Australia is known for many things – laid-back beach bums, Vegemite, baby wombats, Russell Crowe and so much more. Mostly people come to see the stunning natural beauty of Uluru, the outback, pristine white sand beaches and of course, the Great Barrier Reef. They experience these sights while backpacking, camping, snorkeling, surfing or traveling by bike, car and bus. As for man-made wonders, not much in the world rivals Sydney’s iconic Harbor Bridge and Opera House. Melbourne’s cafe culture will remind you of Europe but with a distinct Aussie twist best experienced in person. With so much to do and see, how does someone traveling on their own get the most out of solo travel in Australia?
Most travelers are daring and already motivated to explore and experience new things. What you require as a solo traveler is a certain level of trust, in yourself and others. Also essential are excellent organizational skills. Going solo means nobody else will help you keep up with your passport and ID. It can be lonely at times but the solo traveler often meets new people and makes great lifelong friends.
Your suitcase or backpack should not exceed more than 22 pounds (10 kilograms). Seriously. As a perpetual globetrotter I can honestly say if you’re going to trek around the vast countryside of Australia, you need to pack light. The less you have to keep up with, the more free you are to enjoy the trip. Certain things are absolutely essential but much of what you think you need, you don’t.
What you really need includes good walking/hiking shoes, bathing suit, comfortable walking sandals, lightweight quick dry clothing with roll up sleeves and zip off legs. If camping, a lightweight sleeping bag that rolls tightly is a must.
Passport. Photo courtesy of Ho John Lee.
Don’t Chase The Paper
You don’t want to be that person who holds up the line at the airport. Before leaving, scan important travel documents such as passport, insurance papers, tickets and ID, and send them to yourself via email. In the unlikely event you become separated from your passport and ID, you can get started on the process of replacement much easier and quicker by checking your inbox. Another good suggestion is use a cross-body anti-theft bag for keeping important documents close at all times. Some people prefer a lightweight pocket belt worn under clothing. Either way is fine.
Prep for Jet Lag
Depending on how many time zones you’re skipping over to experience solo travel in Australia, you may be dealing with jet lag. Ahhh, the price you pay to see the world. Book ahead and give yourself the luxury of knowing beforehand exactly where you’ll be staying. And if you need the time to relax and recover, take it. Use an app like Entrain to help predict when you should be snoozing based on your timezone.
Looking to Live in Luxe?
I booked my stay at ibis Sydney World Square, in the heart of CBD, on my first trip and they gave me a drink at iBar. If you’re traveling during an off-peak time, don’t be afraid to ask for an upgrade, look what happens when you ask.
WWOOFing in Australia means you could be helping out on the vineyards. Photo courtesy of Graham.
All Work & Some Play
WWOOFing is a program that offers you the opportunity to work on farms in exchange for free room and board. Most people traveling the country long term try it for at least a month or so. Farming knowledge isn’t necessary since you’re usually picking fruit the whole time. You can also house-sit — click here for a full guide on that — or work as a bartender or server at a local restaurant.
Sun, Fun & Dehydration
Most people don’t like worrying about sunscreen unless at the beach but Australia’s UV rays are quite powerful regardless of your location. The climate is mostly arid and dehydration happens quickly, often without many warning signs. Use your sunscreen or find yourself looking like a lobster. Drink plenty of fluids — especially water — or end up in the ER for a day or more of what should be sightseeing fun.
Fraser Island. Photo courtesy of Nina Matthews.
Now, where should you go?
New South Wales
See Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island. Camp, hike and swim in lovely lakes while avoiding dingoes that also like trekking around this wonderful and rustic place.
While in Sydney, you won’t want to miss the Harbour Bridge or Opera House. I did the Bridge Climb on first trip and got a 360 degree view of Sydney. Epic. A day at Bondi Beach is also a must. If you’re looking for a surf lesson, head to the south side of the beach – the waves are bigger and that’s where the surfers hang out. Wander down the Rocks Markets any Saturday or Sunday to get the best mouth-watering foods and to splurge a little on shopping.
Hike in the world’s oldest rainforest, the Daintree. Yes, it’s even older than the Amazon. Go hiking, zip lining or horseback riding while seeing lovely waterfalls, wildlife and soaring cliffs. If you really want to experience life off the beaten path, head up to Cape Tribulation where the permanent population is under 100 and the few extras are welcome tourists. For those desiring a slightly less adventurous way of seeing Australia’s animals reptiles and birds, visit Australia Zoo. And if you want cocktails and tapas, hit up Black Coffee Lyrics. It’s a local favorite.
Listed as a World Heritage site and a famous one at that, is Tasmania’s Port Arthur. With options like overnight ghost tours, you don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy Port Arthur. Take a walk down Overland Track, it’s one of the world’s most iconic walks. Visit the lavender farm at the Bridestowe Lavendar Estate – over 90 years in the making. Stick to the CBD area or Hobart – it’s safe and easy to walk around. See our recent write up on Tasmania on We Blog the World.
Known as Australia’s food capital, Melbourne, is a big city with an easy going indy style café culture. Brats Shop & Co and Kanteen have become my two top choices. With numerous coffee shops, eclectic and thrift boutiques, Melbourne is the place to shop. Chapel Street shops offers second-hand exclusives while Queen Victoria Market offers anything you can think of. Melbourne is where you relax. Chill by the river or stroll through the huge city gardens, or take a yoga class at One Hot Yoga.
Uluru, also known as Ayer’s Rock, is a must see. Both the sunrise and sunset are spectacular and create incredible photographic opportunities. Join a tour and spend a day gazing up close at the huge rock, noting the color changes from early morning to late evening. Head over to Mindil Beach Sunset Market to watch the sunset under coconut palms and enjoy delicious Thai food while listening to live music.
Some of the best surfing in the world can be found in Western Australia. Hit up Cottesloe Beach or “Cott” for the best waves. Beautiful and secluded, the scenery is a never ending thing of beauty. Take a ferry ride to Rottnest Island to be carefree and car-free. Tour Swan Valley over the Darling Range with a winery-hop and horse-drawn wagon ride.
Visit Flinders Ranges, the largest mountain range in South Australia. If you’re up for it, hike the real outback, go four wheel driving, hunt for opals and learn ancient aboriginal history. If you find one of the lovely black opals famous in the land down under, have it made into a piece of jewellery by a local craftsman.
Its been said that to visit Australia once leaves you with a burning desire to return. I live in Australia now and after traveling to over 20 countries, you would think I’d be immune to its beauty. Nope. Every weekend is a new adventure and a new opportunity for me to dig a little deeper – that’s where the fun really is.
Contributed by Leah Rise lives a creative life in Sydney, Australia. Photo at the top courtesy of Diver with a Humphead Wrasse at the Great Barrier Reef. Photo courtesy of brewbooks, All other photo credits noted and when not, they are the courtesy of Leah Rise.