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We loved it!

Saint Paul...
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We loved it!

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.

New York
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1. Re: We loved it!

Great to hear about your trip! Can you remember the name of the Thai restaurant you ate at?? I love Thai food so would want to enjoy a meal there during my stay in Sydney.

Saint Paul...
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2. Re: We loved it!

I'm sorry, but we didn't note the name of the restaurant. We noticed that a lot of people were in it and figured it must be good, and it was fabulous. It was in an area called Thai Town, not far from Chinatown.

Gungahlin, Australia
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for Canberra
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3. Re: We loved it!

Thanks for taking the time to do a Trip Report, we appreciate it.

I'm sorry the Canberra part didn't go so well. It is a bit notorious for sending people round and round. My husband has lived here for over three decades and still gets lost in the inner suburbs. Can I ask how you were navigating?

Melbourne
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4. Re: We loved it!

Thank you for your report. We always like to hear feed back - whether it be good or bad.

Saint Paul...
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5. Re: We loved it!

Thanks, MacKnee, for asking. I'm sorry I wasn't able to give a happier report on our time in Canberra. We liked the things we saw, and i know we would have liked the things we wanted to see and didn't.

Our intent always was go to the first place we would visit and take the free tourist bus around to get to the others. We got a map from our hotel, and it looked as if walking to Parliament would be doable, so we set out to walk there. It turned out to be too much for us--a lot of uphill walking, and then we could see the Parliament building but couldn't figure out how to get there. So we walked back to our hotel and decided to try by car. That wasn't a good start to our day.

Getting anywhere by car was also a big problem. We rented a Garmin when we rented our car, and we wouldn't have wanted to attempt our road trip without it, but it failed us at important times, and Canberra was one of those times. We weren't familiar with a Garmin and maybe just didn't know how to use it, but we couldn't get it to help us unless it gave us an actual address, with street numbers, and none of the places we wanted to go had addresses it would accept. We couldn't believe it. (As a side note, in NZ we got a GPS from Go Rental, and it was a brand we never heard of and we were dubious at first, but it was wonderfully user-friendly.)

So then we tried on our own, using the map from the hotel, and the map diverged from reality at crucial points. Finally, after driving around and around, my husband managed to get us to the museum that was one of the stops for the bus. It was a fortunate choice, because it had excellent parking. We went inside the museum briefly and it looked excellent, and our plan was to visit it when we returned to pick up our car, but by that time we were exhausted.

We were very thankful for the tourist bus. Our time in Canberra would have been a fiasco without it. Unfortunately it didn't have a stop for the old Parliament building and the Aborigine Tent Assembly, which had been high on our list. I'm sure they were walkable from the new Parliament building, but by the time we were there--and remembering our bad experience earlier--it looked too far to us.

We were tremendously impressed with the War Memorial and had a wonderful time at the Parliament building, and we especially enjoyed a very informative conversation with a staff member there, who answered so many of our questions about the recent election. That was worth a visit in itself. So we aren't sorry we went to Canberra but wish we could have seen more.

Maybe I should be posting this in the Canberra forum, but since you are the destination expert (or one of them?) I guess this will do. Again, thanks.

Hervey Bay...
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6. Re: We loved it!

Glad to hear you enjoyed your trip.

Melbourne has just been voted the worlds most liveable city for the 3rd time and I'm glad you can see why.

Don't beat yourself up about Canberra, it can be very confusing to drive through and I agree, the signing is not good

Melbourne, Australia
Destination Expert
for Sydney, Bargain Travel, Food and Travel
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7. Re: We loved it!

>>>Melbourne has just been voted the worlds most liveable city for the 3rd time and I'm glad you can see why<<<

Melbourne deserved the recognition, but it's little to do with travel/tourism, as it's based on the cost of living stats and includes things like stability, healthcare and education - things tourists don't usually experience. Or maybe they did.

OP - Always good to get feedback and glad you enjoyed it. And please fix the Vikings defense haha

Sydney, Australia
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8. Re: We loved it!

Thanks for reporting back and I'm glad you had a good time. Especially driving on the "wrong" side of the road.

Unfortunately the coast road doesn't hug the coast, you need to divert off it to see the coastal scenery.

Canberra is a complicated place to drive around, even for us Aussies. So you did very well.

Hope to see you back again sometime. :-)

Sydney, Australia
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9. Re: We loved it!

So glad you had such a good time. Thanks for your great report - it's very helpful & interesting to see our familiar places with a visitor's eyes.

And I still get hooked up in Canberra's circles too!

Ballina, Australia
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10. Re: We loved it!

Hi Maureen, glad you had a good time in Aus but you lost me when you when you said you enjoyed Melbourne more than Sydney :)