This is a blast from the past- one of the trips we made last year for a long weekend. Most of these places might be closed now due to COVID.
I was not so keen on visiting Sweden, as I had my heart set on a sunny location like Slovenia or Italy, but as it was peak travel time, we finally agreed upon Sweden.
It turned out to be a short but beautiful trip.
Where did we stay
We stayed at a lovely AirBnb in Saltsjö-Boo in a beautiful guesthouse located by the sea. It was a cabin which had a large bed, kitchen, bath and dining table. All the amenities were available. Neel was really happy as there was a huge lawn with toys right in front of our house which belonged to the family who owned the guesthouse. It was a perfect house located on a perfect location. We could take nice walks along the pathway by the sea. While Mike and Neel enjoyed watching all the boats and ships sailing, I had a good time looking at the gorgeous Scandinavian homes. We also spent time drinking cups of coffee on the lawn while enjoying the beautiful views of the sea.
Places we visited and things we saw
1. Unfortunately, on the day we landed in Stockholm, my mobile crashed, so I HAD to find a dealer who could fix it or buy a cheap mobile. So the first stop we made was to Kungsgatan, a central area in Stockholm full of shops, cafes and restaurants. We spent the rest of the day walking around the city. We also visited The Stadsbiblioteket (Stockholm Public Library) and spent sometime browsing the books.
2. When you visit Stockholm, you cannot miss the old town- Gamla Stan. It is filled with cobbled streets and 17th- and 18th-century old, colorful buildings.
3. An Archipelago tour with a guide was a perfect sightseeing tour on a boat. For a duration of almost 3h, we got to see a beautiful collection of islands, learnt about Scandinavian culture and history and also spotted some amazing homes. Depending on the tour you take, it costs around 610.00 SEK (1 SEK= 0.12 United States Dollar) for 2 adults and for children under 5 years it is free.
4. All you Music lovers, do not miss Abba The Museum. It takes only a couple of hours to get the most out of this museum dedicated to the famous Swedish band.
5. Vasa Museum– Honestly, I was not such a fan of this museum, but Mike and Neel (die-hard boat-lovers), were really impressed. So do visit this museum if you want to know more about the history of Vasa (a Swedish Warship).
6. We also visited a beautiful archipelago town, Vaxholm. We had to take a ferry to reach this town. Wooden homes and fishing cottages beautify this quaint place. We really enjoyed spending time walking, eating Swedish lunch and lazing around while having coffee. Mike even bought an authentic handmade wooden boat from here as a souvenir.
If we ever visit Sweden again, I would love to explore more of its natural parks and nature reserves.
We drove towards Rainbow beach from Maryborough. It was a very lovely beach and we let Neel play for a while before having pizzas for lunch. From there we drove to Noosa and camped for 2 nights at BIG4 Ingenia Holidays Noosa. At Noosa we were able to spend a day walking around the beach and the shopping area. Camp costed AUD 54 for 1st night & AUD 45 for the 2nd night.
We drove to Lamington Park and decided to spend 2 nights at Binna Burra Lodge. Located in the southeast Queensland, Lamington is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, which includes the most extensive areas of subtropical rainforest in the world. Binna Burra Lodge is located in the midst of the forest. We were lucky to find a camping spot as it was almost fully booked and we did not want to miss this experience. Lush rainforests, spectacular views and amazing walking tracks make this an outstanding place to visit. After parking our campervan, we did the “Rainforest hike” and further to Coomera waterfall. It was a 10 km hike. These hikes are not stroller friendly. I carried Neel in the Baby carrier. Caravan park at Binna Burra Lodge costed AUD 35/ night.
We woke early and did another hike of 7.5km to Caves circuit. We enjoyed this a lot. We spotted a lot of wallabies and bush turkeys. The view of the mountains and the caves was so beautiful. After lunch we did another hike of around 3.5km from our campervan to Possum track, Garden track, bellbird falls, cliff track and back. We had a perfect weather (not too hot for the season!) Only disadvantage of this park was there were no playareas for kids (Like in most of the caravan parks we visited so far), so entertaining Neel was not so easy.
