Australia Pictures Guide

Fraser Island, Lake McKenzie, Australia

Fraser Island on Australia’s east coast

Exploring Australia

Sydney Harbor aerial view, Australia, andrew xu

Sydney Harbor aerial view. Photo by  Andrew Xu

This small continent but massive country is diverse, laid back, wild and as big as Europe, providing an eclectic hoard of experiences and endless space for isolation seekers. Spectacular deserts, rainforests, waterfalls, canyons and a huge array of strange flora and fauna are just some of the reasons to go this distance.

White sand beaches stretching to infinity provide some of the best snorkelling, surfing, diving and lounging on the planet. Cities are home to cutting edge arts, music and cafe cultures, and if you get your timing right the sun will shine on your Australia holidays.

Amazing contrasts lie in the anonymity of the Outback and Red Centre, underpinned by an ancient and fascinating Aboriginal past.

Australians are very straight talking people, tricky at first for repressed, po-faced Brits, but actually it’s a plus point. Get used to it! If you want to stay longer, work options for foreigners are ample and varied.

Downsides

australia, uluru faces

Uluru fly protection, Red Centre.

• The place is HUGE, so unless you have infinite time you must limit your your itinerary and it’s going to cost you to get around. Planes and car rentals are the most time effective way to take Australian holidays, buses the cheapest.

• Nor is accommodation especially cheap, though you can rough it on a budget.

• The southern hemisphere sun is way more intense than the north and needs constant care to avoid burns and possible skin cancer.

• Winter (June – August) can be cold in the south, particularly if you were expecting to spend your days in a swimsuit.

• Australia’s deadly critters require considerable respect and attention. We once swam in a suburban Sydney pool, and found a couple of funnel web spiders cooly paddling about in it – visit Dangerous Animals.

• Outback flies can be incredibly persistent and irritating while leeches, ticks and mites acquired when hiking can lead to swellings, rashes or infections.

• Travelling long distances to some towns expecting an interesting, lively culture and finding a dull, mall and beer dominated town can be depressing.

• Spooky, desolate mining district are reminiscent of moonscapes, without a trace of vegetation or humanity. Or maybe that’s a good thing?

Great ocean road view of the Twelve Apostles, Australia. Richard Mikalsen

Great Ocean Road view of the Twelve Apostles, near Melbourne-ish. Photo by Richard Mikalsen

Weather, best time to be there

Perth flood, Australia. Photo Michael Spencer

Perth after a bit of a shower. Photo Michael Spencer

Another disappointment for travellers can be the weather. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean the sun’s going to shine all day every day. Getting the season right for visitors who wish to travel all over Australia during one trip is nigh on impossible due to differing climatic zones.

In fact Australia’s summer, December – February, is the rainy season in backpacker central Cairns and one of the wetter times in Sydney too.

June- August (winter) is a much better season weather-wise in both Cairns and Sydney, but then the sea around Sydney and the south will be quite chilly and not at all inviting for dipping or surfing. Decisions, decisions.

November-March (summer) is best for visiting the south e. g. Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide. Book well ahead for December-February!
Worst: the south, April-September (cool and rains), but skiing may be possible June-August.

May-October is best for visiting the north when humidity and temperatures become more bearable. e. g. Cairns, The Great Barrier Reef, Darwin.
Worst: the north: November-March (rains, humidity and the north-east coast gets an influx of stingers making diving, snorkelling and swimming less attractive.

Recommended length of stay:
Minimum worthwhile stay 2 weeks for Sydney, Cairns, Uluru.
Recommended: 1 month – 1 year, tho’ regular visas are only valid for three months. Teens can get work visas quite easily.

Wildlife

Wild Koala up a gum tree over the Great Ocean Road, Australia

A wild Koala, literally up a gum tree over the Great Ocean Road.

Probably the biggest disappointment for visitors is the difficulty of seeing Australia’s unique wildlife outside zoos. Many people expect to see ‘roos hopping all over Sydney and that’s unlikely to happen in built up areas.

If you stay on the east coast – with a side trip to Uluru perhaps – you will be very lucky to catch a glimpse of a kangaroo or koala in the wild.

The Bugcrew saw wild things for the first time part way down south on the Great Ocean Road – ‘roos hanging out at Anglesea Golf Course and koalas hanging from roadside eucalypti like fat furry fruit.

It requires a lot more than a two week runaround to get pictures of Australia’s animals, though birds are pretty omnipresent – cockatoos, mynahs and parrots especially.

