Pasted the article below that helped me leave. Leave me a comment on your thoughts about Australia, Airbnb, contests or anything under the sun.
Around Australia in 8 Airbnbs
Australia blossomed into a plan more than a year ago, when my cricket-crazy husband decided that we would head there for the Cricket World Cup 2015. A few more friends and family were roped in, and in February 2014, tickets for the matches that would be played in February 2015 were purchased. The rest of the planning fell onto my shoulders, and once we had our tickets booked, the wondering and blundering commenced!
I had stayed at a few Airbnb accommodations across India prior to this trip, and all of them had been great experiences. As a couple we like to use homestays so Airbnb seemed like a natural extension of that. The plan was to use only Airbnb on our trip to Down Under. What better way to experience a country and its culture than through its the people. We’d stayed in hostels on previous trips abroad, but using Airbnb made us wonder (read: worry) about many other things, would the houses be convenient for non-locals like us, would the people be friendly among others and would we get any vegetarian food?
It demanded a thorough and rather perseverant search but I was up for it. I put down my main criteria as: location, private bathroom (important for us) and a cost that fit our overall budget (Approximately INR 5000 per night for two of us). I would browse through all places, choose the my top 3-4 homes, message all the hosts and then once they reverted book the one I had liked the best. In all cases, the hosts of my top place always reverted with a ‘YES’, but given Airbnb’s advice I always messaged 3-4 hosts.
We lived in 8 different homes across Australia, and interacted with 8 different families, some of them lived in the same house, shared their space, others visited to give us to keys, few were busy at work all day, but in every case we felt welcome, comfortable and at times, like we’d known them forever! This is a lowdown on all the places we stayed in, if you plan to head to any of these destinations it’s not a bad idea to blindly replicate!
Melbourne, ‘flat white’, ice-cream and markets – 2 nights
A large part of our trip was in Melbourne, we wanted to stay in CBD so that many of the things we wished to do were all walking distance. Given that we were in and out of Melbourne we chose three different locations, and made it three different experiences. Our first, and I think possibly the best location, was just off Bourke Street. Convenient to walk all over Melbourne, check out the graffiti and café culture and laneways. This is the place.
Melani was a great host. The room is cosy, bathroom clean and spacious but the best part – your room has a spacious balcony that looks across CBD. On our second night as we were still a little tired from our travel we spent the evening indoors, and that was the place to be.
Must Dos in Melbourne CBD:
- There is a lot to see in Melbourne and the typical websites will give you a list of the must-dos, do those.
- Check out all the graffiti, if you are an addict like me. We followed this list and visited each of these places. Read more here.
- Have coffee in a different place everyday. We liked the coffee at the League of Honest Coffee the best. It was flavourful, packed with aroma, and just the right blend of milk to coffee brew. We had a ‘flat white’ at every cafe since its an Aussie speciality.
- Laneways are one Melbourne’s ‘it things’! Hardware Street is humming every night, don’t miss it. Every second corner has a bunch of restaurants that pop up at night, so you’ll find your favourite place soon. Try and catch a food truck…
- You can sample some nitrogen churned ice-cream made famous by Heston Blumenthal on MasterChef Australia. There is one outlet on Bourke Street.
- Take the free tram 35 that takes you on a heritage tour along some of the main roads. It runs every 15 minutes and makes for a great orientation trip.
- Queen Victoria Market takes you back to another time, and made me realise that markets/bazaars are not too different all over the world. It shuts early and is closed on some days of the week, so look it up before you head there. Have a coffee at Market Lane Café.
- Look up the local news sites or websites like Urban Spoon to check out the latest events and happenings. We chanced to be in Melbourne during White Night. There is always something on through summer.
- Check out the tour of the Melbourne Goal, it is definitely worth it. There is a tiny bonus tour at the end of it, don’t miss that.
- Walk, walk and walk some more.
Yarra Valley, breweries, food and cheese – 2 nights
This was our first drive trip in Australia, and driving in Australia deserves another separate post, but short of long, it’s easy, loads of fun and all you need is your Indian Licence (The card version not paper version)
This was a two day country-side trip and we drove all over Yarra Valley through the day. We hardly spent anytime indoors. Frank and Delia’s home was probably our favourite of the entire trip. The room is cosy, bathroom huge, and it’s conveniently located just off the main town street. The porch is lovely and definitely use it for breakfast or an early evening drink. Frank and Delia were like long lost friends, we felt like we’d known them forever! Visit their home here.
The Must dos are many… and you should chart your own trip discovering your favourite vineyard since there are over 65. But visit vineyards, eat at their cafés, sample the beers/wines, meet the koalas and kangaroos at the Healesville Sanctuary, definitely visit theYarra Valley Dairy (some amazing desserts too!) and the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery. We drove to Warburton on our second day and that was beautiful. If you have the time then definitely drive there, and if you have more time, then spend a night there… I wish we had!
