Australia

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Australia.

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Schussing in Australia

A couples’ guide to Australian ski resorts

With Thredbo’s cobblestone streets reminiscent of an Austrian ski resort, Falls Creek’s chalets set right on the snow, and numerous mountain trails to explore at Perisher, it can be a little overwhelming when deciding which snow resort will be best for you. To help you make the right decision next winter, here’s our Aussie snow guide for two.

Thredbo

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When it comes to mountainside romance, you can’t go past a ski holiday at Thredbo in New South Wales’ Snowy Mountains. The European immigrant-influenced village at this quaint resort has an alpine charm that’s easy to fall in love with. After a day schussing down the resort’s signature (intermediate) run, the Supertrail (3.7km), you can rest your weary muscles in a number of bars at “happy hour”. Our pick is Thredbo Alpine Hotel’s Lounge Bar, where you can slump fi reside in a cosy chair with a schnapps in hand, watching the last rays of sun light up the slopes.

Once darkness descends, head up the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift for dinner with a view at Australia’s highest restaurant (1,937m), Eagles Nest.

ALSO TRY…

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Candlelight Lodge

Dining at one of Thredbo’s oldest lodges, Candlelight Lodge, where couples can share traditional cheese fondue. thredbo.com.au

Mt Buller

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City slickers will relish the accessibility of Mt Buller, just a three-hour drive from the bright lights of Melbourne.

Mt Buller is great for couples seeking a quick weekend escape or on a first-time snow holiday. The resort’s small size (300ha of skiable terrain) makes it easy for beginners to navigate. You don’t have to click into a pair of skis to have a memorable winter holiday there either; there are plenty of other activities, including sled-dog tours and snowshoeing.

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BUDGET SYDNEY

In this city, many of the best things in life really are free – from lazing around the beaches or checking out the wildlife, to admiring Sydney’s outstanding art collection.

ENTERTAINMENT

Hero of Waterloo
Enter this rough-hewn 1843 sandstone pub to meet some locals and grab an earful of the swing, folk, old-time jazz and Celtic bands (Fri-Sun). Downstairs is a dungeon where, in days gone by, drinkers would sleep off a heavy night before being shanghaied to the high seas via a tunnel leading straight to the harbour.
The Sydney Conservatorium of Music
The castellated ‘Con’ was designed in 1817 by convict architect Francis Greenway. It was later converted into a music conservatorium, and has since created five world-class venues that showcase the talents of its students and their teachers. Choral, jazz, operatic and chamber concerts happen from March-November, along with free Weds lunchtime recitals.

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Watsons Bay Hotel
One of the great pleasures in life is languishing in the rowdy beer garden of the Watsons Bay Hotel, mere metres from the ferry wharf, with a jug of sangria after a day at the beach. Stay to watch the sun go down over the city and grab some seafood if you’re hungry – fish and chips or a seafood platter with crab, octopus and oysters.

ART MUSEUMS

Art Gallery of Nsw
Inside this stately Neoclassical building lies an exuberant collection. Blockbuster touring exhibitions arrive regularly and there’s an outstanding collection of Australian art, including a substantial indigenous section.
Museum of Contemporary Art

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The Museum of Conetemporary Art’s modern extension

A slice of Gotham City on Circular Quay West, the stately Art Deco MCA has been raising eyebrows since 1991. Constantly changing exhibitions range from the hip to in-your-face, sexually explicit and somewhat disturbing. You’ll also find aboriginal art featured prominently. There are daily guided tours.
White Rabbit
Wealthy philanthropists are to thank for Sydney’s exciting new free gallery, devoted to cutting-edge Chinese art. There are so many works that only a fraction can be displayed at one time. You might be surprised just how much edgy, funny and idiosyncratic work is coming out of the People’s Republic.

WILDLIFE

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
This sandstone rock, carved into the shape of a seat, sits on Mrs Macquarie’s Point, the northeastern tip of Farm Cove and is ideally placed for beautiful views over the bay to the city skyline. Colourful cockatoos disturb the peace during the day, and look out for greyheaded flying foxes at twilight.
Manly Scenic Walkway
This six-mile coastal walk from Manly to Spit Bridge passes multimillion harbourside properties and ventures through Sydney Harbour National Park, where you are likely to spot kookaburras, roaming fat goannas and spiders in bottlebrush trees. Look out for the aboriginal rock carvings near the turnoff to Grotto Point Lighthouse.
Lane Cove National Park
This large protected park is a great place to stretch out on some mid-sized bushwalks. It’s home to dozens of critters, including endangered owls and toads, plus you might spot water dragons sunning themselves. There’s a boat shed on Lane Cove River that rents out row boats and kayaks.

