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Now browsing: Hometown News > Columnist Archives > Travel - Pat Kelley

Down under in the South Pacific
Rating: 2.78 / 5 (185 votes)  
Posted: 2006 May 19 - 02:59

G'day mates! Turn the United States upside down, and you are ready to plan the time of year to visit Australia.

The people of Australia, other than the native-born Aborigines, are descendants of convicts sent there by the English in the 1800s. They later became a colony and finally gained their independence, although they are still loyal to the queen. In that our role in history was similar, Aussies are extremely hospitable to Americans.

From the West Coast of the United States, it takes approximately 15 flying hours to reach Sydney, Australia. You will lose a day by crossing the International Date Line. A passport and visa are necessary for entry into the country.

While the main focus on your vacation will be Australia, a stopover in New Zealand is a must. You may want to consider stops in Fiji and Hawaii to help shorten your flights.

For the independent traveler, you can choose your cities and hotels in advance. There are local hosts available to help you with dining reservations, excursions, transportation between cities or emergencies.

Spend as much time as you choose at each location. Your time is your own. Whether it is Sydney, Cairns, Great Barrier Reef, Melbourne, Ayers Rock, the famed outback, Alice Springs or a hop over to New Zealand, all this can be done independently, but with a helping hand along the way. The cost will depend on whether you choose first class or premium hotel packages.

The Aussies have an expression: "No worries." If you are looking for a "no-worry" vacation, there are several escorted trips available. Many of your excursions and some meals are included. Transportation between cities and countries is also included. Air from the U.S. may be included; however, most travel professionals may advise you to separate the air. There are advantages to both. Although there are shorter trips available, we are going on a 30-day adventure.

After arriving in Sydney, your hotel room will be waiting for you for some much needed R and R. You will spend the next few days in Sydney, touring the famed Opera House, Sydney Aquarium, Darling Harbour, the historic Rocks area, home of the original convicts and more. A trip to the Taronga Zoo, where you can feed koalas, kangaroos and wallabies, must be on your list of wild adventures. Additional tours are available to the wilderness of the Blue Mountains, where kangaroos roam wild, or the wine country of Hunter Valley. Spend a couple of nights in Brisbane, featuring the home of the Crocodile Hunter.

Continuing on your adventure to Cairns, which is the doorway to one of the seven underwater wonders of the world, The Great Barrier Reef, you will view some of the most spectacular underwater sights you can imagine. Several tours are available for your enjoyment; board glass bottom boats or enjoy an extraordinary diving or snorkeling experience.

The next few days lead us to Darwin and Kakadu National Park, which offer you the rainforest, unspoiled waterways and a rich heritage of Aboriginal culture. From Darwin, you will fly to Alice Springs, deep in the outback. Visit the Old Telegraph Station, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and, if you are brave, ride a camel at The Camel Farm.

One of the highlights of your Australian vacation is the legendary journey aboard The Ghan Train, which takes you through the heart of Australia. The Ghan is named after the pioneering Afghan cameleers. On your trip down to Adelaide, you will get a close-up look and enjoy the spectacular colors and scenery of the outback. Aboard the Ghan, you will wine and dine in the charming restaurant car and enjoy the sights from the Gold Kangaroo Lounge or your private sleeper (upper and lower berths only). A great experience that is not to be missed!

Your Australian vacation has three more stops: Adelaide, Melbourne and Hobart, the home of the Tasmanian Devil.

The National Wine Center, Kangaroo Island, Fitzroy Gardens, Victoria Arts Centre, the scenic drive on the Great Ocean Road, Port Arthur, where the first convicts arrived in the 1830s and the Sanctuary are just a few tours available.

The last 10 days are spent visiting New Zealand. You will encounter the penguin colonies of Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter in Auckland, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in Waikato and experience TePula and the Agrodome in Rotorua. Queenstown, a popular resort on the coast of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by the Southern Alps, will serve as a base to several of the most adventurous trips imaginable. An overnight cruise on the Milford Sound introduces you to some of the most beautiful sights in the world.

The final days of your journey take you to Mount Cook National Park, where you can take a ski plane to the Tasman Glacier. You will leave this beautiful alpine area with its snow-capped mountains and arrive at journey's end in Christchurch, the "Garden City." Sightseeing tours are available, however, you will soon begin your journey home.

Transportation between cities consists of air, motor coach and rail. Although this is an overextended trip, there are trips available from seven to 30 days. G'day and happy journeys.

Pat Kelley is owner of Port Orange Travel. She can be reached at (386) 788-3990 or by e-mail at service@portorangetravel.com.

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