A Trip Down Under – July 2016

In 2016 our big family vacation was a trip to Australia.  The reasons why we decided to go to Australia were  many, but the main reason is I wanted to take the family to see and experience the country where I  was born.  It was my first trip back to Australia since 1996 and the first visit for Ashley and our two girls.  With the family connections Australia and many sites to see, it was an easy choice for us.

GETTING THERE:

Now getting to Australia is no easy feat and it is not cheap either.  I kept an eye out for air fares to look for deals and found $1,200 round trip on Delta.  This was from Tampa with one stop in LA.  I booked it immediately as I knew I wouldn’t get much better than that.  I am also a Delta frequent flyer so that worked out well for us.  There is always a deal out there if you know where to look.

The flight itself is obviously long but not unbearable. The flight from LA to Sydney was about 14+ hours, but it is an over night flight.  We all  watched a movie or two and then slept as much as we could, so we weren’t a complete wreck once we landed.  Due to the time change you will have the urge to go straight to bed on arrival, however I recommend to try and stay awake the first day as long as you can.  It will help you adjust to the time change that  much quicker.  It took us a good three to four days to feel normal.

SYDNEY:

We spent most of our time in Sydney during our trip to Australia.  We stayed with family, which was great, as they could show us around.  Plus we didn’t have to worry about dealing with hotels.  While we were in Sydney we did many of the popular tourist attractions:

Sydney Fish Market:

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On our first day we had lunch at the Sydney Fish Market.  We saw sea creatures that we have not seen before.  There is a good selection of restaurants to choose from – mainly Asian.  We ended up having dim sum at the Fisherman’s Wharf Seafood Restaurant.  The kids were brave to try the different Chinese dumplings that they roll out on trays.

Taronga Zoo:

This is a must, especially with kids.  We took the ferry over which is an experience in itself.  The Zoo has some of the best sceneries of Sydney, plus the animal exhibits were great.  Make sure you take time to visit the Australian Animal section as that is where you will find animals that can’t see up close in the states – or other parts of the world.

Sydney Opera House:

We were able to see an opera, Carmen, at the opera house which was fantastic.  If you are going to visit one of the most famous Opera houses in the world you might as well see an show there.  If you are not able to see a show, they do offer tours which I would highly recommend.

Darling Harbor and the Rocks:  We  spent an afternoon down at Darling Harbor.  There are interesting museums and plenty of open aired restaurants to visit.  Plenty to do with kids and adults.  Additionally, we walked around the Rocks which is one of the older sections of Sydney.  During our visit, there was a market going on with plenty of Australian art and local food for sale.  Our kids bought a few souvenirs.

Bondi Beach:

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The beaches in Sydney are fantastic.  You can actually walk from one beach to the next using the trails along the shore line.  There are trails carved out of the rocks which our kids loved – and it was quite an adventure.  I would recommend definitely going to Bondi,  Coogee and/or Manly.  If it is too cold to swim, then go for the scenery and have some lunch.  We noticed there are plenty of great little cafes and restaurants to choose from at each beach.

Aussie Rules Game:

 

While we were in Australia it is was mid season for Australian Rules Football.  We went to see the Sydney Swans play at the Sydney Cricket Grounds.  What a great experience.  We had meat pies and a few beers.

EXCURSIONS AROUND SYDNEY:

During our visit we took a 5 night trip to see some of the surrounding areas outside of Sydney.  Each place was no more than a 3 hour drive from Sydney.  Below are descriptions of the places we visited:

Featherdale Wildlife Park:

We stopped at Featherdale on our way to Canberra.  This is a great place to see many of Australia’s native animals in a much more intimate environment.  We loved Taronga Zoo, but Featherdale was a much better experience to touch, feed and pet the local wildlife.  Our kids loved the experience.  Many of the animals are running loose around the park and you can purchase food to feed them – Kangaroos, Wallabies, all sorts of birds, wombats, etc.  I highly recommend Featherdale.

Canberra:

Canberra is the capital of Australia, not too many people know that.  It is a planned city similar to Washington DC, and you can definitely tell that when driving around.  We stayed in Canberra for two nights at the Mercure Canberra.  This is an older hotel and it was perfect for us.  We booked a loft room so we had the kids sleep down stairs while we slept upstairs.  They had a great English breakfast, a traditional Aussie Pub attached to it which we tried for dinner one night, and it was well located.

While in Canberra we:

  • Toured the Capital building – Highly recommend
  • Toured the War Memorial – This was fantastic and I highly recommend this to all.  Our kids really enjoyed the displays and the history lesson.
  • Drove down Embassy lane.
  • Did the Questacon museum.  This is a science museum, which was neat, but our kids were a little bored.  It may be more entertaining for younger kids.

Batesman Bay:

After Canberra we headed back to the coast to Batesman Bay.  We stayed at a really neat camping resort called NRMA Murramarang Beachfront Nature Resort.  This was one of the highlights of our trip.  All around the resort there are wild grey kangaroos roaming which were very tame.  You are not supposed the feed them, but we did give them some bread and crackers, and you tend to draw a crowd. We also saw some wild possums at night.  The possums in Australia are much more attractive than the possums in the US.  On top of the wildlife, the beach and coastline were amazing.  It was not warm enough to swim while we were there, but I can see this being a great place for a beach trip in the summer time.  The resort itself is more of a camping ground, but they do have some well equipped cabins which is where we stayed – right on the beach.  There is a country kitchen for campers to use.  We cooked lamb chops and at oysters.  A great Aussie experience.

Blue Mountains:

After visiting the south coast, we headed up to the Blue Mountains to stay two nights.  On the way we did spend a night in Wollongong, which is where I was born.  We didn’t spend much time there, but it is a nice beach town to visit if you are in the area.  Coming from Tampa, our kids love the mountains or anything they can climb.  The Blue Mountains did not disappoint.  There are tons of hiking trails that lead to waterfalls or with amazing scenery of the Blue Mountains.  We did do the Scenic Railway in Katoomba which is the steepest railway in the world.  It takes you down to the valley where the vegetation is more lush with walking trails around the area.

We did get a chance to have lunch at the Megalong Valley Tearoom during our stay in the Blue Mountains.  It was about 40 minute drive from Katoomba in a valley on the other side of the mountains.  This was place is known for it’s fresh scones and pies and they were pretty darn good.  I would recommend checking this out if you have time.

CONCLUSION:

Our Family trip to Australia was extremely enjoyable.  For the ten days we were there, we were able to  experience Sydney and some of the areas surrounding it.  It was great for us to see family and to have the luxury of my father showing us around.  Australia is a big country and there is plenty to see if time permits.  We stayed in the New South Wales region, however next time I want to take the family down to Melbourne, Alice Springs to see Ayers Rock and possibly head up to Queensland to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.  Australia is easy for Americans to visit as everyone speaks English and the exchange rate is currently in our favor.  We will definitely go back at some point in the near future.  If you decide to go, you will not regret your visit.


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