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An eastern water dragon in Lane Cove National Park

SYDNEY ESSENTIALS

TRANSPORT
Airlines including Air China, BA, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, Malaysia, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Thai fly to Sydney from London Heathrow. If you’re here for a week, a MyMulti1 pass will get you most places on trains, ferries, buses and trams. Trains are reliable and frequent, while buses go where the trains don’t, such as Bondi and the Eastern Beaches. Ferries are an excellent way to see the harbour.

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WHERE TO STAY
Mariners Court Hotel offers that rare combination of location, price and a bit of elbow room, not to mention a free hot breakfast buffet. All rooms have courtyards or balconies
A two-minute walk from the beach,
The peaceful retreat of Tara Guest House has four graceful spaces with soaring ceilings and French doors opening on to large verandas. The communal breakfast is a highlight, and rates include airport transfers.
Bondi Beach House offers a homely atmosphere with rustic-chic furnishings, a terrace, courtyard and well-equipped communal kitchen.
 

THE KNOW-HOW

Beach Culture
In the mid-’90s, a business began renting loungers on Tamarama Beach, offering waiter service. It didn’t last long. Even at what was Sydney’s most glamorous beach, nobody was interested in that kind of malarkey.
For Australians, going to the beach is all about rolling out a towel on the sand with a minimum of fuss. Ice-cream vendors are acceptable; martini luggers are not.
In summer, one of the more unusual sights is the little ice cream boat pulling up to Lady Bay (and other harbour beaches) and a polite queue of nude gentlemen forming to purchase their icy pops.
Surf lifesavers have a hallowed place in the culture and you’d do well to heed their instructions, not least of all because they will be in your best interest.

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Margaret River – Western Australia, Australia

Wildflowers and Vineyards

In the last twenty years, Australia’s sophisticated wine industry has given a cosmopolitan veneer to this remote and beautiful corner of the world, with its dazzling landscape of stunning surf beaches, manicured vines, and awesome forests.

Prestigious wines produced by the Vasse Felix, Cape Mentelle, Cullens, and the venerable Leeuwin Estate are world renowned. The latter hosts the Leeuwin Estate alfresco concerts, a heralded summer event in January attracting world-class performers and ever-­growing crowds. Blessed with a Mediterran­ean climate, the Margaret Valley area is also graced with the annual spring wildflower sea­son in September and October, when the countryside is filled to the horizon with a ka­leidoscope of color. More than 1,000 wild­flower species have been identified, including almost 70 species of orchid.

Happily, Cape Lodge, one of Australia’s most tasteful and relaxing country retreats, is located right in the middle of the region. The Dutch Cape – inspired main house is sur­rounded by rolling lawns and magnificent gar­dens, and overlooks a lovely lake, where guests can swim or paddle about in a canoe.

Morning wake-up calls come from a chorus of kook­aburras – so no one misses the gourmet breakfasts in the sun-drenched glass conservatory. It’s a short drive to Margaret River, a delight­ful town full of antiques stores and crafts shops. Local restaurants with young and inno­vative chefs make this a culinary comer of Australia to be reckoned with.

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El Questro Station – Kimberly, Western Australia, Australia

The Ultimate Outback Experience

You may feel a sense of discovery, as if you are the first to arrive, when you reach this million-acre working cattle ranch in the middle of Kimberly, just a dot on the map of massive, sparsely populated Western Australia.

El Questro Station is the ultimate outback experience, in a wonderful five-star incarnation. Saunter on over and offer to join the cowboys mustering 1,000 head of Brahman cattle in the bush, explore one of the property’s many tropical gorges or remote water holes, or go on horse, camel, foot, or four-wheel-drive treks with resident rangers, who will intro­duce you to the station’s thermal springs, waterfalls, and religious rock art.

At pricey Homestead cabins, cantilevered over the Chamberlain River, you can cast your line from your private veranda and hope for a record-breaking barramundi, Australia’s premier sport fish. Each airy suite is tastefully decorated with Asian and tropical Australian artifacts, a sign that you are closer to Indonesia than to Sydney.

Those whose wallets dictate Foster’s instead of Champagne can choose one of the station’s four less-expensive accommodation options, right down to bare-bones camping sites under the stars.

