the Captain Cook memorial jet erupt.
Canberra was a nice place, there was lots to see and do and we tried to see what we thought the best parts were. It was also very bike friendly which was good for Cat. It felt like we learned a lot about Australia that we hadn’t even thought about and it made a pleasant change to do something a bit different.
Another coach and then a train then a bus replacement for the last leg of the journey to get to Newcastle (NSW). The hostel was right near the beach and we had a TV and DVD player in our room! WE had a nice walk around the beach the first evening we got to Newcastle and had a look at the Victorian style ocean baths and along to the pretty Nobby’s beach with the lighthouse at the far end.
As it was the day before my birthday we went to the huge Charlestown Square shopping centre for presents the next day and ended up staying there for hours, there were so many good shops, Cat really enjoyed herself, it’s probably the best mall we’ve been in since te USA. In the evening we had a nice walk along the river foreshore and had a few drinks.
The next day was Cat’s birthday and it was red hot so we went to the town beach for a few hours and basked in the sunshine a perfect way to spend your birthday. In the afternoon we had birthday cake and sparkling wine before going for a lush spanish meal and a jug of sangria. It was a lush little noisy restaurant, it really reminded us of Spain. Afterwards we went to the Great Northern Pub and watched a couple of live bands. A nice birthday day.
We also visited the Blackbutt Nature Reserve on a cooler day and saw Kookaburras, Kangaroos, Emu’s, birds, a wallaby and we got to stroke a very cute Koala called Jarra. She was lovely and her fur was so soft, it was a real highlight of the trip so far. It was a proper rain forest you had to walk through to get to the reserve and we saw thousands of very smelly flying foxes up in the trees.
On our last day in Newcastle we had a walk along the river and went to the Newcastle Museum which was similar to the discovery museum at home with a real range of different exhibits. Ste and Ueli also played frisbee and Aussie rules on the beach but it was so windy, you could hardly guess where it was going to land.
Newcastle was a cool place, the beaches were lovely and it had a few good bars and it was a lot of fun meeting Jarra. What we found really funny was all the place names were the same as at home. We saw a Wallsend, Jesmond and Gateshead, lol.
We got the train and then a local bus to Port Macquarie from Coffs Harbour and along the way we saw loads and loads of wild Kangaroos which was very exciting!
We were in Port Macquarie for 5 days and for 4 of them it rained, sigh! We’ve now found out that it’s similar in Australia as it is in New Zealand when it rains as in there’s not much to do. The first day we went to see Twilight much to Ste’s disgust but Cat managed to bribe him with popcorn and chocolate! The rain had eased so we had a walk along the Hastings river and saw the Pelican colony and walked along the headland and saw a few of the beaches. The wind was really starting to get wild at least it was free wine night at the hostel.
It was raining again the next day but Ste and Ueli (a swiss guy at the hostel) really wanted to go to the Koala Hospital so we got absolutely soaking walking there, at least we got to see the really cute Koalas getting fed, there stories of how they’d been injured was so sad and so many of them died. The rain didn’t let up so we ended up watching tv and playing board games in the hostel. at least we got to talk to some new people.
We also had a look around the shops in the town in between the rain showers and had a walk along the beach, we even saw 3 drunk women (at 4 in the afternoon) strip to their underwear and go in the sea, lol. Not the warmest days for it but made for some entertainment.
At last the last day we were in Port Macquarie it was dry, sunny and hot. We made the most of it by going to the beach with Ueli and borrowing some (crappy) body boards from the hostel. The beach was covered in driftwood must have been from the bad weather but we still managed to find a spot, it was red hot too. We had some lush food from one of the riverside restaurants in the afternoon and a few sangrias. It felt nice being able to go out without umbrellas and coats. Shame we left the next day as we didn’t get to do as much as we would have liked in Port Macquarie but you can’t have nice weather everyday.
We had to get up really early to get a coach and then a train to Coffs Harbour (exactly halfway between Brisbane and Sydney) but it was fun getting the train as it went throught the rain forest. We were staying down by the beach, away from the town centre.
We had a lovely walk around the Marina and along the breakwall to Mutton Island nature Reserve our first morning in Coffs Harbour. We got some amazing views from the top of the hill out over Coffs and the ocean with it’s islands. Didn’t see any whales though which was a shame,it’s probably a bit late in the year.
There’s lots of beaches here, the most sheltered was Jetty beach, next to the marina, which protected it a little from the strong winds and the water was very calm there too. We also did some surfing at main beach but it gets really windy there which make sthe surf a bit crazy, Cat ended up with some weird bruises on her arms, lol.
On the sunday there was a little market to look around and a parade which involved pretty much the whole town as it was it’s 150th birthday. We went to the celebrations and even got some lush banana cake (as Bananas aparantly what Coffs Harbour is famous for).
We also had a very fun day at the Porpoise Pool. We got to have kisses with seal called Rocky and from Dolphins called Bucky and Zippy. It was amazing to stroke the Dolphins and Ste even got picked out of the crowd to participate in the show and got to feed Zippy a fish whilst he jumped out of the pool to get it. We also met the cutest little Penguins ever and got to feed them too, more smelly fish!
