Pros: Familiar yet fascinating in new places to see
Cons: Wi-fi wasn't as easy to get as I hoped for.
Australia, Wow! In spending three weeks in Australia visiting family and being a tourist I observed much to my liking.
First, I like the people. In all the encounters we had whether business or casual meet I can say they like or at least tolerate Americans very well. For me that's important. There's comfort in getting along and not putting on airs. Most times we met up with people they engaged us and wanted to keep talking and sharing information. They have a dry sense of humor or which I am sure I missed some yet loved their easy going way.
We were helped as tourist on the street a number of times with people going out of their way to help us out.
They happen to drive on the left side of the road in Australia, not being right. I have experience drivng that "different" way having done so in England, Barbados, Bermuda and the Virgin Islands. The turn-abouts they use for many traffic intersections are easy to navigate. Their signing is clear and most drivers respectful.
We rented cars in two different areas of Australia. The rates were competitive to US prices and signing up etc was as usual as any place in the US. The cars of course have the steering wheels on the right drivers side. Aside from turning on windshield washers for the first couple of days instead of turning on my signal lights, all WAS an easy enough transformation for me.
We used some of their public transportation in Sidney that makes traveling around easy. for an all day pass for adults at $22.50 we had use of the ferries, light rail service known as trams, the regular city rail services and bus service. if with adults their a family plan giving the first child a half price deal of $5.50 and the next free.
One day when we were staying in Manley a suburb of Sydney we paid our fair and took a ferry direct to Sidney Harbor Circle Quay then another to Darling Harbor where there are many family fun things to do. We then took three separate light rail runs getting us to and from the huge Sidney Fish market and back with another trip to Central Station where we HOPPED a train back to Circle Quay. The ferries were then closed to unusually high winds ( that happens but a handful of times all year) and we took the bus back to Manley. All that for our original fee.
Though there are other carriers, we flew Qantas to and from JFK NY. They were excellent. My wife also set up hopper flights through them too. They became very economical when booking all flights together and being a little flexible by a day or two or morning, afternoon or evening flights. They helped her book the flights.
We flew into Sidney strayed a few days and then jumped up to Cairnes for side trips to the Great Barrier Reef and Rain Forests. After a few days there we then jumped to the interior Ayers Rock Red Center to see Uluru. (Amazing it is)
After three days there, coulda used more time, we flew Qantas again back to Sidney for a few mor days and finall made our way back to the states. Qantas gave superior service on every plane.
I purchased an iPad for having a portable computer and also using Skpe to keep our phone call prices down as my phone was not set up for Australia.
Getting Wi-Fi was a bit more difficult to get than I expected. There are not a lot of places that have free Internet like our Starbucks. McDonald's we learned was one but they are not as numerous in Australia as the states.
There are hourly and day rate packages in most hotels that were ridiculously expensive to my mind. The Hilton in Caines wanted $17 for an hour, huh?
There were cheaper rates in airports and at one of the resorts in Uluru. Not all had good service, only the better resorts. Luckily we could share pool areas in all the hotels in the Ayers Rock Resort.
We did get to make calls but it wasn't always easy using Skype.
Very Familiar Feel Yet Very Different
Though the sites of Australia are unique to them, there was a very familiar feel to our travels. Sidney was like a small compact NYC very alive and with different neighborhoods. We did have to do a show at the iconic Sydney Opera House that was a fine experience on its own.
We a;so spent time on a number of the suburb beaches spending our time living in Manley Bay and doing side trips to Dee Why beach and Curl Curl. These beaches all have their own vibe and we would have enjoyed staying in any one of them. Surfers abound and the waters with their pools are wonderful to swim in, even during their winter!
Up in the Cairnes area where the waters are warmer still we enjoyed time at several of the beaches up there. Again all different in feel yet inviting.
