Alec’s original travel plans included living in Australia; however, I’d already lived in Sydney two years before when I studied abroad there. So I added a couple of counties to the list (ten to be precise), and we agreed to travel under the condition that if we returned to Australia, we’d have to go to all the spots I missed on my first time around. And to my surprise (because we are not very good at traveling according to plan), we actually did it!
Currently, Alec and I are at the Melbourne airport on our way to the Philippines, where we are meeting some friends from California for a couple of weeks. We are so excited for some familiar faces and warm, tropical weather! The journey that brought us all the way to Melbourne, however, was a long one that took us to some incredible places along the way.
After living in Perth for two and a half months, we once again quit our jobs, said our goodbyes, and uprooted to continue the travels! This left us just under a month to make it from Perth to Melbourne. And as we are at the end of the road now, I can honestly say it’s been a hell of a road trip, and we have loved driving across one this beautiful country! Each of the stops we made along the way were epic in their own way, and each one deserves its own chapter in my book. I will certainly go into more depth on each and every one of these adventures soon, but for now, I’d like to briefly share the highlights of this wondrous cross-country road-trip and the brilliant places it has taken us!
The first few stops of crystal clear turquoise water are absolutely breathtaking, and they do a good job of giving you an idea of how epic the Western Australia coast really is. Just south of Perth, you’re Eagle Bay (and nearly every bay after it) is a postcard come to life. I couldn’t believe how turquoise the water is (with no filter!); it was mesmerizing! Although the ocean was freezing cold to us, these empty beaches and pristine waters pulled us right in for a quick swim and relaxing day on the coast.
Soon after this we came up on a special place known as Yallingup. Gorgeous reef, natural rock pools, good surf, and again, the impeccable turquoise water had us wanting to spend the whole day there. Alec went for a surf while I floated around the rock pools of clear water.
One stop that I was particularly excited about on my list was the Injudup Natural Spa. After driving up the cape, we finally arrived at this epic spot. On one side you have a rocky beach with a whale caurcass (a fascinating but sad sight to see), dolphins swimming about, and a few signs warning us about sharks. On the other side, a set of massive boulders have created a beautiful rock pool with an ocean waterway that creates the perfect natural spa. The waters a bit cold or “fresh,” as our Aussie friends like to say, but no need for a wetsuit; once we got in, we didn’t want to get out! These massive waves fly in and hit the rocks, splashing through so the pool of water bubbles up just like a jacuzzi. And just like that, we had this mother-nature-made beauty all to ourselves!
One of our favorite stops on this coast to coast roadtrip was Margaret River. Home of one of the biggest international surf contests (Margaret River Pro), this coastline has some great surfing beaches. To top it off the area hosts over a hundred vineyards. We actually stayed here longer than anywhere else on our roadtrip. It’s a laid back surf town with so much to do outdoors and in (cellar) doors! It was too easy for us to fall in love with this place, and we could definitely see ourselves returning here in the future. The beautiful landscape also includes the Karri Forest. Sixty meter tall trees canopied above us while we drove through this epic forestry onto our next destination.
We soon found ourselves drifting down the cape in a little gem known as Hamlin Bay. After viewing the lighthouse nearby and spotting a couple of whales out at sea, we explored the bay to find the most playful stingrays!
Our next destination is a place called Denmark— no we didn’t leave the country, this is the name of a lovely, coastal town in Western Australia. Next to the sandy beaches of Denmark, it was Greens Pool that actually kept us here for two days. Massive granite boulders, known as Elephant Rocks, shelter this area from the swell of the Southern Ocean. This was my favorite swimming spot yet, and I actually had to wear my wetsuit because it was so cold— and even still my toes were numb! That night we stayed at a campsite on Parry Beach, where we went driving on the beach and found kangaroos in our campsite!
Our next stop was Albany— the oldest colonial settlement in Western Australia and a military outpost of New South Wales. We arrived during the start of the annual Feild of Light: Avenue of Honour— an art instillation paying homage to the 30,000 Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) that departed through Albany for the battlefields of the Great War. As dusk settled, the 16,000 glass bulbs lit up the avenue. It was an extremely powerful and emotional experience, as well as a beautiful tribute.
That night we stayed at the most amazing campsite nestled in a nook on the beach at Two People’s Bay. It took nearly an hour of 4WD on a dark, corrugated, middle-of-nowhere, road to reach the site, and since we arrived after dark, we decided we had to stay another night to do it justice! We spent the entire day there just relaxing on the empty beach, floating in the sapphire sea, and driving on the sand.
After a relaxing two nights on the beach, we made our way towards Stirling Range National Park. A friend of mine from Perth highly recommended a hike known as Bluff Knoll—the highest peak in South Western Australia. While this is a 6km home, it has a gnarly 637m elevation gain. And even though the weather was not ideal and we couldn’t see a thing at the summit because of the heavy fog, it was a beautifully rewarding hike!
As we continued to make our way through Western Australia, we made it to Esperance just in time for my birthday, and this was hands down the best birthday I’ve ever had! The city of Esperance lands just before Great Ocean Drive (different from the Great Ocean Road which we’ll get to later). This is a 40km circular loop that has some of the most epic coastal views in the country. Alec started our day off by taking me to each of the beaches on the Great Ocean Road, and it was magical! We had breakfast on the beach and spent the day swimming through sapphire blue waters and laying in snow-white sands.
