Etiquette Hell

A Civil World. Off-topic discussions on a variety of topics. Guests, register for forum membership to see all the boards. => Trans-Atlantic Knowledge Exchange => Travel => Topic started by: Shopaholic on August 25, 2011, 09:56:48 AM

Title: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Shopaholic on August 25, 2011, 09:56:48 AM
Calling all Aussies!

I'm going to Australia next month, and would be very grateful to get tips and recommendations on anything and everything.

Our plan is to scuba dive in Cairns, then fly to Darwin, rent a car and see some national parks, then drive down to Ayers Rock. From there we fly to Melbourne to drive the Great Ocean Road, and finish up in Sydney. Altogether about 3 weeks (intense!)

I would love to hear recommendations for parks, trails, attractions, accomodations, restaurants and anything you can think of.
Also, what is the proper way for tourists to behave in Australian establishments - i.e. tipping? waiting in line?
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Leafy on August 29, 2011, 06:29:31 AM
I don't live in any of the places you have mentioned Shopaholic, but I've visited a couple so perhaps can help. I did the Great Ocean road about six years ago. Before starting we stopped near Geelong I think, and did a swim with the seals and dolphins cruise. Totally awesome despite the freezing weather at the time. The Otways and the Twelve Apostles are must dos on the trip.

Melbourne has a great array of restaurants, bars and cafes. You pretty much can't go wrong but I'm sure a local will have a favourite spot. I always love going to the hot chocolate places. Best hot chocolates around!

Tipping is by no means a requirement in Aus, minimum wage is significantly more generous than in the States. If I had excellent service in a restaurant for dinner I might leave a tip, but it would be more likely to be $5 or $10 than a percentage.

Australian's are generally polite queuers, and will wait their turn or wave you ahead if they think you were there before them. We tend to leave about a one metre gap between us and the person at the front of the queue, especially if there is a financial transaction involved. Though this is much looser in a fast moving coffee ordering queue.

In Sydney I enjoyed doing the coast walk from Bondi to Coogee. I also love having breakfast at a restaurant called Bill's - best ricotta hotcakes ever!

I'm sure you are aware of this but the weather in those places will vary greatly. So check the weather in the month you will be visiting for each location. The distance from Darwin to Uluru is nearly 2000kms - so about 1200 miles. I would consider it too far to drive when you only have three weeks. Alternatively, you can fly to Alice Springs and then Uluru is only about 400kms from there. If you are set on Darwin then Katherine Gorge/National Park is nearby (300km) and spectacular.

I hope that covers some things for you.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Adios on August 29, 2011, 07:01:49 AM
That sounds like a great itinery Shopaholic.  It will certainly be an action packed 3 weeks.  Just a word about Ayers Rock, its actual name is Uluru and the traditional owners ask that you not climb it out of respect for their culture.

As Leafy said also, expect enormous differences in weather - especially between Melbourne and Darwin (very hot).
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: oz diva on September 11, 2011, 03:10:49 AM
Sounds like a great trip.

Diving in Cairns is gorgeous the reef is a fair way away though, so be prepared for a long day. If you have time take the sky rail to Kuranda and come back by train (or vice versa) Kuranda is great if you've run out of kangaroo scrotums, but it's not good for much else. But the methods of travelling there are gorgeous. Don't expect much from Cairns proper, it's a dump and I know it pretty well. You probably don't have kids, but just in case there is a fantastic playground called Muddy's on the Cairns foreshore (it doesn't have a beach) which you shouldn't miss.

I haven't been to Darwin for about 20 years, but it's a nice little town. It's all pretty new because the entire town was blown down by Cyclone Tracey in 1974. There are only about 2 or 3 buildings which date before that. You can go to Kakadu from there. Mind the crocs and the bird life is wonderful.

As the others have said, it's a fair old trip down to Uluru, but you can see The Olgas (Kata Tjuta) too.

I'm a Melburnian. If you have any time in the city, check out the Royal Botantical Gardens, they are lovely and find out about our laneways in the downtown area as they are fun, full of quirky shops and great cafes. At Suga they make their own rock candy and you can watch them at the process.

The Great Ocean Road is swell. We took a helicopter over them and that was fun. At this time of year you might see some whales calving off Warrnambool. Port Fairy is a lovely little town and the mutton birds might still be nesting.

Have a lovely trip, you'll be busy fitting all that in, in just 3 weeks.




Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: WestAussieGirl on September 11, 2011, 03:53:49 AM
Sounds like a fun trip (of course, you're missing the best part by not coming to the west coast  ;D ).

As others have mentioned, I would rethink the drive to Uluru.  It's a very long way with very long stretches with literally nothing to see.  If you can fly to Alice Springs and drive from there you'll save a lot of time.  Make sure you take crocodile warnings very seriously and if you're camping in the NT you need to camp well away from water sources.  Whenever you travel anywhere off the main routes in the NT you need to make sure you have plenty of water and supplies and it's a good idea to notify police of your intended route and arrival date.

Melbourne is one of my favourite cities and the restaurants are great.  Avoid eating in Lygon Street.  It's a tourist trap and the food is nowhere near as good as you can get in nearby areas such as Brunswick Street.  It's quite fun to walk along there at night though.  The city centre has great places for breakfast and fantastic coffee shops.  There are also lots of nice wine bars along the river (Southbank side mainly) which are a nice spot to watch the world go by.

We only really tip at restuarants (not buffets) and even then it isn't a requirement.  You might round up a taxi fare but again it isn't required.

Have fun!
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: oz diva on September 11, 2011, 04:53:28 AM
If you tip like you would in America, you'll have friends for life.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Iris on September 11, 2011, 06:19:52 AM
You've got some great advice here. The tipping advice is spot on, it really is only done for superior service.

DH has travelled from darwin to alice springs and he does not recommend driving. Long long stretches with nothing to look at. His suggestion was the train if you don't want to fly.

In Sydney, one of the nicest ways to see the harbour is just to catch ferries. Just normal commuter ferries. The trip across to Manly is particularly lovely and so is the walk along the beach once you're there. Also the harbour bridge climb is spectacular and well worth it. I would advise booking that in advance if you decide to do it.

I live just north of sydney and often take the family there for day trips so I have loads of day trip type ideas. Let me know if you want more ideas or restaurant recommendations and so on.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Shopaholic on September 11, 2011, 12:26:56 PM
Thanks everyone for all the great advice!

@WestAussieGirl - I know! Everyone told us that the west is so much more beautiful, and that Ningaloo is one of the greatest places to scuba dive, but given the short time we have it wasn't really feasible. I would really like to see the west, and the Kimberly too - but that will have to wait a good number of years until we can find the time and money to go again!

Regarding the drive: BIL recommended it to us, and while I was not sold on the idea, my DH really wants to do a "Great Australian Road Trip", so I caved. He wanted to be exactly zero time in Sydney, but I vetoed thatsince I heard Sydney is really awesome!

I'd love more ideas for a day or two in Sydney, Iris - thank you!
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: wyozozo on September 11, 2011, 12:46:38 PM
If you tip like you would in America, you'll have friends for life.
I think I made friends for life during my last trip. I imagine I'll do the same when I return! Old habits and all that...
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: JonGirl on September 14, 2011, 03:58:35 AM
Sounds like a fun trip (of course, you're missing the best part by not coming to the west coast  ;D ).

As others have mentioned, I would rethink the drive to Uluru.  It's a very long way with very long stretches with literally nothing to see.  If you can fly to Alice Springs and drive from there you'll save a lot of time.  Make sure you take crocodile warnings very seriously and if you're camping in the NT you need to camp well away from water sources.  Whenever you travel anywhere off the main routes in the NT you need to make sure you have plenty of water and supplies and it's a good idea to notify police of your intended route and arrival date.

Melbourne is one of my favourite cities and the restaurants are great.  Avoid eating in Lygon Street.  It's a tourist trap and the food is nowhere near as good as you can get in nearby areas such as Brunswick Street.  It's quite fun to walk along there at night though.  The city centre has great places for breakfast and fantastic coffee shops.  There are also lots of nice wine bars along the river (Southbank side mainly) which are a nice spot to watch the world go by.

We only really tip at restuarants (not buffets) and even then it isn't a requirement.  You might round up a taxi fare but again it isn't required.

Have fun!

No no no. If you eat in Lygon Street, please eat at Papa Gino's.
The best restaurant in Melbourne, in my opinion.
Everything else I agree with.  :)
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: CLE_Girl on September 14, 2011, 07:59:40 AM
I'm not from Australia, but I did a semester abroad there...

