Hi everyone!! Thanks for joining us at our virtual meetup this evening on everything Australia!!! We had our special member of our Cleveland area group join us FROM Australia (she has returned home now to Heathcote, Victoria) and she was able to give us some AMAZING insight and suggestions which I have added to this post along with my research and personal experiences! So excited to hopefully host a trip there next year and/or help YOU get to OZ and do it right!!! Please feel free to share your own experiences and suggestions for Australia, ask a question or share your own story right here on this forum! This area is for all of us to communicate on an ongoing basis!:)
As usual, here is a summary of our discussion today after our announcements this week!
1. Our Colorado trip is POSTED! The itinerary, cost and dates are all up in detail here and you can also register on this page! We need at least 5 people to join in order for the trip to take place. The dates are July 25th-31st for approximately 6 days. Everything is included except for some meals. See the full details here and register now! We offer full refunds in the event the trip does not take place or you need to cancel and you will be given an option to go on a payment plan if you wish. If that is the case, contact us and we will give you the info on that!
2. Next virtual meetup is Thursday, June 18th from 6-7pm EST. It is all about exchanging travel photos and memories! See details and sign up with the calendar on this page!
3. PHYSICAL meetups are now starting again! Yay!!! We are FINALLY back after the pandemic limitations! The first one is in Cleveland on June 29th!! Sign up on this page for that meetup or any other of our posted meetups this summer right here on this page!
4. I now have put individual sign up forms for each trip on our upcoming trips page. You can express interest to any number of them easily and efficiently (by doing this, you are only expressing interest in a particular trip so there are no payments here! :))! Thanks for the feedback, everyone!
5. As usual, for ANY of our virtual meetup participants (that means if you have ever been to one of our virtual meetups before), you get 50% off ANY fun private virtual travel event on our Travel in the Home page or our Covid 19 Escape page! If you need a reminder of the promo code, just contact me and I will remind you! 🙂
And Now….Australia Notes!
As a group we talked about where you all would like to visit and the kinds of trips you would like to take in Australia. Here is some of the info we discussed:
Basic history of Australia: It was originally established by the native Aborigines and taken over later by British colonization which began with prisoners being sent there as punishment for crimes. To this day, one major thing to observe in Australia is the nature and history of the Aborigines and Indigenous Australians. You can learn about their history and culture almost anywhere you go in Australia and it should be a part of your visit!
We recommend that when you go to Australia to visit for at least 3 weeks if not more. There is so much to see and do beyond just the main tourist areas of the east coast!
When I host a trip to Australia, we will do many things that help you both see the sites and also meet with locals and socialize.
By the way, I LOVED the Bill Bryson book In a Sunburned Country. I highly recommend reading this for some amazing (and funny) stories and tips!! 😀
Let’s begin by talking about some of the major cities in Oz and some recommendations for each:
Top things to do in Sydney:
-Sydney Opera House (you can go to see a performance or you can just go inside and take a tour
-Sydney Harbour and Bridge (some people climb this but it is pricey but WELL WORTH IT!)
-Bondi Beach (good for surfing)
-Circular Quay (for ferries to beaches and waterfront shops and restaurants)
-The Rocks (historic area with markets, restaurants and pubs)
-Darling Harbour (my favorite area of Sydney with restaurants, city lights, ice skating in the winter, music and pubs!)
Suggested day trips from Sydney:
-The Blue Mountains (known for waterfalls, gorges, Aboriginal rock carvings and paintings and lots of hiking trails)
I think we took this exact tour to Blue Mountains and it was AWESOME: Blue Mountains Day Tour
Here is a picture of our group here!
-Hunter Valley is also a good day trip from Sydney (popular for foodies and wine gurus and filled with wineries, places to hike, museums and gardens)
-Manley Beach (argued by natives to be better than Bondi Beach…known for pristine beaches swimming and sea creatures. You can take a ferry here from Circular Quay)
Best Time to Go: September-November and March-May
Accommodations Recommendations: We stayed in Wake Up Sydney! and it was AWESOME!!! I would HIGHLY recommend staying here!!
2. Melbourne (pronounced Mel-bin. No “r” sound!)
Top things to do in Melbourne:
-Federation Square (like a public square with museums, bars, shops and entertainment)
-Royal Botanic Gardens
-Flinders Street Railway (historic railway station which serves the entire metropolitan rail network)
-Queen Victoria Markets (I went to a night market there and it was so nice! They had mulled wine in the winter and tons of cute little vendors and craft items and many food options)
-The Docklands (has an observation wheel, waterside dining, shows, entertainment and a shopping plaza)
-Additional recommendations to visit for the Melbourne Cup in November which is horse racing and EXTREMELY well-known and popular to visit.
-Check out Melbourne Laneways and Hosier Lane which is a beautiful artistic graffiti lane to experience along with several other cultural areas and coffee houses. (check out Airbnb tours for good ones!).
