Five Weeks in Australia in 2008: Trip Report

Old Feb 25th, 2009, 05:45 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 540
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Five Weeks in Australia in 2008: Trip Report

This is a much delayed trip report for our September/October 2008 trip Downunder. In all honesty, this was absolutely the most wonderful trip we have ever taken. In the five weeks we were there we saw such a wide variety of sights and met so many truly nice people—very welcoming and always ready to help. We felt at home in Australia from the very beginning. I spent at least 2 years planning this trip. And couldn’t have done it without help from so many people on this forum. Thank you so much!

Since our trip spanned 5 weeks, my intent is to just point out highlights from each area we visited. I don’t want this report to be too long (well, it may turn out that way, anyway—I guess we’ll see!). We are both in our early fifties (and not retired—it was very unusual for us to be able to take 5 weeks off!).

Here was out basic itinerary:

1 night in Sydney
5 nights in the Red Centre (fly into Ayers Rock and then drive to Alice Springs)
5 nights in Darwin area (1 night of these nights was actually in Kakadu National Park)
10 nights in Far North Queensland
7 nights in Tasmania
6 nights in Sydney

This breakdown worked well for us, and we felt that we got a reasonably good overview of each area. Obviously, to really see the country, you would need to spend multiple weeks at each destination. We would have loved to do that. We’ll just have to go back!

We planned our itinerary in this order because we thought the weather would work in our favor this way. And I think it did! Early September is early spring, so Uluru wasn’t too hot yet. September is still the dry season in Darwin, so that worked out as well (although it is always hot there, as far as I know). We also didn't experience much rain in Far North Queensland (although there were some high winds). The temperature there was beyond perfect. Then, by the time we got to Tasmania and Sydney, the weather was becoming a bit warmer (well—actually it was still pretty chilly in Tasmania—but we’d brought warm clothes so we were fine).

Packing: Since we were going to so many different climates (hot and humid in Darwin—and cold and wet in Tasmania), we needed to bring a wide variety of clothes. Dressing in layers worked well for us. In addition, I made sure that there were laundry facilities at most of our accommodations. This is easy to do in Australia. Some places even have washers in the rooms! That way we could bring less of everything. We actually brought hiking boots which took up a lot of packing space. But we were glad we had them when we were slogging through marshy tracks in Tasmania!!

Next: Our first night in Sydney
caligirl56 is offline  
Old Feb 25th, 2009, 05:59 PM
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 540
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
ONE NIGHT IN SYDNEY

Our flight arrived at the Sydney Airport at about 7:00 a.m. We had decided to spend one night in Sydney, mainly because I was afraid that we might somehow miss our connection to Ayers Rock if the international flight was delayed. This worked well for us—it was good to get a taste of a major city before heading out for 4 weeks in less metropolitan areas.

We had been able to use miles to upgrade to business class, so we actually weren’t very tired when we arrived. We had planned to do the Spit Bridge to Manly Scenic Walk to sort of loosen up after the long flight. And it turned out to be a wonderful idea. This was the perfect way to unwind and experience Sydney. My husband had a broken toe (the big toe)—so we walked somewhat slowly—but that just gave us more time to take in the beautiful landscape around us. It took us around 3-4 hours to walk the whole 10 kilometers.

We saw our first Kookaburra, walked through thickets of flowering banksia, passed residents running with their dogs (this made us miss our yellow lab!), tried to get used to walking on the left side of the trail (which turned out to be harder for us to get used to than driving on the left side of the road), were overawed by how blue the water is in the Sydney Harbour (much bluer than the San Francisco Bay, we think!).

Once we got to Manly, we sat and watched the surfers just off Manly Beach. Then, we got a cab to take us up to North Head to take in the view (I think you could walk this, but my husband’s toe was becoming uncomfortable). Finally, we took our first (of many) ferry rides back to the Circular Quay. One of the things that we were so impressed with in Sydney is their public transportation system. The ferries, buses and trains are all incredibly convenient. The ferries became our “best friends”—allowing us to easily criss-cross the harbour to go wherever we wanted!

