Finally!!! Trip Booked To OZ!!!

Old Mar 29th, 2004, 11:56 AM
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Finally!!! Trip Booked To OZ!!!

finally, we booked our trip to oz for september, 2004. i am going with a pal of mine, two single girls against the world,haha.
we'll be in sydney for 4 nights, cairns 4 nights and melbourne 4 nights. any help on what the weather may be like at this time of year in each city. are there any must do's as well? not very athletic/adventurous, not much of a walker/hiker,haha. i can't swim,i have a fear of drowning, but i really want to see the reef. heard that quicksilver has a semi-submersible vehicle. any suggestions? in melbourne we want to drive the great ocean road,or would you suggest a bus tour? any helpful advice would be greatly appreciated. also, i haven't travelled extensively, but what would you say will be the biggest difference i will encounter coming from the u.s.? foodwise, etc. will there be any american food restaurants? maybe that's a dumb question, but i thought i'd ask.
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Old Mar 29th, 2004, 01:50 PM
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Hi, highness67!

Unlewss you get well away from the capital cities and the tourist centres, practically ALL you will see are American-type restaurants. Some of the Burger Kings are called "Hungry Jacks", and Wendy's don't sell hot food (just shakes, donuts and sundaes). There are also a lot of Asian restaurants, many in multi-booth complexes: Thai is currently very popualr, at least in Sydney, and there are whole suburbs where nearly every shop is a Vietnamese restaurant.

The weather in Sydney will be mainly dry, but in the afternoons it will often become very windy. The winds are unlikely to be cold, however, as nowadays the spring weather in Sydney starts in August.

While in Sydney, make sure you take a day trip (even better, overnight stops) to the Blue Mountains and Canberra. If possible, extend your stay in Sydney by a day or two and cut back Melbourne.

I don't think you'll encounter much difference at all in the general "mise-en-scene" from what you are used to in the US. Of course, I guess that depends on WHERE in the US you come from -- we're not as bustly and harried as New Yorkers, but we're not quite as laid back as, say, Abilene or South Dakota, either (but we like to think we are). You will probably note a greater diversity of cultures in Sydney and Melbourne than you are expecting, which is great if you can make up your mind to eschew the McDonald's and the Burger Kings and instead try some of our Northern Indian or Lebanese or Cambodian or Portuguese restaurants. But you'll find the same movies showing as you left behind in your home town (only more expensive), the same TV shows (a hotel without a TV set is a distinct asset) and the same suburban shopping malls with exactly the same stores as back home (only they will be cheaper, as our dollar is still worth less than three-quarters of yours).

Most Americans love Australia, and a common comment is that we are like you used to be twenty-five years ago, so for Americans it's a bit like travelling back to their childhood. The only complaints we ever seem to see on this forum are from people who are used to being waited on hand-and-foot in five star hotels, and they seem to think that we are sometimes terribly slack, as we don't "snap to it" in the way they are used to (their complaints, I think, say more about them than about us). So you would do well to approach us with a more "how ya going, mate, can you give me a hand?" attitude than to hold out a five spot and expect us to run. You won't need to tip, except in hotels run by US chains and populated mainly by US tourists, and at some up-market restaurants.

I think you'll have a great time here, so welcome!
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Old Mar 29th, 2004, 03:12 PM
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Here are some of the main ways in which Australia is different from North America (perhaps you already know these things but, in case you don't, here they are):

* Drive on left hand side of road. (Break and gas pedal are in the same positions as in North America, but indicator and windshield wiper typically are on opposite sides. At first you'll find yourself switching on your windshield wipers when you intend to signal a turn.)

* NO TURN ON RED LIGHT! THIS IS NOT PERMITTED!

* The floor above the ground floor is called the 1st floor, two floors above ground is called the 2nd floor, and so on. The elevator button for ground floor may be 0 (for Zero), M (for Main), G (for Ground) or something like that. The elevator button for the floor above ground is 1, for two floors above ground it's 2, and so on.

* The main course is not called an entree, as in North America. In Australia, entree means starter or hors d' oeuvres.

* Ethnic restaurants (Chinese, Italian, Greek, etc.) in Australia are rather similar to their North American counterparts. (As Alan indicated, there are plenty of ethnic restaurants.) Australia's "mainstream" restaurants also are similar to North America's "mainstream" restaurants. (I think Alan said something along those lines too.) You can expect to find steak, chicken, fish, quiche, etc., on the menu of a regular restaurant, as is the case in the U.S. The one dish that you'll find is much more prevalent in Australia than in the U.S. is lamb.

* In general, restaurant food is more expensive in Australia than it is in North America. There are discussion threads here at Fodors on how to find reasonably priced meals in Australia.

Hope this helps.
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Old Mar 29th, 2004, 04:32 PM
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I've heard Americans say Australia is more "British" than they expected, and British visitors say it's more "American". Whatever, while there's a cultural difference it's pretty minor by world standards.

