Tag Archives: national park

Melbourne | Getting lost in Wilson’s Promontory National Park | Australia

IMG_2691Spoiler alert: Prepare for stunning images and a serious case of wanderlust!

Ever since the first time I lived in Melbourne, visiting Wilson’s Promontory National Park has been high on my to-do list, sadly working too much got in the way and I had to wait a while year before I would actually get to see this masterpiece of nature. I’ve travelled all over the world and explored countless national parks now, but this one will remain one of my absolute favourites and I can’t wait to share it with you. A perfect city escape for a weekend, you’ll find Wilson’s Prom down on Mornington Peninsula, one of the most beautiful areas of Victoria where you will also find Phillip Island. You’ll need a car to reach it, so if you don’t already have one then hire one with friends – it’s cheap as chips compared to the UK (try Budget, they’re my favourite company to hire with over here). With a small group, the weekend can cost almost nothing once you’ve shared out hire care, fuel and food costs, I think in total I spent about $60-70 for a whole weekend of activities, food and drinks.IMG_2606The drive there takes around three hours so set off early to make the most of the day, you’ll be camping at Tidal River which is a great campsite with bathrooms/showers, barbecues, plenty of spots for your camp (although book before to ensure space during peak season) and all kinds of wildlife wandering around including huge wombats that come right up to you in the evenings. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump from a stunning river, marshland and even a beach which is beyond perfection at sunset. Take my advice – head down there at sunset with your gang and a few beers – it’s breathtaking. Once you arrive, best to head straight for the office at the campsite to get your permit and then find a spot to camp – always best to get this done quickly in daylight so you can secure a good spot. If you’re anything like us, we were aiming to be close to the barbecues/toilets but far from families with young children so we wouldn’t disturb anyone later on.IMG_2593

GET HIGH

Once you’ve set up camp, it’s time to start exploring so hopefully the weather is on your side! Wrap up warm and head for Mount Oberon – the summit is the perfect place to get your first impressions of the park and the hike isn’t too tough. It’s around 3.4km on a gravel road at an easy-medium grade uphill – we saw plenty of elderly people and children manage it fine so don’t be put off just be sure to take plenty of water. The climb took us around 40 minutes, for others it took an hour depending on ability, and when you reach the top the view is more than worth it. Prepare for spectacular 360 degree views across three beautiful beaches including the famous Squeaky Beach, and in the other direction the sand dunes. It’s windy at the top so be prepared with layers and make sure you take your camera!IMG_2628

GET LOST

Next up is my favourite part of the trip – the Big Drift sand dunes! Almost at the entrance to the park, you drive along a treelined road almost into the middle of nowhere. Then after parking up, head a bit further on foot before you discover the trail becomes sandier. Climb the steep, sandy hill and you’ll find a little piece of heaven in the rolling, endless sand dunes. Stretching as far as the eye can see, and completely untouched, they warp your sense of distance and perspective in the most magical way. It’s easy to forget the beaches and mountain are just a few kilometres away. Fantastic for photos and exploring, but don’t forget to keep an eye on where you are – it’s easy to get lost and forget the way out of these dunes.IMG_2622

GET BEACHY

Of course you can’t visit Wilson’s Prom without getting up close and personal with some of it’s beautiful beaches. The most well known – Squeaky Beach is beautiful no matter what the weather and the sand really does squeak! Other ones worth visiting are Picnic Bay, Little Oberon Bay and Leonard Bay. If you’re in the mood for beach walks – pick up a great leaflet from the Tidal River campsite offices with a list of the best walks/hikes to do in the national park. They list the gradients/distances/difficulty and what you need to take with you so you can be totally prepared. We would have loved to have done the three bay walk but sadly the weather went crazy and we had bad storms on our second day that prevented us.IMG_2612

GET EXPLORING

Around the campsite alone there are several small walks and beautiful spots to explore before you set up the barbecue. Make sure you take a walk early evening to experience Tidal River campsite in all it’s natural beauty. Stroll along the boardwalk in the shadow of mountains set against the glassy, still waters, walk alongside fields of gold in the setting sun. It’s just beautiful and shouldn’t be missed.IMG_2627 2

And relax…

So after a long day of exploring the park, taking stunning photos, climbing mountains and running around sand dunes – it’s about time for a beer. How about taking that beer to the next level? Fill a bag with drinks and put on your warm layers, then walk through Tidal River campground to Norman Beach, just east of the campground. If you time it right for sunset, you’re in for a spectacular show as the waves roll in towards the beach tinted pink and purple against the setting sun. A perfect place to sit with your very best friends enjoying a beer and with some good music playing in the background. Moments like this are why I came travelling.IMG_2618Make the most of the barbecues and cook up a feast – you’ll all be starving after that day of adventures and then pitch up some seats to sit and enjoy the stars. Hopefully you have a drier night than we did – unfortunately the heavens opened and the campsite flooded that night so we didn’t have much fun packing up the next morning and couldn’t do much in the park the next day. But we were glad we had crammed so much into the first day so we could go home happy. Definitely one of my favourite Melbourne experiences and in my opinion, better than Great Ocean Road/Grampians.

