Tag Archives: camping

My top 5 places to escape into nature around Melbourne

IMG_2025As a backpacker who has now lived in Melbourne twice, I’ve loved getting out and exploring the city and far beyond. Not being much of a city girl, I’ve noticed Melbourne really has a fantastic balance of modern built up areas interweaved with beautiful sprawling parks that really help to make the skyscrapers feel less claustrophobic and imposing than they do in English cities. It’s easy to wander around the city and quickly find yourself leaving the busy streets behind to get lost in lush, green woodland. Having lived in both South Melbourne and Southbank, I’ve been lucky enough to live with Albert Park right on my doorstep – a perfect place to run around the lake of an evening, or to gather with friends for barbecues or to watch the Grand Prix. Just behind sits the Royal Botanic Gardens, huge endless parks that stretch across the city with all kinds of treasures tucked just out of sight of the city.IMG_2059Fancy getting a bit further out of the city? There are so many amazing places right on your doorstop in Victoria that it would be a shame not to! Here are my top 5 places to escape into nature around Melbourne:

Wilson’s Promontory National Park

Just a couple of hours drive down to Mornington Peninsula and you’ll feel like you’ve entered another world. Wilson’s Prom has everything from forest and mountain, to marshland, river, beaches and even sand dunes! You’ll want a weekend to explore at your own pace so pack up the camping gear, the beers and bring your best mates for a weekend you won’t forget. Definitely don’t miss seeing the view from Mount Oberon Summit, sunset from the beach at Tidal River campsite and The Big Drift sand dunes.IMG_2627

Great Ocean Road

The absolute must-do when you go to Melbourne – Great Ocean Road is a perfect road trip to take with your buddies and is perfect whether you’re on a budget or fancy a big blow out. There are plenty of luxury escapes to take your breath away, or do like my gang and just pack a tent, hire a car and take advantage of the many free things to see and do. There are so many hikes, beaches, viewpoints and more to explore – don’t miss Bells Beach during the surfing competitions, Twelve Apostles at sunrise, the Round the Twist lighthouse if you’re a 90’s kid. Camp in Cape Otway National Park for an amazing experience and take a break from driving at Loch Ard Gorge for spectacular views. On your way home, take a detour through the Grampians National Park!IMG_2024

The Grampians National Park

A perfect trip to do on your way home from Great Ocean Road, you can see the highlights in 1/2 days. Taking you up into the mountains, don’t forget a jumper for that fresh mountain air. Stay in the Hall’s Gap campsites, they’re perfect for a campfire and nice and sheltered from the wind. Don’t miss the Pinnacle viewpoint – take the walk through the canyon – the Balconies, and Mackenzie Falls for those perfect photographs.12809706_10153417103997617_2184495225173723966_n

Dandenong Ranges National Park – 1,000 Steps

One I only ticked off my list last week, this national park is easily within reach for those without a car as you can get the train from Flinders to Upper Ferntree Gully and then walk from there. It takes just a few hours to get out there and complete the walk so perfect if you just fancy spending an afternoon in nature. The 1,000 Steps are the big attraction and although they’ll definitely have you huffing and puffing, they’re not as daunting as they sound. You’ll see runners of all shapes and sizes taking them on over and over again as they sprint up and down. Pack a picnic to enjoy at the top then take a different path down to enjoy a different pace of walk.IMG_2103

Phillip Island

The last one I had to tick off my list, I was so excited to finally be visiting Phillip Island to overdose on nature, especially seeing wild penguins down by the shore. One that can be done in a day either by organised day trip or by just hiring a car with your mates and heading off independently. Home to some seriously beautiful beaches and even a Grand Prix circuit, there is plenty to explore and it is a perfect day escape from city life. 17634702_10154322029987617_6507020851842610414_n

This post previously featured on Wild Melbourne – see the original post here.

What are you favourite places to escape into nature around Victoria? Can you recommend any other places across Australia or the world?

