How to Hit the Highlights in Australia

If you haven’t looked at a map of the world recently, you may not realize that Australia is roughly the size of the continental United States. Wow, is right! It sure makes for a lot of ground to cover especially during a relatively short visit!

Unlike the US, however, the population in Australia is a fraction of the US population with about 23 million rugby loving Aussies (give or take a few). Which means only one thing, the crocs and the poisonous spiders know the lay of the land far better than we do! Kidding aside, Australia has some native animals that will impress just about anyone!

Pam holding a baby wallaby!

Pam holding a baby wallaby!

Larry posing with a rambunctious little koala.

Larry posing with a rambunctious little koala.

A non-poisonous snake (or so I was told)!

A non-poisonous snake (or so I was told)!

Drew feeding a wallaby which are slightly smaller than a kangaroo.

Drew feeding a wallaby which are slightly smaller than a kangaroo.

We were fortunate enough to spend our time in Australia with Brian’s family! While we have loved meeting new people and seeing new faces each place we go, there is something to be said for spending time with family and that’s just what we did! Not to mention, it was a nice change of pace from the sometimes rigorous backpacking routine. All I have to say is adios squeaky bunk beds!

Prior to our visit, we found the Aussies we met during our travels to be very opinionated in their thoughts as to the best places to visit in kangaroo country. “If you only have time for one, you should definitely go to Melbourne over Sydney.” (and vice versa from travelers we met from Sydney) We also heard, “Why would you go to Darwin?” As you might imagine, the opinions were a bit conflicting. We felt like a frayed rope being tugged in every direction during an intense game of tug of the war.

Thankfully, this was the one portion of our trip when we weren’t in charge of the planning! We were just along for the ride and the trip couldn’t have worked out any better!

It went a little something like this…

The Games Officially Began in Sydney and I’m not talking about the Olympic Games here

Dreams really do come true. I’m going to be honest with you. When I was little, I remember learning about Australia and thinking “this place sounds wonderful but I don’t think I’ll ever make it there.” For no other reason than it was on the other side of the world!

Sydney is a city beaming full of life. Our friend, Andrew, moved to Sydney a few months ago and he described the Aussie’s perspective on life perfectly using the grand old debate of “do you work to live or live to work?” There is no doubt that the Aussie mentality is one in which you work to live. The way they see it is that there is so much life to be had outside of work that’s in plain sight right outside your office window.

Let’s see – boating in the Sydney harbor, shows at the opera house, rugby games in the park, George Street, BBQs with friends, cheering on your professional rugby team at the bar with friends (or better yet going to a match), trips to the Blue Mountains and of course, taking advantage of many of the nearby beaches waiting for you to jump in for a swim, dive, snorkel, or surf!

Spectacular views at the Blue Mountains

Spectacular views at the Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters rock formations at the Blue Mountains.

The Three Sisters rock formations at the Blue Mountains.

After a short trip, we found the beautiful Bondi beach.

After a short trip, we found the beautiful Bondi beach.

Unique, rugged cliffs near Manly beach.

Unique, rugged cliffs near Manly beach.

Sailing away in Sydney during the harbor cruise

Sailing away in Sydney during the harbor cruise

Brian and Burdick at the Soda Factory in Surry Hills.

Brian and Burdick at the Soda Factory in Surry Hills.

Vivid is the name and a light show is the game. Sydney also happened to be a city beaming full of lights during our visit. In case we didn’t get our light show fix in Singapore, the Aussies showed up in full force displaying more lights around the city than New York City’s light display at Christmas (or so it seemed).

The Opera House lit up during the Vivid light show!

The Opera House lit up during the Vivid light show!

Another incredible light show we came across while walking along the harbor!

Another incredible light show we came across while walking along the harbor!

Park near the central business district where Aussies get their rugby on.

Park near the central business district where Aussies get their rugby on.

You can't beat this view of the skyline!

You can’t beat this view of the skyline!

