First Trip to Australia

Feb 1st, 2010, 05:55 AM
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First Trip to Australia

Hi. I am thinking of making my first trip to Australia. I am a 44 year old man from New York City. I'll be traveling solo and this is my first international trip. I would be leaving NYC on March 19, and leaving Australia on April 3 or 4. So I have a few general questions to start, as I have only just begun doing research.
1. Do I have enough time to make it a worthwhile trip, or would I want to come a different time? Traveling there is really 2 full days I think, as I would be crossing the international date line.
2. My main interests are: Experiencing local culture; wildlife; nature; scenery; people. I am active and fit, so open to most activities. While I would not enjoy laying on a beach all day, I would enjoy walking along the beach and coast.
3. I love to drive, so am open to exploring by renting a car.
4. I tend to get terrible sea sickness, so snorkeling or taking a boat to the GReat Barrier Reef is very likely out of the question (unless it is still a good place to visit). I understand the same general area has rainforests
5. Would I want to concentrate on 2 or 3 areas? Like Sydney as one of them, and maybe Cairns or Melbourne or Ayers Rock as another? Or going to Tasmania or New Zealand as another.

That's all I have for now. Thanks!
StuQ is offline  
Feb 1st, 2010, 03:01 PM
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Hi StuQ,

You will have approximately 14 days in Oz, so you can probably see three different cities and/or areas. Of course, 21 days would be much better. But, yes, you can have a worthwhile trip in this amount of time!

"3. I love to drive, so am open to exploring by renting a car." You don't want to do this. The distances are too vast. Flying is the way to go when time is as short as yours.

"4. I tend to get terrible sea sickness, so snorkeling or taking a boat to the GReat Barrier Reef is very likely out of the question (unless it is still a good place to visit). I understand the same general area has rainforests" Not necessarily. The catamaran we took through Quicksilver was extremely smooth. Take a look at what their web site says about seasickness:
"Will I get seasick? Hopefully not. The wavepiercer to the Outer Reef gives the smoothest possible ride in all sea conditions. Where there is motion whether a car, bus, plane or boat, some people will suffer from motion sickness. Specially packaged tablet and liquid form antihistamines are available onboard at $3.50 each. Currently, we offer ginger as a natural alternative motion sickness medication on a complimentary basis. To be effective, motion sickness medications should be taken immediately on boarding."

"5. Would I want to concentrate on 2 or 3 areas? Like Sydney as one of them, and maybe Cairns or Melbourne or Ayers Rock as another? Or going to Tasmania or New Zealand as another."
You could do three areas, but skip New Zealand as there would not be enough time.

Vic's travels:
Orlando_Vic is offline  
Feb 1st, 2010, 08:35 PM
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StuQ, first, buy a good guide book, which will answer most of your questions in a more coherent way than otherwise and illustrate all realistic options.

Second, I agree that a maximum of three locations is best, and flying is definitely the way to go for a short trip. On long distances it's also likely to be cheaper than driving if you shop carefully.

And in the time available you would be badly short-changing both countries by trying to see both Australia and New Zealand.

While I don't suffer from seasickness I don't underestimate it after sharing a whale-watching boat with about 200 Japanese tourists, almost all of them a ghastly green colour and repeatedly throwing up. They were joined in their misery by my daughter. Had the seas not been rough that day OR had we asked the tour company's advice the day before, and exercised our option of getting a refund, it wouldn't have been a problem.

It seems nobody had told the poor bloody Japanese, who tend to get ripped off badly by their own tour companies. I was also disgusted to find that the boat's safety lecture was delivered in English only, with not even a running translation by the Japanese tour guide, meaning the message was received by perhaps 10% of their passengers. Hopefully the company has mended its ways (sorry, end of whinge).

Anyway, I'd rely on local advice.

As I'm sure you know Uluru (on the grounds of respect for the local people I prefer that name to "Ayers Rock") is a very long way from the east coast and the time of year should influence your decision - specifically, avoid summer. Whether it's worth the time and trouble at any time of the year is amatter of personal taste.

As a suggestion, Sydney, Cairns and Tasmania would show you three very different faces of Australia. You don't need to snorkel to enjoy Far North Queensland (although obvioiusly it helps). The world heritage listed Daintree rain forest, and the Atherton Tablelands just inland, are a great introduction to the flora and fauna of tropical Queensland.

