My top 10 Australian experiences

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Today on news.com.au I read an article listing Australia’s top 10 landmarks named by TripAdvisor based on the millions of reviews posted by travellers over the past year. There were a couple of places that surprised me and a couple that I have never visited so I’m not in a position to judge whether they’re worthy of being in a top 10 list. The article attracted some scathing commentary from readers with some labelling Sydney as boring, claiming that the Opera House looks better from a distance, and that Australia is too ‘young’ as a country to offer any thing interesting to see. The most negative comment stated that there was really nothing to see in Australia apart from a couple of the landmarks listed, our beaches and the barrier reef so it wasn’t worth spending 3 weeks in Australia especially with inland travel being so expensive, customer service so poor and our restaurant scene lacking.

In response to this article I’ve come up with two top 10 lists, one is my top 10 based on the Australia I’ve experienced and the other is the Australia I wish to experience.

My top 10 Australian experiences

Melbourne

I don’t have any particular suburb or landmark in mind, the long weekend I spent in this Victorian city was purely about food and shopping and I loved every minute. Melbourne is a very cosmopolitan city, I love the variety of restaurants and cafes, we explored China town and had Yum Cha for lunch, our hotel was not far from Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar and one evening was spent dining on Moussaka. Street art lines alleyways and boutiques filled with retro clothing, designer handbags, handmade chocolates and beautiful paper products called to us and the only thing stopping me spending a small fortune was the fact that I didn’t have a small fortune to spend.

National War Memorial, Canberra

It has been many years since I last visited the National War Memorial however it is a place I have been to several times and would go again if given the chance. The National War Memorial is both inspiring and sombre, you walk away feeling proud of the Australians who fought for us yet sad, so many lives lost on all sides.

The Australian National War Memorial, Canberra
The Australian National War Memorial, Canberra. Source:http://loyalty33.smugmug.com/Travel/Canberra-ACT-December-2008/i-CDJNLnK/1/L/The%20war%20memorial-IMG_3083-L.jpg

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

Hiding in the Lamington National Park is O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, accommodation and spa for those who want to spend some time connecting with nature. You can go for the day, take a picnic lunch and feed the birds, there are several tracks through the bush and if you’re lucky you will see more than bush turkeys and goannas. If you stay overnight there is the option of getting up at sunrise, wishing the wallabies a good morning and taking a free guided walk through the rainforest to see and hear about the native birds, they are quite active at that time of day. See a sunset from the bluff is also a spectacular moment, especially when combined with a glass or two of bubbles.

 

Circular Quay, Sydney

When ever I’m in Sydney a walk around Circular Quay is always in order, going between the Rocks and the Botanic Gardens. Exploring the Rocks is always a joy for me especially if the markets are on, I have memories of choc coated coffee beans and fudge, not to mention a glass of wine or two at pubs such as the Orient Hotel or The Mercantile. Circular Quay is home to the Museum of Contemporary Art as well as multiple buskers, you can sit at the edge of the park and the passers by or admire the numerous ferries and boats that move in and out of the wharf. The Opera House is a spectacular piece of architecture, as a child I performed there with hundreds of other school children, playing a number of pieces on the recorder and listening to talented singers and school bands. Seeing the Opera House of a night time is a must, walk around the building to see the city from a different perspective and if you get the chance, buy a ticket to a play or musical performance because it is an amazing experience. Nearby is the Botanic Gardens, providing a peaceful and beautiful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, here you can have a nap or spend the time admiring the specimens on display in the gardens.

Swell Sculpture Festival

I’ve written about the Swell Sculpture Festival before, held at Currumbin Beach in September it is worth putting on your ‘must see’ list if ever you are in Queensland at that time of year.

 

Cruise Sydney Harbour on a Tall Ship

This is something I did almost twenty years ago and I have discovered that the experience is still available albeit it on different ships. My boyfriend and I did a twilight cruise of Sydney Harbour on a tall ship and it was magical, we watched the sun set from the deck of a replica of The Endeavour, it was very relaxing and romantic.

