City Spotlight – Perth

I’ve always been told that Perth was an underrated city. However, after visiting I would say it is justly rated. Don’t get me wrong it is a beautiful city, but for the distance to travel to Perth and how much you can do especially compared to Melbourne, Sydney, and the east coast I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s too far just to come for a weekend trip, but I think a week here would be too long. That being said we really enjoyed the time we had here, but it felt like a stopover place rather than a destination. 

Here are my top things to do and see in and around Perth:  

  1. Rottnest Island – this was the highlight of my entire trip with my mom so it has to get the #1 spot. Rottnest is located 19km off of the mainland and it is stunning. Many people visit the island as a day trip, but we spent 3 days on the island, which I would highly recommend. 
  2. Fremantle – When we visited Fremantle on a Sunday it was the first time we actually saw a lot of people. This little port town was the place to be. There was a market going on, lots of cafes and restaurants, and overall had a buzzing energy. 
  3. Cottesloe beach – Western Australia is known for their beaches and Cottesloe is known to be the best beach in the area. It was really beautiful and not very crowded when we went. Besides lying out or taking a swim you can walk along the beach or to Cottesloe Town. There are some cute boutique shops and some cafes. 
  4. Festivals – Perth seemed to always have some kind of festival going on. We were there during the Fringe and the Lights festivals. They are perfect opportunities to do something different for the day or on a night out. The arts and music are meant to be very big here. 
  5. Food – We had some yummy food for only being in Perth a couple of days. 
    • Flora and Fauna – vegan brunch spot with really great options from a daily menu. The food is fresh and creative. 
    • Petition Kitchen – this seems like a hotspot you need a reservation for. They have a sharable menu that is extremely impressive.
    • Van’s Café – located near Cottesloe beach; this is where I had the best avocado toast ever. They had a full on menu, lovely cakes; and great coffee. 
  6. Cohunu Koala Park – I think this place is very interesting. It wouldn’t be on my list of top things to do if it wasn’t for the koala encounter. My mom had so much time holding the koala compared to the other encounters where they just pass the koala from one person to another in under 30 seconds. It was special. 

That pretty much wraps up my Perth experience. There are also wineries and wine cruises down the Swan River, which are meant to be really nice, but since we did our wine-ing in Hunter Valley we skipped out on it in Perth. 

Back to Sydney and Australia Day 2020

I’ve officially been traveling and away from home for four months (eek that means I’m a third of the way through my year long visa). It’s crazy how quickly time flies by. It’s obviously been a long time away from my family and friends, but it’s also been jam packed with new memories and experiences. I’ve been really reflecting on my decision to move to this side of the world and realize how lucky I am to have this opportunity to live abroad.

I’m not settled down in one place and I’m not sure I will any time soon. However, I’ve spent the most amount of time in Sydney and it has sort of become a home base. I have my favorite spots and have also met amazing friends here. After, every trip when I get back to Sydney it feels a bit like coming back home.

I flew back last Wednesday and even though I was only away for six weeks I think a lot of change has taken place in the city. The lock out laws are a thing of the past; the light rail is now operational; it’s significantly hotter/muggier outside; the T8 train now goes from the airport to Circular Quay – no transfers necessary; those are just a few things I noticed. It is great to come back to a city and see all the progress and changes that occurred over a few weeks. I think when you live somewhere you don’t really notice these types of things because it’s part of your daily life.

My time back in Sydney has been busy. My first full day back I had brunch at Speedo’s Cafe and had to say goodbye to one of my first Sydney friends as she is now off to New Zealand and Bali before heading home to Spain. Then I attempted to go to Bondi, but it was a bit too steamy to stay out very long. I did get to see some filming for Bondi Rescue.

The weekend held another brunch, this time at the “most instagramable spot,” at Social Hideout. Then my friend J and I explored the surrounding neighborhood of Green Square and Rosebery. I really loved this area and could potentially see this as a future apartment area if it comes to that point. Later that evening we went to the markets and got dumplings in celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Now that brings us to Australia Day. Before coming to Oz, as an American I incorrectly associated Australia Day with a Fourth of July type of holiday. I thought that it was fully a national holiday of celebration. Then once you’re in Australia you realize that there is a much deeper and darker side to it in regards to the Indigenous people of this land. I am in no means an activist or claim to know nearly enough to educate others on this topic. That will be my self-assigned homework. What I did know is that Australia Day was going to be a long day full of city-wide activities, many of which are “fun” and celebratory. If I was going to partake in these activities, I wanted to at least start the day honoring/acknowledging the other side of the holiday and get a bit cultural. I woke up early to make it to the 7:45am WugulOra Morning Ceremony at Barangaroo Reserve. This morning’s event included the ancient custom of a smoking ceremony, dancing and singing performances, appearances from NSW’s governor, and more. Afterwards, I headed to the Rock’s Market and then to Manly. We went to a cute brunch spot, Girdlers Cafe, tried to go on the beach but were prevented from going into the water by bluebottle jellyfish, and went to the wharf instead. Then we bounced around more and went to a house party out in Pymble, where I finally got to experience and Aussie BBQ. It was a nice, but long day. I’m glad I didn’t go over the top and was able to “celebrate” in a mindful way. First Australia Day in Oz was a success, but now I’m going to do some historical research.

