Welcome to Awesome AUSTRALIA!
What a magical place! Kuala bears, kangaroos and Vegemite sandwiches! Entertaining Australian authors that we all enjoy like Neville Shute, Liane Moriarty and even P.L. Travers, who wrote Mary Poppins! There are also the talented Australian actors, producers and directors from the television and film industries gave us McCloud’s Daughters, The Crocodile Hunter (R.I.P. Steve Irwin), The King’s Speech, Babe, Zoolander, Catwoman, The Matrix, Finding Nemo, and Crocodile Dundee….just to name a few.
Australia is a huge country that takes a LOT of time to fully discover because it is made up of six large states! During our brief tour here, my husband and I were able to visit three of those six states.
There is no doubt that we will return to Australia in the future to discover more. But for now, I will cover mostly Sydney which is located in the state of New South Wales. I will also talk about Melbourne, located in the state of Victoria, Eden, located in New South Wales, and Hobart, located in the state of Tasmania.
NOTE: YOU WILL NEED AN ELECTRONIC VISA TO ENTER AUSTAILA. Visit: https://www.eta-visas.org/?utm_source=gemini&utm_medium=cpc
(In the state of New South Wales)
Sydney is a booming metropolis bursting with excitement and has so much to offer in the way of attractions, dining, entertainment, and fun. We spent five days in this lovely city, beginning our self-guided tours at 7:00am and ending the day by 9:00pm in order squeeze in as much as possible into a snap-shot visit.
We chose to stay at The Holiday Inn Old Sydney because of its perfect location. This hotel offers comfortable lodging with bountiful breakfast each morning (fuel-up for lots of walking) and is a short walk from Circular Quay and train station. The city’s center or city business district (CBD) is only a twenty minute walk from the hotel. And, the world famous Harbor Bridge is a ten minute walk just around the corner from the hotel. We were even able to easily walk on a path, passing through the Botanical Gardens, to the Sydney Opera House! The walk from the hotel took about thirty minutes.
Our hotel was located in an area known as The Rocks, and touts some of Sydney’s most fascinating history. Cobble-stone streets can be found here as well as information on how this precinct was settled by convicts brought over on ships from Britain in the late 1700’s. Cadman’s Cottage and Observatory Hill are interesting to see, and at the corner of corner of Argyle and Playfair St. you will find a handy Visitor’s Center for maps of the city, train system, and various things to do during the rest of your stay in this amazing city.
Before flying the 15 ½ hours from LAX (non-stop), we spent a few weeks planning our five day experience. One of our favorite resources was: https://www.australia.com/en/places/sydney-and-surrounds/guide-to-sydney.html. For our many walking tours, we used https://wikitravel.org/en/Walking_tour_of_Sydney.
We also ordered a durable pop-up map of the city from AMAZON which was quite useful for our first two days of exploring. But, pretty soon we began to learn our way through memorization by the city’s unusual landmarks and buildings
Upon our morning arrival to Sydney, we took the train from the airport to Circular Quay and walked easily to our hotel. The front desk kindly stored our luggage so we would be free to immediately explore.
One of the first things that we did was purchase an Opal Card which can be used on the ferries, city buses, and rail system. For more, check out: http://www.beyondthewharf.com.au/sydney-harbour-ferry-trip-planner/. Water ferries run at Circular Quay from Parramatta, North Sydney and the Northern Beaches areas. Ferries here can get you to the so and Luna Park too. You can also catch a ferry to and from Darling Harbor which passes directly under the Harbor Bridge. The transportation system in Sydney is absolutely WONDERFUL! Then we spotted the Iconic Sydney Opera House, and just started walking quickly towards it with great excitement. We passed the Botanical Gardens along the way.
You can probably see that I am excited about talking more about Sydney because I truly enjoyed our visit here. So, to simplify and refrain from repeating myself over my enthusiasm, I am going to just map-out our five day visit of Sydney. Hopefully, if you or someone you know is planning a visit there, some of this information will be of good use.
• Walk to The Rocks to explore the rich history Take the Nurse’s Walk which is clearly marked to see Cadman’s Cottage and Observatory Hill.
• Go to Circular Quay to purchase an Opal card.
• Take a walk towards to Sydney Opera House, but stroll through the Botanical Gardens along the way.
• Walk to the city center, visiting the City Town Hall, Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, and the Financial District. (CBD) This area has several AMAZING food courts and is where we enjoyed a late lunch that also served as dinner.
CHEAP EATS TIP: Soul Origin has fresh sandwiches that will fuel you for the rest of your day, but they close at 3:30pm. If you are walking a lot buy 2 and save 1 for later.)
• Walk to Hyde Park
• Pass by the Australian Museum on College street
• Walk to Archibald Fountain
• Walk to Saint Mary’s Church
• Head north to Macquarie street to see Hyde Park Barracks and visit Saint James Church
• Check out the exteriors of The Royal Mint, and New South Wales Parliament building.
Right about now, jetlag is going to begin to creep in, so think about heading back to your hotel. You are likely to come across a train station if you are too tired to walk, but truly, the best way to get a good night’s sleep and see more of this fun city is to make your way back towards George Street and follow it all the way back towards the harbor to The Holiday Inn Old Sydney.
