In March of 2016, we spent the most amazing weekend in Fairbanks, Alaska. We witnessed the unbelievable phenomenon of auroras borealis, enjoyed like kids at the World Ice Sculpture Championship , and even had time to get trapped in a snow storm in Denali. It was one of our favorite adventures of the year, a unique experience that we didn’t think we would repeat any time soon…
One of the things we really wanted to do in our time in Australia was interact with the autochthonous fauna. We wanted to spend time observing koalas and kangaroos, beyond our brief encounters in Hamilton Island and the Red Center, respectively. And we wanted to get close and touch the animals, if possible. A bit of online research showed us that Queensland was the best state to do so (koala cuddling is not allowed in Sydney / New South Wales, for example), and that the Cairns Tropical Zoo was the perfect place.
I still remember the first time I saw an image of Whitehaven Beach. Someone had posted it on Facebook and I immediately thought it was a scam; that intense aquamarine water had to be photoshopped, those swirls of white sand couldn’t be real. But now that I’ve been there, I can give you my word: Whitehaven is every bit as breathtaking as you’ve dreamt it.
How many days do I need for the Red Center? Is it even worth the hassle of getting there? There is just a big rock, right? Every time I read or hear about Australia’s central territory, I see so many misconceptions that I couldn’t wait to write this post. We had the most amazing time in Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon, and managed to pack heaps of unforgettable adventures and breathtaking sights in just 48 hours. So for me, the Red Center is an absolute must do in any Australia itinerary, I would even recommend it as a long weekend trip from Sydney.
Sydney is a gorgeous city. But even more so, it is a lively city, where you feel the urge to be active, explore, attend events and try new things. These are the top 10 experiences I had in Sydney during my three months living there; some more local, some more touristy, all memorable.
Manly competes with Bondi to be considered Sydney’s best beach. And while its sand and water might not be as picture-perfect as those of its southern neighbor, the Spit to Manly walk is definitely on par with the Bondi to Coogee one. There are about 20 km of scenic trails, which can be completed in a rather long day, or split into two days to get more time on the beach and the lively suburb.
Beyond the iconic downtown area around the Opera House, and the beach walks in Bondi and Manly, Sydney has many other cool spots. For those lucky enough to spend more than a few days in Australia’s main city, I’d recommend checking out (in no particular order):
Bondi Beach and the walk along its coast is a quintessential Sydney experience, only comparable to the sight of the Opera House I covered in my previous post. Bondi can easily be reached by bus from any point of the city; we used to take the 380 from Hyde Park, a ~40 min ride for $3.5 with Opal Card (a mandatory prepaid card you can buy and top up at convenience stores). I loved Bondi so much that I came here a dozen times during my months in Sydney, even moved here for a week. And I did the coastal walk to Bronte/Coogee/Maroubra 4 or 5 times😉
Last September, I got one of the coolest opportunities of my life: I was offered to move to Sydney for 3 months, to work on a consulting project. I played tourist, got to feel like a local, and fell in love with this city… possibly, the most beautiful one in the world.
On my first free day, I took a walk through the most iconic sites of the center, a fantastic itinerary that I would repeat several times once Elena came over. I was lucky to be staying at the Sheraton on the Park, where I could enjoy a delicious, abundant breakfast, while looking over the city I was about to explore. I kicked off by wandering around Hyde Park; a simple park in a very cool setting, with the modern skyscrapers of the CBD (central business district) on one side, and the gothic St. Mary’s Cathedral on the opposite. The sandstone exterior is very characteristic of Sydney, whereas the interior, with impressive stained glass windows, resembles that of European churches.
The Denali National Park is a massive preserve in interior Alaska, containing the highest peak in North America, 20,310 feet tall Denali (previously known as Mount McKinley). It might be better known in popular culture as the place where Chris McCandless ventured and eventually died, as chronicled by the book and later film ‘Into the Wild’. Most people believe Denali is a summer park, but in reality it’s open all year around, and is definitely worth a visit in the winter, if you find yourself in Alaska. For us, it was an obvious choice when deciding where to spend the last day of our Alaska weekend, after a day enjoying the amazing World Ice Art Championship in Fairbanks and a night marveling at northern lights. Denali is 120 miles from Fairbanks, mostly on highway, so it can be reached in 2 and a half hours, which makes it a long but totally viable day trip. It would be a pretty eventful one.