We talked to current University student, Emily Suart, who decided to pick up her backpack and took the plunge to explore Australia's East Coast in 2010. Read on to find out what to expect at Surf Camp, what it's like to snorkel The Great Barrier Reef, and even how she learnt how to herd goats!
Australia received 6.1 million visitors in 2012, with 720,900 of those visits in December alone - an increase of 7% since 2011. With beautiful beaches and a promise of adventure it's no wonder that Australia continues to grow as a popular destination.
My Dad's family is Australian, so it's always been a country that I'd heard a lot about. When I was 11 I went to Melbourne with my parents and sister, but my friends and I really wanted to explore the East Coast.
Australia is another one of those countries which has become really popular with backpackers, which is unsurprising due to all the different possible activities. The country has an extremely varied landscape and as a result there are lots of opportunities for extreme sports, as well as sightseeing and sunbathing!
We stayed in Australia for six weeks, travelling from Cairns to Sydney and stopping off at lots of different towns in between. Backpacking is easy here and you quickly become a member of the many young travellers doing the same thing as you. We stayed at hostels throughout our time there and became good friends with a group of lads who we met at the beginning of the trip in Cairns. We ended up travelling with them throughout the six weeks and further continued our trip with them to New Zealand too.
Planning our trip throughout Australia was very easy and largely booked last minute. We had our flights in and out pre-booked and also had tickets for the Oz Experience bus. The company was extremely well run, with experienced drivers and lots of travellers to socialise with. I have an Australian passport so I didn't need a visa, but my friends did and they organised that quite easily in the UK.
Australia offers lots of different activities for every kind of trip. One of the best things we did was spend a night on a ranch. The stay was included with our bus ticket and included several different free acitivies, plus extras you could pay for. When we arrived, we were treated to spit-roasted goat for dinner, and then spent the evening learning to crack a whip and riding a mechanical bull. The next morning we rode horses and herded goats on them. We were proper cowgirls for 24 hours!
Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef was on the top of our list of things to do. In the end we did it twice; once in Cairns and once on the Whitsundays trip. The snorkelling definitely lived up to expectations and we saw lots of different forms of life; coral reef, fish, clams and even a small shark! Looking under the water is like looking at a completely different world full of bright colours and strange shapes - this is definitely a must-do.
Snorkelling in Australia was very different to snorkelling in Thailand. We went on quite a large boat and so the classes were a lot larger. There were also lots of enthusiastic instructors who showed us how use our snorkels and gave us blue stinger wetsuits to protect us from jellyfish! The trip was very well run and included a free lunch and tea.
Surf Camp was another activity included with our bus ticket and was a great trip to do. We had an afternoon of learning to surf, 3 free meals and an overnight stay there too. The instructor was very helpful and I even managed to stand up on the board for a few times (although not for long!). An evening of socialising on the beach finished the day and was well deserved after such a tiring day!
We were very lucky in Australia and never really had any issues. I would definitely advise backpackers to book onto a bus ticket as you meet so many different people and get lots of good advice on different places to visit.
Apart from the snorkelling and the night at the ranch, the highlight was probably doing the Fraser Island trip. We spent 3 nights camping on beaches and driving around the island in a 4x4 with other travellers. In the process we saw beautiful sights and made new friends, making it a tiring but amazing experience!
My advice would definitely be to make the effort to talk to lots of different people you meet along the way! You can learn so much about the culture and find out new places to explore that you may not have even heard about! I also made really good friends in Australia by doing this and I still see them now!
If Emily's story has inspired you to also visit Australia make sure you take Alpha Travel Insurance with you on your trip. We can provide a policy to suit your needs and provide cover for over 400 activities!
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