Across unusually choppy waters British Defender, an ex-Royal Navy training yacht, sails parallel to our own speeding vessel; Matador Whitsundays. Once known as the largest ocean racing yacht, Matador’s owners now tip it as ‘the fastest yacht in the Whitsundays of its calibre’. Finn, our Tasmanian skipper, is about to put that title to the test in a spontaneous and undeclared race. He has a hint of competitiveness etched on his boyish face as we draw closer to the rival yacht. From behind one of two large red wheels, he calls, “raise the Genoa!” Read More
This is the fourth in a series of posts detailing my experiences of van living, whilst I travel Australia. Each week (although this post comes three weeks late!), I publish a post with the previous week’s failures and successes. I’ve committed to this diary for my entire four-month tour of the country. To know when a new post is published (and see how my feelings toward living in a van alter over time), sign up.
Slap me on the wrist. I’ve been a terrible blogger.
What began as a weekly series of van life highs and lows has been sorely neglected as of late. Posting weekly has just proven to be a little more difficult than I originally anticipated. This is partly because of the Wi-Fi situation, though of course, I knew that finding decent Wi-Fi opportunities whilst touring a landscape as vast as Australia would be problematic.
However, I forgot to consider that keeping my laptop charged enough to write and post a blog, as well as do all of the freelance work that actually allows me to continue to travel, would be a challenge in itself. Needless to say, my budget campervan conversion doesn’t include twenty-four-hour electricity or a snazzy solar panel.
That is why this post is four weeks late.
You know what they say though, better late than never! So, I’ll just share the past four weeks worth of adventures, surprises, and challenges right here, right now. Buckle up.
Four weeks ago, I began the journey from the Wet Tropics of Queensland, on Australia’s East Coast, south to where I sit now, in a public library in Brisbane. In that time I have explored:
• Mission Beach
• Atherton Tablelands
• Airlie Beach
• Whitsunday Islands
• Agnes Water and 1770
• Noosa Heads
The difference between the state of Queensland and the states I have driven through on my way here, Western Australia and Northern Territory, is phenomenal.
Where Western Australia delivers rich orange outback and vibrantly perfect sunsets, Queensland provides thousands of kilometres of lush green rainforest.
In Western Australia, the heat reaches temperatures of forty-degrees and barely drops below thirty-degrees at night, whilst Queensland stays in the low thirties, yet smothers you with humidity levels of as much as one hundred percent.
Queensland is brimming with banana plantations and sugar cane farms that give it a South East Asia feel, plus so many waterfall lookouts and hikes it would take years to conquer them all.
Van living is a little easier on the East Coast too. When the sun falls, a cool breeze picks up and ventilates our beloved Roma, so she’s the perfect temperature when we clamber inside after a day of adventuring. This makes rising early to check out what else the area has to offer much easier than our time in the West, and both Dave and I are noticeably more relaxed and less irritable.
Yep, Queensland is certainly not a place to be sniffed at.
Yet, having said all this, I have to tell you that Western Australia is still highest in my estimations. It may be a little more challenging to travel, but the lack of crowds and traffic, combined with unique landmarks and natural sights, make it a place like no other. If you’re considering touring Australia by campervan yourself, I urge you to include WA in your plans.
Anyway, on to the fun bit; recalling the fails and successes of the previous four weeks…
Van life fails
• Suddenly awoken by a rock wallaby scaling our van at 3am
• Repeatedly finding our vegetables stale thanks to the intense humidity of Queensland
• Discovering rotten carrots have leaked and having to buy a new storage box
• Receiving a driving infringement for failing to stop at a STOP sign, $378 ☹
• Dave leaving his window open and a bird pooping on his seat
• Not realising our roof box was open and having a stranger chase after the van to tell us
Van life successes
• Showering almost every single day (it’s the little things!)
• Finding nature park campsites and witnessing native animals like possums and tree kangaroos
• Having the opportunity to give Roma a deep clean thanks to a friend – no more sweaty sheets!
• Not needing to drive more than a few hours at a time – the touristy destinations have their perks
• Having two groups of people stop to admire our van set up
• Hitting the 10,000 kilometres travelled milestone with no mechanical troubles (touch wood)
I thought after four weeks I’d have more fails and successes to share with you, but maybe this means we’ve finally adjusted to living in a van…
The ultimate highs of van living weeks four, five, six, and seven
Chasing incredible waterfalls in Atherton Tablelands
From Kuranda to Atherton, to Mareeba, and Miila Miila, the Atherton Tablelands is the waterfall capital of Queensland. Just a couple of hours inland from Cairns, driving this area of the country feels almost like touring the English countryside on a warm summer’s day. It’s all rolling hills scattered with sheep and cows, set against a clear blue sky. What makes the area even better though, is the number of stunning hikes to natural waterfalls.
