A road trip across Australia can only be described as epic. It is also the only way you can get a sense of the scale of this country. We had seventeen days and a grand plan that had us traversing some 5,630 km’s (3,498 miles) and past as many landmarks as we thought we could manage. Just to give you some idea of the journey ahead it would be like driving from LAX to JFK and then down to Charlotte, NC.
Sydney: Day 01 & Day 17
Sydney Opera House – Easily one of the most recognized buildings on the planet, the Sydney Opera House does not disappoint. The tour, history, and architecture are fascinating all on their own levels. I guarantee that your time spent here will not let you down.
Bondi Beach – I was on the fence about a visit to this famous Sydney landmark, and having been, I can say that was just plain dumb. A fantastic beach and well deserving of its reputation, I am sure a local could send you to an even nicer quieter stretch of sand, but why. Bondi Beach has a little something very everyone. We visited during their annual Sculpture by the Sea Bondi show, and that made the experience all the more enjoyable.
Street Art – Melbourne may get all the press on this one, but Sydney is no slack job. We spent an enjoyable afternoon with Global Greeters taking a tour of Sydney and her street art. The results were equal parts surprising and delighting. See more.
Hyde Park Barracks (Sydney Living Museums) – This UNESCO site was designed by convict architect Francis Greenway. It was built in 1819 for convict men and boys by convicts. It is one of the best examples remaining of the large-scale prisoner transport and colonial expansion that occurred in Australia. Outside of the exterior of some of the buildings and the small museum, this site is mostly left to one’s imagination.
The drive from Sydney to Melbourne: Day 02
Driving from Sydney to Melbourne took the entire day, and it was not one of those drives that just whizzes by. I swear I felt every minute of this one. Perhaps if you want to squeeze a little more time out in either of these cities, you could fly and pick up the rental car in Melbourne on your way out.
Melbourne: Day 03 & 04
Melbourne was easily our favorite city on the trip. Even though Sydney was settled first, you can sense that all too familiar feeling of history as you walk the streets. Put that together with the outstanding food and ease of the cities tram system, and you have everything you could want.
Eureka Skydeck 88 – It was standard practice when explorers were discovering new lands to look for a high vantage point to survey the area. That makes the Eureka Skydeck the perfect starting point for any visit to Melbourne. Get a jump-start on all of your fellow travelers and a sense of the lay of the land. Also, keep an eye out for interesting looking areas that you might want to explore more carefully. Learn more.
Old Melbourne Gaol – It is no secret that Australia got its start as a penal colony. If you want to see a small piece of that beginning, then this is the place for you. Plus if you have any interest in Ned Kelly, Australia’s most famous folklore hero, you won’t want to miss this one. Learn more.
State Library of Victoria – Two main things make this a don’t miss on your visit to Melbourne. The La Trobe Reading Room and the tower galleries featuring Ned Kelly memorabilia, which houses his famous suit of armor.
Street Art – The CBD is all the rage when you are doing research regarding Melbourne’s street art scene. You can still find good pieces here, but we discovered a fair number of them had been painted over with tagging, which was very disappointing. Fitzroy North, however, running along St Georges Road showed us our best finds. We only wished we had found them sooner, as I feel there were lots more in the neighborhood we just ran out of time.
National Gallery of Victoria – a fun and free museum that showcases an excellent selection of art. No new ground is being broken here and your time would be better spent across the street in the parks, particularly the Shrine of Remembrance. Save your art museum for Adelaide.
Quality Hotel Downtowner on Lygon – Lying just outside the CBD in Carlton, this is the perfect hotel for road trippers, and budget minded travelers. They have a private parking lot and are within a few minutes walk to numerous great restaurants, many tramlines, and the Old Melbourne Gaol.
Ying Thai 2 – On Lygon St just up from the Quality Hotel Downtowner is the best Thai food we have had since, well Thailand. Ying Thai 2 is tasty and very popular with the locals and travelers alike.
Universal Italian Restaurant – Just across Lygon Street from Ying Thai 2, you will find a lively Italian restaurant. While the most popular dish seemed to be an Italian twist on chicken schnitzel, everything we saw looked great. Be warned they can get crowded and the portions are pretty big.
Great Ocean Road: Day 05
Cape Otway Lightstation – This is Australia’s oldest and longest running lighthouse. Accessed off of the Great Ocean Road and situated at the point of Cape Otway. The area was home to several disastrous shipwrecks prompting the building of the light station in 1848. In 1994 the lighthouse was retired, and a new automatic LED went into operation below the cliff. A small restaurant and museum are on site to add to your visit. Keep your eye open on the drive out to the light station as this was the only place we saw koala’s in the wild.
Twelve Apostles Marine National Park – Running along 17 km’s (10.5 miles) of dramatic coastline, the Twelve Apostles Park is named after the rock stacks lying just off its shore. Coastal trails lead you along much of the park allowing for grand views of arches and pillars of stone rising into the sky.
Stay with us for the rest of our journey across the land down under.