C’mon Get Your Snorkel On (in Port Douglas that is)

When you go to an area that’s as famous for it’s marine life as the Great Barrier Reef is you do one of two things, snorkel or scuba dive, and that’s just what we did!

Unfortunately, we can’t access our underwater snorkeling and scuba diving pictures that we took with an underwater camera we rented for reasons that we won’t get into right now but hopefully when we get our hands on an actual PC we’ll be able to get the pictures off our memory card. Once we do, we’ll be sure to upload them here!

Another activity we did in Port Douglas that was just as fun snorkeling and scuba diving was spearing crabs like the native Aborigines do. With large spears in tote, we walked around in the flats and around the mangrove trees in search of feisty mud crabs!

And that is how it's done!

And that is how it’s done!

Larry proudly displaying his catch!

Larry proudly displaying his catch!

The Aborigines taught us how to make chili crab

The Aborigines taught us how to make chili crab

Kakadu National Park called and they want their “scary animal noises” back

Get ready to channel your inner Boy Scout or Girl Scout here except in our case I think I was the only one in the group with any “scouting” experience. No, but really – scouts honor!

Wallabies, poisonous snakes and crocodiles. How does that whimsical song from our childhood go? Oh that’s right, “these are a few of my favorite things!”

Boarded the boat and ready for the billabong cruise

Boarded the boat and ready for the billabong cruise

I spy a crocodile!

I spy a crocodile!

This isn't just a solo shot of Larry - can you find everyone?

This isn’t just a solo shot of Larry – can you find everyone?

Larry, my dear father-in-law, made a public service announcement on our bus ride to Kakadu informing us that this was going to be his first time camping EVER! I told you we didn’t have any former Boy Scouts in the group. The truth of that matter is that you could hardly call our accommodations tents and you could definitely not call what we were doing camping! However, let’s remember everything is relative.

Brian, Drew and I knew that to fail to scare the loving God out of Larry on one of his first nights camping would have just been sacrilegious. While brainstorming over some wine that was too sophisticated for our palates, Brian came up with the game winning idea!

We creeped over to Larry and Pam’s tent in complete and utter darkness trying to muffle our high pitched bursts of laughter. Yes, we reverted back to our fourteen year old selves for a brief period of time! Brian placed his phone right outside of their tent and for the next ten minutes Larry lay awake listening to the soundtrack of “scary animal noises” that Brian found on You Tube.

The next morning we all managed to keep semi-straight faces at breakfast as Larry recounted to us the horrendous animals sounds he heard the night before. In the words of Ashton Kutcher, “you’re punk’d!” All I have to say is Larry, you’re a trooper!

Our camping quarters in the outback.

Our camping quarters in the outback.

Interesting rock formations around Kakadu National Park during our hike.

Pam and Larry in front of interesting rock formations around Kakadu National Park during our hike.

All Good Things Come to an End…

As we boarded our flight in Darwin, we all agreed that we absolutely loved our time in Australia! When you are spending time with family, how could we have not enjoyed ourselves though?! Thankfully, we were saying goodbye to Australia but not to each other! Next stop: New Zealand.

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6 thoughts on “How to Hit the Highlights in Australia

  1. Your trip sounds amazing!! What a great experience and the memories will be priceless. Can’t wait to hear Uncle Larry retell that story about the scary noises he heard…I’m sure he has the story down pat!

    • Maura, it truly was an amazing trip! We heard you are making it back to the states this summer. I know Pam and Larry are excited for your visit! Safe travels!

  2. I am so glad you successfully “punked” Larry. We all have stories of his pranks on us!! Sounds like it was a fabulous time to savor forever.

    • Jane, it was an incredible trip! We had a lot of fun messing with Larry. Although, he’s mentioned getting us back so we’ll literally have to watch our backs when we’re home!!

  3. Pingback: Relaxing in the Waters of Ambergris Caye | Beaches & Backpacks

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