Capital City – Wellington

Welly is New Zealand’s current capital. I say current because NZ apparently changes up their capitals and there has been discussion to move the capital once again due to Welly’s unpredictable weather and potential for natural disasters, like earthquakes. It is known to be the windiest city in the world. I have no idea how that would be measured, but that was what I was told and it was extremely windy while I was there.  The weather was probably the only negative I experienced of the city, everything else was lovely. It was definitely more of a “hip” city reminding me of Melbourne or Williamsburg in New York. I spent 3 nights here, but I definitely could see myself coming back and that’s saying a lot with the less than ideal weather. 

Wellington has a massive museum, Te Papa, which has free admission with the exception of some special exhibits. One of the running exhibits was an Alice in Wonderland interactive hall. They did a really great job with it and I didn’t mind paying the $20 for entry. It’s only running through March 8th so if you are making your way to Welly check it out! Otherwise, you can spend a decent amount of time just walking around the free portions of the museum. 

The food scene was incredible. Similar to Melbourne I didn’t have a bad meal or coffee here. There were so many other restaurants/food vendors (small shops without seating where you could order food, like waffles for example, these shops gave off permanent market stall vibes, but a street cart vendor) I would have loved to eaten at. 

Sweet Mother’s Kitchen

This place was recommend to me by the Stray driver and conveniently it was located just around the corner from the hostel I stayed at. It’s a New Orleans’ style restaurant and coffee shop. I made my way here for a breakfast/brunch my last full day in town. Wow it was consistently so busy here and it seemed like a lot of locals/regulars were dining here or grabbing coffee. I sat at the bar and it’s possible I was forgotten about because the service at first wasn’t great. I didn’t have anything else to do so I didn’t mind just people watching/waiting around for a bit. I waited over 20 minutes to order and then it was a total of 45 minutes before I got my coffee. My order was a little off and by the time it reached me it was cold. At that point I wasn’t very happy, but keeping my New Year’s goals in mind I decided how I wanted to react. The main server (possibly manager because she had fantastic customer service) took control and offered me a new meal and for the coffee to be on the house. I really appreciated how she handled the situation and I would say it was an overall positive one. I hate to say it though, but my food wasn’t mouth watering or anything life changing. It was good, but not the best thing I’ve eaten so I wouldn’t come here just for that. It is more so the entire experience – being in a small space, surrounded by people, with funky décor, and nice staff. 

Flamingo Joe’s

This is a totally Instagram decorated spot. Located right on the water the location couldn’t be beat. They also have boozy brunches and craft cocktails. I think this would be a weekend favorite for my friends and me if it was found in New York. I highly recommend coming here for a cocktail before a night out or late night bite. 

Aroy Thai

My last night in Welly I was really craving Thai food. When searching on yelp a “quick service” Thai place came up first on the list. I decided to check it out and was greeted with again an almost full restaurant – and I thought it must be good. I was feeling like I wanted to have meat one more time before diving into veganism so I had chicken pad thai and a side of roti. The roti was amazing, but the sauce was super sweet and they definitely did not give enough of it for the amount of roti. For more you had to pay an additional $1. The pad thai was less than amazing I’ve had a lot better, but I guess for the quick service-dining category it wasn’t horrible. Overall, I was satisfied with my meal.

I only went out my first night in Welly with the group we were traveling with. I had to be up at 6am so I didn’t stay out too late. We spent a good amount of time at Danger Danger. The music and drink specials were nice. I’m not sure how it would compare to other bars, but it was fun time!  

I was planning on maybe doing a hotel while here, but decided it against it and ended up staying in two different hostels. I’ve written a review for them, but there were so many accommodation options in Welly given that it is a major city feel free to explore them.  

I really loved this city and if/when I come back to New Zealand this will be a sure stop. 

Hostel Review – Wellington

My travel route after finishing the majority of the North Island was a little wonky. I had made my way around and ended in Wellington, but then I was going back to Auckland, up to Paihia, then east to Gisborne, and back down to Wellington. If you look at a map it wasn’t the most efficient route, but it was the only way to get everything I wanted to see and do in. So the first stop time I stopped in Wellington it was just for a night. I stayed at a Base hostel. 