SIDE NOTE: We used our first day as an orientation-day to get our feet-wet and learn a bit more about the city. We didn’t purchase any entrance tickets on this day and our only expenses were our Opal tickets and lunch.
• Go to Circular Quay with your Opal card.
• Take a ferry to Taranga Zoo and purchase the ticket that includes the Sky Safari Cable car if available. Allow at least two hours here and take advantage of some great photo opportunities of the Sydney Skyline, Harbor Bridge and Iconic Opera House while here. You can either pre-purchase your zoo tickets with Trip Advisor or buy them at Circular Quay.
NOTE: There are several options when purchasing the Zoo tickets. With or without the Sky Safari Cable Car, With or without a ferry ride over to the zoo, etc. Make your selections with care.
• Take a ferry to Luna Park. It opens at 11:00am and unless you plan to go on the rides, it’s FREE to enter and take photos. We spent 45 minutes here, and it was well worth the trip. http://www.lunaparksydney.com/
• Take a ferry to Manly and wander the rocks on the beach. We spent thirty minutes here and marked it off of our “must-see” list.
• Take a ferry to Darling Harbor. Here, we wandered through the boardwalk area where the Aquarium is located along with lots of little shops. We walked from Darling to the Rocks and stopped back at our hotel to take a quick break.
• Walk back up George Street to the CBD and enjoy one of the wonderful food courts again.
(We returned to Soul Origin where the cooks got to know us, because we enjoyed their food.)
• Pick up where you left off yesterday, but head to Martin Place to the Cenotaph, General Post Office (or GPO), Strand Arcade, Pitt Street Mall, and Sydney Tower.
• From Pitt Street to Martin and then back to George Street, check out the Queen Victoria Building.
• We took the train back to Circular Quay and walk to our hotel. However, we saved plenty of energy for our most exciting adventure we had planned for this evening: CLIMBING THE HABOR BRIDGE!!!!! https://www.bridgeclimb.com/
We did the night climb, which runs $516 for two adults, but if you book it ahead on Viator you will save about $40 and will be certain that you have a reserved spot at the time that you want to do this.
I know. It’s a LOT of money. But, it’s an adventure of a lifetime and it’s one of the best excursions I’ve ever done in my life! The climb took about three hours and we walked back to our hotel and feel right to sleep! If I ever had the opportunity to do it again…. I don’t think I could say no.
We thought it would be a good idea to take the walk back to the Opera House through the botanical gardens once more since we pretty much “flew through it” on the first day. We took our time and made sure to see Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair this time. Then, get out your Opal card for some fun:
• Go to Circular Quay and take bus # 333 (or 338) to Watson’s Bay and Bondi Beach.
Plan to do a lot of walking from beach to beach and you will be treated to fabulous murals, swimming pools that overlook the ocean, sand sculptures on the beaches, and amazing fitness classes out in the open that you are usually welcomed to join as long as you don’t interfere with the instructor’s lesson. This is a GREAT place to see, so don’t let the bus trip scare you away. It’s an easy and fun little trip! It was one of my favorite spots because it was such a carefree and happy place! Don’t forget to wear a sunglasses, lots of sunscreen and a good wide-brim hat. I bought my hat just down the street from our hotel at Australian Hat Company. I never travel without it!
• Take the bus back to Circular Quay and hop onto the train to the CBD for lunch, or experiment by trying one of the great outdoor restaurants and cafes.
• Play on the trains! We got back on and took advantage of our Opal card just exploring Sydney. Sometimes, we get off and walk around various neighborhoods and other times, we’d remain on the train and observe people just going about their day. Afterwards, we went back to Circular Quay and watched a small parade and observed a festival going on there. There were few tourists, so we got the wonderful flavor of the local experience.
NOTE: We learned the hard way that taking the train to the airport IS NOT part of the Opal package. Your card WILL get you there, but you will have to pay to get back on the train. So, don’t go to the airport and get off of the train unless you have a flight to catch.
For today, we had pre-booked an excursion through Viator to the famous Blue Mountains and Feather dale Wildlife Park. I recommend spending a little extra and taking a small group tour for this excursion.
You will be picked up directly at your hotel and enjoy a scenic drive to the Blue Mountains. Once you arrive, a funicular will take you up to the mountains peak. It can get a bit foggy, which is perfectly normal. The guides know this and try to schedule the drive to the mountains accordingly, making some stops along the way with the fog and weather in mind. You will spend some time in the Blue Mountain area and learn more about the famous rock formation known as “The Three Sisters.” The tour includes the Featherdale Wildlife Park, which is a great way to get up close and personal with a kangaroo and many other Australian animals.
The cost of this tour was about $350 for both of us and took up the entire day. The tour included pick-up and drop-off at your hotel, a very nice lunch, and we both felt that it was a very good use of our time.
You haven’t really seen Sydney without seeing the Blue Mountains area, so it needs to go onto your “must see” list.
This was a travel day for us, as we had booked a fourteen-day cruise that left out of Auckland, New Zealand and returned to Sydney on the final day.
