Where do I begin, to tell you about one of the most magnificent places on earth? The land downunder, Oz.
Well I reckon you can begin by imagining white sand beaches that seem to have no beginning and no end. Then...
imagine lakes so large that you cannot see their entirety, rivers and lagoons as smooth as mercury and lush forests
everywhere you go.
This page is dedicated to all the amazing people and magical places in New South Wales and Queensland that I
explored during the Australian winter of 2000. This page is a reflection of my personal experiences, "a Pommie girl
with a bloody Yank accent" (as one Aussie friend called me), and therefore not necessarily what another traveler
might experience. However, some other Aussie mates of mine are in agreement with what I've written, so go ahead,
enjoy the following journal and visit as soon as you can. You will never want to leave.
I returned to Oz in March 2002 for an unbelievable, exciting, action packed adventure in Northern Queensland
and then stayed awhile in THE greatest city on earth, Sydney. Since then i've travelled to Hawaii, Hong Kong,
across both China and Alaska and visited the UK. Absolutely no-where on earth has touched my soul as Australia
does. Are there any Aussies out there in NSW or Queensland looking for a British girlfriend/life partner?
The People of Oz
Population 19 million, 4 million in Sydney.
A melting pot of many peoples with a live, vibrant culture that stems from multi cultural identity. Friendly,
caring, polite, warm, hospitable, down-to-earth, honest, open, easy-going and outspoken. They love being
outdoors, participating in something athletic, exploring or simply enjoying the fabulous beaches, the scenery
and the great weather. Australians are very proud of their land and delight to show it off.
There is very little pretense, superficiality, egomania. People truly seem to love and enjoy a simple, relaxed
and open lifestyle. There are many English and Irish people as well as Asian and Middle Eastern races.
Sydney has the most diverse mix of people, with the gay community rivaling San Francisco. The local drag
queens performed at the Olympic closing ceremony. Their costumes upstaged and included the fabulous ones
seen in "Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert"
Huge fans of sporting events such as horse racing, cricket, footie and rugby many pubs have not only teli's
but also bookies to place a bet as you watch. Sports are a national pastime and a serious pleasure. Aussies
are obsessive gamblers and sports figures such as Cathy Freeman and Ian Thorpe are heroes.
Australia's original inhabitants, Aborigines, are a minority of 386,000 mostly impoverished people in a population
of 19 million. After 212 years of white settlement, Aborigines are the least employed, least educated, least healthy
and most jailed segment of Australian society. Whilst in Sydney at Circular Quay, Sidney Central shopping centre
and later in The Blue Mountains, I met some wonderful aborigines who amused tourists by playing their digeridoo's
and telling stories. Alan, pictured below, is originally from Arnhem Land - Say hello if you see him for me!
The Aussie's value family life and many I met have families with between two to four children. Television,
magazines and newspapers reflect their concern, integration and inclusion of the family unit into everyday life.
Even the single parent community is looked after, with local support groups for single fathers becoming a trend.
Speaking about family, that is what the local pub is, same as the UK and New Zealand. My personal favorites are
the Irish bars filled with very happy, fun people and really, really great music. Have a pint of Kilkenny's on me!
Music & Fashion
Jeans and t-shirts are a way of life. Dress is super casual, for comfort, with little make-up, no high heels (black
boots at night), few dresses and a sprinkle of fashion, usually found at night in the trendy and extremely popular
trance nightclubs. Anything "cargo" is very in, along with colorful "see thru" tops.
Pubs and Clubs in Sydney are open all night with live music and dancing. All the musicians and singers I heard were
outstanding, from small hole in the walls to large and crowded bars and nightclubs. I even got to hear a local bush
band in The Blue Mountains, singing English Navy songs and traditional Aussie tunes.
Everyday on teli are fabulous music videos and the local radio stations play the latest songs and really cool
music, although reception is obviously not so good the farther you travel away from Sydney or Brisbane.
A really surprisingly good radio station is Sun FM in Alice Springs.