Base Backpackers Wellington

Our bus group was either staying at Base or Nomads. On the Stray app Base was categorized as the preferred northbound hostel, which is why I went with it, but I don’t think it would have made much of a difference. I was in a six bed dorm and luckily I got a bottom bunk once again – score! Two of the people I was traveling with were also in the room so it was nice to be with some people you know and not all strangers. The hostel itself has a huge reception area and then a kitchen/lounge area the floor above it. The furniture in the lounge area could be really only described as shabby. The wifi wasn’t working and you had to call support with reception if you wanted to be connected. This was the first hostel that I’ve been to that used a pin to enter the room or an app (so keyless entry). It was a cool tech upgrade to see a hostel utilizing. 

The best thing that happened was that I was allowed to store my blue suitcase here for 2 weeks. I had planned to find a place in the city to store it and I would have been paying $8 a day at a random location. I was happy when Base said they could store it long term – they also didn’t end up charging me at all. I am incredibly thankful. 

After my two weeks north and east (Christmas/NYE) when I went back to Welly I stayed at Base for another night. Thankfully, my suitcase was exactly where I left it. This time I booked a four-person dorm. I walked in and there was an ensuite bathroom (I must have booked this option, but didn’t realize) and nobody else was in the room that night. Of course there’s always the possibility someone will come in later, but they didn’t so I pretty much had a private room. Thank you again, Base! Oh in the bathroom they also had some single use shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel; but instead of being in plastic bottles they were in eco paper packets. The company is called Ecostick and it’s really cool!

This wasn’t the trendiest/hippest place to be, but what they lacked in appearance they made up for it with their people/extra touches. The location was also great to going out and restaurants. I highly recommend staying here. 

Hotel Waterloo & Backpackers

This place is interesting. I think at one point it was just a hotel and then it was converted to also being a hostel? I’m not sure. Our driver said that the last time the Queen of England was in town she stayed here (it was a dig that the Queen hadn’t been to the capital in ages). Not sure if it’s true, but that was what was the info passed on to me. This kind of reminded me of what accommodation would have been like in the 20s-40s, very much so like train car travel back in the day and really it still feels trapped in that time period. I actually just looked it up and it was opened in 1937 and was commissioned to be built with the at the time new Wellington Railway Station. So I was right on the nose!

I went for a private single room for the night and was happy with the decision so I’m not sure if was in the hotel or the backpackers category. My neighbor wasn’t the most considerate person, but I was happy to have my own space. The room was big enough to spread out my things and repack/discard some items. There was a tiny TV in the room and I watched some parts of movies (I can’t remember the last time I watched TV) and just chilled.

I choose this location because it was right across from the ferry terminal. I was told to be there by 7am and it was an easy walk across the street rather than being somewhere else in town. Walking to the main, center of town took only 20 minutes or a $7ish Uber.

If you are going on the early morning ferry to the South Island this is a good place to stay, otherwise I would skip it. Only book for convenience.

City Spotlight – Brisbane

Brissy was the last major stop on my scouting of East Coast cities to eventually (potentially) settle down in for longer than just a couple of weeks. Whenever you talk to anyone who lives in Australia they present mixed views of Brisbane. Most will say don’t waste your time and others tell you that you’ll love it. So I didn’t know what to expect. After spending just a couple of days here I also have mixed feelings towards the city too. It’s not as crowded as Melbourne or Sydney, but it’s bustling and growing so you feel the potential, however something is missing. The major negative for me about Brisbane is that there isn’t a beach close by. They did try to alleviate that issue with creating an urban beach called South Bank.

During my full day in Brisbane I took the free ferry (City Hopper) from South Bank to Sydney Street. I then walked back making stops along the way (including lunch and a little bit of shopping). For lunch I stopped at Felons Brewing Co., this was recommended to me by a group I had met in Byron Bay and it was right on the water. I’m so glad that I stopped here and was really impressed with the recommendation. It was exactly what I needed before continuing exploring.

That evening I took a HIIT Australia class. I was so excited to finally take one of these classes because I’ve been following the company/founders on Instagram for years. For dinner that evening I tried Vietnamese food for the first time at Viet de Lites.

The highlight of my time in Brissy was going to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. I’m a total sucker for animals and I had loved visiting Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in the Gold Coast when I visited last. I arrived early in the morning to get the most of the programming (and I was also flying out that evening so I was limited on time). The first thing on the agenda was the lorikeet feeding. It was so loud and hectic, but awesome to experience. One even landed on my head, but thankfully I didn’t get pooped on. Then I went over to the kangaroo and wallaby enclosure to feed and pet them. Afterwards, I attended the free flight raptor bird show. The birds were tremendous (and scary). I spent the rest of the time walking around and saw other animals/exhibits, before ending the experience with holding/cuddling a koala. Trust me this doesn’t get old. Koalas to me seem kind of majestic and seeing and holding one feels surreal. If you go to Brisbane make sure to take at least half a day to go to Lone Pine.

Before heading out to the airport I wanted to check out the West End. I didn’t have too much time to explore, but I walked around a bit and then grabbed some roti. I would definitely go back and spend more time in this area.