The Hunter Valley

The Hunter Valley in New South Wales is a well known region for wine, only a couple of hours from Sydney it is easy to do in a day trip (don’t forget a designated driver) or you can stay in one of the many B&Bs in the region. Tyrells, McGuigans and the Piggs Peake Winery are just some of the wineries you can visit, Piggs Peake Winery is a small, boutique vineyard whereas the other two produce large quantities of wine for the mass market.

The Great Barrier Reef

Definitely a must see for anyone who loves marine life, scuba diving, snorkelling and island hopping. You can take a day trip out on to the reef or charter a boat and cruise between islands: Hamilton, Lindeman, Brampton and Lizard just to name a few. The seafood is fresh and at the right time of year the days are calm and perfect for soaking up sun, sitting on the deck of a boat drinking a refreshing cocktail or having a picnic on Whitehaven beach. Although I didn’t go snorkelling I did enjoy swimming over coral, seeing turtles in their natural environment and watching dolphins swim and play around the bow of the boat.

Great Barrier Reef. Source: http://grantstudios.smugmug.com/Nature/Nature/i-rsz3DJr/0/L/photo-1-L.jpg

Vivid Festival, Sydney

The Vivid Festival in Sydney is held in June, it is a festival of light, art and music and an amazing way to see Sydney at its best. I’ve always loved the city at night especially around the harbour, the lights reflect on the water and the city really does sparkle. At the night markets in the Rocks you can choose from a variety of international cuisines and beverages, stalls selling pastries, paella, Thai food, German sausages and gelati will make your mouth water and you can wash it down with a beer or wine from the numerous pubs and bars. Photographers, amateur and professional line the quay with their tripods and snap photos of the light show happening at the Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art and surrounds. For a city that is too often in a hurry and the people too often cool and indifferent, the festival is a a fantastic opportunity to slow down and revel in all that is happening.

Rural Australia

This one is not about any place in particular, I grew up in rural Australia and I still find joy in returning to my hometown, a small town in New South Wales where the nights are so dark that you can see all the stars. Staying in the cities is great if all you want to do is shop, go to galleries and museums or dine in a la carte restaurants before heading to the theatre, but there is more to Australia than cities and the Barrier Reef. The experience of riding a horse through the bush, watching the sunrise from a mountain top or floating down a river on the inner tube of a truck tyre is something different for most visitors and from a country girl, I think its an experience not to be missed. As kids we camped by the river, toasted marshmallows under the stars and went bushwalking during the day, as an adult I love sitting on my parents deck and watching the sunset, in the morning I take the dog for a walk down to the river stopping to say hello to the cows and horses standing in their paddocks.

Sunset in the country

My top 10 Australian Experience wishlist

  1. Drive the Great Ocean Road and see the twelve apostles.
  2. Visit Western Australia when the desert flowers are blooming.
  3. Visit the Barossa Valley and its vineyards.
  4. Drive around Tasmania, include time on King Island, staying in B&Bs and taste testing all the gourmet produce.
  5. Explore Kakadu National Park during the wet season.
  6. Spend a week in dog friendly accommodation by the beach on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
  7. Visit the Margaret River region in Western Australia, see Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and dine on the fresh produce accompanied by regional wines.
  8. Stay in the Blue Mountains, visit Norman Lindsay’s former home and ride the steep, scenic railway.
  9. Cruise the Murray River on a paddlewheeler.
  10. Travel between Adelaide and Darwin on the Ghan.

You might be thinking that I haven’t really seen much of Australia and you would be correct, I’ve seen more of Europe than I have Australia. It will probably take me ten years to do everything on my wish list, possibly longer. It is easy to forget how large Australia is and how much time is needed to move between destinations, for example, a flight from Brisbane to Perth takes about five and a half hours and to drive from Sydney to Melbourne takes about 14 hours. Air travel has gotten cheaper however it is probably still more expensive traveling in Australia than it is in the US or Europe, then again our population is much smaller than many other places so providing better, faster, cheaper infrastructure isn’t always possible. 

If you could visit Australia, what would be the three ‘must see or must do’ activities on your list?

Cheers and have a great weekend!