Have you dreamed of heading to the “land down under?” We’ve been a couple of times, and we never run out of things to do and see. Start planning your trip today to Australia after you’ve read this Australia guide.
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“There is something special about seeing a mob of ‘roos bounding over the dry grass, especially at sunset.” At least this is what we’d been told and we were on a mission to see it for ourselves.
We’ve been to Australia a couple of times and seeing the diversity of wildlife was one of the main reasons we wanted to visit to begin with. Now, we just love the country and want to keep going back. If you are planning a trip to Australia, you can perhaps get an idea or two from our trip. First we visited Queensland, and then second we were in Victoria. No, we’ve never been to Sydney, Uluru, Tasmania, Perth. There’s always next time.
In this Australia Guide, you’ll find:
The first time we visited Australia, we flew into Cairns and rented a car for three weeks. The main roads, like A1 are great, but getting on some of the back roads where the cattle trains drive is nothing short of frightening. We learned to pull off as soon as we saw the cloud of dust looming over the horizon, but we still ended up with a cracked windshield. Does anyone in Australia have a full windshield?
These are some of the things we did in Queensland that we loved:
- Daintree Rainforest
- Snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef
- Lots of Beaches
- Undara Volcanic National Park and Mt. Surprise
- Stayed overnight at a Cattle Station
- Hervey Bay – whale watching
- Frasier Island
- Noosa Heads
- Australia Zoo
As I said one of our focuses was to see wildlife so that dictated where we headed. I think we were pretty lucky. Not only did we see kangaroos and wallabies, but we also saw a cassowary, crocodiles, koala, and platypus.
One very special moment we had was at one of the hotels we stayed at in Noosa. I got up early on a foggy morning to take a walk and get some photos. I turned around and there was a small kangaroo. It came right at me, which was a little disconcerting at first. I didn’t know if it was dangerous or not. After living in Alaska I don’t take the “wild” part of wildlife lightly.
This little girl was not dangerous. She decided to come on the walk with me. She was content just to follow me around and lean up on me for a pat, just like a dog! I couldn’t believe it. We meandered back to my hotel room where I introduced her to my daughters.
At first, like teenagers tend to be, they were not happy I was waking them. But when they got to go outside the cabin and pet a real life, untethered, definitely tame kangaroo, they forgave me.
Some of the things and places we enjoyed in Victoria:
- Great Ocean Road
- Philip Island
Melbourne is the capital of Victoria, and is an artsy city. Everything from the bridges, to the parks and buildings, is done in a myriad of styles. Some of them seem so whimsical. I especially love the Federation Bells in Birrarung Marr Park. It is a series of 36 computer-controlled bells that toll at various times during the day and are all sizes. They are just one example of the detail and care that has been put into the city.
Melbourne must be one of the best places for getting around without a car, that is except for getting to the airport. They have a nice train/metro system that branches out from the middle of the city to the suburbs. We were based in Edithvale and it was very easy to jump on the train, which comes about every 20 minutes to get to the heart of the city.
Once there, our first stop was the Melbourne Visitor’s Center which is completely overwhelming. The walls are covered with brochures and ideas. Even though there is a number system and a little bit of a wait, I must say that when it was our turn, we did get some great advice and our assistant was extremely helpful. Some visitor’s centers that I have been to refuse to give you any indication where to eat or stay, but this man told us where he always eats fish n’ chips, and for me that’s always a good place to start.
One of the best displays were the columns listing the tram routes and the tourist sights to hop on and off. We did do parts of the Central Tram route and really enjoyed ourselves. We started at the Unesco World Heritage Site–The Royal Exhibition Hall and Carlton Gardens, then went to the Melbourne Gaol and State Library.
Additionally if you are ticking off the big Australia bucket list, Melbourne is also the jumping off point for a couple of key tourist sites. Two of the best are the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island and the Great Ocean Road. Both of these are must-see sights that you will not want to miss while in the area.
The Penguin Parade is located on Phillip Island and is about an hour to an hour and a half’s drive from the city. There are tours that you can sign up for out of the Visitor’s Center if you don’t have your own transportation, but if you rent a car it’s the best way to go. The day we went it was sold out! I don’t know how many people that encompasses, but let me tell you–a lot!
The main reason you go here is to view the Little Penguins (the smallest species of penguins) return to their burrows after a few days of fishing. I was afraid that with that many people, the penguins would be spooked, but not so; we saw plenty. Even though it’s a little pricey, I would still say do this! It didn’t disappoint, but leave your camera at home as they do not allow you to take any photos.
Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is just that a road….albeit a road with some spectacular views. Unless you are there to just see the scenery, there are plenty of places to stop, swim, surf, eat, jump on trampolines, and just hang out at the beach. We watched (and drove with) thousands of people who were ready to enjoy the sun and the sand. Again, this is something that you just have to do, so do it!
Attend a Cricket Game
Looking for things to do, we noticed there was 20/20 cricket match being played the evening that we were leaving Australia. It was a perfect idea to just stop there on the way to the airport.
As we walked to the stadium from the center of town’s parking garage, we had to cross over the William Barak bridge. It was built in order to accommodate the scores of cricket fans during the 2006 Commonwealth games and as far as pedestrian bridges go, it is quite convenient and a little artsy.
There are 56 speakers embedded in the bridge railings and as you walk, you can hear various sounds and voices from all parts of the world. It can be somewhat disconcerting as your body moves in and out of the bounds of the nearest speaker. After a few minutes, I tried to see if they were connected in some way, but it seems the collection of sounds is just that a collection.
Before we even entered the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Grounds), known affectionately just as the “G,” we encountered the Melbourne team practicing in a netted area. Young boys called out their favorite players names as they watched them pitch or bat.
After finding our seat, we received a quick lesson on the game. I made noises that could have been mistaken as understanding, but really were my way of saying to myself, “Oh another foreign language to learn.”, and then I just started planning out my snacks for the game, because frankly I still didn’t have a clue to how the game was played.
I did discover that a 20/20 match means that each team has their turn at bat and keeps it until there are 20 overs or 10 outs- whichever comes first. Um, by the way, it helps if you know what an “over” is. An over is six balls pitched to their team, so 20 overs equals 120 balls. An “out,” is well, an out!
Apparently there are 10 ways that a batter can be out. I definitely don’t know what all the ways are, but did see a number of balls being caught in the air and a few times the wicketkeeper wasn’t able to defend his team’s wicket, so they were out then too. That’s about the gist of my knowledge. I know not much, but if you want to learn more about Cricket, I found this website that might be helpful.
One of the most humorous parts of this particular match was the cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are just not a common Australian thing from what I understand, so to do the job a club called something like the Aerobic/Gymnastics Association was called upon. A group of about 20 young and very fit women had some routines memorized, but for the most part just sat on the sidelines and jumped up to dance during an out or a 6-pointer.
At any rate, it was an exciting game and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I’d say it was one of the highlights of our visit to Melbourne since it is so culturally different than anything that we have in the U.S.
Note: If you are interested in working to live in Australia…check out this post!
Preparing for a Trip to Australia
For most people, except maybe those from New Zealand, Australia is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We’ve been twice, and yes, we do plan to go again, because it’s a huge country, and there is so much to see and do. Our dream is to do a complete driving and camping trip throughout the country, but no matter what you want to do, make sure you are completely prepared for your visit.
Current Entry Requirements
Travelers entering Australia are required to show proof of their vaccination status and fill out a Digital Passenger Declaration. Proof of vaccine status will be shown upon boarding.
Visa for Australia
The official currency is the Australian dollar, which is about the equivalent of 67 cents US, or US $1.00 will buy you about Aus $1.47. However, the costs of goods and meals are a bit expensive. An average meal, lunch or dinner will cost anywhere between $15-20, but a really nice meal will be more, somewhere around $40.
ATMs and Credit Cards
There used to be a lot more ATMs than there are now. Why? Australia is striving to be a cashless society. Therefore bring your debit and credit cards, which are widely used all over the country.
Australian chemists (or pharmacies) are allowed to be open 24 hours, however some are and some aren’t. No need to worry, though, you will be able to get your prescriptions filled. Make sure to have the original script with you, as well as take a photo of it and keep it in your camera.
You are allowed to bring in three months of each of your prescriptions into the country.
Crime Against Tourists in Australia
As in many countries, sexual assault, car and petty theft, are some of the types of crimes that might be targeted at tourists in Australia. Please be vigilant, especially at night or when you are alone.
When is the Best Time to Go to Australia?
The best time to go is whenever you can get there. Australian summers are hot, and in some places very humid. It can be hard to stand, so I probably would suggest going during winter. However, it’s important to note, that there are some places it does get cold during winter. Just pay attention to the weather before you leave and dress in layers. Make sure to have a wide-brimmed hat and good sunscreen regardless of the season.
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.