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A travelogue chronicling the adventures of Shane & Julie - a husband and wife seeking to travel out of the country every year of their marriage

Filtering by Category: Australia

gold coast // australia

Julie Murphy

Gold Coast Australia City Guide - The Murphy Atlas

After just a short plane ride from Melbourne, we arrived in Gold Coast where we were hosted by the amazing Marc & Janelle. Shane had first met this dream team during his time in Italy when they invited him and his buddy Ryan onto their boat to yacht down the coast of Italy as part of M&J’s many-month boating cruise around the Mediterranean. Marc’s ability to make restaurant quality ethnic food and Janelle’s background as both masseuse and author may also make them the most interesting couple in the world…and phenomenal guides for our time in Gold Coast. 

We started off our first day with a beautiful breakfast from Elephant Rock Cafe right on Currumbin Beach. Once fed, no time was wasted in seeking out what had eluded us for the first half of our time in Australia...

KANGAROOS! Just a couple miles from the airport is the surprisingly expansive Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary that has all of the OZ animal favorites that you don’t just want to hope seeing in the wild. As a huge draw for locals and tourists alike, this is one you don’t want to miss but make sure you check around online for discounts and promotions before you show up. On a Groupon-like website, we were able to score almost 50% off and discounts on food and drinks.

Still on a high from all the time spent with our furry friends, we were ready to tackle another beloved Gold Coast stop the next morning: Tamborine Mountain. This small community is nestled into the Scenic Rim mountain range and overlooks the Gold Coast as far as the eye can see. Capitalizing on the incredible vista, a collection of boutique shops, artists and restaurants have concentrated along the one main road (referred to as the Gallery Walk) and are complemented by nearby nature attractions. Slightly off the main path was the delicious cafe/restaurant, Drift, that served as a wonderful breakfast stop and shelter from the occasional rain.

Just a couple kilometers from Drift is the iconic Curtis Falls that is often the poster child for Tamborine Mountain. Easily reached within 10 minutes from the carpark, it's not a bad way to work off your Eggs Benedict and latte. Other options include (the slightly overpriced) rainforest skywalk, glowworm caves, or paragliding off the western rim...depending on how big of a breakfast you had.

Don't miss out on Tamborine's expansive collection of wineries, breweries, and distilleries all congregated on the mountain top. We opted for the delicious Fortitude Brewery and a tasting platter from it's award winning neighbor, Witches Chase Cheese, Co.  A choice we did not regret.

Of course, no trip to the Gold Coast would be complete without copious amounts of beach time. A legendary surfing location from Shane's childhood, Byron Bay was an absolutely must do. This once sleepy beach town has exploded in popularity and the little streets are now lined with surf-chic restaurants and shops. Perfectly fitting this mold was the Byron Fresh Cafe that serves up heath-conscious meals and delicious smoothies of all varieties. Then make sure to stay hydrated on the beach (and look like an uber-tourist) by picking up a fresh $5 coconut from one of the several vendors perched along the shore.

Not far up the coast is the more local-centric, Burleigh Beach. To complement the sunbathing and surfing is a local market of artisans that setup every Sunday in the shade of the trees. We were able to find additional refuge from the heat on the breezy southern point of the beach that offers a great view of the golden coastline.

As a respite from the HOT Australian sun, we took a little detour 45 minutes inland to the Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park. A 20 minute walk brings you to rushing falls that drop under this massive rock arch. As an added bonus, the cave at the base of the falls is full of bats and glowworms!

A huge thanks to our generous and awesome hosts, Janelle & Marc - who gave us some stellar recommendations, cooked us AMAZING meals, and even introduced us to their sweet and wildly fun friends.  Thank you so much!! We can't wait until your French canal boat tours take off and we can be some of your first American customers (if you'll take a couple Yankees)!

Last but certainly not least, what may or may not be our very favorite picture so far, we give you... the kangaroo selfie. 