In Sydney do the Bridge Climb...its a total tourist trap but it was totally awsome!
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: katycoo on September 18, 2011, 09:23:45 PM
If you haven't booked a bridge climb in Sydney already, I don't think you'll get one.  You can walk across it at road level though.

Taronga zoo is always good in Sydney, and itsso large you may enjoy just pottering about the city / bontanical gardens / ferry rides rather than booking yourself solid.

You can train on the Ghan from Darwin to Uluru (Alice Springs?  not sure) which might give you the 'road trip' feel without the actual driving.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: MinAvi on September 18, 2011, 10:10:56 PM
I live in South Australia, but have family in Darwin and have travelled a fair bit around Australia

If you can, go to the Bindi Beach Markets, they might be closed for the wet season by the time you get here, but they are awesome. Right on the beach, awesome foods and homecrafts.

Also, go to eat on the warf. You sit right out on the end of the warf in the ocean. The seafood is awesome, and you can watch the fish swiming by just by looking down from your table. Beautiful.

If you are interested in that sort of thing, the Darwin War Museum is very interesting. Darwin was bombed in WW2, and had lots of military movement. In fact, as you drive around near Darwin, you can see the abandoned airfields everywhere.

Make sure you drink lots of water and really keep hydrated. You will be arriving at the start of the build-up to the Wet season so it will be very hot and humid. You will sweat a lot more than you realise. The people in the Territory are very very friendly, dont hesitate to start up a conversation with the locals, they will be able to tell you all the best places to go, see and eat.

Do take care around the water. There are natural springs you can swim in, but watch for Croc signs and stay out of the water where they are posted. Litchfield National Park is only about 2 ish hours from Darwin and very beautiful (they filmed Crocadile Dundee there). Make sure you take plenty of water and let people know where you are. There is a LOT of open space in the Territory with no-one for miles and miles.

I have done The Great Ocean Road as well. Take advantage of all the little viewing spots, the views are amazing! Pt Fairy is lovelly, the caravan park is very nice, with big BBQ areas available for free. If you are eating in Port Fairy, avoid the big White Pub. It looks lovely, but the food is dreadful. Try the little pub directly across the road.

Also, I second Taronga Zoo and the harbor ferries. The ferry is pretty heap, and its like a tour all of your own. The Zoo was great as well.

Most of all, have a blast! Us Aussies are very friendly and polite as a whole, and love showing tourists our beautiful country.



Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: wyozozo on September 18, 2011, 10:22:55 PM
Quote
Most of all, have a blast! Us Aussies are very friendly and polite as a whole, and love showing tourists our beautiful country.

I can't agree with that enough!!
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: dawnfire on September 19, 2011, 11:33:21 PM

At Suga they make their own rock candy and you can watch them at the process.

The Great Ocean Road is swell. We took a helicopter over them and that was fun. At this time of year you might see some whales calving off Warrnambool. Port Fairy is a lovely little town and the mutton birds might still be nesting.


if you go to see suga you can see chocolate making at coco blacks in the same arcade (Royal arcade, just off the Bourke St mall).

I do reccomend you explore the arcades, you'll find great coffee and wonderful little shops.

The great ocean road is a great drive. Before you start I recommend Torquay and if you're into surfing there's a surfing musem there. The drive itself is pretty nice with great ocean views.  Like oz Diva i recommend heading to Port Fairy. It is quiet town and you can see the mutton birds at sunset as they come into nest at night.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: oz diva on September 20, 2011, 01:15:49 AM
I lived for 6 weeks on a barrier reef island populated by about 10,000 mutton birds, so I don't share the love for them. They nested under our huts and made a noise all night that was a cross between a baby crying and a cat miaouing. Very hard to sleep through.  ::)
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Curly Wurly Doggie Breath on September 20, 2011, 04:51:41 AM
I know we have Fairy Penguins.[SA] But a vague memory has a colony of then in Victoria. I'm sure OP would adore them.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: JonGirl on September 20, 2011, 04:58:38 AM
I know we have Fairy Penguins.[SA] But a vague memory has a colony of then in Victoria. I'm sure OP would adore them.

Yes, at Phillip Island.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Curly Wurly Doggie Breath on September 20, 2011, 05:03:21 AM
I know we have Fairy Penguins.[SA] But a vague memory has a colony of then in Victoria. I'm sure OP would adore them.

Yes, at Phillip Island.