Yes, they drive on the 'other' side and speed limits are not only defined but obeyed! When passing through towns,
everyone slows down and dares not go above 60 as posted. The fine is about AUD $2,000! On the open highway,
100 is the average limit, with frequently posted signs to stop every two hours, to rest and revive. I drove over
6,000 kilometers and experienced no crazed motorists or speed freaks. At night, the roads are dominated by the
truckers and only the occasional lone motorist. The roads are well kept and paved unless you decide to detour and
explore, in which case a four wheel drive would be better suited to the gravel and plentiful potholes.
FYI: Petrol is anywhere from 89 to 98 cents/gallon.
The only complaint driving in Oz is that tailgating is a way of life and extremely annoying. Hard to understand why
with so much open road and spartan traffic. I asked a local pub owner why and he replied that Aussies are impatient
when it comes to driving long distances.
There are two major freeways connecting Sydney to Newcastle and Surfers Paradise to Brisbane - both are excellent
driving - and Sydney to Brisbane in one day, is an easy drive for those who don't opt to fly or travel by train or bus.
Australian life is extremely similar to English in many respects, including the food. I saw products in the local markets,
butchers and bakeries I haven't seen for years living in the USA. Sausage rolls, steak & kidney pies, marmite, vegemite,
cornish pasties, shepherds pie and real 'Devonshire' cream! All the sweets and pastries were deliciously English and
irresistible. Food is superb wherever you go - fresh, homemade, healthy and often homegrown. International food is
outstanding and all the fish is fresh from the ocean. A gastronomical, never ending feast!
Like the UK and New Zealand, the news is truly world news, covering everything happening daily on our planet,
as well as Australia itself. The programs are very international, with many British shows and foreign films. The
American "Friends" and "Sex And The City" are favourite sitcoms.
Newspapers, magazines and the teli are equally informative, interesting, open-minded, eye-opening, fun,
and entertaining to read and watch (unlike the narrow-minded, boring, shallow, censored crap in the USA).
British slang. Mind boggling I reckon to anyone not familiar with, or from, the UK.
Of course there is also the purely Aussie words and dialect just to confuse the tourists even more!
Telstra is Australia's communication giant. Phone credit cards are available at post offices, telstra shops and news agents.
For assistance dial 1223. Mobile phones are extremely popular and good deals can be had if you plan to stay awhile.
Internet access for email is growing and includes cafes in Kings Cross, Bondi Beach and Glebe.
Buy an Explorer Pass. It's good for the ferries and buses. People walk a lot and ride the buses frequently same as
in the UK. Don't expect to be able to get a taxi on a Friday or Saturday night though as that is when the streets of
Sydney are packed and the nightlife rocks! This is a city that never sleeps.
Nestled in between the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge - the working hub of Sydney's public transport,
trains, buses and ferries - it is a great place to see the sights of the Sydney Harbor. Catching an inner harbor
ferry costs little more then a bus fare and is well worth it for the priceless views.
If you want to see the best of Sydney it is recommended that you take the Manly Ferry from Circular Quay.
On the way you will see the Sydney Skyline together with the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House. Further
on you will see some superb waterfront homes and many small coves. The ferry passes the Heads which is
the opening to the harbor from the Tasman Sea and docks in Manly Cove. A short walk through the Mall
will lead you to Manly Beach which is one of Sydney's most popular beaches - spacious, lazy and leafy.
The ferry service will take you to many fantastic places most Aussies don't get time to see including:
World famous Taronga Zoo, spectacular location on the shore of Sydney Harbor, and Watsons Bay
- very scenic, great views, Doyle's famous seafood restaurant and a lively waterfront pub.
WOW! What can be said! It is stunning, larger than life and a truly fine example of architecture, designed
by a Dane, who actually quit before completion due to all the controversy surrounding the design. It is a
photographers dream due to the absolutely fabulous location.
FYI: Take plenty of film with you. For that matter, take plenty of film when traveling this
AWESOME country anyways! The beauty is intoxicating and absolutely breathtaking. It made me cry.
I was privileged to attend an evening of "A Midsummer's Night's Dream". Inside is as beautiful as out.
