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Considering a trip to Australia this spring

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Ah Sydney, my ancestral home. You mentioned you have a week there, and I don't know how willing you are to move from the area so I'll focus on a few things worth doing in and around NSW with a bit of a nature-y perspective:

 

1. Go for a bridge walk (main bridge) - the one at sunset is just stunning, standing on a high bridge over one of the world's beautiful harbours

2. The Royal Botanical gardens are wonderful. Check out the Wollemi pine, which has remained more or less unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs

http://www.wollemipine.com/index.php. I recommend checking these out, and going for a walk around the foreshore to check out the opera house, then taking the ferry to Taronga Zoo - makes for an excellent day out and about on the harbour.

3. Rather than Bondi, go check out Manly beach. Easier to get to from the city centre, and a bit more "typically Australian" than Bondi etc. I can also recommend the Coogee to Bondi walk. Stop off for a beer at the Coogee bowling club, it's like a slice of 50s Australiana.

4. If you like walking, check out the Megalong valley in the Blue Mountains - try and time a peak with the evening.

5. The high alpine country is pretty mild and flat compared to the rest of the world, so a 1-3 day trip there with the lad could be nice.

6. The Hunter valley is good for a bit of decadent wine touring, if someone else is driving...

 

Western Australia might be a bit far, but consider going, if nothing else to check out the Stromalites in Shark Bay, and things like the Valley of the Giants http://www.westernaustralia.com/en/Pages/Attraction.aspx?pid=900219.

 

Best times of the year to visit are spring, summer and autumn but you get pretty great weather for most of the year (in non el-Nina years anyway). Stay out of the interior during the summer months though.

 

Masala, even though she's being mean, has a point too - the south island of NZ is amazingly beautiful and the people are great, and compact enough to get around in a car without major hassles. Has the side benefit of being pretty underpopulated too. Consider going there if you wind up here in winter!

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All the suggestions are fantastic! I back up unreservedly the calls to visit the Blue Mountains and Jervis Bay. Other fab things in Sydney (or actually around) - Royal National Park with its beaches and patches of gorgeous heathland type veg; the Hawkesbury river system, where you can stay or eat in places only accessible by a little boat; and some incredible parks in Sydney itself - the BP park (Larkin St, Waverton) and Ballast Point Park in Birchgrove. Really fascinating treatment of former industrial sites right on the Harbour, brilliant views of the city and barely any tourists. Do a google image search for them and you'll know what I mean.

 

And a newer thing - http://www.walkingcoastalsydney.com.au/sydneys_great_coastal_walk.htm. While it might be a bit much with a little one, you can pick and choose and just do tiny parts of the walk, or visit the destinations.

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First, don't be put off going with a 6 year old just because of the flight. If you are there for at least 2 weeks, the flight isn't a big deal. All the planes have TV screens with movies and games so kiddo will be well-entertained and then perhaps prepared to sleep at some point.

 

Others who know more about Sydney can tell you more, but a couple of things I'll mention:

Skip the harbour tours of Sydney and just take the ferry out to Manly Beach. See mainly the same area with much less cost. Plus Manly is nice to visit.

The aquarium at Darling Harbour is really nice, with long bits you can walk under the tanks, watching the sharks swim above you. Darling Harbour itself is set-up well and you could easily spend an entire day there.

The Sydney fish market is well worth a visit too, even if you aren't that keen on fish, just to see the variety and how it operates.

 

Having been at Christmas, February and March/April, I'd say probably March is the nicest time for New South Wales. It's warm, but not stinking hot. We also headed up to Queensland in April and that was also nice, again because it had cooled down relatively. The problem with going around Christmas is not only do you have all the tourists to contend with, you have every Australian with children wanting to go to the same attractions as you do as it's summer holidays there. They usually start mid-December and go until end of January. Not so important for this year, but could be any future trips.

 

And as someone said, Australia is EXPENSIVE. Public transport isn't too bad (and you can get a great family rate on Sundays in Sydney) and sushi is surprisingly cheap. Other than that, don't expect any bargains.

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In Sydney, certainly Taronga zoo and the aquarium, getting the ferry to Manly and having a shop on a market day (the GerMan may be happy that there's an Aldi and a Bavarian Beer Bar in the ferry terminal!) but also heading to Collins Beach on North Head to see the little (aka blue or fairy) penguin colony, doing the cliff walk to Coogee, if you're there long enough and your kid can swim, maybe take him along to one of the surf clubs for some surf lifesaver training?

The migration centres may also be interesting, there's an exhibition coming soon about the internment of German nationals in NSW. The Rocks area is touristy but can be fun.

 

There are some good stuff around about wildlife for kids if that's your bag - my gent's daughter loves animals so I can give more ideas for Victoria than NSW, but she'd love this exhibition. Australia is full of animals that can kill you so finding out about them can be pretty cool, especially as they are so different from anywhere else.

 

Brunch at bill's, seafood at Doyle's, steak at Rockpool, the view from Aria, world class Asian fusion food at Tetsuya's... some of these more for (rich) grown-ups, but bill's & Doyle's should be perfect. You'll appreciate the food labelling too, it is much clearer than in Germany, we can even eat out with my gent's coeliac daughter without issue there.

