The Australia bucket list

Whenever I’m travelling around a new place I sort of make this mental note to make a bucket list of activities to do / places that I absolutely have to see while I’m there. It will generally consist of something to do in a certain place. So with Australia, I’ve been happily living in Sydney for the past 4 months, saving some pennies together and now I’ve hit the road again and flown upto the far north, Cairns to be specific. Probably regarded as the backpacker capital of Australia, gateway to the great barrier reef, and really any sort of adrenalin induced activity that you’d hope to encounter in Australia. 

So here’s the list!

1) Lake Hillier, Esperance, WA. 

2) Skydive Mission Beach, Mission Beach, QLD

3) White Water Rafting, Tully, QLD

4) Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, QLD

5) Hike Daintree Rainforest, Daintree, QLD

6) Sail Whitsunday Islands, Airlie Beach, QLD

7) 4WD Fraser Island, QLD

8) Drive Great Ocean Road, VIC

9) Climb Ayers Rock, Uluru, NT

10) Hike Kakadu National Park, NT

11) Snorkel Ningaloo Reef, WA

12) Steep Railway ride, Blue Mountains, NSW

13) Whale watching, Port Stephens, NSW

14) Sandboard the dunes at Port Stephens, NSW

15) Surf Lesson at Byron Bay, NSW

16) Camel Ride in Broome, WA

17) See Wolf Creek Crater, WA

18) Winery tour in Hunter Valley, NSW

Eighteen things to get busy with, well I’ve already done three of them, but now I’m living in Cairns I’ll hopefully get lots ticked off in the next few weeks!

I’m off to do one of those oh so fun bar shifts. 

Soph

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Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system, composed of over 2,900 reefs, and visible from space, there isn’t really a question why it’s at the very top of most people’s list when they travel to Australia.

So as soon as I arrived in Cairns, it was at the centre of my mind, I chose to forego snorkelling instead of scuba diving after I’d done a bit of research. The reefs themselves are so shallow, that scuba diving the reefs in Australia is not that much of an added experience, as opposed to the Thailand reefs where it’s an entirely different matter.

Cairns is absolutely filled with competition for Reef excursions, you can barely walk from your hostel to the Esplanade without being coerced into rafting, rain-forests or reefing by the tropical town’s equivalent to charity muggers. We booked with an agency called Happy Travels, whom I can only say good things about, they help backpackers with jobs, and the guys there have done every single excursion themselves so can give you an actual honest opinion of the tours. We ended up booking with a company called

, the promise of outer reefs that weren’t riddled with sand and other boats, combined with a glass of goon and a steak were probably the overwhelming factors (I am currently travelling with a group of boys)!

I never get seasick, but the rockiness of this boat, really did take me by surprise resulting in an embarrassingly subtle spew that I don’t think I’m ever going to be allowed to forget. Firstly they took us to Saxon Reef on the outer borders of the greater barrier reef, and the second tour was up at North Hastings Reef.

I was really amazed by the clarity of the waters, it really is quite a surreal experience, and one that I got a real rush from. I did think that the fish would avoid the areas where the boats come, or that at least the roar of the engine would scare them off, but apparently not. I was lucky enough to see clams, clownfish, sea turtles, the most breathtaking corals, and so many more that I couldn’t even mention.

The guides on the tour were really good at getting your comfortable in the water, helping you with your masks and advising you on the best spots. I’d definitely recommend them again, and on my next trip to Cairns I’m definitely going to be booking again.

Have you ever been snorkelling? Who did you book with? How did you find the reefs?

Sophie

xoxo

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Palm Beach, Sydney

Sydney’s north shore in my opinion has some of the most spectacular beaches of the unofficial Australian capital. But the most striking without question has to be the infamous palm beach.

Located 41 kilometres north of the Sydney CBD and the home of the fictional Summer Bay of Home and Away, it’s referred to as the jewel of the Northern beaches. Situated on a peninsula between Pittwater and Broken bay, the greenery of the forest and sandy beaches create a palm tree shape from a helicopter view.

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Now the Sydney waters are absolutely frozen at this time of year but you can’t blame me and my English, sun deprived skin for wanting an attempt at some sun.

An absolute must see of the north shore.

Sophie xo

Bags unpacked, jetlag adjusted, I’m here!

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I’m still finding it kind of difficult to believe that I’m here, in this part of the world. Maybe it’s just when you’ve dreamt of being somewhere for such a long time, when you finally arrive it’s a bit unsettling, I’ve been here for just over a week now and I still can’t quite believe it I don’t think.

I left a job with people I loved, a boyfriend, my family and so many amazing people to get on a plane and go 10,000 miles away from everything I know, I should probably have my head checked at some time in the near future. But I guess that’s what travel is all about! Discovering the unknown, meeting new people, and having new experiences change you as a person. Hopefully that’s what I’ll find. I’m staying at my sister’s apartment at the moment it’s in a gorgeous suburb called Lavender Bay, just north of the harbour with astonishing views of the harbour, bridge and opera house. It’s like all my childhood dreams of Finding Nemo and Home and Away have coincided with the reality of my 21 year old life, it’s quite unsettling!

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The myth of the American Flea Market

So don’t we all remember that great Friends episode where Phoebe became obsessed with Pottery Barn but blamed getting all this really cool stuff from a flea market? Circa season 6 (I think). Well I’m pretty sure that’s when my obsession of this all American flea market began. Sure we have craft and sunday markets  in London, I mean no one can deny the creativity of Brick Lane or Spitalfields, I was practically raised in a little craft market in wimbledon called Merton Abbey Mills where my mother worked. But after visting Brooklyn Flea I really saw that New York does everything better than us (well except Fish N Chips).

