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Travel through Australia with Doug Knell as your bloody guide. He went to Melbourne, Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, Tasmania, the Barossa Valley, the Bungle Bungles, and the Eyre Peninsula.


Doug's Travel Route Through Oz


"Traveling around Australia in my own car(s) yielded adventures that will last me a lifetime -- or at least until the next decade."  Doug Knell, Doug's Republic


I landed in Melbourne on a delayed majestic Vietnam Airlines flight at noon on Thursday, December 22, 2005.  My USD 650 ticket, purchased in Bangkok, was a one-year open return.  I had arbitrarily picked a return date to Bangkok sometime in August 2006, because I had to, but the terms of the ticket allowed me to change the dates as often as I pleased without penalty.  I had flown to Thailand specifically to buy such a ticket.  One-year open return tickets from the U.S. would have cost a lot more than my one-way US-Thailand ticket plus the Australian ticket.   After changing my outgoing date several times, I finally left Australia, also from Melbourne, on Saturday, December 9, 2006.  This gave me 10 days to relax in Vietnam before flying back to Bangkok.  Because Vietnam Airlines doesn't fly the Bangkok-Melbourne routes every day of the week, my ticket effectively expired on December 19, 2006.  

An expected four-and-a-half month stay grew into a year on this route - click to go to that region

Honestly, when I set off for Australia, I figured I'd be heading back to Asia by May, 4 1/2 months later.  Asia was where I wanted to be.  That's where my heart is.  I traveled around Thailand and Laos for 2 months before leaving for Oz, and one British-Australian traveler I spent 10 days in Khorat with asked me, "What are you going to Australia for?"  His mommy was Australian, so he had lived there for quite some time and didn't describe the place as a land of adventure. He preferred living in Britain to Australia.  This, plus preconceived ideas that the place would be too similar to the United States, didn't inspire me to want to make a long trip there.

The main motivation in me going to Oz was that an old friend, a former girlfriend, had been badgering me to come to Australia for years.  Finally, after 8 years and with some time on my hands, I relented.  I decided to pay my dues by showing up for four-and-a-half months, then return to Asia and make my way to China.  China was where I wanted to spend 6 months to a year, not Australia.

It's amazing the hand that fate or circumstance deals you.  When I got to Australia, my old friend quickly became a non-friend.  She treated me like yesterday's trash the second I landed.  I had to wait around Melbourne in her house 3 to 4 weeks longer than I wished while I waited for a car.  With my new car in tow, my first stop was Tasmania. It was late summer in Australia and the perfect time to go there.  Although I'd never given Tasmania any thought before ever setting foot in Australia -- most backpackers never make it there because one requires his own set of wheels to make a trip worth it -- Tasmania became the highlight of my trip to Australia.  It changed my attitude to the place.  Perhaps Australia deserved a fairer shake.  I remember writing in my journal at the time that Australia's geography was such that it wasn't the kind of place I would ever be in the near vicinity of.  You visit other countries on the way to Australia; you don't visit Australia on the way to other countries . . . unless it's New Zealand.   Once I got to South Australia in April, I made up my mind to let the trip determine the length, with the maximum being a year due to my visa length and my flight ticket.
travel route in Australia
Doug's Trips In Broad Strokes

I arrived in Melbourne and stuck around for Christmas, New Years, and the Australian Open.  My first car arrived shortly afterwards and I began my trip.  Use the numbers on the map to follow along with the explanation.

1)  I took the Spirit of Tasmania ferry to Tasmania on February 20, 2006.   The ferry arrived in Devonport the next morning.  I spent a month driving around Tasmania and caught the ferry back to Melbourne on March 22.  I dumped my first car for my second and began my odyssey on the Australian mainland. That trip took me down the Great Ocean Road, up to the Grampians National Park, Mt. Arapiles for rockclimbing, and onwards to Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, on April 11.

2)  Adelaide was a small town but with the world famous Barossa Valley so close, sophisticated for its size.  I ate great food and had great times before proceeding northwards, first to Port Augusta and the Flinders Ranges, and then to stay with a friends' parents in the Outback mining town of Andamooka by May 23. 

3)  The underground town of Coober Pedy followed.  I spent 3 days seeing unusual mines, dugout houses, and a desert golf course.

4)   An all-day drive from Coober Pedy took me to Alice Springs, right in the center of Australia.   While Alice Springs, known as Alice by the locals, is hardly one of the best towns which grace this planet, it is a convenient base point for visiting the West McDonnell Ranges and the East McDonnell Ranges.  I did both before embarking on a trip to Kings Canyon.  My second car was totaled on this drive, as I avoided 3 kangaroos, and I had to return to Alice Springs to sort out my car insurance and make alternate plans.  I was forced to book a PPT (pre-package tour) to see Kings Canyon, the Kjata Olgas, and Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock.