Kangaroo Selfie - The Murphy Atlas

We so wished we could have had more time to explore Australia, but now we have an excuse to go back. Where are some of your favorite spots in OZ?? Next post - New Zealand! 

melbourne // australia

Julie Murphy

Melbourne Australia City Guide - The Murphy Atlas

Throughout our time in Melbourne, we stayed with our sweet friends, Leo, Maria & Baby Zoe in East Brighton, just outside of the city. This is a booming part of town full of development and new hip areas while still maintaining a charming beach vibe. Side note: We first met L & M on our honeymoon in Maria's home country of Colombia! Our Spanish was pretty horrible and they saved us on numerous occasions. Hence, a friendship was formed. 

After our venture down the Great Ocean Road, we headed in to downtown Melbourne for some amazing coffee and a few of the cutest stores. At the top of my list was Magnation, an artistically curated magazine shop (print isn't dead yet, y'all! I love beautiful magazines) tucked above a bookstore in the hip neighborhood of Fitzroy. Once you've had your fill of literature, this collection of street blocks is chock full of character and hip little restaurants - reminding us of a sightly more upscale version of the H St. Corridor in our old DC stomping grounds.

Just a short tram ride from the city is the trendy neighborhood of St. Kilda beach, the up-class version of Fitzroy. After wandering the beachside marketplace, we stopped into 95 Espresso for a little afternoon espresso. I semi-accidentally ordered the biggest and richest (and most expensive - sorry Shane) slice of chocolate cake EVER. For the first time in my life, I was unable to finish my dessert - I surrender, ginormous St. Kilda cake! 

Have no fear if you can't find this particular cafe on your trip to Melbourne. Self-proclaimed to be one of the coffee meccas of the world, this humble city has more cute little espresso shops than you could ever sip your way through. Just don't come expecting a venti frappuccino. The java culture here is so loyal to their artisan espresso brews that the introduction of Starbucks was a major flop.

Our host, Leo, hails from Argentina so it was only appropriate that they joined us for our first Argentinean culinary experience at, the highly regarded, San Telmo. In the pursuit of authenticity, they cook their meat on a 9-foot long hand-made grill and charcoal shipped from the homeland. Pair that with Australia's illustrious beef tradition and let me tell you - SO delicious! Delicate, flavorful appetizers, perfectly cooked meat and the cutest little cream puffs for dessert. The price mark comes at a bit of a splurge but well worth every bite if it fits in the budget. 

And who knew we would be in town during the Australian Open?! Not me. Such a fun surprise! We woke up early on the first day of The Open and took the train into the city only to be told that ground passes were sold out for the day (boo). In a last ditch effort, we decided to check online and low and behold, victory! Cheers for cheating the system. We spent the day enjoying amazing live tennis, eating some standard Australian stadium food (meat pies and fish & chips) and trying not to get horribly sunburnt. Even if you don't happen to stumble upon an international tennis tournament, this lively city always has some sport or event to experience. Make sure to check out the city's online listing for events or head to the massive tourist information center in Federation Square where you will be sat down with your own personal planning consultant for free!

From the Aussie Open, we took the train to the Brighton Beach stop where a meandering walk takes you to the city's iconic beach shacks. As if these vibrant huts aren't entertaining enough, the path from the station takes you right by Hugh Jackman's gorgeous Melbourne home.  After running into Gerard Butler in Iceland, I have extremely unrealistic expectations about running into celebrities and I reeeallyy wanted to ring the doorbell. But Shane dragged my loitering self away from Hughy's front door to see the stunning the sunset on the beach.

Having only rented a car for one day in the Great Ocean Road, all our trips to, from and around the city were exclusively done using public transport. The system is not only easily accessible but has a fair price tag and is even free once in the immediate downtown area!

