Top Fives: Part one

8 March 2019

As we have come towards the end of this epic 23,000km road trip through just one corner of this vast country of Australia people have asked us “what has been your favourite place?”

It has been such a difficult question to answer.

There is no one place we can single out because we have been to just so many wonderful places. And when we do start to narrow it down, even break it down into categories, we can’t necessarily agree between ourselves.

So in answer to your inevitable question, here in these next few posts we will tell you our top 5s. And, to be clear, they are not in order of preference, rather chronological. They are also entirely subjective and we reserve the right to change our minds at any time!

Top 5 Drives

This journey has taken us through so many different landscapes and to so many magical places. Sometimes on tarmac, sometimes on beaches, sometimes on dirt roads and once even up a dry river bed. 23,000km is an unimaginably long way and these are the drives that stick out in our memory.

Gold Coast to Binna Burra, Queensland

Sometimes you don’t have to drive very far to see the diversity of Australia’s landscapes. It’s only 50km from the soaring skyscrapers and long sweeps of sand of Queensland’s Gold Coast to the rainforests of the Lamington National Park but it’s a climb of 800 metres. Leaving the built up coast quickly behind the road twists and turns into the McPherson Range. After a quick detour to the Hinze Dam, the final, narrow road clings to the edge of the near vertical forest before we arrived in the oasis of Binna Burra where we couldn’t have felt further from the surf.

Darling River Run, Bourke to Menindee, New South Wales

The road that follows the almost dry Darling River 470km from Bourke to the nearly as dry Menindee Lakes was our longest stretch of unsealed road and gave us a real taste of the scale of the outback and the isolation of the farmers who live and work here. There wasn’t much to see other than miles and miles of dry land and the occasional tiny hotel and when another vehicle did come along there was nothing to see but dust!

Stuart Highway, Port Augusta, South Australia to Yulara, Northern Territory

Nothing quite prepared us for just how ridiculously long and just how incredibly straight the Stuart Highway from Port Augusta to Yulara was going to be or just how little scenery there would be to see along the way. We drove 2,500 through the desert there and back. We nearly ran out of diesel once and did go just a little bit nuts with the monotony of it. It really gave us a sense of the vastness of Australia but it was more than worth it to get to Uluru.

Long Beach, Kingston SE, South Australia

Our short stay in Kingston SE was memorable for lots of reasons but mostly for one of our favourite South Australia beaches, Long Beach. We sat on it watching the sunset, walked on it but best of all was our 40km drive up and back across the wave rippled sand and over dried seaweed up to the Granites. Another lesson in just how isolated some places are, it was just us, a dead kangaroo and nothing south of us until Antarctica. Being able to drive on the beach is something I never got used to.

Mount Wellington Scenic Drive, Hobart, Tasmania

Extending our stay in Hobart meant that we had time to climb the peak that dominates the city’s landscape, only we took the easy way and did the scenic drive. Climbing up from the State Capital we were soon out of the buildings and winding up through the forests of the lower slopes. Twists and turns took us above the tree line where the road narrowed and we held our breath hoping that none of the tourist coaches would be coming the other way. The views from the top across the city, the Derwent River and beyond were just breathtaking.

Top 5 Walks

We might have sat in the car for tens of thousands of kilometres but we have also walked a lot too during our time in Australia and it has definitely been the best way to get deep into those landscapes we have grown to love. And we have needed to stretch our legs after all those long, long drives.

Caves Circuit, Lamington National Park, Queensland

We feel so lucky to have walked this trail so soon before a bushfire caused such destruction in the area and has closed the road and walking trails around Binna Burra Lodge. It was a short but steep 5km and even if we didn’t see the promised koalas, this was a beautiful walk through the immense tree trunks and rich greens of the rainforest, where slopes fell sheer away to the valley floor and the trees occasionally gave way to sweeping views into the far distance.

Wangara Lookout Hike, Flinders Ranges National Park, South Australia

At only 7km the Wangara Lookout Hike lulled us into a false sense of being a walk in the (national) park. It started on the flat through thick eucalyptus forest full of ponds and creeks but then at 6km we looked up and realised that the lookout was another kilometre up a steep and very rocky path. It was tough on the lungs on the way up and tough on the legs on the way down but the 360° views of the Ikara caldera were completely worth it. From the top we could really imagine the two snakes of the Adnyamathanha people’s Dreamtime story circling the plateau.

The Base Walk, Uluru, Northern Territory

Best walked early in the morning before the heat of the Middle gets too much, this walk is a perfect follow on to watching the sun rise over Uluru which means that we started our walk at about 7am. The 10km trail takes you up close and personal with the rock through wooded areas with detours to water holes and around the many sites that are sacred to the Traditional Owners of Uluru. As the sun climbs higher the patterns on the rock change and the red surface glows brightly. It is undescribably special.

The Oyster Walk, Coffin Bay, South Australia

We did this 10km walk in two halves from our campsite on Coffin Bay. Through a shady tunnel of trees we had some close encounters with emus and our first introduction to the emus favourite food, the fruit of the quandong tree. Along the more open shore of the shallow bay we passed the oyster farms and rocky beaches and through a burnt forest that was showing all the signs of complete regeneration. We rewarded ourselves for completing the trail with half a dozen oysters straight out of the bay.

Tidal River to Squeaky Beach, Wilson’s Promontory, Victoria

We sat out two very wet and windy weeks on Victoria’s southern coast to enjoy the 7km walk from Tidal River to Squeaky Beach on Wilson’s Promontory on the most glorious day. Climbing high up on to the headland we were rewarded with views of rivers and bays, mountains and islands before climbing down to the squeakiest of white sand beaches and the peninsula’s iconic orange lichen covered rocks.

When we weren’t driving on them we spent a lot of time on some of Australia’s best beaches and when we weren’t walking we spent a lot of time in its museums so up next our Top 5 beaches and museums…

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