First trip to Australia and New Zealand

Old Jan 30th, 2010, 04:15 PM
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First trip to Australia and New Zealand

My husband and I are traveling to Australia (arriving in Sydney, 3-19-10) and then flying to New Zealand (North Island, landing in Auckland, 4-6-10) We will be heading home from there on 4-10-10. This is our first venture to these distant lands. ANY and ALL advice, travel tips, do's &don'ts would be a huge help. We have several travel guides, but would like 'personal' advice. Where should we go? What should we see? For example would it be worth our time to DRIVE north to see the Great Barrier Reef (we don't want to spend the extra $$ to fly there), or should we concentrate our time in the southeast, and go to the reef the next time we visit? Would you suggest we take the time to explore Tazmania for a day or two? Trying to plan where we should spend our time both in Australia and New Zealandis proving to be a daunting task !!! Would love to avoid huge crowds (am I dreaming?) and tourist traps. What spots are over rated and what spots are totally worth our time and $$. We would love to stay longer as we realize these are huge and beautiful lands, but we are headed to Madeira,Portugal this summer (we go often,to visit my husband's family there). Are we taking BIG chances just booking a hotel in Sydney for the first few nights and then seeing where our travels take us and book rooms where we land at the end of the day?
Did we make a mistake by choosing the North Island of New Zealand instead of the South.
We both enjoy exploring cities (museums etc.) but love learning about and seeing the diversity of wildlife....
Can we swim at that time?? Need to pack accordingly if that's the case...
So many questions...so little time !!!
Thanks in advance for any advice !!!
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Old Jan 30th, 2010, 06:34 PM
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Since you only have about three days in New Zealand once you factor in flights, I wouldn't go there for this trip. Instead, use that money to fly to the Great Barrier Reef.

Lee Ann
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Old Jan 30th, 2010, 07:07 PM
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Beth
Distances in Australia are great. You don't really have the time to drive to far north Queensland for the reef, IMO. You should do things closer to Sydney, like the Blue Mountains, the Jenolan Caves, or have a look at some of the beaches to the north or south of Sydney.

The seasons are the opposite to those in the States. It will be the end of summer, entering fall. Yes, I am assuming you could swim. I will be in Sydney from 10th to 17th of March, and I've been told that we should have warm-to-maybe-hot days during my visit.

Carol
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Old Jan 30th, 2010, 08:17 PM
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Much cheaper to fly Sydney - Cairns (Virgin is offering $129 & $169 each way for March just now.)

Webjet.com is a handy website for bargain hunting.
Also suggest you register for specials on QAntas www.qantas.com.au
Virgin Blue: www.virginblue.com.au

Driving is 2700 or so kms depending on whether you take the Pacific Highway along the coast or 2500 inland.
http://maps.google.com.au/maps?f=d&s...,47.460937&z=4
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Old Jan 30th, 2010, 08:39 PM
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First, I have to agree with Lee Ann that your time and money would probably be better spent going to the Great Barrier Reef for 3 days than to New Zealand. Either island of NZ deserves much more than 3 days.
Second, the distance between Sydney and Cairns is over 1600 miles which would take a minimum of 4 days of hard driving. The flight time is 3 hours. With such a short time in Australia, I wouldn't even contemplate making that drive. I have been to the Great Barrier Reef area (Port Douglas) many times and I find it to be one of the "not-to-be-missed" places in Australia. Unless you know that you will be returning to Australia, I would certainly put this on your itinerary for this trip.
Third, you can't really explore Tasmania is a "day or two". I wouldn't recommend spending less than 5 - 7 days there and even then, you will only have time to explore part of the island.
Finally, should you decide to concentrate on a driving trip through the southeast, you can have a great vacation by making a loop from Sydney through Canberra (excellent musuems and an abundance of wildlife) to Melbourne and then returning to Sydney via the coastal route. (Or the other way around).
So, I'd recommend getting a good road map of Australia and check out the Lonely Planet series for Australia if you haven't already done so (specifically New South Wales and Victoria should you decide to concentrate on the southeast part of the country). I found the LP series to include more "out-of-the-way" locations than some of the other guidebooks.
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Old Jan 30th, 2010, 10:02 PM
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I agree with Longhorn that a Lonely Planet Guidebook would really help you plan and give you an idea of the distances. There won't be huge crowds in March, it's the beginning of Autumn here, which I think is either the shoulder or low season.

The usual places tourists want to see are: Sydney, Uluru, Kakadu, and the Great Barrier Reef (usually from Cairns or Port Douglas). Tasmania, however, would be very high up on my list of places to visit if you like walking and wildlife. But as Longhorn has already advised it can't be seen in a "day or two".


