South Australia 

South Australia

We set off from Sydney at 630pm and drove through the night stopping in Wagga Wagga for a quick bite to eat (unfortunately McDonalds was the only place open at midnight) and then again at the small outback town of Hay. We got to Hay at 3am and decided it was time to have a couple of hours kip. We had quite a big hire car, so managed to rearrange the boot into a makeshift bed settled down to a few hours sleep. Bright and early at 6am we set off again and arrived in Handorf just outside Adelaide just in time for lunch. As you can guess from the name Hahndorf has it’s origins in Germany. Founded by German settlers around 1839, it’s Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement. The town is a popular tourist spot and the streets were teeming with them this Good Friday morning. We had a wander around and drank in the German architecture before drinking in the German beer (and bratwurst).

South Australia

We then pushed on to our camp site in Brighton, it was right on the beach, a really beautiful spot but very windy when we arrived! We got the last spot on the site as it was Easter weekend, the wind made it difficult to pitch the tent but we just about managed! We walked along the beach to watch sunset at Brighton pier, we miss calculated slightly and missed sunset right at the pier but had a nice spot on the beach. As it was Good Friday we didn’t have the pick of places to eat but we had a pleasant dinner and ice cream on the walk back.

South Australia

The next morning as we had such a short time to see everything we went on a scenic drive into the Adelaide Hills area. We hoped there would be an obvious place to stop and go for a walk. The drive ended at the Gorge Wildlife Park. We decided not to go in as we’ve been to quite a few wildlife parks and we were keen to go into Adelaide city. The train station was a short walk from the camp site which was perfect and we headed into the centre. We walked along the river to the botanic gardens. We perused the different gardens and spent some time at the beautiful lily pond.

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After the gardens we went to the docks for a walk about and in search of a pub Jon had found. We miss calculated slightly and the walk didn’t take us anywhere near the pub (much to Jon’s disappointment) and places were pretty deserted for the long weekend so we caught the train back to the centre and went for dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Zapata’s. Once we were thoroughly stuffed we went for a couple of drinks at a bar and there was live music which rounded off a great day.

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The next day we had an early ferry crossing to Kanagroo Island. We arrived at the terminal around 10ish. After a short crossing we were greeted by an Easter market which was the perfect place to grab breakfast before heading off to the other side of the island. We had decided to stay on a camp site close to the Flinders Chase national park as we would be spending most of our time in the national park. Along the way we stopped at Kingscote to get fuel and Vivonnie Bay for a look at their camp ground and the beach. It was a bit of a scramble through the bush to get to the beach but we made it and the sea was wild, there were a few surfers further down the beach and the guide book claimed this beach had once been voted the best in Australia but we’ve definitely seen better!

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After that stop we continued on, set up camp and then went to Seal Bay conservation park to see the Australian fur seal colony. We were too late to take the guided tour right onto the beach up close to the seals so we went on to the board walk and actually the seals were very close to the board walk so we got plenty close enough. It was great to sea the seals up close, mothers and their pups. They were really sweet and looked very cuddly.

South Australia

There aren’t many options for dinner in that part of the island so we had an early supper at Seal Bay Cafe before heading home. It was almost twilight when we arrived back at the camp site. We were getting things out of the boot of the car when something rustled by my feet, I jumped out of my skin thinking it was a snake coming to get me! It was actually a very bold koala striding though our pitch on his way up a tree, where he would remain above us for the rest of the evening. It was a truly special moment.

South Australia

The next morning we went into Flinders Chase National Park first to the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch and then for a short hike. Remarkable Rocks are huge naturally formed granite sculptures resting precariously on a cliff edge. They look like something Henry Moore might have dreamt up. After leaving the rocks it’s a short drive to Admirals Arch. Another natural rock formation under the cliff. On our way down we were a little surprised to see lots of seals, relaxing just out of reach of the water.

