Strolling about beautiful Noosa

Noosa is a fashionable thriving destination on the Sunshine Coast with sophisticated boutiques lined along Hastings Street, cool but pricey eateries and upmarket hotels.Yet it’s not tacky as you would expected from many other popular sea-side resorts along Queensland coastline but it retains the feeling of a cozy little beach town. It might be cause there are no skyscrapers around, it’s surrounded by the peaceful and picturesque Noosa Coastal National Park along with gorgeous beaches still freebies attractions, which made Noosa even more appealing for some avid nature–lovers backpackers like us.

We had the choice of 15km of track, splits in 5 relaxing walks, to soak up the incredible landscape of Noosa Heads leading through the pretty secluded beaches of Tea Tree Bay, Alexandria Bay till we reached the long stretch of sand on Sunshine Beach, the last change for some good surfing to the rush to North Queensland.

The park is also home to some amazing wildlife like cuddly cute koalas, which make a nonchalant entrance just at the start of our walk, black cockatoos, beautiful wildflowers and a diversity of coastal vegetation from tropical rainforest, eucalypt woodlands to colourful wallum heath and sedgelands. From the rocky cliff of Hells Gates we were amazed as we even spotted a sea turtle rocking through the bumpy water and some dolphins. What a day!

If you want to hang around for longer you wouldn’t get bored either. Take a kayak tour, a Camel safari (I know, I certainly didn’t expect to find them over here but in some part of Australian they are even a pest), visit the nearby volcanic crags of the Glass house Mountains NP or drive along the wild endless beach at Cooloola NP, better known as Great Sandy National Park, only if you have a 4WD or take part to an organized tour up to Fraser Island. Nevertheless, what’s is wrong with just some simple laze about on the glorious beaches?

If you are more adventurous why don’t dare to go camping? Yes, you hear it well, camping. I bet you haven’t been to Johns Landing Camping before, a short drive from Tewantin nearby Lake Cooroibah. Believe me, you must be a Rambo-wannabes to enjoy a stay here. Permanent residents weirdoes apart, including the drunk camp-keeper, as we arrived through the dirt road it looks like the last place on earth forgotten by God. But you know, first appear are not always right. Not in this case! The place seems more a refugee camp or a junk yard set on the bank of a mosquitoes-invested marshy river, where “toilets” leave a bit to desire, dogs are less than welcoming and, when night falls, you wonder who is watching you, but apart that it was a great camping tale to tell and cost us only 10 bucks.

“Where else but Queensland”

I couldn’t agree any better with the campaign of this blessed state at the north-eastern corner of Australia, Queensland. Maybe it’s the 300 days of sunshine a year, the long sandy golden beaches, perhaps the abundant of wild creatures, spectacular coastal scenery, the tropical rainforests, it has even mountains, dirty and dusty roads through endless harsh landscapes, the blue water of its many tropical islands or, how could I ever forget one of the world’s greatest natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef that attracts over a couple of million visitors each year and we were definitely up for all it.

The Hill Inlet, Whitsunday Island
If you are among the adrenaline junkies make sure you wouldn’t miss any opportunity of diving, snorkeling, come face to face with some big crocodiles up north in the Daintree River, skydiving at Mission Beach, white-water rafting on Tully River, trekking among the many national parks or just go wildly crazy at the many parties towns where folk of backpackers flock to get trashed like in Cairns and the Gold Coast with its core at Surfers Paradise. Where the hell did they get the name from, Surfers Paradise?? It give us the impression of a heavily development tourist ghetto with million-dollar theme parks such as Dreamworld, Wet ‘n Wild, Seaworld, high rising condominiums, pricey accommodation and loads of bars just the kind of place we want to run away from.
Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast
But don’t despair, if that is not your style either, just keep going north, stop in relaxed Brisbane for some urban exploration, till you reach the lazy Sunshine Coast for some relaxing time on the beach, some koala-watching in beautiful Noosa up till the charming little Rainbow Beach and the world largest sand island, Fraser Island, if you manage not to be run over by the heaps of 4WDs to those beaches have been mistaken for a state highway. If by then you’ll feel like getting back to the bustling life of a seaside town, don’t worry the frenzied traffic of Hervey Bay is only an hour drive away and if you turn up at the right time you could have a truly whale-of-a-time since the majestic humpback whales stop in the calm and warm water of this bay to bread. Do you think you see it all? You are only half way mate, keep going. Coral fringed islands are next along the Capricorn Coast but get ready to splurge some dear cash for the first sight of those spectacular underwater coral gardens of the Great Barrier Reef as a trip to Lady Elliot or Lady Musgrave don’t come cheap. If you can wait, you will be probably better off do it in the diving jungles of Cairns. In the meantime you could always unwind in the less untouched corners of Queensland like Eurimbula Coastal National Park, play castaway at Great Keppel Island, get lost at night in the mangroves at Emu Park, go island hopping to the paradisaical Whitsundays, drive through sugarcane fields, farmlands, banana plantations till you reach the rainforest at Mission Beach but make sure you watch out for those cassowaries. Feel now like to cool down? Why not escape the hot sticky tropical days up in the peaceful Atherton Tablelands taking the scenic Waterfall Circuit before you finally go deep down off the coast of Cairns?
Davies Creek National Park
Thinking you have made it to end of your trip? Go further Cairns backpackers’ mecca; even if you are not going as far as Cape York, reaching Cape Tribulation will be a rewarding drive through an extraordinary diverse region with rainforest, coral reef and dangerous rivers.

