I don’t know about all of you, but I find it hard to describe to people my passion to travel, to see the world, to experience other cultures. Some people don’t understand and some people are just happy to stay in their own little bubbles which is fine. I was reading “Eat, Love, Pray” by Elizabeth Gilbert and I came across this paragraph which really sums up how I feel and I thought I would share it. I’m also curious, how do you feel about travel? I’d love to hear all of your thoughts so share away!
My time in Western Australia was up and as fun as it had been it was time to move on. My next and last stop was Melbourne. You might be thinking that it’s a bit of a jump but it was for a little family holiday.
I have never been to Melbourne before but for some reason I already loved the city. I’ve had a lot of people tell me good things about this city and they had put the idea in my head that this was my kind of place. Oh how right they were. I’m not sure when my love affair with Melbourne started…maybe it was when I first set foot on the tarmac, maybe it was the bus ride to the city while watching the gorgeous sunset but I have a feeling my love affair started long before I got here.
My first full day in Melbourne was spent with me looking like a kid in a candy shop – everything seemed new and exciting. We just wandered around the city taking in the sights with a stop at the famous Queen Victoria Markets to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables for the 10 days we were here (did I mention I love Melbourne?)
1. Aquarium of Western Australia
Head to the Aquarium of Western Australia for a fun day out (with or without kids). If you are feeling brave you can even opt to either snorkel or dive with the sharks (make sure you book in advance though as they book out fast). While you are out this way you can even head to Hillarys Boat Harbour for a spot of shopping and there are a lot of cafés and restaurants so a good stop if you are feeling peckish.
2. Swan Valley
If you are sick of the hustle and bustle of the city then head to Swan Valley, which is located about 25mins outside of Perth and is Western Australia’s oldest wine growing region. There is a fair bit to do here from art galleries to wine and chocolate tastings. You can even pick up some fresh produce and have your own picnic at one of the popular picnic spots. This is a nice relaxing day out however you choose to spend it. If you decide to go to Swan Valley on your own (not in a tour) I’d recommend stopping by the Swan Valley Visitor Centre to pick up a free map of the region to help you plan your day.
3. Kings Park Botanic Gardens
Pack yourself a picnic, a book and maybe even some wine and head to Kings Park for a relaxing day out. This is quite a large park so you can have a wander through the gardens then find your own bit of grass to have lunch and relax for a bit. You also get some amazing views of Perth here too which is just an added bonus.
4. Rottnest Island
Either come for a day trip or spend a night or two on Rottnest Island. There isn’t too much on this little island apart from beaches so if you would like some good quality beach time then this is the spot! Either hire a bicycle to ride around the island or take the bus. I’d recommend either hiring or bringing your own snorkel gear too.
5. Cottesloe Beach
Feel like you need another day of being a beach bum? Then head to Cottesloe Beach for another relaxing day. The beach is quite large so you won’t have to battle the crowds for a spot and for those that don’t like sand in their pants, well you are in luck because there is quite a large grassy area right behind the beach. There are some cafés and restaurants along the main road too for those that are picnicked out.
Okay so from my previous post you were probably wondering why I settled on staying in Busselton (especially seeing as I had to backtrack to Dunsborough). Well my dear readers I wanted to see the sunrise at the Busselton Jetty. Yes, I’m that type of person. I would like to state that it was worth it though…
Busselton kind of redeemed itself in my books by this lovely morning and it was made quite special by the fact that I FINALLY got to see my wild ray. As I was on the small jetty an Eagle Ray came up to me and kind of starting having a play. It would swim in circles then come closer towards me then head back out and kept doing that for a few minutes until finally getting bored and moving on.
Now for those that don’t know, Busselton is home to the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere and extends to almost 2kms. You can either opt to walk along the jetty or catch a little train. I opted for the train simply because I didn’t want to walk and it was included on my ticket price (I’m honest give me that). Right down the end is an underwater observatory which I would definitely recommend but only if it’s a nice sunny day otherwise I’m not sure how much you’d see. This is pretty cool because the observatory takes you down a few different levels and what you get to see is a completely natural habitat. I would maybe recommend getting on the first train and tour for the day as when I got back it was busy and the observatory was nice with only a few people.
