Damn it Australia, why do you have to be so far? Just finished my brief visits to Sydney, Cairns and Brisbane (which I kept pronouncing as bris-BAIN but it’s pronounced BRIS-bin). Yes, I didn’t do Melbourne but I will if I ever come back. I would love to come back but Australia is just so far.
Brisbane is a city that you can easily skip when visiting Australia. While there’s nothing wrong with it, other cities are much better. 🙂 I came to Brisbane mainly because flying through to Bali was much cheaper than not. But I had the opportunity to visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. It’s a mini zoo that has a very small selection of animals that are endemic to Australia: koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, Tasmanian devils and the unique platypus among others. In the sanctuary, you’re able to carry a koala for pictures and you’re also allowed to feed and pet kangaroos as long as the kangaroo tolerates you before it hops away. Depending on how much you love animals you can easily spend half to a full day. It’s reachable via bus so it’s easy visiting the sanctuary if you’re ever in Brisbane. But I don’t think it’s worth going to Brisbane solely to visit this place, as other cities in Australia will also offer the same opportunities with koalas and kangaroos. Still, I’m glad I went as I finally saw a platypus up close.
For those that don’t know about this Frankenstein of an animal: at first glance, it looks like a duck but it has a beaver’s tail and an otter’s feet. The platypus is the only mammal in the world that lays eggs and it can secrete venom through its hind feet that can be severely painful to humans. My only image of a platypus was watching episodes of the Nickelodeon show Phineas and Ferb, where often you’ll see Perry the Platypus. 🙂
Cairns is a small town and home to the nearest airport for Port Douglas, a marina closest to some of the best Great Barrier Reef locations. Thus, Cairns is mainly a tourist’s gateway to the reefs. There’s not much to do in the town itself and it doesn’t even have beaches but only a man-made lagoon. This means that most things to do require the booking of a tour that actually take you out out of Cairns. The tours, however, are worth the visit as it is the go-to place for snorkeling or diving on the Great Barrier Reef. There are rain forest exploration tours, as Cairns is tropical due to its proximity to the earth’s equator and skydiving is also a very popular option.
As the area is tropical…that means passion fruit-flavored things abound! This is my favorite fruit and one I only find back home in Colombia or its neighboring countries. In the U.S. you can only find it frozen 😦
I had a great time snorkeling at the reef but the damage humans inflict on the ecosystem is evident. From an idealist’s perspective, it’s sad seeing first hand how we destroy the planet. From a practical perspective, it’s disappointing as you don’t witness many of the wonderful colors of the reef you see in pictures. You can still find amazing colored reefs, but it’s very difficult. So, if you’ve ever wanted to witness firsthand the beauty of the reefs, you better hurry up.
The highlight was definitely Sydney. The beaches are incredible. There are plenty of beautiful beaches close to the city so you don’t have to give up all the comforts a city provides for a slice of paradise. For the record, I’m not a big fan of spending tons of time on a beach, but even I can appreciate how gorgeous many of these beaches can be and how fun they are. With more time, I would’ve loved to take surfing classes… after I learn how to swim, of course!
The harbor is also a sight to behold. I don’t remember seeing such blue waters next to high rise buildings. It really is a unique place to be in and the cherry on top is the Opera House. Yes, the Opera House looks old and dirty up close; nevertheless, the building enhances the harbor, making the Opera House the icon it is today. It’s not any ordinary harbor for freight. Rather it is a beautiful place that one must visit.
A popular thing to do while in Sydney is to take a ferry to Manly. It is an inexpensive way to see the harbor from the water and it’s definitely worth it. At Manly, you’ll find a great beach and delicious seafood. I recommend the Fish and Chips from Manly Fish Market as they make theirs with the New Zealand Hake and it’s the best Fish and Chips I’ve ever had. The Manly trip is definitely a good way to spend the day.
Whether you like hiking or not, the coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi is a must. In this roughly 6 km/3.5 mile walk, you will encounter a lot of the beautiful beaches and rock formations that Sydney has to offer. When the heat finally wears you out, you will have plenty of beaches to choose from as your cooldown site. Each beach has its own personality so it’s definitely worth making sure the walk is finished so you can figure out which one you like!
My brief exposure—9 days—to Australia is definitely enough to persuade me to return. I would like to stay longer in Sydney, visit Melbourne and other cities in the south. For example, for the adventurous, being in a cage while sharks try to nibble on you can only be done in the south. Lastly, I’d visit the Outback, which is the vast and remote interior of Australia away from the cities. Sydney has a lot to offer to visitors around the world and I’m sure many would like to live in this city; I know I would.