I've also met Americans who think of Australia as a bit of a throwback to a (largely imagined) idyllic American past, but I think that view is more common among people who haven't actually been here. Australia is, and always has been, one of the most urbanised countries on earth, and we have all the pluses and minuses that entails. The minuses are more we locals' problem than tourists' though. So I'm not sure about that 25-year gap theory, Alan - in the US I certainly didn't feel that I'd been pitched forward 25 years, or even 5.

Highness67, the advice from Alan and Judy is pretty spot-on. I'm also baffled as to why you'd want to travel all this way to eat American food, though, unless you're from the South and fade away to a shadow without grits for breakfast (and that's one of the few dishes you might have trouble finding anyway).

If there's a unique Australian cuisine it's "Mod Oz", but that's just an east-west fusion (or as someone called it "confusion") style influenced by our proximity to SE Asia. There are many areas in the major cities where you can get good Asian, European and Middle Eastern eats. And as Alan says, if you need an injection of sugar, salt and fats there's always the fast-food crew.

Hard liquor, smokes and petrol are more expensive here, but not ruinously so. Don't forget that most restaurants will let you bring your own wine along.

Someone else will have to help you out with the Reef and the GOR. You'll find heaps to do, anyway, and don't worry - most Australians aren't all that athletic or adventurous either.

As a Canberran and a former Blue Mountains resident I like Alan's side-trip suggestions, but as Canberra is a 300-km/3-hour drive you'd have only a few hours here before you'd have to get back on the bus. Both places will be cooler than Sydney in September, though, so take a sweater.

And yes, we've been using metric measurements since the 1970s, so most of the younger generation hasn't much idea of what a mile or a pound looks like.

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Old Mar 29th, 2004, 04:50 PM
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Some of your questions have been answered. As we jsut returned from OZ and have travelled to both Sydney and Melbourne, I too would spend more time in Sydney. It's a great city. The great Ocean Road is wonderful. I'd rent a car and drive out to the 12 apostles. We saw Koala bears in trees along the road. The weather was great both in Sydney and Melbourne. We found Australia to be fairly expensive, even with the exchange rate being what it is now. Food is nor cheap. We ate mostly in Pubs or BYO's. We stayed in motels for the most part and the price was for the most part about what we would pay in the states. (and we live in Alaska). Coffee was about $2.00 (U>S.) a cup. Tipping was not expected and that in itself saved us a lot of money. You will loveit. I can hardly wait to return. The people are so friendly and helpful. Go to the Blue Mts. and see The three sisters and Echo Point. Beautiful!! You will love Australia.
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Old Mar 29th, 2004, 08:20 PM
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highness 67 - I've booked thousands of trips to the reef out of Cairns and have lost count of the number of visitors who think because they can't swim or are weak swimmers they won't snorkel. They change their minds when they see how simple it is. It's so easy - fins keep you afloat and if you take Ocean Spirit out of Cairns to Michaelmas Cay you'll find really easy snorkelling. You just you ease yourself into water gradually from the sand cay, rather than clambering off a boat or pontoon. The crew are fully trained to help and if you do "wimp" out they have a semisubmersible and glass bottom boat.
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Old Mar 30th, 2004, 10:22 AM
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thanks for all the helpful suggestions, and yes Neil Oz i am from the south, but i HATE grits,ugh

i can't wait to drive the great ocean road, seeing koalas in the trees on the way would be WONDERFUL!!!!

any more helpful hints would be very much appreciated.
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Old Mar 30th, 2004, 12:16 PM
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Highness67, don't count on seeing koalas in the trees anywhere outside of a Wildlife Park; pre-conservation-era hunters and the regular bushfires have decimated the population in the last century. However, kangaroos and emus -- that's a different story.

What's wrong with grits? After most US breakfasts, which to non-US tastes are awfully sweet, I found grits an interesting change! You know, Sydney has its own "special" food, too (no, not Foster's). As part of your initiation to the city, you must stroll out to Woolloomooloo (at the back of the Art Gallery) and try one of the massive meat pies from Harry's Cafe de Wheels. This has been a Sydney icon for fifty years, since the days of the old Stadium shows with "young" singers like Johnnie Ray, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole, all of whom could be spotted down there trying the local cuisine.
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Old Mar 30th, 2004, 12:32 PM
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we'll be in cairns for 4 nights. any suggestions for activities other than the reef? i think we'll spend 1 day at the reef, but i am at a loss for the other 2-3 days. also, besides the great ocean road in melbourne, what else would you suggest for the 2-3 days. we are confirmed in melbourne for 4 nights according to our package deal.
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Old Mar 30th, 2004, 12:52 PM
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Take a day trip to Cape Trib in Daintree World Heritage Rainforest, go to Kuranda via train/and Skyrail; try white water rafting; see Tjakupai Aboriginal Park; go sea kayaking off Fitzroy Island; take a waterfall circuit trip to Atherton Tablelands; spend a day at Undara Lava Tubes; take a wildlife spotting nocturnal trip; try hot air ballooning; go rainforest hiking in Wooroonooran National Park; ride a horse in the nearby "outback" or just go to a beach.
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Old Mar 30th, 2004, 01:07 PM
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Hello Highness67,