Have you fall for Queensland yet? We certainly have. Queensland seems to us just lives up to its motto

Byron Bay: Wish I could live here

Its fame hit us well before we enter in Australia and not for anything, only now we could understand the reasons behind it.

Byron is only a small town on the easterly point of Australia mainland. When you drive through it at first, yes, it seems very pretty but nothing new to many other nice seaside villages you might have come across along the East Coast, WRONG! Hang around for a bit longer and you will see what Byron is all about.

A laidback town with a mixed feel of hippy vibe, amazing surfing beaches, friendly locals, backpackers’ entertainments, bustling restaurants, sweet little cafes, casual lifestyle, sunny days, beautiful surrounding national parks, fantastic walks, heaps of activities and great wildlife, what else would you want on earth?

We were lucky enough to experience it at its best, during the low season with not many tourists around, but be warned during the peak time in the Australian summer it gets very packed. Even though, I am sure Byron Bay will manage somehow to maintain that cosy feeling of a small town maybe cause you wouldn’t find skyscrapers rising over Byron skyline, megastores or the annoying worldwide fast-food-restaurants’ chains.

We ended up staying a week here, wandering around the main street for some “window-shopping”, people-watching at the Main beach, joining the surfers at Watego beach, working it out through the coastal walks up to Cape Byron’s picturesque lighthouse, staring silently at the wild open ocean, catching a glimpse of the many humpback whales splashing their tales in the blue sea during their northern migrations to the tropical calm water of Hervey Bay, observing the gracious dolphins frolicking in the clear water among the surfers’ crowd ,throwing few sausages on the barbie for a lunch with unbeatable sea-view and, the most important part, just chilling out on the stupendous beaches.

Byron Bay is beyond doubt one of Australia’s most famous iconic destinations and, so far, our top favourite one. We truly felt like never leave it but our journey is not finished yet and we had to keep going, nevertheless we could always come back.

Oddity: watch out how you park in Byron Bay. If you don’t want to find a ticket on your windscreen you will have to get used to park 135° rear back, apparently it’s easier parking this way, eh?

Australia Surf-mania

Surfing is to Australian like an old fashion cup of tea or, the modern version, a pint to Brits, so we couldn’t have come so far and not gives it a go.
It’s hard to resist it since everywhere we went on the East Coast we came across a nation of surfers competing for their “right of way” in the blue sea. I am not only talking about the hot athletic bodies running on the beach with the surfboard under the arm, sorry I need to stay focus.. right where I was.. even girls, elders, little kids are all out there catching the waves. I guess it’s in their blood, a hereditary gene they all born with, and no wonder all coastal towns have its own surf club and all Australian live within 5miles of the coast.
We spent hours ‘n hours admiring the Ozzies mastering so naturally this art, enough to believe we had absorbed the techniques: paddle out to the ocean, wait for the right wave, catch it, stand up and just ride it, so simple, right?
I reminded myself what a crap I was at any gym’s lesson in the high school and, a part of me, was sure I was going to make full of myself but, with an encouragement from Chris, which made me believed it would have being as easy as on my first snowboard-ride down the Val Senales Glacial (only after, I recalled I ended up going off track, landing on a rock, having a horrible, painful green bruise on my bum for weeks, before somehow I miraculously reached the end of the slope), there I was, squeezing into a wetsuit, staring at the ocean to spot the best angle to approach it. I guess I looked such a professional surfer that a dude approached me asking for some wax. What for? Looking at him suspiciously “sorry mate”, before I realized the board need to be spread with it to increase the grip, I would had needed lots of it!