There ya go OP you simply Must see Phillip Island ;D :D ;D

[Thanks JonGirl, no idea why I couldn't remember that, I mean my son is only named Phillip, hmmmhhhmmm Walks of casually.... Whistling  haha]
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: EduardosGirl on September 20, 2011, 05:15:26 AM
Sounds like a fun trip (of course, you're missing the best part by not coming to the west coast  ;D ).

As others have mentioned, I would rethink the drive to Uluru.  It's a very long way with very long stretches with literally nothing to see.  If you can fly to Alice Springs and drive from there you'll save a lot of time.  Make sure you take crocodile warnings very seriously and if you're camping in the NT you need to camp well away from water sources.  Whenever you travel anywhere off the main routes in the NT you need to make sure you have plenty of water and supplies and it's a good idea to notify police of your intended route and arrival date.

Melbourne is one of my favourite cities and the restaurants are great.  Avoid eating in Lygon Street.  It's a tourist trap and the food is nowhere near as good as you can get in nearby areas such as Brunswick Street.  It's quite fun to walk along there at night though.  The city centre has great places for breakfast and fantastic coffee shops.  There are also lots of nice wine bars along the river (Southbank side mainly) which are a nice spot to watch the world go by.

We only really tip at restuarants (not buffets) and even then it isn't a requirement.  You might round up a taxi fare but again it isn't required.

Have fun!

No no no. If you eat in Lygon Street, please eat at Papa Gino's.
The best restaurant in Melbourne, in my opinion.
Everything else I agree with.  :)

Brunswick Street is amazing, but Lygon street has some pretty good restaurants too. It does get frustrating having everybody try to get you to come inside and eat at *their* restaurant, but you can find a great meal that way. Brunswick street, though I love it, does attract a lot of hipsters. If you do find yourself in that part of town (and you REALLY should), try the Veggie Bar on Brunswick st. Makes me hungry just thinking about it. Have a cocktail at Polly afterwards.

There's a lot of artists markets around Melbourne on weekends too. You can pick up some lovely items if you're patient...

As far as the Great Ocean Road goes, Apollo Bay is beautiful and backs onto the Grampians. Good for beach access and forrest access.

Are you staying in backpackers or what, OP?
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: katycoo on September 20, 2011, 09:15:57 AM
I know we have Fairy Penguins.[SA] But a vague memory has a colony of then in Victoria. I'm sure OP would adore them.

Tsk tsk - they're Little Penguins now.  Someone was paranoid the gay community would be offended.  (I merely assume the gay community didn't actually give a toss - it was such a stupid PC change.)
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Curly Wurly Doggie Breath on September 20, 2011, 09:19:01 AM
I know we have Fairy Penguins.[SA] But a vague memory has a colony of then in Victoria. I'm sure OP would adore them.

Tsk tsk - they're Little Penguins now.  Someone was paranoid the gay community would be offended.  (I merely assume the gay community didn't actually give a toss - it was such a stupid PC change.)

But but.... the penguin i saw was wearing  fluro Orange Satin, lace and glitter  [slaps both hands across my own face]
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: dawnfire on September 24, 2011, 11:17:20 PM
I know we have Fairy Penguins.[SA] But a vague memory has a colony of then in Victoria. I'm sure OP would adore them.

Yes, at Phillip Island.

I belive there is also a colony off St Kilda pier
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Shopaholic on October 16, 2011, 03:45:22 AM
I just got back and....
AUSTRALIA IS AWESOME!

You guys are so lucky to live there!
More details later...after I catch up on some sleep after a 30-hour trip home.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Curly Wurly Doggie Breath on October 17, 2011, 10:23:57 AM
I just got back and....
AUSTRALIA IS AWESOME!

You guys are so lucky to live there!
More details later...after I catch up on some sleep after a 30-hour trip home.

Of Cause we are  ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D


[quietly taking over the world]
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: IslandMama on October 18, 2011, 07:22:28 PM
[quietly taking over the world]

We're meant to do that quietly? Oops, my bad  :-[

Yeah, someone forgot to warn us of that bit.  Quiet, we're not.  :)
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: wyozozo on October 18, 2011, 07:25:56 PM
I am planning on a drive along the Ocean Road in December!!

Saw the penquins on my last visit and loved them!!!
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Curly Wurly Doggie Breath on October 19, 2011, 12:00:07 AM
 ;D ;D ;DFrozen lulupop and Island mama
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: JonGirl on October 20, 2011, 03:56:28 AM
I know we have Fairy Penguins.[SA] But a vague memory has a colony of then in Victoria. I'm sure OP would adore them.

