Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

Hotels Abound Along the Great Ocean Road

Travelers heading out for the Great Ocean Road Trip enjoy this heady experience which they wish to experience in their lifetime. This incredible road journey brings with it a sense of liberty and freedom, especially when you visit the various attractions, such as the Otway Lighthouse, Twelve Apostles and the Port Campbell National Park and stay at the wonderful hotels along the way.

Enjoy the scenic coastline when you travel 243 kilometers on the Great Ocean Road which can be covered in a day. Travelers may prefer to halt along the way to enjoy this national treasure. It is possible to drive down this road by oneself, or to take any one of the tour buses that head out from Melbourne.

The first 0 km mark of the Great Ocean Trip starts from the south of Torquay, in Melbourne. You start cruising your way westward as you head for Warrnambool along the coast. Travelers may prefer to stay for maybe an hour to a week, perhaps. Accommodation is plentiful and affordable in these friendly places where the following highlights are available.

You hit Bell’s Beach at 7 km. This beach is popular with the beach goers and surfers, especially as many remember that the final scene of the movie Point Break was shot here. The Rip Curl Pro Surf and Music Festival are conducted here every Easter and Bells hosts numerous surf competitions, as well as events annually.

At the 90 km mark, you hit Apollo Bay. You have to travel through the quaint tourist town of Lorne, which is about 46 km away, where you can stop for lunch, or stay for the noon or night and look for last minute hotels. There are a few shops on the foreshore, where one can spend time or chat with the locals, who come to fish on the pier. The view from Marriners Lookout at 90.7 km should not be omitted from your itinerary. Some people walk on the last lap of the journey, if they feel energetic to Apollo Bay and the Twelve Apostles, which cover the last 104 km of the Great Ocean Walk.

The drive takes you through Otway National Park, at 114 km to Cape Otway, which is located at 147 km. The Cape Otway Lighthouse is the only surviving oldest lighthouse on this mainland. You are taken back to the days when the first European settlers arrived at this point and had their first glimpse of virgin Australian territory.

The Port Campbell National Park is at the 172 km mark where many penguins, kangaroos, koalas and Australian animals can be spotted. Half a km away is the Twelve Apostles that is breathtakingly beautiful. One can opt to stay on in Port Campbell, at 179 km, or move towards the final stretch.

You have reached home stretch when you reach the 246 km at Warrnambool and experience the spectacular view. Look for southern right whales that frolic in the waters of the sea and visit Loch Ard shipwreck in this town that is home to mariners.

Though this point marks the end of the Great Ocean Road officially, many travelers may regard this as just the start of their holidays. Port Fairy is at 305 km and Portland is at 378 km.

Australia from a Sydney Base

When travelling around Australia you will find that you’ll often come back to Sydney. So finding the cheapest flights to Sydney is a good place to begin your Australia booking experience.

Wander around the city itself for a day or two. Perhaps do the Bondi to Coogee walk that starts at Bondi beach which, contrary to visions of athletic Aussies bounding down endless sand in paradise, is actually a pretty standard beach with a large graffitied concrete wall at the back, fish and chip shops and thus seagulls. At times it can feel like a beach in England. Anyway, the walk goes over the cliffs and passes a rather wonderful graveyard. You’ll also want to check out the Opera House, which will take about half an hour to an hour before heading to one of the ice-cream shops nearby.

Also noteworthy is Chinatown. It’s exciting as they often are, and the food markets are vast. One of the amazing things about Australia, and to some extent New Zealand, is that its proximity to Asia means is has quite a few Asian residents and this means that Asian cuisine has become embedded in Australian culture. It isn’t unusual to see Aussie toddlers munching on sushi.

From Sydney there are three directions you can go East, North or West. To the West you have Melbourne and Adelaide (most people skip Canberra, including the Australians) and the Great Ocean Road. To the North the trains open up Alice Springs and Darwin to you. And to the East, Brisbane and Cairns and the East Coast.