Further south, we ended up getting the very last campsite at Lucky Bay— Alec actually snuck past two caravans to get it for us! This place officially has my heart. We spent the evening petting kangaroos on the beach, swimming in clear, turquoise waters, and even spotting a few stingrays. The sand here is actually the some of the whitest in Australia (more-so than Whitehaven Beach in the Whit Sundays), so I spent some time just laying in the sand and doodling some #inktober drawing. We even took our home-on-wheels out for a spin on the sand, and it was such a fun time! We ended my special day with a steak barbecue on the beach at sunset.
When we talk about this roadtrip of ours, our aussie mates all basically said “good luck crossing the nullarbor.” The nullarbor plane is the 1675km stretch between Western Australia and South Australia, consisting of pretty much nothing. The name ‘nullarbor' is derived from the Latin words nullus, meaning nothing, and arbor, meaning tree. Accurately, there were not too many trees along this stretch. It was just us, heaps of kangaroos, and the open road. There is even a part of this stretch that doesn’t have a single turn or kink in the road for 90 miles straight!
The best part about about driving through the nullarbor is being side by side with the Great Australia Bight. The Southern Ocean follows along side the road for an epic coastline. This massive, open bay spans 40,000 square kms of deep ocean and is home to nearly thirty different species of dolphins and whales. Although we missed it, during certain times of the year, you can see the whales playing and breaching out of the water. The sharp cliffs and rugged coastline make for an incredible natural wonder.
Once we made it into South Australia, it was nice to finally see some signs of civilization again. Known as the Seafood Frontier, we were inclined to enjoy a dozen freshly caught oysters in Smoky Bay. They were delicious and refreshing— especially since we’d mainly been living off of canned and boxed goods!
Adelaide was the first big city we’d seen since Hong Kong (because Perth is not a big city lol). The city traffic, high rises, public parks, and flocks of pedestrians at every street corner were all a refreshing change of pace. We got there just in time for the Vogue Fashion Festival! While Alec could care less, I was stoked for the in store discounts and all the free goodies. We even ended up getting a free beard trim for Alec’s overgrown backpacker beard!
Throughout the city there are heaps of parks, museums, pubs, and eateries that kept us busy for a few days of on-foot exploring. Adelaide is also fairly close to the major opal-mining region of Coober Pedy. Opal is Australia’s national gemstone, and coincidentally my October birth-stone; so of course, this was an opportune time to pick out a (well-deserved) birthday present for myself— a.k.a. thank you, Alec! In addition to the handful of jewelry shops we visited, we also took sometime to get out of the city. The region is home to some beautiful waterfalls and vineyards that are worth a visit. On our way out, we stopped by a sweet, little German town by the name of Handorf for some Oktoberfest novelties!
Umpherstons sinkhole, located in Mount Gambier, is a magical hole in the ground that has been beautifully cultivated into a public garden. This 360 degree beauty is a place that you can only experience from inside. Being inside this wondrous and unique little ecosystem was such a beautiful experience. We would’ve stayed here all day, but we were nearly chased out by a massive swarm of bees! Thanks
While the town of Mount Gambier itself is quite small, there are quite a few natural wonders scattered around this place. There are a few more sinkholes similar to this one nearby. The stop that I was most compelled by, however, was the Blue Lake. This is a large, crater lake located inside a dormant volcano. During the summer months, the color of the lake becomes a gorgeous, cobalt blue, and during the winter it becomes a more steel grey. This natural phenomenon is so beautiful and ever-impressive.
Finally we reached Great Ocean Road. Each stop on this beautiful sea driven cliff was equally and uniquely impressive. It is incredible to witness such structures that have been created and shaped by the same forces of nature that have divided and destroyed parts of them.
While Great Ocean Road is a breath taking beauty (and deserves a post of its own which will be featured soon!), it was also the most touristic place we had been in a very long time. We were surprised by the heaps of large tour busses, long lines (queues), and selfie sticks galore. Regardless, Alec and I enjoyed this wonder as our journey was soon coming to an end.
The campsite we stayed at that evening was deep in the forest and quite a gem. There were only six campsites, but probably over a dozen groups of campers; we all shared the space and had a beautiful time. Alec and I went for a little hike and saw a few kangaroos, wallabies, and even a couple koalas! Beautiful colored birds flocked about and even a few cockatoos came by to say hello. Although it was just a spot in the woods with no amenities (it was a free campsite after all), it turned out to be one of my favorite sites throughout the entire trip.
Not far from the twelve apostles, lives the birthplace of surfing in Australia— Torquay. Like Margaret River, this is another one of the eleven stops on the WSL World Championship Tour. We spent the day exploring the famous Bells Beach and Winkipop, and of course, Alec suited up and went in for a surf.
Once we reached Melbourne, we only had a day left before our flight. We spent the day exploring the big city on foot. And while we had a wonderful time, one day is most certainly not enough to explore Melbourne. So we are very excited to spend some time in this glorious part of the country when we return from the Philippines. We left our humble abode (our car) with one of our mates that we met back in Thailand, and we spent the night in the airport before taking off for a few weeks of island hopping.
This month long, cross-country, coastal, camping, epic, road-trip was one for the books! During our time on the road there were many nights that it was just us, a campfire, and the local wildlife for company. With a little help from the internet and our 4WD, we managed to find several free campsites. Whether they were deep in middle of nowhere, far in the forest, or among sand dunes on desolate beaches, we found ourselves feeling right at home in our little Santa Fe. The places we have been and the friends and memories we’ve made during our time on the road are priceless. We consider ourselves incredibly lucky to travel through this gorgeous piece of the earth and experience it’s natural wonders. There is so much more for us to see here and we cannot wait explore the rest!