Things to do:
- Great Barrier Reef: If you're in Australia, and I mean anywhere in Australia, you should see the Great Barrier Reef. It is absolutely breath taking -- home to every color of the rainbow, fish of every size and shape, and gorgeous, serene sea turtles. The Whitsunday Islands are the very southern-most part of the Reef, and home to some stunning beaches. I took a tour with Cruise Whitsundays and had a great time! They took us past several nearby islands, and when we got to the reef they provided snorkeling gear. I also paid a fee to go scuba diving and I cannot recommend it enough! It was one of my favorite parts of the trip, and the C.W. staff were awesome.
- Airlie Beach Lagoon: This is a protected beach area, so you won't see any stingrays or jellies in the water.
- Tour the white beaches: This was one of my favorite things about Airlie/Whitsunday. Come to relax, park yourself on a beach for a day (or forever), and unwind.
- Go on the weekends so you can check out the markets!
Where I stayed:
- Coral Sea Resort: This. Place. Is. Awesome. The rooms were great, the property was beautiful. It felt like the perfect Australian escape. Right on the water, with cabanas, a pool, and delicious food, the staff made me feel like a VIP and I ate it up.
Things to do:
- Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary: This place is awesome!! They have so many kinds of koalas, and give you an in-depth description of each. You can even hold the koalas and get your picture taken. They also have a massive kangaroo sanctuary where you can feed, play with, and pet them! I absolutely loved this place, and stayed here for most of the day.
- Brisbane Botanic Gardens: So. many. plants. If you're into flora and fauna, this is for you. You can walk through the gardens to see plants and birds from all over the world. It's beautiful!
- Brisbane River: The river is lined with restaurants, shops, and attractions and makes for a great lazy afternoon activity. I ran and walked along the water, and really enjoyed it.
Where I stayed:
- Brisbane YHA: Great location, great staff, and great accommodations -- it even has a rooftop pool! Plus, for a four person shared room with a private bathroom it's only $37 a night ($75 for a private double room). This is much cheaper than most other places I found, especially for how great a spot it is.
Things to do:
- Beaches: Bondi beach (super touristy, water sports and people watching heaven), Manly (medium tourist-level, perfect for a mix of local chill and tourist frenzy), Tamarama (short walk from Bondi with way fewer tourists), Cooogee (fewer tourists, more locals), Shelley (most local, very quiet and relaxing beach that is perfect for families)
- Sydney Opera House: This is quintessential Sydney to me. Absolutely gorgeous building right in the Sydney Harbor. I saw Madame Butterfly and loved it -- highly recommend going!
- Hyde Park: This is the oldest park in Sydney, with beautiful rolling green lawns, a wide varieties of colorful flowers, trees, and massive fountains. Great place to hangout in the sun.
- Fitzroy Gardens: Another great park -- good spot to walk around, bike, run, or hangout.
- Sydney Harbor Bridge: A must-see. This bridge passes over the harbor and is a great place to see the Opera House, the Harbor, and Sydney's bay side. If you're feeling adventurous you can even climb it!
- Sydney Tower Eye: Basically a massive ferris wheel that gives you a bird's eye view of the city. It's a great place to go at night!
- Taronga Zoo: An awesome zoo with over 4,000 animals -- you can even get an up-close and personal experience with a ton of them. The zoo is huge, so plan for a half to full day visit.
Where I stayed:
- Sydney Harbor YHA: I have super mixed feelings about this place. On one hand, it was inexpensive ($53 a night for a four person room or $173 for a double room -- the cheapest thing I could find in a good area), the location was great, and the people I met there were very friendly. On the other, the staff was painfully unhelpful, which led to a lot of mix ups, surcharges, and misinformation about things that were available to do in the area. I would probably only stay here again if everything else was booked or significantly more expensive.
Food to Try:
If you're looking for a fun, Australian meal you've got to have Aussie barbecue with kangaroo! It's delicious, and very unique.
The seafood is absolutely amazing! Order it in a restaurant, or buy fresh fish from one of the many seafood markets and try cooking it yourself.
If you're a coffee drinker, try a flat white -- this Australian espresso drink tastes good and will have you buzzing for hours.
Vegemite. This spread is made from left over brewer's yeast (a by-product of beer). I personally can't stand it, but Aussies love it and it's worth trying while you're there.
Australia has got some crazy wildlife. Be aware of your surroundings, and what's living there. If you get bitten by any particularly strange bugs or animals, keep an eye on it and go to the doctor if you swell or start to feel unwell.
Wear lots of sunscreen! The sun is super strong.
Australia is very expensive. They have to import most common goods, so be aware of your budget before you plan your trip.
Normal "night-time-in-an-unfamiliar-city " rules apply. Keep your wits about you, be alert when you're alone at night, and stay in populated areas.
Petty crime is common (as in any city), so be sure to keep a close eye on your valuables, especially your phone and passport.
Kangaroos are cute, but unless you're in an area designated for interaction with them, be careful! They are incredibly strong, and cause dozens of deaths a year. If you see one in the wild, don't be tempted to get up close and personal for a photo -- walk away and leave them be.
Transportation in Australia:
Take boat taxis whenever you can -- it's a great way to explore, sight see, and cheaply get where you're going.
It's very easy (and fairly inexpensive) to fly between cities.
In major cities, you can easily catch a ride with a taxi or Uber. Most cities also have very good public transportation systems, making it easy to get around.
There are sidewalks everywhere, so you can walk or bike most places.