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The Cape du Couedic Lighthouse stands on the cliff above Admirals Arch so we had a quick look around before heading to the start of our walk. We chose the Snake Lagoon track as this fairly short trail winds through Sugar Gums and mallee before descending into the Rocky River valley. The trail crosses Rocky River and becomes more tricky as it meanders along the river bank to the mouth, ending with views across the Southern Ocean. The beach was empty and foreboding, large waves crashing on the shore and an ominous sign warning of large freak waves! Needless to stay I didn’t want to hang around too long and after Jon took some photos we headed back along the winding river path.

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We drove a long way down a dirt road to get to Cape Borda Lighthouse we hoped to make better progress when we got to the main road that travels along the northern coast however when we got there the road was tarmac to the east but more gravel to the west toward the lighthouse. The road surface was anything but smooth and we decided to leave seeing the lighthouse and move on to explore the northern coastline. Our next stop was at Stokes Bay. After reading the guidebook we were expecting to drive under an stone arch to get to the beach so we were a bit surprised to get to the beach without driving under a low arch. Were we in the wrong place? We got out the car and walked on to the beach to see a path into the rocks, we followed it to find the guidebook had been wrong, you had to walk through what felt like a secret path under the cliff. It’s a small tunnel (Jon had to crouch but that’s not unusual!) to a beach that was beautiful and quiet and we relaxed on the sand in the sun for while. We drove on to American River as we’d been told it was a nice place for sunset. It didn’t quite work out as we couldn’t find the beach that was good for sunset and we missed the best part in the process.

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After being lucky enough to see a lot of wildlife in Australia we are still waiting to see the elusive Platypus. There are some ponds in the national park where platypus are known to inhabit. Platypus are more likely seen at dawn and dusk, there are some viewing platforms at the ponds so we decided to get up early and try our luck. The visitors centre said the last sighting had been recently at 7am so we were hopeful. We arrived a bit later than we had planned and the sun was almost up but we were the only people there and being as still and as quiet as possible we waited for ages but no luck this time! We then returned to the campsite to pack up. On the way to the ferry we walked up the 500ish steps to the top of Prospect Hill (formerly Mount Thisby) made of sand it gives 360 views of the island. From there it was back on a gravel road to Cape Willoughby Lighthouse. There were hundreds of white butterflies fluttering about the lavender.

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After the delights of Kangaroo Island our next stop back on the mainland was the Barossa Valley. We arrived in Tanunda early evening and pitched the tent before having a deliciously indulgent meal at 1918 Bistro. The next morning after too much wine the night before we had a late breakfast and then I was designated driver when we went to a few wineries, Jon had a difficult task of taster!

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On our last afternoon in the Barossa before beginning the long drive back to Sydney we took a short drive to the Barossa Reservoir which is known for it’s ‘Whispering Wall’. The wall is the face of the dam itself, and as the name suggests it displays some bizarre acoustic phenomena. The shape of the dam face causes a parabola effect and voices from one side of the 140 metre wide dam can be heard clearly from the other. We decided this was enough excitement from one day, so headed back to our camp site to rest up for the journey ahead with a relaxing glass of wine.

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Unlike on the way out we decided to do the return journey in a single (day long) stint. It actually made for a really interesting albeit slightly tiring day, and it was great to see a bit more of the outback that we had mainly passed through during night a week earlier. Plus our first glimpse of wild Emus. As we made our way back towards Sydney our trip was closed out by a beautiful sunset, which seemed like a fitting way to bring to a close another great trip.

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Tasmania: The North East

Tasmania

It had been a great few days on Bruny island, but we were also excited to move on to the Freycinet Peninsula, where we would spend three days as the penultimate stop on our trip. One thing we hadn’t done during our time in the Hobart area was to visit Mount Wellington, so we decided to stop off as our route took us through Hobart. The winding road climbs to the top of the mountain, where there are spectacular views of the city below. The temperature at the top was fairly bracing though, some good preparation for our trip back to the UK a few weeks later. It was a long but beautiful drive North to Freycinet, with a large part of the route tracking the coastline.

