It had been a long time coming.
I left England back in 2011 with a Working Holiday Visa for Australia and a plan to fly to Sydney within the first six months of my travels. I’d spend a year working and exploring, building up my travel fund and enjoying being an expat with a stable life and fixed routine.
That, as you know, did not happen.
I instead decided to head to ridiculously cheap Chiang Mai, fell in love with a fellow travel blogger and decided to pursue a life of perpetual movement by his side. We made Thailand our home for the next six months, working 80 hour weeks, building businesses and planning for a future of, well, not having to plan.
Somewhere during that time, I realised that my Working Holiday in Australia was hanging over my head like a dark storm cloud. I didn’t want to go back to working for someone else, I didn’t want to remain stationary, I didn’t want to have to wake up at 7am and know how every single day was going to turn out. I was happy. I thrived on the spontaneity that long-term travel had brought to my life, I loved not knowing what each day was going to bring and the freedom of being able to wake up and buy a ticket to Cambodia on a whim, just because I felt like going.
It was a decision I wrestled with for a few months before finally booking a flight to Indonesia when I should have been heading to Australia.
Australia would have to wait.
A stunning beach in Port Macquarie.
One year later, I finally booked that flight.
A few weeks before we were due to arrive, I was seriously surprised at how excited I was about visiting. Australia was going to be my fifth continent and I was craving somewhere new to explore. My time would be limited to a month, the first week of which would be spent driving down the east coast from Brisbane to Melbourne. Though I knew there were several aspects of Australia I’d struggle with — the prices and the internet being the main ones — I was looking forward to checking out the beaches, the kangaroos, the funny accents and spending Christmas in a Western country.
…But then I fell in love with Saigon.
Vietnam was the first country in Southeast Asia where I adored the food — I wanted to eat everything. I could eat everything! (In Thailand, for example, a dislike of spicy food, coconut and peanuts means that the majority of my meals consist of a plate of fried rice). I loved the chaos, the markets and the people. In the short time I spent in Vietnam, it grew to feel like home and suddenly the thought of leaving to go to Australia filled me with dread.
It was going to take 24 hours to get to the Gold Coast, with stops in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. I was expecting it to be a tough travel day but I certainly didn’t expect us to miss our connecting flight in KL. With no other flights for at least 12 hours we were going to have to spend the night. Flights from Asia to Australia are notoriously painful — and we couldn’t find any with great connection times that were under $1000.
This had to be a sign.
Despite my insistence that Dave and I immediately forego our flights to Australia and fly straight back to Saigon, there was no convincing him. AirAsia was surprisingly helpful though, putting us up in a hotel for the night, paying for dinner and for our transport there and back.
And then, finally, 12 hours later than expected, we were off to Australia.
More Port Macquarie beachy goodness.
Our first stop was Port Macquarie, somewhere I’d actually never heard of. Dave had chosen to stay there as it was conveniently located mid-way between Brisbane and Sydney. With just one day to explore, I decided to cross off the first item on my Australia checklist and head to the beach!
Port Macquarie has eight beaches to choose from, each one unspoilt and surprisingly empty. We spent the majority of our time in Shelly Beach for no other reason than the fact there was nobody else there. Spotting the iguana lazing at the top of the steps leading towards the beach was an exciting moment for me and was a pleasant introduction to Australia’s wildlife. I wasn’t quite ready for snakes, spiders and sharks at this point!
Though we only had time to spend a couple of hours at the beach, that was all I needed to feel comfortable with my decision to come to Australia. I mean sure, we were paying $18 for a bland bowl of pho that cost just $1 in Saigon, and free internet was strangely rare, but I could handle it for a month. I wasn’t about to run out of money and if the rest of my time in Australia would be filled with scenery as stunning as this, it was definitely worth it.
I think it’s safe to say that Port Macquarie was the perfect introduction to Australia.
Where to stay in Port Macquarie
Our partnership with Hostelbookers brought us to Ozzie Pozzie Backpackers, which felt more like a resort for backpackers than a hostel! It was in a good location, just a ten minute walk to the central of town and 15 minutes from the main beach.
It had a friendly, relaxing atmosphere and I loved that there were dozens of hammocks to lie around in. There was a swimming pool, a games room, a chilled-out lounging area and an enormous kitchen, so there was plenty to keep you entertained.
Despite the sociable aspect of the hostel, our private room with ensuite was surprisingly quiet. Our bathroom was clean and the beds comfortable.
This was also my first experience of internet in Australian hostels and this was Ozzie Pozzie’s only downside. Wifi was charged at a ridiculous $10 for 24 hours use, the most expensive rate out of all the hostels I stayed in in Australia — and it didn’t work in our room.
If the expensive internet is not a deal breaker for you then I can definitely recommend Ozzie Pozzie Backpackers.