Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tropical North Queensland

If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, do you feel that the winter temperatures are getting you...down? (pun intended :-) )  Take the edge off the cold by reading this post about Cairns and its tropical delights.  

In June of 1770, Captain James Cook and his crew were exploring the Australian coastline, and the Great Barrier Reef about 110 Kms (65 mi) to the north of where Cairns is today.  They turned seawards into what they thought was deeper water to avoid a large point of land. Bam!  They ran aground on the Endeavour Reef,  having just discovered it by punching a hole in the bottom of their boat.  They named it Endeavour Reef after their unfortunate ship -  It really ruined their day!  They managed to stay afloat and headed for shore to beach the Endeavour for repairs.  It took a while, but they fixed the hole, then sailed on. They named the cape that caused the whole incident Cape Tribulation.

Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation is at the northern end of the Daintree Rainforest.  The dark green of the rainforest runs straight into the blue of the Coral Sea. The Daintree Rainforest stretches from Mossman Gorge to Cape Tribulation. Check it out on the map.  It is a place of steep mountains, deep gorges, high rainfall, flood prone rivers, and incredible plant and animal bio-diversity. Walking along the nature trails is like being in a huge, leafy, green cathedral.  Moist air, everything drippy and wet, tall trees, jungle vines trailing, and a carpet of dead leaves and twigs.

Daintree Rainforest
The plant species in the Daintree are very ancient. They include types of ferns and trees that date back before the dinosaurs, up to 135 million years ago. The Daintree is home to 30% of the reptile, frog and marsupial species in Australia, 18% of the birds (over 400 species), 65% of the bats and butterflies and over 12,000 types of insects.  And all of this bio-diversity is crammed into an area under 1% of Australia. Now this is the place to go bird, bat and nature watching!

When Captain Cook ran aground in 1770, you can be sure the local Kuku Yulanji Aboriginal tribe who had been living in the Daintree River area for over 9,000 years knew about it.  They would also have seen the white man rush for gold in the 1870's as the Daintree Village was founded to supply the miners.  One of their descendants, Juan Williams, runs  Walkabout Cultural Adventures out of Daintree - his tours are worth checking out for an authentic experience. Another Aboriginal Cultural Daintree Rainforest Tour leaves Cairns and Port Douglas also.

As an alternative, to really discover the Daintree on your own, rent a car, then stay a few nights in the Daintree Village area and get to meet some of the locals.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sydney - The Harbour City

I have only to hear the word "Sydney" and immediately my mind conjures up the image of the harbour with the Sydney Opera House and the Coathanger (Sydney Harbour Bridge), one of the most recognisable scenes in the world.  I don't believe that any trip to Australia could ever be complete without a visit to Sydney.  Of course, for many international travellers, Sydney is often their point of entry, making it very easy to incorporate into their holiday.  I know that when that plane banks and I get a view of the harbour just after dawn, that I've finally arrived home again.
The Sydney Opera House
Let's start with a few facts.  After many years in the travel industry in the US, I've noticed that it's a pretty common misconception that Sydney is the capital of Australia.  As the most populous city in the country and the most well known, I can see where people get that idea from.  Although Sydney is the capital of the state of New South Wales, Canberra is in fact the nation's capital.

Sydney was established in 1788 on January 26th (celebrated annually as Australia Day), by Arthur Phillip, as a penal colony for Britain.  From such harsh and humble beginnings, a true multicultural metropolis did grow.

There's plenty to see, do and experience in and around Sydney. For a start, you can check out the Sydney Tours Sightseeing and Activities page on our website.  One of my personal favourites is the jet boat tour on the harbour.  If you love speed, you'll love this!  Of course, for a more sedate pace, there's always a lunch or dinner cruise.  If you're not leery of heights, try the Harbour Bridge climb.  The view from the top is spectacular!  The regular climb takes 3 and a half hours, but they've added an express climb which can be accomplished in 2 hours and 15 minutes.

The Sydney Aquarium located on Darling Harbour is currently undergoing a face-lift and 3 new areas have recently opened.  This large complex is a great place to spend a day viewing and interacting with some unusual sealife.   Across the harbour from the Opera House you can find Taronga Zoo.  It's easy to catch a ferry from Circular Quay and be there in just over 10 minutes.  A word of warning,'ll probably be pretty knackered after a full day of walking around all the great exhibits since the zoo sits on an incline.  It's totally worth it though, as the views from the zoo, and my favourite spot - the amphitheater where they do the free flight bird show, will knock your socks off!
Sydney Skyline at Dusk
When you're looking for a place to stay, remember, it's a huge city.  It really does help to have an idea of what you want to see and do before picking a place to stay, so that you can find one conveniently located.  Have a look at our Sydney Australia Hotels page to get a better understanding of what's what and to book your hotels in advance at a great price. 

Sydney is a great city to walk around, and you could walk for miles and not see everything.  The Royal Botanic Gardens are right in the heart of the city, and just a short walk from there is Mrs Macquarie's Chair, located on the peninsular, a sandstone bench carved by convicts in 1810.  It's a good place to stop for a breather and admire the view of the harbour.  If you head east, you have to stop for a real Australian meat pie at Harry's Cafe de Wheels near Finger Wharf (the original location).  Or, if you're heading west, you can stroll around to Bennelong Point, where the Opera House sits, and continue on to Circular Quay.  To get a really top notch view of the entire area, zoom to the observation deck of Sydney Tower (sometimes known as AMP Tower or Centrepoint Tower), which stands 309 m (1014 ft) above the CBD.  A stone's throw from the tower is Hyde Park, a lovely, green respite from the concrete and buildings (although it's not quite on the same par as London's Hyde Park).  At the northern end of the park is the Archibald Fountain and at the opposite end you'll find the ANZAC War Memorial.

These are just a few of the many options of things to see and do in Sydney.  I could write pages and pages of stuff, but what fun would that be?  You need to get out and discover some on your own!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Dawn of a New Year

2014.  It's hard to believe it's here already.

I look at the beginning of a new year like a sunrise.  The landscape slowly becoming tinged with purple, mauve, pink, then orange.  Then everything starts to glow that glorious golden colour.  You know, the one that is so hard to describe but so very beautiful to look at.  It casts a tint on the world that makes everything look clean and fresh and new.  Yesterday is gone.  A pleasant memory fading like dusk into darkness.

Sunrise - Monkey Mia, WA
It's a time to look ahead, to start planning with the freedom of a clean slate.  Make the year what YOU want it to be.  Start planning now for what you want to accomplish.  In some ways, it can be a bit intimidating - geez, there's SO much I want/need to do this year, where do I start?  Pick a place and take a first step.  Don't be paralyzed by hesitation and indecision.

Planning a trip to Australia can be kind of the same situation.  Geez, it's such a BIG country and I want to see SO much, where on earth do I start?  How could I afford it?  How on earth do I fit it ALL in in just a 2 or 3 week visit.  The simple, honest answer is obviously that you can't, but that doesn't mean that you can't have a fantastic, memory-making trip anyway.

Whether it's your goals for the year, or that dream vacation to Australia - focus on the things that make you happy or will improve your quality of life first.  Then, after you've accomplished the first step, you can sit back, relax, and truly enjoy the sunset - you'll have earned it!

Sunset - Hamilton Island, QLD

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