CAIRNS

1 day - GBR

1 day - Daintree River, rainforest, Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge (guided day tour with Trek North)

1 day - Sky Rail to Kuranda on the Atherton Tableland

1 day - lazy beach day

MELBOURNE

1 day - downtown Melbourne (take free City Circle Tram to get oriented, visit Queen Victoria Market which, however, is closed Mondays and Wednesdays, visit National Gallery of Victoria on St. Kilda Road and take the 1-1/2 hour guided tour through it)

1 day - Great Ocean Road (it would be ideal to do it over 2 days, overnighting somewhere en route, but it sounds as if you're committed to an accommodation package in Melbourne; if that is so you'll only be able to drive about as far as Lorne and back in 1 day; be sure to visit Erskine Falls just behind Lorne)

1 day - Dandenong Ranges (William Ricketts Sanctuary and Rhodedendron Gardens near Olinda OR Puffing Billy steam train)

1 day - Healesville Nature Sanctuary and a Yarra Valley winery

If it rains while you're in Melbourne, which it very easily could do in September, the GOR won't come even close to being as beautiful as it is in sunshine. Suggest you forego rural activities and undertake more explorations of downtown Melbourne if you encounter wet weather while you're there.
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Old Mar 30th, 2004, 04:07 PM
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Highness67, a clarification ... when I said "as Canberra is a 300-km/3-hour drive you'd have only a few hours here before you'd have to get back on the bus" I wasn't saying "don't visit", just that you'd really need to overnight to make the trip worthwhile. However, it really depends on your interests - Canberra is a great place to learn about Australia's history and culture, and is a beautiful city in its own right, but if you'd rather party, best stick with Sydney.

A Southern girl who hates grits? For shame, for shame. Next you'll be telling me you don't eat boiled peanuts. (Actually I didn't mind grits either - but then, I hate oatmeal porridge.)
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Old Mar 31st, 2004, 08:20 AM
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I can recommend a good place to stay in Cairns. The folks at Lilybank B&B made me feel like a family member rather than a guest. (http://lilybank.com.au - I think) It's just a few minutes from the airport, but you won't be hearing noise from it. A geko may greet you on the way to the pool, and you will almost certainly see FLOCKS of sulfer crested cockatoos going over. Breakfast was included in the price, and was great. You could probably run most of the day on it.

There are a couple of outfits that have semi-submersibles to see the reef. Pat at Lilybank helped book me on one, and it helped save the trip. (I am a certified diver, but it was too rough to dive. I *could* see some of the reef in the semi-sub, however.)

In Sydney I stayed at Simpsons of Potts Point (http://simpsonspottspoint.com.au). This was more expensive, and sort of liket staying with a rich relative. It was great fun there to check on my email while sipping a complimentary sherry.
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Old Apr 10th, 2004, 09:24 PM
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thanks so much for all your help!!! just a quick question though. i heard recently that the skyway cable car in the blue mtns is closed due to renovations. i really wanted to do this, but can anyone confirm if this is the case?
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Old Apr 11th, 2004, 12:53 AM
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Yep, this is its last weekend, as it is to be replaced by a new hi-tech model. I don't know how long the delay between the removal of one and the launching of its replacement will be. However, there are two other rides leaving from the same point, and while they are not the same as the skyway, they are still good -- in fact, I always think that the Scenic Railway levaes the skyway for dead.
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Old Apr 11th, 2004, 04:25 AM
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While you're in Melbourne you should go and see the Fairy Penguins at Philip Island. The island is about 2-3 hours drive south on the eastern side of the bay. The penguins come ashore every evening at dusk to their homes in the sand dunes. Penguins are less than a foot high and very shy little animals. A very popular thing to do in Melbourne area, so be prepared for a crowd.

I've driven the GOR and it's a spectacular view. It's on the western side of the peninsular and begins just a bit south of Geelong, (pronounced Jellong). You should have two people registered to drive the vehicle. I've seen it twice and because I was driving each time, my view was limited. So if your friend and you could each drive one way the other could do the gaze.

The Twelve Apostles are near the south west end of the GOR. The coastline there is mostly sandstone and the apostles are giant monoliths that stand a little away from the coast and are yet to be worn away by the pounding of the ocean. It's a very rugged and beautiful coastline.

I live in Sydney and September weather is good. It's not cold and not hot. Someone on this site said it's windy in Sept, but I beg to differ. We do have our windy days but it's not uncomfortably so, and we don't have too many of them.

You must see the Blue Mountains. They're blue because of the eucalyptus oil that floats in the air. My favourite place in the mountains is not Echo Point or the Three sisters at Katoomba, although they're still a must see. My favourite place is a few miles west of there. It's called Blackheath. I go there often and camp the night to see the sun come up over the valley. The spot is called "Govetts Leap" and there are lots of walking tracks around there. Yes the Cable car will still be out of action in Sept, unfortunately. A new one is coming from Europe but won't be running until November, last I heard.

Hope you enjoy your trip.
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