After my little underwater adventure it was time to backtrack to Dunsborough and keep going to Eagle Bay. Of course I was met with another beautiful beach and as I didn’t have much more to do for the day I lazed around here for a bit. I headed to the Eagle Bay Brewing Company for lunch and if you ever find yourself this way check this place out! The food was good and reasonably priced and the beer and wine was also delicious!
So after a really nice day I was on a bit of a happiness high and it was time to finish my journey and head back to Perth, however my van had other ideas… It had decided that now was the time to chuck in the towel and stop working. After multiple attempts of trying to jump start the battery and fiddling with a few things I was at a loss and quite frustrated… a few phone calls later to some friends and they had no idea either. I can’t complain about being stuck at a brewery but at the same time I needed to get moving before it got dark. A few more attempts and still nothing and nobody was willing to help me. Right, I’m too far away for my friends to get me, my van had the shits and I was getting the shits so what to do? Go and have a beer… it seemed logical and it seemed to work. I came back and like magic my van decided it was finally going to work! Of course this meant that I couldn’t stop for almost 4 hours in case it decided to give up on me again.
You will be happy to know that I did make it back to Perth in one piece. You might also like to know that when I got back and explained that the light and side door stopped working, I was advised that there was a special trick (of course – I have only been living with the inconvenience for 2 days!)
I had a fantastic time though and realised you do take the small things for granted (ie: showers) but at the end of the day these misfortunes are all part of the adventure!!
My next and final stop is Melbourne!
So after another night sleeping in a beach carpark I got up early to head to the beach. Some of you may be asking why I went to Hamelin Bay. Well the main and pretty much only reason I went was because this beach is frequented by stingrays and they are actually protected here. The idea is that they come into the shallow waters when the fishermen are heading out or coming back in, as they feed on the scraps and you can get quite close to them. Sounds amazing right? Wrong. I came pretty much at a bad time… The seaweed was being washed up on shore in mass amounts so the crystal clear water you should experience wasn’t happening. It was also quite windy so the water wasn’t calm and definitely not ideal stingray viewing as you couldn’t tell if you were looking at a stingray or a hunk of seaweed and I don’t even know if they come in with rough waves. So you can imagine I was quite disappointed but at least the beach was worth a visit!!
So after that disappointment it was time to move on and head to Augusta. Now my local friends in Perth told me not to worry about Augusta but it was only 6km away and it was still early morning so no other attractions would be open yet so I figured what’s the harm? All I can say is I’m glad I went! Augusta itself is a small town but as I sat down to breakfast (my first real meal in 2 days) I did a bit of research to see what there was to see.
My first stop was the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse which is just outside of Augusta. I would recommend getting there early as it seems to get busy quickly but I paid the extra to go on a guided tour as that got me access into the lighthouse. This is still a working lighthouse which is why you can only access it on a tour and I must admit I was tossing with whether or not it’s worth it but the history you learn and the views from the top are definitely worth it!! The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is on the most Southern Westerly tip of Australia, where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet so that in itself is pretty impressive but the views are amazing too.
My next stop was Flinders Bay which you can get to either on your way to or from the lighthouse. It’s not that clearly marked but on a clear day well worth the stop! It’s a beautiful little beach with two small jetty’s and the typical white sand and crystal clear waters I have come to expect from WA.
I had to keep moving though and my next stop was at one of the many caves that are around this area. I decided on the Jewel Cave just because it was the closest to get to. Personally, I have been in a lot of caves previously and when you are travelling they all start to seem the same but I would recommend checking these caves out for those that have a general interest or have never been in one before. The Jewel cave is one of the biggest show caves in Western Australia and you have to go on a guided tour for this one.