We left early morning and stopped at Coolangatta for breakfast. We had delicious toasties at Good day coffee. We drove to Byron Bay. Byron bay is a coastal town known for its beaches, surfing and scuba diving sites. There were lots of shops, restaurants and cafes. I really enjoyed walking around this place. I was hoping to bump into Chris or Liam Hemsworth but was really disappointed 😦 ! We drove further to Coffs Harbor and booked into Big4 caravan park for the night. It was a huge caravan park with lots of amenities. Camp costed AUD 63/night.
We drove to Dorrigo National park. It was noon by the time we reached. We walked a few meters to the Skywalk lookout directly connected to Dorrigo Rainforest center. We enjoyed the beautiful panoramic view of the forest from the lookout. We did the Wonga walk (a hike of 6.6km) covering Tristania falls and Crystal shower falls. Entry to the National park was AUD 2 per adult and AUD 1 per child. We stayed for the night at Dorrigo Mountain Holiday Park which costed AUD 30/ night.
We drove further down to Port Macquarie where we spent the afternoon walking around. From there, we drove to Tuncurry and spent the day at Reflections Holiday Park. We spent the rest of the day at the beach and were able to spot lots of dolphins swimming around. Camp costed AUD 75/night.
Day 28, 29 & 30
On the final leg of the journey before driving back to Sydney, we visited Blue Mountains. This was at the top most on my list of places to visit in Australia. We booked 3 nights in Katoomba Falls Tourist Park. We spent the first day walking around near our caravan park and the main town. The next day we visited Scenic World. It is highly recommended to do the booking online and be there quite early as it gets very crowded with lots of tourists especially during the holiday season. We spent the whole day here walking around the rainforest, echo point, Katoomba falls and enjoying the scenic views. On the last day in Blue Mountains, we drove to Blackheath and Jenolan caves and around the mountains. We stopped at Blackheath for lunch. In the evening, we finished all our packing as it was the last day in our campervan before driving back next day to Sydney and dropping off our van.
Day 31 and 32
We drove back to Sydney and checked into our hotel. We took a walk through Hyde park, Darling Harbour, visited Opera House and spent the evening with our family members who live in Sydney. The next day we booked a rental car and drove around the city visiting beaches. In the evening, we ate Pizzas at Pizza Antentico where guests dine in a group while they circulate the room with a never ending selection of pizzas and pastas for 90 minutes.
We had an amazing time and an unforgettable experience in Australia during all these weeks. I almost had tears the next day when we had to fly back home. Taking the beautiful memories of our time in Australia, we said Goodbye!!
You can read my sister’s detailed post from 4 years back when she took a trip to God’s own country.
Our trip began with a visit to an aunt who lives in Cochin. After a hearty breakfast and family time we made our way to Thekkady. By the Pandikhuzi waterfalls we stretched our legs and enjoyed watching the mountains and the milky water snaking down. There were shops thronged by visitors eager to try fresh fruit salads and other local delicacies. We too tasted some and drove on.
Club Mahindra Tusker Trails at Thekkady is located close to the gates of Periyar Tiger Reserve. A trek was organized by the staff at Club Mahindra, who took us through the bustling streets of Thekkady and into the cool and calm interiors of the jungle. It wasn’t such a wild experience; there were people and a Devi temple too. It was a pleasant walk though; we got to bond with the other guests of Club Mahindra.
Then we booked an Elephant ride at Tusker Trail Elephant Ride and Jeep Safari where we rode on elephants on a muddy path strewn with elephant dung between coconut trees, banana plants and fig trees. We didn’t opt for the Elephant bathing experience. Maybe we should’ve tried that!
One chilly morning we went on a jeep safari into the Periyar tiger reserve. The jungle was too green and dense, unlike the dry grasslands we were accustomed to. A misty haze in the air, the tiny glistening ponds, all added to its ethereal beauty.
We stopped at Gavi, an Eco-tourism spot inside the jungle where we went boating on the emerald waters of kochupamba. We then climbed up a mountain, spotting a variety of birds all along, and reached the Sabarimala Viewpoint, where we enjoyed a panoramic view of the Sabarimala temple. At the Valley view, we were treated to breath-taking views of the misty mountains and the wooded valley below. This perfect location impelled the kids to perform some Yogasanas right there! We took a tour of Cardamom plantations where we had to be very careful as the area was thick with blood-sucking leeches! I remember watching many guests at the dining area, warding off these bloody buggers with heaps of salt.
