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AUSTRALIA

INTRODUCTION

There’s much to learn about Australia. Endless miles of unspoilt beaches, tropical rainforest, mountain ranges and vast tracts of desert make Australia a country of contrast. With 14 World Heritage listed wilderness areas to choose from, Australia’s diversity is yours to enjoy.

Languages:

English is the official language. Other native languages are also known by many Australians.

Religion:

26% Roman Catholic, 26% Anglican, 24% other Christian, 24% Buddhism, Judaism and Islam and other.

All this can be enjoyed in a land of natural beauty with a palette of warm oranges and golds, vivid reds, crystal greens and clear blues.

Currency:

The national currency is the Australian dollar ($A); $1 = 100 cents.

Coins are in denominations of 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, $1 and $2.,

Dollar bills are in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.

WEATHER

The weather conditions within Australia are as diverse as within the United States. It is important to remember that the seasons are reversed, as Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere. Australia’s summer is the American and European winter.

The northern section of Australia has a tropical climate, hot and humid in the summer, and hot and dry in the winter. The south is generally more temperate to warm (with some colder pockets). For example, the maximum summer temperature in Sydney or Melbourne is around 79-86F (26-30C), and in the winter it is around 56-61F (13-16C).

ENTERTAINMENT

There is always something to do in Australia. Enjoy the opera, ballet and concerts at the Opera House, Victorian Arts Center. Other major venues, musicals, theater and comedy performances abound. Movie theaters are located throughout the cities. Nightclubs and jazz are also popular in the cities.

For information on what is being featured at the Opera House,

Call : (02)2507111

Bookings : (02)2507777

In Melbourne, call What’s On – Entertainment:

Theater : (03)14640

Cinema : (03)14632

ACTIVITIES

With over 7.5 million sq km of sparsely populated territory, it’s not surprising that Australia is an adventure playground. You can chew up the km with a 4WD, or explore smaller regions by foot, horseback or even on the back of a camel. You can also find some fine touring country for cycling, though only the very experienced should tackle the dry centre, and there are some fabulous trails for hiking. Surprisingly Australia also offers some excellent skiing and snow-boarding.

There are countless surfing beaches along the Australian coast, and diving spots are also many, especially on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef. White-water rafting and/or canoeing are possible on the country’s mighty rivers.

Whalewatching is possible at many places; the most popular are Eden in New South Wales, Warrnambool in Victoria, Albany in Western Australia and Fraser Island in Queensland.

Sport is the Australian religion and Aussies are worldbeaters in cricket, rugby league, rugby union, swimming and cycling. Other popular sports include basketball, yachting, golf, soccer and Aussie Rules.

AUSTRALIA TRAVEL TIPS

Do visit a pub. The people are friendly and you can usually get a good, cheap pub lunch. You’ll likely see poker machines adjacent to the bars or eating areas.

Don’t be surprised by what they wear (or don’t wear) on the beaches.

Do visit sporting clubs (motor, rugby or soccer) that allow nonmembers to sign in. You can enjoy an inexpensive, high-quality lunch or dinner and entertainment on the weekends.

SHOPPING

There’s no shortage of souvenir shops selling Australia’s signature goods. Everything from boomerangs to sheepskins and wool products to Aboriginal handicrafts and didgeridoos can be found just about anywhere. Jewelry stores selling Broome pearls, opals and other gems native to the country line the streets and shopping malls in larger cities.

One of our favorite shopping experiences is to visit a weekend market. Mostly held in cities, the markets are wonderful places to meet local residents as well as shop for arts and crafts, unusual gifts, and fresh fruit and produce. In Sydney, canvas tarps billow over vendors selling their wares in the shadow of the Harbour Bridge in The Rocks neighborhood. Melbourne’s Queen Victoria market is chockablock with fresh produce. The markets of Adelaide and Cairns offer local crafts and jewelry as well as seasonal fruits.

Be aware that Aboriginal arts and crafts have become such popular souvenirs that the quality and authenticity of some of what is sold is questionable. Look for shops that are at least partly owned by Aborigines or that have a long-standing relationship with Aboriginal artists.

Shopping Hours: Monday-Saturday 9 am-5 pm. Some shops are open on Sunday and until 9 pm one night a week – usually Thursday or Friday.

Banking Hours: Generally Monday-Thursday 9:30 am-4 pm, Friday 9:30 am-5 pm. The hours may differ in each location.

FOOD & DRINK

There are numerous speciality dishes and foods including Sydney rock oysters, barramundi (freshwater fish), tiger prawns, macadamia nuts and yabbies (small freshwater lobsters). Beef is the most popular meat and lamb is also of a high quality. There is a wide variety of excellent fruits and vegetables. Service is European-style and varies from waitress and waiter service to self-service. Bistros, cafes, family-style restaurants and -pub- lunches at the counter offer good food at reasonable prices. Some restaurants will allow guests to bring their own alcohol and are called -BYO- restaurants. Australia also offers an enormous variety of cuisines, including Italian, French, Greek, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Thai, Japanese, Indian, African, Lebanese and Korean.

The major vineyards (wineries) are outside Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Canberra and Adelaide. The largest single wine-growing region is in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, 2 hours- drive from Adelaide, where high-quality red and white wines are produced. Most restaurants and hotels are licensed to serve alcohol; private hotels and guest-houses cannot be licensed by law. Australian wines are good and inexpensive. Beer is served chilled. Licensing hours in public bars are 1000-2200 Mon-Sat, however most pubs are open until 2400; Sunday hours vary. Restaurants, clubs and hotel lounges have more flexible hours. Drinking age is 18 years or over.

