Arriving in New Zealand, we were pleasantly surprised by the Auckland Day celebration along the waterfront. We LOVE when you don’t plan for a special event and it just appears in your path like a gift from the travel gods. The day was a quick hit of a gorgeous city! We most enjoyed the Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival, which shared Maori culture and heritage though many free activities, including an awesome indoor music venue with glampy bean bag chairs to relax and escape the strong sun.
The next day Josh told me he wanted to take his humble earnings from his South Australia craft fair and treat us to a day of wine tasting and oysters on Waiheke Island. Well twist my arm (what a guy!)
We boarded the ferry from Auckland and in a half hour docked on the popular island, boasting more that 30 wineries and many walking tracks. At the ferry terminal at Matiatia Wharf we found wonderful hiking maps of the “Walk Waiheke” trail network-one for each of the island’s four areas: the headlands, beaches, “forest heart,” and the “far end.” Waiheke in Maori translates to “Cascading Waters,” but on this particular visit the island was in a drought state with rain water supply running VERY low. One of our servers during the day informed us, “you’ll know a local when you SMELL them. I can’t remember the last time I showered!”
Having purchased a “Hop on, Hop off” bus pass, we stopped in the town of Ostend and savored a deli lunch on the half shell at Te Matuku Oysters, with fresh coleslaw and potato salad to boot. A few picnic supplies from the market next door and we were on the bus again, heading to a few wineries on our short list. The island has a unique microclimate, warmer than the mainland, lending nicely to the jammy Pinot Noirs and other unique reds found here.
We sampled wines at three stops on the Vineyard Walking Trail. First at luxurious Tantalus Estate with it’s stunning lighting installations made of vines by James Russ of Epsilon Lighting and it’s cushy lawn with lounge seating and oversized lawn games. Then we shared a glass of Pinot and snacks on the chill deck at Stonyridge. Our favorite wine and atmosphere was at Obsidian Cellar Door near Onetangi Beach on Te Makiri Road, tucked away at the bottom of the walking trail, our servers were incredibly articulate and fun young locals. The Viognier was delectable!
After a steep descent down walking paths leading past the island hostel and nature reserves, we arrived at Onetangi Beach and did some dreamy body surfing in perfect cool water. Super-salty, burning the eyes, but worth every little wave! A quick costume change out of our swimsuits and we caught the last hop-on bus of the day to Cable Bay Vineyard to watch the sunset on the expansive lawn before a two-kilometer twilight stroll back to the ferry.
More to do: If we had a few more days here we would have likely done the olive oil tastings, rented bikes and taken the public bus to the far end of the island for more remote hiking. There is also a big art culture on Waiheke: a map is available to stroll the local galleries. Endless activities abound, including kayaking, scooters, zip lining, mountain biking. Never a dull moment...unless of course that is what your spirit calls for. There are plenty of beaches and peaceful places to just chill! Stay a few nights and island camp or Airbnb it!
To conclude our month in Australia we embarked on two more stints on the open road: a “proper outback” experience and a splendid ocean-side jaunt. After much research we were able to score an RV relocation deal for free wheels. (Tip: watch out for by-the-liter fuel costs $$$!) While it would have been cheaper and faster to fly between cities, we were very glad to see the sights and would do again. Life’s a journey after all!
Leaving Brisbane, we spent our first night at Mann River Caravan Park, and our second at the Narromine Lightweight Airstrip for shower and power. Heading into the outback the third morning our AC broke! This was a no-joke, scorching hot summer day with some serious distance to cover. Heading to the center of New South Wales, we embraced the sauna. What else could we do!? We stopped mid-day and jumped in Lake Cargelligo for a moment of relief, grabbed some ice cream and carried on. Our third night was in the town of Hay at a “Big 4 Holiday Park,” complete with wi-fi, showers, and a visit to the local pub for fish and chips.
After a pit-stop breakfast for the best meat pie imaginable (at Deniliquin Bakery) we rolled into Melbourne for a few days with my cousin Abby whom I hadn’t seen since the ‘90’s. Our last time spent together as pre-teens we were choreographing lip-synched dance numbers for our family talent shows!
Great Ocean Road
Our final leg was smooth and quick, meandering West from Melbourne toward South Australia on the Great Ocean Road. As the evening was too fogged in to see the 12 Apostles and other classic coastal sights, we were pleased as the road swooped inland to Great Otway National Park for fantastic wildlife sightings of Koalas and Parrots. An extra day in this area would have afforded the time necessary to tour the 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail for a true “foodie” road trip with wine, microbrews, cheese, and ice cream from local famers and artisans. I suppose it’s always good to have hopes for a “next time!”
