Before my trip to Australia, the only things I knew about the country were koalas, crocs, Steve Erwin and the Outback. Australia is literally on the other side of the world from New York. I’m so grateful that I got to experience the majestic land that is Australia because it’s this wild land where you can roam and feel free. I went to visit my friends Brooke and Evan who I know from New York. They decided to live there for a bit after Trump got elected – yes, it’s true. We spent a tumultuous election night together! My visit was for one month, 2 weeks traveling down the East Coast via campervan courtesy of Jucy World. It was my first time doing a road trip where I slept in a van – yes, I slept in a van down by the river. Anyone get that SNL/Chris Farley reference?
Australia is the size of the United States with only 24 million people versus our 325 million. Our road trip started in Cairns (pronounced CANS) and my final destination was Sydney which in miles is the equivalent to driving from New York to Florida. My friends told me that the best way to see Australia was by van and no joke, the #vanlife must have been started here. There is a whole subculture of people living in their vans. Some of the RV parks are fancy AF; they have pools, restaurants, and really nice bathrooms. The only thing I had to get used to was driving on the right side of the car on the left side of the road – NBD.
I flew from New York to Sydney (with a layover in LAX) and spent some time in Manly Beach adjusting to the time zone. The best way I can describe Manly Beach is that it’s the suburbs of the City. Except this suburb happens to be an awesome beach. I flew to Cairns, which is located in the Northeast of Australia but the temperature is more like Miami – It’s opposite world! While I waited for my friends in Cairns (they had to drive up with their van), I went to Kuranda Village. You take the old school train up to the rainforest where you can hug a koala bear, meet the indigenous tribe and walk around the rainforest. I opted to take the skyrail down.
Cairns is where most people stay when they want to go to Great Barrier Reef. We did a 3 day/2 night liveaboard diving trip to check out the famous reef. I’m not going to mention the company we went with because we were not happy with their operations. The one thing that really upset me was the fact that the GBR is clearly bleached and there was no mention of it and no guidance on reef safety or preservation. The GBR is the largest living thing on earth and the largest reef system. It was my dream to dive here and it saddens me to report that it is dying. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer but I want to be honest here. After the diving trip, I picked up my Jucy van in Cairns and our road trip was officially starting! Brooke and Evan had the brilliant idea of getting old school walkie-talkies to communicate between our vans.
In addition to diving the GBR, my other bucket list item was to sail the Whitsundays. We sailed the Whitsundays with Explore Whitsundays on Hammer which used to be an old racing boat. It was hands down the most incredible experience of my life. When you look on Instagram, the beach that most exemplifies the beauty of the Whitsundays is Whitehaven Beach. Our captain brought us to the island later in the afternoon because he knew the daytrippers would be leaving the beach. At one point, we were the only ones on that beach. One thing to note is that during the time of year I went, which was March, we had to wear stinger suits to go in the water because of the deadly jellyfish!
The pristine Whitehaven Beach
On the drive down South, we stopped by Horizons Kangaroo Sanctuary in Agnes Water. Gary and Denise rescue orphaned Joeys (baby kangaroos). You can park your car here for $25 AUS and wake up to joeys surrounding your car.
In Queensland, there are no waves because of the reef; hence no surfing. Once we arrived Noosa, we were finally able to go surfing except it kept raining. The rain doesn’t stop most locals though. We stayed in Noosa for four days to just relax and be in one spot for a while. I went to cafes in town and caught up on real life stuff like emails. Both of our vans were equipped with a “kitchen” so we were able to cook a lot. We each took turns being responsible for a dinner. On my nights, I made green curry with prawns and fish tacos. Yes, I made all of that from the back of a van!
The best part of roadtripping is that you can stop off at spots along the way. We decided to hike Mount Ngungun on our way to Byron Bay. It’s a quick and easy hike that takes about an hour round trip. It can be a challenge to get exercise in when you’re staying in a van so you have to make the most of it with nature.
Byron Bay is one of those magical places where the people are beautiful, the babies run around naked, and there’s an amazing energy in the air. Most people who have been to Byron Bay describe it the same way. We stayed here the longest because we were having so much fun.
The Aussies invented cute cafes and great coffee. There are endless options in Byron Bay.
Trying a vegan brownie at Combi.
I loved the decor and food at Folk Byron. Not to mention the friendly staff. This place is a must-go.
My favorite thing that we did was drink rose and watch the sunset on the beach.
We stopped off at these natural pools in Angourie which is a small seaside town.
On our last night together, we stayed at Seal Rocks. There were 8 other campervans parked there. It was Brooke and Evan’s favorite spot and I could see why. The parking lot is first come, first serve and your car is literally looking into the ocean. My friends threw a surprise birthday party for me in their van. They had a bonfire and invited everyone in the parking lot to join. Brooke and Evan made dinner and even a chocolate cake in the campfire! They were staying in Newcastle while I made the journey to Sydney solo before my flight back to New York.
While in Sydney, I had to visit the famous Bondi Beach Icebergs. It’s such an iconic pool and so stunning in person.
No trip to Sydney would be complete without seeing the Sydney Opera House.
My Australian road trip was nothing short of epic. My friends and I had such an incredible time discovering the smaller towns in between the more well-known ones. Meeting other travelers along the way and meeting Aussies was definitely the highlight of the trip. You’re never alone in a van because you end up meeting the people parked next to you.
I had my hesitations about traveling by campervan. I had so many questions for Brooke like where do you use the bathroom? How comfortable is it? All of my doubts disappeared in the first 2 days because traveling by campervan allows you to go off the road – if you want. It gives you the freedom to make your own schedule and chart your own course. We would literally plan out our days 2 days in advance which might be stressful for some people but was completely freeing to wake up and decide, what do we want to see and do today? It’s also the most budget-friendly way to see Australia because think about it, your transportation and accommodation costs are in one. Sleeping in a van for 2 weeks has reconfirmed to me once again that we don’t need much in life. All we need is good company, to leave room for spontaneity and make incredible memories.
- Download apps like Campermate to find the best campsites. You can filter by amenities, beachfront, and cost. This was a life saver especially since we didn’t really plan ahead of time.
- For my phone, I got a sim card at the airport. For one month, I paid $60 AUS which is worth it if you need to use your phone for things like Instagram and GPS.
- When I first landed in Australia, everyone warned me that everything here will kill you. I found out that it’s true. Don’t go swimming in Queensland unless it’s clearly marked that you can. Australia has the most venomous snakes and spiders in the world.