ATTRACTIONS

Canberra

Canberra is a picturesque 20th-century concoction on the banks of Lake Burley Griffin that has struggled to establish itself as the focus of Australia’s national identity. It has often been perceived as a ‘fat cat’ town of politicians and bureaucrats living off the rest of the country.

As Australia’s capital, Canberra pulls out the big guns when it comes to sightseeing. Souped-up national versions of art galleries, war memorials and libraries come extra-large and with lashings of grandiose gravitas. The city’s impressive sights are ringed around its focal lake.

Adelaide

When the early colonists arrived and began building Adelaide they used stone. What they had in mind was to build a solid, dignified city. It was to be a civilised and calm place, with a manner that no other state capital in the country could match.

The ‘city of churches’ has a superb setting, with a centre ringed by green parklands and a backdrop of hills. Bouncing between its museums, fine galleries, metropolitan beaches and historic houses will keep you busy, and then there’s daytrips into the Mt Lofty Ranges.

Brisbane

Brisbane has shucked its reputation as a backwater and emerged as one of the country’s most progressive centres. It has several interesting districts, a good street cafe scene, a great riverside park, a busy cultural calendar and a thriving nightlife.

Brisbane is known for its showiness – think artificial beaches and tourist arcades – but it also has gracious architecture and tranquil parks. Its galleries and museums are legendary, and if you need a break from the built environment it’s refreshingly close to bushland and wildlife.

Cairns

Cairns is the tourist ‘capital’ of the Far North and one of Australia’s top travellers’ destinations. Not long ago, it was just a sleepy tropical backwater. Unfortunately, much of its allure and tropical languor has vanished amid the rapid growth of tourist infrastructure, but it is still one of the best bases for exploring the riches of tropical Queensland. From Cairns, you can arrange trips to the Great Barrier Reef, Green Island and Fitzroy Island, the beautiful Atherton Tableland, the market town of Kuranda, the string of enchanting beaches stretching 50km (30mi) north to Port Douglas, and the spectacular rainforest and coastal scenery of Cape Tribulation and the Daintree River.

Darwin

The ‘capital’ of northern Australia is closer to Jakarta than it is to Sydney, and closer to Singapore than it is to Melbourne, so it should come as no surprise that it looks outward to Asia as much as it looks inland to the rest of Australia.

When Cyclone Tracy levelled Darwin in 1974, she took with her a lot of its streetscapes, but there are still a few colonial buildings to give a feel for what went before. The city’s museums focus on everything from pearling to crocodiles to the night Tracy came to town.

Great Barrier Reef

One of Australia’s greatest assets is the magnificent reef that runs along virtually the entire coast of Queensland. Considered one of the world’s natural wonders, it is the most extensive reef system and the biggest structure made by living organisms on earth.

Great Ocean Road

This route along the south-western coast of Victoria is one of the most spectacular coastal drives in the world. It winds around ragged cliffs, windswept beaches and tall bluffs, passing through lush rainforest and towering eucalypts.

Hobart

Hobart is Australia’s southernmost capital city. The fact that it is also the smallest is the key to its particular charm. A riverside city with a busy harbour, its mountain backdrop offers fine views over the beautiful Georgian buildings, numerous parks and compact suburbs below.

Many say that Hobart’s history as a demonically harsh penal colony and the site of some of Australia’s worst massacres of indigenous people lingers in the form of melancholy ghosts, lending an eerie chill to the idyllically peaceful honey-stoned colonial buildings and Irish-looking landscapes.

Melbourne

Melbourne is dubbed marvellous for a reason. Healthy hedonism masquerades as high art: Melburnians are equally passionate about football and ballet, nuts for fashion, munchy for restaurants, ravenous for music and hot for theatre. It’s a smorgasbord of a city that invites you to take a bite.

Melbourne’s easy-going pace is perfect for enjoying its gracious Victorian architecture, its green wealth of parks and gardens, and its many cultural highlights. Most of the city’s main sights are just a short walk or tram-hop apart, with plenty of latte pick-me-up opportunities on the way.

Perth

Perth is a vibrant and modern city sitting between the cerulean Indian Ocean and the ancient Darling Ranges. It claims to be the sunniest state capital in Australia, though more striking is its isolation from the rest of the country – Perth is over 4400kms (2750mi) from Sydney by road.

Desert the cluttered rectangle of the city centre and go looking for the beauty that makes visitors fall for Perth: Indian Ocean beaches, hillside hideaways, romantic Fremantle, cosmopolitan Subiaco and the select, comfortable suburbs which fringe the Swan River.

Sydney

Sydney is Australia’s oldest city, the economic powerhouse of the nation and the country’s capital in everything but name. It’s blessed with sun-drenched natural attractions, dizzy skyscrapers, delicious and daring restaurants, superb shopping and friendly folk.

Sydney Harbour’s sandstone headlands, dramatic cliffs and stunning beaches define the city. But whichever way you look, from the white sails of the harbour to the arc of The Coathanger to the toned flesh on Bondi, Sydney is serious eye-candy.

Uluru

Uluru is a site of deep cultural significance to the Anangu Aboriginals and the most famous icon of the Australian outback. The 3.6km (2.2mi) long rock rises a towering 348m (1141ft) from the pancake-flat surrounding scrub. It is especially impressive at dawn and sunset when the red rock spectacularly changes hue.

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