We spent just one night on the Great Ocean Road in Port Campbell camping at the town’s Recreation Reserve. A beautiful, relaxed campground situated above the town featuring wonderful amenities (and just ten bucks!) So...we glamped it up with a meat and cheese spread fit for kings at Tilly’s Wine Bar. Polished with true French champagne it was quite reasonably priced, especially compared to the hefty Oz prices we’d seen elsewhere.
The next day we squeezed in a little surfing in Port Fairy before heading into South Australia in the late afternoon. Sadly we missed ALL the winery tasting hours, but our night was relaxed at Padthaway Caravan Park, with beautiful hiking leading straight from the property onto the Padthaway Orchid Track. We had some playful evening Kangaroo sightings and stunning bird watching on the trail. The property is meticulously well-maintained with tasteful touches throughout. There’s and even a resident Emu named Elma! They have adorable vintage camping trailers for rent and guests are welcome to pick fresh fruit from the orchard. There is a super glamping vibe to be found here, especially surrounded by ENDLESS wineries in the region.
Our last days down under were spent in South Australia at Second Valley in the Fleurieu Peninsula with my generous Aunt and Uncle. We had fresh summer meals on their front porch, relaxed swims in the protected sea, and tasty times harvesting their peach and apricot trees. The last day Josh took a table at the artisans fair at the nearby town of Yankalilla, selling his jewelry and dreamcatchers. All in, we spent four weeks in Australia seeing four states five cities, and three different family visits. It was a truly stunning and accessible way to start a year abroad!
The rest of our month in Australia was spent intermittently road tripping and visiting family in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Adelaide. Oz has a killer road trip “glamping” culture, with caravan and holiday parks everywhere you look! There are lots of rental companies to get your camper or RV from, and this digital world offers many travel apps for finding your way. We used CamperMate, which still functioned decently offline. We’ve been opting to be data-free during our days....“free” being the key word!
Daintree Rainforest - Cape Tribulation - Atherton Tablelands
First, we zipped up the coast in a little rental car from Cairns to the Daintree Rainforest for a night. After a few hours drive, we found ourselves crossing the Daintree River on the ferry and taking the first dirt road toward to coast. Halfway down the 5 km road to Cape Kimberly, a flash of electric blue caught my eye. “STOP!” I shouted. Josh slammed on the breaks, and there it was....the elusive Cassowarie! And this one had five little babies with her. Unbelievable. After this exciting spotting, we had a nice picnic lunch at Cape Kimberly, with the whole beach to ourselves. Just gorgeous, but watch out for those saltwater crocs!
Cairns: January 5th, 2018
Ugghh, I have to admit, I thought I still had it in me! But at 35 (and newly 45 for my husband Josh) the mixed-gender bunk room simply wasn’t working on this particularly night. Pounding monsoon rains crossed beats with the thumping intensity of the old ceiling fan. Josh’s snoring made me wish I had a ”Super Soaker” water gun to target him with (at least one of us could get a shower that way!) I had the distinct thought..we are NOT in Sydney anymore.
We’d heard from several folks that the Northern Queensland town of Cairns was a “bit of a hole.” A jumping off point for the Great Barrier Reef and not much more. Arriving around midnight on a Friday of Christmas holidays was still a rude-awakening. 18-year-olds having “tied one on” were zig-zagging their way around the several blocks of clubs and pubs. We found a pair of friendly US guys working a pizza restaurant and enjoyed a pie before retiring to the the forementioned bunkhouse and relentless, hot rains.
The next morning was a pleasant relief, with coffee and a shared croissant to start. We took a spectacular dip in the city’s Esplanade Lagoon after some self-directed yoga. (Swimming in the ocean here is prohibited due to saltwater crocodiles!)
With a spontaneous new plan and a bag full of farmer’s market produce, we boarded the 45-minute afternoon ferry to Fitzroy Island for a night of camping and distance from the university crowds.
Fitzroy Island: January 6th, 2018
Neil Young and Muddy Waters graced the stereo as our ferry made it’s way with a handful of passengers bound for the little island. Fitzroy Island Resort has a sweet campground with space for maybe 6-8 tents. While their resort rooms looked gorgeous, they would have certainly broke the bank so early in our year abroad. This way we were able to have an overnight, remote island experience for pennies on the dollar. After all the day visitors departed on the evening ferry we took a dip in the resort pool, splurged on a fancy passionfruit cocktail at the swim-up bar, and took an evening walk on the beach. Our dinner of camp mac and cheese, fancied up with farmer’s market veggies and fresh mango for dessert, did the (budget) trick for us...but there is a restaurant on site if you were so inclined!