Breakfast, lunch and snacks were served right there and so it was a full-day event.
For a bit of culture, we decided to watch a performance of the ancient martial arts form called the Kalaripayattu at the Mudra Theater for Kathakali and Kalaripayattu. Before the stunts began, the members performed a ritual of prayer. It was dark inside the arena, so a bunch of lights lit at strategic locations provided a suspenseful glow. We watched with bated breath as kids (the performers didn’t look too old) performed acrobatics with swords and fire. They were swift and supple. We sincerely hoped they wouldn’t break their backs or set the whole place on fire!
Our next stop was Munnar, a hillstation, a honeymooners’ paradise. Well, we were in a big group with a bunch of kiddos, so it wasn’t such a romantic experience for us. There was fog all around, which made it difficult for us to see the road ahead or the edges beside. The hills were so steep, it was exhausting to get to our rooms from the reception at the Club Mahindra. But the green tea plantations on mountain slopes, the clouds hanging low, all made for some mind-blowing views and awesome pictures. I would wake up refreshed and do yoga on my balcony, overlooking the hills.
There were roadside food stalls, serving steamed dosas and spicy maggi. Water gushed right beside the roads and underneath them which made me so uncomfortable whenever we got down from our vehicle. The poor visibility made me hold my kids closer to me. It worried me to find people posing for pictures on the middle of these roads, where the fog made it hard to tell whether there was a vehicle coming or not.
At the Sun Moon Valley Boating recreations by the Mattupetty dam kids had fun on the speed boats. We went to a beautiful spice garden for a tour. There was a stream running beside as we walked inside the garden packed with herbs and trees. We learnt a lot that day, about trees like cinnamon, (Did you know that bay leaves came from the same tree? I didn’t!), about cocoa sheathed in thick green coats, about medicinal herbs like Adulsa (used for cough and cold). We shopped for some spices and ayurvedic medicines at the store.
We went to Eravikulam national park, native of the famous nilgiri tahr- mountain goats. After a long wait for tickets, and the bus that would carry us up a mountain, we were dropped at a point from where we had to cover the rest of the distance on foot. It was drizzling almost the entire time which made it difficult to spot any wildlife, but the rain-soaked trees on hills and water gushing down them made our walk worthwhile. We saw the Strobilanthes kunthiana, kurinji or neelakurinji, that blossoms every 12 years. Nilgiri Hills, which means the blue mountains, got their name from the purplish blue flowers of Neelakurinji.
Our guide from Club Mahindra took us to a Cardamom plantation called Gudumbara, where we learnt how the plant is cultivated, harvested and dried to be used as spice. At an ancient, dilapidated building there was a furnace maintained at 60 degree for drying the cardamom for 18 hours.
We explored the plantation which was almost like a jungle with its packed vegetation and an eerie quietness. It was damp everywhere and with leeches festering the place, it was quite an adventure! All memories of this trip fade behind the singular memory of seeing blood oozing from our legs and having to clean out wet clothes and drying them with hair dryers in various rooms we stayed at!
There was ziplining across a small lake, which everyone tried. Trudging our way through wet, muddy roads on a jeep, we went to a windy point. The views of the farms below and the hills around were stunning!
Driving down from Munnar to Guruvayur temple in Thrissur was a feat in itself. The roads were dense with vehicles and fog!
We visited the beautiful but overly crowded Guruvayur temple the next day early in the morning. After the chaos of the visit we strolled about in the temple complex, visiting hotels and shops and purchasing traditional clothes and ayurvedic books to study.
After breakfast, we drove towards Mt. Gambier in South Australia. The landscape changed from flatlands to dense vegetation. We visited the Blue Lake. As the name suggested, the lake was really blue and beautiful. We had a picnic right by the lake.
From there, we drove to Robe, a small beach town, where we set up our camp at Discovery Parks. After settling down, we spent the evening at the beach. It was so relaxing! We had some of the best pizzas at Pizza Project and ice-creams at Robe Ice Cream. The camp costed AUD 56/night.
We decided to spend the New Year’s in Brisbane with my aunt and uncle. We made a detour from Adelaide and drove towards Brisbane. On the way, we once again entered Victoria and the scenery reverted to barren land/ desert. After a 7.5 hour drive, we reached Mildura where we camped at Golden River Holiday park. We made Quesadillas for dinner. The camp costed AUD 40/ night.
