Australia: Island of Wonders
by Rachel Lemons Photos: Courtesy of Australia Tourism
Koalas, Australia's shy mascots, can be seen in animal sanctuaries and reserves. Plan your visit around petting time, when an animal trainer will brief you on the animals' habits and let you take photos and pet the local koalas
Sydney Opera House's graceful lines are famous the world over
A trip to Australia is not complete without experiencing the curiosity, power and grace of its native Kangaroos
Australia Day in Sydney celebrates everything that's great about being Australian. Photo: Brendan Read
Melbourne, the second largest city in Australia, is well-known for its arts, entertainment, shopping and waterways
A beach on Lizard Island in the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Luxury Lodges of Australia
The beaches in Sydney are perfect places to see and be seen.
Known to Australians as the lucky country, because of its great weather, lifestyle, economy and fortune, Australia must make your list of places to visit. But be careful, you might enjoy it so much that you'll be drawn to stay awhile. Given that it is the world's largest island and sixth largest country, you'll need plenty of time to take in its beautiful landscapes, sophisticated cities, pristine beaches and laid-back attitude.
You'll find diverse landscapes in Australia, ranging from deserts in the central region to beaches along the coasts, rainforests to the north and mountains to the south. The Great Barrier Reef is a must-see. After experiencing the breathtaking beauty of the reefs during an underwater dive, you'll soon understand why this is a diver’s paradise. While you're still in the tropical northern region, take in the spectacular white-sand beaches of the exclusive Lizard Island, which sits on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.
To experience a beach better known for people watching than for its natural appeal, stop by Bondi Beach in Sydney. This beach is a must-visit while in Sydney because it is an icon to Aussie beach culture. While in Sydney, to get a real sense of the diverse landscapes, take a day trip to the Blue Mountains. There, you'll witness stunning views of the Tablelands and you'll see a famous rock formation known locally as the Three Sisters.
A trip to Australia is not complete without a visit to two of its most iconic landmarks: the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Famous for sculpting the Sydney skyline, these two graceful structures are as strong as they are sleek. The best way to take in the majesty of the Opera House is to attend a concert or performance. Though an imposing figure, the Concert Hall, which seats over 2,600 attendees, has the intimate feel and sound quality of a private studio performance. If a concert is not on during your visit, opt for a tour, which runs daily.
Not too far beyond the Opera House, you'll find the strong, distinctive arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Built in 1932, the bridge is over 1,149 meters long. It has eight traffic lanes, a walkway, a cycleway and two rail lines spanning it, so there are many ways to experience this impressive structure. For the not-so-faint-at-heart, try venturing out on the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. This adventure will take you on a climb of the bridge, with a tour guide, safety equipment and several photo opportunities.
One of the major draws to visiting Australia is seeing the wildlife that the country has to offer. To fully enjoy the experience, take a trip to Kangaroo Island in South Australia, where you can enjoy a stay at a resort located on this beautiful island. On the Wildlife Tour, you will encounter koalas, kangaroos, raptors, wombats and reptiles. The wildlife park is home to over 1,500 animals on a setting of 10 acres of land. But it's not just the animals that the island has to offer; while there, you can enjoy fine dining, hire a local guide, get dirty doing adventure sports or go caving. You're guaranteed not to get bored at Kangaroo Island.
While Aussies have struck a delicate balance of living in the natural world around them, the majority of them live in cities around the coasts. Though situated far from the rest of civilization in the middle of the ocean, Australian cities rival any of the world's other cosmo hubs for style, sophistication and amenities.
For the fourth year running, Melbourne has earned the title of most liveable city in the world. Well known for its cafés and culture and for hidden treasures in its labyrinth of alley and laneways, you'll find Melbourne to be a city with a style of its own.
In contrast to Melbourne's whimsical and playful architecture, you'll find Canberra, the nation's capital, to be precise, pristine and practical. Neatly designed like a capital should be, visit Canberra to better appreciate this young nation's history and to feel the pulse of its political system.
In Sydney, you'll enjoy a diverse and sophisticated city, where the men and women value seeing and being seen. Residents of this city work hard and play hard. Sydney's sense of adventure lies in its neighborhoods. After exploring the food and shopping in the Central Business District or CBD, as the locals call it, take a wander to Leichhardt, the Italian district, Manly, The Rocks, Chinatown or Surry Hills.
In one trip, you can have a holiday that's relaxing, adventurous, delicious and memorable. In one moment you will take on the laid-back attitude of the Aussies, wearing beach gear around town, and in the next you'll dress to the nines with the rest of the urban sophisticates. Australia is a country of many personalities, and for this reason there's something here to fit everyone's style.
After taking in natural beauty, you'll work up an appetite to delve into uniquely Australian cuisine. Due to its colonial beginnings and Aboriginal heritage, Australian cuisine is fun and fresh, yet traditional at times. Meals range from breakfast to morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and finally, dinner. Any time of day will be a great time to sample Australian fare. Australian natives prefer to eat barbecue, accompanied by fresh salads and hearty soups in the winter months. When dining out, they find a variety of options no matter what part of the country they call home.
For a delectable breakfast in Perth, the western-most city in Australia, head to Voyage, a café with freshly baked treats and custom blended coffee. Known worldwide for its love affair with coffee, Australian brews carry names like flat white, long black and piccolo. Influenced by early Greek and Italian immigrants, Australian baristas are highly valued for their ability to brew a good cup of coffee. At Voyage, you can enjoy a traditional Aussie breakfast of eggs on toast, sausage, hash browns, grilled tomato, roasted pesto mushrooms, tomato relish and fresh toast.
A very sophisticated pick for your high tea experience takes us to Sydney at the Victoria Room. Fully appointed with lush surroundings, you can choose from the Classic, Emerald, Sapphire or Diamond High Tea, which features finger sandwiches, scones, conserves and assorted sweets. After this experience, you'll be fully initiated into Aussie culture.
In Brisbane, lunch boasts more native ingredients at award-winning Tukka restaurant with an haute cuisine atmosphere. Native game, such as kangaroo, emu, crocodile and opossum feature on the menu as fine dining.
For dinner, you'll enjoy your meal with a view at Quay (pronounced Kee), Australia's most awarded restaurant. Be sure to book this place well in advance as it's highly in demand for its locally sourced produce, modern twists on traditional recipes and surprising tastes, textures and techniques. Popular dishes include the Full Blood Wagyu, Bitter Chocolate Black Pudding and Oxtail Consomme; the Snow Egg and the Congee of Northern Australian Mud Crab.
More traditional Australian dishes include fish and chips and desserts like lamingtons, pavlova and Haigh's chocolate, a definite must-have!
Australia is a place where outdoor living, family, friends, food and a great "cuppa" reign. Let this paradise island surprise you!