A Travellerspoint blog

Roadtrip to Sydney! The last leg!

Exploring NSW coast en route to our new home!

sunny 18 °C
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And we started the last leg of our journey to our new home...

We got very lucky with the car rental as they gave us an upgrade to a brand new SUV, which made the long drive much more pleasant. Also, in Australia is very common that cars are automatic, so very comfortable to drive.

The drive from Gold Coast to Sydney usually takes about 10 hours non-stop, so we decided to break it down into three overnight stops in order to get to see other bits of the east coast. Our first stop was Byron Bay. Phil and I visited this place when we came for the first time to Australia together in 2016 - this place never disappoints. Byron is a town with a lot of characters and it's so nice to just wander around. It's well famous for surfing and a chilled vibe and attracts lots of tourists every year - we can certainly see why this place is so popular. In spite of the rain (the only rain we got since we got to Australia), we had a great time in this place and we will be back again at some point for a longer stay.

Byron Bay beach

Byron Bay beach

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After sleeping in Byron, we had an early morning to continue the journey towards Coffs Habour where we planned to stay overnight. On the way there, we stopped at Ballina, which is the other major town close to Byron. It has a great promenade, a huge prawn sculpture (weirdly many Australian towns have big random sculptures as a tourist attraction) and beaches (especially for surfers) - very nice to walk around. We were lucky enough, that we managed to see humpback whales.

After Ballina, we drove down towards Yamba National Park where we had a lovely picnic in the main beach. We were pleasantly surprised with Yamba, great landscapes, beautiful beaches, and it feels so chilled that it makes it a great place for a holiday.

View point on the way to Ballina

View point on the way to Ballina


Balina Beach

Balina Beach

Main beach, Yamba

Main beach, Yamba

After Yamba, we drove directly to Coffs Habour. We initially got a solace vibe of the town where people only stop to sleep and cut the long drive - It was quite empty, shops closed very early, and not many people were on the streets. We then heard that they were having a street food market event and it seemed that the whole town was there... We still were not very impressed with the town, but the following morning we visited the harbour area and it's very nice - we can imagine it would be very popular in summer. People also stay in this town to visit nearby landmarks such as waterfall way.

Street Food Market - Coffs Harbour

Street Food Market - Coffs Harbour

After a good night of sleep, we continue our journey towards Port MacQuarie. We only made one stop at South West Rocks, famous for diving. We didn't go diving this time (we will come back for that) but instead we visited the Trail Bay jail, one of the few historic landmarks of the area. Funnily enough, there was also a street food market inside of the ruins of the prison and it also had an exhibit of sculptures from local artists - overall a very nice stop.

Trial Bay Jail - South West Rocks

Trial Bay Jail - South West Rocks

We then continued to Port MacQuarie where we stayed our last night before getting to Sydney. This place was so nice, we had a great water view from our motel room (Mid-Pacific) and the town is very cosy. The promenade is by far the highlight, such a nice walk to end up in a great beach. This place totally worth a visit. Something we struggled with throughout the roadtrip was the working hours of the shops, coffee shops and restaurants. It seems that people in Australia wake up very early and have their meals at a particular time. We find that having lunch after 1:30 - 2:00pm, it's very difficult, as everything is closed. This might be because it's not high season but we certainly were surprised about this.

View from our room in Port MacQuarie

View from our room in Port MacQuarie


Port MacQuarie Beach

Port MacQuarie Beach

The following morning we drove straight to Sydney to finally arrive to our final destination in our slow journey. We are so happy to finally being here to start our new lives in the other side of the world! After 13 weeks of travel and visiting so many countries, we are so happy with the experience and we look forward to more adventures!

We made it to Sydney

We made it to Sydney

THE END

Posted by omarp 16:38 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

A week on the Gold Coast

Shorts, beaches and sun in Winter!

sunny 19 °C
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After a fantastic week in the Whitsundays, we flew to the Gold Coast to spend a week with Omar's brother, and to start the paperwork of our move. In this week we focused a lot on getting started with the basics of getting set up in Australia: getting a local mobile number, opening bank accounts, registering with Medicare, etc. - but we also had a bit of time to hang out on the beautiful beaches of the Gold Coast.

Omar's brother (also called Omar btw!) picked us up from the airport in Brisbane and took us to a hipster brewery next to the Story Bridge, called Felons. Excellent place for beers, burgers and pizza - it has a cool vibe and between the warehouse building, the setting right beneath the bridge and the Brisbane skyline in the background, you could almost think you were in Williamsburg.

Omar and Omar at Felons Brisbane

Omar and Omar at Felons Brisbane

It's time to start thinking of renting an apartment when we get to Sydney, so Omar spent a lot of time looking at real estate websites, while Phil was working. However, we still had time to enjoy the beaches. Even in winter the beaches are great: the weather is still great and the water is a bit cold but still tolerable, and it's such a nice place to go for a stroll or a run.

Mermaid Beach

Mermaid Beach


Surfers Paradise Beach

Surfers Paradise Beach


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It was great to visit Omar's brother and it's so nice to think we're now neighbours (well, in Australian terms - it's still a 90 minute flight or 10 hour drive away!) The week went by very quickly, and now it's time to start the last leg of our journey - a 4-night road trip to Sydney down the New South Wales coast.

