AUS Pre-trip opinions needed

Old Oct 24th, 2005, 01:19 PM
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QC
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AUS Pre-trip opinions needed

I'm thinking about a trip to Australia for August, 2005. I have the basics down but would like to pick the resident brains for your opinions on some destinations. I would most likely buy the Qantas package with 3 inter-Australia flights. Sydney and Uluru are definites. I have never been to Australia before.

Here are my questions:

1. What's the difference between Brisbane and other Southern Queensland destinations? If I like the beach, is it worthwhile in the wintertime to go to the Gold Coast? What's the weather really like in Queensland in the winter? Is Brisbane a couple-of-days place or is there so much to see there that I should really make it a major destination? Anyone really prefer Brisbane over other State Capitals?

2. Red Centre in the winter- lots of flies? I know it's a problem at other times.

3. Yulara Resorts - is there really a difference in the comfort level between the different lodgings? There is a wide price difference. Also, any reason NOT to fly in? Looks like a very long drive from Alice, and my time is limited.

4. Uluru - has anyone taken the Aboriginal tours? What happens on them? Is more than 3 days at Uluru needed?

5. Canberra vs. Melbourne. Is Canberra really that sleepy? Is Melbourne really that different from Sydney?

6. Perth - boy that's far. What's so fun in Perth that's worth the trip?
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Old Oct 24th, 2005, 05:00 PM
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Will just answer the Queensland section: August is winter in Australia and except for a few stalwarts its too cold for swimming in SE Qld. Brisbane is the capital city of Queensland which is a very large state with vast climate differences. Brisbane is not on the coast, or a harbour like Sydney, its somewhat inland on a river but within easy reach of both Gold (south) and Sunshine Coasts (north) - both have lovely hinterlands worth exploring. Its much warmer in tropical Far North Queensland (Cairns/Port Douglas etc) in August, which is the busiest month for tourists, both international and domestic, and is the nearest mainland point to the Great Barrier Reef and close to tropical rainforests. Queensland's Whitsunday Islands shouldn't be missed also. Qantas, Virgin Blue, Jet Star will fly you from Brisbane to Cairns in about 2 hours, or 3 from Sydney. Brisbane is a pleasant city, vastly improved in recent years, but much smaller than either Sydney or Melbourne. Weather more than likely will be cool in Sydney and Perth and cold in Melbourne.


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Old Oct 24th, 2005, 05:52 PM
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Canberra vs Melbourne: if you like a big-city atmosphere with the nightlife and other options of a big city, go for Melbourne. Canberra has one-tenth of the population and while it has many attractions a big-city feel isn't one of them (in fact visitors have spent time looking for "downtown" before discovering that they're standing in it). You can think of it as something of a mini-Washington DC, offering a concentrated exposure to Australian history and culture through its national institutions, museums and galleries. The city is set in a quintessentially Australian landscape and is in fact Australia's only major inland city.

In terms of cultural/intellectual pursuits, dining etc Canberra's academic and diplomatic communities ensure that it punches above its weight, but if that's what you're after you'll find more and mostly better in Sydney and Melbourne.

Canberra in August is by Australian standards cold, but it depends on your frame of reference. Most North Americans and Europeans would see it as no more than brisk. Actually, I've felt much colder in Melbourne on a winter's day than in Canberra due to the damper conditions and wind-chill factor.

Melbourne vs Sydney: Melbourne has its charms, but can't match Sydney's splendid physical setting, overall visual appeal and energy. Sydney is also of historical interest as the site of the first British settlement in 1788.

Melburnians consider their city Australia's cultural capital and Sydney as being populated by real estate addicts with short attention spans, corporate criminals and corrupt cops. There's a grain or two of truth in that, come to think of it, but the argument is weakened by the fact that there's more happening on the cultural (if not intellectual) front in Sydney these days. Sydneysiders (as they like to call themselves) on the other hand traditionally deride Melbourne as staid and Victorian, and put its interest in intellectual and political matters down to the fact that the populace is forced indoors for long periods.

Perth is a fine city but unless you have a lot of time to spare I don't think it's worth the trek. I'd recommend Tasmania, except that it will be pretty bleak in August.