We drove further (almost 6 h) and stopped at Forbes. We camped at Big4 Forbes Holiday park. Mike and Neel spent the afternoon at the pool while I enjoyed reading my book. We cooked Fried rice before resting for the night. The camp costed AUD 31.50/night.
We left quite early in the morning and drove further to Warrumbungle National Park. It was very pretty. We decided to set up camp here for one night. After a lunch of Rösti and left over fried rice, we did a 5 km hike. So far on our trip, we had mostly seen dead animals lying on the road. It was nice to watch lots of kangaroos and wallabies roaming around the park. Though they feared us and tried to run away, every now and then they would stop and stare at us. It was very cute to watch. Dinner was Mike`s delicious Spaghetti. Camp costed AUD 32/night.
In the morning, we had a simple breakfast of toast and Nutella and drove towards White gum trail where we walked around 500 m to see the most beautiful sunset view in the National Park (though we could neither capture the sunrise nor the sunset). We drove 500 km and stopped at Tentafield. We camped for a night at Tentafield Lodge Caravan park. Dinner was Tikka masala with naan. Camp costed AUD 31/night.
Day 16 and 17
We finally reached Brisbane. We spent 2 amazing days with our family. We got to enjoy home-cooked meals prepared by my aunt; my cousin gave us a tour of her university (The University of Queensland) which I really enjoyed; we walked around South Bank; took a ride on a CitiCat (water taxi) down the Brisbane River while enjoying some of the city’s best views; ate yummy gyros and icecreams. We even drove to Mt.Coot-Tha where we enjoyed the beautiful panoramic view of Brisbane skyline.
After 2 wonderful days with my family, we left Brisbane to drive further north. My aunt had packed some nice food for the road. We drove another 350 km to reach Bundaberg. We booked at Bargara Beach Caravan park for 2 days hoping to take a cruise to the Great Barrier Reef. Unfortunately, it was fully booked (due to holiday season). Camp costed AUD 45/night.
In the morning we walked along the beach. Mike made some delicious pancakes for breakfast. We drove around Bundaberg and Bargara. There was nothing special to look around, so we drove back to our camp and let Neel play for a while. We spent the day relaxing by the ocean. They grow a lot of sugarcane around here but, sadly, we could not find a single shop selling freshly squeezed sugarcane juice.
We decided to drive back to Sydney. On the way, we made several stops. Our first stop was Maryborough. We camped at Wallace Motel and Caravan Park for a night. After Mike and Neel enjoyed playing in the pool, we took a walk around the city center. We made burgers for dinner. Camp costed AUD 34/ night.
After Jim Corbett National Park and Nainital, our next stop was Binsar, about 150 km away. The journey was uphill and winding. Since almost everyone, except me and a couple of others, suffered from motion sickness, it was a quiet journey, punctuated with frequent breaks for vomiting!
On our way, we stretched our cramped legs and ran about in the lush green Golf grounds of Ranikhet. I was told that parts of the movie, Raja Hindustani, were shot here.
We finally reached Binsar, located on the Jhandi Dhar hills of Himalayas. This was the summer capital of the Chand Kings that ruled over Kumaon between 11th and 18th centuries.
We fell in love the moment we set eyes on our hotel, the Club Mahindra Resort Binsar. The beautiful cottages with their sloping green roofs simply blended into the surroundings. It was a bird-lover’s paradise. We could simply enjoy the views of the mountains with tall oaks and pines, the motley-hued birds that made their homes in the gardens, the rich flowers in their full bloom attracting a variety of critters. We didn’t have to set foot outside the premises. We all had much to do right inside the cozy confines of our resort. There was karaoke, art and craft, zip-lining, rock-climbing and other activities. The food spread was delicious, but we walked the extra mile (literally) to find cheaper alternatives to our dining experience. We went exploring up the slopes of hills nearby to see the locals and their daily lives up close, and sometimes lost our way too!
One morning we drove up to Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary where we stopped at KMVN (Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam) Resort. We snuck up to its wide balcony and stole glances at the majestic snowy Himalayas. The clouds were being nasty, trying to hide the jewels behind, but we were still blessed with a few sightings. We were shooed away, as the views were solely reserved for the guests of KMVN!