BTW when it comes to bookings for hotels etc you may need to remember that we put the day first, then the month: eg 19/3/10.
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Old Jan 31st, 2010, 06:52 PM
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I'M SO APPRECIATIVE OF ALL YOUR SUGGESTIONS. I THINK IT WOULD PROBABLY BEST FOR US TO OMIT(SADLY) OUR TRIP TO THE GREAT BARRIER REEF ON THIS UPCOMING VISIT. OUR TICKETS TO NEW ZEALAND'S NORTH ISLAND HAVE ALREADY BEEN PURCHASED, SO WE WILL MAKE THE BEST OF OUR BRIEF STAY THERE. WOULD YOU RECOMMEND BOOKING ROOMS AS WE GO ALONG? KIND OF AT THE END OF EACH DAY(IN BOTH AUSTRALIA & NZ)? VERY ANXIOUS TO SEE THE DIVERSITY OF WILDLIFE, BUT JUST AS INTERESTED IN ABSORBING THE FLAVOR AND ESSENCE OF BOTH THE PEOPLE AND THEIR CULTURES.
AND WE BOTH ENJOY 'OFF THE BEATEN PATH' ADVENTURES.
BASED ON YOUR ADVICE, WE WILL PROBABLY ALSO ELIMINATE OUR PLANS TO TRAVEL TO TAZMANIA AS WELL.IT IS PROBABLY BEST TO FOCUS ON ONE AREA AND JUST SEE AND LEARN AS MUCH AS WE CAN THERE. IT'S HARD TO GRASP THE VASTNESS OF THESE 2 LANDS...
ANOTHER QUESTION..DOES ANYONE HAVE ANY RENTAL CAR ADVICE OR TIPS...MORE DO'S & DON'TS...I WILL LISTEN TO ANY AND ALL SUGGESTIONS! AGAIN THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.
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Old Jan 31st, 2010, 07:53 PM
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Rental car tip -

The excess (deductible) in Australia can be very expensive.

If you're from the US, be sure to check with your credit card company regarding rental car coverage in Australia. My experience has been that Visa will cover your excess, while Mastercard will not.
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Old Jan 31st, 2010, 08:08 PM
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Beth, if I understand correctly, your plan to drop TaSmania and the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), will give you from your arrival in Sydney on 19th March - 6th April in Australia.
Depending on your interests, budget & travelling style, you really could do quite a lot in those 17 days.

Whilst the distances and driving times are greater than many visitors envisage, air travel is relatively cheap. That opens many options including re-visiting the idea of a trip to FNQ (Far North Queensland) for, say, 4 or 5 days if you wished. This would allow you to see the GBR, some unique rainforest and grasslands with a base of Cairns.

You could certainly spend the remaining two weeks in NSW and Victoria with, 2-3 days in Sydney then 3-4 either driving in a loop to take in Blue Mountains, Central West and Canberra.
Fly to Melbourne, hire a car and visit the Great Ocean Road, Mornington Peninsula and perhaps the Yarra Valley.

Which guide book/s are you using to give you an overview of Australia and help narrow down your interests?
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Old Jan 31st, 2010, 09:58 PM
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"It's hard to grasp the vastness of these 2 lands"

Shouldn't be - Australia is about the size of the lower 48 American states and a bit smaller than Canada or China.

I wouldn't call NZ vast exactly it's actually smaller in land area than Texas* - but it packs a lot into its size.

* Actually Australians see Texas as pretty puny. We have some much bigger states. In fact some of our cattle farms are probably bigger. And you should see the cows.
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Old Feb 1st, 2010, 01:37 PM
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Thanks AGAIN for all the helpful advice. Based on the suggestion,(as per bokhara2) we will explore the possibility of a flight north to see the Great Barrier Reef, since we have abandon the idea of driving there due to time constraints.

Do most of the car rental agencies include UNLIMITED MILES ??And we will be sure to check into deductibles etc. Melnq8 -thanks for the heads up..any other thoughts or reminders?

What about the idea of finding hotels last minute wherever we end up as we travel around??

Thanks to susan7 and bokhara2 for your specific sights to see and travel route suggestions. I've taken notes!! Any other ideas are welcome.

Do most hotel accommodations offer breakfast or, better yet are they equiped with small kitchens, and what about laundry facilities?

Anyone feel free to jump in with their thoughts on the people of both Australia and New Zealand. I've heard they are the friendliest people in the world....please tell me more! I can see they have a sense of humor (Neil_Oz)...I don't know sir...we have some HUGE farms here and we are pretty impressed by our cows too...and how does YOUR cows' milk taste?

Has anyone experienced even stronger security measures since the attempted airline bombing here in America on Christmas day? I'm concerned about the length of some of our layover time frames (not worried about us...more about our luggage finding it's way to the right planes..)I think our longest layover is 2 1/2 hours ..but we have a few short ones as well(by short I mean about an hour,on our domestic flights that is).