I notice you've left out Far North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, which are on most people's itinerary - is there a reason for that?
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Old Oct 24th, 2005, 10:31 PM
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If you go to Queensland in August, make it Port Douglas and barrier reef as mentioned. It will be lovely.If you go to Uluru, yes fly there as it will be a long haul otherwise. Flies were hideous when I was there late March ( but not enough to spoil a great holiday) and they are supposed to be gone by May but when they make their triumphal return I'm not sure.Perth is definitely too far for you to consider without lots of time. August is our windiest month here in Sydney.Hope this is of some help.
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Old Oct 25th, 2005, 09:58 AM
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I lived in Australia for several years and I have been back to visit since then several more times. So here's my two cent's worth:
1. The Qantas Airpass is fabulous! We used it this August for our last trip to Australia and it saved us a bunch of money over our previous trips there.
2. I would suggest you go to Port Douglas in Far North Queensland rather than Brisbane. It will be warmer and you'll have close access to the Reef. You would fly into Cairns and then either drive a rental car or take a shuttle bus to PD. (BTW, the drive is so beautiful along the coast). Once you are in PD, you don't really need a car to get around as most hotels are within walking distance of both town and the beach. Also there's a good bus service. If you want to go to Mossman Gorge or Daintree National Park, you can always book a tour or hire a car for the day. I've done it all ways--twice with a rental car, twice with a one-day rental car, and once with no car but going on tours.
3. Definitely fly to Uluru as it is a long drive from Alice. There is a big range of prices at Yulara Village and they are all pretty pricey compared to most Australian cities. I have stayed at two of the more-reasonably priced places--Pioneer Outback Hotel and the Emu Walk Apartments. Our room at the Pioneer Outback was a cinderblock room with a queen bed and a set of bunk beds for the kids and there was a community bathroom. It was comfortable and quite suitable for our purposes. (Besides, how much time will you spend in your room anyway?) The next time we went, my mother-in-law was along, so we needed more room and a private bathroom for her. Thus we stayed at the Emu Walk Apartments and it was also a good place to say.
4. A few notes about visiting Uluru. Uluru is quite a distance from Yulara Village, so you either need a rental car or you will have to rely on tours. If you decide to get a rental car, be sure to book it far in advance of your visit as they will not be available on a walk-up basis. Also ,it will be quite cold at night at Uluru, so pack accordingly.
5. I would choose Canberra over Melbourne, especially since you are already going to be in Sydney. Canberra, as Neil Oz described, is much different than any other city in Australia. It has fabulous museums (most of which have free admission), good restaurants, and is in the middle of parkland. If you are there while Parliament is in session, I suggest you get free tickets to Question Time (2pm daily). I always suggest visitors go out to Namadgi National Park and do the easy Yankee Hat hike to see hundreds of kangaroos in the wild and aboriginal rock drawings. (BTW, if you don't want to use one of your 3 flights on your Airpass to go there, it's an easy 3-hour drive from Sydney.)
6. I love Perth and Western Australia, but it's so far from the East Coast. You would be spending a full day of your vacation each way just to get there.
7. Weather--I love being in Australia in August, especially when I'm coming from the heat and humidity of my home in the U.S. Port Douglas is warm, but pleasant. Good weather for shorts. Sydney is cooler, but since it's usually sunny, it feels much warmer. Reminds me of spring weather here in the U.S. Canberra is cooler than Sydney and can be foggy in the mornings. But, it too is often sunny so I usually get by with just a sweater or light jacket during the day (and combine them at night.)
8. Finally, do a lot of planning before you go (which you already seem to be doing) and you'll have a wonderful vacation. It's a really special place.
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Old Oct 25th, 2005, 11:14 AM
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Hi, we went to Oz in July and it was quite warm in Cairns/PD (shorts and tee shirt, slacks and light jacket at night). We wore wet suits to snorkel but lots of people were in bare skin (we are fair skinned and burn easily, and like the boyancy of wet suits). Do a search for reef trips if you want a lot of good information on trips out of Cairns or PD. Or ask Pat, resident expert! We flew to Uluru and had a rental car, this was awesome since we could go to the places we wanted (Kata Tjuta at sunset--all by ourselves! etc.) We took the Aboriginal led tour (met the group at the Cultural Center since we had a car) and it was great. The native man spoke in his language and the ranger translated. We also took the free ranger-led tour that started at the climbing place and it was great, also. We saw two sunsets and a sunrise at Uluru (with about 200-300 other people, so go early to get a parking spot and to meet interesting people!) because we had our own car, which was good because the first sunset was beautiful, but the second one was spectacular with the rock glowing after sunset and the gorgeous sky behind us in different colors. We were unable to do the star tour due to weather and a personal problem of the astronomer (I think it was a family illness), but we saw some awesome stars on our own. You didn't say how long you were going to stay. With three flights, you could go to Darwin--Kakadu if you had enough time. It is quite warm there in the winter (it was 95 one day when we were there)and the rock art and bird tours are fantastic. Good luck planning--don't be afraid to use the search feature, you'll have hours of good reading!
Sally in Seattle
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Old Oct 25th, 2005, 11:37 AM
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OK, things are a little clearer now.

