*Long post ahead, if you're just here for the recipe...scroll down!
Back in early November, Ricky and I made our way down under...finally! When I say "finally," I mean that not only had we both been dreaming of going since we were little (Ricky more so), but we'd also literally bought our tickets in May of last year! So, we spent the majority of the year being super antsy and driving ourselves crazy with excitement. It took quite a bit of planning, and in total honesty, we probably had 3-4 different itineraries lined up before we decided on the final one. Australia is such a big country, and while we didn't get to experience even close to the amount it has to offer, we definitely had the best time and cannot wait to go back. I've broken up our trip into the three stops we made and included our favorite recommendations - I hope this will be helpful to anyone planning a trip there!
We took a redeye on Tuesday night from LAX, and then found ourselves in Sydney Thursday morning - probably the longest and most draining travel I've experienced thus far. Thankfully, both Ricky and I get super hyped off of excitement and adrenaline, so we hit the ground running (not literally) in search of our first cup of coffee. First stop, Bourke Street Bakery. I can't recommend this place enough - great sweet and savory baked goods, and the perfect flat white. So good, we went back three times (once to pick up bread for a picnic)! Our quick stop to Bourke Street set us up nicely for a day of exploring the city. We walked around for hours, crossed the Harbor Bridge for amazing views, got lunch on the water, met a friend at the Opera House bar, and then finished off with an excellent, very eclectic dinner.
The next day we woke up super early to try to beat the crowds on the Coogee to Bondi beach walk. Most people do the walk in reverse, starting in Bondi and ending only in Bronte, but if you enjoying walking, I highly recommend starting in Coogee to do the longer walk, and finishing off in Bondi to enjoy breakfast. We stopped roughly halfway through the walk to swim in the Bronte pools, because they are just as beautiful (though not as popular) as Bondi, and are free. Beware, the water temps were frigid. We finished off in Bondi with what I would claim was my favorite breakfast of the whole trip, and then got an Aperol spritz at the Bondi Icebergs bar. We then went to do the Hermitage Foreshore beach walk, which arguably, I enjoyed more. It was far less crowded, with awesome views across the harbor, and ended at a local beach called Shark Beach.
Saturday was by and far my favorite day of the trip because....we got engaged!! We woke up bright and early and decided to start the day off with a slow walk along the harbor, near the botanical gardens. One of our favorite things to do together is an early morning walk, before most of the world wakes up. Somewhere along the way, we found a bench that overlooked the Opera House and the harbor where we sat together and Ricky proposed. It was simple, quiet, private, and perfect for us. We spent the rest of the day with our phones off, hanging out by the Opera House, exploring the beaches of Manly (worth going to for the ferry ride alone), and finished with a surprise 3 course meal at the restaurant inside the Opera House. It was absolutely unreal and the most beautiful day.
Sunday, the following day, we took a day trip the Blue Mountains. They're called the Blue Mountains because something in the eucalyptus trees gives off a haze of blue as you look out over the scenery. We saw our first family of Kangaroos (!!), explored the many trails through the mountains, and had our first hand pies! When we returned to the city, we finished off the evening on our roof with a picnic with some of our favorite market finds - Loving Earth chocolate, Bourke Street sourdough, Australian cheeses, and taramosalata, a spread made of potato and roe (weird, but I swear it's divine).
The rest of our time in Sydney was spent exploring other small neighborhoods and markets, trying as many breakfast and coffee places as possible, enjoying the awesome rooftop and pool at our Airbnb, and even went back to spend some more time in Bondi. Our last night we walked around The Rocks, which is the oldest neighborhood in Sydney; I definitely suggest spending some time in this area. Spending 5 days in Sydney was truly the smartest move of the entire trip - we really got a chance to know the city and both easily fell in love with it. I could have spent weeks there.
Our next part of the trip was spent in Australia's Red Centre. Uluru and Kata Tjuta are the two reasons most people venture to the Red Centre. They are both large, sacred, rock formations, and in respect to Uluru, it is the most well known of the two due to the fact that it is found in the center of the continent. We left on a mid-morning flight from Sydney direct to Uluru, hopped in our rented car, and drove straight to our hotel. We stayed at the Lost Camel Hotel, which is one of the many hotels, ranging from bare bones to 5 start resort under the Ayers Rock Resort family. Despite the fact that we were there in Australia's springtime, we were still expecting sweltering heat. However, we were greeted our first afternoon with torrential downpour. Thankfully we had a car, and didn't mind getting caught in the rain, because it went away for about an hour and we were rewarded with the most beautiful rainbow!
The next day we woke up crazy early to head out on a 4 hour drive to Kings Canyon to do the rim walk before 11am. It's a touch nerve-wrecking to drive in the dark, because there are no lights and often wild animals roaming about. Along the ride, we did spot some wild camels (yes, Australia has wild camels!) and dingos, but thankfully it was light enough out so we didn't scare them. We woke up very early because they will close this hike at 11 if the temperature outside is too hot. Thankfully, the area was still under major cloud cover from the storm the night before. The cloud cover made for beautiful photos that helped capture the vastness of the canyon. The hike itself, while challenging in the beginning and long overall, was fairly moderate - you essentially hike the entire rim of the canyon.
