Central and Southern Australia

Hello again… it’s certainly been a while! I’m back after having gone AWOL since last summer. Life has been very busy and I’ve had a great time along the way!

I’ve had this post written for around a year so I thought it was about time that I pressed publish! This is the second part of my big Australia adventure (which feels like a lifetime ago now). If you haven’t already, take a look at my blog post about the East Coast.

After I had travelled all the way up the East Coast from Sydney, I flew from Cairns to Alice Springs to see what the desert had to offer. This post summarises where I visited and what I got up to.

I had a free day to explore so after I arrived at the hostel I quickly dropped my bags and got out. Alice Springs is definitely the most bizarre place I’ve ever visited! It took me quite a while to adjust having just come from the East Coast. Everything was different- the environment, the weather, the demographic. The Aboriginal people have been living in and around Alice Springs for thousands of years and whilst they still largely populate it today, it also has a European influence now.

After browsing the shops and the centre of town, I walked up Anzac Hill which gives panoramic views over Alice Springs. At the top of the hill stands a memorial dedicated to those who have served in the defence of their country.

Alice Springs is definitely worth a visit purely because it’s so different to anywhere else and it was a good start to the desert experience. As we left I got told that it’s the murder capital of Australia… I’m glad I found that out after and not before…

We then travelled further into the desert and arrived at Uluru which was truly magical. My first glimpse of Ayers Rock was at sunset. We watched the sun go down whilst sipping on champagne… my two favourite things- sunset and bubbly. It’s definitely a moment I’ll never forget.

Whilst in Uluru we camped and I got my second experience of sleeping in a swag tent, typical Aussie style. The ones I’d stayed in on the east coast were like luxury in comparison to these. Think body bag.. and that’s pretty accurate! Some of the boys woke up during the first night to find they’d been attacked by ants… thankfully that didn’t happen to me!

In the centre it’s all about the sun. You rise early with it and you catch beautiful sunsets at night. I saw some of the best sunsets and sunrises I’d ever seen whilst I was in the desert.

Whilst at Uluru we did a few hikes. One was called the Mala Walk and it was around the base of Ayers Rock which we did about 8/9am in the morning to escape the worst of the heat. This was really good to get up close and personal to the rock as we had only seen it from a distance the day before. Another walk we did a bit later on and it was 36 degrees… safe to say I went through a lot of water! We also visited the Cultural Centre and read about the local Aboriginal history which was interesting. I managed to tick something else off my bucket list too… camel riding!

We then had a long driving day as we said goodbye to central Australia and hello to Southern Australia. Our first stop was Coober Pedy, an opal mining town. It’s still the biggest opal find in the world by a huge margin. What makes Coober Pedy really unique is that most of the town is underground. To escape the harsh desert heat, residents live underground and whilst we stayed there, we joined in and lived in an underground hostel (see picture below). The town has underground hotels and we visited an underground bar. Coober Pedy is very much real Australia with its endless desert views.

We visited the Opal Museum to learn about the history of Coober Pedy. Before we left we went to a kangaroo orphanage and fed kangaroos wasabi nuts which was a lot of fun. There was a baby kangaroo who was rescued from the road side. Its mother got knocked down and killed by a car and the little joey was found alive in its mother’s pouch. The joey was learning to hop which it enjoyed demonstrating to us.

En route to the Flinders Ranges and Clare Valley where we did a big hike and a wine tasting, we stopped at a salt lake and got creative as we experimented with depth perception. The lake was absolutely massive and like nothing I’d seen or been on before. When I first saw it I thought it had the look of a huge ice rink.

We stopped for a few days in Adelaide which I really enjoyed. It’s a city with a lovely, relaxed feel. After exploring the centre and walking along the river we caught the tram to Glenelg Beach. You could easily spend a day in and around the beach and there’s lots of shops and bars. It reminded me quite a lot of Manly in Sydney. It was 35 odd degrees whilst we were in Adelaide so the beach was perfect. We finished off our Adelaide visit with a trip to a local karaoke bar which was a laugh.. I performed a rendition of ‘Barbie Girl’ with three other girls.

The next couple of days were spent hiking in The Grampians National Park. We walked down to Mckenzie Waterfall and we also made friends with a lot of kangaroos. I also saw my first koala bear since being in Australia, it was as cute as I hoped it’d be.

We then began one of the most exciting bits of Southern Australia… the Great Ocean Road. The Grotto,  The London Arch and Loch Ard Gorge were just a few of the stops we made. The best one, was of course, The Twelve Apostles. It was so beautiful, especially with the sun shining on the apostles. I learnt that in fact there were never 12 formations and that they only called it ‘The Twelve Apostles’ for tourism reasons. There are only 8 standing now, the most recent fell in 2005.

We made a final surprise stop on the Great Ocean Road and it turned out to be a pretty good one…

I saw another koala bear and this time it was awake and moving around. And I added to my animal selfie collection as we fed parrots! There were so many of them and I proved to be popular with my seed as I had one parrot that barely left my hand the whole time. I had others landing on my arm and my head. There’s no other feeling quite like a parrot landing on your head…

The final stop I made in Australia was Melbourne. It was the first time and only time in Oz that I wore my jeans! I spent a few days there and I really enjoyed my time. It’s a very funky city with a cool vibe and it was a great place to finish my Aussie adventure. Whilst I was in Melbourne I explored some shops and the many alleyways full of impressive graffiti. We also did the free walking tour (run by the same company as the one in Sydney) and went to a few cool bars. One in particular was a science cocktail bar where we had our drink through a syringe and another was called ‘Berlin Bar’, an East and West themed bar. We sat in the East side in a really cool bunk bed seat area and I had a cocktail called Angela Merkel, it was very tasty.

Melbourne is home to the Queen Victoria Market which is huuuuge. You could wander that for hours and it’s the best place in Melbourne for souvenirs. I had a really good brunch in a cafe not too far from the Queen Vic Market (see below). Melbourne is amazing for tasty eating places- everywhere you turn there are places to eat and I had several good meals whilst I was there. It’s definitely a culinary hotspot. I also took a trip to St Kilda to check out the famous penguins. A colony of little penguins live in the harbour at St Kilda and if you’re lucky, after the sun has set you can see some. We weren’t disappointed as we saw a few hidden in the rocks, one came so close I could have reached out and touched it and we also saw some coming out of the sea. Luna Park is another attraction at St Kilda and though we didn’t go on any, it has several rides.

So that summarises what I got up to on the rest of my Australian travels. As you can gather it was a real mix of sightseeing and activities. It was a completely different experience to my East Coast adventure but there were just as many memories made along the way.

I loved my time in Australia. I was made to feel very welcome and it’s such a pretty place. I find it amazing how one country has such a mix of environments… One minute I was in a rural Aussie town, the next I was in a built up city, a rainforest or at the beach and then before I knew it I was in the dry red land of the desert. I certainly did get the whole Aussie experience!

Check out my other travel posts including the one I’ve done on Sydney or if you’d like a destination closer to home then my post about the Lake District is for you.

Thanks for reading!

KP x

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