My overall impression of Brisbane was positive and I definitely didn’t have enough time here, but I’m not sure I would want to live here long term – maybe a couple of months would suffice.

Melbourne Must Do’s

Greeted with a pink sky

Melbourne or once known as Batmania (not kidding…look it up) is a really cool city. The vibe is very different from Sydney and dare I say cooler? Both literally and figuratively. Situated south of Sydney the weather in Melbourne is cooler year round. Great for summer when you need a reprieve from the extreme heat, not fantastic in the winter when you need a heavy jacket. So summers are going to be my preferred time to travel down here.

The city is full of art, music, secret alley ways, and the food is incredible. It’s a foodie’s dream come true. So I will defend Australia against the haters because the quality and variety of food here is impressive. This wasn’t my first trip to Batmania oops I mean Melbourne (come on how awesome would that name be…), however, this was going to be my first time spending longer than a couple of days here. I started to really know my way around and felt very comfortable in Melbs.

Patricia Coffee Brewers

They have a free tram which runs in the center of the city, which is pretty cool and then trams that extend outside of that area and buses. To use the transport you’ll need the myki Pass – this is $6 plus whatever you put on it. The transportation in Melbourne has a daily maximum cap and they also have weekly rates. This is something that we are really missing out on in Sydney.

Melbourne feels like the best parts of many cities combined into one. When walking around you can feel like you’re in NYC, Chicago, London, Paris, or Prague just based on the street you turned on. It’s very cool. Their coffee culture is also so impressive with some wild history too. I’m not even a huge coffee drinker and I was craving it daily.

Here are some of my top picks (in no particular order) if you’re planning on visiting Melbourne:

St. Kilda Penguins – It’s pretty freaken cool to see wild penguins okay and not behind glass at an aquarium. I recommend coming a bit earlier in the evening and checking out the pier as some of the penguins may be hanging out it and won’t be as dark or crowded at that time. Then head over to a cafe or restaurant for something to eat and drink. It’s perfect timing because it’s probably Happy Hour with some kind of special no mater what day you go at all the neighboring establishments. The penguins start coming back right after sunset so check your phone to see when that will be and head there 10ish minutes beforehand. Stand back and observe. They start coming one by one and then all at once are in the nooks of the pier. The penguins are smaller than you expect so it really is the cutest thing. Just make sure you don’t disturb them by using flash on your camera or touching/feeding them.

Hopetoun Tea Room – Has been in the Block Arcade since 1907. Rich with history and full of decadence this is the perfect stop of coffee or tea and a cake while shopping or exploring the city. They also have a breakfast and lunch menu, but it was on the more expensive end and not amazing. Although, they did make a modification to my order which was very much appreciated.

See a show – There’s tons of plays, musical performances, and comedy shows in Melbourne so pick your poison. I went to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (finally).

Festivals – Check out if there are any outdoor festivals going on while you’re in town. I was there for the Night Noodle Market and it was to die for.

Cooking class – A really fun way to spend the afternoon. I took a tapas/paella cooking class. We went to a local market to pick up ingredients and then prepped and cooked in a small group over fresh sangria. I also found this class on Groupon.

Brighton Beach Boxes – On a sunny day definitely head over to Brighton Beach for some sun. The beach itself isn’t too impressive, but it’s nice to get a break from the city for a little bit and the beach boxes are really iconic.

Street Art – Melbourne’s art scene is world renowned and although it’s not quite legal the art is everywhere and don’t worry it’s totally safe to go into the alley ways. There’s Hosier Lane, Duckboard Place, AC/DC Lane to name a few of the popular ones, but you can just wander and stubble upon some laneways and cool art. There’s also the art galleries and exhibitions that are always changing so just google before you arrive to see what’s on.

Hidden Bars/Restaurants – I’m a sucker for a speakeasy and Melbs is full of them. There’s secret bars in alleys without signage that you only would know are there if you were looking for them (kind of the definition of a speakeasy), but then there’s also secret bars within bars (like one that’s hidden behind a bookcase). Just go out and explore. If you see a group of people just lingering around a brick wall there’s likely something just beyond it.

Eureka Skydeck – Get a bird’s eye view of Melbourne at about 975 feet from the ground. Known as the “highest public observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere.” It costs about $25AUD (less if you book online)

MarketsQueen Victoria Market is likely on any Melbourne to-do list you’ll see. It’s open every day, except Mondays, and sometimes with a special night market on Wednesdays. You can get fresh produce/food, cooked specialties, gifts, clothes. etc. Not as well known with tourists, but the South Melbourne Market is even better in my opinion (open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sundays). The markets are a perfect place to grab lunch and shop around.

The more I reflect on Melbourne the more I realized how fabulous of a time I had. I can’t wait to go back and see even more of it!