Some wildlife parks are excellent, spacious and very user-friendly, letting visitors get very close to – even hand feed – ‘roos, wallabies, emus and birds.

The Bugcrew were particularly impressed by Adelaide’s Cleland Wildlife Park and have pictures of the experience there.

Wallaby meets girl, Cleland Wildlife Park, Australia

Wallaby meets girl, Cleland Wildlife Park, Adelaide.

Activities

Climbing Uluru, Red Centre, Australia

Climbing Uluru in the Red Centre of Australia

Trekking and camping: half-hour bushwalks to month long ‘walkabouts’ can be found in the canyon and rockscapes of the Northern Territory, as well as around Cairns, the Blue Mountains, Tasmania, the Grampian Mountains near Melbourne and many other spots.

Tropical Rainforest excursions: can be done independently or with guide in the Daintree Forest near Cairns, Kakadu National Park near Darwin, as well as many locations in Western Australia. The wilderness of Cradle Mountain in Tasmania is a terrific off-the-beaten track option.

Camel trekking: in the desert, mainly out west.

Driving: Buying a used vehicle (sharing with a couple of mates is almost certainly cheaper than renting for long trips) and exploring the coast and vast, red interior is a popular, lowish-cost option for more experienced tourists, offering a glorious sense of freedom and adventure.

4WD driving and camping is popular in the Kimberley wilderness out west, from the town of Broome. The Great Ocean Road drive from Melbourne is excellent but hardly amazing, needs three days.

Water sports: Resorts on the East coast such as Cairns, Port Douglas, Byron Bay, Hervey Bay and the Whitsundays offer everything from sailing, scuba lessons, white water rafting, sea kayaking, to lazing in the sun tho’ little in the way of safe sea swimming, but free beachside ‘lagoons’ are fine for posing and paddling.

Charlotte Pass ski village, 1760m. Photo flyingpurplemonkeys

Charlotte Pass ski village at an altitude of 1760m, Australia’s first ski resort. Photo flyingpurplemonkeys

Skiing: in the Snowy Mountains, Great Dividing Range.

Weird and wonderful: dip into the outback towns and rodeo-ranch lifestyle for a fair dinkum insight into the Ocker Ozzie world.

Check out the country’s peculiar obsession with BIG things – truly heroic models of crocodiles, kangaroos, lobsters, bananas and more, in the 20 metre high range and randomly scattered around the country.

Visit Nimbin, a small town that’s been colonised by the New Age, and decorated to match, rainbow apparel optional.

Wildlife walks: not as easy as you might think to find wild things in a short time, apart from funnel-web spiders.
Some prime locations are Kakadu National Park in the north, a World Heritage Site, very scenic but over-touristy, with Aboriginal art. Flinders Range in the south-east, and Freycinet Peninsula in Tasmania. If you want to really get away from civilisation, try visiting distant Kimberley.

Surfing

gold coast, surfers paradise lifeguards, australia

Surfing: a national obsession so available just about everywhere except the NE Barrier Reef area, with plenty of schools and rental equipment.

Many backpacker places lend out body boards for free and wet suits are for hire if the water’s chilly. Tuition on full-size boards anywhere up the east coast is quite competitive.

The Bugcrew enjoyed surf life in Sydney’s suburb of Manly, with its young buzz and big clean beach with good waves, but just north of Brisbane the lovely, calm, affluent town of Noosa also specialises in surf lessons on big, soft beaches with a lot more space than Manly or Bondi could ever offer.

Whale watching: along the east coast off Eden (NSW) and Fraser Island (Queensland), and on the south coast off Warrnambool, both July-Sept. Dolphins all year round in all directions!

Turtle Hatching: mid Oct- end of April in Bundaberg, Queensland.

See Animal Pictures

Festivals

LGBT people at Adelaide Fringe festival, Australia

LGBT couple enjoying Adelaide Fringe festival. Photo by Trentino Priori.

8-30 January, Sydney Festival, a solid tho’ conservative arts event, no fringe madness.

26 January, Australia Day, nationwide but especially lively in Sydney with the Big Day Out music festival, a Regatta and more.

late January-mid February, Midsumma, gay Melbourne.

1st weekend of February, Melbourne Blues Festival, excellent.

1st Friday of February-early March, Sydney Mardi Gras. A huge and deservedly famous celebration of gaiety in all artistic spheres. Fun for straights too!

mid February-early March, Perth Arts Festival, a massive art attack.

early March, a weekend, Melbourne Moomba Waterfest. An extravagant family festival.