Yes, at Phillip Island.

I belive there is also a colony off St Kilda pier

True.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: oz diva on October 20, 2011, 07:14:37 PM
So, details, how was your trip?
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Shopaholic on October 23, 2011, 12:49:56 AM
I'm probably going to have to do this is increments, as I am at work (my laptop's keyboard has been quirky of late).


We landed in Sydney at 6AM, and had a 6 hour layover until our flight to Cairns, so we checked our bags in at Qantas and took the train to Circular Quay. Since it was so early, we saw the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from the outside. I was pretty excited, the Opera House is such an iconic building, and it was so great to see it up close. We then wandered around the Royal Botanical Gardens, which were absolutely fantastic - which surprised me because I am not a plant fan. We couldn't help but be jealous of all the people whose morning commute takes them through there.
We then walked through The Rocks (boring) looking for a place for breakfast, and at this point we were hit with the sad reality of prices in Australia - $4 for a cup of coffee?? You guys must make really good livings. So back to the airport, and fly into Cairns.

Cairns is a beach town with no beach, overrun with tourists and tourist traps. Apparently there is nothing to do in Cairns unless you take a (expensive!) tour. We had a day to spare before our Scuba diving cruise left, so we went rafting on the Barron River. It was fun, and the guides were really professional and entertaining! The next day we went on our cruise which was absolutely fabulous. The guides were incredibly professional and nice, and everything worked like clockwork. The food was good, the ship was always clean and there was a really nice atmosphere. The way out was rather choppy, but the rest of the cruise was fine, and the dive sites just got better and better. I can definitely recommend the company. We had an extra day before we could fly out, so we beat the system and went on a walk on our own to Mt. Whitfield. It's a short, but not at all easy track (especially in the heat and humidity of Cairns). We finished ahead of schedule and went to see the botanical gardens.

We flew to Darwin, which is also quite a boring place, but with a nicer atmosphere than Cairns. We went to the aviation museum (DH and I both like planes), but despite Darwin having a very interesting history, the museum was far from impressive, and the exhibits were mostly old and rusty, with no new exhibits since the '80's. We then went to see the Oil Storage Tunnels, and down to the harbour to have a beer, and I insisted on splashing around in the sea for a bit. The water was great, I was sorry we didn't bring our bathing suits with us, but it was getting late.

The next day we set off to Litchfield National Park, and spent the night there. We didn't see all of Litchfield's attractions, but most of them. We were sorry there weren't any mid-range walking tracks: it was either the 30km Tabletop track or short 1-2 km tracks. The next day we drove to Kakadu, which took most of the day and went to see the rock art at Ubirr, which was really impressive. We spent the night in Kakadu and joing a 4WD tour to see Twin Falls and Jim Jim the next day. I guess the best way to see Kakadu is with organized tours/cruises because then you get access to places  you wouldn't normally get on your own with a refular car, plus you get the added bonus of hearing all about the area from the guides. All the guides we listened to had an amazing amount of knowledge about the area, the wildlife, the history - everything. It was great. We left Kakadu the next day and drove to Katherine with a short stop at Edith Falls.
We loved the fact that there were so many fresh water falls easily accessible at the end of the dry season - where we live the falls are from melting snow, and are freezing (and only at the end of winter, when it is still cool outside)!

More to come :)
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: oz diva on October 23, 2011, 02:02:32 AM
I agree with you about Cairns, it's not a particularly edifying city. My sister lived there for 15 years and adored it, but living is different to visiting. She lived near where your Barron Falls trip ended.

I went to Kakadu about 20 years ago and my tour also went over the Alligator River into Arnhem Land. There's a real atmosphere about Arnhem Land, such an old old culture. When you see rock art of thylacines painted about 15,000 years ago you get a sense of the history.

I live in Melbourne and we don't quite spend $4 on coffee. But commodities are more expensive than they are in the States.

If you like it up there, I recommend hunting down Ten Canoes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Vzf9BAVGZc a movie about a goose hunt back in the Dreamtime.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Iris on October 23, 2011, 02:22:28 AM
I went to Cairns about 10 years ago just after the collapse of one of Australia's (then) major airlines. The remaining airline had a monopoly on the route and were charging unbelievable prices. Literally, I could have flown to England for the same price (it was a work trip, not MY money  :P ). Also I had to work so except for one trip to the reef (I went up a day early to do it) I had to do without tours and just fit in what I could around meetings.

