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therenaissanceman Dec 18th, 2004 01:56 PM

Expert Advice Needed
My wife and I are heading to Oz next week and have a few questions:
l. Can you see penguins on Kangaroo Island or just near Melbourne?
2. Is the balloon ride out of Alice Springs worth the cost?
3. Is the trip to Kuranda out of Cairns worth it or is it too touristy?
4. What is a good, reasonably priced restaurant in (a)downtown Melbourne or St. Kilda and (b)the area around the University of Sydney?
Thanks for your help.
Jim W.

ALF Dec 18th, 2004 03:08 PM

The trip to Kuranda is definitely worth it, either by SkyRail or train (I'd take one each way). Kuranda itself is definitely too touristy, but you can still walk around a bit before returning to Cairns.

Can't help you with #1 or #2.

There are too many good reasonably-prices restaurants to count in downtown Melbourne/St. Kilda and/or near U Sydney. What sort of restaurant would you prefer?

Judy_in_Calgary Dec 18th, 2004 03:29 PM

According to friends of mine who have seen them in both places, Kangaroo Island is a better place to see penguins than Phillip Island near Melbourne.

By the way, Phillip Island is not all that "near" Melbourne. It's actually quite a drive. Couple that with the fact that the penguins come ashore at dusk, which takes place pretty late in the southern hemisphere summer, and you'll probably find yourself getting back to Melbourne after midnight.

If you do go to Phillip Island to see the penguins, there are a couple of things you can do to improve the experience. Another poster mentioned some sort of viewing area that cost more but that was less crowded. My guess is that that arrangement, whatever it is, probably is better, because there are busloads and busloads and busloads of people in the regular viewing area. You can also spend the night in the vicinity of Phillip Island instead of returning to Melbourne.

Another thing to note about Phillip Island is that the penguins are not the only attraction. There's a koala sanctuary and other stuff that is reputed to be pretty neat, although I haven't seen those other offerings myself. But, from what I've heard, Kangaroo Island is a better place to go in search of nature.

I second ALF's opinion that the trip to Kuranda is worth it. When you go up (or down) the Skyrail, you need to change cable cars twice. It is worth visiting the interpretive centres at the change stations and listening to the national park wardens or whoever the uniformed people are who explain the rainforest ecosystem.

Kuranda is not only about souvenir shopping, which you can avoid entirely if you wish. The town has a butterfly sanctuary, curtain fig trees, and other interesting things. Besides, the trip up and down the escarpment really is lovely.

That said, the visit to Kuranda should not come before a visit to the GBR and the Daintree Forest, in my opinion.

Alan Dec 18th, 2004 03:42 PM

I wouldn't like to recommend one particular restaurant in the area around Sydney University, as they change hands (and names)frequently, and, anyway, my idea of "good" may not equate with yours. But I can tell you WHERE to look. Just head up King St, Newtown, towards Newtown Railway Station. As you stroll, you will pass dozens: Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, African. You're bound to see something that tickles your fancy.

If Italian is more in your line, you have slightly farther to travel -- maybe a six-minute bus ride -- but when you reach Norton St, Leichhardt (heading west along Parramatta Road) you are in Little Italy. In recent years the restaurants here -- once one of the bargain-basement areas of Sydney for cheap eateries -- have gone up-market and are no longer in the "budget" range; but this is where the Italian community eats, so the food is pretty genuine.

Paul_S Dec 18th, 2004 04:13 PM

No penguins on KI, lots of seals.

As to whether the balloon ride at Alice Springs is worth the money well I believe that this activity can be done in many other locations around Australia with far better scenery than here in Alice. You can do hot air ballooning in Cairns the link for them is:

The following is a link to Ballooning Australia which shows the different tours available around Australia like Port Douglas and Cairns.

It is the off tourist season here in Alice Springs so there may be the possibility that you may not be able to do a balloon flight here if there are insufficient numbers of people. It is a lot harder for this kind of activity during our summer months due to the higher ambient air temperatures here, which is why they tend to do sunrise flights to get the coolest air of the day.



