Melbourne has a fascinating combination of old and new architecture and is a melting pot of cultures. While the layout of the city is a balanced grid of neatly angled streets, you find charm, creativity and character all around.
The city centre is filled with little precincts, abound with shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. On the outskirts, you’ll find St. Kilda with its beachy feel and diverse cafe and music scene. Lygon Street is like a Little Italy. The smells of pizza and pasta fill the streets and you can’t pass one of the amazing gelato cafes without stopping in. Head to Richmond for a little Asian influence while dining and shopping. You could spend a full week here exploring!
Considered one of Australia’s finest natural reserves, Kangaroo Island (known as KI by the locals) is a vision of towering cliffs, rocks aptly named ‘The Remarkables’ for their extraordinary formations, gorgeous white beaches and turquoise oceans. Acres of dense bush and forest also cover the red interior, making this island a wildlife haven.
I enjoyed the day exploring with my guide who was born and raised on the island and was very educated about the wildlife. Our first stop was Flinders Chase National Park, where I saw several animals that I had never seen before - even when I had previously lived in the country.
My favorite was the echidna – a small porcupine-like animal whose back feet point backwards. So when you follow the tracks, you don’t know if it is going forwards or backwards! I was also in awe to see a koala and its joey in a tree less than three feet away from me.
We visited the small town of Kingscote, followed by Seal Bay to witness about fifty sea lions who put on a show for the visitors. I didn’t feel like a tourist but instead a nice neighbor, as everyone waved to each other when they drove by, and every person offered me “lamingtons,” a specialty cake of Australia, and tea.
With its sparkling waters, the Harbor Bridge, the infamous Opera House, the stunning Botanical Gardens and beautiful beaches, Sydney - the most famous and largest city in Australia - has it all. But there is also so much more to this beloved city. There are hidden pockets of parklands and botanical gardens, charming, laid back cafes and restaurants, and street markets that are just waiting to be explored.
Venture off-the-beaten path in this city and you’ll discover sheltered beaches away from the crowds and spectacular outlooks to take in the views. A visit to the Rocks district is a must to wander the cobblestone alleys and pop into a few of the historic pubs. There are also craft stores in this area that feature Aboriginal art as well as other unique treasures.
When you approach Blue Mountains National Park, located about 62 miles from Sydney, the mountains actually appear blue, due to the haze produced by light reflecting off the droplets of oil from the eucalyptus trees that cover the slopes and valleys. ‘Sydneysiders’ often escape to the mountains during the summer months; however, the weather here is enjoyable year round.
I spent a few days in the park hiking some of the most magnificent trails. The eucalyptus forest is filled with rare plants, cascading waterfalls, and spectacular lookouts and cliffs. If you are fond of trekking, definitely make a stop here.
From the Southern Ocean to Alice Springs and the Macdonnell Ranges, lies the Australian Outback, the driest of Australia’s regions. In the heart of the Red Centre is Uluru/Ayers Rock and Kata Tjuta/The Olgas - stone formations that stunningly rise up from the sacred lands of the Anangu people and form the basis of their Dreamtime beliefs.
I was paired with an Aboriginal guide who really knew the landscape’s spiritual significance and was able to share the stories of the land and culture with me. I learned the ancient story of the Seven Sisters and visited the caves filled with rock art. The sheer size of the rocks is magnificent. Not to mention the permanent waterholes that feed the flora and fauna.
The thing I’d heard the most about Ayers Rock was the majestic sunsets, and I could not wait to see the colors paint the rocks.
Unfortunately, I was too late. The sun had dipped behind the rock and the sky appeared to darken. Thinking the sun had set, and being far from thrilled, I turned and walked away. Suddenly, I had an inkling and turned back around to see all of the different colors of light coming through the rocks and reflecting in a way that was almost unimaginable. It was chilling and spectacular.
From above, tiny specks, sandy cay swirls and densely vegetated rocks speckle the oceans. From below, brilliant blues, vibrant greens, bright corals and colorful fish glow and thrive. This spectacular region of our earth, trailing from Lady Elliott in the south to beyond Haggerstone Island in the north, is the world renowned Great Barrier Reef.
Out of the 2,000 islands, less than 20 accommodate visitors from Lizard Island to Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays. About 74 islands make up the Whitsunday Islands, an archipelago of green islands, turquoise waters and untouched beaches. You’ll find five-star luxury on Brampton, Hamilton, Daydream, Long and Hayman. Spend the days walking along the white sands, swimming in the blue lagoons, hiking in the jungles or boating around the beautiful islands.
My favorite way to explore? Scuba diving! This area is one of the best for diving and discovering unique corals, fish and sea creatures. I even happened upon six sea turtles who swam along side me as I made my way through the waters.
I have been a Country Specialist with Audley Travel since the opening of the Boston office, with a specialization in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific (Fiji, Cook Islands and French Polynesia). I was born and raised in Colorado, which has inspired my love of the mountains and being outdoors. After graduating from high school, I took a gap year, where I traveled the world and volunteered. While in Australia, I became a dive instructor, which lead me to a job in a dive and travel shop when I returned to the U.S.. During college, I returned to Australia and soon explored New Zealand. Since then, I haven’t been able to get enough of this part of the world. Working with Audley allows me to share my passion and help others experience these unique countries.