Spotlight on Australia
Australia's biggest attraction is its natural beauty. The landscape varies from endless sun baked horizons to dense tropical rainforest to chilly southern beaches. Scattered along the coasts, its cities blend a European enthusiasm for art and food with a laid-back love of sport and the outdoors. The unimaginable vastness of the country gives Australia - and its diverse population - much of its character. In cities, visitors will experience a blur of fashion boutiques and crowded restaurants. In the interior, they will hear the thump of rocks under their 4WD, only to be followed by a slow, silent swirl of outback dust. Around the coast, they'll take in the depths of a rainforest, then slowly realize they have an entire beach to themselves.
Sydney is the heart and state capital of New South Wales. A major world port, the city seems to stretch as far as can be seen to the west, north and south over 670 square miles. Where Sydney’s metropolis ends, the open bush of New South Wales begins. Sydney enjoys a superb sunny climate with a beautiful harbor crowned by billowing sails of the incomparable Opera House. Like many major cities, Sydney is a contrast of old and new with soaring glass and steel skyscrapers and the dramatic Opera House and interesting historical buildings. One of Sydney’s best viewing spots, the 48-story Australia Square Tower, is where the entire city can be seen in convenient orientation. Other sights include Cadman’s Cottage, the oldest surviving house in Australia; Royal Botanical Gardens, boasting a magnificent collection of South Pacific plant life; Art Gallery of New South Wales, a short walk from the center, the art gallery has an excellent permanent display of Australian, European, Japanese and tribal art. Harbor cruises and helicopter flight-seeing are great ways to enjoy fine views of Sydney.
The Great Barrier Reef is pure enchantment casting a spell over all. Stretching through sapphire blue waters of Queensland for over 1,242 miles, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s most extensive coral reef system. It is also the largest World Heritage area, and the largest structure made completely by living organisms. The warm waters off Queensland offer some of the best boating and diving in the world. Diving the Reef is an introduction to a fathomless underwater world and thousands of brilliantly colored species of marine life. This diversity creates a kaleidoscope of color for divers, snorkelers, and people viewing from underwater observatories and glass-bottomed boats. Humpback whales swim up from the Antarctic to give birth to their young in reef waters. Six of the world's seven species of sea turtle breed on the Reef. High-speed catamarans take visitors to isolated areas which were previously only seen by a privileged few. Whether you sail, snorkel, dive or swim, the Reef is a marvelous place for recreation.
Uluru (Ayers Rock) – It is the world's largest monolith rising almost 1,000 feet above the desert floor with a circumference of almost 26,250 feet. It is considered one of the great wonders of the world and is located in Kata Tjuta National Park which is owned and run by local Aboriginals. Depending on the time of day and the atmospheric conditions the rock can dramatically change color, anything from blue to glowing red! Many avid photographers set up for days and record the many changing colors of Uluru. Some believe that there is a light source emanating at various times of the year.
Cairns is the sunny garden city where the Great Barrier Reef meets the Wet Tropics Rainforest, mountains and the gulf savannah not too far away. The city's water front boasts a world class marina and wharf used by visiting cruise liners, yachts and tour vessels. Cairns is situated in the Northern end of Tropical Queensland Australia. It's a modern city with a good location to explore some of Australia's vast array of flora and fauna. With a magnificent Casino, Cairns is alive with more activities than a visitor will ever have time for. The principal attraction is the over 60 national parks from the wet tropical rain forests and lush tablelands to the truly wild Cape York Peninsula and the Great Barrier Reef.
Tasmania is an island located 150 miles off the southeast mainland Australia. Encircled by the Southern Ocean, Tasman Sea and Bass Strait, Tasmania breathes the world’s cleanest air and enjoys pure water and fertile soils – part of what brings its wine and food world-wide acclaim. It is an island of dramatic coastlines, rugged mountains, tall forests and sparkling highland lakes. Over a third is reserved in the National Parks Network and Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, a refuge and habitat for rare plants and animals. The island’s European heritage dates back to the early 1800s. Tasmania also has a vibrant cultural life, boasting one of the best small orchestras in the world and literary authors such as Richard Flanagan, winner of the 2002 Commonwealth Writer's Prize. Wilderness, heritage, art & culture, wine & food – they’re waiting for you in Tasmania.
Whitsunday Islands – The 70 islands of the Whitsunday group are some of the best known and most developed Barrier Reef islands and are scattered on both sides of the Whitsunday Passage, within 31 miles of Shute Harbour, jumping-off point for the many cruises through the group. The actual Great Barrier Reef is at least 37 miles out from Shute Harbour; Hook Reef is the nearest part of the reef. Many of the Whitsunday islands are National Parks. The large block of mainland national park opposite them, stretching from Airlie Beach south to Conway, is known as the Conway Range National Park.
The Great Ocean Road, one hour drive east of Melbourne, runs along the southern coast of Australia and is one of the most beautiful roads on earth. Its length is 250 km, and it starts at the Trecky surf resort, 90 km from Melbourne. The road was built in 1930 in memory of soldiers who fell in WWI; it passes by magnificent cliffs and lonely beaches. Main attractions include the resort towns of Loren, Apollo Bay, and picturesque Port Fairy. Otway National Park offers hiking paths through rain forests, rivers, and amazing waterfalls. Campbell National Park, on the western side of the road, is located in an area famous for its rocks jutting out of the ocean, the most famous ones being called “Twelve Apostles.”
The rugged terrain of Kimberley in Western Australia is sure to have you perplexed. The cruise around this region is splendid as it offers views of waterfalls, red cliffs, rivers and some rainforest as well. King George Falls and Mitchell Falls have some of the most breathtaking views. This region also has some art centers. While the works of many foreign artists are on display, the local artists are also encouraged and these art shows are internationally recognized. Kimberley is also famous for its diamonds. The Bungle Bungles or Purnululu National Park is another attraction. However, this is closed for some months every year. You can start off on your Kimberley cruise either at Broome, Darwin or Derby. If you are planning to drive down to this place during the wet months, you need to check if the roads are closed.