We hiked the winding path up to Zero Point with an awesome Guide who taught us so much about the flora and fauna of Binsar. We watched a noisy woodpecker building its nest, learnt about the medicinal value of Rhododendrons, watched the sunlight dapple our path through the shady branches of Oak trees, observed the spores dotting the underside of fern leaves and simply went crazy with pleasure at finding ourselves at such a divine place. At zero point (the highest point of Binsar) with the clouds still teasing us, we had the Darshan of Himalayan Peaks like Nanda Devi, Trishul, Shivling and Kedarnath. Our Guide regaled us with tales of trekking some of its slopes. We began dreaming of the day when we would go on such an expedition!
After a relaxing stay at Binsar, it was time to make our way back down to Khatgodam. On our way we stopped at Naukuchiyatal Lake for a boat ride. Before I knew what was going on we were strapped with life vests and shoved into a boat without a driver! We were on our own! Only later did I learn that Prasad wanted to go on a pedal boat, while the others chose a motor boat that came with a driver! I spent half the journey fuming and fretting, refusing to join him in pedaling. I kept thinking what would happen if the boat overturned or something. Was the lake too deep? Would Prasad, who was the only one at the time who knew how to swim, be able to rescue us?! And then as I felt brave enough to enjoy the stunning views all around me, I joined him in pedaling. We made our way back. What an exercise we had that day! We deserved to gorge on plates of crispy pakoras and spicy maggi at the eatery beside the lake, while watching a flock of ducks putter about.
We drove past Bhimtal with its Island Aquarium on our way to Khatgodam. There we spent the night at a cozy hotel before we caught a train to Delhi the next day. The Capital was eerily quiet as some kind of Bandh was going on. We were glad to be out of Delhi and on our way to Hyderabad.
We booked a day trip to Nainital from our resort- Club Mahindra Corbett National Park. I remember walking along Mall road with the Naini lake (lake shaped like an eye) on one side and the Kumaon hills on the other. It was vibrant; The streets were buzzing with people. Hawkers were selling colorful knitted shoes, scarves and hats at exorbitant rates.
We took the aerial ropeway to get us to the Snow View Observation Point. The cable car seemed rickety. With hearts in our mouths we made our way, trying to enjoy the magnificent vistas of Nainital and its vicinity.
There was quite a bit of walking involved and that too at high altitudes. We felt heavy and out-of-breath. There was an amusement park and a lot of eateries. We hired traditional costumes for the kids and had their pictures taken. Then we spent some time at the observation point trying to catch a glimpse of the Himalayas.
We went boat-riding on Nainital. It was magical! The unspoiled natural beauty on one side, the hills stacked with multi-colored buildings among towering trees on the other side, the emerald lake beneath our boats, all put us in a blissful mood, except when the boatman made us move here and there to get some good (& some weird) family pictures. The boat seemed to be losing its balance at such times. I don’t remember how much we paid for the boats, but I remember it being quite expensive.
We ladies were on a mission! Tibetan Market- that was our target. It was densely packed with tiny stores and gullible tourists willing to shell out high prices for beautiful clothes, jewelry and handicrafts. We loaded our bags with quite a few things, much to our husbands’ dismay, while they prayed to Maa Naina Devi at the alluring temple beside the market.
We visited the famous G B Pant High Altitude Zoo, where we had to do quite a bit of walking on uneven paths as the animal enclosures were scattered on a vast area.
The Tiger is a large-hearted gentleman with boundless courage and when he is exterminated – as exterminated he will be unless public opinion rallies to his support- India will be the poorer by having lost the finest of her fauna.
-Words by Jim Corbett, a British hunter, tracker, naturalist and an author of several books. He played a key role in establishing the Corbett National Park in the 1930s.
This was 4 years ago. I was going through pictures of our trip to the World famous Jim Corbett National Park. We flew to Delhi from Hyderabad and drove to Club Mahindra Resort in Uttarakhand, about 240 kms away. It was raining cats and dogs and the city was clogged with traffic. Boy were we glad to leave the crowds, the sludge, the air thick with pollution behind!
