Australia Part 5

You can read the previous posts here.

Day 21 and 22

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.

Rainbow beach
BIG4 Ingenia Holidays Noosa

Day 23

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.

Binna Burra Lodge Campsite

Day 24

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.

Caves

Day 25

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.

Byron Bay beach

Day 26

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.

View from Skywalk Lookout
Crystal Shower falls

Day 27

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.

Blue Mountains
Katoomba falls

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.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

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!!

We really hope to visit again soon.

Madhurya

Australia Part 4

You can read Part 3 here.

Day 11

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.

Blue Lake
Caravan Park, Robe

Day 12

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.

Caravan Park, Mildura

Day 13

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.

Day 14

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.

Warrumbungle National park

Day 15

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.

White gum lookout
Caravan park, Tentafield

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.

South Bank
Brisbane

Day 18

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.

Bargara Beach

Day 19

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.

Day 20

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.

Caravan park, Maryborough

Madhurya

Australia Part 3

You can read part 2 here.

Day 5

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.

Snowy river

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.

Tidal river campground
Loo-Errn track

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!!

Lilly Pilly Nature walk
Pillar Point

Day 8

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.

Phillip Island Wildlife park
BIG4 Beacon Resort Queenscliff

Day 9

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.

Great ocean road view
Great Otway National park
Walk to the lighthouse

Day 10

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.

Breathtaking!!

Twelve Apostles

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.

The Arch
Bay of Islands

More to follow…

Madhurya.

Australia Part 2

You can read part 1 here.

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.)

Day 1:

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.

Day 2:

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.

View around Bulli Tourist Resort Park
Bulli Tourist Resort Park

Day 3:

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.

Hyams Beach
Bateman`s Bay Resort Park

Day 4:

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.  

Tilba
Tilba
Mallacoota Foreshore Holiday Park

More to follow…

To the Land down under..

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.

Our Campervan

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.

Our Itinerary

More about our trip in the next post.