Me, my board and my foolish confidence

No more chatting, time to get serious. All surfers were out there around the same spot, the waves looked terrific, perfect we thought and here we go.
I started paddle to reach the other surfers but there was a slightly issue: no matter how harder I tried, I couldn’t get any further than a certain point. Already exhausted, I decided there it would have been the right spot I would have waited for my wave. After some failed attempts, here I was: riding a wave.. well, kind of, body surfing, I was having enough troubles to hold steady on the fast-running board that stand up was not an option. Yet, it was so excited, so fast; it was seconds of pure exhilarating fun before it quickly turned to frightening anxiety when I saw I was washed furiously ashore against some massive rocks, sh’t! I had no idea how to stop that thing. Before I knew it, my board stranded on the sand and I was tossed around in between some rocks like some socks in the spin-drier. Phew! I didn’t know how but I was all in one piece.
I was still convinced I could do it so, after I calmed down and with Chris still in the water, I gave it another go. This time I placed myself as far away from a possible trajectory against those rocks and after minutes of wait there I was, same story and same ending. That was the moment I knew this sport was not for me or at least next time I would have need some professional help, a lesson wouldn’t have heart me.

Watching it was an entertaining pastime, but do it was a complete different story altogether, have fun!
Tips:

·best surfing spots (not that I am an expert but cause I saw lots of surfers there) are probably around Sydney’s beaches, from Bondi to Manly beach, Byron Bay and Surfer Paradise;
·you don’t have to splash much of your budget to get some qualified tips, one-hour surf’s lesson is around 60 bucks or you could hire a board for $20 for all-day-long plus a tenner for the wetsuit

Ljubljana – perfect city trip destination

Earlier this year, I decided to visit the capital of Slovenia, as it’s only a few hours down the road from where I live. Some of my friends had visited Ljubljana and came back with great stories and pictures, which sparked my interest. Its name deriving from the word “Ljuba” (love), or “Ljubjia” (the original name of the river Ljubjanica, flowing through the city), it is one of the smallest capitals of Europe. This is a big plus, as everything you want to see or do is within a reasonable distance, which makes it a great destination for a trip.

If you’re thinking of visiting Ljubljana, you can of course get the guidebook, and tick off all the boxes and “things-you-need-to-see”. What I did, and what I highly recommend, was to just walk around..stroll around the city center and when you see something interesting: go. Do it. Go have a look. Here’s a few things I came across which I really enjoyed.

1)      The Castle. Sure, it’s probably the most famous, most visited touristic attraction of Ljubljana, but it’s for a reason. The recent renovations are amazing, blending the old castle with fantastic modern architecture and building techniques. This alone is worth the visit. If you go, make sure you take the footpath up, it’s only a small walk but much more enjoyable than the funicular ride up. (And cheaper too!)  (www.ljubljanskigrad.si/home)

The funicular up to the castle
The funicular up to the castle

2)      The bridges. Again, probably the most iconic image from the city is the Tromostovje (Triple Bridge) bridge. This bridge, together with the other bridges that cross the Ljubljanica river gives the city its character. (46.051269,14.506116)

One of the beautiful bridge ornaments.
One of the beautiful bridge ornaments.

3)      Metelkova. Now THIS is a cool place to see. It used to be an army barracks, then it was a place for squatters, but recently it has turned into the alternative place in Ljubljana. Amazing graffiti art everywhere, bars and clubs with local (and not-so-local) live music, it is clearly the heart of youth alternative culture in Ljubljana. (www.metelkovamesto.org)

4)      Market square. If you’re lucky, there will be a farmer’s market in the square. Beautiful veggies and fruit, for great prices. Make sure you check out the scales in the corner of the square, you can check the weight of the products you just bought if you’re not entirely sure! (46.051094,14.508766)

Market
Market
The scales
The scales

One of my favourite things when visiting a new place is finding nice places to eat. The difficult thing in Ljubljana is not finding a nice place to eat; it’s choosing a nice place to eat! The old center is full of nice bars, eateries and restaurants. Here’s a list of the places I visited, make sure you try at least one of them (as I can be picky when it comes to food!)

