Tag Archives: hiking

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?

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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?

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Sleeping under the stars and watching the sun rise over the jungle in Khao Sok (part 2)

imageI woke up with a jolt as an alarm went off in the lake hut next door, had I really even been asleep? It felt like just minutes ago the French guy I’d ended up sharing a hut with had been telling me about life as a chiropractor. It took a moment to realise why the alarm was going off and why the heck I was awake when it was pitch black outside and the morning safari was two hours away, but then it all came flooding back. I was up at 5am, along with five others, to paddle out in canoes to watch the sun rise over the jungle. Quickly pulling on my bikini and meeting the others out at the jetty where the canoes lay waiting, some of us pulled on life jackets for a bit of warmth, it was pretty cool out in the jungle at that time. There was joy a single light on around the lake huts, we went by torch light until our eyes accustomed to the stars which lit the beautiful night sky above us.imageimageI won’t lie, there’s something about dark water that kind of freaks me out. I think it’s just the not knowing what is beneath you, not having any warning if something comes for you.. Haha silly I know! I’ve never let it get in the way of doing anything, but I have to admit I hesitated slightly when I saw just how dark it was out there on the lake. I wasn’t the only one who had second thoughts for a split second, but we quickly pushed any doubts to one side, and thank god we did! Climbing into the canoes, I was sharing with an Israeli friend, Joav, who was a bit of an all around Indiana Jones, so he happily took on paddling after we realised our badly timed paddling was more likely to tip us over if I joined in. Paddling like a pro, the canoe cut through the calm surface of the water cleanly and we were soon out in the middle of the lake, having left the others far behind in our dust. We waited, floating silently in the water, for the other two canoes to catch up and listened to the deafening silence. It amazed me that the jungle could ever be that quiet. Apparently earlier in the night, Joav and a local had overheard a wild elephant crashing around in the undergrowth, but now it was deathly silent with the birds and monkeys still yet to wake.imageimageThe others finally steadied themselves and made it out to meet us, we joined the canoes as closely as possible and waited, taking in the whole experience. We floated around, chatting and enjoying the peace of the early morning. Then, shortly after, the sky began to lighten around a mountain to the east of us. The clouds started to form those beautiful patterns, reflecting the first rays of sunlight and the jungle started to come alive. It was beautiful, no words can describe this experience, it left me speechless which is no mean feat. By the time 7am came around the sun was still yet to appear over the mountain, but sadly we had to go back for the morning safari – nonetheless, the sky was beautiful at that time of the morning. It was worth the sheer exhaustion of the late night followed by the early start, the morning safari and a huge uphill hike later that morning.imageimageThe hike was exhausting but great fun, taking us around the lake we started out at a new point with a national park guide leading the way. It was a fairly uphill climb and some people struggled, so beware of you take this one on, but anyone with a standard level of fitness would be fine. The hike took us to a viewpoint which was lovely, but the cave that followed was far more spectacular. This huge cave was filled with stalagmites and stalactites, vipers lay inside and there were huge parts to climb and explore. We all had a great time there, followed by a walk back to the boat where we ate lunch and swam – even inventing pineapple polo as a new game with the leftover peel from lunch. It was a perfect way to end our time as the A Team and sad goodbyes followed the end of this amazing weekend. A smaller group of us who were staying at the park an extra night met up for drinks and card games that might, which was a lovely way to say goodbye before we all parted ways the following day.imageimageKhao Sok was incredible. It was easily one of the most amazing places I have visited in my two-and-a-half months of travelling solo – and believe me I’ve seen a lot of different parts of Thailand in that time. If you love outdoor activities, hiking, canoeing, caving and the like – you will feel right at home here! There is so much to do and see, and you might even get lucky and meet some pretty amazing people like I did.image

 

 

Tell me about the places you’ve travelled to that really stood out in your mind – what made them so special? Have you visited any national parks? 

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