I won’t delve into too much detail, as I’ve written a separate post about my Whitsunday Islands experience. Let me just tell you that this was the second time I’ve sailed to iconic Whitehaven Beach and snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef around the seventy-four Whitsunday islands, but it was just as breathtaking as the first. Sign up to know when my detailed post about the Whitsunday Islands tour goes live.
So many #campsitecreatures
I’ve seen so many creatures in the past four weeks that I’d never seen before, not even in a zoo. These include platypus, tree kangaroos, possums, exotic peacocks, and rock wallabies. If you follow my Instagram Stories you’ll have seen videos of these guys in their natural habitat – they’re pretty impressive!
Stepping into a fairytale land at Paperbark Forest
Paperbark Forest is just a short trail through immensely tall trees that appear to peel like thin layers of curling brown paper, hence the name. When hunting this place down in Agnes Water, I had no idea how incredible it would be. The Paperbark Trees are majestic, leaning ever so slightly overhead and rooted in a base overgrown with bright green shrubs. The trail contains stepping-stones that allow you to hop between the trees… it’s truly like a fairytale land.
Jumping off rocks into the Fairy Pool at Noosa National Park
The Fairy Pool in Noosa National Park is a sweaty forty-five minute coastal trek and one that I actually took twice because the first time I didn’t have my bikini with me! Look at that photo though, wouldn’t you walk forty-five minutes to jump into an aqua blue pool right next to crashing waves?
Eating all of the food at Brisbane’s Eat Street Market
Greek, Mexican, Portuguese, American, Japanese… if you can name a style of cuisine, you’ll probably find it at Eat Street. Made up of 180 multi-coloured shipping container food stalls touting food for reasonable prices, even by backpacker standards, this is one to experience on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday evening in Brisbane. Again, I’ll be sharing a more detailed post with information and tips for visiting Eat Street in the coming weeks, so sign up if you’re interested.
If I’m honest, there’s a whole bunch of highlights I should probably include above, but you can take these five as the best of the best. For the next week, I’ll be exploring the Gold Coast and then crossing my third state line, into New South Wales. Stay tuned!
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‘CAUTION’ the sign at the entrance to the Wallaman Falls hiking trail warns, ‘people have died as a result of heart attack or heat exhaustion’. It’s not the kind of information I like to hear before descending 300 metres through thick forest in the Wet Tropics of Queensland. Nevertheless, I remind myself that I’m a healthy twenty-nine-year-old woman with a large bottle of water in my denim backpack, and continue downwards on a dry mud path. Read More
She may be your best friend, girlfriend, daughter, wife, or even your travel-addicted mum. Whoever she is, if she spends more time out of the country than in it, I’m willing to bet she’s a bit of a pain in the ass to buy presents for. Finding the perfect gift for girls who love travel is notoriously difficult.
I know this because I am that girl to my family and friends. Read More
No matter how idyllic the social media photos might seem, van life comes with a lot of challenges. This is especially true when travelling a country with the inescapable heat and high expense of Australia. Before I began my current four-month tour of the country, starting in Perth and due to end in Adelaide, I had no idea of the number of campervan tips and hacks I would need to be successful in this lifestyle. Read More
This is the third in a weekly series of blog posts sharing the real experiences of a van lifer in Australia. Each week, I publish a post with the previous week’s failures and successes. I’ve committed to this diary for my entire four-month tour of the country. To know when a new post goes live (and see how my feelings towards van life change over time), sign up.
Week three as a van lifer is complete and I’d describe my relationship with this lifestyle as love-hate. Read More
Intro: Backpacking the world causes an explosion of emotions for any traveller. We expect to feel wonder, amazement, amusement, excitement; a whole host of positive emotions. After all, why do we choose to travel if not to actively seek these great feelings? Of course, we also expect to feel sad, homesick, humbled, and empathetic to those less privileged than ourselves. Yet some of the more complex emotions strike us suddenly and without warning. They are strong and stay with us for years to come. This series of ‘true travel stories’ is a way of sharing experiences that have caused me such emotions. If you’re a backpacker too, perhaps you can relate, let me know at the end! Read More
This blog post is the second in a weekly series sharing real experiences of van life, as I travel Australia in my camper, Roma. Each week, I publish a post with the previous week’s failures and successes (you can read about week one here). I’ve committed to this van life diary for my entire four-month tour, so it’ll be interesting to see how my perspective changes in that time! To know when each post goes live, sign up.
I can safely say that by week two of van life, the novelty has worn off. What initially felt like a fun camping holiday, now feels like a long-term reality. As you’ll find with every form of travel, the overall experience is fantastic, but it doesn’t come without the odd trial and frustration. Read More
Made up of a unique system of marble-red gorges, fairy-tale waterfalls and natural swimming pools, it’s mindblowing that Karijini National Park is unknown to many travellers – even those born in Australia.
Situated in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, Karijini National Park is a true paradise for any backpacker who enjoys nature, stunning landscapes and untouched wilderness. It’s without a doubt one of the many hidden gems of the country.