Our rooms were spacious, cozy and clean like all Club Mahindra Resorts. The Resort is situated on a riverbed, so we simply splashed about in the water or relaxed on boulders beside the river in the mornings. There was a big pool at the resort that kept the kids busy for hours. And the food? It was quite a spread. There was too much food! And so expensive too. So now and then we tried other dining options like the dhabas and other little eateries. The Resort provided good entertainment for the whole family in the evenings. There was bonfire, music, dance, laughter and good socializing with the other guests.
We booked a guided walking tour to the nearby Garjiya Devi temple which took us beside a river, across an old bridge, through a jungle, on a narrow path hugging a hill and down across the river (Kosi river ?) again with a hop-skip-and-jump on boulders. It was quite an adventure with the little ones. Our guide was very helpful as he led us. A long queue of devotees was snaking its way towards the temple situated on top of a hillock. We simply bowed to the goddess from the outside and headed back to our rooms, this time in auto-rickshaws. 🙂
Apart from a visit to the Jim Corbett Museum, where we had a glimpse into the life and times of Jim Corbett, we even went on an eco-tour of a Kumaoni village, where a local family served snacks and beverages. We explored the village, watched locals carry pots of fresh mountain water from a pipe where we took a refreshing sip or two, visited the spooky temple and enjoyed the beautiful views of river Kosi flowing down below
One morning we even went on an Elephant Safari in the Seethavan, about which I have already written at length here. It fills me with joy to look back on that memorable event, even after all these years.
And then the Jeep Safari…. I can’t get enough of it. I mean we’ve gone on so many, yet it thrills me every. single. time.
I simply enjoy waking up early in the morning when it is still dark outside, bundling up and making our way into one of India’s enchanted jungles. To my mind it feels as if we’re about to enter the Jurassic Park. A wave of awe and fear washes over me. Jai Shree Ganesh, We send up our prayers. We are determined to spot a Tiger or a Leopard or an Elephant, but you never know what you might find. Or not. As the gate closes behind our jeep, we leave the world of men and enter the abode of the untamed wild.
It is refreshing to breathe in the cool, unadulterated air of the Jungle; The environs look like the fresh face of a child as it wakes up; The sky still, but vibrant, the early morning sun splashing colors as it takes center-stage. What’s not to love about an early morning foray into a Jungle, especially if it is one of the oldest, most prestigious Jungles of India?!
We did not spot a Tiger or a Leopard, but we had a great time watching a variety of birds like the Bee- Eaters, Black Drongos, Common Flameback Woodpeckers, Red Jungle Fowls. A playful Jackal wished to walk only on the paved road, instead of limiting itself to the rough woodland. It kept following us for quite a distance.
We went on to explore Nainital and Binsar about which I plan to write next. So please humor me.
We drove to the mouth of Snowy river, a major river in South-eastern Australia. At a cool picnic spot by the river, we cooked Tandoori masala. Neel enjoyed running around the place.
On our drive to Lakes Entrance, we saw a lot of wallabies. After checking in at our caravan park –Eastern Beach holiday park, we headed to the beach and took a long walk before heading back and cooking Pizza toast for dinner. Park cost AUD 43/ night.
Day 6 & 7
We drove from Lakes Entrance to Wilsons Promontory National park. It was a 3.5h drive. We stopped at Yarram to have an amazing lunch at Yarram coffee place. When we reached the National park, we booked a spot by Tidal river inside the park. It was peak tourist season, so we had to pay around AUD 62/night. We took a walk along the Loo-Errn track. Dinner was pasta for Neel and Maggi for us with delicious mangoes for dessert.
On our 7th day, after a breakfast of scrambled eggs, we took a long hike around Lilly Pilly nature walk and Lilly Pilly circuit. As Neel was still too small to make such hikes, we took our stroller. It was a 6 km hike and so beautiful, we really enjoyed it. Once we got back, we spent sometime on the beach, letting Neel play on the sand. In the evening, we took another hike to Pillar point. It felt like we were walking into the sets of Lord of the rings. And when we reached the lookout point, the view of the beaches and the river was so surreal, it was magical!!
We drove towards Phillip island hoping to stay there to watch the penguin parade. Unfortunately, it was fully booked and we also found out that they came out only after 7pm which we thought was too late with the little one. So we visited the Phillip Island Wildlife park where we got to see kangaroos, wallabies, emus etc. We even got to feed them. Neel was happy and so were we. From Phillips island, we drove towards Mornington Peninsula and from there to Sorrento, where we took a ferry (AUD 85/adult) to Queenscliff and stopped for the day at BIG4 Beacon Resort Queenscliff which cost us AUD 100/night.