Philip Island and the penguins – one night!
Penguins, penguins and penguins! This is the place of the Penguin Parade and as commercialised as it is today, it is still worth heading there. You will be one amongst truck loads of people sitting on a beach waiting for those tiny penguins to walk home. The sun sets, the chill breeze begins to wreck havoc in your bones, and finally, those white and black jacketed birds slide out of the water and start their hesitant trek to their burrows. You sit to one side, and watch them go. At times they run, then they fall head first, pick themselves up and move on; it’s a comical sight!
We stayed with Manny and Heather. Heather is very helpful, and being a ranger at the Penguin Parade is always willing to give you advice. Their place is average, not the most clean and at times felt a bit too messy for someone like me. But then Heather is an artist, and if you like a little of chaos then this is the place for you. Check it out here.
Must Dos at Philip Island:
- Head for the Penguin Parade. You can even book the tickets online, well in advance. There is no need to spend your money on the Plus ticket, go for the general ticket. After the beach viewing area is closed, as you walk back to the parking you will see a lot of penguins and be close enough to almost touch them (of course, you mustn’t do that!)
- Keep an evening to walk around Cowes, the most developed part of the island… You can get a quick dip in the water and eat at one of the many restaurants. .
- Nobbies Centre is at one tip of the island, close to the Penguin Parade and it is a good idea to see this just before the Parade. It is a small pathway that takes you along the cliff to some great viewing points. You can see the waters of the Pacific Ocean crashing into the rocks and the mist rising on all sides. The musty animal-like smell is from the penguin burrows, you’ll see them all around and if lucky you might even see a penguin huddled in them… we saw a couple.
P.S. We weren’t allowed to take our cameras along for the penguin parade so I actually have no pictures of it. It was strangely liberating to be ‘capture moment’ free. No stress and I was all eyes.
Melbourne, cricket and White Night – 3 nights
We headed back to Melbourne for the Cricket World Cup match between South Africa and India. The genesis of the entire trip, as you know, was to watch some cricket. We had been in Australia for 5-6 days already and had been roaming around the countryside for three. We were now joined by my brother and his wife, and we decided to spend our three nights in Melbourne CBD.
We had taken over a two bedroom house just off Spencer’s Street, close to Southern Cross Station. If you are coming from the airport and plan to use the shuttle then this is the ideal location. The airport bus shuttle drops you are Southern Cross and from there this is just a short walk away. Check it out here. There is also a tiny dip pool and a sauna. We didn’t a chance to use it, but it’s open to guests too! Great location in Melbourne, though to one corner of CBD and we walked so much that we were pooped every evening!
There was some huge chaos with the keys, not Chris’ fault though, but more on our side. We did make a frantic call to Airbnb support and they were super prompt and helped sort it out.
Some more Must Dos at Melbourne:
- Visit the MCG. Watch a match at the MCG. Hang at the MCG. There is a cricket museum there, and you can also take a tour of the MCG. The Melbourne Cricket Ground is simply amazing. We were there for the India South Africa CWC 2015 match and with 87000 odd people cheering for India it had an energy of another level. It felt like we were right at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, a sea of blue had descended there.
- Check out the Melbourne Art Gallery, some interesting shows.
- Spend an afternoon in and around South Yarra river, expensive places but you can get a meal there.
- Don’t miss experiencing Federation Square…
- Visit St. Kilda, its not the biggest beach, but if you have an evening free makes for a nice ride out of the CBD. You get to see different parts of Melbourne and experience the suburbs. Sister of Soul is an amazing Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurant, don’t miss it.
- Explore the city and you’ll find your own spaces!
Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay and the 12 Apostles – One night
Our second roadtrip from Melbourne was to the Great Ocean Road. It is a great ride, you zip by turning on bends with the Pacific to your left and the smooth road under you. A La Grecqueis a great stop for lunch, though expensive especially when you convert to INR. It is near Aireys Inlet.
We stayed in a wonderful bungalow, which we had to ourselves, one bedroom on the ground floor and the second on the first. What made the stay even more special was the host popped over from across the fence and asked us to come and check out a koala who was perched on his backyard fence. It was a really close view of this wonderful little creature that, given the way their face is shaped, looked at us morosely!
Must Dos in and around Apollo Bay:
- Near Aireys Inlet you have a Lighthouse that has amazing views over the bay. Try and plan a visit just around sunset, it is quite spectacular.
- At Apollo Bay don’t miss Mariner’s Lookout, a great viewing point.