1)      Čajna Hisa. This was a really cool surprise! I was walking around the old center, looking for a place for a sandwich (for some reason I was craving a sandwich), and I randomly walked into this tea house (the exact translation of Cajna Hisa). It had just a few options for food on the menu, but the quality was great. The options for tea however..immense! Must see if you’re a tea lover. There’s also a gift shop next to the restaurant, make sure you have a look. (http://www.cha.si/)

2)      Burek. If you’re waking up after a big night out (or on your way back to the hotel that night), this is the food you want to have. Greasy, tasty, and surely a calorie-bomb…but god it’s good! I tried Olympia, and it was awesome. (€2 only) (46.057544,14.506888)

Burek_trokut_3

3)      Katakombe Konoba. Cool bar, try the home-made beer, delicious. (46.04734,14.506341)

4)      Güjzina. Fantastic food from the Pannonia region (further East). Try the desserts, unreal… (www.prekmurska-gostilna.si/Güjžina)

5)      As. This is the trendy place, with food that lives up to the reputation. Bit more expensive than other places, but it’s always full of people and it’s a good start for a great night out. (DJ sets later in the evening etc). (www.gostilnaas.si/)

 

Of course, as with the “places to see”, the best way to discover what Ljubljana has to offer is to wander the city center; its size is perfect for it. Almost no traffic, everything within walking distance, and everyone speaks fluent English; this makes it a very easy and enjoyable city to explore.

If you’re visiting Slovenia for more than a weekend, it might be worth venturing out to some cool places nearby. The obvious choice would be Bled, a place so picturesque it almost looks like it’s a Hollywood movie set! At only 45 mins from Ljubljana, this is the perfect choice for an excursion outside the capital. Make sure you try the “Kremsnita” the local dessert.. So. Good.

Beautiful Bled
Beautiful Bled
The famous Bled kremsnita!

Another option (a little further away, a good 1 hr 20min from the capital) is Piran. A small medieval village located by the sea, with a clear mix of Venetian, Austrian and Slovenian history. Great place to walk around and catch some fresh sea air. Make sure you make the climb up the city walls, great views! Another nice option: go watch the Piran salt fields, here they make salt in the artiginal way..you can taste the difference!

View from the Piran city walls
View from the Piran city walls

 

 

All in all, Ljubljana has a lot to offer, probably more than you would think at a first glance. The city has been experiencing a steady rise in tourism, and for good reason! If you’re looking for a destination for your next weekend away, Ljubljana is an option you should definitely consider!

 

Some pretty cool grafitti
Some pretty cool grafitti
Library
Library

Top 10 Things To Do in Scotland

Scotland during the Christmas period is an enchanting, atmospheric and mysterious place celebrating its rich history and modern day cultural and political significance. 2014 marks a landmark year for the country when it hosts the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, as well as holding a ground-breaking and long-awaited referendum on national independence. In fact, there’s so much going on that Scotland was recently voted the third best country in the world to visit next year.

In the run up to that landmark year, here is ‘a’ – not ‘the’ – list of Top Ten of things to do in Scotland over this Festive Period. We realize there is no pleasing everyone all of the time so if you have any ideas or suggestions please reply to (comments box). So wrap up warm and open your mind and enjoy the sights and sounds of this wonderful country.

 

10) Watch a (kind of) Football Match 

Here's our top 10 Scotland Attractions

It’s a game with no rules, no strategy in which the whole town takes part and were broken bones are common – the Kirkwall Ba’ is mass-participation madness which makes Pamplona’s running of the bulls look like a walk in the park. A huge football-cum-rugby game played along the town’s main street between two teams (probably better described as factions), the ‘Uppies’ and the ‘Doonies’, the Kirkwall Ba’s winner is whoever succeeds in carrying a 3lbs ball to either end of the town. The Ba’ has been played for centuries in Orkney and, though visitors cannot participate, it is fantastic to watch. If the rough and tumble is not for you then don’t worry Orkney has plenty of other great things to see. Why not visit the excellently preserved prehistoric village at Skara Brae or the Italian Chapel, a Catholic place of worship built by Italian prisoners of war during World War II.