Coffs Harbour was nice, it was just a shame it was so windy and you ended up getting whipped by the sand if you were on the beach in the afternoon. We did particularly enjoy meeting the Dolphins, Seals and Penguins.
It was only a 2 hour bus ride down the coast to Byron Bay but it was bloody raining when we got there, typical! For the first 2 nights we staying in The Arts Factory Lodge which was mean’t to be an island retreat next to a little lake but turned out to be a awful backpackers with smelly, dirty tents next to a mosquito ridden swamp with nutters shouting all night. We ended up having to stay there for 2 nights as everywhere in the whole of Byron Bay was full up. After the 2 nights we moved to the much much nicer Cape Byron YHA, right in the centre of town and near the beach too.
We didn’t let the crappy start dampen our mood and we spent most days relaxing on the most gorgeous beach ever and watching the entertaining people, one guy even brought his rabbit to the beach.We also got talking to a guy who must have been the oldest hippy in Byron, he was really funny and kept going around chatting to all the girls.
Byron Bay at the weekend was absolutely heaving and there were some really good restaurants and bars and we had some lush meals, especially a Greek Mezze. There were some great shops in Byron too. And a very cool market on one night that had some really funky stuff for sale. Cat could have literally spent a fortune but managed to stay calm and only get a few bits.
We also borrowed body boards from the hostel and had some fun with them in the surf until we saw a giant fish (Ste thought it might be a shark) and we got a bit scared, lol.
We loved Byron Bay, we had 5 days there but could have easily stayed much longer it was so much fun, our only regret was not renting bikes and going up to the lighthouse for sunrise, maybe next time.
After leaving Byron Bay we took a local bus just 30 minutes down the coast to the little town of Lennox Head to spend 2 days relaxing after the antics of Byron Bay. For being so close together they were like 2 totally different worlds.
Lennox Head has a huge 7 mile beach and even though the weather was lovely when we were there we found ourselves sometimes the only ones on the beach, apart from the occassional kite surfer and dog. We spent our 2 days mostly on the beach and in the water. We were in the surf at one point and a dolphin appeared about 10 metres away and threw a fish up in the air and jumped out of the water and caught it. What an amazing sight!
We also had a walk around the pretty Lake Ainsworth where the water has been stained brown due to all the tea trees around it and is mean’t to have medicinal properties, we didn’t go in but did see a very old, frail man going in.
For a little town Lennox Head had quite a few shops, restaurants and cafes that always seemed busy and it had a very relaxed atmosphere to it. We really enjoyed our 2 days relaxing there.
We took a train to the Gold Coast, and two local buses to get surfers paradise. We are going to be staying in an apartment on the Chevron Island, which is just over the river from Surfers Paradise, about a 15 minute walk from the beach. It was a nice little apartment complex, and good that we had our own kitchen with an oven, which ment we could have some proper home cook meals that we miss so much. We even had cable TV, which Cat got very excited about as she got to watch Home and Away and Neighbours for the first time since we’ve been away.
We spent 3 days in Surfers Paradise. All of them red hot again, loads of shops for Cat to look around. Cat got herself a Ripcirl hat and a new bikini and Ste got himself some cool Billabong boardies to look like a cool surfer. It kinda reminded us of Benidorm with all the high rise apartments and all the shops and theme parks. Its supposed to be really wild too, but we didn’t really see that and didn’t find that many bars, and only found 3 nightclubs. Perhaps its just not as wild as Newcastle.
The only downside to our trip to Surfers Paradise was that Cat had managed to grow a giant spot in her armpit that had got infected. So we had to pay $65 to see a doctor and $19 for antibiotics. At least the doctor was really really nice and the antibiotics seemed to work straight away. We will be claiming that money back when we return home thats for sure!
We spent most of our time on the beach in Surfers Paradise which was fabulous. Its 57km long, we probably walked about 2km of it. With beautiful white sand and crystal clear waters, I think we’ll get to used to laying on a beach everyday for the next 2 months.
We spent four days in Brisbane, and really enjoyed it. Everyday the weather was lovely. We had a wonder around the shops and down by the riverside and through the pretty botanical gardens. Even though Brisbane is not near the coast, it still has a beach which is called ‘The Streets Beach’ and we spent a day there, what a great idea! It was absolutely heaving the day we went because it was a Sunday and a scorcher too.
Another day, we went on a tour of the XXXX Castlemaine and Perkins brewery. It was really good fun, although how their beer was brewed wasn’t really the focus. Obviously, the tour finished in their bar and you got 4 free drinks with the tour. But we got an extra one as part of the visual display wasn’t working properly - bonus! We tried their XXXX Summer beer, which is the only place you can get it on tap in the world (all the rest are bottled) and its a fantastic beer to drink in the heat. Others we tried was the 4X Gold and Bitter and a fruity beer which was rather strangely nice. Also we tried their stout which was like a thick coffee liquor.
We really enjoyed our time in Brisbane, perhaps we could have stayed longer so we could have explored places outside of the city. But all in all, its a nice place, very pretty around the river, with lots of bars and cafes. Cat particularly enjoyed all the shops, which was a far cry from New Zealand. What with that and the weather I think we are going to really like Australia.