Everyone knows about visiting the Blue Mountains, but here are two day trips that are kept slightly more secret! Go on a Sunday and you won’t pay for than $2.80 for transport too…
Figure 8 Pools
The Figure 8 Pools are at the end of a beautiful coastal walk in the Royal National Park. All you need to do is get the train to Otford and you can immediately swap the boom-and-bustle of central Sydney for kilometres and kilometres of serene coastline. The bushwalk itself isn’t the easiest and takes about an hour and a half as you trek through forest and hills, but the whole time there are beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean to be enjoying as you descend further towards the pools. At the end of the walk, there is a little bit of rock-hopping before you’re met with the beautiful purple and blue rock pools that get nice and heated by the sun! We took a picnic and spent an hour or so having lunch and a swim before heading back up the coastal track before high tide.
Palm Beach is one of Sydney’s Northern beaches and can be accessed by bus from Circular Quay or Central Station. It usually takes over an hour but the incredible view is well worth the wait! I even enjoyed travelling through each Northern Sydney area and seeing the differences between each of these beach-based communities. The best part about going to Palm Beach is the short walk up Barronjoey Head to the heritage-listed lighthouse. The views at this summit are like nothing I have seen before; the long, thin extension of land has a shoreline on either side so there really is water all around you when you’re sat on the rocks at the top of the hill. This is definitely one of Sydney’s best photo opportunities! It’s worth remembering, though, that the tide can get incredibly strong here, so it’s best to save the swim for when you get back to some of the calmer waters in central Sydney. Nonetheless, this beautiful beach offers mind-blowing views, a nice bit of coastal history as well as a unique experience on the sand which makes it a must-do when staying in Sydney!
Whether you’re going from Cairns to Sydney or Sydney to Cairns, there’s so much to do when travelling the East Coast of Australia. No matter how long you’re planning to go for, here are some of the places that you can’t miss. From North to South, I’ll take you through some of the classic destinations as well as some of the lesser well-known experiences that I heard about from other Backpackers!
Just a short ferry off the coast of Townsville, Magnetic Island is the perfect place to spend a few nights to explore. Its small bus system is easy enough to get from one side of the island to the other, but if that’s not your thing then you can also hire one of the infamous open-top Barbie Cars that are so popular! Here, the Base Hostel is one of the nicest I’ve been to with loads of social areas right by the beach. Everyone will be talking about The Forts Walk and how many koala bears they saw!!
Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays
You can’t do the East Coast without going to the Whitsundays – I liked it so much that I went twice! Airlie Beach is a little town that is based on Whitsunday tourism, so everyone you meet will be talking about which boat they’re about to go on which makes a really sociable atmosphere. I recommend doing one of the three-night boat cruises. It gives you the chance to make lots of friends as well as having loads of opportunities to go snorkeling with turtles, banana-boating and even scuba-diving. Of course, you’ll also get to see some of the whitest sand in the world at Whitehaven Beach too!
Broken River, Mackay
I heard about Broken River from two girls I met on Magnetic Island. This is not a typical tourist stop on East Coast Itineraries, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. After driving up a beautiful mountain in Eungella National Park land, you can walk along Broken River which is full of wildlife. Not only can you watch turtles swimming, but it’s a platypus habitat! I never thought I’d get to sit and have a picnic in the sun while watching platypuses swimming next to me.
Tin Can Bay
Another well-kept secret on the East Coast is Tin Can Bay. This was one of the most surreal experiences of my trip. We heard about Tin Can Bay from a family that we met on Fraser Island and they said it was the highlight of their holiday! Essentially, you drive to Barnacles Dolphin Centre which is a little family-run café right on the Bay that has a resident pod of nine Humpback Dolphins. You can get some breakfast or a coffee while the volunteers stand in the water and share information on each member of the pod. From about 8:00am, the dolphins gradually all come and sit in the water next to the volunteers! There’s no exhibition or captivity. Rather, the dolphins come back every day where they play about in the water with the volunteers and guests get a chance to feed them fish. It was so interesting to hear about the personalities of each dolphin from the volunteers, then actually get to meet the dolphins ourselves!