Suggested day trips from Melbourne:
-Great Ocean Road (drive out to see the infamous 12 Apostles). Also Warrnambool has great whale watching at the end of this road!
Here is the picture I took for a visual!
-Philip Island (known for animal and wildlife sanctuaries and nightly penguins which come out of the water and travel across the beach!!!)
We weren’t allowed to take pictures but this one a pretend one that summed up the REAL thing!! It really was incredible!
-Yarra Valley is another great place to go from Melbourne. I recommend doing this popular wine tour here!
*Check out visitmelbourne.com for great tour ideas around the area!
Best Time to Go: March-May and September-November
Accommodations Recommendations: Queen Victoria Hostel is popular and got great reviews!
3. Hobart (Tasmania)
Top things to do in Hobart:
-Mount Wellington (known for scenic views and elevated peaks)
-Salamanca Market (cultural hub and market)
-Cascade Brewery (historic brewery and garden)
-MONA (Subterranean museum of art)
Suggested day trips from Hobart:
-Port Arthur (famous ruins of a HUGE penitentiary, convict church and entire town)
One of the ruins pictures I took
-Freycinet National Park is another common day trip (known for sea life viewing like whales and penguins and also good for kayaking and amazing views)
-Visit the historic quaint town of Launceston (also has a lot of nature and woodlands, cliffs and wineries and is also popular for ziplining)
-Cradle Mountain (known for highlands, waterfalls and Lake St. Clair. You can also take a scenic flight or go horseback riding here)
-Visit the Unzoo if you want to see Tasmanian Devils!!
Here are Tasmanian Devils! They don’t look quite like they do in Looney Tunes!
Best Time to Go: December-February but winter has a mix of snow but sun (this is in June-August when I was there)
Accommodations Recommendations: Quarry House Retreat
4. Adelaide (South Australia)
Top things to do in Adelaide:
-Central Market (lots of fresh produce options)
-Adelaide Oval (sports arena and venue)
-Adelaide Zoo (for some Australian animals)
-Visit the many art galleries and museums like the South Australian Museum.
*Note: Adelaide has more of a laid back feel to it. It is more of a mid-sized city.
Suggested day trips from Adelaide:
-If you go nowhere else, go to Barossa Valley and do a wine tour. This is literally the wine capital of the world! It has over 150 wineries including the infamous Jacob’s Creek. But my personal favorite was a VERY local one called Kies, which is family-owned and they don’t distribute anywhere except for Barossa.
-Adelaide Hills (known for wineries, farmlands and German establishments)
-McLaren Vale and Fleur Peninsula (also known for wineries and beaches.
-Kangaroo Island (this was also one I loved and you can see the sea lions and seals, the kangaroos and kualas and platypuses in their natural habitat). Keep in mind, you will need to take the SeaLink ferry to get there. I recommend booking a tour which includes transportation to the ferry and also a day’s worth of activities and the expensive ferry ride itself.
Here is a shot of the sea lions at Kangaroo Island!
Best Time to Go: March-May and September-November
Accommodations Recommendations: We stayed at the YHA in a private room in Adelaide. It was very clean and nice and full of activities as well close to everything downtown!
5. Perth (this is my all time FAVORITE city on earth. And I don’t even like cities!!)
Top things to do in Perth:
-King’s Park and Botanic Gardens (filled with memorials and also beautiful views overlooking the city which is especially nice at night)
-Swan Valley (known for wineries and breweries and chocolate)
-Bell Tower in Perth
Day trips from Perth:
-Definitely Fremantle and Rottnest Island! You can visit the famous penitentiary in Fremantle, which is the state’s only world heritage site. Also, Fremantle itself is very quaint and filled with history, color and learning experiences about the culture! I HIGHLY recommend going here! And FROM Fremantle, you can take the ferry to Rottnest Island. I recommend renting a bike there and biking around the island. Also, you won’t want to miss the ever-so-popular quokkas which are EXTREMELY friendly!
Here is Fremantle in the evening.
And yes, this is a quokka!!
-Penguin Island you can also visit from Perth and see the penguins and pelicans
-Wave Rock is less common but super interesting and only a short drive from Perth
-The Pinnacles and Nambung National Park
-The people of Perth are extremely nice! I made friends with my tour guide to the Pinnacles and he invited me over for dinner and cooked! I just had the best time in this city!
*Get to a west coast sunset at some point! They are truly AMAZING.
Best Time to Go: September-November in the Spring
Accommodations Recommendations: The Sebel
6. Darwin (I did not get to this area personally but want to go back!)
Top things to do in Darwin:
-Mindil Market in Darwin (known for beaches and night markets)
-Crocosaurus Cove (see the crocodiles!)
-Darwin waterfront is great for dining and entertainment
-Darwin National Park and Darwin Military Museum
Day trips from Darwin:
-Litchfield National Park (known for water pools, falls and sandstone pillars)
-Kakadu National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site)-known for Aboriginal rock art and rain forests. You can take a yellow water cruise here and also head to Nadab Lookout for sunset!
