Similarly to Dubai or Singapore, Taipei is a fantastic city to visit on a short layover. I was on my way to Malaysia for a 2 week diving vacation, and had booked a cheap flight through this airport, without giving it much thought. Once we touched ground, I realized that I had nearly 6 hours until my departure to Kuala Lumpur. I immediately checked on my phone whether I needed a visa (short answer: no for most nationalities, but check the latest info), and if I could see the highlights of the city in just a few hours (short answer: yes). This was my step by step itinerary, which I would call very successful 🙂
- Sydney and its beaches
- Diving in the Great Barrier Reef
- Whitsunday Islands
- Uluru and the Red Center
For diving lovers like us, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef had always been at the top of our bucket list. We are usually economic travelers, staying in backpacker hostels, taking public buses, and eating street food as much as possible. But when it came to the GBR, we knew it was time to splurge. We booked ourselves on a 4 nights / 14 dives liveaboard with Mike Ball Expeditions, one of the most prominent scuba operators in the world. And the trip was nothing short of perfect.
Our last days in Australia had been sour-sweet… the terrible weather we experienced in Fraser Island and the fact that we had to cancel our attempt to dive the Yongala shipwreck, had been partially compensated by some epic New Year’s Eve fireworks. We were flying back home to LA on the morning of January 2nd and hadn’t planned anything for the 1st, thinking we would wake up late and maybe make one last trip to our beloved Bondi Beach. But as we walked back to our hotel from the NYE party, we wondered… what if we could have one last adventure? The idea of going to Jervis Bay came up immediately. We had looked into this perfect white sand beaches before, but hadn’t been able to make the trip for one reason or another. Being about 3 hours south of Sydney, we thought that you needed multiple days to visit Jervis properly… but why not try to do it as a day trip, and end our time in Australia with a bang?
Fraser is the world’s largest sand island, and one of Australia’s premier adventure destinations. Accommodation on the island is very limited (and quite expensive), and roads are almost nonexistent. So the most typical way to visit is on a self-driving 4WD camping trip, be it as part of a guided group (in which case you are clustered with other travelers), or on your own. If you’ve read this blog, you’ll know which option we chose.
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.