Travelling with Ali: My Gap Year in Australia

Kangaroos? Koalas? No worries, I’ve got you. Here I discuss where in Australia I travelled during my gap year – where I chose to stay for longer, how I got around, and my top spots.

I was lucky enough to take a gap year September 2017 – September 2018. I’d done my Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology and Biochemistry then gone straight into a Master’s degree in Microbiology. I was exhausted and needed a break. After my first graduation I decided that as soon as a finished my Master’s I would go travelling.

I decided to visit Australia because I’d always want to go there. Plus it always felt too far from the UK to go on holiday there. So, that was settled. Now, I’ve been lucky enough to go on a lot of holidays in my lifetime so I’m well-travelled. However, I’d never “travelled” (if you know what I mean). I’d heard good things about Gap360 from some friends who’d travelled during the summer and decided I may as well look.

They offered an Australia Intro package (1 week activities in Sydney, help setting up bank account etc.). I decided to go for this because I honestly didn’t have time to plan out my own trip so this was really perfect for me. The package I went for is here. This was only the beginning.

Please note that all photos are my own.

1. Sydney

G’day mate! I landed in Sydney to start my one week Absolute Oz trip. This included an orientation of Sydney, a trip to Port Stephens, sandboarding and a boat trip under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Overall, the trip was fun but it was kind of ruined by some of the people in the group who were an absolute nightmare. Wealthy travellers, just there for the nightlife but not the adventure.

Also, everyone says that you’re either a Sydney or a Melbourne kind of person and turns out Sydney was not for me. Amazing beaches though.

All photos taken in Sydney, NSW. (a) Sydney Harbour Bridge. (b) Sunset photo taken on the ferry from Sydney Harbour to Manly Island. (c) Sydney aquarium (d) Bondi Beach.

Check out the tour here.

2. Melbourne

When I arrived in Sydney I had no idea if I was going to stay or go somewhere else but after 2 weeks in Sydney I decided to head to Melbourne. I’m so glad I did because I much preferred it to Sydney. So much so that I ended up getting a job and staying for 3.5 months! I worked as a waitress in a lovely independent Italian restaurant in the Docklands. It was a family business and, as cheesy as it is, I really felt like one of the family. I rented a room in an apartment right next to work. Despite being on a gap year and struggling for money this was actually no more expensive than a hostel. Plus, the building was super fancy – it had a pool, a gym, a hot tub and BBQs on the roof. Honestly, I was living the dream!

My favourite things to do in Melbourne were to visit the beach and penguins at St Kilda, grab a coffee in one of the many artisan cafes and go find a brunch spot with some insanely instagrammable food. Melbourne is definitely one of my favourite cities!

All photos taken in Melbourne, Victoria. (a) St Kilda, view into the city. (b) Brighton beach huts. (c) Elizabeth Street, CBD. (d) State Library, lit up on White Night. (e) Docklands. (d). Luna Park, St Kilda.

There’s so much to do around Melbourne too, including The Grampians, The Great Ocean Road, and the Yarra Valley. If you have a car these places are easy to get to. Otherwise, there are plenty of day trips you can do with various travel companies.

Clockwise. All photos taken in Victoria. (a) Yarra Valley. (b) Puffing Billy Railway, Dadendong Ranges. (c) The Grampians National Park). (d) The Great Ocean Road. (e) The Twelve Apostles.

3. Travelling the East Coast (Sydney to Cairns)

The top backpacker route of Australia is to travel the East Coast from Sydney to Cairns. Many people rent a van and many use Greyhound. Considering that I can’t drive, I decided to go the Greyhound route. However, while I was looking at prices (which are very reasonable by the way) I came across a sale at Stray Australia (previously Loka). This was sort of like Greyhound – flexible transport from one stop to the next – but also included additional activities. Again, I decided to just go for it because I got it at such a good price!

My top spots included The Whitsunday Islands, Noosa, Fraser Island, Byron Bay, Daintree Rainforest, Magnetic Island and Great Keppel Island.

(a) Arrawarra Beach, NSW. (b) Port Macquarie, NSW. (c) Fraser Island, QLD. (d) Byron Bay, NSW. (e) Rock wallaby on Magnetic Island, QLD. (f) Fraser Island, QLD. (g) Whitsunday Island, QLD. (h) Magnetic Island, QLD. (i) Whitsunday Island, QLD.

Check out Stray Australia here.

4. Brisbane

Brisbane is a city about halfway between Sydney and Cairns. It’s not as hyped up as either Sydney or Melbourne but I absolutely love it! I ended up staying 3 months, getting 2 jobs, living in a hostel, and even going back in 2020 to work there for another 3 months! My top spots include Southbank, Kangaroo Point Lookout and the river walkway between Eagle Street Pier and the Botanical Garden.

All photos taken in Brisbane, QLD. (a) Story Bridge. (b) Turtle at The University of Queensland. (c) Fortitude Valley, view into the city. (d) Brisbane Botanical Gardens. (e) Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. (f) Brisbane Botanical Gardens.

Another great thing about Brisbane is that it’s close to North Stradbroke Island, a lovely island where you can head to the beach!

All photos taken on North Stradbroke Island, NSW.

5. Adelaide, Darwin and The Red Centre

I decided that I wanted to try something a bit different so headed to Adelaide. Many travellers just do the East Coast route and miss this out altogether. I did a 13-day tour from Adelaide to Darwin (South Australia to Northern Territory), directly through the Red Centre. This included the amazing sights of Uluru and Kata Tjuta. If you don’t already know, Australia is MASSIVE and there isn’t a lot in the centre. I think one day we drove for 12 hours and saw nothing but red sand and the road. I loved this tour because it was so different to anything I’d ever done – we slept under the stars (and with no light pollution these were the best I’ve ever seen). Uluru was magnificent. Overall, I fell in love with the outback.

All photos taken in NT. (a) Kata Tjuta (b) Camels of Uluru. (c) King’s Canyon. (d) Uluru. (e) Devil’s Marbles. (f) Katherine Gorge.

Once in Darwin, we headed further North to the beautiful Kakadu National Park and saw plenty of amazing animals in the wild. Just beware, try to avoid the outback and Northern Territory during the Summer!

All photos taken in Kakadu National Park, NT.

Check out the tour here.

Australia is a huge country with so many different landscapes – desert, beach, jungle. There are also some insane animals and insects. I’ve been to 5/7 states and can’t wait to go to Western Australia and Tasmania. I was supposed to visit Western Australia in 2020 but it was cancelled due to COVID. I can’t wait until life is back to normal and I can head over there! It’s definitely worth a visit. I love you, Australia.

To keep up to date on my travels, give me a follow on instagram @travelling_with_ali and @dining_with_ali.

Have you been to Australia? Where are your top spots?

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