November 1, 2010 v18
SPECIAL AUSTRALIAN EDITION
We had a great 3-week trip to Australia and we were impressed by the country and the friendliness of the people. It is a great place to visit with lots of interesting things to see. If you have been thinking of visiting – Go there!
By the way I took some pictures! I have chosen the best and organized these into sets by locations and themes of the 1500 pictures during the trip. I still like panorama pictures and have several to see. Start off with the best Australian photos here for an overview.
We visited the area around Sydney, the area around Cairns in the northern territory of Queensland, and we made a special trip to Lord Howe Island, an island 1/3 of the way between Australia and New Zealand. Since Lord Howe is such not frequently visited I have group together Lord Howe Island travel tips we found and have added our experiences to this. We also visited the Outback in Queensland and New South Wales, the Atherton Tableland and the Daintree Coast.
We organized our own trip, hotels and flights for the trip which is typical for us. We soon realized that Australia is the size of the continental US so we took flights within Australia to allow us to get around. August is the end of winter in Australia, but the weather is generally much milder than the equivalent time in the northern USA. Sydney was a pleasant 65°F to 70°F daytime temperature which was great for walking around and Cairns in northern Australia was a pleasant 80°F. The weather was generally great with little rain.
We flew through San Francisco and arrived early in the morning. After a day in Sydney we flew to Townsville in Queensland and visited Cairns, where we went snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, visited the Atherton Tablelands, Rockhampton and the town of Charters Towers in the Queensland Outback. We flew back to Sydney and then flew to Lord Howe Island off the coast of Australia. After Lord Howe Island we visited West Wyalong in the New South Wales Outback, and the Blue Mountains. Three weeks go by very quickly.
We also visited Lord Howe Island, an island about 1/3 of the way between Australia and New Zealand. I had seen pictures of it on Google Earth and found it very intriguing so we went there for a visit. I have a separate web page for this since we have some special travel information on this location if you are interested in visiting. See my Lord Howe Island web page.
First of all, here is a photo set of my best pictures of Australia from the over 1500 pictures I took.
Sydney is such a great city. In 1770 Captain Cook landed in Botany Bay in the south end of the city and the location of the airport. When a penal colony was established there it was moved to present day Sydney. The first settlement is around the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. The picturesque old town is still visible and is called “The Rocks”. Sydney has a great natural harbor and a cruise around it is a great tourist excursion. Here are some photos of Sydney.
The Sydney Opera House was designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon. Construction started in 1959 in stages with the final stage finished in 1973. It is actually a collection of several building on the same site and it looks stunning and different from every angle. What is surprising is that the entire roof structure is covered with over one million beige and white tiles, but this is not visible from a distance. Here is my photo set taken over several days of the Sydney Opera House.
Cairns is a large regional town in Queensland, the second largest province of Australia, which occupies the northwest of the country. This part of Australia is famous for the Great Barrier Reef, the largest reef in the world. There are many organized tours to the reef and we opted for Reef Magic for our cruise. They have fast boats to maximize time at the reef. We went to the Moore Reef, about 60 km from shore. Here are some pictures of our snorkeling trip, Cairns and our hotel. We stayed at “The Lakes” resort which was very nice.
Cape Tribulation is about the farthest you can drive with north with a regular car. It is situated in Daintree National Park which is the only rainforest left in Australia that is on the coast. This park is home to the famous cassowary, a relative of the emu. Here are some pictures of the lovely beaches and scenery in this area. Cape Tribulation was named by Captain Cook after he hit a reef there and had to spend a few months repairing his ship. Here are some pictures from the northern coastal area.
The Atherton Tableland is a high elevation plateau that has a much more temperate climate than the coast and arable volcanic soil. Millaa Millaa is a great area for waterfalls and the rest of the scenery is beautiful. Here are some pictures from this nice area. Also in the same area is Kuranda, a small tourist town with a great zoo, and a bird and butter fly garden. Here are some pictures of the Atherton Tableland.
Rockhampton is where the Tropic of Capricorn goes through Australia, so naturally, we went to see it. It also has a very nice zoo and botanical gardens. The Tropic of Capricorn moves a significant distance every year because of the wobble of the earth on its axis.
Charters Towers is a town in The Outback due west of Townsville. It was once a prosperous mining town and still retains the wealth and charm of that area. It was a surprising find. On the way to Charters Towers you cross the Burdekin River with a flood marker showing the incredible floods that happen in The Outback. We also visited The Outback near West Wyalong in New South Wales. See Outback pictures here. We also noticed the unique style of inns in every village and town. Here is a collection of Australian Inn photos.
As we were traveling in the countryside we noticed that there is a distinctive style to Australian inns which all have pubs attached. These are the centers of small towns everywhere in The Outback. Here are some photos of these great Australian inns.
We were excited to see all the animals in the country and we did see a few kangaroos and wallabies. We saw a large monitor lizard that was hanging around the picnic area in Daintree National Park. There were a lot of unusual animals in the zoo at Kuranda and Rockhampton. There are a lot of birds in Australia, but many of the wild birds are parrots that fly away in a huge movement of color. We fed a wild rainbow lorikeet at a restaurant and visited a great bird park in Kuranda. Here are some photos of Australian animals.
Here are some unusual road signs from around Australia.