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Cable Beach – Broome, Western Australia, Australia

Glorious Isolation on the Edge of the Continent

The Australians take their beaches seriously, so when they claim that Cable Beach is the continent’s most beautiful, take notice. Large and lustrous South Sea pearls (from the world’s biggest pearl oysters) put Broome on the map in the early 1900s, but today it’s the epic 14-mile beach, almost half a mile wide when the tide is out, that draws connoisseurs.

The Indian Ocean’s waters are crystal clear, and pearly shells mingle with the sun- bleached sand, making it gleam and shimmer. In the small frontier town of Broome, the spirit of the pearling era is still evident among the Japanese, Chinese, Malay, and Aboriginal population.

The pearling masters’ indigenous architecture of wooden latticework screens, corrugated-iron bungalows, and colonial ver­andas is reflected in the luxurious Cable Beach Club, the only hotel adjacent to the beach. It’s a long way from anywhere, and most guests come starved for the laid-back atmosphere, though everyone should be able to shake off their torpor long enough to take a sunset camel ride along the beach.

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The Great Ocean Road – Victoria, Australia

An Inspirational Ride with the Twelve Apostles

This long coastal highway, often compared to California’s Pacific Coast Highway, ranks among the world’s top scenic drives, cliff-hugging its way west of Melbourne along the rugged southern coast of the Australian continent.

Every bend of the 180-mile journey reveals another awesome scene of jagged bluffs, windswept beaches, old whaling and fishing towns, inventive restaurants, sweet B&Bs, and protected rain forest and national parkland pop­ulated by koalas and kangaroos.

The timeless battle between the relentless waves of the Southern Ocean and the shoreline has resulted in prime surf beaches such as world-famous Bell’s and such extraordinary rock formations as Loch Ard Gorge, the Bay of Islands, and, most famous of all, the Twelve Apostles. In the 19th century, these limestone pillars were known as the Sow and Piglets.The ocean has claimed four of the brood in the intervening years; of the remaining eight, some reach as high as 180 feet.

It’s not hard to see why the Twelve Apostles stretch is also known as the Shipwreck Coast, since the waters claimed hundreds of ships during colonization in the 1800s, when the journey from England took three to four months. This is the most spectacular segment of the Great Ocean Road, often broody and romantic during windy and stormy weather. It’s best to drive the road round-trip, since the rugged sea views are different depending on your direction.

If you’re up to it, biking with a small organized group is the best way of seeing it all. Be sure to take advantage of the lookout points along the way at sunset, and don’t forget to visit nearby Coonawarra’s best winemakers while you’re in the area.

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Freycinet National Park and Freycinet Lodge – Tasmania, Australia

A Natural Playground of Limitless Choice

Freycinet is Tasmania’s oldest coastal park, a dramatic combination of red granite mountains, white-sand beaches, and lapis-blue ocean.

Unobtrusively nestled within its confines is the ecosensitive Freycinet, “the disappearing lodge,” so carefully con­structed that it is barely visible from even a few feet away. Luxurious cabins with red­wood terraces have been harmoniously integrated with the attention-stealing environ­ment.

Guests pick and choose from a host of nature-oriented activities including whale watching, visits to the breeding grounds of fairy penguins and black swans, and guided walks through forests populated by marsupials, brilliant-colored parrots, and laughing kook­aburras. A self-guided nature walk through fields of wildflowers and up and over a spine of mountains leads to the trek’s grand finale: Wineglass Bay, one of Australia’s most beau­tiful panoramas.

The Freycinet coastline is famous for its seafood – a chef doesn’t need to do much to the local lobster-size crayfish to create an award-quality dinner at a window table overlooking Great Oyster Bay at sunset.

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Cradle Mountain National Park and the Overland Track – Tasmania, Australia

A Walk on the Wild Side

Lying 150 miles south of Australia, mountainous, Virginia-size Tasmania seems like the end of the earth even to mainland Aussies, and because of its isolated location, much of its flora and fauna exist nowhere else on earth.

Still, most of the island is green and civilized, much like England’s Surrey – except, that is, for the 3 million largely wild acres set aside as parkland, encompassing some of Australia’s most spectacular alpine scenery. The jewel in this natural crown is Cradle Mountain National Park, whose rugged peaks and high moorlands make up a large, untamed portion of the area. The 53-mile Overland Track, linking Cradle Mountain Park with Lake St. Clair, is the country’s most famous trail and one that every Aussie vows to do at least once in his or her life. Penetrating much of the rain forest, a boardwalk protects the environment from human impact.