image7-1-1

Travel | Top tips for being a happy camper

img_2335I’ve always very firmly believed that fresh air, a good dose of nature and time spent by the ocean can cure just about anything. It doesn’t matter how stressed I’ve been over the years, or how frustrated, I’ve always found solace in spending a few days away from everything, getting back to basics and enjoying life in it’s purest form. Over the years I’ve spent weekends camping in the Lake District, Peak District, in the shadow of Mount Snowdon in Wales, and around my home in Norfolk. I’ve stayed in campsites ranging from a full-on Glamping experience complete with champagne and pink wellies, to the most basic, wild campsites you can find, and I’ve done it in all weathers. Later on, as I discovered my love of festivals, I quickly realised that I was a much bigger fan of the four-day weekend camping events that allowed you to truly lose yourself in the music. I teamed up with Yelloh! Village, who offer the world’s finest open-air hotels and camping rentals, to write about what makes the perfect camping experience.imageThere’s something about getting back to basics with a group of your closest friends that just spells out a lot of fun. Whether you’re heading off to explore an untouched wilderness and can’t wait to get away, or you simply fancy going a bit wild in the woods, it’s a perfect way to actually spend time together with no distractions. It’s easy to forget that every second we spend with friends these days is dictated by the myriad of text messages, Snapchats, Facebook updates and Tweets that dominate our existence these days. Once all of those are done, often your time together is up and all you have to remember it is what is documented online. I was out with friends the other night and even dancing in a bar, every second of our moves was being photographed and snap-chatted by the pair for social media. It’s funny and it’s become an inherent part of our lives now but sometimes it is nice to just switch everything off and talk surrounded by nothing but nature. I guess I’m a country girl at heart, but I just find it so soothing to be away from the stresses of everyday life and there’s something about open space that just heals me.img_2333Some of my best camping memories are of the Glamping weekend I spent with my two best friends, the time spent camping in national parks in the Tasmanian wilderness as part of an epic 10-day roadtrip, and the hilarious times we’ve had setting up our tents and lounging round the campsite at festivals. Everyone was just present, laughing at each others’ jokes and experiencing every second together rather than thinking about how they would record it for social media. Every camping experience I’ve had boils down to the same factors whether we’re raving at a festival, getting lost in the woods or out on the moors – it’s the same few things that really make a camping trip a success, and a hell of a lot of fun. If you’re sat reading this thinking camping is so not for you, then think again – I never used to think I would enjoy it but it’s now become one of my favourite travel experiences. Plus it’s a great way to explore the world around you when you’re travelling on a budget, whether locally or on the other side of the world, the basic components of camping remain the same, it’s just the weather that gets better!image

What makes the perfect camping experience?

Tent

This is definitely something you want to invest in – buying a £5 tent from the supermarket and expecting it to withstand all weathers is just stupid. Even if you’re going to a festival – if it rains and becomes windy, your tent is going to flood and collapse and you won’t be able to get dry and warm. A camping trip can quickly become miserable if you have no way of getting dry. Look for great deals in the sales – I picked up my beauty of a tent in the Halfords sale a few years ago and it has seen me through countless amazing festivals and trips – it’s huge and easy to put up, and it  was reduced to less than half price when I got it.

Camping spot

Choose your pitch wisely – there’s nothing worse than putting your tent up in a rush and finding out later when you’re trying to sleep that you’ve camped on a 45 degree slope or there’s a massive rock right where you’re laying. Trust me, as someone who did a four day camping festival sleeping at a 45 degree angle because we arrived too late and couldn’t find a better spot – it’s absolutely bloody awful. Don’t do it. Always feel for rocks and lay down inside before you peg it to the ground.

Food

Plan the food you take well and it can change your whole experience, forget instant noodles and soup, its easy to cook up a good and healthy meal on a little gas stove. On my 10-day road trip around Tasmania we planned heavy meals of chilli and rice, and pasta to refuel after days of climbing mountains. It was quick and easy to prepare for four people so don’t be put off by the thought of it. There’s nothing better than a good, filling, hot meal at the end of a day camping.image

Location

There are some incredible places to camp in the world – under the stars in central Australia, on the beaches in Tasmania, and in the shadow of mountains all over the world are just some of my favourites. Choosing your location well can take a regular camping trip to the next level. Yelloh! Village has some amazing locations scattered across France which give you the opportunity to explore the landscape, towns and villages. Choosing a campsite where you can have a campfire also makes all the difference.

Price

Camping is a great way to travel if you’re on a budget. Especially for groups or families where accommodation could be expensive – there are so many free and cheap options available for campsites, and if you’re planning on repeating the experience your camping equipment is an investment rather than an expense.

Timing

Always look out for the skies above you – I’ve been lucky enough to camp in some amazing places with incredible views of the super moons, specific constellations, shooting stars. Sometimes the most beautiful sights are the ones that are totally free. There’s nothing better than a spectacular sunset, or making it up for sunrise.image

Company

The one thing that really makes the experience complete has to be the people you share it with. I say it all the time but it never becomes any less true, even in the most dire situations and the worst accommodations, the people are what shine through your memories long after the trip has finished. Taking your best friends who will make you laugh until you cry is the best way to approach a trip – no matter what goes wrong you’ll still make it an experience to remember.

