Notes on Australia

This item appears on page 36 of the April 2009 issue.

In the March ’09 issue, page 55, Wanda described her pretrip planning before she and her husband, Ray, took the tour “Ultimate Australia” with Overseas Adventure Travel (Cambridge, MA; 800/493-6824, in October-November ’07. Here are her tips from the trip itself.

Ray and Wanda Bahde in Sydney Harbor.

• In MELBOURNE we stayed at The Crossley Hotel ( — small, comfortable and well located, with a helpful staff.

Do go to the Federation Square Information Office to request free walking-tour maps. These maps help organize explorations more efficiently.

Do go to the Eureka Skydeck 88 (Riverside Quay, Southbank; phone 03 9693 8844, www.eureka to view the city. It’s open 10-10 and costs AU$16.50 (near US$11) adult or AU$11 child.

Visit the Ian Potter Centre (Federation Square; phone +61 3 8620 2222, to better understand Aboriginal art. It’s open 10-5 (closed Tuesdays); entry to the permanent collection is free.

Use the free tram around the city, even if only to sightsee. The Old Melbourne Gaol and Cooks’ Cottage in Fitzroy Gardens are worth visiting. And if you like theater, do look into your options.

A good place for Italian restaurants is Lygon Street, and Little Bourke Street is the place for Chinese.

This is a wonderful cosmopolitan city in which we would have liked more time. Check out

• In ADELAIDE, Gouger Street is best for restaurants.

The South Australian Museum (North Terrace; phone +61 8 8207 7500, is internationally acclaimed for its Aboriginal artifacts. It’s open 10-5, with admission free.

We enjoyed the Cleland Conservation Park located outside of town.

• The boat ride over to KANGAROO ISLAND can be rough. Wear a patch or take meds if you get seasick. I found sitting on top in the fresh air more comfortable.

Beware: the OAT Kangaroo Island option merges OAT’s group onto a huge bus with other tourists, so quickly exit the ship and find your bus.

If you are traveling independently, rental companies usually do not permit their cars to be taken to Kangaroo Island; however, you can rent cars in Kingscote, the island’s main port. Go to for general information and self-drive itineraries.

• ALICE SPRINGS — The All Seasons Alice Springs Oasis (10 Gap Rd., Alice Springs; phone +61 8 8952 1444, offered a good accommodation, with laundry facilities.

OAT’s optional “Aboriginal Culture Tour” (in 2009, $95) was quite good. An Aboriginal man associated with Yipirinya School, a private k-6 school for Aboriginal students, took us into the Corroboree Rock Conservation Reserve to learn about Aboriginal Life. We learned about how the people lived off the land, about their rituals and about Dreamtime and their spiritual realm, saw cave paintings and even saw a perentie lizard. This was a mind-expanding opportunity.

Ray and Wanda at the annual "Sculpture by the Sea" event near Bondi Beach, Sydney.

Alice Springs’ Red Ochre Grill (entrées, AU$28-$32, or US$18-$21) and Bojangles (AU$14-$36) restaurants proved to have tasty food.

• Climbing ULURU (AYERS ROCK) is no longer encouraged, out of respect for the Aboriginal people. Hiking into Olga Gorge and around Ayers Rock and viewing sunrise and sunset are the main activities. One night here is adequate.

• PORT DOUGLAS is a good jumping-off point for the Great Barrier Reef. We took the Wavedancer (Port Douglas; phone +61 7 4087 2100, to the Low Isles for snorkeling off a sandy beach. Do take sand shoes and your own snorkel if you have one.

Note that OAT takes you to the Low Isles, which are closer to shore. If traveling independently, consider an outing to the outer Great Barrier Reef where the water is clearer, the fish are more colorful and underwater observation is provided.

In Port Douglas, the Courthouse Restaurant (AU$11-$24) was quite good, and it was especially nice on the upstairs balcony.

• CAPE TRIBULATION was our gateway into the rainforest; however, there was very little to see or do. One night here would have been ample.

We hiked into the Cooper Creek Wilderness, considered the oldest living rainforest in the world, and enjoyed a short zip-line ride over the trees.

The ad for the nighttime nature hike read, “As the sun sets over the trees, the animals stir and the jungle comes to life,” but our experience was quite different. Our group numbered around 15, and our guide was far less professional than we had anticipated. It was hot and buggy as we tripped and stumbled in the dark through rugged forest terrain. Our only sighting was a frilled lizard sleeping on a branch.

OAT did arrange for us to have a daytime nature hike in the Cooper Creek Wilderness. On this trip our guide was a knowledgeable fellow in his 50-60s who obviously knew and loved the area. We saw rare, primitive flora and fauna.

Do take time to hike along the sandy beaches to see the sand “spitball” patterns made by crabs.

• In SYDNEY, find a centrally located hotel on the Circular Quay.

Do go to the top of Sydney Tower.

Take a Sydney Opera House tour. We got tickets to the opera after our tour; however, you can get tickets in advance via

Visit the Queen Victoria Building, not for shopping but for the clocks and architecture.

Visit the Museum of Sydney and the Hyde Park Barracks Museum.

Take a harbor cruise or ferry.

Eat Italian at Rossini (W5 Alfred St., Circular Quay; phone 02 9247 8026,, with entrées AU$18-$24, or cook your own steak at Phillip’s Foote (101 George St., the Rocks; phone 02 9241 1485,, which has a set menu for AU$29.50.

Also, watch for special events in the area. We happened upon the annual Sculpture by the Sea art event, with amazing works exhibited between Tamarama and Bondi beaches. (In 2009, this is Oct. 1-Nov. 30; no charge to view exhibits.)

Overall, we would have liked more time in Sydney.

Australia is a diverse country with warm, friendly people. We enjoyed our time there.


Summerfield, FL