Paul_S Dec 18th, 2004 04:22 PM

Sorry Jim, I actualy do remember seing Penguins on KI. I posted my reply and then sat there thinking about my visit an thought hang on yes I did see Penguins.

johhj_au Dec 18th, 2004 04:27 PM

1. You can see penguins on KI.
4.(b) either king st newtown or glebe point road,glebe are the eat streets for sydney uni.Walk down from the uni from the great hall into victoria park and then over to glebe point road.

the nags head pub in glebe is good for a beer.

pat_woolford Dec 18th, 2004 05:53 PM

Paul_S has recommended an excellent hot air balloon trip - glorious views over Atherton Tableland (now sometimes referred to as Cairns Highlands). High takeoff rate as very rarely cancelled because of wind. Early start though, pickup in Cairns is about 4.45am. Take off is near Mareeba, which is only about 35 mins from Kuranda. As this leaves most of the rest of the day free its very easy to combine with Kuranda Scenic Train and Skyrail. Champagne Balloon (30 min AU$145; 60 minute AU$235) flights are slightly less expensive than Hot Air's (AU$155 30 mins; AU$255 for 60 mins). Insurance levy on Champagne is AU$20pp - Hot Air is AUD$25).

therenaissanceman Dec 19th, 2004 01:56 PM

Thanks for all the great info. You seem so knowledgeable I have a couple of other questions.
Paul S.- We've heard that out of Alice Springs there is something called Take A Camel to Dinner, where you go by bus to a farm and then ride a camel to their restaurant. Is there such a thing and is as fun as it sounds?
Alan, etc.- Is there a place to get discount tickets in Sydney on the day of a performance, as there is in many cities. Events seem expensive at the
Sydney Opera House, but maybe there are discount possibilities.
Jim W.

Judy_in_Calgary Dec 19th, 2004 02:40 PM

Jim, I went on a camel ride (about 4 hours, as I recall) in the countryside outside of Melbourne. My butt was stiff afterwards, but it was a great experience all the same. I was so glad to have done it.

I have not been to Alice Springs, however.

johhj_au Dec 19th, 2004 03:16 PM

could be pushing it for opera house though.

the opera house tour runs on the hour.

Alan Dec 19th, 2004 05:42 PM

Johhj has said it all about the half-price tickets; for a while this was a popular way to see shows in Sydney, but over the last three or four years, the "half" gradually went up to around "two-thirds", and many of the promoters wouldn't participate anyway. Consequently, when you do find the booth (inside a shop in York St, near Market St), you will find that (unlike tkts in NYC)you won't have to queue.

I have never seen an Opera House show on halftix anyway. The Opera House runs its own race. You may be able to talk to them about standing room or last-minute returns, but I haven't had any joy with either for several years. And be warned: the very cheapest seats at the Opera House really are quite dire: the Concert Hall is vast, and there are only a few cheapies, most of which should come supplied with binoculars; the smaller Opera Theatre has "limited vision" seats, but, before you buy, ensure that you will learn exactly WHAT you won't see; some are better than others (if they offer you a side box, take the BACK row -- there are only two rows, I think -- because then you can stand whenever you feel like it, and miss less).

Paul_S Dec 20th, 2004 01:34 AM

Hi Jim,

Yes you can do this but at this time of year I am not sure that you would enjoy the experience, to be brutally honest with you it is hotter than hades here at this time of year and the last thing I would want to do is sit around in the bush with the flies and the heat and the dust and try and eat a meal. Our daytime temps have been exceeding 110 degrees.

I recommend making a visit to our Alice Springs Desert Park which has a reasonable animal show. Also go to the reptile house which is near the old Flying Doctor building in town.



Paul_S Dec 20th, 2004 03:10 AM

Hi Jim,

If you are keen to do the "take a camel to dinner" then I know that you will probably have a good time and it is an experience that is for sure. It is just hard to recommend activities hear in Alice at this time of year due to the heat and flies etc. If you are used to dry hot regions then none of the above will be an issue for you, however if you are from a milder temperate region then it is going to knock you for a six.



Peteralan Dec 22nd, 2004 09:20 PM

Similarly to what Alan suggests in Newtown, there are lots of good, reasonably priced restaurants in Glebe Point Road, Glebe....walking distance from Sydney Uni.Have fun!

Neil_Oz Dec 22nd, 2004 09:42 PM

And if you head towards the city centre from the university, 1 km or less - along Broadway, which becomes George Street, and take a left turn more or less opposite Central Station (a large sandstone building with clock tower on your right) you'll find a large Chinatown offering a wealth of choices.

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