We were recently in Australia for two weeks (and then New Zealand for two weeks), and we loved it. Obviously it's a huge country--as big as the continental United States--and we had to make choices, and we missed a lot, but we loved what we saw and very much enjoyed talking with the people. We chose to go to Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne and drive in between via two different routes, so that we could see some of the countryside and small towns.
Here's what we did:
We flew into Sydney, spent a couple of days there, and totally loved it. Of course we kept going back to the Circular Quay, where we saw the iconic Opera House (didn't tour it) and Harbor Bridge and enjoyed the atmosphere, and my husband got to join an Aborigine man in playing the Didgeridoo. One big treat was going by ferry to the Taronga Zoo. It's a good thing we did, to see the Australian animals, because we never saw a live kangaroo or wallaby or koala or wombat once we left the zoo. We did see kangaroos dead on the road and stuffed in a museum in Melbourne, but never alive. I guess that's because we weren't driving at dawn or dusk.
We also visited the Rocks and the Hyde Park Barracks to learn something of the convict history, and we enjoyed walking in Hyde Park. One of our best meals of the trip was at a Thai restaurant in Sydney.
We then took a day to go into the Blue Mountains by train and then a hop-on hop-off bus, and it was wonderful.
Before we left Sydney, we rented a car. My husband did fine driving on the "wrong" side of the road, but driving into the cities was a challenge.
Our trip to Canberra was frustrating. Getting out of Sydney was horrendous. Then we thought we would be driving along the coast but never saw the ocean, and we had planned to have lunch in Jarvis Bay but never got there because we were so far behind schedule. We ended up on a gravel road for a while.
Canberra was also frustrating. We drove around and around for a couple of hours trying to find where we were going. (We weren't impressed by the signs). Finally we did make it to the very impressive War Memorial and to Parliament, where a very nice staff person answered some of our questions about the recent election, including how someone can become an M.P. with 0.2 percent of the vote. We were in Australia for the election and tried to give ourselves a crash course on the government and politics. We ran out of time before we were able to go to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, which I had especially wanted to see, or a garden my husband was looking forward to.
From Canberra we went to Lakes Entrance, where we had a very much needed day to relax and do our laundry. We had a wonderful little apartment that felt like a home away from home.
Then we went to Melbourne, which we loved. Getting into the city and figuring out where to park long enough to register in our hotel were daunting, but once we got out car parked we left it where it was and took the wonderful free shuttle to the places we wanted to go. As much as we loved Sydney, we loved Melbourne even more. The shuttle with its commentary was great. We could have happily gotten off at almost every stop.
We went to the Old Melbourne Gaol and learned about the legend of Ned Kelly. (Is he seen today as a hero?) We went to the Immigration Museum and found it fascinating and could have used more time there than we had. Our hotel was near Melbourne Central, and we went there several times. We went to the Royal Botanical Gardens, where we were dazzled and delighted. We went to Federation Square and enjoyed the lively atmosphere. We walked down Hosier Lane and took pictures. We shopped at the Queen Victoria Market and thought it was great. We didn't go inside the MCG, but I was excited to see it from the bus. We watched some Australian Rules Footballl on TV and thought it looked strange. :-) We had good meals in Little Italy and Chinatown. We did some shopping in the Bourke Street Mall. We went to the excellent Melbourne Museum and especially thought the First Peoples exhibit was fabulous, plus the Dinosaur Walk and the display of animals native to Australia. We saw the Eureka Tower and read up on the history of the Eureka Stockade.
Did I mention that we loved Melbourne? Besides all the great places we went, we just loved the feel of the city.
From there we drove back to Sydney. We stopped in Beechworth for lunch, and I did take some pictures of this gold rush town, but my husband was disgruntled because we couldn't find a good place to eat and settled for sandwiches that were trendy and expensive and didn't taste good. We made up for that in Gundegai, where we stayed for the night. Our best meal of the whole trip was--amazingly--a home-cooked dinner at our motel, the Golden Chain Garden Motor Inn. We stopped at the famous Niagara Cafe and had intended to eat there, but this was better, we are sure.
Then it was on to Sydney, where we caught our plane to New Zealand. We left with many wonderful memories of Australia and the Aussies we met. It was a great trip.