 

You could also consider taking in some kind of sporting event? AFL Sydney Swans fixtures, Rugby League, Rugby Union, swimming, soccer, lots of different things including ocean races and cricket. Ticketmaster Australia for tickets, not just for sports, you may well fancy a show or the opera?

Sydney visitor information and the main local paper Sydney Morning Herald.

 

Further afield and still in NSW, the Blue Mountains are a must see and you'll probably enjoy the Jenolan Caves. Great potholing there, but the guided tours are grand too. So beautiful.

As mlovett loves her cars - Bathurst Mount Panorama.

 

If you're in the Newcastle area heading for Hunter (and I'd recommend the Hunter Valley YHA - no age restrictions and nice people who will also take you on a winery tour in their minibus), try a surf class or the Blackbutt Reserve (yes you can hold a koala - that's illegal in Victoria, I think). Go further North for Port Stephens, whales and dolphins.

National Park tours.

 

I really like the magazine Australian Traveller as it is stuff that Australians want to do.

 

As the gent is from Melbourne, yeah, have to second the recommendations to go there, it's a different kettle of fish.

Sydney is seen as kinda flashy and all hair and fake tan, Melbourne fancies itself as being a bit more intellectual ;)

 

For NZ tips, well, how long have you got? We're back there in September (Melbourne too) and would advise anyone not interested in rugby to avoid NZ during the Rugby World Cup as prices will go sky-high and the place will be mental.

Although many would say that about NZ any time ha ha...

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If you can manage a trip away from the big smoke, I would definitely encourage driving along the East Coast as far North as you can, because there is amazing and varying scenary all the way along the East Coast (The mid north coast and northern nsw beaches have to be my favourite areas in NSW...and further up north the Whitsundays and Daintree are my favourite areas in Qld).

 

Being from Brisbane, we take all our international guests to Australia Zoo at Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast. Initially, I was a little bit sceptical about the place, but it has been a winner every time (I must admit I had fun too). However, as with everything in Australia it was quite expensive (entry and food).

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Definitely go for it, Australia is a fantastic place for nature and animal lovers.

 

Your son will love the trip too. He'll probably enjoy the adventure of the flight if his seat has its own entertainment centre (tv, games). Emirates offer that, and I'm sure some of the other airlines do as well. Seriously, its a trip of a lifetime for both of you and the long flight shouldn't put you off if you can figure out a route without too many transfers.

 

Others will give you loads of advice on what to do when you get there. Australia is very much oriented towards tourists and very relaxed, you'll have a fantastic time.

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Why, oh why didn't I marry someone that had to travel to Australia once a year? Instead, I married someone that just LOVED playing Scottish music at ungodly times of the day.

 

Mlovett, go and enjoy every minute, who cares if the weather isn't perfect, it's Australia, it's got to be good for a visit.

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Being from Adelaide, I say it's worth a visit for the more laid back lifestyle, the Central Market (oh, amazing), fabulous red wine and great cafe society. It's a "lifestyle" kind of place. If you visit book a table at Ying Chow in Gouger Street and eat amazingly good Chinese food with the locals. Amalfi in Frome Street has the best Italian.

 

I can second the ferry rides in Sydney, such a fabulous way to spend some time and it's so cheap compared to lots of the "touristy" things you can do, and it makes you feel like a local.

 

I can also second "Australia Zoo" in QLD. I was very skeptical when friends wanted to take me there, but it was seriously good, though expensive.

 

We were back for Christmas with the family and every single time I go home I find things getting more and more expensive. It seems bizarre that Australia can be more expensive than Europe, but it's true (sorry).

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One of my favourite spots is the Gold Coast Hinterlands...Lamington National Park has become one of my favourite spots for camping. And if you like to hike, there are plenty of beautiful tracks there (some easy, some a little more challenging. It's quite nice hiking through there when the native flora is flowering. Just take care there and wear lots of insect repellent...there can be lots of ticks and leeches when it's humid. The neighbouring National Parks (eg. O'Reilly's), I've heard are also quite good but I haven't been hiking there personally.

 

Stradbroke Island (off the coast of south-east queensland) I must also mention, as I spent many beautiful Summers there...Point Lookout of course being the best part of the island.

 

Enjoy yourself and the sunshine!

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We were back for Christmas with the family and every single time I go home I find things getting more and more expensive. It seems bizarre that Australia can be more expensive than Europe, but it's true (sorry).

 

It's true unfortunately - the days when Australia was vastly cheaper than Europe are gone now for a while. Have suffered quite a few cases of sticker shock since coming back.

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I’m a city slicker and for me it’s Sydney all the way. I have never regretted the day I emigrated to Sydney.