Because we were leaving Sydney, but also returning to Australia to see Melbourne, Hobart, Eden, and Sydney, we were required to show the Australian Airport Authorities our cruise ship itinerary along with our Australia E-Visa in our Passport. If you have a similar plan in mind, remember to keep your cruise paperwork handy at the airport.
We paid around $80 each for the one way flight to Auckland, flying on an airline called Jetstar. We later learned that one of the reasons that this particular flight is so inexpensive is that is usually has a four hour delay. We were not terribly concerned because we had booked a night in Auckland at a hotel the night before the cruise. However, in hindsight, I would definitely pay more to arrive in Auckland earlier in order to have time to see this beautiful city properly. Maybe fly Qantas instead.
NOTE: When flying to Auckland, it is of course considered an International flight and requires a Passport. The good news is: NO VISA IS REQUIRED FOR NEW ZEALAND. Hoorah!
(In the state of Victoria)
After touring New Zealand, we arrived early in the morning at the Melbourne port of Australia. We opted not to buy a shore excursion for Melbourne because it’s an easy city to see on your own.
NOTE: If you are coming from a cruise ship, remember that you are back in Australia where a VISA is required. It is electronically connected to your Passport, so be certain to carry your Passport with you at all times while ashore.
We walked off the ship very early, not realizing that there was a free city bus (the red bus) that will take you into the city. Although, it is my understanding that this particular bus is no longer in business. However, most of the cruise ships offer a transfer to and from the city for a nominal fee.
Regardless, we saw the beautiful skyline of down town Melbourne from the ship’s port and thought we’d take advantage of the sunny day and walk into the city on foot. I would not recommend this to anyone. It takes about an hour to get to the city from the ship’s dock, and only if you are walking at a very fast pace. We were stopped by a few locals who were out and about and they were amazed to learn that we were not locals ourselves and were walking from the cruise terminal to the city.
However, once we arrived to the city, we forgot all about the long walk and enjoyed seeing the sight of Melbourne. Here are the points of Interests to be sure to see: (not in any particular order)
• Flinders Street Rail Station
This is a LOVELY building that is postcard-worthy both inside and out. You can’t miss it.
• Queen Victoria Market
From food markets to clothing to goods, this place has it all and its architecture is very old-world which adds to the fun.
• The University of Melbourne
A great Uni campus to walk around and even engage in a few intellectual conversations with the students and professors passing by. It’s a fun and friendly place.
• Eureka Skydeck 88
There is something called “the edge” that is a glass block you can walk into to see the views below. Unless you have a fear of heights, do it. It’s about $18 a person for the experience.
• Federation Square
A very cool art-deco styled building that is across from Flinders Rail Station. There are shops inside.
• Australian Center for the Moving Image
A free air-conditioned museum dedicated to film and animation.
• Royal Botanical Gardens
A great place to stroll about.
• The beaches of Melbourne
Another great place to stroll about.
Once we had enjoyed our day in Melbourne, we found the free red bus that took us back towards to port. What a great city Melbourne is, and it is certainly not to be missed if you are visiting Australia!
SIDE NOTE: During one of our sea days, my husband and I went to Afternoon Tea on the ship. We met some lovely ladies from various places in Australia. I made the horrible mistake of asking one of them is she was a “native” to Australia, meaning, had she always lived there. I never thought the little lady would stop laughing. It was contagious because soon our entire table was howling with laughter (only… I didn’t really know why I was giggling along with them.) She dabbed her eyes from laughter and then explained to me that “natives” in Australia are aborigines, unlike natives of various towns, cities, and states in the United States. I minded my manners after that and was happy to learn so much from these extremely friendly and fun ladies.
(In the state of TASMANIA)
What a BEAUTIFUL part of Australia Tasmania is! Many Australians have never even been to this beautiful island state. To learn more about the rich history of Tasmania, visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tasmania
Bonorung Wildlife Sanctuary Shore Excursion:
We opted to take a shore excursion that we purchased from Holland America. I would rate this as a five star place to visit, whether you are visiting by land or cruise. Guided tours of this amazing place are available through Trip Advisor, or you can chose to go on your own. Don’t miss the Tasmania Devil, baby foster kangaroos, and the unique Tasmania tree frogs. I loved the fact that this is not a zoo but a refuge and rehabilitation center for these sweet little animals.
For more information, check out: https://www.bonorong.com.au/
(In the state of New South Wales)
This is a quant little beach town that we opted to see on our own. We decided to walk and get some exercise and ended up in the Bittangabee Bay area, located in the south section of Ben Boyd National Park. While there, we explored a lovely lighthouse that served as the focal point of the area.
We noticed a few small guided tours be conducted while we were there. There were also some naturalists that were whale-watching and commenting professionally on other sea creatures.
This was our final port-of-call before returning to Sydney and flying home. Therefore, we made our exploration of Eden a half-day and returned back to the ship to prepare for our journey back to the United States. What a FABULOUS trip!!!
I hope that you have enjoyed reading about one of my favorite spots in the world as much as I enjoyed writing about it!
So long for now, BEAUTIFUL AUSTRALIA.
“Good Day, Mate”. Safe and happy travels to you!
Up next……Beautiful New Zealand!