Melbourne is known for being a good base to do wine tours from; you can also drive the Great Ocean Road, which along the way has the Twelve Apostles in Victoria. The Twelve Apostles were actually only nine when they were named. They are a collection of limestone stacks. In recent years, one fell over so there are now eight.

Past Melbourne you have Adelaide. Adelaide is one of the more charming of the Australian cities. It also has a fantastic museum and art gallery: the former has a life-sized replica of a giant squid in it which descends through all the floors of the museum; the latter has lots of brilliant modern art inside.

To the North by Indian Pacific and Ghan trains you can reach Alice Springs from where you can take a tour of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the national park. Further North still, you can see crocodiles in Darwin. To the East of Sydney, you’ve Brisbane and Cairns and all the beach towns in between. Brisbane is a great city. There’s a river which runs through it where you’ll see pretty boats and mangrove trees and the West End is bohemian with nightlife to suit. The Queenslander houses are majestic, although do get snakes underneath them in the summer. (Aussies are weirdly nonchalant about this.) Cairns acts as a jetty for the Great Barrier Reef. There are numerous diving schools to choose from here and if diving is too much for you, you can go out just to snorkel.

The Best of Sydney Without Spending a Cent

It is easy to spend a fortune in Australia’s most famous city. Fine dining restaurants, swanky bars, luxury hotels and designer shops are dotted all over Sydney but it is possible to have a fantastic time and soak up the best the city has to offer without spending your entire travelling budget. Discount Sydney hotels can be found at the click of a mouse, and what could be better than a cheap but delicious fish and chip meal eaten whilst looking over the harbour towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House? Furthermore, most of the best things to do and see in Sydney are completely free!

Sydney Harbour
It costs absolutely nothing to view Sydney’s most iconic landmarks. Walk across the ‘coathanger’ bridge and gaze up at the white sails of the Opera House for that “wow, I’m really in Sydney” feeling. Visit during the day to see it all clearly but make sure you come back at dusk to see the sky redden, sharpening the distinctive silhouette of the Opera House and time a walk along the bridge to watch the lights of the city start to twinkle in the growing dark. There are many hotels near the Opera House, making accommodation options easy.

Bondi Beach
For a taste of true Aussie life, you’ve got to hit the beach and Bondi is famous world-over for its ever-ready surf lifesavers, bronzed bodies lying on the sand and surfers hitting the waves. Grab a towel and your bathers and enjoy a blissfully relaxing day on Australia’s iconic beach or, if you fancy being a little more active, hike the 6km along the cliffs to Coogee Beach.

Sydney Harbour National Park

Many still find it incredible, but certainly admirable, that such a large swathe of prime real estate in the city has been left as bushland. Sydney Harbour National Park incorporates parts of the inner harbour and several small islands and offers many coastal walks with fantastic views. Possibly the best is the Manly to Spit Bridge Scenic Walkway, a 10km track that weeps from  Manly to Dobroyd Head and over the Spit Bridge, rewarding hikers with Aboriginal rock art and spectacular views of the entrance to Sydney Harbour. Staying in a hotel in Manly also provides an more relaxed accommodation option, away from the madding crowds of the city yet close enough to visit all the attractions.

Parks & Gardens
Sydney has a plethora of lush, leafy parks and gardens, best of which is  the Royal Botanic Gardens, first laid out in 1816 and a short walk around the water’s edge from the Sydney Opera House. The gardens contain over a million specimens and are well worth a wander. Close by is Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, a historic site overlooking the harbour that is a perfect spot for a picnic or a rest under a shady tree away from the sun. For a bit of culture, the nearby Art Gallery of New South Wales has a free permanent exhibition, including works by indigenous artists.

