I've been sitting on this post for a little while now, trying to find a clever way to present my travel notes that will express my joy, learnings and enthusiasm for the world Down Under. But no such luck. I had also originally intended to write this post whilst I was travelling to make sure that I could share it all with you without missing a thing. But again, it wasn't meant to be. To be honest, I don't that there are words that could do justice to how I feel about my travels anyway (or at least I haven't found them yet) and my photography skills are hardly up to scratch. So instead, I'm just going to say that this is simply a verbal and visual snapshot.
I should also mention that these photos are not ordered strictly chronologically beyond the month in which they were taken... more as a loose timeline. That’s how I remember them anyway: as one big deliriously messy photo reel. So if you're confused by how I darted from one place to the next (with Australia being a pretty big place) that would be why. It should also be noted that I have a strong tendency to take photos of food and the ocean. You'll just have to accept that I'm afraid. And FYI: some of these photos are by my brother too - usually the ones with the cool effects and a clean camera lens (who has the patience for that?).
So with the admin out of the way, let's begin...
A whistlestop tour of the East Coast
I arrived with my brother and dad who were on holiday for two weeks before leaving me to begin my own adventure. We landed in Sydney and hung around there for a few days so that we could see some old friends and the Northern Beaches before I went to the first Inspiration Day for my Beautiful You life coaching course. It was essentially a meet up for the girls on the course so that we could get to know each other beyond the screen, as well as witness some serious inspiration by way of the day's speakers which included lead trainer Julie Parker, Ezzie Spencer (pictured with me, above right) and Megan Dalla-Camina. Of course, I marked both occasions with selfies.
Travelling with my family meant that I was able to tick off a fair few boxes of touristy activities and sightseeing, like climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge and walking the sands of Bondi Beach, before I came back on my own to explore further afield. After our short stint in Sydney, the plan was to see as much of the East Coast as possible in 5 days before jetting over to Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays for some R&R. The boys had quite a bit to cram in so we only stayed overnight in Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Byron Bay and Brisbane as we drove up the coast.
The sun was playing games and ducking behind clouds whenever we got out of the car, which was a shame, but it did mean that we enjoyed some glorious views from the comfort of the car. As luck would have it, one of the days that time was on our side the sun also decided to play ball as we left the highway for a detour via a little seaside town and we were able to enjoy some lunch and a juice whilst basking in the sunshine.
During my time in Aus I became a little obsessed with the sunsets and ocean views. They are some of the best I have seen. If I were an Aussie I think I'd be up at the crack of dawn regularly to see the sunrise too (I only managed it a handful of times). Expect to see more photos of these in Parts 2 and 3.
We arrived in Byron Bay just in time to catch the moody sunset over Main Beach, which was pretty special. I was determined to treat my dad and brother to some healthy culinary delights whilst we were there so the following morning we walked into town to Bayleaf Cafe to sample some fo their fare. I had the coconut quinoa porridge with a poached pear and cashew creme, which is insanely creamy and delicious, my brother had the Scramble Special (earning his stamp of approval) and my dad had the fruit toast (it has to be said, he wasn't feeling the healthy vibe - his loss). I also ordered a Chilli Chocolate Chai - the first of many. This place is a serious contender for best breakfast in, like, the whole of Aus. I knew I'd be back here after the boys had flown home.
Hamilton Island. The sky looked like this for all of three hours over 4 days, despite trying my best to get a tan and bullying my brother into lying on the beach getting goose bumps with me for 4 hours. The boys really missed out because not long after they left for home and I had landed back in Sydney did the sun decide to stage a return. In all honestly Hamilton Island is very resort-y and it's not actually possible to reach any of the beaches that aren't part of the resort, which is a bit weird (and disappointing) if you ask me. But I definitely relaxed and read a heap of books whilst we were there. Anyway, before I knew it the boys were flying home and I was oficially an independent woman.