At the other end of the spectrum, Tasmania's pristine cool-temperate climate and history are big drawcards - as are the food and wines. This is one place where a car hire makes sense, but you might like to check out escorted options. Again, climate is an issue but a New Yorker won't find winter there much of a challenge at all.

And in the middle is Sydney, which is a great city with a lot to do in its own right.

A good resource is the official tourism website, which will link you to the various state and territory sites.

For domestic air fares check Qantas' Aussie Airpass and all three airlines' websites - Qantas, Virgin Blue and Jetstar, especially for sales closer to your arrival.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2010, 04:49 AM
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Hi StuQ,
If seasickness is a problem, you can fly by helicopter or 'flying boat' to some reef destinations. Most reef boats are big enough to have stabilising equipment so you probably won't have a problem.
Your time is short, so concentrate on no more than 2 or 3 places. Some of my single friends (all ages, even seniors) who travel on their own stay at youth hostels for companionship. There is a good hostel in Port Douglas, close to the crocodile area and the beautiful Daintree River area of North Queensland.
Suggest a stay in Sydney, then go north to Queensland because the weather down south is cooling - although still great for bushwalking.
Gold Coast (Coolangatta / Surfers' Paradise - on NSW / Queensland border) has lots of cheaper hotels and is a city on the surf beach with lots of night life if that is what you want. Mountains to east of coast have beautiful rainforest - one day drive from Surfers or stay in National Park.
Much further north, the reef islands are fantastic(usually more expensive) or Cairns & further north. Distances are great so don't attempt to drive all the way. Fly to city and hire a car each time.
Idea 1.
Fly to Cairns, hire a car. 1 hr north to Pt Douglas on bitumen road which has lovely coastal views.
Slightly south of Port Douglas, visit Hartleys Crocodile Farm and go on one of their boats to see the reptiles.
Have breakfast with the birds at the wildlife sanctuary in Pt Douglas.
Travel another hour (approx)further north to Mosman Gorge National Park. Make sure that you allow time to walk the trails through the park and swim in the river (no crocs there). Most people only go as far as the car park.
Take a trip on one of the many boats that go to outer Great Barrier Reef or fly via helicopter. Snorkelling is a must because the fish colours are magic.
Idea 2.
Still Queensland, but central coast
Visit Whitsundays
There are many islands in the Whitsundays and access is from coastal towns such as Gladstone, Proserpine, Airlie Beach or Townsville.
One of the best is Hayman Island with excellent accommodation, but this is expensive. Access from capital cities via Hamilton Island or Airlie Beach. Look for the cheap deals and you may get a package deal with flights from Sydney to Hamilton Is and launch to Hayman. There are many places to snorkel around the island, but it may be lonely for a single person.
Club Med Resort at Lindeman Island on the reef may be a good option for single travellers.

Central Australia - if you have time, but probably left to another time --- unless you just want to fly in and out. You can fly into Alice Springs and go by bus or drive to Uluru, or you can fly into both. If you go to AS, try to get to the Desert Park - wonderful collection of Australian animals from desert regions -all in natural surroundings.
Weather in March, April will still be warm and in Queensland you may have some rain - but it will be warm rain!! May be a bit hot for too much strenuous activity in the Red Centre.

Good time of year to visit - not hot, not cold. Around Sydney there is plenty to occupy you for weeks. You could also go for a log day trip to the Blue Mountains out west.

Good luck with your plans!
olivetta is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2010, 07:16 PM
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Thanks for the tips. My initial thoughts are Sydney and Cairns right now. I like the idea of going to Daintree Rainforest. Also the Blue Mountains by Sydney.
What is the draw of Ayers Rock? I see it is a very spiritual place. But is it worth the time and expense to get there and back.
Obviously one cannot experience all Australia is in 13 days. That's like going to NYC and Boston and Washington DC, when there is TExas and the central plains that would give a whole different flavor of the US. But I would like to experience Australia...the people, the culture, and the enviroment
StuQ is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2010, 11:36 AM
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You're on the right track, StuQ.

Actually you can get a great insight into Australia's history, culture, politics, flora and inland environment in the national capital, Canberra, which is an easy 300 km/3-hour drive SW of Sydney. The obvious targets are the National Gallery, National Museum, Parliament House and Old Parliament House, National Portrait Gallery, Australian War Memorial (a superb museum experience), Botanic Gardens (100% native flora with many climatic regions repesented), Screensound (National Film & Sound Archives) and much more.

I wouldn't recommend a 1-day coach tour from Sydney - DIY with an overnight stay is best if you have no qualms about driving on the left side of the road. But make sure you buy a street map on the way into town - there are a couple of big roundabouts (traffic circles) that can bedevil visitors.

A short drive south into the mountains (the Brindabellas) is the Namadgi National Park, classic inland Australian scenery and a chance to check out some of the local wildlife.

Canberra is also the centre of a rapidly-developing cool climate wine region and has plenty of good places to eat too (and many that aren't particularly good value I have to add - seek advice).
Neil_Oz is offline  
Feb 4th, 2010, 01:38 PM
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Great options for a driver, Stu. Neil´s Canberra suggestion is a good one. If you´re feeling adventurous, you could combine that with a cross country drive to take in the Blue Mountains, Jenolan Caves and something of the Central West.

There are some interesting and attractive towns in the Southern Highlands, between Sydney and Canberra. Bowral, Moss Vale, Mittagong. Berrima´s getting a bit twee for my taste, but it´s a pretty little village just the same. Just take the Mittagong turn off from the Highway and wander through some of these places. You can rejoin the highway from any of them.

If you´re interested in antiquarian books, by any chance, Berkeloews is right on your path and an absolute gem.

I find the Google function for routes, distances and driving times quite useful.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 04:18 AM
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StuQ, you ask what is the attraction of Ayers Rock
It is a unique monolith set in the middle of a red desert which changes its colours with the intensity of sunlight. It is a spiritual place for Australia's aboriginal population. Uluru is massive and man looks insignificant beside it. Our deserts are vast and from that perspective, unique. The interest probably relates to the wildlife & vegetation which can survive in such dry areas and the overall scenery - arid but beautiful.

However, to see Uluru and Alice Springs as well as Cairns, the Daintree and Sydney plus your travel time, you would not have time to really enjoy the experience. It would be too rushed. Everyone is different, but I feel you need to get out and walk around places, especially the rainforest. There is so much to see just in Sydney, Cairns and Pt Douglas.
For example, from Cairns you could go by rail to Kuranda and the Barron Falls up on the Atherton Tablelands. There are aboriginal cultural sites and exhibitions around Cairns. You could fly out for the day on the 'mail plane' which delivers a postal service to small towns on Cape York Peninsula. It stops at many tiny places and you would have an aerial view of the Queensland outback. Other things such as game fishing may also interest you.
These, together with all of the things to see near Pt Douglas and lots and lots in Sydney could keep you busy for weeks!!!

But if you want a quick fly-over, you could just take a cursory look and move on. Remember that our distances, like those in USA are huge. Cairns is roughly 1720 km from Brisbane and Bris is approx 1000 km from Sydney.

We have the reverse problem to you because we are coming to USA / Canada and trying to fit in a year's travel in a few weeks.
olivetta is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 05:29 AM
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I'm getting ready to make my 7th trip to OZ in just one month. The one place I've visited on every single trip is Sydney (and yes, there is plenty to keep you busy).

The one place that I've visited almost as much as Sydney is Cairns! I think I've been there 5 times. I think you are right to select those two locations for your visit. I've been to Uluru twice, the second time was because my travelling companion had never been there, otherwise I would not have returned. That said, it was worth it to go once. Ayres Rock is pretty awesome, standing alone in that vast outback emptiness. In 1988 I tried the climb; now it is frowned upon, and I can appreciate that.

The skyride (assuming it is still operating) coming down from the mountain town of Kuranda, to the coast north of Cairns (it glides above the rainforest) is awesome! I've done that one twice! Love the town of Kuranda, although over the years it has gotten a lot more touristy than my first visit in 1988. The ride up to Kuranda on the old train is a nice ride. Train up, skyride back down. Nice combination!!

I also enjoyed the Daintree, and Canberra (I love the parliament building, which is a berm... the common people can walk ON the politicians rather than the politicians walking all over the

I've also been to Tasmania. You could fly down to Hobart, rent a car, and drive around for 4 or 5 days and see quite a bit, if you were determined to see 3 locations.

My upcoming trip will be a short one, visiting only SYD for a wedding; but friends and I will take an overnight trip out to the Blue Mountains and the Jenolan Caves. This would be an option for you, for your Sydney time.

Have a great trip! Going solo is no problem. Three of my six trips thus far have been solo, and my upcoming one is also a solo trip.

simpsonc510 is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 04:21 PM
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Stuq, it seem that nobody has suggested Melbourne/Victoria to you. a lovely city with arguably the best dining,& is simply lovely in autumn. A relativly small state it is very easy to drive around, there mountains ,beaches lovely countryside, not to mention the deservedly famous Great Ocean Road drive.Tasminia is only 1 hour flight away,or 10 hour ferry,but I don`t think that would appeal. again Tas. is tiny and very easy to drive,fablous scenery, food,&people.
Whereever you go in Aust you will love it.
Susielou is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 04:44 PM
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Thanks for all the tips. Here is what I am leaning towards right now. I am not "feeling" having to do all the flying once I get to Sydeny. So I am thinking of my first several days in Sydney and the area, including the Blue Mountains. then flying to Melbourne. I love to drive, so I would rent a car and do the Great Ocean Road. And then spend 3-4 days driving back to Sydney, stopping at small towns along the way. My first look at a rental car for a week, plus dropping it off in Sydney looks to be around $450-500 US.
Is anyone here form the states? Is it easy to adapt to and get used to driving on the other side of the road?
StuQ is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 05:52 PM
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Driving on the "wrong side" takes some getting used to. I drove in rural areas, in Tasmania and on the north island of New Zealand. Those first few turns will be a problem, but once you get used to it, it's not a big deal. We had a stick shift car, and I had to shift w/my left had... that was interesting!

You will have a great time, really. I personally enjoy Adelaide more than Melbourne... but that's just me. I have nothing against Melbourne.
simpsonc510 is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 07:46 PM
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I can talk about driving on the "wrong side" but from the reverse perspective of an Australian driving in North America.

We found the first few days felt a little odd (getting out of Boston was our first experience), but we adapted pretty quickly. The fact that the driver's position is on the other side of the car actually helps to remind you that you're in another space, so to speak.

Picking up on simpsonc510's comment, I recommend an auto shift, because it's one less thing to think about. Obviously a GPS will be a good idea too, mostly for getting in an out of Melbourne.

I have no magic remedies, the pointers below are just to alert you to a few things that have the potential to bring you undone if you don't pay attention.

* When turning onto a road with no other traffic to remind you of which lane you should be in you may unwittingly revert to old habits. This may happen when emerging from a car park, or just on a lonely country road.

* In such situations your instinct will be to look to the left for approaching traffic - look right, LOOK RIGHT!

* You're most likely to make a mistake if you're distracted, e.g. by trying to spot road signs.

* The same advice applies when you're on foot and about to cross the street - LOOK RIGHT!

* If you encounter a roundabout (traffic circle), stay LEFT - i.e. you'll negotiate it in a clockwise direction.

* Facing a red light at an intersection and planning to turn right, the default rule you're accustomed to is stopping, then being allowed to turn against the light when it's safe to do so. This is a sensible rule which we do NOT apply in Australia. Here, the default rule is that you have to sit and wait for the light to turn green unless a "Left turn on red permitted (etc.)" sign says otherwise.

* You'll find a lot that's familiar though. Australian drivers behave pretty much the same as American drivers. Australian service (gas) stations look the same but don't have any full-service facilities and don't ask you to pay before you fill the tank (in fairness that didn't happen to us much in the States). Australian motels, supermarkets, department stores etc. look and feel much the same.

In general we reminded ourselves that many thousands of people go through the same transition for the first time every day somewhere - how hard can it be? Keep saying to yourself "If that idiot can do it, I certainly can."

An unrelated thought - you don't have to tip anybody, although some Australians may top up a restaurant bill by a few dollars (no more than 10%, and then only after being lubricated by at least a bottle of red). All those people receive a living wage.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 09:57 PM
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That's a great plan, Stu. Lovely countryside, and a treat for someone who enjoys driving. Just be aware that you need to pull off the road into parking bays and walk a little way to see the prime spots along the Great Ocean Road, as sand dunes block the view from the road. And, take a jacket - it can get very windy and chilly down there at any time of the year.

And don't worry about driving on the left. If you're a competent driver, you'll master it without too much hassle. After all, we and the UK folk have to do it just about every time we step off home soil. Neil's tips are right on the money.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Feb 6th, 2010, 04:23 AM
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As an American,I had to learn to drive on the opposite side of the road when we moved to Australia for a few years and Neil's suggestions are spot on. You may notice that your rental car has a sticker on the dashboard reminding you to "Look Right", so hopefully that will help.
Also, the windshield wiper lever and the turn indicator lever will be on opposite sides of the steering wheel from what you are accustomed. When you stop turning on the windshield wipers every time you want to indicate a turn, then you are on the road (so to speak) to mastering driving on the left!
longhorn55 is offline  
Feb 6th, 2010, 11:47 AM
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As an aside - forget about navigating by highway numbers. I quickly became a fan of the American highway numbering system (even-numbered roads E-W, odd-numbered roads N-S, numbered exits off interstates etc). There may be a system to Australia's highway numbering system, but if so I've never solved the puzzle. That means you use names, not numbers, and follow destination signs. Nobody I know refers to the Hume Highway (Sydney-Melbourne inland) as Highway 31, for example. This advice is less applicable within some cities - newer Sydney roads or example are known as the M4, M7 etc.

For the route you have in mind, though, this shouldn't be an issue. Relax, take a road map and if possible a GPS and don't get flustered. Remind ouurself that if you get lost it's not the end of the world - people are almost always happy to give directions if needed, and your bones won't be found one day bleaching in the desert.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 08:15 PM
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Stuq ,Melb to Syd is a 10-12 hr drive up the inland Hume Hwy.Consider the Princes Hwy ,it roughly follows the coastline pretty tpwns to see are Lakes Entrance, Merimbula & just off hwy Central Tilba & Bermagui. From Batemans Bay ,IF you are keen, 3hr drive inland will get you to Canberra, our capital. From there it is 2-3 hr drive to Sydney. Enjoy your trip.
Susielou is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 03:56 AM
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I second Susielou. South of Eden (towards Melbourne) the Princes Hwy goes inland, but north of Eden takes you past the still largely unspoilt beach and fishing towns of the New South Wales south coast. For the record, Batemans Bay-Canberra is an easy 2-hour drive, Canberra-Sydney 3 hours.

An inland albeit more interesting alternative to the tedious Hume Highway is to head east from Melbourne through Bairnsdale, then head north at Cann River (Hwy 23 on the Google map - the Princes Hwy is numbered 1) through Bombala and Cooma to Canberra. You could then go east to Batemans Bay, stopping off at Jervis Bay if time permitted, then north to Sydney on the coast road.

Any of these options would expose you to a nice variety of Australian countryside and small towns, but you'd need at least two days.

And you'd be an expert in driving on the left by the time you finished.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 11:13 AM
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Thanks for the tips. Looks like I'd be in Melbourne when the Grand Prix is there. Cannot seem to avoid it. Let me lay this out, and let me know if think I should/can change it.
Arrive in Sydney on Sunday March 21. Plane arrives at 8:45 in the morning, from NYC. As I'll be tired, but wanting to stay awake the entire day, maybe a HopOn-HopOff bus, or just walk round and relax. A Beach perhaps?
Do Sydney stuff for 3 days or 4. Including the BLue Mountains.
Fly to Melbourne Thursday morning? Thursday afternoon?
Spend 2-3 days in Melbourne. Rent a car. Do the Great Ocean Road.
Drive back to Sydney over 2-4 days, stopping at cute towns along the way.
Fly back to NYC from Sydney on April 3 (Saturday) morning
StuQ is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 11:43 AM
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On your first day, you have the right idea. Fresh air, sunshine and movement are your best friends. Resist the temptation to take an afternoon nap. When you arrive at your hotel, it will probably be too early to check in. You can check your bags there and then go out to explore the city. One thing that seemed to work for us was to walk a few blocks to Circular Quay and take a ferry to Manley and back. Then we had an early dinner and went to bed around 8-9 P.M. We felt pretty good the next morning.
Orlando_Vic is offline  

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