We had gotten a room at the Shangri-La Hotel, because we figured if we were going to have only one night in Sydney (until the end of our trip, that is) we wanted to enjoy the view. We were not disappointed. We got to watch the lights go on at Luna Park. And in the morning we watched the morning sun touch the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Dinner was at Café Sydney. It was a Monday night, but the place was really hopping. Great food, lovely view and a wonderful atmosphere! We decided that we would very much look forward to coming back to Sydney for the final 6 days of our trip!
caligirl56 is offline  
Old Feb 25th, 2009, 07:39 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 793
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Looking forward to the rest of your trip report. I did a 6 week stay there last summer, but, aside from Sydney, did not visit any of the places you did. I was centered in two home exchanges. One on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane and the second in Brisbane itself. I spent 3 days in Fiji and 5 in Sydney before I got to the first home exchange on the Sunshine Coast. When I was in my home exchanged, I covered Fraser Island (went to the island) to Byron Bay by car and drove as far west as Toowoomba in Queensland. Just shows you how different Australian itineraries can be.

I hope to return to Australia some time to visit some of the areas you saw, but, since I love home exchanging, my trips are always a small bit at a time.

Thanks for posting.
LaurenKahn1 is offline  
Old Feb 25th, 2009, 11:16 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,848
Received 83 Likes on 5 Posts
Welcome back caligirl - looking forward to hearing lots more!
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Feb 26th, 2009, 02:09 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 446
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Caligirl – I remember your many planning threads, so it’s wonderful to hear you had such a marvellous trip.

Thanks for posting, looking forward to more – especially curious if you did get to enjoy some of the ‘local’ tucker featured in one of your questions!
FurryTiles is offline  
Old Feb 26th, 2009, 12:01 PM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 540
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
LaurenKahn--all of the places you visited are on my list for next time. While we were there, we kept getting more and more ideas for places we'd really like to see. We would have liked to go further south in Queensland.

Melnq--just wait until I get to the Tasmania section--we got some of our ideas directly off of one of your trip reports! Thank you--they were brilliant!

Fuzzy--And I am enjoying your trip report. We spent just one day in the Blue Mountains--could have stayed much longer. Sounds like you had a wonderful time there.

And yes--we got to try so many amazing foods! Pub food in Sydney, scallop pie in Tasmania, asian/australia "fusion" in Darwin.

We had an amazing pan seared crocodile with pea soup, and even managed to taste a bit of kangaroo and camel. Good crayfish and mudcrabs. And barramundi everywhere! Great fish and chips at Watson's Bay.

We got some really good crackers (for picnics) at a Woolworth's in Darwin. I forget what they were called--but nothing like I've ever gotten in the U.S. Loved the tropical fruit icecream at Daintree Icecream.

We especially loved the various versions of damper (soda bread) and dukkah (dry mixture of nuts, seeds and spices) for dipping that we found all throughout the Northern Territory.

We couldn't warm up to the Vegemite, though. It must be an acquired taste. I did take a picture of the little container of it, however!

We were amazed by the Australian hamburgers complete with a poached egg, beet and carrot. Quite a meal! My husband enjoyed tasting different ginger beers. And we tried all kinds of Australian wine. I will say this, though. Australian coffee made a tea drinker out of me. It was the one thing (besides vegemite) that we really couldn't get used to.

Wonderful baby octopus at the Fish Market in Sydney. Also in Sydney, we had some very nice slow-cooked lamb--it had been cooked for 8 hours. Very tender. Scones and cream for breakfast after "stalking" platypus along the river in Yungaburra. What could be better? Beautiful asian noodles at the Stokes Wharf in Darwin. The list could go on forever!

caligirl56 is offline  
Old Feb 26th, 2009, 01:26 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,848
Received 83 Likes on 5 Posts
Now you're making me hungry. There are scores of us (non Australians) who don't get Vegemite, but 'good on ya' for giving it a go.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Feb 26th, 2009, 04:28 PM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 540
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
3 NIGHTS IN ULURU

We arrived at the Ayers Rock Airport in the early afternoon and were immediately absorbed into a world of golden grass, soft green trees and vibrant red earth. These greens and golds are colors which would follow us throughout our entire 5-week journey through Australia--from Uluru to Tasmania—a little different look in each region, but always beautiful.