5)   Now, with no car, I carted all my belongings over to the Alice Springs train station and caught the Ghan back to Adelaide.   It was, to my recollection, an almost 20 hour trip.  I spent two weeks in Adelaide waiting for my third car before proceeding westward to the state of Western Australia.  This new route took me down the Eyre Peninsula to scenic towns like Port Lincoln and Streaky Bay and onto the 1200 km Eyre Highway which crosses the Nullarbor Plain.  I viewed the southern whales at the Great Australian Bight and slept over the Western Australia/South Australia border at Eucla.  I stayed at a roadhouse in Balladonia and six days after I left Adelaide, pulled my car into the scenic beach town of Esperance.  I took my time exploring Western Australia's southern coast in the towns of Albany, Denmark, Nannup, and last, the wine town of Margaret River. 

6)  Western Australia differed from my experiences in Victoria and South Australia.  It took me a month of being the state to finally make it to the state capital of Perth.   I first stopped in Fremantle (Freo) for 4 nights and did a scuba trip on Rottnest Island.  Freo is a unique area of Perth.   Thereafter, I moved up to East Perth and stayed for 2 1/2 weeks, learning how to surf and dining at inexpensive restaurants.  From Perth, I stopped at the Pinnacles, practiced my mediocre surfing skills in Geraldton, went sandboarding in Kalbarri, and saw the dolphins at Monkey Mia.  I went diving with manta ray (there was only one) in Coral Bay along the Ningaloo Reef.  Karijini National Park was one of my favorite national parks in Australia.   I had to head inland to the mining town of Tom Price to access Karijini.  From the national park it was back to the coast to the 80 Mile Beach for 3 wonderful days.

7)   I spent over a week camping in Broome, one of the more cosmopolitan towns in northern Western Australia, home to Cable Beach.  I did a marathon drive to Geike Gorge in Fitzroy Crossing and the following day camped outside the Turkey Creek Roadhouse to do a day tour of the Bungle Bungles4-wheel drives are definitely required for this trip.  I proceeded onto the Katherine area in the Northern Territory and spent 3 days touring the famous Kakadu National Park.

8)   After a tremendous amount of driving up the Western Australian coast, I relaxed for a week in Darwin, the Northern Territory's capital, doing nothing.  The other famous park in the area, Litchfield, only got a few hours treatment by me as I put the pedal to the metal south visiting Mataranka Springs, Daly Waters, and Tennant Creek.

9)   Time to veer eastwards.   It took me three days, first driving through Outback areas like Mt. Isa, until green finally showed and I was in Queensland.  All in all, five days intense driving from Darwin to reach Cairns, a pleasant town 1,000 miles from the Queensland state capital. 

10)  Tropical Cairns has plenty of scenic attractions in the nearby vicinity, like the Daintree, Cape Tribulation, and the Habitat.  I spent my last afternoon in Cairns enjoying the cable ski park there. 

11)  The most popular reason to come to Cairns is to visit the reefs nearby.  I was no exception.  I embarked on a 4-day, 3-night ten-dive tour to the Great Barrier Reef.

12)  From Cairns, I drove to Ayr to dive the Yongala Shipwreck. The Yongala was a passenger and steam freighter that sank in 1911 during a cyclone. 

13)  No trip on Australia's east coast is complete without visiting the Whitsunday Islands.  I took a 6-day sailing course as I toured these treasures.  It was a sprint down the coast to make a tour to Fraser Island, a World Heritage site and the largest sand island in the world.   I spent a few days practicing my poor surfing on the Sunshine Coast, where it rained more than it shined, darted through Brisbane long enough to pick up a new iPod.

14)  My last days in Queensland were spent on the Gold Coast in Coolangatta, border town with Tweed Heads in the state of New South Wales.

15)  Everyone heralded the relaxed atmosphere of Byron Bay.  I spent three days there and then another two staying with an Australian friend in Coffs Harbour, a town foreign travelers don't seem to frequent.

16)  The clock was ticking on my Australian visa.  I hightailed it from Coffs right to Sydney and stayed with a girl I met in Byron Bay.  Ironic that for Australia's most famous city, I only spent 4 nights there.

I had planned to do a night in Canberra, but all the Australians I asked about the place mocked their own nation's capital.  I spent an additional night in Sydney instead.   I made the marathon 439 mile drive from Sydney back to Melbourne in one day, parking my car before the Oslo Hotel on November 23, 2006.   It took me two weeks to sell my car, buy souvenirs, and ship back some unnecessary items.  Two weeks later, I was in Vietnam.
 



 

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The Busy Person's Guide To Insanely Interesting Beer Bullshit

 Doug Knell can show you how to travel through Australia. He did it all. He went to Sydney, Melbourne, the Bungle Bungles, the Great Barrier Reef, Tasmania, the Barossa Valley, the Eyre Peninsula, and wonderful Kakadu National Park