Amazing Australia, by Ted Cookson

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AMAZING AUSTRALIA
by Ted Cookson
Published in June 2006
Aerial view of Sydney Harbor, 37-second video clip
Panorama of Sydney's Circular Quay, 31-second video clip
Harbor ferries at Sydney's Circular Quay, 31-second video clip
Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbor Bridge & Sydney Harbor, 32-second video clip
Wallaby at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, 30-second video clip

Melbourne's free tourist tram, 20-second video clip


Australia is more than just Sydney and Melbourne.  In addition to taking in Australia's two world-class cities, visitors should consider adding to their itineraries Brisbane and Cairns (gateway to the Great Barrier Reef) in Queensland, Ayers Rock and perhaps Alice Springs and Darwin in Northern Territory, scenic Perth in Western Australia, the national capital of Canberra, Adelaide in South Australia, and Hobart in Tasmania.

Sydney Opera House, which has grown to become one of Australia's pre-eminent national symbols since its opening in 1973, is best viewed from a ferry while en route to Taronga Park Zoo on the north side of Darling Harbor.  This zoo contains a large collection of Australian wildlife, and its koala enclosure is especially popular.  Completed in 1932, nearby Sydney Harbor Bridge is now known for a sky walk tour that provides a spectacular view of the opera house and the city.  The Australia Museum, with its sections on natural history and Aboriginal cultural, and the Powerhouse Museum featuring applied arts and sciences will round out a visit to Sydney.

The state capital of Melbourne doesn't offer Sydney's same intense energy level.  But what picturesque and clean Melbourne lacks in energy it makes up for in charm.  Straddling the Yarra River, restored historical buildings are interspersed with skyscrapers in modern but stately Melbourne.  The interesting Museum of Victoria is housed in a building constructed in 1853.  The museum's dioramas of marsupials are perhaps the best in Australia.

In 1823 escaped convicts first visited the area where Brisbane now lies.  Yet, in contrast to Melbourne and Sydney, few historical buildings now remain in Australia's third-largest city.  One of Brisbane's premier attractions is Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the country's first.  There one can have his photograph taken while holding a koala.  In addition, the suburban park features emus, wombats and kangaroos as well as platypus.  Lone Pine is especially popular with families.

Cairns (pronounced "Cans"), the capital of Queensland's Far North, is closer to Papua New Guinea than it is to much of Australia.  Boats speedily transport visitors from Cairns out to the coral islands of the Great Barrier Reef, said to be the world's largest living organism.  At over 2,000 km in length and up to 80 km in width and running parallel to the coast of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef, one of the richest marine resources on earth, offers remarkable opportunities for diving and snorkeling.  

One will never forget a visit to striking, red Ayers Rock, the world's largest monolith, which juts up some 340 meters from the surrounding plain in the interior of the Northern Territory.  This is the heart of Australia's arid outback.  27 km distant are the Olgas, an assemblage of giant rocks which hide a complex of gorges.  441 km to the north is Alice Springs.  Nowadays a tourist town, the settlement originated in 1872 as a service town for the mines and cattle ranches in the region.     

Darwin, the Northern Territory's largest city, faces extremes of weather.  During the dry season lasting from May to October there are bush fires.  Yet during the wet season from November to April tropical monsoons leave behind some 1,500 mm of rain annually.  In fact, in December 1974 Cyclone Tracy laid waste to nearly two-thirds of Darwin.  Extremely isolated, Darwin is closer to Indonesia than it is to most Australian cities.  Darwin makes an ideal base for exploring the birds and other wildlife in the nearby swamps and parks.

Dynamic but isolated Perth is situated only 16 km from the Indian Ocean port of Fremantle.  Scenic Perth was built along the Swan River, and there are spectacular beaches nearby.  Perth benefited from a gold rush in the 1890s and also from the development of iron ore deposits in South Australia from the 1970s onward.

Spacious Canberra, the planned national capital city featuring tree-lined streets and parks, will immediately remind the visitor of Washington, DC.  It is possible to tour Canberra's most important public buildings in a single day.  The Australian National Gallery contains important works of art by Australians as well as some by European and American masters. 

Nearly all of the population of South Australia lives in and around Adelaide, the state capital, the park-filled grid pattern of which was laid out in 1836.  Most Australian wine is produced in South Australia.  The South Australian Museum with its Aboriginal and other artifacts will be of interest to the tourist.
 
Founded as a penal colony in 1804, Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, is the second-oldest city in Australia.  Today Hobart, which faces onto the Derwent River, boasts many restored colonial-era buildings.  

PRACTICALITIES:

Climate varies widely in Australia as the country is nearly the same size as the continental United States.  Southern states such as Tasmania and Victoria have a temperate climate while the climate is tropical in the far north.  The best months to travel in the south are from October to December or from February through April.  The perfect time to visit the north is around May.  April to October is a good time to visit the beaches in northern Queensland.

Because Australia is so large, a domestic air pass might well be a traveler's best bet for internal travel.  An efficient circular air routing might include some of the following segments, all measured as the crow flies:  Sydney to Canberra (40 minutes/147 km); Canberra to Melbourne (55 minutes/483 km); Melbourne to Hobart (65 minutes/623 km); Melbourne to Adelaide (65 minutes/660 km); Adelaide to Alice Springs (1 hour, 55 minutes/878 km); Alice Springs to Perth (2 hours, 45 minutes/1,976 km); Alice Springs to Darwin (1 hour, 50 minutes/841 km); Alice Springs to Cairns (2 hours, 20 minutes/1,458 km); Cairns to Brisbane (2 hours, 15 minutes/1,414 km); and Brisbane to Sydney (75 minutes/775 km).



ABOUT TED COOKSON:  Egypt's most widely-traveled travel agent, Ted has been to every country in the world!  He has also visited 307 of the 315 destinations on the list of the Travelers' Century Club (visit www.eptours.com and refer to World Travel Club).  A travel agent in Cairo since 1986, Ted manages EGYPT PANORAMA TOURS, a full-service travel agency, at 4 Road 79 (between Roads 9 and 10, near the "El Maadi" metro station) in Maadi.  Contact Egypt Panorama Tours (open 7 days a week 9 AM-5 PM) at:  Tels. 2359-0200, 2358-5880, 2359-1301.  Fax 2359-1199.  E-mail:  ept@link.net.  Web site:  www.eptours.com
 

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