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Situated in Brooklyn, (right outside THE Willie Nelson’s apartment, who we bumped into upon leaving. How amazing!?), Brooklyn Flea is a god send for hipsters, students, new yorkers, and those who want a different shopping experience. With everything from antiques, to 70s frocks and 1920s New York postcards, it’s one of the ultimate underground NYC experiences.

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It’s just such an incredible Bazaar of things, my favourite being the amount of crazy jewellery, and the sheer amount of it for under $4!

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Crayon themed brooches, lego rings, state license plates, everything you find is just insanely cool, cheap and one of a kind. It’s a market like nothing I’d ever seen in london, and it’s MASSIVE, 75-100 vendors every single week. Food is available, iced coffee everywhere of course! As well as Brooklyn Bangers, the best hot dogs I’ve genuinely ever had in my life.

Depending on the time of year or day, they go through several different venues. I was at the Williamsburg Flea which is located at the East River Waterfront between North 6th and 7th street. However they also have fleas at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Fort Greene, and Central Park Summer Stage. That drive to Williamsburg will remain one of the most humuorous of my entire life, getting lost and having to reverse through a town one of my friends labelled ‘The Jew Hood’ because everyone was legitimately in their finest Yeshivishes.

So before I sideline anymore, anyone in NYC on a weekend, please visit the Brooklyn flea, details on the different markets and how to find them are here and please let me know what you managed to find!

Sophie

xo

[photo credit goes to myself, and Rebecca Rampersaud]

Roadtripping across the USA – tips part 1

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Something that I feel should be on everyone’s bucket list, I mean we’ve all seen Crossroads, Park Rangers, Dude Where’s My Car!?, the idea of tackling 3000 miles, in one of the largest country/continents of the globe, is incredible, almost a right of passage for every adolescent. 

Now it’s not exactly as fun as Crossroads makes it look, being stuck in a car for hours with your best friends, or in my case the boy I was seeing as the time, can get tedious as anything. You’ll begin to grow sick of peeing at exit stations, listening to the same songs over and over again, (American radio leaves taste at home), and the Roadkill is truly horrific the more West you get. But there is of course the fun side!  You’re travelling across the size of an entire ocean with your friends! Meeting new people, eating a lot of unhealthy food, and seeing brand new things! 

Here are my tips for making it through. 

1. Dunkin’ Donuts

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Yes, this deserves it’s own bullet point. Sure diners are awesome, iHop can truly make you have a new found love for clogged arteries, and Taco Bell can make you want to put fire sauce on everything that you ever eat ever again, but Dunkin’ Donuts is definitely a staple of the All American road trip. The Iced coffee is not only one of the cheapest ones you’ll get on the road, it’s also the best. Anytime I found myself dozing off and missing the fun, or driving through a state I really wanted to see, it was legitimately the only answer. Things to get: Big N Toasted – It’s massive texas toast, with eggs, bacon and cheese. It’s just amazing. Get it. Get it. Screw the gym. Oreo Crumble Donut – A normal sugar donut with icing, and topped with, you’ve guessed it, crumbled oreo cookies, genuinely one of the most genius and tastiest things ever created. 

 

2. The License plate game. 

Okay so this sounds really lame, but it actually gets pretty interesting to see how people from different states drive! The things I learnt: On Nantucket Island, MA you can always tell the islanders from the vacationers, the islanders can drive, the vast majority of vacationers can’t. (The woman who drove the wrong way down the ONE WAY broad street ferry lane with an ACK sticker on her car – shame on you.)

And when in New York, you will generally be liked less and less if you have a New Jersey license plate. Now I have nothing against Jersey, I’ve actually been to Seaside Heights, if nothing but for my own amusement, and while the amount of ‘Guidos’ and ‘Juiceheads’ amused me to absolutely no end, I met some really lovely and genuine people there. But when in New York driving around the most common phrase you’ll hear will probably be “What the fuck is his problem!? Ohhhh he’s from Jersey.” (As much as I liked the NJ-ers I met, they were all atrocious drivers.)

 

3. Junk food is your new best friend.  

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McDonalds is not good for you – we all know that. But McCafe is definitely the best thing ever – why on Earth have they not brought it to England yet!? Get the frozen strawberry lemonade and live by it, it’s amazing. Also the iced tea is super good and only like $2 for a large! However one thing I wish they’d told me was the secret McDonalds lingo that apparently only Americans know about. 

Me: Hey, can I have a double cheeseburger?

McDonalds Lady: A what?

Me: A double cheeseburger….?

McDonalds Lady: What!? We don’t do those…

Me: Umm isn’t this McDonalds?

McDonalds Lady: Yeah

Me: Well back home, they definitely do double cheeseburgers. 

McDonalds Lady: The closest place is Wendys, on 5th. 

Me: What do you have then?

McDonalds Lady: We have McDoubles. 

Me: What’s a McDouble!?

McDonalds Lady: It’s two beef patties, with pickle, onion, ketchup and mustard. 

Me: So… it’s a double cheeseburger?

McDonalds Lady: It’s a McDouble. I told you, we don’t do double cheeseburgers. Do you want one or not?…

Umm I’m sorry McDonalds lady in Times Square, but are you on crack? A McDouble and a double cheeseburger are quite obviously the same thing. I don’t understand why she couldn’t just explain it quicker haha. But that’s Americans for you, it’s their way or no way.