The rest of our time in Uluru was spent exploring the grounds - we did two other hikes, one which was the base walk at Uluru, and then the Valley of the Winds hike in Kata Tjuta. We also watched the sunrise and sunset from the viewing points at both Uluru and Kata Tjuta. At the sunset spots, most people gather early and picnic while the sun goes down. Our last day, we had some time to kill, so we went on a camel ride. I wouldn't necessarily make this a top priority, but if you have a little extra cash and time to spare, it's a fun way to spend an afternoon. It was also during this time that I left my coveted Loving Earth chocolate in my backpack in 90 degree weather. Definitely, DO NOT recommend.
No notable restaurants, everything is decent but at resort pricing.
Walpa Lobby Bar - we ate here twice, nothing special but pretty tasty food and well priced. Their burger was great after a long day in the sun!
There is a grocery store with decent options, take advantage and use this for snacks and lunch/dinner picnics.
Uluru is a "dry" community, but you can get to-go beer, wine, and cider from the Outback Pioneer. All other alcohol is only served inside the restaurants and bars.
PORT DOUGLAS / BARRIER REEF / DAINTREE RAINFOREST
Our third and final leg of the trip was spent in Far North Queensland to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef and explore the Daintree Rainforest. We flew from Uluru to Cairns, rented another car, and drove up the coast to Port Douglas. We chose to stay in Port Douglas for the first night as it's a cute little beach resort town and has a town of barrier reef tours that operate right out of the harbor. We went with Wavelength and have a wonderful experience. All of the divers and crew were super knowledgable and friendly. They took us to three different reefs, where we had time to explore and learn about the current state of the reef and water temps (it's pretty sobering to see in person). While the coral may not be as vibrant as one may expect, we did see loads of colorful fish, a baby shark, sea turtle, and an octopus! When we returned, we had dinner at the most adorable restaurant built into the side of the hill, surrounded by rainforest.
The next day we left Port Douglas and set out for our final stretch - the Daintree Rainforest. We spent the day driving from the lower end of the Daintree Rainforest, stopping at many lookouts, natural swimming pools, and aerial walkways, until we reached the top - Cape Tribulation. Cape Tribulation is a beach point where the barrier reef meets the rainforest. It's beautiful. Once we reached the top, we made our way back down and headed for Mossman Gorge, a sacred and spiritual natural pool. By this time, the weather had turned and started to sprinkle, but it was still warm out so we figured it was worth the. trip. Boy, were we correct. It typically gets pretty crowded here, but due to the rain, we lucked out with fewer people and it was such a great experience to swim in the pools.
Our last night was spent in the Daintree Ecolodge, an ecolodge nestled into the actual rainforest. We dined in their open air restaurant for both dinner and breakfast the next morning (both were absolutely incredible and the made to order breakfast was included with our stay!) They even surprised us with free champagne for our engagement. But the real treat was sleeping with the doors open and the sounds of the rainforest at night.
Our last day was spent getting in as much Australian wildlife as possible. We started with a sunrise crocodile cruise, which we lucked out with A) being the only ones on the tour and B) seeing a massive crocodile, despite it not being optimal viewing time. We then hit up an animal sanctuary in Port Douglas where I held a koala named Kody, fed some kangaroos, and saw an even bigger crocodile. I can't even begin to explain how large this guy was. Then, on our way back to Cairns for our final night, we stopped on the side of the road where we encountered a wild mob of about 100 wallabies! Such a perfect way to end our trip.
Nautilus - all outdoor restaurant with tropical vibes and great food.
On the Inlet - seafood based restaurant right near the water. Get the bucket of prawns!
Julaymba - restaurant at the Daintree Ecolodge. Food-wise, it was incredible, one of the top 3 meals of the trip, but the real specialty was simply eating in the middle of the rainforest.
Now, onto the recipe! While in Sydney and Uluru, we had beetroot hummus A LOT. I had it on my avocado toast in Bondi beach, and we bought two containers for our picnics in Uluru. It's so delicious, just the right amount of sweet (without any added sugar) and savory, so I knew I had to make it for myself at home - a little taste of summer in Australia.
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked beets, chopped
1/2 lemon, juice
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp Onion powder
2-3 tbsp water, depending on desired consistency
1 tbsp oil for drizzle
Optional toppings: fine chopped beets in balsamic vinegar (see notes), fresh dill
1. Add all ingredients, aside from the tahini and water, to a food processor and blend on high until all ingredients are combined.
2. Add in the tahini, and blend on high again. Add in the water, one tablespoon at a time until your desired smoothness is achieved.
3. Add to a bowl and garnish with drizzled olive oil, fresh dill, and pickled chopped beets. Serve with pita, veggies, or in a greek salad!
1. In Australia, one of the containers of beet hummus we bought added chopped pickled beets as garnish, and it was so yummy! Just mix fine chopped cooked beets with a tsp or so of balsamic vinegar. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or until you're ready to serve the hummus.