The Best Part

Since we’ve been back from Australia, people have been interested in our experiences, and have asked us to share the best parts.  We spent almost 27 days in Australia, and visited four cities, and four country areas.  We had a fantastic time, overall, and there were only a few things that didn’t work well.

Here are some impressions.

Melbourne is a sophisticated, modern city, that feels very European.  We had no problem finding our way around.  We walked, and used the free “City Circle” tram.   The highlights of our time in Melbourne was our day out on the Great Ocean Road (see my earlier “Wild Ride” post), the visit to the Melbourne Museum (with Titanic exhibit), and the Queen Victoria Market.

McLaren Vale is a small region just outside of Adelaide, and home to over 70 wineries.  They not only grow grapes, but olives, almonds, fruit, and vegetables.  It sits in the middle of the Fleurieu Peninsula.  We drove all around, and visited Victor Harbor, saw the little penguins, and saw beautiful scenery.  We had a fantastic tour of several of the cellar doors, drank and bought lots of wine, and met some great folks along the way.  Our best dinner in the area was in The Barn, and stayed in a fantastic apartment.

Adelaide is a small city, reminds me a bit of Orlando in size, and has a traditional feel.  Kind of like a comfortable pair of slippers.  We stayed in North Adelaide, in an old gentleman’s residence (converted into separate apartments).  We took another wine tour, this time in the Barossa Valley.  We rented a car (much to Tony’s chagrin) and drove up into the Adelaide Hills and visited Cleland Wildlife Park and got to hold a Koala and feed Kangaroos and Wallabies.

Cairns, in Northern Queensland, is a small city about the size of Daytona Beach.  It’s OK, but the only reason to go there is to visit the Great Barrier Reef.  The day we went out on the reef was very rough and we didn’t get to see much.  But the real gem was our time at Cedar Park.  We drove up and up and up into the “tableland” and found Cedar Park at the end of a 6 kilometer dirt road.  What a fantastic place!  Wallabies and pademelons roam freely, there is a rainforest right outside the door, and two fabulous chefs cook the most delicious dinners in all Australia.  I would go back there in a heartbeat.  While there we also visited Kuranda, and took a cable car ride over the rainforest canopy, and enjoyed a quiet river cruise.  I would have liked at least one more day there.

Finally, we were bound for Sydney.  We met up with our family and spent four days in the Blue Mountains.  It was rainy the first day, but then it was beautiful, clear, and crisp.  We stayed in a fabulous house, 4 bedrooms and 2 baths, with a modern kitchen and a cosy gas fire.  It was chilly so we used up the gas…  oops!  We took a fabulous hike, we were part of the Katoomba Winter Magic Festival, and toured the famous Jenolan Caves.  The best part of the Blue Mountains is the scenery and no shortage of things to see and do.  Our time in the Blue Mountains was over too quickly.  We should have stayed there at least one more day.

We stayed a week in Sydney, which is a big, bustling city set on the famous harbor.  Sydney’s easy to get around, and has fantastic public transportation.  The CBD is walkable, and the old part of the city, The Rocks, is full of fun shopping, a weekend market, and great restaurants.  The Sydney Opera House is an icon, and it was so cool to actually see it in person.  The highlight of our Sydney visit was our bridge climb, and celebrating Carol’s birthday.  I never thought I could do the climb, but it was really easy, especially after our hike in the Blue Mountains.  It was pouring rain by the end of the climb, but we hardly noticed the cold and wet because the bridge climb provides all the wet weather gear and parkas.  We also visited Bondi Beach, the Sydney Aquarium, the Rocks Market, the Opera House, the Gardens, and Circular Quay.  Even with all the activities, we still didn’t have time to do all we wanted.  That means we have to go back!  Oh darn!

We thoroughly enjoyed our whole visit, and met lots of great people.  Australian people are friendly, easy-going, and cheerful.  There are exceptions, of course, but we only found a few.  We were there when Australia got its first woman Prime Minister.  That was cool.  Next time I hope to visit Western Australia and Northern Territory, and go back to McLaren Vale and Kuranda.  Well, I’ve already started saving!!

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