 

9) Visit a Lego City

Paisley Museum
Credit-Paisley-Museum

Small things are beautiful, which is definitely the case for artist Warren Elsmore’s Brick City, a great exhibition of the world’s most iconic buildings in miniature and all constructed from LEGO, which is on at the Paisley Museum (just outside Glasgow) from 8 November to 16 February. Some of the buildings on show include the London 2012 Olympic Park, the Las Vegas strip, Rome’s Colosseum, Edinburgh Castle and London’s St Pancras Station (measuring 5ft tall and 12ft wide and comprising 180,000 LEGO pieces!) The exhibition also sees a LEGO treasure hunt dotted around the town as well as the opportunity to contribute to a LEGO public art project.

 

8) See Sunrise in Shetland

It may be remote and largely uninhabited but the north easterly Shetland Islands are a fantastic place to watch the sunrise. With a unique and striking landscape and isolated beaches Shetland is a haven for early birds looking for that something special as the sun begins its ascent, so much so that the Lonely Planet recently voted it the seventh best place in the world to do so, behind the likes of Mount Fuji in Japan and Bali’s Mount Batur. There is plenty to do in this fascinating archipelago with a rich history dating back 6,000 years, which is actually nearer to Norway than the Scottish mainland. But, whatever you do be sure to wrap up warm and dry!

 

7) Go Castle ‘Hopping’

Credit - VisitScotland
Credit – VisitScotland

Scotland is simply bursting at the seams with castles: from the Lowlands and the Highlands to the east and west coasts, there are some amazing examples dating back to periods in the country’s often violent and turbulent history. The must-sees for short-stay visitors are Edinburgh, Stirling, Culzean, Dunvegan, Glamis and the iconic Eilean Donan, situated just before the Isle of Skye, which has been around since the 6th century and has played host to famous tenants, from Viking warlords and Jacobite rebels. If you don’t fancy climbing the ramparts then why not try Abbey hopping instead. Equally rich and symbolic of Scotland’s religious heritage, some of the best examples are Jedburgh, Kelso and Melrose.

 

6) Take a literary tour 

Edinburgh was the first city in the world to be given the title of UNESCO City of Literature and today it continues to celebrate its contribution to international literature. From Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson to Ian Rankin and JK Rowling, Edinburgh has spawned literary giants past and present. The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour is a stand-out example of a literary tour which, on various dates throughout November and December, takes you on a beer-fuelled tour of the old and new town areas in search of the favorite haunts of writers. Also worth a look are Rebus Tours and the Edinburgh Book Lovers’ Tour.

 

5) Go to a Pantomime

Peter Pan - Credit Festival City Theatres Trust
Credit Festival City Theatres Trust

Any visit to Scotland during the Christmas period would not be the same without going to see a Pantomime. A strangely entertaining form of theatre that is an offshoot of the Italian 16th-century tradition of commedia dell’arte, ‘Panto’ has morphed into a peculiarly British-type of festive period theatre where men dress as women and vice versa while recounting classic fairytale stories. Audience participation is a big thing in Panto (oh no it isn’t, oh yes it is) so make sure you sit in the right place for you. Be prepared for lots of double entendre, sexual innuendo, slapstick humour, singing, dancing and mime. Some of the best examples this year are Aladdin Jack and the Beanstock and Peter Panto and the Incredible Stinkerbell (Glasgow) and Peter Pan (Edinburgh).

 

4) See an exhibition

Creative Scotland Exhibition - Credit National Museum Scotland
Credit National Museum Scotland

A major exhibition looking at, and reconstructing artifacts from, the Early Medieval period (around AD 300 – 900) in Scotland; a critical juncture in the country’s history, coming as it does just after the Romans and before the Viking invasions. The exhibition, from 25 October to 23 February 2014, digitally and physically reconstructs period artifacts in order to give the modern viewer a new perspective on the quality craftsmanship and way of life in this important era of the Picts and Gaels tribes’ people and at the dawn of Christianity. The Creative Spirit exhibition presents the latest findings of the Glenmorangie Research Project, a partnership between the Glenmorangie Company and the National Museums of Scotland (NMS).