We drove through Great ocean road. Anyone visiting Australia must take a trip along this road. The views are to die for! After stopping to take pictures, we drove to Lorne where we had lunch at an Indian restaurant. Lorne is a seaside town popular for surfing and beach cafes. We camped for the night at Bimbi Park in Great Otway National park. After setting up, we took a 2h walk to the Lighthouse. It was really hot, full of mosquitoes and the lighthouse was about to close. But it was still worth it! We had a great dinner with burgers and fried potatoes. Camp costed AUD 40/ night Plus an additional AUD 2 for shower.
We drove to visit the twelve Apostles. On the way we stopped at Ottway Bistro to have breakfast. It was amazing! I had eggs on toast, avocados, roasted tomatoes, hashbrown, mushroom and spinach. Yumm!
Twelve Apostles was just as I had imagined.
From there we drove to The Arch and then to Bay of islands, all the while driving along the Great Ocean road. After another short drive, we drove to Warnambool. It was very difficult to find a free camping spot as every caravan park was fully booked and the reception was closed (due to Christmas holidays) and so we could not contact anyone. We drove to Port Fairy and finally found a spot available at Southcombe Port Fairy caravan park. I made Dum aloo curry for dinner and after eating it with naan, we walked around a small but beautiful reserve near the park. The camp costed AUD 55/night.
It was almost a 23 hour long flight from Switzerland to Sydney, but we made it without any glitches. Though Neel had his moments on the flight, we tried to keep him occupied with books, toys, coloring and walking down the aisle and talking to other people. Once we landed, even immigration went quicker than expected (The first time I came to Sydney on a business trip, there was a long queue and it took me about 2 hours to get out of the airport.)
In Sydney, we stayed one night at the Holiday Inn Sydney Airport to recover from the long flight and jet-lag. We chose this hotel as it is not far from the airport and the Campervan Rental company. It’s in a nice residential area with lots of Cafes and restaurants. We spent the day walking around and relaxing in a cafe and letting Neel play in the park nearby.
We took a taxi to the rental company. It took almost an hour to complete all the formalities. The campervan we rented had a small refrigerator, a kitchenette, a toilet, a sofa that could be converted into a bed, a microwave, a TV with DVD player and AC.
We began our journey on the road. First, we stopped at Woolworth and bought our groceries. We drove for about an hour and stopped at Bulli. We found a beautiful Caravan park called Bulli Tourist Resort park. It cost us around AUD 37 for one night. This book helped us a lot in finding the best caravan parks around Australia. I highly recommend it.
Bulli beach is a popular surfing spot. The park has tents and caravan parking spots with a beautiful view of the ocean. It has clean amenities like a camp kitchen, a caravan dump point,a recreation/function room, laundry facilities, children’s playground and sheltered barbecue areas.
After parking the van, we ate lunch at Bulli Beach café. The burger there was delicious!! After a 3 hour long nap (jetlag!), we walked around the beach. We had a lovely time talking to our friendly neighbors. For dinner, we cooked rösti and watched a movie on TV before going to sleep.
We woke up to the soothing sounds of the sea. With a quick breakfast of bread and Nutella and fresh coffee from our coffee maker (which we brought from home), we got ready for the road. From Bulli we drove to Jervis Bay. On the way we took a detour and drove to Gerringong, a beautiful small town. From there, we drove to Hyams beach, because we had heard so much about it on all our web searches. But we were quite disappointed when we reached there as there was nothing but white sand. Not wasting any time, we drove on to Milton, another beautiful town and had our lunch at Pilgrims Café. We drove further to Bateman`s bay and settled for the evening at Bateman`s Bay Resort Park which cost us AUD 38 per night.
We drove through Mimosa and Narooma before stopping at Tilba, a small town with vintage style shops. I just loved this town. We had a nice breakfast at Tilba Teapot café. It was drizzling most of the time, but we were still able to walk around. We drove towards Eden, before retiring for the day at Mallacoota Foreshore Holiday Park. Caravan park costed AUD 34/ night. Later, we walked around the park and spotted many kangaroos.
I’m back after a long, long time. This post is about “ONE OF THE BEST TRIPS” we’ve made so far!!
