Ajeeth Ramanan works as a Reservations Manager at Intrepid DMC in New Delhi, our local ground operator in India. He recently spent a week in Australia, travelling on Intrepid’s seven-day Sydney to Brisbane Northbound tour. This is what he had to say about his adventures in the Great Southern Land.
“If you’re going to Australia and you only have a week of holidays up your sleeve, you should do Intrepid’s Sydney to Brisbane Northbound trip.”
Why? Because it showcases some seriously beautiful scenery, you’ll meet some of the wildlife that call Australia home and you’ll learn from the traditional custodians of the land.
Here are seven reasons to add this trip to your Down Under diary.
1. Explore some of Australia’s biggest cities
With its iconic Opera House, Harbour Bridge and beaches dotted along the coast, there’s no denying that Sydney is one of Australia’s most beautiful cities. Enjoy the sea breeze and bustling beach scenes on the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk, stroll along the Darling Harbour or check out the city’s stellar dining scene.
Another great way to experience Sydney is with a First Nations Cultural experience. From learning about native plants and their traditional uses with an Indigenous guide to tasting local bush tucker, these experiences will help you get a deeper understanding of the history and culture of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation.
Brisbane, on the other hand, is more compact and offers a balance between the hustle and bustle of a big city and laid-back Queensland charm. One of the most popular areas of the city is South Bank, which boasts a man-made beach, a vibrant dining scene and many bars where you can sit down and enjoy Queensland’s warm weather. You can also walk over to Queens Street for some lip-smacking grub and then take a long walk over the Story Bridge and along the river until you hit the Wheel of Brisbane, a 60-metre-high Ferris wheel.
2. Experience the pristine beauty of the East Coast
This trip covers a lot in just seven days, so there are some early starts. But it’s worth getting up early, as there are some places where you’ll need that extra time to take in the natural beauty, especially along the coast. The tour heads along the coastal road between Newcastle and Brisbane except for a small detour near Dorrigo, so you’ll have your pick of beaches in northern New South Wales. From white pristine sand to rocky cliffs and water that’s a bit rough, there’s a beach for everyone. In my opinion, the best one is Port Macquarie’s town beach.
3. Meet native wildlife
We saw a lot of wildlife on the trip, including kangaroos, wombats and those sleepy little teddy bears that aren’t actually bears, koalas. Fact: koalas are named after an indigenous word that means ‘doesn’t drink water’. They eat and sleep most of the day, so that makes them my spirit animal. We visited the world’s only koala hospital, which is run completely by volunteers. It’s so good to see people coming from across the globe to help these animals.
Don’t miss the opportunity to go kayaking in Byron Bay. Seeing dolphins swimming up to the surface was an out-of-the-world experience.
4. Learn from the traditional custodians of the land
The First Nations peoples of Australia have an ancient and continuing connection to the land and waters. We learned about the lifestyle of some of the First Nations peoples along the East Coast, including the Gumbanyggir people. We took part in an indigenous experience in Valla Beach which included storytelling about life long before European settlers arrived. It was an emotional experience, but also very enlightening.
I was shocked to find out that within 250 metres of my surroundings, there was more than enough life sustenance, from food to medicine to fuel. It’s mind-boggling to imagine the quantum of resources in the entire continent.
5. Enjoy the food that makes you go G’day
There was a particularly decadent day on the tour – in the Hunter Valley – where you sample chocolate, cheese and wine and visit a distillery all on the same day. Most of the breakfasts you’ll have are in local cafes, which is a delicious way to start your day. Don’t be surprised if you put on a few pounds! The barbecue dinner in Byron Bay, which is a part of a farm-to-plate experience, was one of the most divine meals of the whole trip.
6. Visit quirky towns
Nestled between Sydney and Brisbane is a multitude of small towns, each one competing to be the most attractive. There’s the wee town of Maclean, with its Scottish Gaelic signboards and bagpiping music, and Bellingen, which has more writers than anywhere else in Australia. Then there’s the riverside town of Forster and its twin Tuncurry, where pelicans wait patiently for morsels of fish while fishermen gut their catch of the day. Each town along the coast has a completely different vibe. Word to the wise: when you’re in Maclean, try the fish and chips. You can thank me later.
The pub in Dorrigo is a great example of what the accommodation on this trip is like. It’s very Australian with a rustic charm; maybe have a pint of pilsner and a game of pool while you’re there. All the other hotels are comfortable, well maintained and centrally located, so you can walk off the chicken parma you had for dinner
7. Experience Australia through a local’s eyes
Our leader made the trip much more fun. Covering about 1000 kilometres (621 miles) in seven days can be a bit tiring, but not once was I bored. The leaders are ambassadors of the #beintrepid motto. When you’re called ‘mate’ and made fun of (light-heartedly, of course!), you know you’ve made friends for life. Thanks, Jason, for introducing me to Coopers Beer and just being the best 😀
When I’m next in Australia, I’d like to travel further up the coast on Intrepid’s Brisbane to Cairns Adventure.
As an Australian-owned business, we acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to their Elders past, present and future.