The Open Road in Eastern Australia

During the heat of the summer holidays last year, my partner and I took a two week long trip down the East Coast of Australia. We set out from Brisbane with just our car, a tent, two surfboards and an esky. We had vague plans of stopping to stay with friends along the way but it was a liberating feeling to start out with a ‘let’s just wing it’ attitude.

I have close family friends who own property near Bendigo in Victoria and we planned to spend a big New Year’s party with them around the pool, and in the surrounding country. Living in the city can really put a strain on the most patient of us, and we both needed a break and a chance to change routine.

The distance from Brisbane to Melbourne, for those not familiar with the size of Australia, is about a 20 hour drive, and we had plenty of sights to stop at along the way. The coast road is the most scenic for tourists and provides the beaches, national parks and taste of seaside living that most visitors crave. We stopped in Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and arrived near Newcastle on the first day to stay with friends who lived right on the beach.

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Shoal Harbour and the beaches near the city of Newcastle and further down towards the Central Coast of New South Wales are pristine, safe, and very close to hiking trails through national parks. For visitors who want to camp, there is a $5 app called Wikicamps which provides information on all of the free camp spots throughout Australia, complete with directions on how to get there and the services offered at each site. There is also an excellent book called ‘Camps: Australia Wide’ by Philip and Cathryn Fennell which gives useful information on camp grounds, some free, some not, and a lot of pictures to help readers find that perfect spot.

We took mostly inland roads on the way down and there are so many camps to stop at along the way, which is by far the cheapest and most interesting way to see Australia. Driving can be boring, but it is flexible and gives the opportunity to stop whenever and wherever you like!

Once we reached Victoria, we spent some quality time with our friends and then headed into the city of Melbourne — one of my favourites. It is renowned for its food, providing incredible dining experiences for every budget. Some other notable attractions to see and visit are the Eureka Skydeck, Queen Victoria market, Botanical Gardens, Federation Square and Flinders Street Station. Melbourne also provides a tram for visitors to the city so getting around to the main sights is free!

One of the highlights of our trip was our three days spent along the stunning coastline of South Victoria, along the famous Great Ocean Road. Bells Beach was a beautiful surf spot and the further we travelled the more astounded we were. There is so much to see along this road and you can drive as far or as little as you like and still be amazed by the sheer cliffs and rock formations. The 12 Apostles and London Bridge were incredible to see, and the Australian government has put a lot of time and money into building accessible ramps, walkways and tourist centres to educate visitors and to stop further erosion. It is best to get to the big sites very early to watch the sun come up and to beat the tourists.

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We made our way home through the country roads, stopping at the Murray River before heading to the coast, through Sydney and back up to Brisbane. It only took us three days to get home and by that time a shower and a cold beer were definitely needed. We really packed so much into two weeks and ticked a lot of things off our bucket list. However, Australia has 10,685 beaches; you could visit a new beach every day for 29 years, so we still have a long way to go!