-Katherine Gorge in Nitmilik National Park (you can take a cruise or canoe along the Katherine River)
-11 hours south is Devil’s Marbles (another Aboriginal sacred site)
Best Time to Go: June-September
Accommodations Recommendations: Argus Hotel Darwin
7. Cairns (pronounces “cans”)
Top things to do in Cairns and day trips from here:
-The Great Barrier Reef (but don’t forget your seasick medicine!! LOL). You’ll take a tour boat from the port here!
– Visit Kuranda (it’s a small mountainous town and you can take a ride on the cable car over the rainforest or take a train ride along the scenic railway)-I loved this!
-Barron Falls- this is right outside Kuranda and it’s Queensland’s most dramatic waterfalls where you can also go rafting!
-Fitzroy Island (known for the Whitsundays (one of the top beaches in the world and you can also go snorkeling or scuba diving here!
-Fraser Island (world’s largest sand island and a cliff famous for sculpted ribbons of colored sand…also you can visit Great Barrier Reef from here as well!)
Best Time to Go: April-September
Accommodations Recommendations: PURE PARADISE (I690) L’Abode
Let’s Talk Hidden Gems as Well as Major Places to Visit NOT Around Major Cities and Some Personal Favorites:
1. Visit the Red Centre (Uluru, Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta in the Olgas)- Head to Alice Springs and do a multi-day tour with camping and hiking included! this is LITERALLY the best thing I did on my ENTIRE trip to Australia! I still have friends from that trip to this day and I will NEVER forget sleeping under the stars in a swag (yes, look it up!!) I did the Rock Tour which includes everything and memories you’ll never forget!
Some highlights of this experience!!! Those stars though!!
*By the way, it was recommended to check out Field of Lights illuminated in front of Uluru!! Check it out here: https://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/events/detail/field-of-light-uluru
2. Coober Pedy: In South Australia about 526 miles north of Adelaide. This is an underground town known for opal mining and underground homes and establishments. It was SO interesting to visit. I visited there by bus stopping off from Alice Springs on my way back down to Adelaide. I stayed in an underground hostel which was amazing called Radeka Down Under! I also made friends with a couple who was nice enough to invite me to their home to see what REAL living there was like! Here are some pictures from that!
He literally showed me a “closet he was digging for his wife!”
3. Visit the west coast of Australia. You may have to deal with the complicated bus lines (known as Integrity Lines) but it IS worth it. Some of the places I recommend are Coral Bay/Ningaloo reef where you can snorkel and scuba dive and see whale sharks, Broome (with pristine beaches), Karratha and Port Hedland where you can see many historic sites and explore some incredible nature. Also, I stayed at Whim Creek, which is halfway between Port Hedland and Karratha and it is famous for being the “pink hotel” and and it has a popular iconic pub stop!
4. Karijini National Park (another one of my TOP places. I also recommend a multi-day tour here where you can visit the canyons and swim in the little water coves and swimming holes. You can also see the flora and fauna there are experience Australia’s second largest national park!! It was TRULY a hidden Gem! I recommend taking the Integrity Lines bus to Tom Price and getting a tour from there!
Yes, this is real!
Other Honorable Mentions:
-Gold Coast/Surfer’s Paradise (just a day trip from Brisbane)
-Byron Bay (amazing for surfing)
-Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park in the Kimberley region
-Great Wall of China, Flinders Ranges in South Australia
Points to know about traveling to Australia:
-Temperatures vary DRASTICALLY depending on where you are visiting. Those shoulder months are good for a visit because they are more moderate across regions. For example, it can get VERY hot up north and pretty chilly down south in the winters and summers. Do your homework on where you are going!
-Australia is VAST and approximately the size of the continental US. I recommend a combination of renting a car, riding the bus, flights and tours.
-All flights on the west coast MUST go through Perth. It’s really silly but it’s true. Even if you want to travel an hour away in the northern park of the country, you have to fly all the way down to the bottom of the country to Perth and THEN fly back up north!
-Budget airlines include Jet Star (they don’t allow you to bring your own coffee on board so if you can, smuggle it!) and Quantas
-I recommend tours to get to national parks outside cities. They’re best for getting to really know what you’re looking at and doing and they include new friends!
-No photos allowed on the tarmac at the airport! I learned this the hard way!
-A “long black” is about the closest to regular black coffee you’re going to get there!
Top Foods in Australia:
-Fish and Chips
-Vegemite (you either love it or hate it or you hate it and then love it like me!)
-Sticky Date Pudding (You will NEVER want anything else!!!)
-Tim Tam cookies
-Pavlova (a meringue cake)
-Roast Lamb or Lamb on a BBQ
-DON’T EAT KANGAROO JERKY! It’s terrible!
-s’mores like aren’t really a thing so get some cookies, marshmallows and Cadbury chocolate and call it a day!
That’s about it!! Thanks everyone!!! Don’t forget to post your own comments, pictures, ideas and suggestions right here on this forum! See you next time!!
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