Now that over a month has passed since we got back from Australia and my “I just spent three weeks on the beach” glow has unquestionably faded, I think it’s time for a little more reminiscing on our honeymoon. I need a little reminder of carefree summer times to power through these last few months of excessive bundling up in an unheated flat.
When I last left off, we had just returned from our New Years adventures on a farm in Mulloon. After that, Leo and I hopped on a plane in Sydney and flew to Melbourne, just the two of us, for a few days of exploring the coffee capital. We stayed in a minimalist-chic Airbnb in Fitzroy, surrounded by colorful graffiti and too many cute cafés to count.
We ate our first meal at Industry Beans, which I had been obsessing over since I found it on Instagram a few weeks before (broccoflower, activated charcoal purée, pickled beetroot, avocado cashew butter, puffed grains, and a pea-dusted poached egg, all on one plate. Need I say more?). We explored the neighborhood on foot, stopping frequently to take photographs and drink Aperol Spritzes. The next day, we wandered through the Royal Botanic Gardens, then took a trip to St. Kilda to try to spot the penguins that waddle out onto the beach at dusk. We were a little too early to see them, but I did manage to drink a glass of wine at a bar overlooking the ocean. You win some, you lose some.
Our final day in Melbourne, I made a pilgrimage to Shortstop Coffee and Doughnuts, a donut shop I’d been stalking for months. (My donut-eating capabilities are remarkable. Choosing which donuts to get was one of the most difficult decisions of the whole trip.) One flat white, one espresso, an Australian honey and sea salt cruller, a sugar ring donut, and a peanut butter–filled, dark chocolate–glazed donut later, we stumbled to Queen Victoria Market to kill some time before our flight. Leo and I were undoubtedly in a sugar coma, but we managed to walk around and ogle the produce and leather bags and creepy dolls and floral soaps the vendors were selling. I also had a banana and coffee smoothie, and I vowed to never drink a smoothie without coffee in it again.
We flew back to Sydney, but only to pack our things and pile them in the back of our massive red pickup truck. We were about to embark on a road trip up the coast for our last week in Australia. I refused to drive, partly because I’m scared of driving on the other side of the road and partly because I can’t stay awake in moving vehicles, but luckily our friend Simon came with us and split the driving with Leo.
Our final destination for the road trip was Byron Bay, a nine-hour drive from our starting point. We ended up spreading out the drive over three days because we kept getting distracted by all of the beautiful beachside towns. The trip went something like this: drive for a few hours, have lunch at a café, spend a few hours at the beach, drive to a motel and spend the night, repeat. Hard life, I know. (To read more about my love affair with the Australian cafés we encountered on the road, check out this post.)
Before we even arrived in Byron Bay, we manage to squeeze in some quality beach sessions. Once we got there, we hit the beach again, but it was so crowded that we realized we would probably have a better time exploring a smaller town nearby. We ended up in the neighboring village of Brunswick Heads; it was the best decision we made the entire holiday. We stayed in a clean, charming motel with a little picnic area for grilling and a saltwater pool. The nearby beach was peaceful and nearly empty. We loved the place so much we decided to stay an extra night—so dreamy.
Leo and I made the trip back to Sydney just the two of us, and we drove inland rather than along the coast so that we could see some different towns. The route was pretty rural, with lots of kangaroos and cows on the side of the road. One stretch of the drive was particularly memorable—we entered an area in the mountains with long, winding, deserted roads and lost our GPS signal just as it started to storm. We blasted Queen and kept on driving, wondering every so often if a serial killer would approach us if we broke down. Spoiler alert: we are still alive.
After making it through the wilderness, both literally and metaphorically, we spent the night in a lodge in a small town called Dorrigo. The next day, instead of immediately continuing our drive, we decided to take a walk through the national park nearby. The “walk” turned into a five-hour hike through a rainforest with waterfalls, tiny green tree frogs, and absolutely stunning views. The forest floor was littered with rare Dorrigo plums, and a million different birdsongs pierced the humid air around us. I’ve never been in a place that felt more ancient and alive.
We brought our holiday to a close by driving back to Sydney to spend some time with our Australian pals before we had to leave. Our last hurrah was at a nude beach called Little Congwong (lol). We sat in the sun all day. Straight gin was involved. There was even an ice cream boat that pulled up on the shore so that I could have one last Golden Gaytime before we departed (lol, yes, lol).
I still can’t believe I got to spend three weeks in what is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places I will ever travel. And the fact that I also got to visit my friends and meet their parents and explore their stomping grounds makes it all the more unbelievable. Even a month later, I’m still coasting on the good vibes that Australia blasted through my system. I’ll be back, but in the meantime, have a Cherry Ripe for me.