Visiting Australia’s coastline has always been on my bucket list. Who wouldn’t want to explore some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and take in the surf culture all while getting a good tan? But as much as we all want to go there — getting there seems challenging. Don’t let the time change, jet lag, or distance scare you off. This place is worth the work.
Follow The Yellow Brick Road
Just like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, I clicked my ruby red alpargatas together and off I went. OK not really, I flew Air New Zealand, which now offers a direct flight to Auckland from Buenos Aires. A pitstop I can not recommend highly enough – but that’s for another article.
Flight time according to my captain is just about 13 hours with a quick stopover in Auckland and then another three-hour flight heading North to Brisbane — the Sunshine Coast baby! From there I make my way to the hippie beach town Byron Bay only to wrap things up with a trip to the vineyards of Hunter Valley.
Travel Tip: Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy is worth the gamble. It’s a system where you bid for a seat upgrade, by offering to pay what you think is a fair fare and they e-mail you a few days in advance, notifying you if you won the bid. If your bid gets accepted you’ll get customized reclining seats, ample legroom with armrests and a foot support, modern Kiwi cuisine (seriously the food was gourmet good) an amenity kit with socks and lip balm and most importantly, alcohol.
It’s Actually Always Sunny
There is some debate about which Australian coast is better: the Sunshine Coast or the Gold Coast. Probably one of the most beautiful cases of “tomato – tomahto” both are swoon worthy.
I made the hard call and went with The Sunshine Coast which can be broken down into three main areas:
- North Sunshine Coast – Includes Noosa and the Hinterland
- Central Sunshine Coast – Is the region of Maroochy
- South Sunshine Coast- is the area around Caloundra
Nuts for Noosa
I stayed in Noosa Heads, a swanky little beach town with cool vibes and sunny vistas. The beaches are pristine with soft white sand, deep blue water and skies. Cute cafes, restaurants and designer boutiques wrap around the main street to Sunshine Beach — known for sucking in the Aussie elite.
Each morning I found my way to a local café for my daily Flat White with smashed avocado on toast. And if you’re wondering, yes I did try Vegemite. It was delicious and works wonders for a hangover (just don’t forget the butter). When in Noosa do as the Noosans do and SURF!!! Sunshine beach is good for newbie surfers because the waves are somewhat calm and the beach doesn’t tend to get too overcrowded. Also, you will feel safe thanks to the Liam Hemsworth look-alike lifeguards out there protecting you.
If surfing is not your thing — no worries. Go for a walk or a run on the beach (just don’t have sex on the beach, the drink, there is no alcohol allowed on the beaches.) And if you’re a weirdo and the beach is not your thing, then I suggest heading to “the bush” that’s Australian for the wilderness areas outside the cities. Head to Noosa National Park, it features incredible coastal scenery with breathtaking views. It also provides important refuge for native wildlife including koalas, cockatoos and parrots. You can choose one of the five circuits to walk on and just follow the yellow brick road — I kid you not. The scenery will not disappoint.
My next stop on this coastal road-trippin’ tour was a quick five hour drive to Byron Bay, where I noticed: no shirt, no shoes, no problem. Byron Bay has a very relaxed hippie beach vibe and a younger crowd. Here you can visit Little Wategos, Australia’s easternmost beach, only accessible by foot. How about some whale watching? If you visit between May and September you can watch whales during their annual migration. Or if marine life ain’t yo’ thing, then go to the Byron Bay Community Market held the first Sunday of every month for local artisanal goods, delicious fare and fresh produce.
Travel Tip: Travel light. You will spend most of your days in a bathing suit, flip-flops and shorts. No need for fancy footwear and don’t forget to wear sunscreen with at least a minimum SPF of 30. UV radiation is no joke in here, so if you’re coming from abroad, cover up, wear sunglasses and a hat and wear sunscreen no matter what.
Lose Yourself in the Vineyards (With or Without Eminem)
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it, you better never let it go… Sorry I had to. I was told to make a vino pit stop and visit the vineyards of Hunter Valley. Besides, it was time to finally wear real shoes and sample some wine. Because adulthood.
Temperatures are much cooler in Hunter Valley – information to help inform your clothing choices and to enable you to drink more under the guise of staying warm. Upon my arrival, I hit up a local boutique winery called Gundog Estate. I sipped on Semillon, a golden-skinned grape of French and Australian heritage. Semillon is used to make both dry and sweet wines. Though word on the street is that the best Australian Semillon is the dryer style from the Hunter Valley, the fruit is picked early with low sugar levels and fermented without any use of oak and then quickly bottled. An array of almost tangy lemony acidic flavors will have a field day with your taste buds at first only to later chill out as they work their way down your palate. Other Semillon’s will have a fruitier more tart taste but after about two glasses of each, they all have the same effect. Yay winetasting.
Another great experience was my visit to Hunter Valley Gardens, a major tourist attraction that showcases 10 differently themed garden areas with over eight kilometers of pathways. No shame in this game. My favorite was Storybook Gardens. Nursery rhyme characters and spectacular murals greet you around every corner. Turnback time to childhood and have tea with the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, sit on a wall with Humpty Dumpty (who almost had a fall) while Jack and Jill came tumbling over.
After a healthy dose of emotional regression, it was time for dinner at Muse Restaurant located at Hungerford Hill wines in Pokolbin. Muse is an award-winning restaurant that serves up modern Australian dishes with a local seasonal focus. I made my way through a six course-tasting menu, sampling dishes of sashimi, cuttlefish, sweet corn polenta, and 70-hour slow cooked wagyu with fermented wombok. I know, I had to look that last one up too before I ate it — turns out it’s just Chinese cabbage. With each dish came a distinct wine. I was as happy as an Australian Quokka.
Travel Tip: If you don’t want to break the bank and want a similar culinary experience on a friendlier budget, head to Muse Kitchen, the more relaxed sister venue for a fab lunch.
Now that I explored some of Australia’s amazing coastline it was time for a three-hour drive from Hunter Valley to the bright lights of Sydney! So stay tuned.
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