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Published: June 30th 2013
Just over two weeks filling ourselves with the vibrant, breathable energy of both Melbourne and Sydney had left all five of us truly looking forward to the adventure that Australia would be sure to bring. Indeed, the three weeks that followed passed us by at an unnerving speed as we made the shorter, more frequent Greyhound journeys between Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise, Brisbane and Noosa, sampling the delights of the East Coast and the tourist sculpted element of Australia that came with it.
Byron Bay was our first stop on the way up from Sydney and with surprising first impressions being something we were well and truly versed in by now, we all agreed that it was not what we had expected at all. If travelling has taught me any small morsel of wisdom by which to live my life it would be this: "Do not have expectations" or rather "Do not trust your expectations". I will fully admit to you now that every single place has surprised me on unpredictable levels and that the cultural clichés I was narrow minded enough to take as gospel were not in fact accurate at all. This is by no means a downfall.
It is endlessly exciting to realise that each country has an ever-evolving indvidual identity, a network of cultural quirks and an underworld of undiscovered magic that cannot be categorically defined in pictures, words or media. Most importantly, I love this for the fact that it gives everyone an equal chance for discovery. You don't experience a culture how you have been told to exprience it; you enter into it temporarily blind yet willing to find your own sight, your own adventure and come away from it with your own definition.
We had all heard so much about Byron Bay with a great many people pushing it as THE top destination on the East Coast, so I suppose finding a small beachside town, we almost wondered where all this hype was supposed to fit. I believe our guidebook said something along the lines of "At first many people do not understand the lure of Byron Bay, but after a few days, it's individual charm will keep you here for weeks
" and looking out across the beautiful bay in the early morning sun, those first rays of charm began to warm me through. Our hostel, named rather originally as 'Backpacker's Inn
was a great example of Byron's direction toward the tourist infiltration but with a two-minute walkway down to the beach, and a friendly array of guests eager to chat and take full advantage of the town, it was perfect.
As may be expected, much of our days here in Byron were spent on the sand, playing competitive games of rounders and watching the onslaught of dog-walkers strolling barefoot through the water. In the late afternoon, we would take a lazy sway to the far end of the bay to watch the surfers at dusk and towards the end of the week we continued on, past the most easternly point of Australia and into the National Park where the distant showers cast vivid rainbows across the horizon and we looked on in awe from Cape Byron Lighthouse
. Alongside its beautiful bay, Byron is perhaps most famous among travellers for its night time prospects. A town not occupied with days of the week; evening falls, performers pop up on every street corner and bars like Cheeky Monkeys
fill to the rafters with late night party-goers, relaxing after a hard day on the beach. I had made a promise to
more than one person, at their request, that I MUST, MUST, MUST dance on the tables in Cheeky Monkeys
and while I wasn't entirely sure what this required of me, I entered into it open-minded and eager to please. As the clock struck ten all became clear as throngs of staggering, gyrating revellers climbed atop the rows of tables and we danced into the early hours, honouring this long held Byron Bay tradition.
Next stop on our way up the coast and just a few short hours North we emerged at Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast, our home for the next week and indeed, the site in which we would partake in Jessica's 24th birthday celebrations. It always helps to "know" people along the way- friends of friends, acquaintances- and with help of the lovely Megan Rook, her ex-employers at Surfers Paradise Backpacker Resort
, kindly gave us a lovely apartment to share for the week. With its bars, casinos, clubs and shopping centres dotted between skyscrapers and a beach running for miles alongside it, I found Surfers Paradise a very strange place. For a city that seemed to have misguided, short-lived aspirations towards the like of Vegas and
Miami, I found it to be lacking in depth, character and community, its pieces placed together randomly like an ill-fitting jigsaw puzzle. What was not lacking however, was the amount of nightlife being thrust at us from all angles and for Jessy's birthday celebrations, this was perfect. The offer of free ladies drinks all night at Club Liv
lured us in on Thursday night and following an extravagant birthday brunch on Saturday, we headed out on the 'wicked bar crawl' where we sampled all the delights that Surfers had to offer, flitting between clubs to our livers' desire.
Three hours further up the coast we arrived in Brisbane and having spent two weeks on the beach, it was great to get back into the city vibe we had enjoyed so much in Melbourne and Sydney. Another classic example of buying into others' misguided advice, Brisbane- we had been told- had nothing worthy to offer, yet taking a wander through the central city after checking into Chill Backpackers
, I felt immediately drawn in and eager to explore further. Unlike all of our previous destinations in Australia, Brisbane was the first place which did not have direct access to the beach
and having met many guys along the way for which surfing moulded their entire trip, I understand where many saw this as a huge withdrawal. In my own opinion however, I actually felt that this was a unique point of interest. Rather than fleeing to the beach at every given opportunity as a relief from bustle, the city itself was celebrated as the focal, social centre for a diversely mixed range of tourists, workers and locals alike. Four days were spent enjoying Brisbane on foot, laying in the sunshine on the river bank and in the evenings we sat on the hostel's roof terrace, winning goon-pong competitions, chatting away and taking in a fantastic view over the city at night. Sam had been very keen since his arrival to watch a Rugby Union game so on our final night, after a manly feast of beer and burgers at Tin Billy's
, we joined masses of fans heading in rampage to the Suncorp Stadium
where us girls drank beer and pretended to know what we were cheering at as The Queensland Reds drew against The Brumbies.
With trips to Fraser Island and the Whitsundays already booked, we had just a few
days before travelling up to Hervey Bay so headed for a quick stop off at Noosa, a town small in size but great in reputation, with a sun-drenched beach and a beautiful town full of boutiques and pristine restaurants. Dolphin's Beach House
, an eco-friendly hostel where we showered in the jungle (slight exaggeration but it really adds to my point) was simple, welcoming, and it embodied a fantastically balanced atmosphere thats so rare to find. We spent our evenings sat outside in the cooling air, chatting, playing pool and on our final morning, myself and Sam took the stunning costal walk through Noosa Heads National Park, leaving this great little town in the afternoon, relaxed, rejuvinated and eager to eager to get to Hervey Bay where our Fraser Island adventure would begin.
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