There are basic huts along the way, but they’re often full. Rather than carry camping equipment for the duration of the six-day hike, sign up with a reputable trekking agency that operates private huts with hot running water and private guest rooms. They’ll supply an experienced Tasmanian guide who accom­panies a group at a ratio of one per five guests (groups are never larger than ten); he or she will double as cook at the end of each glorious day of walking, during which you’ll cover between 6 and 11 miles.

The last day includes a walk through a dense eucalyptus forest to the shores of Lake St. Clair, Tasmania’s most beautiful, carved out by glacial ice over the past couple million years; the 10-mile boat cruise that follows augments the magic of your Cradle Mountain experience.

If walking the Overland Track is about 50 miles more than your average vacation undertaking, the Cradle Mountain Lodge is a stationary alternative. Rustic and cozy, it’s not a luxury operation (unless you count the huge breakfast of prime Tasmanian bacon and local free-range eggs). Rather, it’s the kind of informal inn where a glass of Tasmanian cabernet is nursed in front of a roaring fire while swapping hiking stories. It’s a good base from which to plan some days of horse­back riding, canoeing, and hiking through lush rain forests and along alpine lakes.

A popular tradition is the nightly “leftover extravaganza,” when the kitchen’s scraps are put out on a nearby platform for the forest’s nocturnal wildlife, which includes the occa­sional Tasmanian devil (and we don’t mean Errol Flynn).

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Kangaroo Island – South Australia, Australia

A Microcosm of All Things Australian

Australia’s third-largest island is uncrowded and uncomplicated and boasts a treasure trove of unique animal life amid a variety of unspoiled scenery. Sheep outnumber residents 300 to 1, but it’s the armies of wild kangaroos, koalas, Tamar wallabies (nearly extinct on the mainland), and fairy penguins that astound.

They live among some of the whitest sand dunes on the planet, surf-sculpted boulders resembling abstract art (aptly called the Remarkable Rocks), sparkling seas, and a natural bridge carved from lime­stone called Admirals Arch. Seal Ray is home to one of the world’s rarest species of sea lions; they can be seen lounging on the white beach by the hundreds. They seem unper­turbed by Homo sapiens, who take advantage of an up-close-and-personal experience rarely possible in the wild. The sea lions’ cousins, the New Zealand fur seal, frequent pretty coves at the island’s southwestern tip.

Visitors who sign up only for Adventure Charters of Kangaroo Island’s whirlwind one-day excursions usually underesti­mate the island’s size (90 by 40 miles) and invariably long to stay on at one of the charming local B&Bs – farms and home­steads that welcome guests with true Australian hospitality. Hope for availability at the Stranraer Homestead, a 3,500-acre working farm run by the Wheaton family since 1911.

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Barossa Valley – South Australia, Australia

Great Wine, Great Food

The picturesque Barossa Valley is Australia’s lodestone for all things gastronomic, and along with the nearby (and lesser-known) Clare Valley, produces close to 60 percent of Australia’s wines. Maximize your wine-and-food experience with a stay at The Lodge Country House, a charming former homestead built in 1903 for one of Australian wine pio­neer Joseph Seppelt’s thirteen children.

The handsome bluestone country-house inn is framed by 3 acres of gorgeous rose and flower gardens and stands just across the road from the Seppelts’ sprawling showpiece vineyard, which dates back to the mid-1850s. The Lodge’s shaded veranda is the gathering spot where the inn’s eight privileged guests come to watch the sunset.

A memorable candlelit dinner follows, accompanied by an excellent selection of Barossa’s best. Some fifty wineries are within a half hour’s drive (including Peter Lehman, Stanley Brothers, Henschke, Penfolds, and Richmond Grove), and many of them are represented on The Lodge’s wine list.

From The Lodge it’s a lovely ten-minute drive to Tanunda, the most important, lively, and charming of Barossa wine towns. Its blend of antique shops, wine stores, and cafés will fill an afternoon pleasantly, but your final des­tination should be the smart but casual 1918 Bistro and Grill, with its straightforward and memorable menu of modern Australian spe­cialties. Locals in the know order from the extensive list of unlabeled Barossa wines, available to patrons at a substantial savings over the officially labeled versions. But you have to ask.