A blog about travel, books and navigating your twenties in one piece

Friday, 1 May 2020

Australia 2019 Travel Diary // Brisbane & Byron Bay

If you've been reading here for a while you'll remember my New Zealand travel diaries from last year, which covered the three months I spent there. After NZ, Liam and I headed to Australia and then SE Asia for another three months and I never wrote up those travel diaries as we were on the move so much more and I didn't want to write them on my phone. So this is a year late but I've dug out my travel journal (first time I've looked at it in months) and I'm finally going to start finishing those and I thought I'd start today with Australia.

We spent about a week in Australia which of course is nowhere near enough time to see much of it but to be honest it wasn't high on either of our travel lists so we just stopped since it was on the way to Bali from Christchurch and thought we might as well have a few days there. For that reason, we only saw Brisbane and Byron Bay but had an amazing week with some special guests!

BRISBANE :: We had a flight super early from Christchurch to Brisbane so arrived exhausted and then had to work out the train system to get to our hostel. I remember this day very clearly being a shock to the system for me for multiple reasons. For one, this was the first day I properly had to carry my travelling rucksack around, as before we'd always been in the campervan so just stored it in there. I remember my rucksack being significantly heavier than Liam's (I tried to pack light and thought I'd done well but wow I carried far too much) and hauling it around in 35 degree heat was not the one, here or throughout Asia. It definitely got easier though as my poor shoulders acclimatised to the weight over time. The second shock to the system for my princess self was sleeping in a hostel for the first time. I know I sound like a complete baby (and I am) but I really hated that week we spent in hostels in Australia, it wasn't so bad once we got to Byron Bay and stayed in a much nicer one but the one in Brisbane wasn't the nicest and having 8 people on bunk beds in one room was not my ideal. I just hated the lack of privacy but if you're not campervanning around NZ or Australia, hostels are definitely the only way to do it if you're on a budget like we were. Shockingly, I did make it through the week and the hostel experience, and was then very grateful that everything was so much cheaper in Asia so we could afford private rooms.

But onto Brisbane itself. We only had one full day there which actually I think was enough. It was really nice but nothing amazing in my opinion. We started our day of exploring in the Southbank area and went to the Gallery of Modern Art which had a really cool exhibition on at the time which was fun to look around. (Also it had air con so that automatically made it a winner.) After getting our culture fill we crossed the Victoria Bridge, had a look around the farmer's market and headed to City Hall, which is a beautiful building with an incredible clock tower. When we got there all the tours for the next couple of hours were full so we booked onto one later that afternoon and headed to catch the City Hopper Boat.

An amazing service Brisbane offers is completely free boat rides on the City Hopper, which is a really great way to get around. We hopped off at Kangaroo Point and tried to get to a lookout past Story Bridge but sadly the bridge was closed for maintenance so we headed back on the City Hopper to get back to City Hall. Even if you don't have anywhere in mind to go, the City Hopper is definitely worth a trip on as it's such a lovely way to see Brisbane and I'm still not over the fact that it runs for free! The tour of the clock tower at City Hall was really cool and had an incredible view so is a nice activity to do too. By this point in the day we were pretty exhausted from lots of walking around and the heat so we decided to go to a rooftop bar for a drink. We went to Sixteen Antlers which was super nice and then walked around the city some more. So that was our Brisbane in a day experience. Like I said, it was nice but nothing that particularly stood out about it.

BYRON BAY :: The next morning we caught a bus to Byron Bay and had the best few days there. We stayed in a YHA hostel in a room for four people which was a lot nicer and the best part of these few days (aside from Byron itself which is a complete dream) was we spent them with some friends. It just happened to work out that two of Liam's friends, Izzy and Maddy, and my friend Chania and her boyfriend Nat were all in Byron Bay at the same time as us. Liam and I had kept missing Chania and Nat in New Zealand so it was so nice that it worked out that we were in Byron at the same time as them. (As a sidenote Chania is an amazing writer and wrote about her travels and our week together so you should definitely check that out here.) When you're only travelling with one person it's inevitable at points that you get sick of each other so even though I think overall Liam and I got on super well during travelling, I know the chance to socialise with other people was very welcome for us both!

One of the first things we did when we got to Byron Bay was to obviously head to the beach. Liam and Nat (and later Izzy and Maddy too) spent the afternoon surfing and myself (having tried and failed to have any ability to surf many years before) and Chania spent about three hours chatting and chatting and chatting. It was absolutely bliss and lifted my mood so much. The next morning all six of us did the famous walk from the town to the lighthouse which was lovely and then went to the most amazing beach, Wategos. The sea water was so clear and the sand so fine, it's just a perfect beach if there ever was one. We were all having such a good time together that we decided to extend our time in Byron Bay which meant Liam and I didn't head to the Gold Coast as we were planning to but that was definitely the right decision for us. The rest of our Byron Bay activities included a day trip to Nimbin, an infamous hippy town which was definitely an experience, Chania and I spending two and a half hours in an amazing jewellery shop where you can have your own jewellery made (yes I am a travelling cliche and still have my Byron Bay shell anklet on and my aquamarine necklace from that shop), ordering the most basic acai bowl at Combi cafe, and a St Patrick's Day gig by singer Lisa Hunt who proceeded to get multiple men on the stage and to persuade them to strip. Definitely a slightly surreal evening but so much fun was had that night.

Again, the most stereoptypical review is about to ensue but Byron Bay has such an amazing, chilled out vibe and is such a lovely little town. I can totally see why Chris Hemsworth has set himself up there. I would visit Wategos Beach there every day if I could and miss it more than ever now that it's torrentially raining outside in London and we're in lockdown. Those few days in Australia were super fun and and I'm so unbelievably glad the six of us were all there to enjoy Byron Bay together. From Byron, Liam and I caught the bus back to Brisbane, slept in the airport and had a ridiculously early flight to Bali which was a completely different experience and where I'll pick up next time I write a travel diary.

I hope you enjoyed this post and that it maybe gave you some travel inspiration for once this is all over! It's been so fun to relive it this morning and remember that there was life before this horrible pandemic and that there will be life after too!

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