I’ve decided that I’m going to live in Noosa one day. For me, it’s one of the most beautiful National Parks in Australia. One of the best parts about Noosa Heads is the Coastal Walk. You pass amazing bays every five minutes and what’s even better is that they are all great for a surf. The paths are full of both walkers and surfers who use the National Park to access their favourite surf spots. It doesn’t stop there! There’s also barbecues dotted around the walks so there’s always a chance to get a feed in after being in the water! Make sure you follow the walk all the way to Hell’s Gate – the views are amazing.
The Gold Coast is a really interesting city. It’s got beautiful estuaries with hostels dotted around the waters so there’s plenty of chance for fun activities on the water. My favourite part was going to SkyPoint in the Q1 Building – it’s one of the tallest buildings in the world so the views are just incredible. For around $30, you can go up to the Observation Deck and have an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, so you can watch the waves roll in while having your bacon and eggs in the morning from around 70 stories high!
I have been back in Manchester for a semester since living in Australia for one year. I have learned so much from moving away and living on the other side of the world. Studying abroad is such an amazing and unique way to grow academically and personally in a short period of time.
Before I moved to Australia I really believed that I would be heartbroken when I left but I wasn’t. I was so grateful for the experiences, opportunities, and friends that I had made but I was excited to come back home. Studying abroad has made me realise how small the world really is. A flight across the world only takes one day! Since being back in Manchester I have had two Aussie friends come and visit me and have Facetimed with others almost daily. On reflection I wish I hadn’t been so worried about leaving as I am so happy to be back in Manchester!
Another reflection upon returning is how quickly a year passes. It only feels like last month that I was writing my application to study abroad and attending all of the pre-departure sessions. I can’t believe that I am already back. One tip I will give that is a bit cliche is say yes to everything! Your time flies by and you will regret the socials you didn’t go to and the trips that you missed to stay in and study.
The highlight of my year in Australia was definitely all of the travelling and trips that I did! I would recommend saving some money for road trips and spontaneous holidays as they really made the year. It is depressing to write this post in rainy dark Manchester knowing that this time last year I was in Bali.
Studying abroad is the best thing I have done during my time at university and I would recommend it to anyone. I would say go into your exchange with zero expectations. Don’t worry about the small details as you will look back after a year and wonder why you were so worried about them. Join societies, travel as much as you can and enjoy yourself as before you know it you will be back in Manchester.
No matter the day there’s always plenty of things to do and see round Melbourne’s campus from free BBQs and live music, to cosy study spots and farmer markets – the list is endless! So if your wanting to make your day at uni a little less studious and a whole lot more enjoyable, here’s a quick guide to my N.1 spots on campus.
Unlike the other Universities in Australia, Melbourne coordinates its midterm break with the AFL final (this is normally around nine weeks into the academic term). By this point you will defo want a holiday, so take that time to plan and book yourself a great trip away!
New Zealand is such an amazing country and the landscapes and views are always beautiful, no matter what the weather or time of year. Over the course of my year I took thousands of photos, so for my last post, I thought I’d share a video of some of my favourites so you can really get an idea for how diverse and awesome New Zealand actually is!
On my very first day at the University of Sydney, I walked out of my last lecture for the day at lunchtime to beautiful blue skies and sunshine when I was met with a problem that I would get very used to over my time on exchange: Which beach to go to?! There are over 100 beaches in Sydney so I’m going to share with you my top 5.
Getting the ferry to any of the beaches along Watson’s Bay from Circular Quay is a ‘pinch-me’ moment every single time as you watch the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, the North Shore and the Royal Botanical Gardens pass you by. What’s more, you can set up your towel on the never-too-busy harbour beach, look out to the ocean and see both the CBD sky line as well as the infamous Harbour Bridge too. Watson’s Bay is more of a domestic suburb than your touristy Bondi and Cooggee, so rather than having a load of shops, Camp Cove just has one little kiosk for your mid-afternoon ice cream. If that’s not enough, the Hornby Lighthouse National Park is right next-door for a thirty-minute walk overlooking Middle Head and North Head. It’s one of my favourite places to watch the sun set.
Located along the infamous Bondi to Cooggee Coastal walk, Tamarama is the perfect spot for an afternoon surf that feels slightly more local than the sprawling white sands of Bondi Beach. Nestled at the bottom of a Tamarama Park with beautiful cliff edges, greenery, water and sand, this petite bay is one of the most picturesque beaches in the Eastern Suburbs. Not only does it make for a great surf in the Pacific, it has just one little café next to the park where you can enjoy your food on the patio overlooking the sand.