Happy camping!

image7-1-1

Melbourne | Exploring the Grampians | Australia

imageMaking the most of the four day weekend, we couldn’t resist extending our Great Ocean Road trip by visiting the nearby Grampians National Park on the recommendations of good friends. Just a couple of hours north west of the coast are three amazing national parks for adventurous and outdoorsy types to explore to their heart’s content. As three girls who love adventures and miss camping trips, we were excited to spend another night camping in a national park, and were excited to have two other friends joining us for two days of exploring the bushwalkers’ paradise. We headed to Hall’s Gap, which was packed with families, to meet our friends who had already found us a great camping spot at the Plantation campsite. It was a lot wilder than the previous night but a great campsite and nicely sheltered from the wind by Mount Zero.imageWhen we arrived during in the late afternoon, we quickly set up camp before heading up Mount Victory to explore some of the lookout points. We drove straight up the steep and winding road – not a fun experience for our friend who suffers from terrible vertigo and happened to be driving – until we reached the Reeds Lookout and The Balconies. It was a perfect place to start our time in the Grampians because it gave us a nice and easy 10 minute walk to the summit where we found the most incredible 360 degree view of the national park from Victoria Valley and Lake Wartook, to the Serra, Victoria and Mt Difficult mountain ranges. The endless empty space was breathtaking. Such an astonishing experience to see nothing but empty space and to breathe that clean mountain air after being in the confines of Melbourne for months. Afterwards we took the easy 2k walk to the balconies to see more incredible panoramic views of Victoria Range, Lake Wartook and Mount Difficult, a perfect location to spend that misty afternoon.imageWe were instantly reminded of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales for those of us who has previously visited Sydney, but the Grampians felt so much wilder and vaster in comparison. As we headed back down to our campsite for dinner, we were excited to spend the next day exploring the other viewpoints. (Check out Planet Camping for equipment.) Back at the campsite, we rustled up a quick dinner of salad wraps with cider. Very basic but we were glad we hadn’t bothered with the excessive set-ups and barbecues those around us were having – we preferred to spend our time having drinks and building a campfire of our own. The five of us (Shoutout to Absolutely-Scootsie) went off collecting wood and rocks to build our fire and our dedication paid off – we ended up building a fantastic fire that kept blazing for around six hours in the end. We sat round with ciders and toasted marshmallows and slices of bread on the fire, it was so much fun! There’s something about getting back to basics that really brings out the best side of everyone. Later, as the other fires around us died down, several others from the campsite came to join us and have drinks. We all ended up pretty drunk and had a hilarious night together.imageThe next morning we all woke up later than planned but eager to start the day’s hiking after a breakfast in Hall’s Gap. After some delicious bacon and eggs, we started driving up the mountain again for an amazing walk we had seriously underestimated. We were to take on The Pinnacle on the advice of our friends – there are two options to enjoy the walk by taking an easy route from the Sundial Carpark, or the challenging hike through the Grand Canyon from Wonderland Carpark. I would seriously recommend the hike – we went for it not knowing about an easier option but were glad we did. The climb through the gorge was incredible and although hard work, was so rewarding when you finally reached the top.imageMake sure to take plenty of water, we took three bottles but it was a hot day and we wished we had brought more with us. We hiked all the way to the very top of the Pinnacle before taking a different route down and rejoined back at the Gorge. We also followed some silly Canadian lads who ended up getting us lost by not following the path so we ended up rock climbing down the last part of the walk. It was brilliant fun, but make sure you pay attention to the paths. By the end of the walk we were knackered but felt amazing – it was lovely to get some real exercise in such beautiful surroundings. In the end we covered around 8km through the routes we took, so it’s well worth it.imageAfterwards we were excited to be heading to Mackenzie Falls to cool off after the hike. At the bottom of a steep 2km train down the cliff, a spectacular view of the water cascading into a deep pool awaited us. Fine rainbow mist sprayed across the faces of those descending the slippery steps as the reached the floor of the gorge. It was a beautiful sight and one that would excite the mermaid in all of us – it definitely had one guy excited as he slipped off his shirt and dived into the water for a photo right under the waterfall. We were disappointed we hadn’t brought our bikinis although I’m not sure you’re actually supposed to swim there, and the water was bloody freezing! We dipped our toes in and watched the water for a while before heading back up the steep steps.imageWe finished the day by heading to what is supposed to be one of the best lookouts in the Grampians – Boroka Lookout. It offered a stunning 180 degree view of Western Victoria, overlooking Halls Gap and Lake Bellfield, and only a tiny stroll from the car to the viewpoint. It was beautiful but I found it hard to really enjoy this on as there were far too many people dangling themselves precariously from the rocks for the perfect photo. It was pretty annoying having to wait ten minutes for a simple photo because there were so many people in the way, and personally I did think the Reed Lookout was far more breathtaking. But Boroka is definitely worth a look! It was the end of an amazing trip and we were all exhausted after a busy couple of days of hiking, camping and having way too much fun. It was time to head back to Melbourne, but we left with huge smiles on our faces and amazing memories with great friends. Our weekend could not have been any better and I’m still grinning now just thinking about it. We’ve already started planning the next trip!image

 

Have you been to the Grampians National Park? What was your favourite part? Can you recommend any other Australian national parks?

image7-1