Exploring Australia!

Backpacking in New Zealand was a great idea for SO many reasons! One of the reasons I’m super thankful for right now is New Zealand’s proximity to Australia! I spent the last two months tramping the South Island. I walked many days on the Te Araroa, but I also enjoyed going off the trail and exploring other cities in New Zealand.

After two months on the South Island, I got a ferry up to Wellington. From Wellington, I flew to Auckland and then on to Sydney! I wanted to share a few of the highlights of my last two weeks here in Australia! My trip to Australia was intentionally split into three sections: Sydney, Cairns, then back to Sydney. I did a ton of research when planning for this off-trail adventure. There are so many incredible places to visit here in Australia, but with only two weeks, I didn’t want to be moving around too much. I decided to fly into Sydney for all the obvious tourist reasons: the opera house, the Sydney Bridge, and the beaches. I also chose Cairns, because it’s known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve been scuba diving since 2008, and it’s been on my bucket list to dive the Great Barrier Reef. Being so close to the reef, this was a priority for me! Here’s a review of my past two weeks down under!


Ok, first things first. Transportation. The flight to Sydney was super smooth, but I had no idea how I was going to get to my hostel. The transportation here in Sydney is INCREDIBLE. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I was able to follow signs to customs and then the exit (it was super fast – I made it through in less than 20 minutes!). I then saw signs for trains, so I followed the signs. I knew my hostel was right in the city center, so after checking out the train map, I realized that I could take a train that would drop me off with only about 5 minutes of walking left! Super duper easy.

I remember stepping through the gates and thinking, “I can’t believe I’m in Australia!”

For my first day in Australia, I took the train to Olympic Park (super cool!) then back to the city center to explore St. Mary’s Cathedral. I also checked out The Rocks, which is a historic area of Sydney. It’s also really close to Circular Quay: the ferry terminal! I walked down to the waterfront, and I stood in awe as I stared at the Sydney Opera House for the first time in my life. It was so unreal. I had seen pictures, and I had seen it in videos. But to actually be there in person was such an overwhelming feeling. I am so grateful for this incredible adventure.

The next day, I took a ferry to Manly Beach. It was super cool to ferry right next to the Opera House and the Sydney Bridge! Once I made it to Manly Beach, I walked to Shelly Beach and swam in the Fairy Bower Beach Pool. What a magical experience!

I had booked the Sydney Bridge Climb for that afternoon, so I ferried back to Circular Quay to shower off and get ready for my summit! I checked in to BridgeClimb Sydney and got oriented for the climb. I was in a group of 12. We were from all over the world and all different ages! There was a dad with his two pre-teen girls from Melbourne. There was a recent uni grad with her parents visiting from the UK. There was a young married couple from India. There was also a dad with his two rowdy 20-something sons from Ireland. We were a fun group. Our tour guide, Alex, helped us get suited up before she led us to the bridge. It took a couple hours to summit and return. Not because it was a super strenuous climb, but because we stopped for photo shoots quite often (see the cover picture as proof!). Alex also had a lot of historical information to share. It was a fun climb, and I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to do it!

The next couple of days were awesome as well! I did the Bondi to Coogee Beach walk. It was about 6km one way, and it was stunning! It ran right along the coast, and I loved all of he beach overlooks. Simply gorgeous! On Sunday, I got to attend Hillsong Sydney Church. I had first been to a Hillsong church location when I was in London in 2007, and I had wanted to go to the original Hillsong location since then. It was amazing! I seriously cannot believe that I’m here!!

On my sixth day in Sydney, I explored Darling Harbor before catching my flight to Cairns. It was a 2 hour and 45 minute flight. When I landed, it was already dark. The transportation in Cairns isn’t as great as Sydney, so I had to get an Uber to my airbnb.


On my first night in Cairns, I went to the night market. It was awesome! Lots of stalls and booths with shopping as well as food. So fun! The next day, I was able to check an item off from my bucket list: I went scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef! My boat set sail at 7:30, and it took us about 2 hours to get out to the reef. I got to snorkel as well as scuba.

While scuba diving and snorkeling, I saw two white tipped reef sharks, an incredible variety of fish, two stingrays, a hawksbill turtle, and some of the most beautiful coral I’ve ever seen in my life! Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef has been on my bucket list since I first started diving in 2008. Actually being there was both awesome and depressing. I noticed the latter while scuba diving. While snorkeling, I was so far above the bottom that it all seemed perfect and lovely. But once I was deeper and could see closer, I saw the truth. There’s so much dead, broken, destroyed coral at the bottom of the ocean. The reef was beautiful, but in between the beauty was death. The white, stone, small pieces of coral that had once been alive, vibrant, and colorful covered sections of the reef floor.

I’m glad I got to see the Great Barrier Reef when I did, because it truly is shrinking. I was sad for the fish. But even more so, I was sad for the coral. I had never seen such variety or coral. It was incredible. So intricate and diverse. The different shades of reds, blues, and yellows. The shapes. The way the current moved through the coral like wind. The fish were awesome (so much bigger than what I’ve seen before), but it was the coral that I wanted to watch all day. Some of my favorite moments while diving were when I would float alongside a massive wall of coral. Some protruding out and others clinging to the reef edge. A school of tiny fish racing next to me. Ahhh. What an amazing experience! I ended up spending two days at the reef. First, I was at Upolu Reef. The second day, I went to Green Island. What a dream come true!

Along with spending time in the water while in Cairns, I got to interact with Australian animals! I took a bus out to Kuranda where I visited Kuranda Koala Gardens. I got to see crocodiles, wombats, and snakes. I also got to pet and feed wallabies and kangaroos. But the icing on the cake was getting to hold a koala! (To see pictures of this, check out my instagram @samfrancart)


After five days in Cairns, I flew back to Sydney. Even though I had crossed off so many things from my “tourist to do” list, I still had a lot to do and see! On the top of the list was the Blue Mountains. On Easter, I took a train (almost three hours from my airbnb location in Chatswood) to Katoomba. Wow – I’m so glad I decided to visit! The Blue Mountains are known as the Grand Canyon of Sydney, and I can tell why! They’re stunning and massive! I walked to Echo Point where I was able to see the Three Sisters rock formation. I also went to Katoomba Falls and walked almost seven miles around on the paths. It was so great to be back in the mountains and back in nature. I think I’m ready to be back on the trail!

Two weeks in Australia was an amazing break from the trail. It was fun, filled with food and activities, and just what I needed to get pumped for the trail again! I’m currently writing this from Sydney. I’ll fly back to Auckland tomorrow! Then, in a week or so, I’ll fly back down to Wellington where I’ll collect my backpack from a Trail Angel and get back on the trail! North Island, I’m coming for you!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 4

  • David Odell : Apr 14th

    Great posts about your hiking and travels. Sounds like you are having a great time. David Odell AT71 PCT72 CDT77.

    • Sam Francart : Apr 20th

      Hi David! Yes!! Living the dream! I’m so grateful!

  • Deb Tilton : Apr 14th

    So fun to read your posts, Sam. You are such an adventurer while I sit here at home and dream. I am quilting and reading and enjoying life. Be safe! Jesus loves you and so do I!!

    • Sam Francart : Apr 20th

      Thanks Deb! Love you!!


What Do You Think?