The Great Ocean Road

When I made the move to Melbourne, Australia, I was inundated with things to do in Australia. I had to make sure I saw Sydney, explored all of Melbourne, went scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, and found as many beaches as humanly possible. Once in Melbourne, it was the locals who turned me on to a road trip along the Great Ocean Road. The name of the road itself was all I needed to rent a car and get on my way.

All I needed to do was hop in my cheap rental and head due west along the southern coast. First stop on the tour was Bells Beach, the premier spot in all of Australia for pro surfing and home to the longest running competition on the planet. Also, the final scene of Point Break, while filmed in Oregon, is actually set at Bells Beach, so I knew this was a must see.

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Bells Beach

The rest of the drive had absolutely stunning views and it never got old to know that I was looking over the Southern Ocean, and that the next closest land mass was Antartica. There’s nothing like being near places on a map that seem astronomically far away when learning about them in a classroom in the US. Disclaimer: I consider myself to be a very solid driver…no accidents (knock on wood) in my entire time with a license, but navigating a windy road, on the opposite side of the road, was a white knuckle experience.

There are many stops to take in along the way: Apollo Bay, Cape Ottway, and nearly any cliffside overlook. But once you get to Port Cambell, the real attractions come into view: The Twelve Apostles. These are monoliths made of limestone that dot the Souther Ocean by Port Campbell National Park, and they make an unbelievably picturesque shoreline. The erosion in this part of the world is extremely powerful, with all the wind and strong currents coming from Antarctica, leaving only eight of the Apostles still standing today.

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Apollo Bay
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The Twelve Apostles

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The day that I went to visit was one of the windiest days of my life, and seeing people take off on helicopter tours to see the limestone stacks up close was a harrowing experience as an observer let alone a passenger. This is definitely a trip worth doing, a chance to explore a part of the world that may once have seemed far fetched. If you don’t like driving, you can take a tour bus, but that will take away all your freedom…where and when to stop, how long to stay at certain spots, and what music to toss on the radio. So rent a car in Melbourne, drive west for about 250 miles, and take in the sights. Make sure to bring a camera, because there is no shortage of amazing memories to capture.

Post by Pete McKeown, Contributor and Globetrotter

Travel Idea: Bondi to Coogee Beach in Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia is a city that I enjoyed so much that I turned a five day stay into a three week sojourn. I still think it could have been longer, it was that enjoyable an experience. On one side, you find arguably the most picturesque harbor on the planet, with the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House providing a stunning backdrop. I could talk about a number of things to do here, but if you visit Sydney, this isn’t advice you’d need. It’s the first place you go just on principle.

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A more active, more fulfilling experience lies on the other side of the city, less than 25 minutes by bus from the harborside landmarks. Bondi (bond-eye) beach is the most popular place to set up shop, and Coogee Beach is not far behind. Both have great open air bars, coffee shops, surfer stores, and anything else you’d expect to find on a cityside beach. Between Bondi and Coogee, there is a 6km long coastal path that follows the ocean along cliff tops, overlooks multiple coves, and energizes those who walk it. Here is an itinerary one could follow to spend an entire day along this epic shoreline.

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You can choose to start at either Bondi or Coogee, depending on your preference, but Bondi would be my choice in order to really enjoy the sun and the surf while the sun’s rays are less harsh. The beach will likely be crowded assuming you set up your stay over their summer, which technically starts on December 1 and ends February 28 but can be hot enough for a month before and after on any given day. Personally, I’d want to spend the morning surfing, as it almost seems like a rite of passage on a beach where wave riders dot the ocean. If a newcomer, try to watch the technique of the more seasoned vets to see how they smoothly avoid breaks in order to reach the zone to catch a wave.

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Now that you’ve enjoyed an active morning at the beach, it’s time to start the trek to Coogee Along the beach walk. You’ll pass an amazing set of pools known as The Icebergs that fill up anew each day with the oncoming tide.
The path winds around an eroded cliffside for quite a ways, until finally reaching Mackenzie’s Bay, a beautiful little cove set in from stronger waves of the Pacific.

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Just past the bay lies Tamarama Beach, a more secluded beach experience with many of the same activities as the more crowded Bondi. One day on my way down the path, I noticed their surf lifesaving club practicing their craft in the ocean and heard from a local that this group was one of the oldest in the world having been formed in 1906. Even more impressive, in those 100+ years, they have yet to have a person die in the surf on their watch.

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Though you may be tempted to set up shop at Tamarama, there is still plenty of walking to do, and you’ll be stopping near the next area in Bronte.

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This quaint little neighborhood is home to a large park, expansive beach, and an array of cafes. This is a perfect spot to grab some lunch just off the path. You can go for a brunch, some traditional Australian food, or sample the local seafood (I loved the barramundi).

Once you’ve devoured some much needed nourishment, your walk continues and will take you past Waverley Cemetery, whose residents, though deceased, stake claim to some of the best real estate in all of Sydney. This 150 year old resting place is a famous burial ground in Australia and many historic Aussies are buried here.

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The path continues on to Clovelly, a place close to my heart as I stayed here for more than a month over the holidays. You’ll see a picturesque lawn bowling club as well as some unbelievable views from the tall cliffs that surround the tiny Clovelly Beach.

Once past Clovelly, the trail follows more steep cliffs, slowly moving downhill towards Coogee Beach. During one of my many walks, I saw a pair of humpback whales a few hundred yards offshore. They put on quite a show, following me the entire way to my destination, breaching and shooting water out of their blowholes for the better part of a half hour.

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Coogee Beach should now be in sight, and depending on your level of exhaustion from the day’s events, would be a great spot to enjoy a refreshing swim. There are plenty of beachside bars to enjoy a pint of some local beer, something that may be needed after your cliffside trek. The transportation system will make your life easier as well with a bus stop on the main road that’s parallel to the beach. This day will help you live a day in the life of a local from Sydney. A day full of surfing, exercise, great food, and cold beer. If you’re like me, a short trip could turn into an extended stay, and I promise, it would be worth it.

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Post by Pete McKeown, Contributor and Globetrotter

Go Here: Fraser Island in Queensland, Australia

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I met this little guy during my weeklong stay on Fraser Island in Queensland, Australia. Dingoes live freely here, a rarity in Eastern Australia. They may look cute and cuddly, but like all wildlife, they are to be left alone for their own good. Fraser Island is a gem and a well-kept secret outside of Australia. Needing a ferry and a 4×4 vehicle to traverse the sandy roads, this massive sand island is a great opportunity to take a break from the world as we know it.