The next day we had a full morning of hiking the island’s gorgeous national park trails. Hitting the trail at about 7:30 am, we had it to ourselves as we ascended to lighthouse lookout via the Summit Track, returning via the Lighthouse Road Trail to create a loop back to camp. Next, I took an opportunity for some R & R on the beach while Josh jumped in the ocean with rented snorkeling gear, complete with “stinger suit” to protect against the dangerous jelly fish possible this time of year. The resort has a full-service dive center for your adventure needs. Josh had some wonderful fish, ray and turtle sightings, and I eventually joined in on the fun. Fitzroy hosts a turtle rehab center and they release some of the recovered animals in this area of the island. Sadly, we headed back to Cairns on the last ferry of the day, positioning ourselves for the REAL snorkeling the next morning! I could have easily spent several more days at Fitzroy! We arrived in Cairns that evening in a paralyzing torrential downpour and decided to pitch our little tent in the picnic area of the local waterfront park and position ourselves for our morning boat to the reef.
Great Barrier Reef: January 8th, 2018
After being rousted at 6:00 AM by a reasonable local authority from our dockside tent in the park (no public camping in Cairns, FYI!) we changed clothes for a full day on the open water and shared a breakfast plate at one of the many hotels lining the Cairns Marina.
Boarding at 8:00 AM, the boat was buzzing with excitement and nerves as it’s MANY passengers were assigned equipment and settled in with coffee and announcements. There are tons of companies offering Great Barrier Reef trips. We were wildly pleased with our choice of Diver’s Den for the focus on a true OUTER reef, in-water experience....ie: there were no glass-bottom boats or other on-board sightseeing options. Everyone on this trip was there to spend the most time possible in the water either snorkeling or scuba diving.
Without getting into too many details of our underwater sightings (the pics below should speak for themselves!) I’ll say it truly was an exhilarating, stunning, and mesmerizing experience to see this magic. Remarkable coral, sharks, turtles, and endlessly curious fish painted a rainbow to be forever thankful and in awe of. And to give pause for thought on the very real and immediate risks to it’s health. I was happy to learn more about the science of coral bleaching and to better understand the real threats and hopeful solutions for reefs everywhere.
Welcome GlampOut readers to the first installment of our 2018 ‘Round-the-World posts! On New Year’s Eve, my husband Josh and I boarded a non-stop flight from San Francisco to Sydney. Having left New Mexico for 365 days of travel, we had only our backpacks and hopes in tow on this much-anticipated day.
Join us in our first few weeks of getting our sea legs (literally) on the Great Barrier Reef, camping at Fitzroy Island and the Daintree Rainforest, and of course a few lovely days starting out in beautiful (and spendy!) Sydney.
I look forward to sharing the journey with you and hope you enjoy an inside look at the “glamp life!”
Sydney - January 2nd-5th, 2018
We landed on January 2nd with a solid case of jet-lag, especially after a flurry of New Year’s farewells in the Bay Area. A quick train ride from the airport planted us on the lawn-side park at Circular Quay, a perfect first stop for a view of the Opera House and to access the ferry terminals to nearby islands and beaches. We lounged on the lawn, changed out of our US winter clothes and into summer attire, and headed for a cold one at the Australian Hotel, one of the several establishments claiming to be the the oldest in Sydney. Then off to our peaceful Airbnb room near Darling Point.
Our next few days in Sydney were chock-full with celebrating Josh’s 45th birthday and kicking off our year abroad. A special gift from the ‘rents offered a night at the Opera. Lunch at the Sydney Tower provided stunning rotating views a thousand feet above the city. A post-lunch stroll through the Royal Botanical Gardens and a nap on the waterfront lawn was a perfect afternoon.
On our last afternoon we took the public ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Beach. The crowds were intense at Manly, I suppose we underestimated the power of Australia’s school holidays! We took the nice 1/2 mile stroll down to Shelly Beach and had a much better experience, with a perfect beachside picnic table to ourselves to enjoy cold Bundaberg sodas (Passionfruit for me and Ginger Beer for Josh!) and a healthy spread of brie, crackers, sausage sticks, cucumbers, and other lovelies bought at a nearby market. Then a quick dip in the perfect blue water!
With a flight looming that evening to Cairns, we wished we had more time to hike the trails from Shelly Beach around the tip of in the North Head Sanctuary, a bush track that hugs the headlands. The area is full of water activities in the protected Cabbage Tree Bay, from snorkeling, to sea kayaking or SUP’ing...or just lounging at the stunning oceanside swimming pool!
Glamping Tip: Cockatoo Island
A few years back on my last visit down under (2015) I had the joy of visiting Cockatoo Island in Sydney. Cockatoo Campground is the most amazing example of an urban “glampground” I can think of! With a variety of glamping set-ups and packages (or bring your own tent!) this peaceful island is just a thirty-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay...an incredible way to see the big city AND get-away to a peaceful slice of island life all in one trip. cockatoo.gov.au/stay