Months of planning, saving, stops/starts & we had finally made it. The “land down under”, “Oz”, the home of Crocodile Dundee. Our 7th continent! We’d done it. We’d managed to set foot on all seven continents on this one trip. Months prior, during our trip down south to Antarctica, there had been a special meeting for all those who were able to cross this milestone off their list with that continental landing. Apparently, doing them “out of order” we couldn’t join in the photo ☹. Whatever, we never really do things in “order” anyways.
I didn’t actually say these things to locals, I’m not that clueless; I just tortured Ben for our entire road trip.
If you haven’t looked at a map in a while, Australia is ginormous! It is the size of the continental US, & we didn’t have enough time to do it justice. You could spend months or years there & still not enjoy it all, but we were going to make the most of it!
Our Australian journey began with a 26-hour travel leg that included 1 ferry, 2 bus transfers, & 3 flights via Singapore. Apparently, even being “in the neighborhood”, this place is still hard to get too. It didn’t help we were on some remote Thai island.
Stepping off the plane in Melbourne, our impression of Australia was that it felt like the U.S…. minus a few key differences, like driving on the left side of the road & the guy at the coffee bar in the Aussie Bush Hat (or maybe that does happen in parts of the states, just not so much in D.C.).
On our first glimpse of the city, it reminded us a lot of Chicago; incredibly diverse city, uniquely designed high-rises grace the skyline & its many different neighborhoods blend a posh uptown vibe with the downtown hipster crowd. We loved it immediately.
Thanks to a shared language & many other cultural norms, it felt like we were walking through the streets back in the U.S. Midway through our first day we joked it felt like we were apartment shopping or maybe we needed to look for jobs; it no longer felt like a long vacation. One major difference, after spending so much time looking at ancient temples or European sites, this place was far “newer” than anywhere else. Melbourne boasts the “oldest building” in Australia in the Fitzroy Gardens, Cooks Cottage (yes the famous Cook) built in 1755. Finally, some years we could relate too!
Frankly, our hardest adjustment to Australia was being able to understand what was going on around us. I creepily caught myself staring at times, realizing I could understand all the conversations or what people were doing around me. I felt as if I should apologize to our bar tenders at the amazing Heartbreakers bar. We were over the moon with proper craft beers in U.S. sized pints (yippee!), deep dish pizzas & the blaring 1980’s & 90’s rock music. It was fantastic.
Great Ocean Road
While we easily could have just moved in & hung out in Melbourne for the rest of forever, technically we were just picking up a rental car. Since we didn’t have a ton of time (about 8 days) we planned on driving part of the B100 (Great Ocean Road) with some side trips & detours right into Sydney.
Hopping into our “own” car after months on buses, trains etc. felt very weird, not accounting for the fact we’re on the “wrong” side of the road. After a loop or two around the block, we finally figured out the right direction. “How long do you think before the old D.C. road rage sets back in?” Ben casually asked. Spoiler alert, it didn’t take long. Not 10 seconds later the light turns green & the car in front of us doesn’t budge. “MOVE” we snapped in loving unison.
Driving chaos aside, we were on our way! I’ll be honest, driving out to the coast felt exactly like driving out of DC on 66; minus the insane traffic, but plus an odd amount of snorkels on the SUVs. I get you live in the outback mate, but honestly how often are you really using those things??
Loch Ard Gorge
Without his tip, we never would have stopped at the uncrowded & in our opinion far more beautiful formations. Pictures cannot do them justice, which I suspect is why they aren’t as well known as the others. You’ll have to take our word for it that these are worth the stop!
The 12 Apostles, arguably one of the most recognizable Australian sites, are as magnificent as people describe. We arrived in late afternoon, making it our final stop of the day & as we expected, it was our most crowded site. Buses of day-trippers from Melbourne & other long-term road trippers like us, people were everywhere.
The stone giants, standing guard as if to protect the shore from whatever may come, are not only beautiful but a reminder that nothing is permanent. As they continue to slowly disappear, reclaimed by the sea, the demand to see them will only continue to grow.
So far, our time in Australia had been a success. It had been a true blend of artistic city vibes & powerful natural surroundings. The sheer raw beauty & power of the southern coastline gave a preview for what we’d continue to experience all along our route. We were off on our grand adventure, winding our way along the countryside & in constant search for that perfect vegemite sandwich.