Along with various members from our church, my sister & I took a trip to "down under" to participate in World Youth Day 2008. We visited Melbourne and Sydney. Here you will find a short summary of places I visited on our trip, travel tips, along with some of my own suggestions that I wish someone would have told me before my voyage!
P.S- Please keep in mind that my trip was in July (our Summer, their Winter) & all the prices you see here are in US $. The exchange rate changes almost daily so make sure and check up on it before your trip! I usually use the XE Currency Converter online website, its easy & fast :)
Home to some great Aussie history!
Australian wild life;
Zoo's Victoris= Amazing!
During our stay in Melbourne, many of the locals we were in constant contact with suggested we take a trip to Healesville Sanctuary. It was about a 45 min drive from the city itself, & admission fee was approximately $20/person but was well worth it! HS is one of Australia’s most recognized attractions. Once your inside you'll have full view access to more than 200 species of Australian wildlife. The Zoo carries kangaroos, koalas, tasmanian devils, dingoes, birds of prey & much more. Make sure to check on the progress of animals being cared for at the Australian Wildlife Health Center. They also have a huge section on Australian flora and fauna. My favorite part was the koalas. They look so cute up close and personal. Plus, they were out in the open. You could literally reach out & touch them, but I don't know why you'd want to do that... they have some pretty sharp claws!
Sydney Harbor & Manly Wharf
After about a week of being in Melbourne, we took a flight from Melbourne to Sydney. We got to spend another week in Sydney which was really amazing. Our first stop.... (drumroll) the Sydney Opera House, Duh! After we walked around the harbor area a while, we decided to take a Ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Wharf. The Boat Ferry cost about $12/person (roundtrip) and was a relaxing half hour trip filled with Ocean views and meeting new people. Don't forget to have your cameras ready. The ferry passes right next to the Opera house and this is an awesome chance to take some great snapshots! I must have taken hundreds of photos of the Opera house. Once your on the other side of the bay, Manly Wharf has its own public beach that runs along side some of the best restaurants in Sydney. Even though it was chilly outside at the time I was there, that didn't stop us from putting on our bathing suits and getting in! Australia has some of the cleanest beaches I have ever seen! If you don't feel like getting in the water, you can walk around & visit the vendors souvenir shops that are set up along the beach. If you get hungry, they have a wide variety of food from thai, gloria jeans coffee to subway. Plus, the scenery is just AMAZING! Australia really is a BEAUTIFUL country!
I'm big on the whole culture aspect/history of a country, but i'm even bigger on the food! When interviewing our newly made Australian friends, I aksed "What is the typical Australian dish?"... 90% of the time I got the answer Fish & Chips. Alright, so I decided to give this whole fish & chip thing a try. When I ordered it, I was half expecting to see a whole fish and some sort of tortilla chips... boy I was wrong. They're fish is pretty much deep fried in batter, giving it that soft but yet crunchy bite and they're chips are deep fried potatoes (what we call french fries).When we went out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, some people from our group ordered a plate of kangaroo. I was too chicken to try it, but just know that it is legal & some of my friends said it was really good! Also, one of my favorite places for food was Queen Victoria Market. Its an open-air market were you can really view & live out Australian culture. As you walk down the aisles people offer you samples of their fresh harvested crops and fruits. It's a really neat experience that I'd recommend to anyone that visits Melbourne.
Transportation & Hotels
Since this trip was for World Youth Day, we were actually hosted by several families who were kind enough to take us into their homes, so I can't really say much on the hotels in the area. As for transportation- Two words: City Rail (thats what Australians call it. To us its a trains station, or tram). This really is the fastest & cheapest way to travel in Australia both long and short distances. Most Australians travel this way. The track lines are easy to understand and constant. I believe there's a tram every 15 mins. But don't be lazy!... if your destination is close enough to walk, make the effort!! It's always neat to walk the downtown streets of a newly visited town. Also, if your just looking into traveling within a city, I suggest taking the city bus. Super cheap, safe and fun. You meet so many people on the bus, its insane! Australians can tell right away if your a tourist (your non-english accent kind of gives you away) and they are always super willing to help. Australians are very welcoming & hospitable!
The only bad thing about this trip was the fact that we went as a group. Don't get me wrong- traveling in groups in always fun & way safer, but the thing about this group was that it was WAY to big and not everyone had the same interests. When one half of our group wanted to go out and explore, the other wanted to stay in and rest. It was a slight complication, but one we overcame. Overall, I had a BLAST in Australia ( I even got to drive around! Yes, the steering wheel is on the right hand side). There are hundreds of other things that I wish we would have had time for; like The Australian Museum in Sydney, lots of history on the land overall along with a time-line for the Aboriginals, or Dreamworld (Tiger Island), you actually have the chance to take a photo with a Tiger!... Also, don't be intimidated to check out the night life in Australia! Crazy fun :) Well my friends, like any good trip, sooner or later it must come to an end. I hope this blog was helpful in some way, & if you have ANY questions, please don't hesitate to ask!