 

3) Go dancing

Credit Baby Loves Disco
Credit Baby Loves Disco

If you thought festive clubbing was solely the preserve of adults, then think again – Baby Loves Disco  encourages babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers AND their parents to throw some shapes on the dance floor. With real DJs spinning retro and contemporary kid-friendly pop tunes in venues across Glasgow and Edinburgh and plenty of other attractions such as a chill-out room, themed crafts, face-painting, games, healthy snacks and more, these parties are a must. Baby Loves Disco caters to two age groups: 0-5s and 4-11s, so make sure you choose the right one. If you don’t have children and don’t mind staying up past 9pm bed time, then why not check out a ‘real’ disco experience at Glasgow’s Sub Club, one of the longest-running and most respected underground (also in the literal sense) club venues in Europe.

 

2) Come ‘Home’

Credit Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Credit Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

In 2014, the country will celebrate “Homecoming Scotland”, an annual programme of festivals, events and activities that showcase the country’s many cultural, political and historical attractions. But you can get in on the early action on 1 January with the infamous Loony Dook in South Queensferry. This year kicking off the Homecoming Scotland celebration, the ‘Loony’ (crazy) ‘Dook’ (Scots slang for dip) is indeed an apt name as the event involves a mass participation swim in the freezing waters (participants are often naked!) of the River Forth and under the shadow of the famous Forth Road Rail Bridge. All money raised goes to charity.

 

1) Experience ‘Edinburgh’s Christmas’

PRINCES STREET AT CHRISTMAS credit-VisitScotland.
credit-VisitScotland

Thanks to its scale, scope and diversity by far the best place to be for the festive period is eastwards in Edinburgh. Edinburgh’s Christmas, from 22 November to 5 January, brings together a huge festive outdoor market at the bottom of the Mound on Princess Street, where you can buy anything from mulled wine to handmade crafts. Set against the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle you will find a fairground with Santa’s Grotto and plenty of attractions such as the Star Flyer, an ice rink, children’s and adult’s theatre, concerts and a Spiegeltent with all sorts of evening entertainment from burlesque to comedy to music. Basically, Edinburgh’s city centre transforms itself into a one-stop, non-stop, easily accessible Christmas party that has something for everyone. Definitely not to be missed!

 

 

Lady Musgrave: How much would you pay for a slice of paradise?

Australia is a significant destination for backpackers seeking a unique experience to remote untouched part, but at what price?

Next on our presumed itinerary was the tropical island of Lady Musgrave, part of the southern Great Barrier Reef and about 100km from Bundaberg’s coast. We were excited to see it listed among the QPWS camping’s spots so we thought about taking the plunge to this pristine tropical paradise for some unforgettable nights under the stars.

We reached The Town of 1770, the launching pad to this coral cay, which is nothing more than a marine and a camping ground, so laidback and apparently so off the beaten track. However we soon realized, to our disappointment, this village knows very well how to deal with tourists and how to assert their natural treasures. In fact the only way to access Lady Musgrave is by taking part of a snorkeling day tour, which it would be ok, except if you are planning to camp on the island in which case you will have to take it twice, yep! How much would it be the damage? $160 each per way = $640 for the two of us, ouch.

For the first time along our RTW trip I found myself not able to shop around or bargain the cost of the transfer as, I was afraid, this service is run by only one boat’s operator, MV Spirit of 1770, which hold the monopoly. I tried to understand why it was so high-priced to convince Chris, but first myself, if worth it. I figured it out that it might not be the closet point to go deep into the Great Barrier Reef, therefore probably it might also be such an intact landscape with stunning underwater reef and, in order to keep it that way, they have to give the place some exclusivity (if it would be cheaper it would be likely hit by the heaps of tourists). But what really irritated me was the fact there is no such a thing as an island camping transfer available at a better deal. It’s just a matter of principle, why should I want to take the same tour twice? I also brought the subject to the boat company as I explained we were not interested at all in taking part of the tour but simple on the transfer itself, to be dropped on the island, but they clearly made their point and preferred to lose two clients. I found ironical the situation. Is it camping not supposed to be a way to get closer to Mother Earth and, at the same time, be a more economical holiday away from the comforts? On the other side the camping permit itself is indeed cheap (at $4.75 per night available from Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service and remember you must be totally self efficient) but it’s the transfer that really make the difference. Yet a visit to Lady Musgrave seemed to me just a lot of cash to blow all in once considering also we will have more opportunities to see the Great Barrier Reef in more accessible places such as the Whitsundays and Cairns.

What’s your say? How much would you willing to stump up to play castaway on an uninhabited tiny coral atoll fringed by white sand and crystalline water with untouched coral reefs?