5 Great Live Music Venues Sydney

sydney at nightBefore leaving for my recent travels around Australia and New Zealand I researched every aspect of my journey and the activities that I would be doing. One thing which I neglected, much to my annoyance, was the live music venues in the cities I would be visiting. Live music is one of my favourite pastimes and I was infuriated that I hadn’t thought to research the best venues to attend, especially as I did not always have easy access to the Internet whilst travelling. As a result, I ended up touring around many bars and venues in a number of cities in an often blind attempt to locate good quality live music. Below are some of the better live music venues which I found in Sydney:

The Gaelic
A wonderful venue found in a central location just around the corner from Central Station. The venue holds up to 550 people, meaning that it has enough people to give each event a good atmosphere whilst maintaining the intimate environment for which it is renowned. I loved the variety of music available at this venue as well as the varied crowds which the nearby train station brings.

Oxford Art Factory
I had many a great night at this venue. It never failed to amaze me, not only by the wide range of music which was on display here, but also for the outrageous crowds which were attracted to the shows. The layout is perfect as it has a few bars to choose from and escape from the music for a while on the few nights when the music didn’t really catch my fancy.

The Metro
This is one of the best live music venues that I have ever been to. This venue has everything, meaning that whilst many of the acts were unknown and amateur, the shows had an air of professionalism about them. The lighting and sound were great and you can even stand at the bar and still see what is happening on stage. Every city should have a venue like this.

Guest post by James who works with Sydney accommodation and Paris apartments.

Sydney, Australia

sydneyThe holiday shopping season will soon be upon us. No sooner than the pumpkins are off the shelves than department stores will be whipping moveable elves, fake snow and candles onto them. If you are less than excited or even stressed at the prospect of holiday shopping, eggnog and fruitcake again this year perhaps you should consider taking a holiday instead. If the idea of a trip abroad still doesn’t have you smiling maybe you need a more drastic change. Maybe you need to go somewhere far away. Somewhere where the season has a whole different feel, somewhere on the other side of the world. Sydney, Australia may be the perfect destination for you. December is the start of summer in Australia and no city does summer better than Sydney. With its gorgeous beaches, surfing, hiking, nightlife, and great cultural institutions there is no place better for those northern latitude-stuck indoors-under-a-blanket blues.

If you’ve seen any images of Sydney they’ve got to be of the world famous Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. To work gently into your vacation take a tour of the Opera House and watch an evening show.

To get back into the habit of moving around in the sunshine take a leisurely walk along the Manly Scenic Walkway. The walkway is a series of connecting walks and you can chose to take a short walk or a more ambitious one. Routes wind through old and new parts of the city with gorgeous views of the harbour. One of the more famous walks is the 10km route from Manly to Spit Bridge.

Now that you’re in the groove you’ll have to make the most high-pressure decision of the trip… which beach. There are dozens of beaches around the harbour and over 20 beaches along the oceanfront. But don’t worry you can’t choose wrong. Bondi Beach is the most famous in Australia and is a great place for beginning surfers. There are several surf schools most of which offer private or group lessons and will cater even to absolute beginners. The group lessons are a great way to meet new people.

For more great views and a lot of history too, take a tour of the Sydney Harbor islands all of which have interesting historical significance. Some islands showcase Aboriginal history and on others you can see old convict-built forts. Cockatoo Island has a campsite in case you want to spend the night under the Australian stars.

Since you surely want to spend as much time as possible outdoors before your banishment back to the frigid north, next on your itinerary consider passing an afternoon at one of the many horseback-riding centers. Horseback riding is a relaxing and pleasurable way to see otherwise hidden places of the countryside. It makes for excellent vacation video too.

Whatever you choose to do your week on the other side of the world is sure to leave rejuvenated and tan and ready to face the rest of the remaining winter months. When you go, try to use HotelsCombined.com for your booking. I usually use Expedia but my friend recommended them while I was there and I ended up saving myself 100 dollars over expedia. They have really good deals, though I have no idea how any of those hotel sites work!

© 2012 Pat Travels the World