Australia road trip

On a Wednesday night, after a stressful few days full of ‘uni’ assignments,  midterms, and presentations, I was ready to do something spontaneous. Despite my love for traveling, I had not left Sydney since the TEAN pre-semester trip to Cairns. I guess that’s what happens when you live in a city full of endless opportunities! By Thursday morning I had convinced seven other people to take a road trip with me.  With no plans as to where we would be sleeping or where in the country we would end up, we rented two cars and began to drive.

Just a warning to any US students who are thinking of driving a car in Australia: its hard. And I mean really challenging. And draining. Sitting on the other side of the car and driving on the left side of the road requires a lot of attention to adapt to the unfamiliar feeling. It is not so simple, and it is important to focus. Fortunately, the drive only became easier throughout the trip. After leaving Sydney, we started to notice less cars on the road. It was dark outside and the surrounding views were limited.  It was clear that we weren’t in the city anymore when I looked up and saw the amount of stars in the sky. What a site!

About five hours into the drive, the stars weren’t the only thing different. I have noticed that locals in Sydney laugh at tourists who come to Australia expecting to see kangaroos running through the streets. On our road trip, this stereotypical idea became reality. Kangaroos really were everywhere. If “stopping to let a family of kangaroos cross the road” was on my bucket list, I would be crossing it off.

At 4 AM we arrived in the well known beach town of Byron Bay. Instead of checking into a hostel for a few hours to catch up on sleep, myself and two others decided to stay up and wait for the sunrise. We parked our car, and after a short hike we were standing at the farthest East point in Australia at the Byron Bay lighthouse. A beautiful sunrise and a few pastries later, we headed for the Gold Coast. Taking the longer route to see even more of Australia, we found ourselves on empty roads surrounded by tall palm trees, large farms on hills that appeared to roll on forever.  It was as if we were driving through a fictional land. Sometimes the scenic route is the best one to take.

Byron Bay sunrise

Upon out arrival in the Gold Coast, I had little expectations but a lot of excitement.  I had heard from some friends that it was very similar to Miami. To me, the Gold Coast was less like Miami, and more like paradise.  The beach goes on farther than you can see, the sun is always shining, the restaurants are amazing, and the people are nice. What more could you possibly want? If your answer is “nothing”, I’d agree with you. As if the city wasn’t enough to make the long drive worth it, we also had a great experience staying at Surfers Paradise hostel for the night. We met some awesome people from all around the world who showed us around and introduced us to the unpredictable, laid back Gold Coast nightlife. I’ve stayed at many hostels in the past, and this was by far the best hostel I’ve been to.  Because of the friendly, social staff, our stay was not only comfortable, but also my favorite experience in Australia so far.

After an adventurous few days, we packed up the car once again and headed south towards Sydney. This time, it was during the day.  We were able to see the open land and rural views before heading back into the busy city. While flying would have been easier and probably cheaper, I wouldn’t change a thing about our road trip. A few days after and a couple loads of laundry later, I can’t help but smile thinking about the weekend adventure.

Alyssa Fox is a student at Rutgers University and a TEAN Featured Blogger. Alyssa is currently studying abroad with TEAN in Sydney, Australia.