Favorite things in the Uluru area:

Sitting in the Kantju Gorge (part of “the Rock”) with some champagne and hors d’oeuvres, just before sunset, to watch the walls turn flaming red.

Enjoying dot art at the Cultural Center. We really should have bought a painting here. It seemed too early in our trip to buy anything—but they have a truly remarkable collection of authentic work.

The sunrise (looking over the outback in the opposite direction from Uluru). This was the most colorful, vibrant sunrise I have ever seen—lonely black trees silhouetted against a blaze of reds, pinks and oranges.

Visiting the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) and walking through the Valley of the Winds. This was a great way to really feel the area. Lots of interesting rock formations. Stark and stately eucalyptus trees.

Seeing our first sand goanna—and snapping pictures as it posed for us.

Seeing the Southern Cross for the first time ever.

Early morning Base Walk around Uluru. Looking at all of the variations in the Rock from close up. Seeing our first kangaroo—hopping away far in the distance.

Renting a car and practicing driving on the left—and finally getting the hang of it!! (tomorrow we drive to King’s Canyon and then Alice Springs).

Stopping at the camel farm, because we have been told that this is a good place to see galahs (pink and white parrots which like to flock together). We are absolutely thrilled to see these colorful birds. We run into some native Australians who can’t believe that we are madly snapping pictures of birds that they consider common and a bit boring. They inform us that they have galahs in their front yard in Perth—and they are, in fact, rather a nuisance. We don’t care if we look foolish—these birds are exotic to us!


Next: Kings Canyon, the Stuart Highway and Alice Springs


caligirl56 is offline  
Old Feb 26th, 2009, 06:43 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 976
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for posting this report, calligirl--I look forward to more installments. I always meant to write up my notes from our 6-week trip to many of the same places in May/June, but I haven't managed to do so, so I'll just comment on yours instead! You've jogged some fun memories--the Manly-Spit Bridge walk, the Sydney ferries. . . .

In Uluru I took a dot art workshop at the Cultural Center and also admired the real stuff. And seeing the night sky, with the Southern Cross, in full glow was unforgettable. Walking the base walk around the Rock with my husband, a geologist, was a treat. Did you notice the place where a long piece of the rock is starting to shear off but is still attached? I loved how there is so much going on there when you get up close, whereas from afar it looks so uniform.

Our reaction to the birds was the same as yours. As was the locals' reaction to our reaction. We didn't see galahs until we got to Western Australia, but we did love those crested pigeon-like birds at Uluru.

Hope to read more soon!
aprillilacs is offline  
Old Feb 26th, 2009, 06:44 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 793
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
One night the sky was full of stars and I kept pointing to some of them asking if that was the Southern Cross. No one I asked knew anything about it. LOL.
LaurenKahn1 is offline  
Old Feb 27th, 2009, 02:49 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 784
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Enjoying this thankyou caligirl but I must ask about the coffee .What was it across the nation that made you dislike it please ? Australians like to think that we make good coffee although I note that you did not get to Melbourne , the self proclaimed coffee capital of Oz !
JohnFitz is offline  
Old Feb 27th, 2009, 09:12 AM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 540
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Aprillilacs--I wished I'd had time to do the dot painting workshop. It sounded like fun. And yes, I did see that piece of rock that is sheering off. Additionally, we were fascinated by the sort of gaping gashes at various places around the circumfrence of the rock. There was one that I really wanted to photograph--but resisted the urge, because it was in one of the "no photography" zones!

JohnFitz--I should qualify my coffee comment. We LOVED the espresso coffees. Wonderful! But, with breakfast, I usually like to have a brewed cup. It's just a habit. And my husband is trying to cut back on espresso drinks because of his cholesterol.

