Author Topic: A traveller's guide to Australia  (Read 6483 times)

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Shopaholic

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A traveller's guide to Australia
« on: August 25, 2011, 10:56:48 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?

Leafy

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2011, 07:29:31 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.

MsMarjorie

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2011, 08:01:49 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).

oz diva

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2011, 04:10:49 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.





Victoria

WestAussieGirl

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2011, 04:53:49 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!

oz diva

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2011, 05:53:28 AM »
If you tip like you would in America, you'll have friends for life.

Victoria

Iris

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2011, 07:19:52 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.
"Can't do anything with children, can you?" the woman said.

Poirot thought you could, but forebore to say so.

Shopaholic

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2011, 01:26:56 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!

wyozozo

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2011, 01:46:38 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...



JonGirl

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2011, 04:58:35 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.  :)
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CLE_Girl

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2011, 08:59:40 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!

katycoo

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2011, 10:23:45 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.

Seraphim

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2011, 11:10:56 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.






wyozozo

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2011, 11:22:55 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!!



dawnfire

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Re: A traveller's guide to Australia
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2011, 12:33:21 AM »

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.