The Curious Traveler Goes To Australia

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Sydney Opera House
Rainforest Skyrail

“G’day mate!”

You can’t just wake up one day and say: “I am going to Australia today.” Australia is not just big, it’s huge — the sixth largest country in the world. And, going “down under” is the trip of a lifetime, so plan ahead.

An ocean cruise to Australia may seem appealing, but the time involved is prohibitive for most folks. A typical cruise from California to Sydney takes three weeks one way.

True, you will stop at some great island locations on the way such as Hawaii, Tahiti, and Fiji. In my experience, however, those stops will only serve to make your arrival somewhat anticlimactic.

So, I recommend air travel. The flight is long — about 16 hours — yet crossing the Equator and the International Dateline, with a time difference of 17 hours, will concentrate your fatigue into just one day.

In many ways, a visit to the city of Melbourne is similar to visiting Los Angeles. The biggest difference you notice right away is the traffic moves the wrong way. Australians drive on the left side of the road, just like many of the original British colonies. It’s hard to get used to, and there are even signs on the curbs reminding you to look right.

A worthwhile side trip from Melbourne is a visit to the penguin colony at Phillip Island. Every single day, rain or shine, these little rascals, dressed in their best tuxedos, march out of the ocean at sundown, while hundreds of eager spectators watch the parade from a stadium bleacher on the shore. 

Sydney, the largest city in Australia and contrary to many misconceptions, is not the capital. Canberra is. But Sydney is certainly the most sophisticated city in Australia.

In Sydney Harbor, it’s impossible to miss their Opera House. Interesting from every angle, the history of this famous Australian icon is just fascinating. Take the Backstage Tour to hear the full story and see what those artistic panels look like from the inside.

Koala Sleeping

Thirty minutes out of town you can visit the Koala Park Sanctuary. This was our only opportunity to see “live” Koalas. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, the little critters were all asleep because the average Koala sleeps 20 hours a day.

The excursion is still worthwhile because you can also see many of the other strange animals that Australia is so famous for, such as kangaroos, dingoes, wombats, emus, wallabies and more.

Cairns is the principal city on the northeast corner of this huge country. The city itself is nice, but the attraction for most tourists is its location on the Great Barrier Reef.

Plan a day trip to Green Island where you can soak up the sun on a coral beach or perhaps go snorkeling in the waters of the southern hemisphere. Take the catamaran or, for a premium adventure, take a helicopter.

Green Island Helicopter

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in the water, which was not as clear as Avalon Bay, but it is fun to see the different undersea life anyway.

The other big draws while in Cairns are the new eco-tourism side trips. The Kuranda Scenic Railway takes daily tours through one of the world’s most significant rainforests.

Make your rainforest tour even more enjoyable by taking a Skyrail Rainforest Cableway gondola ride to get an unforgettable top-down view of this tropical forest from above the canopy.

I’ll say more about Australia in future columns. Meanwhile, remember the Aussie seasons are the opposite of ours, so plan now for a trip during the Christmas holidays.

“Good onya mate!”

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