March every 2 years, even dates, Adelaide Festival. A superb, innovative event.

early March, 2 weeks, Quicksilver Pro Surfing, Surfer’s Paradise.

mid March, 1 week, Surf Life Saving Championship. A muscular event.

From 4th Thursday of March for a month, Melbourne Comedy Festival.

1st Sat/Sun of June, Manly Food & Wine Festival, Sydney.

2nd Sat/Sun of June, Melbourne Good Food & Wine Show.

July, Darwin Beer Can Regatta. Racing craft made of empties. b

3rd Friday of July for 3 days, Boulia Desert Sands Camel Racing, Queensland. A big giggle.

1st Saturday of October, Sleaze Ball, Sydney. An unbelievably queer event.

28 Sept-16 October, Floriade, Canberra. A flowery celebration of spring.

October for 2 weeks, Melbourne Arts Festival. A city-wide arts and culture event.

1st 3 weeks of October, Western Australia Pride, Perth. The west’s biggest thing.

1-14 November, Sculpture by the Sea, Sydney. An extensive display on Bondi’s gorgeous coastal path.

November-February, alternative gatherings across the country, in particular around the hippy mecca of Nimbin and Byron Bay on the East Coast.

19-23 December, Parmalat Christmas Celebrations, Brisbane. Jolly, no holly.

26 December, Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, a great harbour spectacle.

31 December, New Year’s Eve Fireworks, Sydney. A spectacular blow-out.

December 31, Sydney Pride New Year’s Eve Party.

Food

Thanks to considerable Asian, Middle Eastern and European immigration the dishes available and styles of cooking have increased immeasurably in Australia recently, improving quality and variety no end, although this is limited to larger towns. And the price is right too!

Apart from delicate Greek, Italian, Lebanese, and all the classic Asian dishes, chunky unsubtle meat pies are also popular – a relic of English cuisine.

Unsurprisingly seafood is big on the Aussie agenda, as are all sorts of tropical fruit for dessert, though the favoured dessert is Pavlova – a sweet meringue cake.

And then there’s bush tucker, derived from native Aboriginal foods, such as possum-tail soup, kangaroo kebab, crocburgers (chicken/porky), emu au vin (also tasteless but the wine’s good), bunya nuts, witchetty grub sashimi (peanut butter taste) and, of course, crunchy ant entree.

Beware: ‘tea’ often means the evening meal, and an ‘entree’ is an appetizer, cougettes are zuccini, peppers are capsicums and aubergine eggplants.

Vegetarians are fairly well catered for and shouldn’t go hungry, outside the outback at least, and then there’s always witchetty grubs.

Tipping: Not exactly customary but a growing trend. 10-15% would be welcome but not mandatory.

Transport

A 4WD vehicle in a hole on an Australian track

Fraser island’s 75 mile beach.

Air: the country is so vast that those with limited time, and even budget holiday-makers, should consider domestic flights. Discount passes are available, especially for students and some combine air with buses – hop on/hop off systems. Check before you leave your home, passes may be cheaper to buy abroad.

Trains are excellent and have different value passes too, but they’re not exactly a cheap way to get around and don’t run everywhere, naturally.

Car rentals are really the best way to wander quickly and efficiently but need a big wallet or a small group to afford.
The ultimate system for short-time tourists is flights between major destinations and car hire from those airports.

Hitch hiking is not recommended

Bearing in mind the huge distances between attractions in Australia, the irregularity of public transport and the generally relaxed and friendly attitude of the natives, hitching might seem a good option for budget nomads.

Unfortunately roadside hitching can easily lead to lifts with dangerous drivers or assault – especially on women.

If you must, try to roam in pairs, but best of all is to find lifts beforehand on hostel notice boards, or even in roadside restaurants (roadhouses) where you can assess a potential lifter before getting yourself trapped in a tin can with a lunatic for tooth-grinding hours.

Car ownership is a a great way to get around for longer term explorers – especially if you get something you can sleep in. Used vehicles are on sale privately as well as commercially in most of Australia’s cities, particularly Sydney, but check that the car is legal in all of Australia’s states that you intend to drive through.

Biking:
Not an easy option due to monstrous distances, dust, flies and slightly awkward bus and train freight systems.

Visas to Australia

Needed by all except Kiwis! Standard is 3 months but longer is possible. Online visas, (ETA) are available for citizens of UK, USA, Canada, most of Europe, Malaysia and Japan.

Young people between 18 and 30 who want to holiday and work in Australia can do so for up to a year. To apply for this visa, you must hold a valid passport from an eligible country. More official information

General information on Australia Visas