I spent intermission gazing out of the huge glass windows, looking at the sparkling Sydney Harbor lights
dancing across the water. The performance itself was visually gorgeous and even though I was in jeans
(no time to change), I was not out of place. The audience was equally dressed down in very simple, mostly
black pants and popular shawl wraps. Before the performance, I had dinner and drinks at the very elegant
restaurant/bar on the first level of the steps. The view is spectacular and quite romantic.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Gorgeous, serene, tranquil, lush gardens adjacent to The Opera House. Parrots fly freely through the sunny
sky, as they do everywhere in Oz. The views of the harbor are superb. Pack a picnic and take time out to
enjoy one of the finest promenades in the world and a glass pyramid which houses rare and threatened species.
Sydney Harbor Bridge
Along with the Opera House, this is Sydney's most famous landmark, connecting the city over the Inner Harbor.
You can go under (ferry), across (bus, train or foot), climb it (book ahead) or take in the fantastic views by climbing
the southern pylon of "The Coat Hangar" for about $2.
Apart from history, The Rocks offers many quaint pubs and restaurants to choose from. There is live music played
daily as you wander the stores in the square, shopping for souvenirs. Accommodation at The Rocks is a little more
expensive than elsewhere but well worth it as it's within walking distance of everything.
Find gifts, souvenirs, bargains, clothes, jewelry, electronics and produce at the excellent markets that
spring up at weekends, not just in Sydney, but in most towns throughout Oz. The best in Sydney are:
The Rocks, Paddington, Paddy's Market, Balmain or Glebe. Bondi also has one across from the beach.
The tallest building in Australia, with a 360 degree view of the city. On a clear day, you can see as far as The
Blue Mountains, not to mention the spectacular views of the Harbor and the cityscape. Be sure to experience
the special virtual reality show for visitors about Oz, before ascending to the viewing deck.
Darling Harbor - Major entertainment center for ALL ages!
You can get to Darling Harbor on the Monorail which does a circuit through the city centre. Home to the Imax
Cinema, National Maritime Museum, Powerhouse Museum, exquisite Chinese Gardens, Sydney Aquarium,
Harris St. Motor Museum, Star City Casino, expos galore, numerous waterfront restaurants, pubs, harbor cruises,
street performers, water fountains and laser light shows. Whew!
The Aquarium in particular is magnificent. There is a huge tank you can walk around and under to view a recreation
of life on The Great Barrier Reef. I sat on the carpet, mesmerized by the colours and the exotic ocean life swimming
before me, whilst classical music played all around. Bloody Fan....tas...tic!
Famous Bondi Beach is a must visit. Cosmopolitan, vibrant and a great choice of excellent international restaurants,
takeouts and cafes anywhere. I met people from all over the world here, visitors and locals. My hotel room with a
balcony and kitchen (all the hotels/motels I stayed in had kitchens, fresh milk and kettles for hot water), overlooked
the popular white beach that curves like a half moon crescent. It is home to many English people and enjoyed by
local surfers. Street vendors have small tables set up with jewelry, clothes and the unique, similar to Venice Beach
in L.A. - Don't miss the Sunday market!
The hustle and bustle of life here, needless to add, includes large pubs which "lovingly imbibe multitudes of travelers
and locals alike and stay open 'til the wee hours". Sunset and sunrise is a beauteous sight, sober or otherwise. There is
nothing like a great cup of fresh morning coffee, eggs and toast at one of the local side street cafes, as you nurse your
hangover, read the daily newspaper and watch the sun wake up in front of you. 'The Red Kite' cafe is my favourite.
If you look at the left side of the photo above, you will notice the huge beach volleyball stadium which seated 10,000
spectators for the Olympics in September. According to locals I spoke with, they think it is an eyesaw and something
the community is very unhappy about. They believe it has spoilt the beach and the ecoism in the bay. No-one seemed
to care about the added tourism and income. Their concern is the future beauty of the beach and only time will tell the
consequences after the stadium is dismantled.
Update 10/2000: The beach volleyball was a HUGE success and the brilliant women's Aussie team took the gold!