On the surface of it these were misfortunes but perhaps not, because I loved Cairns. The people were amazingly friendly and I had an awesome time and there were very few tourists. Mind you at the time they were very proud of the fact that unlike many other towns their economy was not dependent on the tourism and so the collapse of the airline didn't hurt them as badly as many other towns - they had a thriving agricultural sector as well.

I'm wondering if after last year's cyclone you got the reverse experience - agriculture is struggling so it's over touristy. Or maybe not. A lot can change in 10 years.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Shopaholic on October 23, 2011, 02:58:14 AM
I have a few more minutes so Part II:

In Katherine, we joined a two-day canoe trip. The trips are usually organized for 3 days, and that would have made us a bit stresssed on time, but we were able to join a trip organized for a couple with a great interest in bird-watching for two days. The trip was fantastic. I don't especially like birds, and can't differentiate between them so that part got a bit tedious, but it was a really nice experience. The views were fabulous, and the atmosphere was great. The guide was incredible, and he organized the trip perfectly. The water was also great, we went swimming and floated down rapids. What is great about Australia is that while these organized tours are expensive, the are all-inclusive. The organizers think of everything, plus all sorts of perks (like chocolate when you least expect it! :D). I did learn a lot about birds :D. I think DH's favorite part of the trip was meeting an orphaned 3.5 months old wallaby named Matilda, who was being cared for by one of the guides.

We continued south from Katherine, with a short break in Mataranka. The thermal springs aren't what I'd call thermal, more like tepid, and the water wasn't very inviting. What was awesome was the walkway, which was under a literal canopy of flying foxes. I have never seen so many in one place! We spent the night in Daly Waters pub, which was not only entertaining (people leave memorabilia - everything from name tags and money to their underwear and flip flops, and all of this is on display), but also had terrific food. Seriously, the best burger we had in Australia!

The day after was dedicated to driving just under 1000 kms, with a short detour due to a fire that swept accross the Stuart Highway. During this drive we had one of the only not-nice encounters with Australians - we stopped at a place called Banka Banka, 70 kms from the next stop, and despite the sign saying "Visitors Welcome", when we stopped there the woman who greeted us told us that the kiosk was closed, and that the toilets were being cleaned. I'm sure they get tons of business a day. She was just very unwelcoming, and bearing in mind that the next stop is 70kms away, I would have expected her to be a little more accomodating (as in, "the toilets should be ready in X minutes", not "you're welcome to use my private bathroom").

We spent the night in Alice, and drove to Uluru-Kata Tjuta the next day. We did the 7km trail in Kata Tjuta, which we enjoyed very much. The rock formations are as impressive up close as they are from a distance. We saw Uluru at sunset, and at sunrise the next day then did the base walk. We were a bit disappointed with the base walk because such a large portion of it takes you on a regular dirt road quite a distance away from Uluru, but the short, marked trails had much more interesting things to see on the way. The visitor's center is very interesting and informative. I love hearing the native people's stories of their land, and I did get the feeling that Uluru is about listening and feeling more than climbing to the top - which I wouldn't do.

We returned to Alice that day, and took a very nice hike in Ormiston Gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges the next day. It was actually one of the best trails we did. The views were good, the way was varied, and we got to a swimming hole at the end (always the mark of a good hike!). Unfortunately I got no photos of this place because DH conviced me my camera might get wet on the way (but the only thing that got wet was DH when he slipped and fell *snicker*).

End Part II  :D. Next chapter: the Great Ocean Road.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Redsoil on October 23, 2011, 03:17:19 AM
Glad you had a good time in Australia!  Looking forward to the next installment.

(Add me to those who had NO idea we were supposed to be quiet about taking over the world.  Quiet?  Isn't that what happens when we're sleeping?)
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Iris on October 23, 2011, 03:59:45 AM

(Add me to those who had NO idea we were supposed to be quiet about taking over the world.  Quiet?  Isn't that what happens when we're sleeping?)

Clearly you've never heard my husband...
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Zenith on October 23, 2011, 09:49:49 AM
Ahh the Great Ocean road. Fond memories of being left behind on a car trip along it because I was such a brat  ;D. I'm glad you like our strange, wonderful, bizarre country (mostly the freaky animals, what's up with the platypus and koalas are evil).