Sounds like this would be a good trip:

-Fly from US to Sydney
-4-5 Days in Sydney
-Drive or take Train from Sydney to Canberra
-2 days in Canberra
-Fly from Canberra to Ayers Rock Airport
-2-3 Days at Uluru
-Fly from Ayers Rock to Cairns
-2-3 Days in Northern Qld. either in Cairns or Port Douglas
-Fly from Cairns back to Sydney
-Return to US from Sydney

This should give me a taste of Australia- looks like I have a big city, the national capital, the desert, and the tropical north. I've got a limited budget and limited time but this covers a lot of ground.

It also sounds like southern Oz has Californian weather and wintertime in Sydney and Canberra will be like San Diego- 50's & 60's Fahrenheit. Northern Queensland should be like Southern Florida - very warm.

Everyone has been a tremendous help. One followup- do I need a car in Canberra? I know I can see Sydney without one and it sounds like Uluru and Port Douglas can be done without it if I don't move around much or take buses or tours.
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Old Oct 25th, 2005, 03:07 PM
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Sounds good to me.

Canberra's average temps in August are 2/12C (34/55F), Sydney balmier at 7/17C (46/64F), San Diego at 18/25C (65/77F) distinctly warmer. (www.weatherbase.com)

If you're not too uncomfortable driving on the left a car is useful in Canberra, but not really essential. Public transport is buses only, but it's manageable. If you like walking (or riding - there's an excellent network of bike paths) you can see all the major national institutions and galleries within a couple of kilometres of the city centre. The best places to eat out (Manuka and Dickson) are a short cab ride away. There's also a hop-on/hop-off bus.

www.canberratourism.com.au gives a good rundown on what's available, and you may find a city tour there that suits you. If you have a car and the time, Lanyon Homestead (25-30 minutes south of the city, just short of the village of Tharwa on the Murrumbidgee River) is an interesting insight into 19th-century sheep-grazing life, and the Sidney Nolan Gallery is also on the property - Nolan is one of Australia's best-known artists.
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Old Oct 25th, 2005, 06:55 PM
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Ah, Neil, you aren't comparing Canberra in mid-WINTER with San Diego in mid-SUMMER, are you? August is the hottest time in the States! Sorry if I wasn't clear. I meant comparing Winter to Winter.

San Diego in January is 48/65 F (8/18 C) - looks almost exactly like the figures you give for Sydney in August.
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Old Oct 25th, 2005, 11:31 PM
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What a bloody idiot I am! Really, I'm not THAT geographically-challenged, but it'll teach me to avoid posting until I've had my third coffee and properly woken up. Now I won't be able to laugh any more at the old lady who disembarked from a cruise ship that docked in Sydney last December and asked a waitress "Honey, is it always so hot here in winter?" (Join the club, Neil...)

Yes, San Diego and Sydney do look very similar. The difference between Sydney and Canberra is explained by the fact that Canberra is situated in the Southern Tablelands, a dry inland area, and about 600 metres (say 2000 ft) above sea level.
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Old Oct 26th, 2005, 05:37 AM
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If you go to far north queensland, which you should definitely choose over the gold coast, try to stay at Silky Oaks rainforest eco-resort. It is wonderful, right in the forest.

See my website for a review and info.

http://www.mcdougalladventures.com/a...lky-oaks-lodge
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