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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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Magnetic Island | Bush walking and Barbie cars | Australia

imageAfter all the fun and games of Fraser Island and Whitsundays, we headed straight off to Magnetic Island – now this was the one we had no idea what to expect of. We had heard nothing about the island and weren’t sure if it would bring us a relaxing time or fun filled action. A bus and a ferry ride later, we arrived at Base Magnetic – which turned out to be easily the best and most beautiful Base hostel I have yet seen. It was stunning, the dorms were little six bed cabins set right on the shoreline and next to a swimming pool, with nothing but space – something which is normally rather lacking in hostels. Scattered around the grounds were loads of hammocks and comfy chairs for chilling and sunbathing, with the beach just in front. Our first evening was spent watching the sunset with a cold beer in hand and making new friends, including a huge group of Canadian girls who we spent most of the three days with and ended up being reunited with in Cairns as well! Our first night was hilarious, filled with silly drinking games, delicious food and a lot of laughs.imageimageThe next morning, the two of us decided to head out and explore the island, we went bush walking on a trail that started our side of the island and took us way over to one of the other bays past a great viewpoint. It was a pretty hot and sweaty hike, but well worth it for the view (see top pic) and the swim at the other end, plus we got to see some of the national park along the way. It took us a few hours to hike, but was well worth doing – just make sure you set off as early as possible to avoid the intense heat of the day. And keep your eyes peeled for Aussie nature highlights like the wild koalas that cling to the trees along the trail. That was a pretty special sight, being within touching distance of wild koalas and getting the infamous koala selfie, even if we were due to visit the koala sanctuary the day after. There’s just something so much more special when you seen an animal in its natural habitat. The landscape is just beautiful on Magnetic Island – from the crashing waves around the base of huge rock faces, to the dense bush and scrubland you trek through to reach from one side to another. The beauty of the island speaks for itself and I love that it isn’t a place that tries so hard – there is no expectation of what you have to do when you arrive. There are a huge range of activities on offer, but no pressure to take part in these organised trips, it’s more about going off on your own and exploring the island.imageimageOur final full day on the island was the best by far, we ended up teaming up with the Canadians and hiring jeeps (it’s usually supposed to be Barbie cars but we had too many people and didn’t get there early enough) to explore the island. First off we started at the koala sanctuary where we enjoyed a champagne breakfast and meeting lots of different animals from lizards to parrots. The food was delicious and we all filled our plates – typical backpackers! Afterwards, we were taken to meet the koalas and to have our photos taken with them. They were gorgeous, fluffy and oh, so soft. They smelt like eucalyptus and clung on for dear life, it was so adorable, and I was glad to be contributing towards helping rehabilitate them and up the numbers in the wild, but to be honest it wasn’t as good as the one we had seen in the wild the day before. The rest of the day saw us heading off to some of the best snorkelling beaches where we took our masks and snorkels into the water to spot fish, small sharks and more diving amongst the coral. A few hours of sunbathing were followed by a quick pit stop at the bottle shop to buy some wine for the sunset, before heading to West Point to watch it set over the ocean. It was the perfect end to an amazing day with new friends and I haven’t even told you about the best bit yet!imageimageEarlier in the day we did something amazing – my favourite part of the whole day. The girls had heard about a butterfly walk, completely natural and undisturbed by tourism. We parked up on the side of the road and walked into the woods to find ourselves surrounded by hundreds of stunning blue butterflies who swooped around our heads as the branches they perched upon swayed in the breeze. It was magical and like something out of a fairytale – as you walked through they were everywhere and I don’t think I have ever seen so many butterflies in one place before. Definitely worth visiting – just ask at the hostel and they’ll direct you. All in all, Magnetic Island was a seriously unexpected pleasure and I’m so happy we went, it was the biggest surprise of all of our destinations because we had so little idea of what to expect. I know many miss it out because of time constraints or funds on their trip up the East Coast but I would seriously recommend making sure you squeeze in a couple of days there! After one more tipsy night together, we all parted ways knowing we would be reunited in just a few days in Cairns.imageimage

 

Have you been to Magnetic Island – what was your favourite activity? Where did you stay? What did you think of the Koala Sanctuary?