Omar and Phil

Posted by omarp 00:13 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Australian paradise, the Whitsunday Islands

Barrier reef and white sand beaches

sunny 22 °C
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We got to Airlie Beach after a two-hour bus from Townsville, a very easy journey. Airlie Beach is a town that many people use as a base to explore the Whitsunday Islands, and it was our home for a full week. We split our time here between sightseeing a bit and starting to do the admin to get our new lives in Australia set up. Airlie Beach has a backpackers' vibe, so you can find plenty of bars, hostels, restaurants and travel agencies where you can book any activity you would want to do.

Even though it was the middle of winter, we couldn't be happier with the weather. Every day it was around 20-25 degrees and sunny - we can definitely get used to wearing shorts and t-shirts the whole year round! We know it won't be the same in Sydney but we are so happy to see blue skies even when it's cold.

During our week here, we got to explore the surroundings, relax at the local beaches and in the wonderful Airlie Lagoon (a public pool and park next to the beach), have our first Australian barbie (BBQ). The highlight of our week was our sailing trip around islands.

View from our apartment

View from our apartment


Sunset from our apartment

Sunset from our apartment


Our first Aussie barbie

Our first Aussie barbie

If you ever come to the Whitsundays, we strongly recommend taking an overnight sailing trip. It was such a wonderful experience. We went for a 2-night trip in a boat called Prima. We had the ensuite room which was rather small - we couldn't even stand together in the room - so it was very cozy. In spite of that, the whole journey, the scenery, the group we shared the boat with (one German woman, a Belgian family and four French people) and the crew was wonderful.

Skipper Phil

Skipper Phil

Morning at sea

Morning at sea

Sailing and diving at Hayman Island

Sailing and diving at Hayman Island

On the trip, we visited a couple of snorkelling points, we anchored overnight in a bay that was like a fjord in Hook Island. We managed to see a turtle and humpback whales from the boat and we visited the most amazing beach we have ever been in: Whitehaven beach, a total paradise. This beach has an inlet (Hill Inlet) that gets filled in during high tide, which creates very beautiful swirling patterns of sand as the tides change. When we got there the tide was starting to go up, and we managed to see plenty of sting rays, a few small lemon sharks and a huge pelican. We found out that it's possible to camp overnight in this beach, so for next time we will definitely plan to do it.

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach


Whitehaven Beach - Whitsunday Island

Whitehaven Beach - Whitsunday Island


Pelican at Whitehaven

Pelican at Whitehaven

Overall, this stop of our trip was so wonderful, a great start of exploring our new country of residence. If you ever come to Australia, this place should be a most visit.

It's now time to keep going down the East Coast as we slowly get closer to our final destination of Sydney. Next stop: Gold Coast for a week visiting my brother.

Omar and Phil

Posted by omarp 00:05 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

We got to Australia! A weekend in Maggie

Meeting our new neighbours

sunny 24 °C
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We finally made it to Australia!!! After a not-very-comfortable overnight flight from Bali to Cairns, we finally arrived in the country where we are going to live in. We were so excited when we arrived (even though we had very little sleep).

Funnily enough, after having waited such a long time, filled in lots of paperwork and survived a very painful process to get the visa, we were expecting to be received at the border by an officer to scrutinise further and question us before finally letting us in. But it was the whole opposite! We went through the e-gates, no questions asked - very smooth, no hassle, no queues, such a different experience to the places we have been in Southeast Asia. Just like that, we're let in and allowed to stay as long as we want.

Cairns Lagoon

Cairns Lagoon

Our final destination of this leg was Magnetic Island (known as Maggie). As we landed in Cairns, we still needed to take a 6-hour bus from Cairns to a place called Townsville, from where we took the short ferry to Maggie. It was certainly a very tiring and long journey, but it was so worth it. We had the best weather - clear skies, sunny but with a perfect temperature - and we stayed in a very cosy and spacious B&B in Horseshoe Bay.

During our stay on Maggie, we explored different parts of the island. We would probably say that the highlight of our stay was a hike we did to the top of a small mountain (The Forts), where the scenery was just stunning and also you can spot wild koalas on the way to the top. Koalas are endangered throughout Australia, but they are plentiful on Maggie. We managed to see four wild koalas, including one that had a joey (baby koala). On the top of the mountain, there is a fort used in WWII by the Australian army to monitor potential threats and invasions from the Japanese - well preserved and really great views from the top.

Wild Koala with her baby

Wild Koala with her baby

View from the Forts hike

View from the Forts hike

94c58b80-ad1a-11e9-b573-89a53edd6b15.jpgHiking The Forts

Hiking The Forts

After the long hike we revived ourselves with some Mexican food, and stayed on the beach watching our first sunset as residents in this country. We had such a great time (and a few beers). On Sunday before we left, we did another walk between Nelly Bay and Picnic Bay, with nice scenery along the way - both places are quiet but very nice to visit.

