I have been privileged to have seen many places in my travels around the world. Some exotic; some historic; all of them a life experience I will cherish and be thankful I've had the opportunity to see…
There is one place, however, that I am drawn to; I constantly find myself yearning to return to its land of marsupials and platypi; of “Vegimite” and didgeridoos: Australia!
This wonderful landmass is about as unique as the Galápagos; here you will find animals and vegetation unlike any other place on earth – and most of it is publically accessible. Having just returned from there, I would like to share with you a little taste of what I know…
Australia is distinctive in many ways. It’s the only country that, by itself, is one of the seven continents of earth. The country itself consists of the continent of Australia, Tasmania, and several island groups off its coastline on the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Established as an independent government in 1901, Australia has a parliamentary style democratic government, yet is ruled by its own self-styled constitution. Although Australia was a dominion of the British Empire, it only recently gained its sovereign independence from England in 1986.
Aussies enjoy a free-market economy, and their economic market is now ranked 13th in the world, with the sixth highest per capita income and a stable, relaxed lifestyle.
The majority of its 22 million plus population is settled on the eastern coastline of the country, from Cairns to the north off the Coral Sea, down the coastline of the Gold Coast through Brisbane, around New South Wales past Sydney to Melbourne (Aussies pronounce it ‘Mel-bun’) and Adelaide to the south off the Great Australian Bight (that’s the name of the waterway between Australia and Antarctica).
Much like the United States, the capital of Australia (Canberra) is not the most populated city in the country. Sydney is first with over 4.5 million, followed by Melbourne (4 million), Brisbane (pronounced ‘Briz-bin’ – 2 million), Perth (1.7 million) and Adelaide (1.2 million). The climate of Australia’s largest city, Sydney, can be compared to Southern California, mostly temperate with a comfortable sea breeze blowing through it the majority of the year.
The country is easily accessible by rail and air transportation. Within its borders, the Aussies are served by Qantas, JetStar, Tiger, Rex, V-Australia, Virgin Blue and Eastern Australia Airlines, just to name a few of the over 50 separate air carriers that serve the country. Driving can be a challenge for Americans, since traffic moves forward on the left-side of the road. Drivers are usually quite courteous (although the Aussies will tell you they are terrible drivers) and it’s not uncommon that drivers here use their turn signals for almost all movement on the roads.
There is much to do in Australia, let alone in Sydney or Melbourne. In the harbor city, Sydney has become synonymous with such landmarks as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Transportation by ferry is a common mode used to get to the coast suburbs of Manly and Bondi Beaches. Several large state parks are found within its precincts, including the world-famous Royal Botanic Gardens, scene of the Queen’s Royal Rose garden and home to a swarm of over 22,000 flying foxes or giant fruit bats…tourists can see them sleeping in the high perches of the Botanic Gardens’ tallest trees during the day, or watch the spectacle of them leaving in droves as they fly off towards the Blue Mountains for their nocturnal hunt at dusk!
If you’d care for a quick glimpse of Australia’s unique, indigenous wildlife, the Taronga Zoo Sydney is the place to get your fix. For a land-based sea-life adventure, the newly renovated Sydney Aquarium, located near the heart of Sydney in Darling Harbour is a must-see. And when you’re finished there, walk over the Darling Harbour Bridge and enjoy the sea-faring history of the city and Australia at the Australian National Maritime Museum. You can also enjoy a bird’s eye, panoramic view of the entire city and its surrounding area from the Sydney Tower Eye, the tallest structure in Sydney.
Nightlife in Sydney is pretty much non-stop, especially on weekends. Sydney has countless restaurants that cover the gamut of international cuisine. From black-tie to informal sidewalk cafes, Sydney’s choices for food are reminiscent of New York City at night. Aussie’s love to socialize and there is no shortage of pubs, social halls and nightclubs to satisfy your itch for fun. And Sydney has a great choice of cultural events to please, from the symphony and opera, to pop concerts and Broadway musicals.
If adventure is in your blood, there is no shortage in the land Down Unda! From hiking in the Blue Mountains, to scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, the choices are only as limitless as your imagination here.
Australians are some of the most friendly and warmly welcoming people I have encountered. Getting around in the country is made easier by their willingness to be of help when needed. It’s a sure bet that when you make friends with an Aussie, it’s for life. I urge you to highly consider making Australia, one of your top priorities for vacation destinations. At least put it on the top of your bucket list!
For further information about Australia, visit the official tourism website: www.Australia.com.