When the scene was right I took pictures to assemble into these great Australian panoramas. My favorite is the night scene of Sydney from the top of the Marriott Sydney hotel. It is right across from Hyde Park which allows a great long distant view of the city.
Best of Australia
Some of the best and most interesting things from our trip were:
· The Night Sky in the Outback. We were more than 50 miles from the nearest town on a deserted road at night. “Town” in this area would be a collection of a few buildings. We stopped at a rest stop and turned off the lights and the night sky was the best I have ever seen it. The Milky Way was a band of white in the sky and the stars were dazzling. We saw other night skies during our trip, but this was by far the best.
· The Outback. We like driving around to get a feeling for a place and the Outback has great scenery and a rugged unspoiled feeling. Towns are small and scenic. We were in the Outback in the north in Charters Towers and in the south in West Wyalong. Here are some pictures of the Outback
· Moon Rise on Lord Howe Island. There are no street lights on Lord Howe Island so the star gazing was great when it was clear. The moon was near full and rose about 2 hours after sunset. I had never noticed this before, but the sky was so dark that you could see the glow in the sky when the moon was below the horizon. Here are some other pictures of Lord Howe Island.
· The Southern Cross. We brought a planisphere for the southern hemisphere so we could identify the stars at night. We saw the Southern Cross for the first time from the plane on the way to Sydney, but we had several great views of it. It reminded me of the CSNY song “The Southern Cross.” These are the stars on the Australian flag. Another interesting constellation is the Southern Triangle.
· Climbing Mt. Gower on Lord Howe Island. This is a class 5 hike - which is the highest level you can take without climbing equipment. It was 9 miles of hiking with 3000 ft of vertical up and down, but well worth it. I was sore for a few days. A lot of the hiking requires hanging on to ropes for safety or to pull yourself up cliffs, but helped on the way down. Our guide was Jack Shick.
· Feeding the Fish on Ned’s Beach, Lord Howe Island. Lord Howe Island has an interesting mix of reef and deep sea fish. You can see them on Ned’s Beach where they have learned to wait for tourists to feed them. Here are some other pictures of Lord Howe Island.
· Birds. Many parrots are native to Australia and these are the most common wild birds. There are thousands of them. While we were driving around we would see incredible large flocks of rosy parrots at the side of the road which would scatter as we drove by. Solitary kookaburras would sit on phone lines. Rainbow lorikeets would hang around at the lunch table for scraps. In Sydney the main scavenger bird is an ibis! We went to a bird zoo in Kuranda and saw many great birds. Most of them were allowed to fly with you. (Note: Remove anything shiny.) We also saw the elusive cassowary a relative of the emu. Here are some pictures of Australian animals including birds.
· Sydney. I’ve had many people tell me that Sydney is their favorite city and now I can understand why. Sydney is small enough so you can walk around easily, yet it has all kinds of great places to see. The Sydney Opera House is a great building and looks different from every angle. Here are some pictures of the Opera House. We liked the old part of town, the botanical gardens and the skyscrapers. Everywhere you go there are efforts to preserve the history of the city.
· Kangaroos and Wallabies. We were excited to see some kangaroos, but they were more elusive than I thought. There are lots of warning signs, like deer signs in the US, but we didn’t see a lot of them. Surprisingly the two best viewings we had were both just outside cities and, of course, at the zoo. We did see some rock wallabies at the lookout in Charters Towers. At a zoo in Kuranda we were able to feed kangaroos and wallabies and hold a koala! Here are some pictures of Australian animals we saw.
· The Flood Marker on the Burdekin River. The Burdekin River is a major river near Charters Towers in a valley 15 m below the bridge and 500 m wide. A flood marker shows flood levels that are 10 meters above the level of the bridge! The floods must be massively wide. We noticed that many 4-wheel drive vehicles have snorkels to allow them to go through flooded roads. Many roads have flood markers so you know the depth of the water before you proceed.
Australian Travel Information
Here is some travel information from our experiences in Australia.
· Travel information is abundant and easy to find so look for it at airports and tourist centers. Australians are happy to help you out anywhere you go.
· We rented a car twice and, of course, you have to stay on the left side of the road. This took some time to get used to, but it was no problem. I drove in downtown Sydney and when there are a lot of cars around you it is actually easier because you flow with the traffic. Gas prices were higher than the US, but the cars got reasonable gas mileage. Visa provides insurance coverage for cars in Australia, but American Express does not so we booked and paid for the cars using our Visa card.
· Credit cards were accepted at most places and we were able to use our debit card to get cash without any problems. We did load up on some cash for Lord Howe Island, but credit cards were generally accepted there without any issues. American Express is not accepted in small places or an additional fee is charged. We used both cards.
· We found out that McDonalds has free WiFi in most of Australia, except the airport. We were able to use an iPod Touch to call home using Skype. This worked very well. McDonalds was a frequent stop for breakfast which is the best calling time for home.
· We used a combination of frequent stay points, Expedia and hotels.com to book travel as well as direct contact with the hotel or motel. Skype is a great way to call directly to book. Our hotels were very simple to very fancy. Low season provides opportunities to get great places at low rates if you reserve on hotels.com or Expedia. Motel rates were the normal rate if you booked directly, but these were not listed on internet sites. We found these hotels using Google Maps. Some of the places were great and some were very basic, but all were clean.
All text and photos are copyright 2010, Frank Hada