After my cave adventures I made my way to Margaret River! For those that haven’t heard of Margaret River before, it’s ranked among the world’s most famous wine regions and produces 20% of Australia’s premium wines. Now as you may have picked up already I don’t mind a bit of wine… what is life without good wine right? My first stop was at a prestigious winery. Please imagine if you will, a beautiful winery with a mansion type building, well manicured gardens with BMW’s, Mercedes and all those expensive cars in the carpark. Now imagine me, pulling into the driveway in my classy diesel van where the petrol tank lid flaps open and with a broken side window that has an old plastic tablecloth covering it with ducktape everywhere… yep I felt massively out of place as I walked up to the building not showered for a couple of days, wearing my flip flops and a shirt that smelt reasonably clean. Hmm… but all my worries were cast aside as soon as I had my first sip of wine!! Ahh that wine was delicious and so was the wine from a few other wineries I tried!! As I was a solo traveller and only had limited time I did have to restrain myself a bit (okay a lot) but if you have the time get yourself a skipper (a designated driver) or go on one of the many winery tours that are available.
My next stop was the cheese factory and chocolate factory (because what is wine tasting without cheese and chocolate tasting too!)
Once again I was rolling myself out of another city (seems to be the trend in South Western Australia for me) and onto Dunsborough!
I made my way to Dunsborough and realised that what I really wanted to see was 30mins outside of the city. Unfortunately the sun was setting and I had to make a choice as to where I was to sleep for the night. I settled on Busselton which was a 30min drive in the direct opposite direction (Michelle logic).
Of course I arrived in Busselton trying to find a nice beach car park to pull up in and make my home for the night only to see signs everywhere stating that it was illegal to sleep overnight in vehicles and you will be fined… well hello to you too!
Now I didn’t know how strict they were with this law or how patrolled it was and I couldn’t afford a fine so off I went to search for a sleeping spot outside of this city. Just as I was kicking myself for choosing Busselton, I found a nice bush hide out and was surrounded by Australian bush and about 50 kangaroos that had come out to start playing Russian roulette with the road. Of course I would also like to mention that by this point my interior light had stopped working and so did the main side door to get into the back so it was not the best of nights (especially when you have to pee in the middle of the night and have to crawl over a bed frame to get out and pray to god that a spider, snake or kangaroo doesn’t attack you while you take a pee in the bush!).
After exploring all I could in and around Albany, I made my way to Denmark which is about 54km away. Denmark is quite a cute little place to visit with a few things to do. My first stop was Greens Pool, however the beautiful sun that was out was now covered by grey clouds and as I arrived the wind picked up and it started to rain (of course!). Even though it wasn’t the best of days it was still beautiful, so when the sun is shining I definitely recommend you stop here if you are passing through! While you are here you can also explore the Elephant Rocks which is a short stroll from Greens Pool.
By this stage it was raining, cold and windy so what was a gal to do in this case? Indulge in some cheese, chocolate and wine tasting of course! I followed some signs to a cute cheese factory to get out of the rain for a bit. To my surprise they also had wine tasting and a variety of chocolate to indulge in… the perfect little retreat to wait the rain out.
After I rolled out of the cheese factory my next stop was near Walpole to visit the Valley of the Giants… before your imagination starts running wild with the possibilities of what this valley holds, the answer is simply trees.
The Karri and Tingle Trees are unique to this area and you get to walk through these giant tree tops on a suspension bridge. This bridge is quite a weird feeling as you are walking along it it is swaying so you feel like you have jelly legs or a bit tipsy (although I could have been after all that wine tasting!). Once you have made your way through the tree top walk you can wander through the “Ancient Empire” where you can see some old tree bases and you can also see the “protector” of the forest which is an old tree that looks like a grumpy old man or a character out of Lord of the Rings.
After my little rainforest adventure it was time to head to Hamelin Bay which was my stop for the night. Time was against me by this point as I had a 3 hour drive ahead of me and the sun was due to set soon. In Australia it can get dangerous driving at night as the kangaroos tend to come out at dusk and they just love jumping across roads! So in my monster of a van I gunned it and worked out I should make it there just in time. As it happens I did make it there just in time and got to see this gorgeous sunset for my troubles too!