"The Cross" is Sydney's nightlife central offering everything from 24 hour pubs, clubs and dance venues
to strip clubs, coffee shops and classy eating places. However, be careful at night. Muggers play here.
Backpacking in Oz is easy and fun to do. There are hostels in just every town you may travel to. Try the Uni
of Sydney as they often have spare residential accommodation available otherwise there are many backpackers
hostels in Kings Cross. Also try Y.H.A. and Y.W.C.A. Bondi Beach has two hostels located on the esplanade.
Nearby Darlinghurst is where 'be seens' of Sydney prefer to hang out, centre for the gay scene. While not
exclusively gay, Oxford street is very proudly the camp epicentre of Australia, offering everything from
pubs with free drag shows, to Sydney's trendiest dance clubs. Over one million people gather here to see
the annual spectacular event of the February Mardi Gras Parade, regardless of persuasion.
Any vegetarian traveler searching for tasty and affordable food, will definitely find Glebe to be what they
desire, at an affordable price. A favourite haunt of students, the pubs here are laid back, friendly and inviting.
Sydney is a huge city area wise, however, the city has spread out as far as it can go as it now borders 3 National Parks.
They are the Royal National Park in the south, the Kurangai Chase National Park in the north and the Blue Mountains
National Park in the west. UPDATE April 2002: Despite the fires of Xmas 2001, the trees are growing and healing fast.
The Blue Mountains, the equivalent of The Grand Canyon, is a popular place for Sydneysiders to get away from it all
because it is situated at a higher altitude than the coast, so the climate is cooler. It is huge, vast and breathtaking. The
name derives from the mist that arises from the evaporating oil on the leaves of the eucalyptus forest as the sunlight
shines down. Trekking into the dense foliage is only recommended if you stay to the paths and know how to survive
in the bush if you decide to get lost.
There are some great walks through forested terrain surrounded by steep cliff walls and waterfalls. Colourful parrots
and exotic sounds echo everywhere. Stop by Wentworth Falls and The Three Sisters for sights you will never forget.
You can choose from multiple adventure activities including the amazing Jenolan Caves. Travel is cheap (AUS$12-)
on the suburban train line or within an hour or so driving distance from Sydney (i did both and enjoyed the train best).
I happened to visit in Winter, July, and discovered they were celebrating Christmas! My choice of lodging was a quaint
hotel in Katoomba - a really great little town that I highly recommend. The hostels and hotels were full, as were the
really lively pubs. The air was clear, crisp and invigorating. The scenery was stunning, the locals fascinating and
enormously friendly with plenty of cafes (Including internet access), an outstanding Vietnamese bakery and a really
delicious fish and chip shop.
Head either north or south along the coast and you'll find a assortment of National Parks, uncrowded
or empty beaches, picturesque coastal towns, villages and the fresh sea air that gently reminds you
how magical and fantastic it is to be in Australia.
Well, it's not quite so bald but if you were looking up from the beach the cliffs can seem really bare. From
Bald Hill, which is a jump-off point for hang gliders and para-gliders on good days, you can see Stanwell
Park beach below. Less than an hour's drive from Sydney at the southern edge of the Royal National Park
(expansive and lovely with waterfalls), is where the pretty Illawarra region and the South Coast of NSW
begins. Rolling meadows, forests, pristine beaches, rainforest and dairyland as far as the eye can see.
Mollymook - Known for the dolphins in the idyllic blue waters
Jervis Bay - Huge wild kangaroos, beautiful, peaceful bush and forest land with stunning coves.
Ulladulla - Pretty fishing port with tons of outdoors activities in the surrounding countryside.
Milton - Antiques and awesome fresh sandwiches.
I spent the most wonderful and magical afternoon here, feeding the friendly kangaroos, that live on the beach,
and all the gorgeous red, pink and green parrots that land on your head and open palms. The beach itself is
stunning with pure white sand, an azure lagoon, surrounded by forest and very few people, if any. It is just
as beautiful as the one seen in "The Beach" as are many of the beaches I discovered from south NSW all the
way up through Northern Queensland to Cape Tribulation.
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