Australia has long been on my bucket list, and the trip Julie arranged for us was the perfect way to discover as much as possible about this fascinating country over the course of a month. We flew into Perth and then took internal flights to Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns, and finally, Brisbane.
March is a great time to visit Australia. It’s autumn there, and we had pleasant, warm weather for our whole trip. The only place that was uncomfortably warm was Cairns, where the high humidity is a factor.
I loved the Australian people! They seem to have taken the best traits of the many cultures from which they have come. They have a very British sense of humour, the openness and confidence of Americans and the work ethic of Asians. Many remain closely identified with their origins, but are also proudly, sometimes fiercely Australian.
The service was excellent everywhere we went – in every shop or bar you’re greeted with a smile and a hello, and service, in a very relaxed and friendly way, seems very much a part of the culture
Australia did strike me as a very “controlled” country. Everywhere you go, there are notices telling you what you can and can’t do. The licensing laws are archaic – only certain places can sell alcohol, in plain paper bags, (!) at certain times, and you can’t drink in many public places.
We only visited cities during this trip – we’ll certainly be back to explore more of the rural areas. All of the cities are a really interesting mix of the original colonial architecture, and modern, bold buildings. I was so pleased that much of original Victorian Australia has been preserved, and everywhere you go, you are conscious of how new this country is.
You’re also very aware of how vast it is! One of our internal flights took us part of the way across the country and in the same distance, we could have traversed the whole of Europe.
Perth is the most remote city in the world, and it still feels a little like a frontier town. Adelaide was charming and felt more like a provincial town than a city Sydney, too was much more compact than I expected. Melbourne was the opposite, and felt huge and almost like an asian city. Cairns was very hot and humid, and it felt a little like stepping back to a quieter, slower time. My favourite city was Brisbane – modern, thriving, and like all great cities, based on a lovely river.
Dare I say it? I was a little disappointed. As a foodie, I was so excited about the cuisine, having watched countless TV programmes about Aussie food. My vision was of heaps of the most fantastic seafood, barbecued meats and amazing fresh salads.
Don’t get me wrong – we had some epic meals. Moreton Bay Bugs were the find of the trip – gorgeous, succulent and easy to get into – much more flavour than lobster too. We also had amazing oysters in several places. The local wine was wonderful, too, although the better stuff was pretty pricey. But, I wasn’t as wowed by the food or the choice as much as I thought I would be. I tend to judge everywhere I go based on my experience with Cape Town, where we were able to eat the most amazing meals every single night of the week.
When it comes to wildlife, visiting Australia is like being on another planet. The extraordinary becomes mundane – marsupials grazing at the side of roads, exotic birds strutting through the parks, huge pelicans on the beach. It just goes on an on – every walk becomes an adventure as you spot something new and unusual.
The downside, if course, is that as well as all the cute and cuddly wildlife, some of the world’s most dangerous animals live there too. You’re most aware of that on the beaches, which have shark nets and stern warnings that the jellyfish can kill.
I loved Australia – it has an amazing combination of familiarity, with the language and most laws, and the exotic – the incredible vistas, wildlife and weather.
Although we were there for a month, we barely scratched the surface, and I’m really looking forward to going back again and again to find out more.
Is Australia on your bucket list? I’m by no means an expert yet, but I am a certified Australia specialist. I’d be delighted to answer your questions, so feel free to send me an email.