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Stepping back 160 million years to the real Jurassic Park – Khao Sok (Part 1)

imageOne of my favourite experiences in Thailand so far has definitely been my time spent in a 160 million year old rainforest slap bang in the centre of the country. When my Lonely Planet and a few websites all described Khao Sok as the ‘real Jurassic Park’ it definitely captured my imagination and conjured up a few images – but nothing prepared me for the real beauty of this completely wild landscape. Coming from the southern islands, it was a complete change of surroundings – from perfect beaches to untamed, lush green forest. It was just what I was in need of, after the bustling, busy time in Phuket Town I was craving some nature and exercise. I was in for a treat, and after a long day spent on a bus with my newfound friend, we pitched up at the road to the national park and were jumped on by the touts trying to sell rooms at their places. In an amazing coincidence, I had planned to stay at Jungle Huts which is recommended by Lonely Planet, the first to approach me was from Jungle Huts and was offering me a treehouse bungalow there for a few hundred less than I had planned to spend – winning!imageAfter settling in and taking a walk round the village, it was time for some serious food and a few drinks with a group of German and Swedish people I had met. That night I had the best nights sleep listening to the jungle sounds of crickets, bats and the occasional monkey and woke up ready to take on the rainforest. I actually headed into the park by myself that first day and planned to spend the day exploring by myself, but overhearing two very familiar accents at the entrance was one of the best things that could have happened. I ended up meeting a couple from Suffolk just minutes into my walk and before you knew it we had teamed up together and hiked around 15km through the park over the course of a day, stopping only to swim in waterfalls spread along the jungle path. It was brilliant, just the exercise my body had been craving and great to get off the beaten path a bit. The travellers you meet in Khao Sok are there on purpose and are a different type to those you meet elsewhere, so it was great to find other people who were after the same experience I was.imageThe couple were actually staying at Jungle Huts as well so that evening we met for dinner and planned to take the overnight trip to the man-made lake that stood in the middle of the park. It was the best decision we could have made and we all went to bed really excited for what the next two days would hold – with promises of caving, hiking, swimming and much more! We also met a small group of people who would be in our tour group the next day which was brilliant and the A Team began to take shape. The next morning, we met our group early and set out on our trip with our tour leader, Mr A – a total legend. After a short drive to pick up snacks and out to the lake, we caught a long tail boat across – an amazing journey that showed us the beauty of the landscape with towering cliffs, vast open spaces and dense jungle all sitting alongside each other. It was heaven rushing across the open water like that and the group of 16 were all beyond excited to see where we would be staying that night. The group was a total mixture of ages from late teens to 60’s, but we all had a great time together.imageimageWe arrived at the lake huts which were all sitting on a giant raft that had been built on the water, the whole thing rocked like crazy every time anyone walked on it and we were all a bit nervous about what the walk would be like after a beer or two! After lunch, we set out for a long hike to a cave in the middle of the jungle, it was amazing. After a short ride on the boat, we hiked through jungle, under towering rocks and over fallen trees, to reach the cave, which we then started making our way through by torchlight. It definitely wasn’t somewhere you wanted to be if the lights went out with snakes, massive spiders and huge frogs living deep within. There were several parts where we had to wade through rushing water, and one point where we actually had to swim with our torches in our mouths, it was awesome! Just the kind of adventurous stuff we were all craving, and the real lack of health and safety made it even more exciting! We all arrived back at the lake huts and dove straight into the lake, which we were told in some places reached depths of 120m, but never got cold. It was strangely warm at all times, but perfect for swimming!imageimageThat night was spent eating a delicious dinner of freshly caught and barbecued fish with the A Team, followed by beers and a night safari where we saw monkeys and stargazed from the long tail boat. It was so beautiful and as someone who loves a bit of stargazing, it was gorgeous to get such an amazing open view of the sky where it was so dark, the stars have never looked to clear. We all went to bed happy and prepared to get up early – at 7am for the morning safari although as all group of us planned to be up even earlier for something very special. There was a group of about six of us who bonded pretty quickly and we decided we wanted to get up to watch the sun rise while out on the lake in canoes. It was amazing and I’ll tell you more about that in part two of my posts.image

 

Tell me about your favourite travelling experience – which places have really made an impact on you? Have you explored any national parks around the world? 

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