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There are some beautiful camping spots along the beach front, but it turned out that you had to enter a ballot about six months earlier if you wanted to secure a pitch for the coveted Christmas – New Year period. Unforuntately we were not quite that organised, so we settled for the campsite in the nearby town of Coles Bay. It may not have been quite as a spectacular location, but it was only a short walk from the beach, and the toilets weren’t nearly such a frightening prospect. We found a nice restaurant in the town which mainly specialised in stone baked pizzas, and settled in for a relaxed evening meal.

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The next day we decided that we would embark on one of the more popular hikes in the area, the 15km walk linking Coles Bay with Wineglass beach and Hazard beach. It looked to be a warm day, and we wanted to leave plenty of time for swimming breaks, so we set off early from the campsite and headed for the start point of the walk. The first section led to the lookout on the ridge between Mt Amos and Mt Mayson which provided a spectacular view down to the famous Wineglass Bay below. The walk until here had been packed with hundreds of selfie stick wielding tourists, making the short return walk to catch a glimpse of the beautiful bay.

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We were pleased to find that after we left the lookout and began the descent towards the beach the walk became a lot more peaceful. The beach itself was spectacular, and we decided to take a walk along it a short way in order to grab a small section of it to ourselves, and then cool off in the shimmering azure sea. Suitably refreshed we continued on the walk, cutting across the isthmus to Hazard beach on the opposite side of the peninsula. Although the beach here was maybe not quite so picture postcard, the sea was a little calmer, and it made for a great second swimming break of the day. The walk back to Coles Bay tracked the rocky coastline, and the sweeping views combined with a near isolated track made for a fantastic end to the walk.

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We decided to make the next day a slightly more relaxing affair, and rather than tackling one longer walk we decided to visit a few nearby places instead. We began still within Freycinet itself, with a drive across to Cape Tourville Lighthouse, stopping on the way for the short walk to Sleepy Bay. The lighthouse offered great views back along the coast to Wineglass bay where we had been the previous day. Next we continued north to Bicheno, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the area for two reasons – the best fish and chips that we’ve had so far in Australia, and the great short walk along the rocky foreshore which made for a pleasant way to walk off the lunch. Although I say ‘fish and chips’, it was actually shark and chips – Maisie was very happy to make the sea a safer place, although I’m not sure Gummy sharks are a great threat to anyone! After our walk we headed back to the South to a tearoom famous in the area for its jams and fruit – Kate’s Berry Farm. It was a tasty end to the day, and probably undid most of the good work from the previous days hike!

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We were keen to get up bright and early the next day in order to head on to what would be our final destination of the trip, Bay of Fires. Unfortunately the wine from the night before had other plans, so we rolled out of the campsite later than our checkout time, and several hours later than planned. Fuelled up on some very nice bacon and egg rolls in Bicheno, we continued north, on the hour and a half long drive up the coast. Bay of fires is a large bay and collection of beaches extending from Binalong Bay to Eddystone Point. The bay was given it’s name by Tobias Furneaux, who saw the fires of Aboriginal people on the beaches. It is a very popular location for camping, with campgrounds located behind most of the beaches all of which are free to stay on for up to four weeks. The first two be visited were pretty busy so we continued along the coast and were rewarded when we arrived at the site behind Swimcart Beach. Although the facilities were limited, the camping spot with it’s excellent views was the best of the entire trip, and seemed like a fitting way to bring this fantastic trip to a close. The wind was really strong and many of the tents were collapsing, luckily as ours is small it was fine. After pitching our tent we went for a walk along the beach. Swimcart Beach was very exposed and the sea was rough and didn’t look like a safe place to swim. Then we rounded the headland and found the next beach, Jeanneret Beach, a complete contrast the sea was much calmer and it was sheltered from the wind.  Jon quickly popped back for our swimming stuff so we could enjoy the last part of the day and cool off in the sea. For dinner that evening we went back into St Helen’s as we don’t have cooking equipment. We found a tiny Indian Restaurant which served the tastiest curry we’ve had since moving to Australia. Tasmania had been an incredible place to spend a few weeks, and the highlight so far of our time in Australia.

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Tasmania: The South East

Tasmania

After a couple of days in Hobart it was time to move on to our next destination – the Tasman peninsula. This involved a drive north from the city of just over an hour, but we decided to break the journey with a stop at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. One thing you notice after spending some time in Tasmania is the huge amount of road kill, even by Australian standards. The park at Bonorong helps rescue animals especially those involved in road accidents, like young animals who’s mothers had been hit by a car, sometimes the baby survives in the pouch. It’s a beautiful setting up on a hill just outside of the city, and a great opportunity to see Wombats, Wallabies, Kangaroos and Tasmanian Devils close up, as well as learn about the conservation efforts. We also got to pet a baby Wombat as well as feed a baby Kangaroo.

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We arrived on the Tasman peninsula in the evening, and headed for our campsite for the next few days at White beach. The campsite there had one of the better locations of the ones we stayed on, and our pitch was minutes from the beach. We decided to make the most of this by spending the last of the evening sun enjoying a few glasses of wine and some cheese on the beach before enjoying the sunset.

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One of the popular activities in the area is to take a boat trip along the coast taking in the huge sea cliffs the area as known for and hopefully spotting some wildlife on the way. On arriving at the booking office we found the tour to be fully booked, but we were first on the reserve list so fingers crossed for when we returned later that day. For the few hours until then we decided to head to the Port Arthur historic site. During much of the nineteenth century Port Arthur was the location of one of Australia’s largest penal colonies, and much of the site remains intact to this day. After a short but informative tour, we set off to explore on our own. On a sunny day such as the one we visited on it was difficult to imagine the areas darker past.

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After lunch we made our way back to the start point for the boat trip, and were pleased to find out there had been a few cancellations meaning there would be room for us. Having been warned of potential stormy weather, we wrapped ourselves up and headed down to the boat. After briefly stopping to view the Port Arthur site from the water, we headed for the open sea. Near the mouth of the natural harbour we stopped near a nesting pair of Sea Eagles, we were lucky enough to sea the young sat on the nest as well as one of the adults. We continued along the coast line towards Tasman Island, stopping to view some of the massive sea caves on the way, and even pull the boat inside a few of them. At Tasman Island we stopped nearby a seal colony, it was great to see these animals in the wild and so close up.

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Around this point we began to notice the weather was changing, in a very quick and spectacular way. Massive clouds were on the horizon as a weather front rolled in. We knew that it wouldn’t be long before we’d be wet, especially with the boat having little shelter from the elements. Surely enough the storm hit a few minutes later, with large gusts of wind and torrential rain it was a white knuckle ride for the remainder of the trip back to port. We arrived back a bit wet, but it had been worth it for one of the best days of the trip.

Tasmania

After a packed first day on the Tasman peninsula, we decided to take things a little easier the next day. In the morning we returned to the Port Arthur historic site to finish off the visit that we had cut short the previous day. This began with a short (and thankfully less extreme) boat tour in Carnarvon bay where Port Arthur is situated, and continued with some more exploring of the site on foot. It is a really interesting place to visit, it’s possible to enter many of the buildings where you can learn more about some of the convicts that were transported here.

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The next day we had a very early start in order to make the two hour journey north to Triabunna where we were to catch the first ferry of the day to Maria island. We were going to camp for the night on the island, which with it being car free involved a bit of work getting all of our camping gear packed so that we could easily carry it on to the ferry and then for the short walk to the campsite once we arrived on the island. There are no provisions on the island as well as no water suitable for drinking unless treated, so we had to go prepared for the next 24 hours. The campground was a 10 minute walk from where the ferry dropped us, located just behind the beach.