That said--I didn't love the brewed coffee. Too many grounds in each cup. It's just my personal taste. I had the same problem in Greece. But, I did enjoy my cup of tea every morning!

And yes--I wish we could have made it to Melbourne. There was lots we would have wanted to see there. And we didn't even know that it is the coffee capital! Another reason to come back!
caligirl56 is offline  
Old Feb 27th, 2009, 10:08 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 540
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
NORTH TO ALICE SPRINGS

I was worried that this day would be too long and tiring. We left at dawn to get an early start because we wanted to visit Kings Canyon, hike around there, and then drive to Alice Springs. It turned out fine though. Not stressful at all. We took turns driving and the roads were easy, so it was very enjoyable.

Favorites:

The early morning drive to King’s Canyon. We saw our first “up close” kangaroo on the side of the road. (Note: we drove VERY carefully in the early morning, for this very reason--the last thing we wanted to do was hit an animal). Had to slow down for cattle hanging out in the middle of the highway (no fences!). We also saw three feral camels wandering just off the side of the road. They are huge animals. And wild horses! A Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo (pink and white with a pretty white crest) flew along beside our car. My husband shot pictures out of the passenger window!

We loved Kings Canyon. Totally different terrain than around Uluru. Beehive-type rock formations. Very cool! We especially enjoyed walking down into the Garden of Eden. When you stand at the top, looking down into the canyon, you are in a rather arid area. But, you can hear the bird life teeming in the lush valley below. Descending into this oasis (on a series of stairs and bridges) is quite dramatic. Lunching in the cool shade by the waterhole at the bottom was idealic. Loved the ancient cycads all around.

The Stuart Highway is quite beautiful. This came as a surprise to us. We had been under the impression that it is sort of a wasteland. Just the opposite! Yellow acacias (wattles) mixed with green and blue eucalyptus. Lovely terrain. The down side is that there was lots of road kill—a bit sad. Makes you drive carefully.

Singing Dingo Update: We had heard that Dinky the Singing Dingo was retired. But, apparently he still performs at the Roadhouse at Stuart’s Well. We missed him however, because he had “gone into town” for the day. Busy dog, I guess. Oh well.

Road trains flying by! Some with 4 huge trailers! We actually got up the courage and passed one of them!

caligirl56 is offline  
Old Feb 27th, 2009, 10:15 AM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 540
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
A DAY IN ALICE SPRINGS

Visited the Desert Park first thing in the morning. This is a lovely setting. We enjoyed the Bird of Prey Show and the Aboriginal Survival Lecture. We wandered through the exhibits and learned all about the desert flora and fauna. Fields of spring flowers and huge flocks of pink galahs in the trees. Tiny iridescent blue Splendid Fairy Wrens.

Enjoyed the Alice Springs Telegraph Repeater Station. An important piece of history! Very interesting. This was much more extensive than we had predicted!

We walked through the Todd Mall and had lunch. There are lots of art galleries in here. You have to be a little careful if you are thinking of buying--you want to be sure to get authentic art. We finally bought a dot painting (of a carpet snake). Lots of digeridoos.

“Take a Camel to Dinner”. I LOVED this! I had read Robyn Davidson’s “Tracks” which chronicles her experiences with camels in the Red Center. It made this activity so meaningful to me. We actually got to ride camels through the Todd River bed. Ambling through there at sunset was truly special.

These camels were real characters—and just as ornery and belligerent as Robyn Davidson described. Ours was named Scruffy. The one behind us, Chester, kept coming up next to us for a pat on his muzzle! If you have ever been led around on a camel at an amusement park or zoo—this is an entirely different experience. This is the real thing!

Afterwards, they treat you to a lovely dinner at their farmhouse. We saw two-day old baby goats outside, and the inside was an eclectic mix of middle-eastern and aboriginal artifacts all mixed together. We got to try kangaroo sausage and corned camel (a little disturbing after just riding one of the beautiful beasts). They had special linseed beer bread. Very good! And a tasty chili lemon sauce. We had a beautiful steak dinner and a bread pudding for dessert, made with dates that had been grown just down the road.