Hanging with the Sydney-siders
My first few days in Sydney alone were pretty rough actually. My hostel room was empty, bar me, for two nights and the communal areas of the YHA (where I was staying) are pretty spread out, making it hard to meet people. It was probably the second time that I've been homesick in my whole life. When people did start arriving I shared the room with some really sweet girls that came and went, but made all the difference to me settling in. I started off by visiting the Sydney Opera House (which I had missed first time round for the Inspiration Day) and explored The Rocks, Paddington, Darling Harbour, Surry Hills and Bondi a bit more (all crammed with healthy eateries - not that that influenced my navigations at all...). I was lucky to know some locals that could point me in the direction of places to wander.
It was still the tail end of winter when I arrived so I was wearing jeans most of the time but the sun really warmed things up and I even had to slap on suncream from time to time. I couldn't go halfway around the world without doing something at least a little historical so I took a tour around the Governor's house in Sydney, which was actually very interesting and also gorgeous (no, I'm not being sarcastic - it really was).
Like every city, Sydney has it's eye sores but there are some really lovely parts. Paddington has some great upmarket shopping to gaze at, loads of Aussie designers and cute bookstores, as does Surry Hills. Actually, Australia in general has brilliant bookstores: quirky independent cafe-come-bookstores and second-hand bookstores too. Book prices are alarmingly high for an outsider (not that that stopped me picking up a few) since most books are imported; I've read that this is the reason that Aus has such a good reputation for its second-hand bookstores. Independent stores seem to be much more common than on the British high street and weekend markets are a big thing here too, from gathering your weekly veggie haul to picking up handmade soaps and local crafts. Aussie fashion is definitely more exciting if you love colour and print like I do. I bought loads of beautiful clothes that it'll probably never be warm enough to wear in the UK but I couldn't help myself.
I was often on my feet or walking for 5 or 6 hours a day so I made it a ritual to spend time every afternoon 'refuelling', which usually meant I would lie starfish on the grass in a park somewhere in the city with a book and a coffee or raw treat. This was my secret to staying grounded and probably one of my favourite parts of travelling - spending the afternoons on the grass doing nothing much. It seems simple, but we don't get to do that much in our daily lives, so it was a real treat.
And the raw treats! I'll admit to overdoing it somewhat on this front. Waaaay too many raw desserts - purely testing my limits, of course ;). I was actually pretty sick of them by the time I left Sydney. But gosh, were they good! Orchard St. is literally the dream when it comes to healthy cafes. Raw salads and smoothies to go or eat in, as well as delicious raw chocolates and cakes, all infused with different herbs, superfoods and spices chosen for flavour and nutritional power by the naturopathic team behind Orchard St. But the standout for me was their drinks menu. From kombucha on tap (I told you it was the healthy foodie's dream!) to medicinal mushroom-infused and spiced hot chocolates, I walked long distances for these wonders! They now have three cafes across Sydney and I would recommend you check them out in a heartbeat.
Not that that's the only place to eat in Bondi - the place is practically heaving with health spots and svelte figures. Bondi is an odd mix, with the shops along the promenade being fairly tacky from the front but just a few streets back there are lots of nice (and expensive) shops and cafes, especially further into North Bondi. Although Sydney isn't the coffee capital of the nation (that would be Melbourne), you're sure to find plenty of good coffee around Bondi. Personally, I think Porch and Parlour served the best brew (that I tasted anyway).
Just before leaving Sydney I spent an evening at one of Melissa Ambrosini's Goddess Groups, which I was really looking forward to. We were saged on our way in and adorned with a sparkly bindi (see above) before Mel led a kind of workshop on 'divine productivity'. Everyone was really forthcoming and shared their fears and mental blocks before creating a mini action plan for how they could create change. I managed to catch Mel to chat for a moment at the end and she was totally engaged and very encouraging. So many of the women I met in Aus give you their full attention when you are talking, and I have to say it's one of the most inspiring things that I witnessed there.
Phew, I feel like I've only just scratched the surface here, but there's Parts 2 and 3 to look forward to with plenty more photos and ramblings so stay tuned!
Come on, let's hear it! Standout stories from your travels, share them with me in the comments!
One more thing: I share all my adventures (home and away) in real time on Instagram. Want in?