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Frommer's EasyGuide to Australia 2017

By: Lee Mylne
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The Australian dollar has recently plunged in value against the U.S. dollar making Australia far more accessible than its been in years. To keep up with all the changes the new currency situation has brought about, we’ve turned once again to Lee Mylnes. Based in Brisbane (the third most populous city in Australia), Mylnes has been an Australian travel journalist for nearly all her working life. She has traveled to every state and territory of Australia by every means of transport, and she is a life member and past president of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.

The book is updated yearly, concisely written (so it’s light to carry) and printed in large, easy-to-read font. It contains:

-Exact pricing, so there’s never any guessing
-Dozens of maps throughout
-Sample itineraries so you can make the most of your time in country
-Opinionated reviews of the country’s many attractions, hotels, restaurants, nightlife venues and shops from an author who has visited them all, and thus has the expertise to compare and call out only those that are worth your time.

Whether your chief interest are the Outback or the coastal cities of Australia, we think you'll benefit from the perceptive advice in this book.

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1 WHAT’S GREAT ABOUT AUSTRALIA

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what’s great about australia

Australia is like nowhere else you’ve been. It has truly unique wildlife, some of the world’s best natural scenery, the most brilliant scuba diving and snorkeling, the best beaches, the oldest rainforest (110 million years and counting), the oldest human civilization (some archaeologists say 40,000 years, some say 120,000), the best wines, the best weather, and the most innovative East-meets-West-meets-someplace-else cuisine—all bathed in sunlight that brings everything up in Technicolor. Prepare yourself for a lifetime of memories.

Scarcely a visitor lands on these shores without having the Great Barrier Reef at the top of their to-do list. So they should, because it really is a glorious natural masterpiece. Also high on most lists is Uluru, a sacred monolith that—rightly—attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists (including celebrities and royalty, such as Britain’s Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge). And it’s not just “The Rock” you should see; the vast Australian desert all around it is equally unmissable. The third attraction on most visitors’ lists is Sydney, Australia’s glittering harborside city.

 

2 AUSTRALIA IN CONTEXT

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Australia In Context

When most people think of Australia, they conjure up images of bounding kangaroos, dusty red deserts, and golden sandy beaches. The Sydney Opera House is right up there, too. They imagine drawling accents and slouch hats, suntanned lifeguards, and men who wrestle crocodiles for the fun of it. It’s all that—and more (apart from the crocodile wrestling)! This huge continent is truly remarkable, offering everything from rolling green hills, dense ancient rainforests, and historic towns, to vast areas of sparsely inhabited ochre-red Outback, to giant coral reefs and deserted beaches, unique animals and plants, cosmopolitan modern cities, and intriguing Aboriginal culture.

Most people visiting Australia for the first time head to Sydney or Melbourne. They explore the Red Centre and the giant rock Uluru; or they take to the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef to dive or snorkel. But it’s also often the places that come to them by chance, or through deeper research, that remain locked in their memories forever. Who could forget holding a koala in your arms, or feeding a kangaroo from the palm of your hand? Or traveling ochre-red dirt tracks and seeing emus running alongside their 4WD? This book will concentrate on those areas that are the most traveled, the ones on every visitor’s wish list. At the same time I’ll take you to some of the lesser-known treasures of each city and share some of my personal favorite places and experiences. Of course, no travel experience is complete without a little background information, which is where this chapter comes in.

 

3 SUGGESTED ITINERARIES

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Suggested Itineraries

Australia’s size and its distance from Northern Hemisphere destinations are the two most daunting things about planning a visit. A week or two in Australia is just enough time to scrape the surface of this vast, complex, and fascinating place. It’s a long way to come for just a week, but if that’s all you can spare, you still want to see as much as possible. While my inclination is to immerse myself in one spot, I know that not everyone can do that. Seeing as much as possible is often a priority, so here are some ideas on how to do just that.

If you’re a first-time visitor, with only 1 or 2 weeks, you may find these two itineraries most helpful: “Australia in 1 Week” or “Australia in 2 Weeks.” These itineraries can be adapted to suit your needs; for example, you could replace the Cairns section of “Australia in 1 Week” with the Uluru/Red Centre suggestions in “Australia in 2 Weeks,” flying from Sydney to Uluru.

If you’re traveling as a family, the “Australia for Families” itinerary is designed to give you some ideas on keeping the young ones occupied (while still being interesting for parents!).

 

4 SYDNEY

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Sydney

Warm-natured, sun-kissed, and naturally good looking, Sydney is rather like its lucky, lucky residents. Situated on one of the world’s most striking harbors, where the twin icons of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge steal the limelight, the relaxed Australian capital is surprisingly close to nature. Within minutes you can be riding the waves on Bondi Beach, bushwalking in Manly, or gazing out across Botany Bay, where the first salt-encrusted Europeans arrived in the 18th century. You can understand why they never wanted to leave.

For that “I’m in Sydney!” feeling, nothing beats the first glimpse of the white-sailed Opera House and the iconic Harbour Bridge, which you can climb for a bird’s-eye view of the sparkling harbor. Move on to the Royal Botanical Gardens’ tropical greenery and the Museum of Contemporary Art’s cutting-edge exhibitions. With 70 beaches close by—from the fizzing surf of famous Bondi Beach to Manly’s coastal walks and pine-flanked bays—it’s no wonder Sydneysiders look so bronzed and relaxed.