The backpacker’s secrets for travelling Australia on a shoestring

Is there such a thing as travelling for free around Australia? As full time travellers we soon start to learn some tricks of the trade on how to travel Australia on a shoestring and in some cases even for free, some shared by fellow backpackers others learn on our own experience. So how do we travel with less than $40 each a day?

You might think of hitch-hiking, well it might be indeed a technique for make your way around Australia for free but that’s not our case. Get your own way of transport, that’s right, buy a car. Anything from a station wagon, small bus, utility van or hippie camper. We are convinced that in the long term it’s the cheapest option to travel, no wonder it’s widely used by many travellers. If you play your cards wisely and know what you get, we have the evidences that you could even make some profit out of it which means you will travel all the time for free.

LPG. If you get your own wheels try to get one on LPG; it’s the cheapest fuel to travel around. It is something around 44 cent per litre in some area around Melbourne going up to 84 cent per litre in the north of Queensland, the more further to remote area you go, the pricey it will get.

Relocation. If you are only travelling for a short time it might not worth it the risk of buying a car and, if your destinations are flexible and you keep your ears open, you might get a campervan as little as $1 per day. In fact some rental companies will let you drive their van almost for free to bring it from point A to B. Of course there is a time limit, normally it has to be done on a short timescale, but if they are not in hurry they will let you used it for few extra days. Check it out Apollo Relocations.

If you opt to get one of the above options of transport then you could also sleep for free. Having a mobile bed means you could get advantage of the many free rest areas along Australia East Coast, if you are lucky even ocean front. Sometimes you will need to pay a small fee for some extra comforts such a shower or if you travel with good spirit and are flexible and adaptable, well….

In most cases there is no reservation but the only problem is those spots full up very quickly early in the morning, especially the most known by the campervans’ crowd that year after year come back in the same place.

Bush camping and camping at remote locations is also free; even some hotels or restaurants in the Outback will offer you to park overnight in their car park for free with any purchase at the bar.

Camping on the many National Parks, apart for being an amazing experience, it’s also low-cost something around $5 each per night while others, like in NSW, are free; for the most popular campgrounds you would better off to book it in advance and for the more remote you will need a 4WD to reach them.

 

We couldn’t have done our big loop without our bible, Camps Australia 4, where they are listed all camping grounds which saved us hundreds of dollars, and without taking advantage of all camping among NSW State Forest, Parks Victoria, Queensland National Parks . Camps4 can be pricey for a backpacker (I think it is something around $50-70, we were blessed it came with our van) but I can bet it would be the best thing you ever bought, it’s just priceless.

Food. We know we all have to eat as we would at home but, there is no secrets, the more we cook ourselves, using also the free bbq in many beach and pick nick areas, and the less take away we buy or eating at restaurants the more we save. As I said in many occasions if you fancy casting your own line you could end up also eating for free.

If you have to catch a plane try Tiger Airways, it’s not free but you could fly Melbourne – Sydney for only $32, that’s a bargain.

Don’t waste your money on enclosed wildlife’s encounters. You will have many opportunities to come face to face with Australian wildlife even if you don’t visit a zoo or a farm, from crocs to whales-watching, dolphins and kangaroos, if you are patient and go a bit “closer to the wild” you could spot these animals in their own environment.

If you fancy to earn some cash while travelling and having fun there are plenty of chances to work your way around Australia from fruit-picking, teaching, working in bar and hostels

Stays connect for free. Although I am not a great fun of MacDonald, even if I would not eat there by being cheeky I enjoyed many hours of web-surfing on the house; you could take advantage of free wifi at many libraries too.

Australia has many natural attractions that can be simple enjoyed for free while for others touristy attractions I always watch out for those great discount’s vouchers on the many free magazines distributed in hostels, train stations and travel agents. Even if I don’t have a voucher my motto is always “shop around”.

Happy travel!

Colourful Rainbow Beach

Instead of the safari tour on Fraser Island we opted for a refreshing stay away from the backpackers’ crowd in the pristine natural setting of the Inskip Peninsula at the far end of gorgeous Rainbow beach.
It has been weeks and weeks that we didn’t hang around for long in one place, only a couple of nights at max and then off on the road again, and maybe a bit weary we found ourselves for the first time slowing down for a whole week in Rainbow Beach. We might have been dazzled by the splendour of its multicoloured sand cliff, charmed by the little beach village and the long golden beach or simple because Rainbow Beach doesn’t pretend to be a swanky destination, it’s just so perfectly laidback for us.


