South Pacific

"Summer" Escapes to Australia

written by | Posted on April 1st, 2009

“Most people do not realize that Australia is a huge country,” says Anthony Saba, manager, USA, Goway Travel. That’s why he says the key to visiting Australia is picking a region and sticking to it unless you have days to spare.

“New Zealand is only the size of California, but when it comes to Australia, it’s as big as the U.S. and you wouldn’t want to visit New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle in a week. If you want to go to Australia for quality, pick three cities and give yourself two weeks. Leave yourself time to recover from all your travel when going to Australia and, if you can, leave from the Los Angeles gateway. Most flights run 14 hours on the outbound and leave at night so you can sleep and get to the destination in the morning and not miss a day.”

sydney The saucy and sensational city of Sydney is usually the start of an Australian holiday, but the city is a destination in its own right with a list of “do’s” that extend well beyond touring the Sydney Opera House or making the famous Bridge Climb above the Harbour.

The bustling port city of New South Wales is the country’s oldest and is a marvelous place for just about any sophisticated pursuit: art galleries, architecture and heritage tours, botanical gardens, hidden streets and alleys filled with artsy boutiques and shops, dining districts…. “It’s not just about breadth of experiences, it’s all about depth,” says Elissa Tyrrell, spokesperson for Visit New South Wales.

Tyrrell cites some new products in the destination visitors should consider on a trip that includes a few days in Sydney.

For example, for those who, indeed, can’t get enough of the Opera House landmark, this institution now offers high tea and backstage tours as part of the opera tour menu. The tea features a local diva that entertains with a medley of arias during the session.

Additionally, a new dining district along George Street—one of Sydney’s most notable streets—has opened with 18 bars, nine restaurants and lots of retail. Meanwhile, the hip area of Paddington—one of the most historically rich, culturally vibrant and recognizable districts in the city—is the hotspot for seeing the city’s traditional terrace houses and hidden turn-of-the-20th-century alleys and streets. It is not far from Oxford Street, an area buzzing with bars, boutiques, and cafes quite popular with the city’s gay and lesbian crowds.

Recommended attractions inside the city include the state-of-art installations to be enjoyed at the Museum of Sydney; the early public buildings and gardens around Macquarie Street by the Opera House; the Australia Museum; and the Art Gallery of NSW’s collection of 19th and 20th century Australian artworks as well as aboriginal works of the Torres Straits and 15th-19th century European artworks. Darling Harbour is also worth wandering through. It was once an industrial dockland and now is a meandering and cavernous waterfront tourist park with museums, shops, restaurants and lots of heritage.

“Also in Sydney, the beaches are all public. You can have wine at the beach and be back in the city 20 minutes later for a performance at the theater or opera house,” says Goway’s Saba.

melbourne Melbourne is usually the next destination of choice when it comes to experiencing Australia’s great cities. It’s a little over an hour by air or a mellow nine hours and 15 minutes’ drive by car from Sydney along the scenic Coastal Drive. Along the way, drivers will see endless white sand beaches, whales, seals, penguins, dive wrecks and great places to swim and snorkel. A segue to Phillip Island at the bottom of the drive brings an encounter with Australia’s second largest colony of fur seals and a thriving population of koalas seen in the wild or at the Koala Conservation Centre. Visitors will enjoy the nightly penguin parade in addition to other wildlife on view at Phillip Island Nature Park.

Melbourne itself is a compact city of great worth for a visitor who wants to get a sense of British refinement. The center of the city is laced with great gardens and parks all wonderfully walkable and just steps from shops and focal points of the city’s bustling downtown. In this cultural oasis, a good several hours can be spent walking through the parks and esplanades to visit the National Gallery of Victoria, probably the country’s finest art building and collection replete with permanent and rotating exhibitions by the European masters.