As my time comes to an end in Australia, I felt it only right to do a play by play of my favorite things in each of the cities that I visited. Although my answers are obviously biased to my personal feelings, perhaps they will help guide you on your future quest to the land down under. Although it was no year in France (which will by far be my trip of a lifetime until the day I die), Australia has amazing physical beauty and a lifetime of memories. So without further adieu, here is my recap of my short time in Australia.
Jet lag, jet lag and more jet lag. Besides falling asleep every five minutes, Byron Bay was very beautiful and full of athletic, cool, young Australians. If you’re looking for a stateside equivalent, look no further than my hometown of Santa Barbara. With clean beaches, nice weather and cool people, Byron Bay was a nice introduction to what we would see in the rest of Australia. This is also where I had my first flat white, so that is pretty monumental.
Brisbane was the first city that we visited on the trip, since Byron Bay is more of a small tourist town. Brisbane is full of industry, business people and, according to all the Australians we met, nothing of interest. I, however, loved the landscape and thought it was a very cool city to have seen. Although we were not there for long, the city seemed alive and had a great selection of art museums.
Oooh boy, what is there to say about Darwin that has not already been said. Although probably my least favorite spot on the trip due to the fact that the town is in the boonies of Australia, it did have a sort of “outback charm”. I would equate it to the American south, and that’s all I have to say about that.
Kakadu National Park was not something I was looking forward too because I am definitely a city mouse, but I was pleasantly surprised by how calm it was to be camping in the outback. We were only camping for a couple nights, and in the mean time saw really beautiful wildlife and landscapes. Besides climbing a hill that seemed less than open to tourists, the trip was very beautiful and eye opening because of the authentic Australia (i.e. non-white / non-imperialist) experience that we were able to experience.
Melbourne was easily my favorite city of the entire trip because of how simply cool of a city it is. Anyone who is anyone in Australia lives here as it is the fashion and music capital of Australia. Although their entertainment industry is not as large as the one in America, it was awesome to see how the people of the arts live down under. Also, we were able to go on a bunch of field trips while in Melbourne, which added to our love of the city. We also went to Phillip Island, and got to hang out with a bunch of penguins. How can you not love that?
Sydney is where we spent the majority of our trip, while we took our class and lived in the dorms at UNSW (University of South New Wales). For two weeks, we went of various field trips, such as to the ANZ Stadium which is where some of the Sydney Olympics took place.
We celebrated my friend’s birthday at the Sydney 360 tower where the drinks are expensive but the views are priceless. I would highly recommend doing this, no matter your travel budget because although it is a little frivolous, it was one of the cooler tourist things that we did while in Sydney.
Speaking of being a tourist, you can’t talk about Sydney without mentioning the Sydney Opera House. We saw a dance performance while at the Opera House and spent an extraordinary amount of time out front of the Opera taking photos and taking in the architecture. The same day that we visited the Opera House, we also went to go see a rugby game. As someone who knew nothing about rugby beforehand, let me say….I still know nothing about rugby. But it was definitely an experience in and of itself to be surrounded by Australians yelling.
Sydney is also home to one of my favorite places in Australia: Darling Harbour. Home to some of my favorite things (Chinese Laundry, Sydney Aquarium, The Chinese Garden of Friendship, etc), Darling Harbour was not too far from our campus although we usually just took the bus everywhere. The Chinese Garden of Friendship was one of the coolest things that I saw in Sydney, but I would recommend going in the spring and not in the dead of winter. And get the tea!
On our last full day in Sydney, we decided it was high time to see the beach so we took a bus to Bondi Beach and walked a few miles around the coastline. It was a great way to end our time in Sydney because it was beautiful, warm and – of course – beachy. However, we were not too sad to leave Sydney because we were heading to….
Welcome to Las Vegas of the Southern Hemisphere! Well, not exactly, since it has a beach and everyone seems much less seedy. However, this was a fun place for us because of the nightlife and the fact that we were able to get a private tour of the Versace Hotel. Although everything moves slower in the north (as Sydney locals kept telling me), I didn’t believe it until our bus was late for (literally) everything. Also, the Gold Coast has one of the largest free fall drops in the world which made me feel like I was going to die…so if you’re into that sort of thing, the Dreamworld park is for you.
Cairns was magical. We stayed in a “party hostel” which was both fun and terrible, depending on how much sleep I wanted to get that night. We also were able to hold koalas, pet kangaroos, snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef and have one last send off before we took our final and all headed home. Cairns was truly beyond words. If you ever have the change to go to Australia and can only spend two days in the country, go to Cairns (if you have 4 days, spend 2 in Melbourne, 2 in Cairns). Sydney is cool and all, but Cairns is all about wildlife while still being a relaxing (and city-like) tourist atmosphere.
And with that, my last study abroad experience came to an end. If you are planning a trip to Australia, want more information, or simply want to talk about my experiences there, feel free to leave a comment! Now its onto the next trip; I wonder where I’ll go next 🙂