We uncover the hidden gems of the Northern Beaches you might otherwise miss: beaches, bars and best spots for sharks (ummm, we mean, whales).
8 Tips for Travelling Australia
the dos, the don’ts and the didn’t know that one!
You’ve landed in Australia (nickname: Straya, Oz), cleared the long corridor past Customs, navigated your way onto the train, or Uber, and ended up in some neighbourhood with a suitcase, probably serious amounts of jetlag, and some sketchy notes that could possibly pass as a plan if only you could remember where you put it.
So what do you need to know about getting around Australia? And which destination are you interested in? We’re the land of the eternal surf, of adventuring out into Woop-Woop (that’s the outback to you), of crazy killer spiders and bloody loud birds, of ancient indigenous culture, or the one where Sydney is the real capital of Australia and everyone knows it…
So here’s the intel to help you choose:
Get your proportions right – it’ll help with planning (the proper kind). Remember, Australia is the sixth biggest country in the world, the smallest continental landmass, and the world’s biggest island. Confused? So are our ambitions! Our population is tiny because, well, most of us have no idea how to live inland were the highest ever recorded temp was a cool 50.7 Celcius in Oodnadatta in 1960 – which is also in the driest region of Australia. You get the picture. Unless you’re Bear Grylls’ing your way around our land or heading to the incredible Uluru, most visitors stick to the cocktail-sipping, sun-sand-surf combo that attracts you all here in the first place. And that means the coast.
Where to Land
The major airports will land you in the heart of urban Australia – Melbourne (south of the country), Sydney (south-east), Perth (west) or Brisbane (east). To get north, you’ve got to aim for smaller airports of Darwin or Cairns, which will probably be a connecting flight, depending on where you’re flying in from.
Also, remember we’re Southern Hemisphere. That means North is warmer than South and we’re at opposite seasons than the northern hemisphere. That means December to February are our hottest and most expensive months to visit.
Canberra: the admin capital/ where the officials live. And whilst it’s got a lot going for it, if you mention to locals anywhere else that you’re headed there, people will look a little confused and ask why. (True story – there’s even a head tilt that happens when they ask why.) Head there to see the icons of Parliament, National Museum/ Gallery/ Botanic Gardens, for triathlons (seriously) and to get your geek on either at the leading research uni in the country or the Institute of Science. No surf here, Canberra is one of the biggest inland cities in Australia.
Getting around from here: Sydney to its north, Kosciuszko National Park (mountains, snow, skiing) Melbourne to its south
Sydney: It grew up around the Harbour and beaches and so did its entire local population. So whilst the CBD is the hub, it ain’t the heart. Head Inner West for tongue-tickling cuisines; head east onto the coast for chilled hangs. Save up for the Harbour Bridge Walk (it costs!). Don’t make it to the Sydney Opera House and not walk inside, the inside is pretty epic too! Famous (and free) walks include Bondi to Coogee, Manly to Spit and down to the local coffee shop (which typically serves the best coffee in Australia).
Getting around from here: get to the Hunter Valley (famous for wines), Blue Mountains, Tamworth (Country Music Festival anyone?), Kiama (blowhole).
Melbourne: Coffee, laneways, and foodies. It kinda holds the art and culture crown in Australia because, well, you’ve got to travel a little for the nature – totally worth it though. Each suburb has its own flavour, coffee meccas and park.
Getting around from here: get to the Mornington Peninsula, the Great Ocean Road, Bells Beach (surfers alert!), the Dandenong Ranges and the Yarra Valley.
What your mother would tell you
You’ll hear about our treacherous wildlife. Yeah, we have spiders that kill or give us bites that never want to heal. Tasty, huh? And whilst your chances of coming across these gnarly critters is low enough that we’ve not all died yet, wear closed-toed shoes when you’re heading off the beaten track. It just makes life easier – and your mind a little calmer.
And if you’ve heard about drop-bears, here’s all you need to know on that one. Bless the British for doing the research for us.
Do wear sunscreen. You don’t have to bring it with you. We have electricity and shops and sunscreen here but do wear it. Geographically speaking, there’s lots of science why but can you just take our word for it? Lather up with your new best travel buddy or zinc yourself whiter than you’ve ever been. Just be the best Nike ad ever, and just do it.
Give yourself time to appreciate the beauty. Go see the dolphins (head to Jervis Bay or Byron), whales from Exmouth or Sydney, all the other fishies – thousands of them – at the Great Barrier Reef. For a different pace, throw yourself out of a perfectly functioning plane in Sydney or Cairns. And if the idea of that makes you nervous, we also conveniently have planted vineyards around the country for you to stop in at.
- Adelaide = Barossa Valley
- Melbourne = Yarra Valley
- Sydney = Hunter Valley
- Perth = Margaret River
- = You’re welcome.
Getting around – our tips:
If you haven’t noticed, the word coffee comes up A LOT. So please do us all a favour and grab yourself a keep cup and a refillable water bottle from the get-go. And if you know you’re a juice/ smoothie type, grab a bamboo or metal straw whilst you’re at it. Some supermarkets are going plastic-bag free, so grab a canvas bag as well. Australia is becoming more and more eco-aware – fires will do that to you – so do your bit. We’d appreciate that!
If you’re travelling solo, spend a night or two in decent digs where you’ve got a chance of meeting people. There you’ll pick up what’s going on locally firsthand and hear from other travellers what’s working. We’re used to tourists, so look for hostels that are clean and secure and with internet access for all the research (aka internet stalking) you may want to be doing in your downtime.
If you’re a social being, head to the restaurants, shops and venues that are embedded in the local economy, supporting other local businesses. There’s a thing in Australia called ‘mateship’ and we welcome anyone who gets on board with it. It means that your visit has positive ripple effects far beyond where you go and we happen to think that’s awesome.
If you’re an app-tastic being, check out the following:
- WikiCamps Australia – crowd-sourced database of campgrounds and caravan parks
- Sydney Culture Walks – for the cultured urbanite – now with an excuse to have a phone in your hand
- NSW National Parks – downloadable maps and toilet spots. Cos us Aussies know what’s important
- This is Queensland – just in case you forget where you are…. Also so you know the best spots to get to
- Beanhunter – for the best coffee always
If you want to fit in, call us all ‘mate’ – and leave the rest of the language to us. Surprisingly, we don’t all ‘throw shrimps on barbies’ or any other plastic dolls, to be fair, nor do we all drink ‘tinnies’. Some of us love ‘stubbies’, but we wouldn’t expect you to get that. We also don’t expect you to get that some words get shortened to an -o (Bowl-o and Bottl-o), that’s a whole other level of understanding. So stick to your lingo and we’ll work it out from there.
Get out from under the desk and into the beachside cafe, earning money whilst you travel the globe and frustrating the hell out of everyone at home. We’ve got your back.