Aside from visiting family my wife and I had National parks slated to visit. To our delight we visited three World Heritage sites. We spent two days on an island discovering fringe parts of the Great Barrier Reef. On another day we took a speed boat ride to the outer reef. The Great barrier reef lives up to its reputation. We have snorkeled many sites in Florida Keys, the Caribbean and Mexico but this was better than all of them. It was an exciting experience.
We then took an all day tour of the Rain Forest that I can highly recommend and will write of in the future leaving a link. The sites were amazing and the tour, which we are not always fond of, was excellent in its variety and education. The guide/driver was a cool dude with lots to teach and take us too for a few "different" experiences we didn't expect.
Another must place to visit was Ayer's Rock known by the indigenous people as Uluru. It's a sacred monolith to them. I wasn't expecting much to be truthful but didn't mind a few days in the area to use the resort. Things were much different than I expected. The "rock" is a wonder. and some of the photos I took were the best I have ever made in trying to bring home the feel of a place that is sometimes difficult to share.
We loved our time there and our encounters with Aboriginal "teachers" who our resort used to help educate and give background of the indigenous peoples of the area. Loved it.
Our arrival was in the middle of the Australian Winter. Sydney had temperatures in the 60s and 70s with cold nights. That was very doable.
Up north the temperatures were warmer allowing swimming more comfortable and having less trouble with stinging jellyfish at that time of year. The Ayers Rock area was in the 60s-70s during the day and much colder at night.
We had some overcast weather on our day of arrival and a super wind storm and rain on our next to last day. Aside from that the weather was perfect and my wife liked the dryer air making for many more than not good hair days.
For our itinerary I suggest the winter because the crowds are smaller and the rates a bit less. Also, the summers in Australia up north and central can get brutally hot.
Watching the Olympics from an Australia lean and without the more full coverage the USA offers was a downer. Fortunately we were home for the wrap ups and got the inside story on many of the US athletes. Hey we were in another country, what should I have expected.
There streets city and suburbs are very clean. The streets in Sydney do get traffic jams at rush hours just as in NY. There's a lot of traffic going over bridges and through tunnels in that harbor city.
There seemed to be two different kinds of Aussies that we encountered. Some were beer drinking partiers and others more into yoga, body fitness and earth. Got along fine with both.
They are very conscious of energy use and recycling, more so than here in the states. They are also dealing with carbon taxes that has many of the states in combat with the others on this issue.
Many toilets have two buttons for flushing one for liquid and the other for harder matter/full flush.
I needed to find out about water swirling in an opposite direction in the southern hemisphere than the northern. First I had trouble finding a suitable place to see the water drain. The toilets are all full flush with a roar. No swirls there. many sinks drained to fast to see which way the water drained. In a couple of sinks, it seemed they drain in the same direction as up north. I believe the thought of the opposite drain, simply not true.
Eating out was different. The prices seemed a little higher and many restaurants have everything ala-cart. Even bread that is offered in American restaurants is extra. The easy part is there is no tax or tip to be figured in or onto the prices. There is not tipping. I found that refreshing if even only not toi have to figure numbers after dining.
I'll add more Aussie thought as I think of them in the coming days.
And a Wrap
We had the pleasure of three weeks in Australia. It was a wonderful experience that I do hope to duplicate some day seeing even more of the country. There's so much we didn't get near.
The plane ride is far and relatively expensive but, now that I have been there, well worth the time and dollars. FYI, our US dollar is worth a few cents less than the Australian Dollar.
The people were easy to get along with and helpful. Getting around was easy enough using the public transportation but where the family lived in Manley, private transport was a must.
This was an amazing trip seeing family and doing the tour thing. Can't wait to do it again.
Getting there by via Qantas
Australia, as viewed by an American Tourist
Sydney, Australia as reviewed by a NY Tourist
The Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Tower
The Great Barrier Reef
Raintree Nature park, Kurunda
Mantra Resort, Palm Cove
Quicksilver Great Barrier Reef Tours
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Kuranda
Uluru Ayer's Rock