Sunset at Horseshoe Bay

Sunset at Horseshoe Bay

While we were waiting for our boat, we managed to spot more locals: a manta ray swimming in the marina next to the harbour and rock wallabies hanging around next to the port.

Manta Ray swimming in a Marina

Manta Ray swimming in a Marina


Rock Wallaby

Rock Wallaby

This island has so much more to offer, there are some topless cars you can rent to go around and explore (I was keen on this but we didn't have much time to do it), great snorkelling and scuba diving, lots of unspoiled bays and beaches and many hiking paths. If you ever come to the north of Queensland, we highly recommend visiting this place. We definitely want to return with a bit more time.

We are so excited to be in Australia, and we will keep exploring a bit more of the East Coast before getting to our final destination. It's now time to continue our journey to the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands.

Omar and Phil

Posted by omarp 01:32 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches animals nature Comments (0)

Gili Air and Nusa Lembongan

Rustic islands with great scenery

sunny 28 °C
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We departed Sanur early in the morning to catch our speed boat to the Gili Islands. It was rather a stressful journey as we realised when we were on our way to the port that we had decided to go on a day of a big religious festival at a particular temple on the way, and the roads were completely blocked in the direction of the pier. We had a couple of hours in the car thinking we were going to miss the boat, but they held the boat for us and we managed to make it, even if it meant running through the streets of Padang Bai with our bags.

After a few hours on a very bumpy boat, we got to our destination Gili Air, one of the Gili Islands off the coast of Bali's neighbouring island of Lombok. We decided to based ourselves on this one because according to our research, it's the island for couples, with nice sunset bars and restaurants and with enough going on to not get bored. Our first impression on the island was that it's a bit rustic but with stunning surroundings and views of the ocean and mountains of the nearby islands. We stayed for three nights and we had such a great time. The island is an atoll so the beaches are tidal, but they are gorgeous with a very bright blue colour. Our main reason to come to the Gilis is because they are famous for Scuba Diving. We did two days of diving, and it was certainly amazing - great visibility and we went to cool sites as well.

Diving in the Gilis

Diving in the Gilis

Something we really enjoyed doing every day was going to a bar to watch the sunset, having cocktails in happy hour (buy one get one free) and just enjoying a chilled time with a stunning view, followed by a fulfilling meal. Our favourite bar on this island was Gili Lumbung: the cocktails were very good, there was live music and the perfect vantage point for nestling down on beanbags to watch the sunset. Something quite curious was the number of Italian restaurants on this island: we had great pizzas and pastas - quality comparable to Europe. It was so refreshing after eating mostly Asian food for months. Gili Air was definitely one of the highlights in our time in Indonesia - we will definitely come back and explore further the other Gilis.

The only downside of coming to the Gilis is probably the transport - fast boats can be very bumpy, so take sea sickness tablets if you get dizzy easily, and the organisation to board the boats it's not the best - but apart from that, it's pretty amazing. Also the beaches have lots of corals, so reef shoes might be a good idea as well.

Beach in front of our hotel

Beach in front of our hotel


Enjoying the sunset in Gili Lumbung bar

Enjoying the sunset in Gili Lumbung bar


Sunset in Gili Air (Bali volcanoes in the background)

Sunset in Gili Air (Bali volcanoes in the background)

After three nights in Gili Air, we left to our last destination before finally getting to Australia, Nusa Lembongan. The boat ride was very bumpy but we managed to get to Lembongan ok. This island is famous for cliffs, great views of the ocean and in general nice landscape. In our opinion, this island is pretty but very difficult to move around. To see the sights, you will need to drive a scooter which it is quite scary as there are more cars than you expect, most roads are in terrible condition, some of them very steep. If you have not driven a scooter before, this is not the place to start.

We only had a day to explore the island but was enough to get the flavour of how everything looks like. There are certainly things that are worth seeing like the Devil's Tear (where water froths and spews from a cave with every wave), Blue Lagoon, and Sunset Point - very impressive scenery. Phil had his birthday here and we had a lovely hour watching the sunset from Sunset Point, which was right next to our hotel. We took a bottle of wine with us and sat on the cliffs, looking out to sea. After we had been there a while, someone came up to us and told us he had taken a photo of us with the sunset in and thought we might like to have it. Following that, we went for a really nice birthday dinner at Hai Ri Zen in Mushroom Bay.

Pool in our hotel

Pool in our hotel


Jungutbatu Beach

Jungutbatu Beach


Devil's Tear

Devil's Tear


Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon


Watching the sunset in Phil's birthday

Watching the sunset in Phil's birthday

Overall, though, we found the beaches in Nusa Lembongan a bit disappointing (we went only to Mushroom Bay and Jungutbatu beach) - again, nice scenery, but with lots of coral, difficult to get in, and lots of boats moored along the whole beach. Most activities in the area are on the larger neighbouring island of Nusa Penida, which we didn't have time to visit.

It's now time to go back to Bali to catch our flight to Cairns, Australia - the place where we first hatched our plan to move to Australia, two and a half years ago. So, now our slow route to Sydney begins its final stage - but still a couple of weeks of travel on Australia's east coast before we get there!

Omar and Phil

Posted by omarp 18:19 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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