- Just after Apollo Bay and towards Port Campbell is Mait’s Rest, a superb rainforest that you can walk about and experience.
- The obvious is the 12 Apostles, which cannot be missed… Around 1.5 hours away from Apollo Bay and it is quite surreal the way these rocks have weathered…
- A little beyond Port Campbell is a line of sights all along the coast, and each of them is free to view. Do not miss those either. Walk down Gibson Steps and walk along the sea, the ocean is powerful and it gives you a sense of how it managed to weather away so much of these rocks! Right at the end of the stretch is The Grotto, even if you are late, push it a bit and head there. It is a sinkhole formation, the only in this line if I am right and is really beautiful.
- Port Campbell is a good place to stop for lunch/a meal.
Torquay, beach and sand – one night
On the way back to Melbourne we halted for one night at Torquay. Lorne was too expensive, so that was the reason Torquay came into the picture. Richard and June’s place was perfectly located down a street at Torquay, a short walk from the seashore. The room was comfortable, both of them were really friendly and Tilly, their dog, is funny!
Torquay is known for its surf beaches and has earned a sobriquet of the Queen of Surfing Beaches, or so we heard. It is a nice and long stretch of sand and we did see some people surfing. The town itself seems small and rather intimate. I wouldn’t spend more than a night here, maybe if you were to find a good place at Lorne then I would definitely add that to the itinerary.
Melbourne, Richmond, suburbs and Mountain Goat Brewery – one night
This was our third time back in Melbourne, we had one night before we went off to New Zealand for a week. We decided to stay at a suburb and experience a more residential part of Melbourne, and on hindsight, it was a great decision.
Richmond is stuffed to the brim with old town houses, each of them with some gorgeous grills, front porches and just huddled together, united in their beauty. They were once homes to workers but today look like rather posh town houses. There are many restaurants and bars to choose from, so once again you are spoilt for choice!
The Stable run by Ione it just amazing. It is an old horse stable that has been restored and converted into a room for guests. So the room stands in the backyard of the house. They’ve kept the bricks, the uneven floor and the simplicity of its origins, but not skimped on the comfort one bit… It had one of the nicest shower enclosures we’ve come across and when you’re living from one bathroom to another – it matters!
Must Dos at Richmond:
Visit the Mountain Goat Brewery. Visit the Mountain Goat Brewery. Visit the Mountain Goat Brewery. Yes, there is just one! We were just back from Yarra Valley and had spent 3 days visiting vineyards and breweries, but the Mountain Goat, a local Melbourne Brewery, was our best experience. They have a free tour of the brewery and the guide was the best we came across. He was informative, funny and made everything into a story. There was obviously a lot of passion in him for beer and brewing, and that shone through! And of course, they have a great café so it makes for a nice evening. Get there by 6.30-7 if you want a place to sit. The brewery is open on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Sydney – three nights
Sydney. If I had my pick between Melbourne and Sydney, I might be partial to Sydney at this current stage of my life. It was alive, happy and seemed like a way hipper city to live in. Also the old and the new were interspersed throughout, there were old brick buildings followed by modern glass structures throughout. Melbourne would be perfect for me maybe a decade later, when I wish to settle down seems like the much better city. Though not that anyone is asking me to shift to either of these cities in Australia!
We stayed with Ito who’s home is just next to the King’s Cross Station. The main reason we chose it was for the location, and the location was simply amazing. On each side spread out roads that were stuffed with restaurants, cafés, bars and bakeries. We felt really torn everytime we had to decide where we wanted to eat! We walked everywhere. From here to Sydney Opera House to the Rocks, and even to the Harbour Bridge and back.
Quick Tip: If you are coming in from the airport, and are a minimum of 2 of you, a taxi/cab might also work out; equal to the train ticket fare for two.
- The usual list of things to see at Sydney: Habour Bridge, Opera House (Definitely do the tour, it’s worth it), Botanical Gardens, take a tour at the SCG, spend a half day at The Rocks, walk by Hyde Park, etc etc etc. Just walk around and get a feel of Sydney.
- Visit Bondi beach, do the Bondi to Bronte walk though not along the sand but high up along the cliffs. You can spend half a day or even an entire day there…
- Comb through Potts Place, Victoria Street, Darlinghurst Street, Oxford Street and Bourke Street for all the restaurants and cafés.
- Have a meal at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant. Ala Carte, and you do not need a reservation.
- Don’t miss out on Kurtosh for desserts… Everything we had there was amazing, we even brought back a box of stuff to India.
Our entire trip was stuffed to the brim with experiences and a lot of new things that we had done before. Winning this contest has just made it even more special, given that I have never won a travel contest before. And free stay, who wouldn’t want that. Right?