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Stuff To Do In Australia: Australia Holiday
Things To Do In Australia
As we sat through the 22-hour flight from New York to Sydney, it felt as if we'd never reach our destination. After all, Australia is at the bottom of the world in Australasia, a day ahead of us, in a different hemisphere and in the opposite season. That said, we were extremely dazed when we landed, only to discover that it was now winter in July and we'd entirely skipped over Saturday! It was worth the trip, though, because we soon discovered just how there are so many great things to do in Australia.
As soon as we entered Sydney -- a sunny, bright and clean city -- we felt the stress of our long plane ride fall away and knew we were in for quite an adventure as we prepared to see the top Australia vacation destinations.
We were fortunate in that we had a whole group of people from home waiting for us in town. One of our friends is an Australian native and her husband is from the United States. They met while she was working as a lawyer in New York City, but eventually moved back to Sydney. At first, we were surprised to hear that her husband would be moving to Australia, but once we were in town, we could understand the draw.
My husband's law partner happened to be in Sydney with his son during the time we were there, as well, and they'd rented an apartment that looked right over Sydney Harbour. They had a prime view of the Opera House, and as we ate breakfast looking out at the scene, I thought, "You know, I could live here."
Tour Of Sydney Australia
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During our week in town, we did as much as possible. We actually saw a performance in the Opera House; it was a modern dance troupe that based their routines on Aboriginal dances. As wonderful as the dancers were, though, I also enjoyed seeing the famous building, which looks like sails. Up close, you could see the detail of the tiles.
Our friends recommended that we take a boat whenever we could, so we
used ferries to get everywhere. His advice was sound as Sydney's harbor
is beautiful. The water is a bright blue and glistens in the sunlight.
The city's modern skyline is also a sight to behold. Coming from NYC,
we're used to seeing a row of skyscrapers, but here, the buildings
looked well, different. Everything seemed to be new and shiny. -- and
very fresh. I felt as if I'd had a fog in front of me and it was
suddenly lifted in this place.
Our first stop was the Sydney Zoo. I adore koalas and knew this would be a great place to see them. I was right! Koalas usually spend most of the day sleeping, but the ones in this zoo -- which winds up around a hill so you get great views of the skyline -- happened to be particularly active. One even reached over to grab a woman's sunglasses.
Another notable sight in the harbour is the Sydney Bridge. We walked over it, but if you so dare, you can truly walk OVER it, where they actually allow you to climb up the structure. You need to get a guide to do it and it's fairly expensive, but if you're not afraid of heights, it will afford you fantastic views.
We also walked around the old part of Sydney (including the oldest
synogogue),, visited the botanical gardens and went out to the beach
town of Manly. We really didn't have enough time
there. Sydney is almost as huge as NYC, so you really need more than a week
to see everything.
You also need much time to sample the cuisine. Like NY, Sydney offers every type of food imaginable from Italian to Thai to Indian ... to kangaroo. One night, we met up with our friends for some Indian, in a place that was right near the water. Though we were in a foreign place half a world away, it felt as if we were back in New York.
Ayer's Rock -- Uluru
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The Australian Outback -- Not At All Like Outback Steak House!
Once we left Sydney, we finally began to feel as if we were in another country. Our next stop was Ayer's Rock, which is the well-known, giant red rock that's right in the middle of the Outback. If you can't picture it, chances are you've seen a photo of it somewhere; if anything, it was prominent in Midnight Oil's video for "Beds Are Burning."
As for the barren, red landscape, It reminded us a little of Utah or Arizona. The Anangu people, which is one of the Aboriginal tribes, calls the rock Uluru. And if you get up close to it, you'll see that the area actually isn't that empty; there are shrub brushes, watering holes and many types of desert flowers.
The rock is extremely isolated (the next gas station is about 1000 miles away!!), so if you stay there, you either have to camp or stay at the very expensive resort town, which is made up of 7 hotels. They know they've got you, so they charge a fortune for everything. We got a "budget" room at the least expensive place, the Outback Pioneer Hotel. While the room was clean and had a decent-sized bathroom, we ended up having bunk beds! If you choose to spend more, though, the other hotels are gorgeous, and you can even arrange to stay in a luxury tent. We had dinner one night at the Sails In The Desert Hotel, which looks right onto the rock. The view --and the meal -- were magnificent.
The Pioneer Hotel had a nice restaurant, too. They have a do-it-yourself barbecue, where you get to pick from meats including emu, crocodile and kangaroo. Meanwhile, an Aussie cowboy performed for us. As we ate our barbecue and watched the sun set, turning the rock different shades of rust, I again had a feeling of deja vu since this continued to remind me of America's Southwest.
Many people come to the rock to climb it and snap a few pictures. However, the Anangu don't like you to climb it because it's sacred to them, and there's much more to do than just look at it. We walked several paths around it (including one where an Anangu guide led us) to see the different formations within the rock and some ancient rock art. Our guide also explained how his group eat and use everything wild in their daily lives; he even sampled a honey ant along the way to prove his point.
What's interesting is that the Anangu have a story behind every crack in it, as well as the neighboring rocks, The Olgas, which are equally as impressive. Sadly, many people still climb the structures. But if you go into the nearby cultural center, they have a folder full of letters from people claiming that they've been cursed because of doing that or taking a piece of the rock home.
Australia Great Barrier Reef
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Cairns: Home Of The Great Barrier Reef
Our next and final stop was Cairns, which is in the northeast. This hotel, the Colonial Club Resort, was a beautiful tropical place and more than made up for the bunk beds!
Cairns is interesting because it's the only place in the world where the rainforest meets the coral reefs. Some of the highlights included riding the sky tram, which took us right over the rain forest. At first, it was a little unnervering to be traveling for a few miles in what seemed like a shaky cab (they're like the sky rides in amusement parks), but it was a thrill to look down and see the different layers of growth.
We also took a tour that went through the rainforest and up to the beach. Our guide was so unorganized, the six-hour tour took about 12! However, it was one of the best trips we've ever taken. As scatterbrained as our guide was, he knew everything about the rainforest and the environment, so as we rode through the area, he pointed out all the different types of plants, trees and animals. Along the way, we saw a large group of bats flying; we also took a river cruise where we were surrounded by crocodiles.
As for the barrier reef, I'm not sure I have the words to describe how impressive it is. All I can say is that it was like being in a fish tank, and as gorgeous as Hawaii's waters are, these were even more spectacular.
Most of the barrier reef cruises offer a variety of activities, such as snorkeling or scuba diving. My husband tried scuba for the first time (and loved it), but I opted for the submarine ride. I think I got as good a view as he did, though. There were literally millions of fish swarming around us, in all shapes and colors. We saw stingrays, angel fish, giant clams and turtles ... and even met a woman who'd been bitten by a shark. After, we docked by a small island where we could relax on the beach. It was an extremely peaceful way to end the trip.
Australia In A Nutshell
Australia rivals the United States when it comes to diverse cultures and environments. But wherever you go, the people are friendly and welcoming -- and have a wicked sense of humor. I think that's why I felt so comfortable there, despite the distance. We may have traveled far, but in some ways, it seemed as if we hadn't even left the U.S. We're looking forward to returning soon and exploring even more of this wonderful and wild continent.