(Add me to those who had NO idea we were supposed to be quiet about taking over the world.  Quiet?  Isn't that what happens when we're sleeping?)

Clearly you've never heard my husband...

Clearly you've never met my brother... ;D
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: katycoo on October 23, 2011, 10:07:41 PM

We then walked through The Rocks (boring) looking for a place for breakfast, and at this point we were hit with the sad reality of prices in Australia - $4 for a cup of coffee?? You guys must make really good livings.

Welcome to Sydney :)

Salaries are higher but in order to match cost of living.  It all evens out in the wash.

ie.  My DH and I make a combined income of over $100,000 p/a plus superannuation.  We live in the outskirts of the city due to housing affordability and our house was cheap for Sydney ($380,000).
And yet we're low-middle class :)

And you're right, there's not much in the Rocks except for old buildings which house modern and expensive shops.

We flew to Darwin, which is also quite a boring place, but with a nicer atmosphere than Cairns. We went to the aviation museum (DH and I both like planes), but despite Darwin having a very interesting history, the museum was far from impressive, and the exhibits were mostly old and rusty, with no new exhibits since the '80's. We then went to see the Oil Storage Tunnels, and down to the harbour to have a beer, and I insisted on splashing around in the sea for a bit. The water was great, I was sorry we didn't bring our bathing suits with us, but it was getting late.

I'm a little suprised by this.  I've never been but my ILs LOVED Darwin.

Sounds like you saw some amazing thing in central OZ.  I've not been to NT at all, but dying to go.  I want to take the Ghan railroad from Adelaide to Darwin.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Iris on October 24, 2011, 12:29:09 AM

And you're right, there's not much in the Rocks except for old buildings which house modern and expensive shops.


And the Rocks markets if you time your visit right. I love the Rocks markets but I agree that they (and the bridge climb) are the only reason for normal humans to visit the Rocks.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Redsoil on October 24, 2011, 06:16:54 AM
Oh yes, The Rocks Markets ROCK!  (Seem to recall the ones I went to were the Firecat Markets or something like that?)  Beautiful artworks in various forms.  I quite like wandering about the back streets and laneways of the Rocks, just looking at buildings and people.

See, I knew Aussies couldn't possibly take over the world quietly.  With all the raucous "Oi, Oi, Oi's!!!"; rousing renditions of "Waltzing Matilda", Rip-roaring rooting *snerk* for our sporting teams, and raising the roof in general (especially by snoring relatives) - it just can't be at a whisper.  Subtle, we ain't.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Shopaholic on October 25, 2011, 01:42:40 AM
I think with Darwin what happened was that we missed the actual attractions - the markets, Mindil Beach, stuff like that. We were stressed with organizing the rental car so we did just some "small" things (and my husband just HAS to see any museum that has to do with aviation). I actually liked the city and the atmosphere, and the harbor was really nice. I wanted to see the pearling exhibition too, but it was closed that day.
Heck, I liked Darwin before I got there because I thought it was so awesome that a city was named after Charles Darwin (yeah, I'm a geek).
We missed out on markets everywhere we went :)

Part III:
We rented a car at Melbourne Airport, and planned on spending the night in Geelong, but there were no vacancies, so we continued to Torquay. The phone number for a hostel in Lonely Planet was switched with a place that rents cabins, so we spent the night in a really great cabin on a farm, with excellent views. After two weeks in QLD and the NT, the change of scenery was extreme, and we felt like we were in Europe (A local saying, when something is nice - it's "just like in Europe", we'll have to switch that one around :)!). Torquay was really nice, but the weather was wet and windy. We went down to Danger Point to look around, and it was breathtaking. I don't surf, so that aspect of Torquay really didn't interest me, but it was a nice town.
We spent the next morning looking for a fleece for my husband, who for the second time did not pack warm clothing (!), we found one and set off.

At our first stop, we went down to the beach and talked with some surfers. The weather was rather nasty, so we were impressed by their dedication! We continued on, stopping at some points to take in the view. We did stop at Erskine falls, then out to Teddy's Lookout for a great view, and had lunch on the wharf in Lorne. We also stopped at the Lighthouse in Apollo Bay, but didn't go up (it was closed), but there was a short 20-minute trail that took us down to an inlet. We missed the turnoff at Kennet River to see the koalas, but we caught up with them on the way to Cape Otway (not that it is hard to catch up with a koala).
We were driving down the narrow, winding road when we saw people standing on the side, after a few comments about how rude and stupid it is to leave your car like that and stand in a road like this, we realized that they were all looking up into the trees and taking pictures, so we stopped too and there were lots and lots of koalas, sleeping up in the trees. They didn't even open an eye when we approached. I was amazed at how an animal evolved to be so lazy :) Anyway, that totally made my day.
The Cape Otway Lighthouse was just closing, so we didn't enter, but took a short walk around.

