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  1. #1

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    Travel advice for Australia

    I am planning to give myself a wonderful birthday present next year (but I will never say WHICH birthday, cough50cough) and thought I would take a great vacation. I've always wanted to visit Australia, but I need some tips from anyone that lives there or has visited.
    I will be on my own, is it easy to get around solo, or would I be better off with a tour? (I'd prefer to go solo, if it is manageable)
    When is the best time to go? What shouldn't I miss? And will I be able to see kangaroos and koalas?

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marge_Simpson View Post
    I am planning to give myself a wonderful birthday present next year (but I will never say WHICH birthday, cough50cough) and thought I would take a great vacation. I've always wanted to visit Australia, but I need some tips from anyone that lives there or has visited.
    I will be on my own, is it easy to get around solo, or would I be better off with a tour? (I'd prefer to go solo, if it is manageable)
    When is the best time to go? What shouldn't I miss? And will I be able to see kangaroos and koalas?

    Alilou is Australian and recently blogged about her trip to Australia and elsewhere: http://www.fsuniverse.net/forum/showthread.php?t=73215

    She's seen a lot of Australia and I'm sure she would have travel tips that suited your travel objectives.

    And Aussie Willy is in Australia, she might have some advice as well.

  3. #3

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    Marge, Australia is very tourist friendly and easy to travel alone - basically because you meet people doing exactly the same thing all the time, everywhere, so you get buddies. When I played tourist in my own country a few years ago, I was pleasantly surprised at all the fabulous people I met who could room with us etc. This does not apply to the Northern Territory (hugely isolated place) though.

    My biggest tip, do the Great Ocean Road trip and go to the Great Barrier Reef. If you can hire a car, it's the best way to see Australia IMO and you'll always find someone who wants to go where you do and will share the petrol costs. It does take time, but it's worth it.

    If you go to South Australia (my home state), which can easily be the end or the beginning of Great Ocean Road trip, go to the Cleland National Park, which is open range to feed kangaroos etc., also visit Hahndorf. If you can make it, go to Kangaroo Island, I have travelled all around Australia, and Kangaroo Island was the most beautiful and peaceful place I have ever been, in any country. Rural South Australia seems to always get skipped by the tourists, which is a real shame - I love it. The Flinders Ranges, Barossa Valley (vineyards), there's opal mining, and it's all really interesting as well as beautiful.

    Go everywhere in Queensland , the famous places in Sydney, the artsy places and markets in Melbourne/Victoria. Go to Uluru/Ayers Rock if you have time, same with Perth and Tasmania.

    Australia really is as big and each state offers something awesome and unique. How long will you be travelling? You can see my photos from my 2005 trip here.

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    I've visited and lived in Australia for a couple of years, and here are my observations.

    I loved Australia for its non-city allures. So I didn't love Sydney as much as I really appreciated Townsville, for example. I lived in Brisbane, and there is a lot to enjoy in Queensland: the Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island, Surfer's Paradise (of course), Noosa, and the Glasshouse and Tambourine Mountains. There's a great wildlife reserve in Townsville and from there, we drove right into the Red Centre, through Hughenden, Cloncurry, and all the way to Mount Isa. THAT's an education all by itself.

    I wish we had been able to see Uluru (sp?) and Cooper Pedy, but when you live somewhere you end up seeing less than when you're just visiting.

    In South Australia, we spent time in the Barossa Valley, visiting vineyards and enjoying fabulous Australian wine. The very first thing we did was visit Cleland Park (mentioned in a post above) and it was my very first experience with koalas and kangaroos. Unforgettable. If Pumpkin the koala is still there, give her a hug for me. She has a special place in my heart. I held her for a half hour while she munched on her lunch of eucalyptus leaves, and my hands smelled of Vick's Vapo Rub for weeks after. The eucalypt oil is everywhere in their fur. Sigh, happy memories.

    Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
    With glowing hearts / Des plus brillants exploits.

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    Australia is super easy to get around. I just went in September. The biggest tip I can provide is to get the Qantas AirPass where you can get your int'l and domestic flights all for one nice price. Of course this would require some planning in advance as to where you want to go, but that is preferable for me who doesn't have months and months to travel and needs to get it all in 2 weeks. If you have any specific questions feel free to drop a line.

    Weather was super in Sept and I saw kangaroos and koalas.

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    Thanks for the advice, please continue!
    Someone recommended that I take the Indian Pacific train from one coast to the other, has anyone done this? I'm fond of train journeys so I was considering this.

  7. #7

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    Depends which part of Australia you want to see, how much money you have to spend and how long you have. If you only have a couple of weeks the Indian Pacific may not be such a good idea as it takes a couple of days and all you will see is desert! I think there is a train journey in Queensland that is meant to be very good. But Australia is very easy to do on your own.

    I was up in Sydney just this past weekend to judge a skating competition. However I also went up for the weekend there recently as a tourist (had work training and decided to extend it for the weekend). So you can do Paddy's Market in the Rocks on the weekends and if the weather is really nice spend time walking around Darling Harbour and Circular Quay. Also try and get to the Blue Mountains - very spectacular scenery.

    Public transport is a bit pricey and so are some of the attractions I found (Zoo is $40). Went to the Maritime Museum which is pretty good.

    I tend to stay at a place called Ashfield Manor when I am there. It is about $80 a night if you are on a budget and about 1/2 hour out of the city by public transport. Very clean and you can get a single room with an ensuite. Only thing it can be a bit noisy with the traffic so ask for a room downstairs and to the back of the building. www.ashfieldmanor.com.au.

    Being from Melbourne, the Zoo is good (check out the baby elephant and tigers). Also the Art Gallery and Arts Centre are worth visiting. Visit the Melbourne Cricket Ground (where the 56 Olympics were held). There is a market in St Kilda on Sundays. Chapel Street in Prahran for shopping. Oh and you can check out our new ice rink - www.icehouse.com.au.
    When you are up to your arse in alligators it is difficult to remember you were only meant to be draining the swamp.

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    Marge, I forgot to say, the Adelaide Zoo also has PANDAS! Of course, no one goes to Australia to see pandas, but it's bonus!

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    So much depends on what you like to see and do. Highlights for me were the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest, and Sydney. But, I'm not a big desert person. The Blue Mountains were nice, but depending on where you're coming from and where else you've traveled, you may prefer to spend your time visiting other areas. They're a nice contrast to other parts of Australia, but they may not be impressive to you if you've visited some really beautiful mountain ranges.

    Australia is very easy to travel on your own.

  10. #10

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    For kangaroos and koalas, you'd be better off visiting a place like Symbio Wildlife park rather than a zoo. Zoos are largely for locals to see exotic animals, and while they do have koalas in Taronga, you can't touch them whereas Symbio is more of touchy place.

    I'm from Sydney and did numerous excursions with foreign students while working as a teacher there, and you could easily fill 4 days or more with things to do there. Manly, the city, the Harbour, Symbio, beaches, museums, botanic gardens (for black swans), Royal National Park etc etc.

    Otherwise, seconding what others have said, the Great Barrier Reef before it ceases to exist, Uluru, the Great Ocean Road. I loved Melbourne, don't love Canberra but it's pretty and has some great museums (for a day or two, MAX) and have a post card from Coober Pedy on my wall. I've also been there. Um...if you like mining equipment, then go for it

    I've seen and done pretty much everything there is to do there so let me know if you have any more specific questions. I spent a year travelling around it so I know most parts well
    One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching.

  11. #11

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    I met a lovely couple from Australia when I was in Goteborg for Worlds; they thought my idea of holding a koala was hysterically funny and maintained that they were grumpy animals and would claw anyone who dared to to touch them.
    I don't really have any set ideas yet or an itinerary, that's why I need to get input. I will have 3 weeks to spend there and money is not an issue, if that helps narrow things down.
    I am terrified of snakes and would not be caught dead on a beach, although I would like to see the Great Barrier Reef. Must I wear a bathing suit there?
    Last edited by Marge_Simpson; 06-17-2010 at 07:07 AM.

  12. #12

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    Were the couple from Melbourne? Friends of mine from skating were at worlds that year.

    Good thing if money is not an issue.

    3 weeks hmmmm - I would suggest going to Tasmania if you could. Lovely place.

    Hey if you like trains, there are some tourist trains that are pretty good. There is one in Lithgow in NSW and Puffing Billy in Melbourne, both accessible by public transport. Or you could do a train ride in Tasmania from Queenstown to Strahan (on the west coast of Tasmania).
    When you are up to your arse in alligators it is difficult to remember you were only meant to be draining the swamp.

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    I think they were from Sydney, but don't quote me on that. They were really chatty and gave me a pin with a platypus on it, and the husband was once the Australian junior men's champion.
    I love trains, that's why I thought the Indian Pacific thing might be worth looking into, I know it's a 3 day trip. Would the scenery be worth it or is it just desert?

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    It is pretty much desert. That is what I have heard from people who have done it.

    There is the Ghan that travels from Adelaide to Darwin. It is desert but might be more interesting desert.
    When you are up to your arse in alligators it is difficult to remember you were only meant to be draining the swamp.

  15. #15

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    Marge - wild koalas are grumpy and will claw anything that interrupts their rest. But Sam the Koala saw that we're really friendly and will help a koala in distress.

    You either wear a bathing suit or wetsuit at the Barrier Reef, depending on your preference. If you're not going in the water, normal clothes are fine. There are a few nude beaches though

  16. #16

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    I wouldn't bother with the trains, to be honest, and particularly not the Indian Pacific. It's just desert, and you can't get off to look at more interesting things, so it's really just desert for three days.

    You're kind of going to the wrong country if you don't like snakes Snakes don't like noise though, so make lots of it and you'll be fine

    If you do the Great Barrier Reef, you can go in a glass bottomed boat which means you don't need to worry about swimming at all. I would prefer to snorkel though - it's what makes it worth it for me

    Also, in that area, there are quite a ffew scenic train trips around the Daintree and Karunda (I think it's called?) west of Cairns.

