Australia; Kangaroos. The Rock. Opera House. The Outback and the Ocean Road
GUIDE TO AUSTRALIA. If you plan a visit to Australia you might want to see it all. The Rock, the kangaroos, the Reef, the Opera House and spend time in the Outback and some cities. Don’t forget to meet the people, drink the wines and get on the roads. Yes, it’s possible to see it all and still stay sane – even after three weeks. My first visit wasn’t well prepared; my next will be like a mission, with a list of places to see. Because I learned how to understand Australia.
Brutality of distance. Every person has their own idea of what a visit to Australia means. Whether it is Sydney and its Opera House or The Great Barrier Reef, there are endless iconic images of the land down under – or Oz as we say.
Awful lot of space
There is another saying: To understand Australia you first need to understand the brutality of distance. Even though this country is rich in iconic sights and experiences, there’s just an awful lot of space between them.
Start in Sydney. It’s nothing wrong to start in Sydney sweating off your jet lag.
“As soon as I get to Sydney I go to Otto Ristorante in Woolloomooloo – it has amazing views of the city, and I love the saffron risotto”, the singer Natalie Imbruglia says. I will follow her advice. (ottoristorante.com.au)
Learn about Sydney’s colonial and criminal past, the views of Bondi Beach and Sydney Harbour from points around the city, The world famous Sydney Opera House, Sydney Aquarium, Harbour cruises, Taronga Zoo, Wine and cheese tasting tours and Blue Mountains national park for great adventure.
Sydney is the gateway and has the energetic nightlife — it’s the country’s gay capital — and has some of the world’s finest restaurants.
Melbourne for everyone
Laid-back, stylish and arty Melbourne has something for everyone – from family fair to multicultural dining, Aboriginal history and swanky nightlife. This is Australia’s cultural capital, with chick eateries and rooftop bars and host for grand-slam tennis and Formula One.
Alice Springs. The roads to Alice Springs feels harsh and inhospitable and consisting of several different deserts. Temperatures can vary dramatically – from an average maximum in summer of 36C (97F) and a minimum temperature in winter of 5C (41F).
Alice Springs is placed in the geographic centre of Australia near the southern border of the Northern Territory.
Iconic red heart
From Alice Springs it’s about four-hour drive to Uluru, Australia’s iconic and literal red heart. Uluru is a sacred site and its traditional owners, the Anangu, request that tourists don’t climb the rock. Warning: 40 or more people have died trying. But you can walk around the rock. To witness Uluru´s morning light show, get to the rock just after 4am – when the rock appears out of the darkness.
Perth in the West
Perth is the capital of the state Western Australia (WA) and one of the world’s most isolated cities. However, this city has turned into a gloriously sunny, surprisingly multicultural metropolis. Most Australians live on the east coast, so they never get to see the sunset on the western oceans. So when in Perth, they flock to Cottesloe beach. Here the surfing is fine, the bikinis are small and the restaurants serve oysters – and, yes, the sunsets catch the eye. July is Perth’s winter, when it can dip to 15C, so September-May is better. Peak temperature can reach 42C.
Great Ocean Road
A stunning coastline and leisurely 630-mile self-drive can take you from Melbourne, Australia’s foodie capital, via the inspiring Great Ocean Road, to the winey city of Adelaide. This is one of the world’s great scenic drives, ambling from country town to surf beach, scuba diving spending nights in Apollo Bay, Port Fairy and Robe, before ending in Adelaide. Enjoy fine dining, local winemakers and fresh produce along the way. visitvictoria.com It’s best driven eastwards, since almost everyone drives west. Now you start to understand Australia.
Tough choice in Adelaide
This is an urban cool city, ready to be uncorked. Adelaide City is easy to get around with rolling hills to the east and beaches to the west. From the University stroll west past South Australian Museum, Art Gallery of South Australia, Migration Museum, war memorials and statues. The city centre is packet with pubs and more than 100 restaurants. Food lovers; it’s a tough choice!
Great Barrier Reef
Snorkelling into the reef, the crystal-clear blue, watching a rainbow of fish below, is like a dream comes through. Stay in Qualia a luxury resort at Hamilton Island.
The Outback. To understand Australian Outback you need to know the population is concentrated in the cities along the southern and eastern coast and the area around the city of Perth on the southern west coast. And that’s it. The Outback is just everywhere else – or 6,5 million square kilometres inhabited by less than 60,000 people.
When you have done all these destinations and enjoyed exceptional experiences, you are about to understand Australia. Kangaroos and the rest of this continent can wait.
More local inspiration: Christine´s Guide to Melbourne
Make it Happen!
Touch Down: Qantas, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Air Malaysia flies to Australia from Europe. From New York with Etihad Airways via Abu Dhabi, and with United Airlines from San Francisco to Sydney. No one airline is consistently cheapest. April to mid-June is traditionally the cheapest time for fights. Great Southern Train: Discover Australia by train from coast to coast, from coast to outback - on The Ghan, Indian Pacific and The Overland (greatsouthernrail.com.au) Rail Australia: Sydney-Adelaide-Perth, 4 days and 3 nights in either direction, distance 4352km, once weekly in both directions, twice weekly in peak season, from the Indian Ocean on western shores to the Pacific on the east.
Stay: If booking internal flights and itinerary with stopovers on the way to Australia, it will work our cheapest to go through a specialist travel agent. They often have packages that are tricky to find for online booking, and it’s worth checking with Australia-based ones. Wotif.com often comes up with the best hotel deals and car hires. Try membership at YHA (yha.com.au) for discounts on things from travel to restaurants. Hotel rates go up in December and January. In Perth room rates drop at this time.
Eat: Alcohol is not cheap in Australia. Bring your own wine for a couple of quid´s corkage fee is an Aussie tradition. Look for the BYO sign. Oz is interesting for wine-lovers and try some boutique wineries selling wine you don’t get anywhere else and try the bigger cellars serving lunch.
Play: Cape Lodge is located on Caves Road, three kilometres from the Indian Ocean and surrounded by the great wineries of Margaret River in Western Australia, also known as a surf-and-slurp destination. After a day on wild beaches, spend afternoon in a haze of wine tasting. Cape Lodge is perfect to sleep off your hangover – three-hour drive from Perth. capelodge.com.au
Mini Guide: Time zones: Most of Australia uses three standard time zones, Eastern Standard Time which is GMT -10, Central Standard Time which is GMT +9,5 and Western Time which is GMT +8. To give an idea of domestic airfares, the budget airline Jetstar flies from Sydney to Melbourne from £38. Spring (September-November) and autumn (March-May) are best in the south (warm temperatures, fewer crowds), while up north, the tropical climate means the dry season is preferable (May-October).