We could have spent another couple of days in Alice Springs. We would have liked to visit the McDonnell Ranges and the Standley Chasm. And maybe visit the Flying Doctors.

Next: The Top End
caligirl56 is offline  
Old Feb 28th, 2009, 06:27 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,283
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hey Caligirl!

Back in the Bay area and writing up a storm I see! I too, remember your posts and it's great that you're taking the time to tell us all about your adventures; looking forward to the rest!

Best,

Melodie
Certified Aussie Specialist
wlzmatilida is offline  
Old Feb 28th, 2009, 06:59 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 976
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Caligirl,

We didn't have time for Kings Canyon and Alice Springs, but your description makes it sound like we missed some interesting places. Who knew you could take a camel to dinner? And that it would be so fun? (We did see some big ones crossing the road on our way to Kata Tjuta--impressive!)

As for the coffee, flat white kept me going around the country, but I did have to ask for it to be made with skim milk. A daily dose of whole milk would have done me in.

Anxious to hear your experiences in the Top End...
aprillilacs is offline  
Old Feb 28th, 2009, 10:25 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 540
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
wlzmatilida and aprillilacs--thanks for the encouragement. On to the Top End!
caligirl56 is offline  
Old Feb 28th, 2009, 10:33 AM
  #18  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 540
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
THE TOP END: DARWIN AND LITCHFIELD N.P.

It is virtually impossible to describe how much we loved the Top End. Loved it, loved it, loved it!!! This is another place where we could have spent much more time. Fabulous! We were there in mid-September, which was still the dry season. But it was EXTREMELY humid. Apparently the “build-up” was just starting (early this year, we were told). For some reason, this didn’t bother us. We were smitten!

Favorites:

Walking on the esplanade in the evening.

Looking out from our balcony to see the colorful flash and squawk of rainbow lorikeets flying in the tree tops.

Dinner at PeeWee’s: Our table was right on the edge of the water—literally just above the beach. Tiki torches and gentle balmy breezes. You cannot see the sunset from here, but we watched the lights of Darwin start twinkling as the evening progressed. They have a great menu. We had: Damper with bush tomatoes; Mushroom soup shots; Tiger prawns with avocado/lime mousse; Bug tails and green noodles; Apple Tart with Bay Leaf Ice Cream. This was an evening to remember!

Litchfield National Park: This was a day trip for us. We self-drove--and when we saw all of the touring coaches, we were glad of the choice we'd made. Tolmer and Florence Falls are just lovely. Quite tall. They still flow, even at the very end of the dry season—apparently the sandstone holds the water like a sponge, and lets it go bit by bit. We walked down to the bottom of Florence Falls, and ran into our first wild wallaby. Very shy! Termite Mounds—there were fields completely filled with the magnetic mounds. And then of course there were the huge Cathedral Mounds. These tiny insects are amazing builders! My favorite part was taking a dip at Wangi Falls. Looking up at the falls from this palm-lined pool was breathtaking. And the bottom isn’t slimy and icky as it is in some lakes. It is composed of smallish smooth round rocks.

The Deckchair Cinema: This was really fun. We purchased barramundi fish and chips and some salad to take with us as a picnic dinner. The cinema is in a lovely setting right on the water. The movie that night was the Dark Knight—and as the sun disappeared, fruit bats started swooping above our seats—this means that we were watching Batman with REAL bats flying overhead. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Next: More Top End—On to Kakadu N.P.
caligirl56 is offline  
Old Feb 28th, 2009, 04:45 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,848
Received 83 Likes on 5 Posts
Looking forward to more caligirl - Kakadu is on my wishlist.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Feb 28th, 2009, 05:03 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 10,694
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Caligirl! I've been waiting for your trip report, and it does not disappoint. I look forward to the rest of it.
Toucan2 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -