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January Sydney + where for seeing critters and walking in the mountains, seeing natural beauty?

January Sydney + where for seeing critters and walking in the mountains, seeing natural beauty?

Jul 12th, 2008, 07:05 PM
  #1  
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January Sydney + where for seeing critters and walking in the mountains, seeing natural beauty?

I am officially overwhelmed. Too many choices and too little time.

I am hoping to attend a meeting in Sydney in January 2009. If so, I will be able to add on 2-3 days in advance and 4-5 days after for my first vacation in Australia.

I'll convince my husband to come along, so we will be two active 50-year-olds.

I expect to have enough free time around the meetings to see a good bit of Sydney (Rocks, Opera House, Bridge, Victorian neighborhoods, museum or two). So, we would like to spend the days before/after somewhere else. Somewhere close for the before time (rather short), but could take a plane or train to somewhere else for the after 4 days.

Number one priority is to see animals and birds in as natural a setting as possible. We'd love to see koalas, kangaroos (any variety), wombats, wallabies, platypus, penguins, etc. (I loved seeing the penguins in New Zealand and my husband wasn't along.)

Number two priority is to experience natural beauty. We love mountains (taken trips in US to Cascades, Sierras, Rockies, Appalachians; in Europe Alps, Tatras) for moderate hikes along streams with tall craigs around us. Also like stark desert (such as red rock country in Utah) rock formations.

Third priority is history/culture--aboriginal, penal colony, settlers. Prefer historic sites more than museums.

Fourth priorty are personal/professional interests--aviation, retirement villages, and WWII bases near Darwin (father-in-law stationed there).

No interest in wine country or beaches.

But there are so many choices!

I have read extensively here about people's trips to Kangaroo Island. But have also read about Phillip Island. I also see so many sanctuaries and reserves. How to tell which ones are more like zoos than nature preserves? (We have no desire to pet, hold, or feed the animals.)

Then there are the Blue Mountains, the Snowy Mountains, Grampians NP, etc. Can anyone compare the scenery for me? How about fire damage?

I thought with our summer/wet season visit and time constraint that we should focus on NSW, Victoria, or South Australia.

So, what destination would you recommend for 2-3 days before Sydney and then for 4-5 days after Sydney? If I can pin down the bases, then I can focus more on specific activities and parks.
Kay2 is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 09:00 PM
  #2  
 
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You will get many opinions on this one, but initially the Blue Mountains is very acessible from Sydney so that is a must before your meeting.
For the 4-5 days after I would suggest definitely Phillip Island for the Penguins and the Great Ocean Road and Grampians for other native animals. Koalas can be seen at Phillip Island and on the GOR. Kangaroos are in abundance in the Grampians and Platypus, while being very elusive, can be seen at Lake Elizabeth just off the GOR.
http://www.visitvictoria.com/display...5BC98BA26E1A6/
Kangaroo Island is a very popular place with Koalas, Kangaroos, Seals etc, but it is expensive and time consuming to get there. The bush regenerates itself very quickly so fire damage may be evident, but nothing to worry about. Planning is the essence in a trip like this as the country is so vast and the distances betrween the attractions formidable. You could of course go north to Queensland or south to Tasmania, but you did mention Penguins and Phillip Island is the place to see them. www.visitvictoria.com
DownUnder is offline  
Jul 13th, 2008, 01:33 AM
  #3  
 
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My first thought was Tasmania for afterwards where there's plenty of history and wonderful walks. But you'd probably have to settle for seeing your koalas and roos in a wildlife park.

So perhaps the GOR and a trip to Philip Island is the way to go. I don't think 4 days is long enough to go to KI too, although some folk would disagree. Depends on whether you like to have every minute of every day accounted for, or prefer some "slack" to go with the flow.

You'd be able to use your time better if you took all the free days together. Then you could even consider something along the lines of: Fly Sydney to Uluru in time for sunset at the Rock; Fly Adelaide - drive the GOR. Another time saver would be to buy an open jaw ticket so you don't have to return to Sydney to fly home.

Of course, the Blue Mts are easy to get to and there's some lovely walks. So however you do it you'll be able tick some of your boxes! Don't forget to take a few ferry trips during your time in Sydney.

Happy planning.
afterall is offline  
Jul 13th, 2008, 04:59 PM
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In Sydney and environs some of the sites to see Aboriginal culture (past and present):

Lower floor of the Art Gallery of NSW has a very good collection of contemporary Australian Aboriginal art.

Bangarra Dance company for contemporary dance: http://www.bangarra.com.au/

There is a "red hand" cave and quite a number of very ancient Aboriginal Rock carvings at Kuringai National Park. The end of the "Basin" walk is also a guaranteed wallaby siting place--not quite natural they like to eat the introduced grass at the camp site. There's also a red hand cave at Glenbrook.

La Perouse museum--there's a local history section here and La Perouse has a substantial Aboriginal community. Very good fish and chips in the vicinity in a restaurant that juts out into Botany Bay. Also kayak hire.
Susan7 is offline  
Jul 13th, 2008, 05:03 PM
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Whoops--that should be "wallaby sighting". For koalas, north of Sydney near Port Stephens--Tilligarry Peninsula. It looks unlikely as a place to see koalas but there are stands of the particular eucalypt they like to eat.
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Jul 14th, 2008, 03:35 AM
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To Susan - hope this is an allowable post.

Are you a Bangarra fan? Like do you go to their performances?

afterall is offline  
Jul 14th, 2008, 03:01 PM
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Sorry for the aside Kay2, Afterall, I've seen them a couple of times but not for quite a while.
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Jul 14th, 2008, 03:57 PM
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Carol Probets is not only a bird guide but knows the Blue Mountains inside out. http://www.bmbirding.com.au
Saltuarius is offline  
Jul 15th, 2008, 05:30 AM
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Loved the Blue Mountains -- and highly recommend it. Saw four kangaroos and countless birds -- including several kookaburras.

But being an animal lover, the highlight of my trip was the Walkabout Wildlife Park (less than an hour from Sydney). It's a sanctuary -- not a zoo. The animals roam wild -- but many of them are comletely used to being handled -- especially at feeding time.

I got to scratch kangaroos, wallabys, and snuggle with a wombat. I fell in love -- and "adopted" her. Got very close to one koala -- but it didn't want to be touched.

You can do an easy bush walk and spot lots of the animals in their natural habitat: emus, and all of the above.

On the topic of birds ... I thought I'd DIE from the parrots, lorikeets, and cockatiels that are everywhere!
Songdoc is online now  
Jul 26th, 2008, 04:20 AM
  #10  
 
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if you want natural beauty, travel the south coast of nsw
lots of kangaroos too so be careful at dusk
i have never seen a koala in the wild

have a look at palm beach - the outlook from the light house is amazing
i recommend a day trip to kiama too
thats the south coast
lanejohann is offline  
Sep 26th, 2008, 04:53 PM
  #11  
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I saved all your suggestions and started doing further research.

Just heard today that my meeting trip is funded, so the trip is a GO, at least for me, but on a tight budget. Still have to convince my husband the cost is worth it for him to tag along with me.

I've been following airfares. The airline schedules/prices will affect my exact days in country.

The ideal work/travel schedule would get me to Australia on a Thursday with my first meeting on Sunday evening--so 2 full free days in advance. I'm not sure of the meeting finish, but free by Wednesday sometime with return to US on Sunday or Monday, so only 3-4 full days after.

I've looked at the Blue Mountains and that seems accessible for the first days and doable on my own if traveling solo. Maybe combine with a wildlife reserve if they seem natural enough without interaction/touching the animals.

I haven't settled on the after days. Now that I know the trip is a GO, I'll look more closely at your suggestions. If my husband is with me, driving is possible, but if I am on my own, I don't like to drive on first trips to countries on my own. I usually use mass transit or shuttles or even drivers in the cheaper destinations plus day tours to piece together a relatively independent itinerary.

I am so excited!
Kay2 is offline  
Sep 27th, 2008, 12:52 AM
  #12  
 
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Hi Kay2,

Hope you can persuade hubby to come too, but in case not, and you don't want to drive yourself, can I suggest a tour for the GOR?

I too prefer to travel under my own steam, BUT there are no shuttles on that route and, even if there were, they would be town to town without stopping to admire the view/take photos, and without detouring to the places that make the area special.

Years ago I travelled with Wayward Bus Adelaide to MLB - just brilliant!! There were 12 of us with ages ranging from early 20s through me, to a pair of sisters in their early sixties and one wonderful solo lady from Sydney, aged seventy something!!

Now I see that they've teamed up with Adventure Tours which might make a difference to the "tone". And they've changed the itinerary too.

But anyway, it's still a good itinerary with animals, and walking and The Grampians. And you can upgrade to ensuite motel accommodation if you don't fancy hostelling. Wayward's website refuses to give details on the trip MLB-ADL but they are on AT's site.

There's also groovy grape.

Just some grist for your research mill.

www.waywardbus.com.au

http://www.adventuretours.com.au/3-d...adelaide-tour/

http://www.groovygrape.com.au/great-ocean-road-tour.php

Cheers.
afterall is offline  
Sep 27th, 2008, 01:05 AM
  #13  
 
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I usually recommend the south coast - I love it there - but you really do need a car.

Blue Mtns is doable without a car.
margo_oz is offline  
Oct 6th, 2008, 02:43 PM
  #14  
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I may end up with fewer days than I wanted. My employer does not mind if I want to pay the additional separate cost of extra days in a destination, but when the airfare costs more to accommodate my vacation days, the accounting gets complicated. Right now I can use Tahiti Nui to get to SYD for $1700 for the meetings, but to add all the extra days I was thinking of taking vacation raises the airfare by $600.

So, if I stick to dates with the $1700 airfare, I would arrive SYD early Saturday morning with a cocktail party on Sunday evening. Finish up meetings on Wednesday and fly out on Saturday morning.

If this is the best itinerary I can get, I am thinking take train to city center to hotel (yet undecided) to drop bags if can't check in. Then I need some first day get over jet lag activities in Sydney--choose from Rocks, Bridge (not climb), Opera House, neighborhood like Paddington, Botanic Garden--with option to return to hotel when room ready, nap, etc.

Monday-Wednesday I will have some free time here and there, so I want to have some short destinations ready for openings as they occur--maybe from list above or Australian Museum, anyting I find going on with the Festival of Sydney.

Sunday I have free until around 7pm, so I would like to plan a full day outing rather than in center city destinations. Would you suggest the ferry/Spit Bridge/Manley walk? Ferry/Taronga Zoo? A different ferry/walk combination? I didn't see an easy way to go to Kuringai Chase Park without a car. I was thinking the Blue Mountain 2 hr each way might be too much if have to be at event at 7pm.

Finish Wednesday uncertain time, but probably no later than 4pm. My first inclination was to plan to take the train to Katoomba that evening, then start early Thursday morning to visit the viewpoints, go down the steps, ride up the train. I'll try to find more on trails, cave at Glenbrook, etc. I would also have Friday here and could go back to Sydney night before flight else saw a shuttle service from Blue Mtns to airport as option Saturday morning. However, I have seen some posts saying Blue Mtns best as just a day trip out/back Sydney. Is this true if one wants to do a bit of walking and not just look at views? I was looking at the train schedule/route to see if continuing to the west out/back on Friday might lead to someplace interesting or a dramatic change in scenery. Husband would like the CSIRO dish at Parkes. But the destinations seemed too far/long.

If only want to spend day in Blue Mtns, my option would be to go to the Blue Mountains on the Sunday, back by 7pm. Then I am free Wednesday evening - Friday evening back to prepare for flight home. I'm having trouble finding another nature type destination within a few hours bus/train from Sydney. Any further suggestions?
Kay2 is offline  
Oct 7th, 2008, 05:14 AM
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Your time and options are certainly a bit tighter and whilst doing Sydney City within commitments is feasible to some extent for close in walks - there being a great Information Centre in Rocks distance you ought to head to first up and they have about six different historic themes on walks about the CBD and heaps of other info too.

I'd reckon trying to fit the Blue Mountains into Sunday will be a bit of a rush/squeeze, and especially seeing you have just flown in the day vefore, I'd consider leaving it for your couple of days at end, and then use the Sunday for just seeing more of Sydney, a ferry across to Manly providing cheapest way of seeing the Harbour and then doing the walk up to North Head and/or a ferry or bus to Watsons Bay for great walks about the south head and seeing as you'll have daylight saving on your hands, no reason you cannot do both.

Karing Gai Chase NP is another option, accessible by train and/or bus/ferry - http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/Na....aspx?id=N0019 and http://www.131500.info/realtime/newjourney.asp could be handy.

With the two days at end, you either elect to concentrate on the Blue Mountains region, with Windsor (oldest hotel on mainland Oz) on way there the back way along with Zig Zag Railway and Mt.Tomah botanical gardens, having a look at and staying overnight at http://www.jenolancaves.org.au/ also worth considering, and then doing BM central on Sunday.

Another option (travelling a fair bit further) if you want kangeroos guaranteed would be to head down the south coast Wednesday, taking the turn-off into the National Park at Heathcote to get on to the spectacular coastal Lawrence Hargreaves Drive and get down to http://www.pebblybeach.com.au/ or http://www.murramarangresort.com.au/ and again, daylight saving time and an early start Sunday would still make the Blue Mountains a possibility if driving.
Bushranger is offline  
Oct 7th, 2008, 01:47 PM
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I'm having a bit of a problem following your itinerary and whether you will be driving (with hubby) or will be relying on public transportation.
If you have at least 2 days to devote outside of Sydney and if you are driving, I am going to recommend going to Canberra (3 hour drive). There are some excellent places to see animals in the wild there. My first recommendation would be going to Namadgi National Park (about 45 minutes from the CBD) and doing the Yankee Hat Hike. This is really more of a walk than a hike--6km RT. At the turnaround point is a large rock with Aboriginal rock drawings. (A sign there will interpret them for you). On the hike you will literally walk by hundreds of kangaroos in the wild and will likely see cockatoos and other birds as well. I have done this hike numerous times and I love the scenery and the solitude. (We were often the only ones hiking.) There are other hikes in the park for more great bush scenery.
Another good place to visit would be Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve (about 40 min from Canberra's CBD). Check their website for info on animal populations, ranger walks/talks, etc. They also have some good walks for seeing Aborginal artifacts such as rock shelters. A good place for a picnic too! http://www.tams.act.gov.au/play/park...nature_reserve
For a great exhibit of Aboriginal art, visit the National Gallery of Art in Canberra. Admission is free and they have free guided tours of the Aboriginal art at 11 am and 2pm on Thursdays and Sundays. If you aren't there at those times, ask if they still offer the free wands for self-guided tours.
For more wildlife, you can always drive to Red Hill in Canberra. You are likely to see lots of kangaroos and birds there. I used to live near Red Hill and my yard was full of cockatoos and rosellas.
Finally, if you have 4 days, I'd suggest adding a couple of days onto your Canberra itinerary and driving to Thredbo to climb to the the top of Mt. Kosciusko, the highest peak in Australia. It's actually more of a walk, because you take a chairlift to start the hike and most of the hike is along a metal walkway to protect the wildflowers, etc. Beautiful alpine scenery in the Snowy Mountains!
longhorn55 is offline  
Oct 7th, 2008, 03:23 PM
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Looks to me as if it's a development in progress Longhorn and January will be warm enough most places without heading too far inland.

For some comfort from coastal breezes and option of cooling off in the briny, I'd be staying more coastal Kay2.
Bushranger is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 02:00 PM
  #18  
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Based on your advice we have the following itineray:

Sydney
Arr Saturday a.m. - train or shuttle to hotel near Central Station (meetings will be near here so decided best to stay in one place for duration in Sydney). Drop bags at hotel and depending on weather, head to Rocks, Botanic Garden, museum, with break to rest when hotel room ready.

Sunday - Australian Wild Escapes drive us to Walkabout Wildlife Park and the Kuring-gai National Park for rock art and a bush walk. Anything else we should ask to see/stop at?

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday are work days. One evening a group is going on a harbor dinner cruise.

Wednesday evening - bus to Canberra (< AU$30 for 2) stay at ANU University House queen suite north wing for 2 nights. Could also stay at Diamant. Marginal if these are walkable from bus station or if need taxi?

Thursday - museums and sights in Canberra.

Friday - Deep Space Centre and either Namadgi or Tidbinbilla with Go Bush Tours. What would you recommend?
Bus back to Sydney
Stay at Citigate Sebel for 2 nights.

Saturday - day trip by train to Blue Mountains with walk in canyon, bus around to viewpoints, etc.
Kay2 is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 02:47 PM
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If you have a choice between Namadgi and Tidbinbilla, I would choose Namadgi provided you are going on the Yankee Hat hike. While I've seen various animals while hiking around Tidbinbilla, I've always seen tons of kangaroos on the Yankee Hat hike. (Some birds too, but not many other mammals or marsupials).
longhorn55 is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 03:12 PM
  #20  
 
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At Kuring-gai, there's a wildlife area called Kurundi. It's a very large enclosure where there are wallabies, kangeroos and an emu, as well as a bird feeding station.

It depends which way you go into the park whether this will be on your route if you go in via Bobbin Head it is. If you go in heading for North Head it isn't. I would guess is that if you are going to the rock art area then you entering on the North Head section, not Bobbin Head.
Susan7 is offline  

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