Slightly further afield is Cronulla, where the hour-long train journey is perfect to get cracking with some uni work while watching tall sky scrapers of Central turn into boutique shops and beach houses. As a busier beach and one of the main surfing destinations away from the touristy Eastern suburbs, Cronulla is the perfect place to try and learn from the locals. Aside from the sand itself, Cronulla has a thriving town centre so whether you’re looking for the best acai bowl in Sydney or souvenirs for the family, a walk around these wide, bright streets is a great place to start.
The Spit to Manly Walk is one of the nicest coastal treks in Sydney which includes lizards, crabs, forest and Indigenous artwork. Getting a bus to Spit and the ferry back from Manly means you get to see heaps of the city itself too. Halfway through this track sits Clontarf Beach. The Harbour Beaches are usually slightly off the beaten track and provide a nice contrast from the hectic waves and chaos of the Pacific shore. Such serene stillness paired with some of the clearest waters I have ever seen makes Clontarf a great place for snorkelling or paddle boarding too.
My favourite thing about Balmoral Beach is how it really seems the heart of the community in Mosman. It is always thriving with dog-walkers, locals swimming lengths along the shore line, families setting up picnics and friends meeting for coffees. Balmoral is also a great place to go for a typical Aussie brunch, whether you fancy sitting along the boardwalk or even at the end of the jetty, there are plenty of cafes serving every style of Eggs Benedict you could possibly imagine.
Moving to Western Australia, I remember someone telling me that Perth was the most remote capital city in the world. Initially this didn’t appeal to me as I have enjoyed living in the UK. My family home is about an hour away from London and studying in Manchester I had direct links to all major UK cities. Additionally, adventure is never far away with flights all over Europe being cheap and relatively inexpensive. Perth located in Australia’s largest state of Western Australia is completely isolated surrounded by nature and tiny towns. However, what I have found is so much greater than I imagined. Perth offers something totally unique. You get the benefits of living in a large modern metropolitan city, whilst being surrounded by some of the most beautiful and secluded spots on the planet.
When I first arrived in Perth I stayed in ‘Mumma’s Hostel’ located in the trendy area of Perth known as Northbridge. Soon after I was offered a place at St Catherine’s residential college. Living in college is a completely different experience. It is like halls, but the residents tend to stay there for their entire degrees. Everyone is super friendly, so despite only having just arrived I was able to celebrate my 20th with friends.
The university itself is beautiful, the architecture is stunning. I’ve seen people come and take their wedding photos here. My walk to class feels like walking through a botanical garden. There are even peacocks that wonder around the campus!
Although it was initially weird leaving, especially going from summer to what the Aussies call winter (20c weather and blue skies). I am really enjoying my time in Perth so far. The people are relaxed, the coffee is great, and the natural beauty of the area is exceptional. I can’t wait to live and create many memories here in Australia.
I’ve been back in Manchester two weeks now and have just finished my first week back in lectures. It’s been surprisingly easy to slot back into life at Manchester and it’s almost like I never left.
One of the reasons I was initially hesitant to do a study abroad year was that all my friends would graduate, and I’d have no one when I got back to Manchester, however it’s turned out to be almost the complete opposite. Minus two of my closest friends, everyone else is still living here, either doing masters or working, which has worked out really well. I also feel a lot more confident making new friends now and joining societies and stuff, so I’d say if anyone’s feeling something similar, not to worry as things do tend to work themselves out!
Another reason I wanted to go on a year abroad was that I didn’t feel quite ready to really knuckle down for third year and start thinking about what I wanted to do after university. After spending a year abroad, with minimal university pressure as I only had to pass the year, I feel like I now have the motivation that I was maybe missing before. I’ve also had time to really think about what I want to do both in my final year, and after university which is something I wasn’t expecting but am now glad to have.
But of course, I really miss Auckland and the more relaxed kiwi style of life. Living so close to the sea and being able to go on road trips every weekend was really cool and can make living in Manchester a little bleak in comparison! I used to love walking around Auckland with all the volcanic cones so not being able to leave my flat and walk up Mt Eden in half an hour does take some getting used to!
I honestly couldn’t recommend going on a year abroad to anyone enough as it is hands down the best thing I’ve ever done and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to live and study in New Zealand for a year. But now it’s time for third year and I’m excited to see what my final year at Manchester will bring!