If you're heading to Melbourne, make sure to leave a little extra buffer in your eating budget. Food is substantially more expensive Down Under (at least compared to food prices in the States) and there is no shortage of delicious restaurants in this city. Here are a few we enjoyed for breakfast or lunch that won't break the bank: 

  • Noisette: A petite French cafe in Port Melbourne that Maria says to have better croissants than Paris (they are delicious!) and great coffee
  • Gas Eatery: This quirky and original shop has sizable breakfasts and delicious takeout/stay-in lunches for tasty-on-the-go
  • Brunetti: Full of amazing pastries and treats to wash down with your espresso, this outdoor, Italian pasticceria sits perfectly in the city square
  • Blue Moose Cafe: A tasty breakfast spot in the business district but just a block away from the emotionally stirring Shrine of Remembrance - an interactive museum and memorial for all of Australia's armed servicemen, past and present
Melbourne Cafe - The Murphy Atlas

And a huge thank you to Leonardo and Maria (and baby Zoe!) who opened up their home and guided us towards the best that Melbourne had to offer!

the great ocean road // australia

Julie Murphy

Travel Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road in Southern Australia - The Murphy Atlas

With Melbourne as our first home base (thanks to the generosity of our sweet hosts, Leo, Maria and baby Zoe) we hit the ground running on our first full day in Australia and headed down the coast via the iconic Great Ocean Road. We grabbed a rental car from Avis in downtown Melbourne and we were off! The Great Ocean Road was originally built by WWI soldiers after they returned home and now serves as a beautiful memorial for those who were lost in the war. 

Thanks to crazy Melbourne rush hour traffic, Shane quickly adjusted to driving on the wrong side of the road and we made our way to Bell's Beach, made famous in surf cinema classics Point Break and The Endless Summer. Bell's is also home to the world's longest-running surfing competition, the Rip Curl Pro Surf & Music Festival. 

Sadly, the surf was totally lacking, so after some killer views of Bells and some long walks on the beach, we made the drive to the hip little beach town of Lorne, where we enjoyed some delicious (giant) burgers and fries (the real kicker was the chipotle chili dipping sauce for the fries reminiscent of Good Stuff Eatery back in DC) at The Bottle of Milk -- definitely recommend this locals joint for lunch along the Great Ocean Road! 

Many people make the Great Ocean Road an overnight excursion, but we were so happy with the length of our day trip! Since we left early in the morning, we had plenty of time to make lots of stops at stellar beaches and quaint towns, like the sleepy Apollo Bay. Here we stopped into Cafe 153 for a long black and some iced coffee which turned out to be coffee poured over ICE CREAM! I was so thrilled and have proceeded to order iced coffee throughout Australia and New Zealand to see if they will continue giving me ice cream and IT JUST KEEPS COMING! It's amazing. We need to make this a normal thing in the States, yeah?!

Shortly after Apollo Bay, the landscape drastically changed and we were soon surrounded by towering rainforest. Feeling a need for a break from the coastal heat, we pulled into a carpark on the left side of the road for Mait's Rest Rainforest Trail and were not disappointed by this very easy 1 km trail through the jungle. Also along this section of the road are a couple nature reserves that claim to have easy access to wild koalas but we were unfortunately deterred by rain.

Our hosts advised us to check out any pulloffs on the side of the road that looked like they may have paths to the beach as they often lead you to your own private relaxation spot. We struck gold on this one below that appeared shortly after exiting the rainforest but miles away from the crowds at more publicized beaches.

Our adventure down the Great Ocean Road ended with the Razorback rocks and the Twelve Apostles - eroded stacks of limestone off the coast of the Port Campbell National Park. Despite there only being 8 "Apostles" left due to erosion, these magnificent pieces of creation stand nearly 150 feet out of the water and are a majestic sight against the Antarctic Ocean. Some of the best viewpoints of these pillars face directly west and are ideal for sunset viewings if you still have the vigor for the 3 hour drive back to Melbourne.

We would love to hear about some of your favorite coastal drives! A road trip down California's Pacific Coast Highway is definitely on our bucket list but where else would y'all recommend?