Feel free to jump in with more ideas ! I'm so grateful for the the useful information so far!
Beth
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Old Feb 1st, 2010, 01:49 PM
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Re your last minute hotels - you should take into consideration the Easter Break which encompasses your stay here. Directly after Easter are a couple of days of school holidays so some areas could be quite busy then and I would recommend you book your hotels particularly over Easter.
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Old Feb 1st, 2010, 02:19 PM
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If you want accomodations with a kitchen and laundry facilities, search for "serviced apartments". You will find them all over Australia and New Zealand. They have fully kitted-out kitchens and some have washers/dryers as well. As a family, we generally stayed in serviced apartments in our travels throughout Australia, and they can be great for a couple too.
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Old Feb 1st, 2010, 03:26 PM
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"(Neil_Oz)...I don't know sir...we have some HUGE farms here and we are pretty impressed by our cows too...and how does YOUR cows' milk taste?"

We know you're pretty impressed with your cows, beth ... that's why we tell jokes like this one ...


A Texan farmer goes to Australia

A Texan farmer goes to Australia for a vacation. There he meets an Aussie farmer and gets talking. The Aussie shows off his big wheat field and the Texan says, “Oh! We have wheat fields that are at least twice as large.”

Then they walk around the ranch a little, and the Aussie shows off his herd of cattle. The Texan immediately says, “We have longhorns that are at least twice as large as your cows.”

The conversation had almost died when the Texan sees a mob of kangaroos hopping through the field. He asked, “And what are those?”

The Aussie replies with an incredulous look, “Don’t you have any grasshoppers in Texas?”
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Old Feb 1st, 2010, 03:41 PM
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Most car rentals include unlimited miles, but not all, so be sure to read the fine print. You might want to take a look at APEX in NZ, they have decent rates and the added bonus of renting an older car for less $$ and a lower excess. Bayswater Car Rental is a good option in Sydney, but I'm not sure if they have a depot at the airport.

As a footnote to what longhorn has mentioned, accommodation listed as 'self-catering' generally provides kitchen facilities and access to laundry facilities. Both NZ and OZ have some wonderful self catering accommodation in the form of cottages, restored heritage buildings, restored school houses and churches, farmstays, country stays, apartments, etc. You'll also find a huge range of B&Bs, which don't fall into the self catering category, but will include breakfast.

Motels in NZ are excellent budget options - most have kitchen facilities and access to shared laundry facilities. They're
inexpensive and generally better equipped than hotels

I always enjoy searching for accommodation in OZ and NZ because there are so many interesting options, some of which are truly unique.
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Old Feb 1st, 2010, 03:47 PM
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That's funny Bokhara. Texans like to say that "everything is bigger in Texas", but I'm guessing most of them have never been to Australia.

One thing Texas and Australia do have in common - they both sell food in the shape of their respective state/country.

I didn't realize this until I saw burgers in the shape of Australia on sale in a local shop for Australia Day. I immediately thought of those proud Texans and their Texas shaped cheese.
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Old Feb 1st, 2010, 04:27 PM
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Hi Melnq8,
You might like this one ....

A very loud Texan Engineer was visiting Australia, and talking big about all of the large civil works in the USA that he was involved in. To be polite his Australian counterpart took him on a tour of some of Sydney’s larger constructions.
First he took him to Gladesville Bridge. The Texan exclaimed, "What’s that!” In reply the Australian said, "Thats the Gladesville Bridge".
"Hmmph" said the Texan, "How long and how many men did it take to build?” The Australian replied, "About 5 years with 1000 men."
The Texan replied, "Well in Texas we would've done it in 2 years with 500 men."
Next they went to the Sydney Opera House. "What's that" said the Texan. "That's the Sydney Opera House" was the reply.
"Hmmph" said the Texan, "How long and how many men did it take to build?” The Australian replied, "About 10 years with 200 men". The Texan replied "Well in Texas we would've done it in 4 years with 200 men."
By this stage the Australian was a little put out by the Texan's attitude so he decided to get some revenge, they walked around the Sydney Opera House and as they did the Sydney Harbor Bridge came into view.
Immediately the Texan exclaimed, "Wow! What's that?"
The Australian Engineer replied, "I don't know, it wasn't there yesterday."
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Old Feb 1st, 2010, 05:50 PM
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Another good one Bokhara. Texans are the source of endless jokes in my home state of Colorado. They have a reputation for incredibly bad driving on our icy, snowpacked roads. So do the Californians for that matter, but Texans are more fun to torment.
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Old Feb 1st, 2010, 05:52 PM
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Apologies Beth for hijacking your thread. I hope you're not from Texas!
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Old Feb 1st, 2010, 09:51 PM
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I know longhorn55 is sitting there stewing...

For what it's worth I've known several Australians who've spent working time in Texas, all were bowled over by the hospitality and quickly felt at home despite a lack of meeting of minds in a couple of obvious areas (gun control and capital punishment*).

Americans from other states can draw their own conclusions about Australians from that.

* Less of an issue in the temporary home of the university lecturer who taught in Austin.
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