 

5 MELBOURNE

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MelbourNe

It’s rare to find anyone who lives in Melbourne who doesn’t adore it. I’ve lived there, and I love it too, and I hope this chapter explains to you the many reasons why. Victoria’s capital, Melbourne (pronounced Mel-bun), is a cultural melting pot. For a start, more people of Greek descent live here than in any other city except Athens, Greece. Multitudes of Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese, and Lebanese immigrants have all left their mark. Almost a third of Melburnians were born overseas or have parents who were born overseas. With such a diverse population—and with trams rattling through the streets and stately European-style architecture surrounding you—it is sometimes easy to think you are somewhere else.

Melbourne’s roots can be traced back to the 1850s, when gold was found in the surrounding hills. British settlers took up residence and prided themselves on coming freely to their city, rather than having been forced here in convict chains. The city grew wealthy and remained a conservative bastion until World War II, when another wave of immigration, mainly from southern Europe, made it a more relaxed place.

 

6 BRISBANE

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Brisbane

Brisbane is one of those cities that seems always to be changing, without ever losing its essential heart and character. It’s that most Australian of cities—big-hearted, blue-skied, and with a down-to-earth attitude that soon rubs off on you. Brisbane will most likely be your first port of call in Queensland, and you can even reach the southernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef on a day trip from here.

Brisbane (pronounced Briz-bun), “Brizzie” to locals, functions on a very human scale. It’s a place where you can cuddle koalas, join bronzed urbanites on the beaches on the weekend, and sunbathe by the Brisbane River while gazing up at gleaming sky-scrapers. Beyond landmarks such as the 1920s City Hall and the Treasury Building’s graceful colonnades, Brisbane’s major attractions are outdoors. Cool down under a canopy of subtropical foliage at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. Gaze at contemporary art at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), dinosaurs at the Queensland Museum, and the city skyline from the gently revolving Wheel of Brisbane. Koalas—more than 130 of them—beg a cuddle at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

 

7 CAIRNS & THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

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Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef

Fish out your flippers and prepare to dive! Or snorkel. Beneath the aqua blue waters off Queensland’s northern coast lie the jewels of the deep—gardens of coral, inhabited by colorful reef fish. Welcome to Australia’s most famous natural attraction, the Great Barrier Reef. And while the Reef is by no means the only thing worth seeing in a state that’s two and a half times the size of Texas, it is the focus of this chapter. There are many gateways to the Reef along the Queensland coast, but Cairns is the major center and where most commercial boat tours depart from. I’ve also included some of the smaller towns that offer easy access to this natural wonder.

White sandy beaches grace nearly every inch of coastline in Queensland, and a string of islands and coral reefs dangles just offshore. Cairns, set between rainforest hills, sugarcane fields, and the Coral Sea, still has fewer options for direct arrivals; for most people, Brisbane or Sydney will be their first stop before heading to the far north of Australia’s east coast. In Cairns, a harbor full of boats awaits to take you to the Reef. An hour north, the village of Port Douglas provides another for point of departure for the Reef.

 

8 ULURU & THE RED CENTRE

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Uluru & the Red Centre

The Red Centre is the landscape most closely associated with Australia’s Outback—endless horizons, vast deserts of red sand, a mysterious monolith, and cloudless blue skies. If there is a soundtrack, it is the rhythmic, haunting tones of the didgeridoo. At its heart is the magnificent monolith called Uluru—the “Rock”—that is the reason every visitor is drawn to this arid land.

The Centre is home to sprawling cattle ranches, ancient mountain ranges, “living fossil” palm trees that survived the Ice Age, cockatoos and kangaroos, ochre gorges, lush water holes, and intriguing tracks leading to heart-stopping landscapes.

Aboriginal people have lived here for tens of thousands of years, but the Centre is still largely unexplored by non-Aboriginal Australians. One highway cuts from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north, and a few roads and four-wheel-drive tracks make a lonely spider web across it; in many other areas, non-Aborigines have never set foot.

 

9 TASMANIA & HOBART

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tasmania & hobart

A place of wild beauty colored by a tragic past, the Australian island of Tasmania—of which Hobart is the capital and largest city—stands separated from the rest of Australia by Bass Strait. For centuries, this island state has forged its own, not always smooth, path. While geographical isolation has preserved much of its unique wilderness, it has still had to contend with the worst efforts of man to spoil it at times.

Tasmanians have always been at the forefront of Australia’s environmental movement and some of Australia’s fiercest battles over development have been waged in Tasmania. Among the issues Tasmania is grappling with right now are the possible extinction of Tasmanian devils due to a spreading facial-tumor disease (see p. 283), reports that foxes have been introduced to this predator-free environment, and ongoing vigilance against proposals for pulp mills that may hasten destruction of forestlands. You will not, despite local legend, run into any Tasmanian tigers here (the last known one died in 1936 despite more recent “sightings”).

 

10 PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO AUSTRALIA

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Planning Your Trip to Australia

A little preparation is essential before you start your journey to Australia, especially if you plan to do any special-interest activities, such as diving the Great Barrier Reef or visiting the Aboriginal landmarks in the Red Centre. This chapter provides a variety of planning tools, including information on how to get there and on-the-ground resources.

Getting There

By Plane

Australia is a very long haul from just about anywhere except New Zealand. Sydney is a nearly 15-hour nonstop flight from Los Angeles, and even longer if you come via Honolulu, Hawaii. If you’re traveling from the East Coast of the U.S., add 51⁄2 hours. If you’re coming from the United States via Auckland, add transit time in New Zealand plus another 3 hours for the Auckland–Sydney leg.

If you are coming from the United Kingdom, brace yourself for a flight of 12 hours, more or less, from London to Asia, followed possibly by a long day in transit, because flights to Australia have a habit of arriving in Asia early in the morning and then not departing until around midnight, after which you still have a 8- to 9-hour flight to Australia.

 

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