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?
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.