The following is a guest post by David Wright.
When I decided to head down under, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I also wasn’t sure where exactly I was going to go. I’d seen amazing footage relating to beaches, islands, surfing, deserts, kangaroos and koala bears. But I didn’t know anyone in Oz, so I couldn’t base my decisions on people either. Wherever I was headed, it would be to a world of strangers.
What I did know though, was that I wanted to travel while the weather was reasonably warm. Never scared for an adventure and with travel insurance booked, I decided to split my three months into three travel projects, so to speak, and to head in different directions for each of them. Since I would be flying into Sydney, I thought I’d get a taste of city life there first. Then I would hit the Outback (before it got unbearably hot), then head for the Islands.
I had been warned that Australia’s cities were quite different to one another. But having decided to focus on New South Wales during this first trip, I figured the famous harbor city, Sydney, would be a great start. And I wasn’t disappointed. My top ten highlights were:
- a day body boarding and swimming at the iconic Bondi Beach, a popular surfing spot,
- exploring some of the coves along Manly Beach where an annual surfing competition was taking place,
- walking from Bondi to the Calga Reserve lookout point,
- pub crawling in the historic Rocks with their quaint cobblestone streets and sandstone terraces,
- catching a ferry and visiting some of the islands in Sydney Harbor,
- kayaking under the amazing Sydney Harbor Bridge,
- a day trek to the Blue Mountains, which is a World Heritage site, and a ride on the Zig Zag Railway steam train,
- wine tasting in the Hunter Valley,
- shopping for gifts to take home,
- and finally, an evening of dance and music at the Sydney Opera House.
What a blast! But soon it was time to move on to something completely different.
I liked the idea of exploring the Outback where I figured I could learn more about Australia’s indigenous people, the aboriginals. I’ve always been fascinated with people, especially those who grew up in parts that are so different to my own home city in the USA.
When I got there, what surprised me most was just how vast this region really is. I mean they say it’s big, but it seems to stretch on forever. I was also surprised that it isn’t really desert, which is what I expected to find. There’s loads of vegetation in the Oz Outback. It really is different to anything I’d seen before.
I also discovered that there are destinations in the Outback that take a bit more effort to reach than I had realized. While I managed to get to experience the wonderful desert landscapes and lakes around Broken Hill in New South Wales, I missed seeing the monumental splendor of Flinders Ranges further west and Glen Helen Gorge in the more remote Northern Territory. Next time perhaps.
I figured moving from the desert-like Outback to the gorgeous islands I had heard so much about would be really cool. Little did I know at the time that there are more than eight thousand Australian islands from which to choose.
With New South Wales being my region of choice, I needed to find an island that wasn’t too far from Sydney and New South Wales. Working with a limited budget, I opted to camp on Fraser Island off the coast of Queensland to the north; and what an experience. As summer temperatures were increasing, I decided on a rainforest camping site, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Fraser Island really is incredible. Not only is it the world’s largest sand island and a true miracle of nature, it also features rainforests that are rooted right in this very same sand. The scenery is something I will never ever forget, although I must say that if I go back, I’ll try to have a bigger budget so that I can afford to stay at one of the amazing eco-friendly resorts in the area. I did get to spend a day at one of them, and compared to my camp site, it was so luxurious I would have loved to have stayed longer. While I am something of a city slicker, I do find it immensely pleasurable to be a part with nature.
Best of all, I found that wherever I went in Australia, which I expected to be a world of strangers, people were amazingly friendly and willing to share what they have to offer. I made some good friends, and next time I visit, there will be people to see in addition to some of the sights I missed first time around.