East coast of Australia in New South Wales and Victoria is filled with stunning coastal views, but also curves to higher up to bushlands. We took a road trip on the coastal drive – about a 2000 km drive from Sydney to Melbourne and beyond. Unexpectedly, it turned out to be a trip to Australian history. 

When we arrived to Australia in April 2017 as the fifth leg or our nearly 7 month round-the-world journey, we had high hopes to see stunning views, explore some great cities and experience some of the rare animals there are in the world’s smallest continent. But as we had been backpacking and roadschooling (or worldschooling) our 7-year-old son for some four months by then, history had become an important part of our journey. We had come across that it is far more interesting (for us) to visit a new place when you peek into then past to learn at least a little of why the place has become what it is today. 

Our roadtrip went through 2000 kilometers in quite many places that have played some part in history of Australia forming into a well-established nation it is today. Our route was the following: Sydney 4 nights, Jamberoo, 1 night, Canberra 1 night, Batemans Bay 2 nights, Eden 1 night, Lakes Entrance 2 nights, Phillip Island 2 nights and Melbourne 6 nights. Route was planned purely out of interesting looking places and how accommodation was available for the night. 

Historical Sydney is filled with intetesting places! Harbour, the Rocks, Maritime museum…

Australia has an interesting history dating back quite some time, but still being an independent nation not that long. As aboriginals have lived and cultivated to land long before, only the Dutch sailed the seas to discover new territories in the 1600s. And yet, only 100 years later it was Captain Cook who sailed the sea with Endeavour and announced the Australian territory to belong to England in 1770. 

A full replica of Endeavor is placed in the National Maritime Museum of Australia in Sydney. An interesting place to visit not only this ship but many navy vessels too. 

Sydney was determined as a correctional colony in 1788. Some 160 000 prisoners were shipped to Sydney before these transfers were stopped in 1800s. Many immigrants moved to the new land of The English commonwealth voluntarily. The Rocks in Sydney harbour area is a scenic place to visit as it was the first part of a growing city. 

The Gold rush of 1850s attracted many many new immigrants. At the same time when wool and wheat exporting grew, eastern colonies were demanding larger rights and independence from England. In 1850 partial independence was granted. Finally six states formed the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 still being and autonomy of the commonwealt of the British empire. eventually last administrative ties to England were cut in 1986 gaining full independence to the nation. 

Aboriginals, only 2,2 percent of the total 22 million population of today, settled in Australia already some 40-50 000 years BCC. They originated from Asia and sailed to the southern land (australis) with canoes. As they were still hunters and collectors wondering around the land when Europeans came, aboriginals formed about 500 different tribes. Immigrants settling the country, harvesting land and farming sheep finally forced aboriginals further inland. With deceases brought from overseas as well as declined fertility caused the number of indiginous people of Australia to collapse. 

Capitol and Kings Highway back to the coast

Canberra is the country’s administrative capital about 250 km southwest of Sydney. With only some 350 000 inhabitants Canberra is a rather small city comparing to the biggest three: Sydney 4,9 Melbourne 4,4 and Brisbane 1,9 million inhabitants. Melbourne was the new commonwealth’s first capital until 1927. 

Braidwood, a little goldmine town on King’s Highway from Canberra to Batemans Bay. With oldfashioned downtown and adorable clang from the past it is still a service town for surrounding districts for sheep and cattle grazing. Batemans Bay on the coast provides for sealife and holiday retreats for people of the capital area. It is the oyster farming center attracting nowadays younger generations after being a retiree destination for years.

Gold Rush brought back to live

The Gold Rush Colony of Mogo about some 100 km south of Sydney is an interesting leap back to the wild history of the Gold rush times. Mogo colony is a recreated little village to tell the story and describe those rather harsh times. As the little town of Mogo still have some descendants of those who settled and made some fortune out of the gold mining and panning in the area, many have passed or moved away. Not very many made it that well since work was tough and circumstances as well as conditions quite poor. Learning about what life was like when you got the “gold fever” and actually trying gold panning yourself with good luck in finding some flakes makes the place an excellent jump back to history! Walhalla down south closer to Melbourne has a similar story to tell. 

Times were harsh, and barbers needed for more than cutting just hair…

Whaling in Eden

One part of the growing business history locals are not very proud of is whaling on the east coast in town of Eden. Catching the sea giants for their skin, meat and fat was very well paying business. The coast just outside of Eden town is a unique two bay area with very deep sea, great for whales to rest, feed and breed. Eden has an interesting and a little sifferent story to tell: Mainly humpback whales but other kinds too were hunted with the help of killer whales, who saw the advantage of cooperation in sharing the prey.

Vacationing on Ninety Mile Beach and Phillip Island

Lakes Entrance in the south coast in the East Gippsland state has been a popular holiday destination since already 1850s. Providing an entrance from the ocean to several lakes makes the area and excellent place for fishing and thus, seafood. Earliest vacationists were of course wealthier with their holiday villas. Still nowadays the area is a common holiday destination for locals, not really attracting many foreign tourists. Especially the literally Ninety Mile long beach offers easy vacationing with a spot on the beach for everyone. 

Lakes Entrance beach & seafood heaven. Phillip island has some stunning coastlines to spot whales during season.

Similarly Phillip Island and Mornington Peninsula southeast of Melbourne has been areas for escaping the city life to nature and wilderness. Phillip island has been a popular to spot and reserve animals and Mornington fields for farming. Early settlers came to mainland from settling in Tasmania first, little by little expanding to the area to farm.

Wolbrook farmstay near Phillip island used to be a brick factory, then a historically famous cattle farm. 

Immigrants’ city Melbourne

Melbourne, a city said to be the most European in downunder, is a metropol of 4,4 million people. It has great ethnicity with for example China town and Greek distinct besides universities and lively business districts. Did you know that the largest Greek population outside of Greece is actually in Australia? I didn’t either. Melbourne’s immigration museum by the Yarra river tells the history of a city that was formed by European immigrants, unlike many other cities that were established as correctional centers. By the gold rush in 1850s Melbourne was already a lively town for farming and fishing. Melbourne was the capital of new independent commonwealth of Australia until 1927. 

St. Kilda in Melbourne was a popular escape from busy downtown a hundred years ago.

Anzac day – a day of remembrance

25th of April marks an important day to Australians. Anzac (Australiand and New Zealand armed corps) day is celebrated nationwide to remember and honor those who fought in many many wars to support to longtime ruler and still an important ally England and later US as well. Hundreds of thousands of Australians stood by and fought in more than 20 wars and battles over decades starting from World War One. Many were killed in Gallipoli landings in 1915. 

Australia has great war memorials in practically every town. And not just towns. One of the greatest war memorials is Great Ocean Road on the south coast. Even though one of the most famous tourist attractions and scenic drives today GOR was built by returned soldiers after world war one to honor fellow soldiers killed in the war. It opened for public in 1932. This 243 km stretch of coastal road and with the famous Twelve Apostles (limestone formations) was also to link isolated territories as well as provide transport link for timber industry. 

Pics: Anzac Day parade and memorial in Brisbane in Queensland. Major annual parade held in Sydney every Apr 25th.

Great Ocean Road’s famous Twelve Apostles