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We hired some bikes for our first day, and made use of them to cycle along the length of the Northern part of the island to where an isthmus connects it to the Southern part. We stopped here for a break and some lunch on the beach. It was a great ride, along mainly dusty tracks with the odd bit of sand thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately Maisie became a bit too aquainted with the sand on the way back and had a fall. Although shaken up and sore, she was thankfully able to make it the rest of the way back to the campsite.

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After dropping the bikes back we went for a quick dip in the sea, returning to the campsite to find it over-run by Wombats and Wallabies! With little threat on the island the animals were so tame, and seemed completely at ease even with so many campers nearby. To make the most of the last of the daylight we decided to continue our wildlife watching by taking a short walk along the cliffs towards the Northern end of the island. There were a huge number of kangeroos and wallabies, as well as more Wombats too, and at that time of day with the sun setting it was a particularly pleasant time for a stroll. On returning to the campsite just as night fell, we were incredibly lucky to see a Tasmanian Devil, something we had not thought we would see in the wild. Maria island has been targeted for a conservation effort in order to increase the numbers of Devils, but they are noted for being timid, so we were really surprised to see one wandering along the edge of our campsite.

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After another short walk the following morning it was time to catch the ferry back to the mainland. We had to start planning ahead for the few days we had coming up over Christmas that we were going to be spending on Bruny island just south of Hobart. We still had one more night on the mainland before then, but we wanted to move back a bit nearer to Hobart so that we would be ready to do our Christmas shopping the next day before going to the ferry terminal. We ended up camping in the town of Dover, around an hour south of Hobart, and after putting the tent up we headed out to make the most of the rest of the day. We decided to spend it exploring the Southern most part of Tasmania (and Australia) that is accessible by road, driving to the end of the road at Cockle Creek. It was a beautiful part of the state, and we enjoyed taking a short walk along the deserted beaches there.

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The next day we made for Hobart, hitting town at the peak of the Christmas Eve craziness. Thankfully we had ordered most of our Christmas provisions in advance when we had been in town a few days previously, but we had a few other bits pieces to pick up, so it was with relief when we were all done and on the road toward the ferry terminal. We had rented a small cottage for three days over Christmas, so after the short crossing we set about making our way there. The cottage had a lovely location in a small valley in the Northern part of Bruny island, and after such a hectic morning and especially as it was a nice sunny afternoon we decided to spend some time relaxing the the garden.

Tasmania

Later in the afternoon we drove to Adventure Bay for a bit of a walk at sunset. That evening we planned to go Penguin spotting as the isthmus on the island is a popular place to sight them. Unfortunately this did involve a fair bit of waiting around, but thankfully it was worth it when the first penguins started to appear, emerging both from their burrows and returning from sea an hour or so after sunset. It was a great way to spend Christmas Eve, but it had been a long evening and we were excited to get back to the cottage for a few glasses of wine. Unfortunately the journey back proved to be one of the slowest car journeys we’ve ever had – not because of traffic, the roads were deserted from cars, but instead because of wildlife. Since nightfall the island had come alive, and driving along without hitting something was a real challenge at times, and often involved driving at walking pace! A particular prevelant animal during the drive were Eastern Quolls, which seemed to have a tendency to run along at close proximity to the car! Eventually we made it back with no casualties, and by then we’d definitely earned a glass of wine!

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Christmas Day was one of the warmest days we experienced in Tasmania, and it seemed like a great excuse to go for a swim. Nebraska beach was only a short drive from our cottage, so we headed there and cooled off in the sea. It now seemed like time to get started with the eating and drinking, refreshed we returned to the cottage to get started. The weather on Boxing Day couldn’t have been a more stark contrast to that of the day before. In fact, it could easily have been Christmas time in the UK. This made for the perfect lazy Boxing Day, although as the weather improved slightly later in the day we took a drive to the far southern end of the island to Cape Bruny Lighthouse.

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