Travel Tips while Abroad
Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road has to be one of the best road trips you can do in the land down under. The scenery is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and absolutely unforgettable. My friends and I chose to rent a campervan and arrive at the 12 Apostles in time for sunset. Our itinerary the following day included waking up to see the 12 Apostles again at sunrise, then finishing the rest of the Great Ocean drive afterwards, which would only take half an hour on the road not including stepping out of the vehicle at each stop on the way. In my opinion, this was a great way to see the route and landmarks without feeling rushed. Here is a collection of photos I took with my Canon 6D and Canon 24-105mm lens to show you some highlights from the Great Ocean Road. Believe it or not, it’s much more pretty in person.
Best Day trips from Sydney
Sydney itself is an incredible gem of a city to explore, but there are quite a few areas which are reachable with a few hours on the road that are definitely worth adding to your bucket list of traveling Australia. I was lucky enough to find friends who were willing to drive us to the following list of destinations (I was too scared of driving backwards), but it’s equally easy to arrive via Sydney’s public transit system.
There are plenty of bus tours to visit this stunning mountainous region, but you’ll have no problem navigating yourself if you can put in the time planning which parts to see. The highlight of this sprawling landmark is the Three Sisters, which is a lookout of a unique formation of conjoined rock columns. There are plenty of destinations within and near the Blue Mountains, ranging from short walks, to uphill treks weaving through waterfalls in Katoomba, to longer hikes that would require camping.
Muogamarra Nature Reserve
With it’s classification as a nature reserve, what differentiates it from a New South Wales [NSW] Park is that Muogamarra is only open six weekends of every year during spring. Though we missed out on Australia’s wildflowers due to a prior drought, there were still beautiful lookouts that more than made up for it. There are five trails to choose from, but all of them can easily be accomplished within the day if you start in the morning.
Known for holding the record for whitest sand in the world, Hyams Beach is the main attraction in Jervis Bay. Pictures don’t do the beach justice- you will be astonished at how white the sand is in real life, to the point where it appeared to be snow when the sunlight hit the shore. To make the most out of a trip to Jervis Bay from Sydney, be sure to stop by Kiama Blowhole on the way to Hyams, and you’ll see a rapid sprout of water when the waves hit. Even during low tide, Kiama does not disappoint.
North of Sydney, the Hunter region has numerous wineries and breweries. Since the drinking age is 18 in Australia, every exchange student is able to partake in the wine tasting tour. Unless you are a wine connoisseru -which I don’t imagine you would be since you are not even of legal age yet in the US- I’d peg that you will not fully appreciate the subtleties in flavouring. Fortunately, visiting wineries is a unique experience in itself that I would recommend anyone to try.
Though I have an aggressive fear of heights, Port Stephens provided a whole day of fun for adventure-seekers and people with my disposition alike. It is an excellent place to test out your 4WD skills since you’re able to drive over sand dunes for hours on end. Next, get your adrenaline (and heart rate) running with an afternoon of sand boarding. The guides don’t tell you about how much of a workout it is climing the sand hill to get to the top -spoiler: it’s worse than an hour spent on stair master-, so be prepared to leave feeling like you’ll wake up the next day with instantly toned calves.
If you are wondering why you should make the drive to this beach when there are hundreds that are closer by, I would ask you to trust me when I say that it would be a shame to miss out on Palm Beach. It has wicked 360 degree aerial views once you take the steps up to the lighthouse; getting photos of the landscape during sunset will definitely make your friends back home jealous of your adventures.
Seven Mile Beach
This beach is a popular destination for surf camps because it allows beginners to practice the basics on calmer waves than the more turbulent ones in Sydney… supposedly. My peers and I wiped out on every other attempt even at Seven Mile, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be a capable surfer with time.
Royal National Park
Most people come here to swim in the Figure 8 Pool situated deep within this park. I am sorry to break it to you that will be disappointed by it. It’s tiny, freezing cold, and always crowded. But Royal redeemed itself with its stunning hike to the pool. Besides the vantage points for taking in the incredibly serene views, there are portions of the hike that will transport you to jungles in Indonesia.
A final useful tip with daytrips is to have a backup option if things go awry.
For example, the Figure 8 Pool will be closed when the tides are too high, and there is always a chance of that happening. Even at surf camp, two of our lessons got cancelled when a storm hit. Luckily, our group decided to spend the day talking to our instructor, and he offered some great alternatives to do during the day for when the storm stopped, but the wave conditions were still too rough for us to be in the water. It’s a great idea to ask the locals for ideas and get recommendations for nearby cafes, lookout points, activities, and off-the-beaten-path points of interest, even if asking for help might not be what you are comfortable with.
In the US, might plans have changed unexpectedly, I would probably rely on google reviews or yelp to find something to occupy my day, both of which are not as frequently used in Australia. However, being in an unfamiliar country allowed me to open my mind with interacting with others. Australian locals are incredibly friendly and helpful and can tell you things that won’t pop up as the first search on the internet.
In this way, I now will go home and try talking more with people rather than depending on technology for every solution.
Now that you’ve read about these daytrip possibilities, you might be wondering which one is the best. To answer that: whichever suits your interests! Each location has its own specialties. Hike aficionados should opt for the Blue Mountains or Royal National Park; Palm beach has a short twenty minute hike up stairs, and Muogamarra is more walking than an actual trek. For a romantic date, Hunter Valley is the best call. And if you wanted to relax at a beach while still escaping Sydney, I would suggest one of the three on this list: Hyams for its beauty and clear waters, Palm Beach if you wanted to incorporate a bit of excersize into the day, and Seven Mile Beach for surfing purposes.
Safe driving, everybody!
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