We got also the privilege to sleep every night oceanfront with only $4.85 each pn, what a bargain! We just parked our van, pulled out our camping chairs, table and it was the best hotel ever. However, first we had to work hard to get there digging ourselves out of a sandy track we tripped while searching our own perfect spot but, with a bit of engineering of my personal boy scout that promptly started the operation “back on track”, with a bit of sweat, lot of swears, a pinch of luck and half an hour of attempts we were out looking for a safer equal pretty spot. All set!
The days just flew taking long walk along the endless stretch of beach, surf casting for our dinners (though the only luck we had was at the fish ‘n chips shop in town), lazing on the sun, dolphin-watching at the nearby Tin Can Bay, staring at the sunset and the stunning view at Carlo Sandblow and exploring the Cooloola National Park but this time on foot since our previous episode.


Tips:
  • you can see the resident dolphins at Tin Can Bay Marina but only at breakfast at 8 sharp;
  • get your camping permit before you set tent at the QPWS office in town;
  • if you intend to go deep into the Cooloola NP you definitely need a 4WD; you could also traverse the entire length of Rainbow Beach but don’t go closer to the water see what happens ….

 

NSW North Coast Roadtrip, through our trip top-to-bottom of Australia East Coast

Having ignored the bit between Sydney and Byron Bay? That’s exactly what we were going to do like many other backpackers, mistakenly bypassing this part of the Central Coast of NSW and head straight to Byron, but thanks to some locals who tipped us off about some coastal hideaways we didn’t miss out some magnificent drives.

At first though, we had to struggle going through the traffic of Sydney but likely we didn’t have to drive far away to find our first peaceful and beautiful stops, about 30km north, first in Palm Beach and then in the lush Lane Cove River National Park. Soon after, we followed the Pacific Highway but couldn’t resist the call of the brown-tourist signs on the side of the road so, now and then, we found ourselves taking a right-hand turn in search of a secluded beach. We spared ourselves a bar-hopping night in Newcastle but not before having spent an afternoon strolling along its pretty waterfront and once again we were off searching our next detours.

Sugarloaf-Bay,Seal-Rocks

The Lakes Way was another pretty drive which weaves from Myall Lakes to Seal Rock. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our favour and, after stared at the tremendous power of the rough ocean, we carried on till we reached the Booti Booti National Park to settle our tent on the pristine Camp Elim campground. The place was literally all to ourselves and with some clear days in front of us we just unwind for days, kayaking through the shallow, peaceful, emerald water of Wallis lake, which silence was only break by the noises of the huge pelicans’ colony on a small floating island in the middle of it, and gazing at the powerful waves breaking just offshore at the untouched Seven Mile beach. At the entrance of the lake, the two twin towns, Forster and Tuncurry facing each other off, were our stop for refuelling our bellies on some great fish&chips.
Not long after we left this pretty place, we found another detour to Crowdy Bay NP. A never-ending unsealed rough road took us where kangaroos roam free in abundance and gum trees blend with the lush forest. Time to move on and soon we reached Port Macquarie from where the highway starts running closer to the ocean and there are plenty more chances to stop along the many seaside resorts, all very similar to each other offering the same holiday-maker experiences and Nambucca Heads was among ours.
It wasn’t long we needed to break up from these holiday-destinations’ atmosphere and for a glimpse of alternatives lifestyle we went up hill to the charming, little Bellingen, where time seems to run very slowly, but nothing prepared us to the mellow unusual charm of our next destination: Byron Bay. Awesome beaches, great weather, cheerful locals, great chill-out atmosphere and although it is a small town it offers all the glitz to surfers, backpackers and artist minded people.

The 7km stretch of sand of Tallow Beach, Byron Bay

Nearby Nimbin is supposedly where all the real hippies had moved since the Aquarius Festival in 1973 but to welcome us was, not the expected very friendly approach, instead the hassle of the pot dealers along the short main street (by the way are they not supposed to “share the love”? ) My vision of the hippie-happy town soon vanished, though my eyes seems amazed to see passing by some “real” hippies, maybe too old to care anymore about sharing a smile with one of the too many tourists.

So far we seen it all, wildlife, tourist-trapped villages, untouched national parks, weirdoes but we still missed something, oh yes the warm tropical weather and the boarder to Queensland was now few miles away.