We made the mistake of reserving a room at Warrnambool. We didn't think it would take us so long to go along the road, with all the stops and the difficult driving. So we decided to see the Apostles, and then make our way to Warrnambool. We planned on coming back to do the Fly Treetop Zipline tour the next day, so we would stop at the places we missed on the way back. So we saw the apostles. It's always a great experience to see something you've seen so many times in photos! It was incredibly windy and so cold, so we only braved it for a few minutes, then continued on. On the way to Warrnambool we saw the most amazing sunset, unfortunately it was inland, from the car.

The next morning we went to Tower Hill Reserve early, and saw lots of animals! It was so great - we even saw kangaroos boxing! (Well, it was one punch, but still). It was the closest we got to kangaroos and to emus as well. On the way back east we stopped at London Bridge, Loch Ard Gorge and the Arch, all amazing places. It was cold and windy, but we could see how powerful nature is, and the force with which the ocean hits the cliffs. Made us feel really insignificant :).

The weather took a turn for the worse, and at one point we couldn't even see where we were going - so we stopped for lunch and contemplation. We considered going to Phillip Island or back to Melbourne, and eventually decided to return the car and head into Melbourne. So, we didn't see the penguins at Phillip Island, but we realized that it would require many more hours of driving in less than ideal weather, and we were ready for some city sight-seeing.

We spent the next day in Melbourne, the weather started looking up, but we went to the Aquarium and took a ferry to ScienceWorks. Both were geared more towards kids than we realized, but we made the most of it :). We also came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as bad food in Melbourne. The first night we ate at Camy's Dumplings in ChinaTown which was the most cost-effectice meal we had in Australia, and delicious as well!

Next, part IV - Sydney and heading home.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Iris on October 25, 2011, 02:57:57 AM

 They didn't even open an eye when we approached. I was amazed at how an animal evolved to be so lazy :) Anyway, that totally made my day.


Geek fact on koalas: They are a great example of every niche being filled. Eucalyptus leaves are very toxic but a plentiful source of food. So the sleep-all-day thing is so that their bodies can process the toxins. Basically all they ever do is eat and sleep :)
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: oz diva on October 25, 2011, 03:57:15 AM
A friends greyhound once attacked a koala, the koala won. The dog survived, but with terrible scars.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: katycoo on October 25, 2011, 07:04:11 AM
I always forget how dingdangity cute koalas are.  Then I go to the zoo and they look so snuggly!

There aren't really any wild koalas near me.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: Shopaholic on October 25, 2011, 07:23:45 AM
Oh, I just remembered:

For people planning a trip to Australia - if you get an ETA (an electronic visa that you can get online, which is standard for US citizens), print out the authorization AND the email you receive confirming it.
Despite the fact that the website tells you that you don't need to print out the confirmation.
The airlines require some sort of confirmation, and we spent a good hour taking care of this (no duty free time :()
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: StarDrifter on October 29, 2011, 07:50:52 AM

 They didn't even open an eye when we approached. I was amazed at how an animal evolved to be so lazy :) Anyway, that totally made my day.


Geek fact on koalas: They are a great example of every niche being filled. Eucalyptus leaves are very toxic but a plentiful source of food. So the sleep-all-day thing is so that their bodies can process the toxins. Basically all they ever do is eat and sleep :)

That and the toxins (when they first eat the leaves) have the same effect on the koalas as a fine red wine has on most humans... they sleep so much because they're actually drunk.

It sounds like you had a great trip down here - and you're right about putting off Phillip Island - it's a two or three hour drive from Melbourne to get out there.
Title: Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
Post by: GeauxTigers on January 11, 2012, 03:41:37 PM
**envious**

Quote
(and my husband just HAS to see any museum that has to do with aviation).

(Not an Australian, but I hang ot a LOT at Flyertalk)

Did you go to the QANTAS museum at Longreach?

Very near the top of my bucket list is to go to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary near Brisbane. Perhaps in November...