    3 weeks isn't a lot of time, but you could see perhaps 3 things - eg, Uluru, Great Barrier Reef and a city, or Melbourne, Great Ocean Road and Uluru.
    One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching.

  17. #17
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    Hi Marge. Just found this thread. Good thing money is not a factor - Oz is expensive these days. My favourite example is if you go to a nice restaurant in Vancouver, not super high end, but a nice kinda dressyish place for dinner, dessert will cost about $6 - $8. The same in OZ? $13!

    I've read the thread really quickly so might have missed some things but here's what I'd recommend:

    With only 3 weeks skip the Indian Pacific unless you really like riding on trains. I've done that journey twice, once 1st class, once economy. All you see for 3 days is desert. You will see kangaroos and emus too but there are other ways than sitting on a train for 3 days lol. Ah yes reading back now I see you love train journeys so maybe it is for you. I actually did this trip back in the 70's (OMG I am aging myself!). The first class cabins were not spectacular but good enough though a lot may have changed since then (for better or worse). Check out their website.
    http://www.railaustralia.com.au/indianPacific.php (ok I lied - you will see more than desert - at the beginning and end of the trip, but 2 days of desert in between). Have v recently been in Perth - a lovely city, but not spectacular and wouldn't put it at the top of any Oz list.

    I also rode the train from Sydney to Byron Bay (this time only about 7 yrs ago) and if you sit next to the window you will frequently see kangaroos hopping away as the train approaches. Jeez Marge once you get out of the city kangaroos are everywhere! V hard to miss. But since you don't like snakes (who also always slither away as they feel you approach, always) being out in the bush is maybe not for you so I really recommend, as others have done, wildlife parks where you will be able to see Aussie animals up close w'out getting your feet dirty. We just went to 2 wildlife parks and fed kangaroos and held a koala (which did not scratch at all).
    http://www.kuranda.org/ - held a koala here
    http://www.rainforesthabitat.com.au/ - fed kangaroos here
    Zoos are mainly for non- Aussie animals though I think they all have their Aussie section but you generally can't get to touch, feed, pet the animals.

    You're not a beach person but but but....... there are thousands of miles of beautiful white sand empty beaches. Go to one or 2 just for the spectacular scenery. Driving the Great Ocean Road is an excellent idea.

    Also recommend the Blue Mountains and Jenolan caves - you can do a day trip from Sydney, but when I went I spent 5 days there touring the area. (But then I'm a bit of a bush person and love to hike).
    http://www.jenolancaves.org.au/

    The Great Barrier Reef is beyond words amazing. How adventurous are you feeling? You will be given a head to foot lycra suit to wear, and mask, snorkel and flippers, and a guide in the water. Be aware it is out in the ocean. It is one hour by fast boat from Port Douglas. If you decide you want to do this I recommend Poseidon Adventures. OTOH you could go with Quicksilver who have a platform out on the reef and you wouldn't have to get in the water at all - they have a semi submersible thingy, and glass bottomed boats. You'd still get to see a lot this way. http://www.quicksilver-cruises.com/obr_nonswim.htm

    I'm biased about Canberra since it is my home town, and it is very beautiful, but really it's not a v exciting city (unless you know people there I guess). It does however have the National Art Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Parliament House etc if you're interested in that kind of stuff.

    I say don't miss Sydney (Opera House, ferry ride around the harbour, etc) and don't miss Uluru/KataTjuta, or Queensland (GBR, Kuranda).

    For more details see my blog - The entry called "Ali and Don's Adventures in Wonderland" has stuff about Canberra, then 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Installments have stuff about Port Douglas, Uluru/KataTjuta, and WA/Perth/Rottnest Island. http://alisonarmstrong.blogspot.com/

    Hope this helps. Happy travels

    And now a big edit about the weather. Oz is a huge chunk of land and so, like the US, the better times to visit depend on where you're going. Basically the best time of the year to see the southern half of the country is during the southern summer (Dec-Feb), and the best time to visit the northern half of the country is during the southern winter (June-Aug). If you go to Qld in Jan it will be the middle of the cyclone season, and "The Wet", and will rain a deluge every day. At this time of year Uluru will probably be mostly dry but temperatures will be in the mid 40's. Probably the best way around this, if you decide you want to go to both southern and northern parts of the country is to go in the shoulder seasons (Mar-May, or Sept-Nov) and hope for the best. Syd is still lovely in Sept and The Wet won't have yet started in the north (and temperatures will still be reasonable there - mid 20's to 30's). At this time of year Melb will be iffy and I probably wouldn't think of Tas at all as it will still be pretty cold down there. We went in April and got good weather in Canberra (low to mid 20's), lovely weather in Uluru, and being at the end of The Wet, Qld was a bit of a mix - always warm but some rainy and/or overcast days. You will find charts on the net of average daily temps, hrs of sunshine,and rainfall per month for just about every Australian town and city so maybe first decide where you want to go and then work out the best compromise time of year to get the best weather.
    Last edited by alilou; 07-07-2010 at 01:44 AM.

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