The forty-eight hours I spent exploring this haven, were the most entertaining, awe-inspiring, and adventurous that I have experienced in any national park previously. There are a couple of reasons why. Let’s begin with the hiking options.
Now I’m no major hiker. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that I really don’t enjoy uphill hiking.
However, after clapping eyes on the dramatic drops of Karijini National Park’s many gorges, some up to 100 metres deep, I was literally itching to hike down into each base and see what was hiding in the rocks and crevices below.
This blog post is the first in a weekly series sharing the experiences of a real #vanlifer and the realities of living in a van. Each week, I will be publishing a post with the previous week’s failures and successes. I’ll do this for my entire four-month tour of Australia. Let’s see how my attitude towards van life evolves over that time! Sign up to be notified when a new post goes live.
It’s official; my home is now a small yet comfortable campervan that I’ve affectionately named Roma. Seven days ago, I left Perth to see and experience all that Australia can offer, travelling by road with my partner, Dave. Read More
It’s Sunday as my boyfriend and I walk from the bus stop to our guesthouse on Milos island, in Greece, and I feel as though I’ve arrived in a ghost town. Square white houses line a gleaming cobblestone street, but each has shutter windows and doors tightly closed. The houses are evidence that the village of Trypiti has residents, but in the six minutes it takes for me to walk its length, I encounter only sleeping cats. Read More
Arriving on each of the Greek islands I visited this September, Santorini, Milos, and Paros, I was blown away by just how breathtakingly picturesque each was. I can confirm, those practically-postcard photos you see of Santorini are completely accurate, whilst up and coming Milos has so many hidden beaches and coves you could spend days exploring them. What was meant to be a relaxing 10-days of island hopping in Greece, quickly became a mission to capture the most stunning spots I could share with you. Oh, and to genuinely take in and enjoy the gorgeous scenery with my partner, of course! Read More
The Greek island of Santorini is the opposite of a hidden gem destination. Its pristine white buildings, set against a backdrop of turquoise sea, circulate social media daily. Most of the accommodation featured in these videos and photos include private villas complete with pools, but let’s face it, for those of us backpacking the Greek islands, these types of lodgings just aren’t realistic. Without the luxury hotel experience then, and knowing how the crowds flock here each summer, is Santorini overrated? Read More
Isn’t it funny how we world travellers are constantly on the lookout for new places to visit outside of our hometown, yet most of us have yet to explore our own backyard? I recently visited the city I was born and grew up in, Portsmouth in England, having been backpacking abroad for the past two years. Amongst the family reunions and get-togethers, I was determined to really get out and see the attractions that are on offer for a visitor to Portsmouth. The amount that I found completely exceeded my expectations (and memory!). Read More
Travelling by road is absolutely the best way to experience the diversity of a country and see beyond the tourist hotspots. Whether it’s by bicycle, motorcycle, public transport, or using your own car or campervan, the hours spent watching rural landscapes flash past beat the alternative time spent in airport lounges, hands-down. Read More
To independently road trip a country guarantees you a perspective that just isn’t possible by travelling on public transport. For years now, my bucket list has contained the item ‘drive a campervan around Australia’. The dream has always been to do it as cheaply as possible, in a cosy and comfortable self-converted camper. It’s lucky then, that my partner is an engineer because actually, I am the least handy and practically-skilled person you will ever meet. It’s also lucky that Dave wants to travel Australia by campervan just as much as I do, as this joint dream is what has led to the four-month adventure trip we are about to commence, in our very own DIY campervan conversion. Read More
The traditional notion of a backpacker has changed drastically over the years. Once upon a time, backpackers were people that took a chicken bus for a twelve-hour journey from one place to the next. They carried only the most basic, non-tech essentials and lived on a shoestring budget, favouring the cheapest of cheap accommodation. Nowadays, it’s a very different story for most. Read More
Backpacker itineraries for Australia are usually filled with the most iconic destinations and landmarks; New South Wales’ Sydney Opera House, Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. In fact, all of the experiences I was recommended as a first-time backpacker to the country are found on the East Coast. Poor old Western Australia, seen as too remote or not quite spectacular enough to warrant the additional cost of a domestic flight, rarely gets a look in. Read More
If somebody offered you the chance to bathe in the crater of a volcano, would you take it?
Considering volcano craters are usually bubbling with searing hot lava, I imagine not, but I’ve been standing in line to do exactly that for the past twenty minutes. Read More
If you read the mainstream newspapers, you may have seen one of many recent articles concerning the safety of Thailand for travellers, and proposing to offer Thailand travel advice. In most of these articles, incidents of scams, muggings, unprovoked attacks, terrorist bombings, and even deaths are listed. If you’ve never been to the beautiful country of Thailand and you read one of these fear-inducing articles, I wouldn’t blame you for being put off visiting.