A travel guide to the Land Down Under
The sails of the Sydney Opera House, the underwater ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef, the wine country of the southeast, the incongruous red massif of Uluru (a.k.a. Ayers Rock), the tankards of ale, the Outback deserts, the scenic coastlines, the rain forests, the kangaroos, the koalas, and, yes, the crocs.
Welcome to Oz.
The best of Australia
If you had to narrow it down to to the top five experiences in Australia:
- Sunrise at Uluru (better known—if poltically incorrectly—as "Ayers Rock")
- Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge (don't worry; you're harnessed in the whole time)
- Diving or snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef
- Taking a trek in the Outback
- Biking the wine country of South Australia
Second tier I'd say includes exploring the Top End's Kakadu National Park (larger than Switzerland; the real Crocodile Dundee country), attending an opera in that white-winged architectural wonder on Sydney Harbour, staying in an eco-lodge in the northeast's rainforests, and shopping for Aboriginal art in Alice Springs.
What to expect from Australia
First Things first: remember, this is a country the size of a continent.
Australia is the sixth largest country in the world and runs the geographical gamut from endless desert to rain-soaked jungle, and its culture ranges from Aboriginal villages to cattle station (ranches) crossroads honky tonk towns to top chefs in Sydney restaurants and top-flight vineyards outside Adelaide.
However, if I had to pick one simile on to hang Aussie culture to help you get a sense before going, believe it or not, I'd say it's a bit like America—specifically Texas.
Yes, Texas. (Prepare for some massive stereotyping.)
Aussies tend toward the brash and often loud but friendly to a fault, plainspoken salt-of-the-earth people, leaning conservative but always willing to try something new, sure of themselves and still imbued with a hearty pioneering spirit, never afraid of hard work (or hard partying), proud of their cowboy heritage, and probably happiest when out with their mates drinking beer, chowing down steaks, and step dancing to C&W or straightforward rock (a la AC/DC).
That's not everybody and everywhere, of course, but it still fits the overall sprit of the place. (And before any Aussies send me angry emails for such crass typcasting, remember: as I wrote up above, that same paragraph would make a decent enough litany of stereotypes to describe the simialrly non-existent yet instantly recognizable "average American" as well.)
Plus, you just gotta love a place where, whenever Men At Work's 80s classic Land Down Under comes on the pub jukebox, the entire places sings along as if it were the national anthem.
- Quick overview of Australia
- Getting to Australia
- Getting around Australia
- Touring Uluru / Ayers Rock
- blog: Going Bush
- blog: A Songline through the Outback