An Adventure 'Down Under'!
It’s been long overdue if truth be told, but finally the Global Gemz team were able to make the long trip ‘down under’ and have the opportunity to discover some of the incredible ‘Gemz’ that Australia has to offer. Our base for half of the 3 week trip was in Sydney, whilst the remainder of the time was split between Byron Bay and Melbourne. Landing in Sydney, stepping outside the airport in 30c sunshine, and seeing a 20ft Christmas tree in front of you is quite a strange, but yet extremely satisfying feeling when you've been born and raised in the UK. This year would be a different kind of Christmas, and one that we were very much looking forward to!
Even after just a few days in Sydney it was certainly easy to see why so many Brits make the decision to pack up shop and build a life for themselves over this side of the world. The summers are full of heat and sunshine as summers should be, and even in the winter it’s not what those from the northern hemisphere would consider to be cold in the slightest. The quality of life for most appears very high, where after work hours can be spent eating out (where may we add the food is generally top notch from our experience) and having a nice glass of wine whilst enjoying the warm summer evenings. Weekends can be spent relaxing at one of Sydney’s many fine beaches and there are adventures a plenty to be had in and around the region of New South Wales for weekends away. Sydney can quickly leave you thinking...why haven't I made the same decision to make Australia a home from home?
Checking out the obvious touristy stuff such as the Botanical Gardens, Opera House, and Harbour Bridge is a given when exploring the city, but aside from this there are a few other spots to see that we would highly recommend. Firstly any visitor to Sydney should for sure take the ferry from Circular Quay across to Manly. This gives you the opportunity to see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from another perspective, as well as pinpoint some of the other areas of Sydney during the crossing. Manly its self has a lot to offer, from incredible sunset views and a great spot for some tranquil paddle boarding at the ferry wharf, to the many beachside bars and restaurants that run parallel and adjacent to the main strip. This side of the water also has a strong surf pedigree and will host the Sydney Surf Pro competition in 2018, which will surely make for some awesome viewing even for those who wouldn’t class themselves particularly as a fan. Those that choose to live here and commute to the city for work say the ferry crossing alone as the sun rises or sets is enough of a reason to justify this choice! From Manly we chose to rent a car and travel approximately an hour north to an area known as Palm Beach...sounds beautiful right? Well we can confirm that it is, and taking the small hike up to the lighthouse may leave you feeling pretty sweaty but will for sure leave you with some breathtaking views of the two beaches and palm shaped cove made by the surrounding hills.
Royal National Park is another area that we would suggest visiting whilst spending time in Sydney. It is about an hour’s drive south of the city and furthers hour’s drive through the park to get from one side to the other. Of course you will want to stop by at least one of the many spots along the route which provide the perfect location for a picnic, and where you will more than likely find yourself surrounded by lots of interesting wildlife...nothing to be fearful of though in case you were wondering! This may also be your opportunity to catch a wild kangaroo or Koala bear in the surrounding forestation with the most likely times being either at dusk or dawn. Wattamola Beach is regarded as one of the park’s most beautiful spots; however be conscious that for this reason it can become very busy at the height of a perfect summer’s day. Slightly further south of the park there are some incredible views to be witnessed such as at Otford Lookout, and be sure to take a drive over the very impressive Sea Cliff Bridge between Coalcliff and Clifton before heading back towards the city.
Moving away from Sydney but staying in New South Wales, our first ‘mini trip’ of the trip was to a place that we’re pretty sure most people reading this would have heard about...Byron Bay. Byron bay is a backpackers paradise with an extremely relaxed vibe, fantastic beaches and a one of a kind night life. This in turn means there are many great cheap hostels to stay at, however on this occasion we decided to go with an Airbnb. This provided us with the perfect base to easily walk to the Main Beach and bars/clubs at night, and the accommodation itself was great, equipped with a nice seating area and two hammocks in the cosy back garden. Main beach at Byron Bay stretches for miles so even during busy periods you can always find a nice spot to relax and enjoy the good life, often there will be buskers or spiritual chanting taking place and that’s about as hectic as it gets. If you’re really about having maximum freedom at the beach though then it’s probably worth taking a stroll or drive (walk takes about 45 minutes) to Tallow Beach, and from there going up to Cape Byron which is Australia’s most Easterly point. This is home to Cape Byron Lighthouse and also where you can gain magnifcent views of Byron Bay whilst indulging on some very fancy ice cream!
If you love a road trip (and who doesn’t??) then whilst out in Byron Bay we recommend taking the journey 70km west to the tiny village of Nimbin which offers a different kind of experience. The best way to explain Nimbin is it appears as though time stopped in the 1960’s/70’s and extremely liberal people were more than happy for this to happen and continue living this way. It’s ultra laid back with colourful hippy style shops and small stalls lining the main street, where you can purchase many types of hand made gifts. There is quite clearly a proud cannabis culture here, evident not only from the street art on show but also the hemp shops which aim to celebrate everything that is good and green! Nimbin does not have that much to do in truth, however grabbing a coffee and chatting with the locals is sure to bring you some interesting conversation, and if you feel to take a gift or two away with you then that is certainly possible if you ask around.
The second ‘mini trip’ of our Australian adventure was to travel south to the neighbouring state of Victoria, and more specifically the city of Melbourne. Melbourne is often referred to as Australia’s most European style city as it has a more edgy/hip feel to it than the other major cities, and also a more culturally diverse mentality. We stayed in an area called St. Kilda which is approximately a 20 minute tram ride outside of the city, but more importantly has one of the best beaches Melbourne has to offer. The sea is very calm here with a variety of water sports on offer, and the palm-tree lined boardwalk has a cool vibe offering up a range of spots to enjoy some casual beach side dining. Two minutes walk from the beach is Acland Street where you can find many trendy cafe’s and restaurants ranging from vegan to Vietnamese. The city is of Melbourne is a great place to walk around without much of a plan, particularly if you enjoy street art, drinking coffee, and/or eating from small independent ‘foodie’ spots. There are a number of small laneways which are great to achieve all of the fore-mentioned, Hosier Lane being our favourite for street art and Centre place for a great variety of food experiences.
The last experience we want to tell you about, and in our opinion saving the best til last, was our road trip from Melbourne down the Great Ocean Road. Prior to coming out to Australia this is what we had looked forward to most, probably due to the hundreds of incredible images and videos we had seen over social media in the last few years...and we’re happy to report it did not disappoint. Due to our tight schedule we chose to make the drive in one day, however if you have the time to do it over the course of two or three days there are more than enough beautiful locations along the coastal route to make it worthwhile. If you are a keen photographer you’ll have to be a bit strict with yourself, otherwise you may be asking the driver to pull over every 5 minutes so you can capture that new angle that has opened up as you drive around the next bend! Save yourself for the signposted stops and lookout points because as you’d expect these tend to offer the best views and photo opportunities. Some of our favourites included Aireys Inlet, Apollo Bay, Loch Ard Gorge and of course the coastlines most prized gem, The Twelve Apostles, where we finished our journey. It has to be said that the route continues on to Warrnambool, which between the months of June and October is certainly worth the extra mileage as it is a great location for whale watching amongst other things.
Australia is of course a vast country and we doubt three years would be enough to see everything it has to offer, let alone 3 weeks! This means we need your help to unearth more of its ‘Gemz’ so please don't hesitate to comment below on your favourite spots ‘down under’ and we’d love to hear about your experiences in a full blog post if you have a desire to write a piece for Global Gemz? Be sure to check out our Australia story take-over on the Global Gemz Instagram page for more highlights.
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Global Gemz Co-Founder & CEO