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.
Doug's Trips In Broad Strokes
I arrived in
Melbourne and stuck around for Christmas, New Years, and
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,
Arapiles for rockclimbing, and onwards to Adelaide, the capital of
South Australia, on April 11.
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
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
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
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
first stopped in
Fremantle (Freo) for 4 nights and
did a scuba trip on
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
7) I spent over a week camping in
Broome, one of the more cosmopolitan towns in
northern Western Australia, home to
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
4-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.
9) Time to veer eastwards.
It took me three days, first driving through Outback
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.
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
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,
Brisbane long enough to pick up a new
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
Byron Bay. I spent three days there and
then another two staying with an Australian friend
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
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