It was almost a year ago and honestly, we never thought we would take this trip so early after Neel was born. We wanted to wait another year or 2 till he was old enough to enjoy the trip. But the decision was made on the spur of a moment. We were having dinner and Mike looked at me and said “what are we waiting for? We can always go back another time in another few years, there is so much to see.” And I agreed. And so after 3 months of planning, preparing, shopping and getting ready, we finally boarded that plane which took us to the land down under, Australia!
I am keen to share not only our experiences but also some tips to plan the trip, especially with a toddler.
When and for how long ?
We did not want a short trip. We wanted to go for a month and travel around a bit. We were able to extend our Christmas holidays and take an additional 3 weeks of vacation in December. So in total, we spent almost 5 weeks in Australia.
How did we fly?
We had a lot to consider here..
We had to find out where we wanted to start our trip in Australia. We checked for different options like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
Our preferred flights were Etihad, Emirates and Singapore Airlines.
We did not mind having 1 or 2 short stops in between in order to freshen up and let Neel get some play-time.
As we were travelling in December which is also Summer vacation in Australia and a peak season for tourists, we had to book the tickets way in advance in order to get good deals.
In the end, we came up with the best solution of flying to Sydney on Emirates.
Visa & Immigration?
It was easy for Mike and Neel to apply for Australian visa, they had to just fill an online form and that was it. I had to fill not only a form but had to get many supporting documents and wait almost a month for the visa. Visa information is available here.
How did we go around in Oz?
We wanted to go on a road trip with a Caravan/ Campervan in Australia (Something Mike had always wanted to do). As we were only 2 adults and a toddler, we did not need a big caravan. We decided to rent a Campervan.
The main advantages we found by travelling in a campervan were:
We did not have to book hotels in advance (December is a peak season for tourists, finding proper hotels can be impossible sometimes and even if we do find them, they are very expensive)
Additional costs for rental car could be avoided
With a campervan, we were more flexible with our plan and we could change it when necessary. Many times we did that after talking to local people who advised us to visit some nice places around (which were not in our original plan)
Our toddler could feel at home during the whole month. He was so excited and happy to stay and travel on the campervan
We did not have to eat outside all the time. Our van had a kitchenette and we could easily cook in there.
When we were tired, we could just find the next caravan park and stay for the night
We decided to rent this Campervan from Maui. We had to do a thorough research on the rental company and their deals before choosing this van.
What we made sure to carry for this trip?
We were travelling with a toddler to one of the most expensive countries / continents in terms of food and cost of living; Considering these facts and also the fact that we would be staying 5 weeks in a van, we had to pack more efficiently.
Clothes: As it was summer in Australia, we made sure to take enough shorts and t-shirts for all of us but not overload our bags with clothes. Caravan parks usually have all the utilities including washing machines. We were able to wash and dry our clothes whenever we wanted. We also carried our swim wear.
Food: We had a kitchenette (Including utensils) in our van and made use of it quite a lot. We decided to take many items from home like coffee powder, milk powder (For Neel), Neel`s baby cereal, Indian masalas, pasta, rösti (hashbrown) and snacks. Though we bought veggies and fruits in Australia, we were happy to save a lot on food stuff by taking them from home. Beware of the Custom regulations on what you can carry and what not.
Care kit: Shampoo and soaps, medicines (Especially for Neel), sun-screen lotions for all of us.
Others: Proper hiking shoes and swimming shoes, diapers, wet wipes, garbage bags, our camera, Neel`s Stroller, chargers and most importantly, my kindle.
Though we knew we could always buy them in the cities there, we made sure that we had enough of our supplies in our campervan as there were days when we would drive for hundreds of kilometers and still find no stores or restaurants.
Where all did we travel in Oz?
Australia is a very large country. 5 weeks is too short a time to see even 25% of the country. I came up with an itinerary after I referred to some interesting websites and spoke to some friends who had done such trips:
Arrive in Sydney
Drive from Sydney through coastal route towards Melbourne and Adelaide
Cross Mildura and drive towards Brisbane
Drive further ahead to Bundaberg to see the Great Barrier Reef
Drive back through Queensland`s Sunshine coast back to Sydney
Beaches, charismatic little towns and beautiful national parks were part of our itinerary throughout.