Beautiful Harbour, accessible to all. Food to die for available to suit all budgets and diets.Yum Cha, my Hong Kong friends reckons Sydney does it beter than HK. Amazing beaches accessible from the city. The sound of Kookaburras at sunset whilst enjoying beer and seafood at Watsons Bay. Eclectic Newtown for people-watching, Thai food and Gelato. Oxford Street and Mardi Gras. The Opera House at any time of day or night. Climbing the bridge or just walking across it. The Fish Markets. Strolling around Paddington. Centennial Park. Coogee to Bondi cliff walk. The ocean pool at Bronte when the waves are breaking over it. Harry’s Café de Wheels at Woolloomooloo. Botanic Gardens and a stroll to Mrs Macquaries Chair. Take your six-year-old to Sydney Park adventure playground on the weekend to meet the friendly Aussie kids. Day trips to Blue Mountains (should really be called Green Canyons), Kiama, Avalon, Hunter Valley, Southern Highlands, Canberra.

Oh, I could go on.

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It's true unfortunately - the days when Australia was vastly cheaper than Europe are gone now for a while. Have suffered quite a few cases of sticker shock since coming back.

 

I reckon this is mainly due to the exchange rate. 2.5 years ago I was back and got $2 for a euro. Now it's like $1.30 to a euro. Makes a huge difference. It's definitely cheaper here in Germany on the whole (even in Munich) than Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne.

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sadly not just down to the exchange rate actually - I was there three times last year visiting family and found the prices in restaurants country-wide super expensive. Not 5* restaurants, just your average small country town restaurants (Wagga (Wagga) and Noosa (admittedly peak time but still)). We were hard-pressed to find anywhere to eat with a main below $35 when out for dinner!

 

Eating out for brunch is slightly better, but we tended to buy at the supermarket and BBQ rather than eat out but then of course you won't have that option staying in hotels.

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Hire a car (or take a bus-tour) up the Great Ocean Road to Byron Bay.

 

I assume Aussie Girl meant the Pacific Highway. The Great Ocean Road is in Victoria and would have to be one of the most stunningly beautiful roads on earth. Well, the scenery, not the tarmac, obviously.

 

When to travel to Oz always seems to be a matter for debate. Personally, I like to travel to the red centre in winter (June-August) as it's nice and mild during the day and there are hardly any bush flies (which are the greatest pain in the arse imaginable). August is also a great month for northern Queensland because there are no stingers around and you don't have to wear a silly blue smurf suit to go swimming or snorkelling at the reef.

 

F**k, I shouldn't have even looked at this thread. Terribly homesick now.

 

Enjoy, you'll love it!

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The four seasons in Australia consist of "fuck it's hot", "Can you believe how fucking hot it is?", "I won't be in today because it is too fucking hot" and "Yes, the dinner plate size spiders come inside to escape from the heat. That is a fucking whopper though."

7bslash6.com

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Not being an Occa, I can't give any more info than is here anyway (lots of great suggestions). One place not already mentioned (that I have been recently dreaming of) is the campsite at Pebbly Beach (near Batemans Bay, 4hr drive south of Sydney). One of the best places I've ever been to; miles from the nearest road, just bush and beach. Amazingly varied, but short, coastal walk with each beach slightly different from the next - one was made of broken shells all stained blue. The campsite (which is only for tents I think) is overrun with eastern grey kangaroos which come right up and sniff out whatever you're cooking. It was so awesome to poke you head out of the tent in the morning and be face-to-face with a roo! It was maybe not as amazing as Wilson's Prom, but that is much further from Sydney.

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OK, I've been absent from this thread, doing research. And not just travel research... I am about to place a huge seed order of Australian native plants for my [future] nursery. They do pretty well here, in California. We have plenty of heat, but no humidity.

 

Turns out the GerMan will be going to Sydney on business in November, as well. Considering my son will have time off from school then (Thanksgiving holiday), that may be the better month to go. Is that a good time to see native plants blooming? I am something of a botanical addict/ nutcase. :D

 

Thank you all SO much for the great suggestions... I'm sure I'll fall in love with Oz and want to return on subsequent business trips. Who knows... maybe we will even get sent there as expats. We were sent to Germany, so one never knows!

 

edit- Oh, and another question: I tend to hate hotels. Is there a good website for Aussie rural tourism? i.e. staying on farms/ ranches/ B&Bs? Has anyone else done this? This would be once we leave Sydney, and head out on vacation.

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mlovett - we found an apartment to rent in Noosa through www.stayz.com.au - you can search country-wide, and it does have a search facility for farm stays.

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Hey mlovett, the wildflower season starts in October in most states so November will be a great time. The season tends to be particularly impressive after heavy rains and accordingly you can expect a good one this year if the rain carries on as it has been.

 

I don't know about a specific B&B/retreat website, but retreat-style accommodation is definitely available all over. A simple google search with 'bed and breakfast' and the relevant area should bring up some results. Otherwise, I always find Trip Advisor useful in general for world travel. It is particularly useful due to the rating/comment feature.

 

If you are going for months, do not rule out Western Australia. It is quite gorgeous and 3 hours by car south of Perth is unbelievable country - great beaches, bush and atmosphere as well as being a little cooler. 3 hours north-east of Perth you hit wildflower country in the right season and 6 hours north of Perth you reach unbelievably gorgeous beaches backing up to very special Australian vegetation.

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