Down Under, some of the world's most spectacular scenery

Touring Australia’s East Coast, from Cairns to Melbourne.

November 13, 2010 23:20
4 minute read.
Sydney Harbor

Australian Cannon 311. (photo credit: (Ilan Zvuluni))

Three to five weeks in Australia? Is that doable for Israelis? Well, yes... but you should concentrate on one area, and be ready to travel long distances – by catching the famous Greyhound buses, renting a camper or booking internal flights.

It’s all about your budgetary constraints, the character of your trip and the “time versus distance” question.

After making my own calculations, I decided to focus on the East Coast, from north to south, and leave the Outback (the inland area) and the West Coast for another time. Here are my recommendations for a terrific trip Down Under: The Great Barrier Reef Departure point: Cairns. A summer resort with tropical weather, big rain forest areas, a short cruise to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree River, Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge and – crocodiles. A nice way to explore these places is by booking a day trip in a small bus, which gives you a good opportunity to get to know tourists from all over the world.

Cruises to the Great Barrier Reef include a one-day trip for snorkeling and diving, or two-five days of safari tours to remote islands along the reef. Floods and cyclones are hazards in the rainy season.

Whitsunday Islands Departure point: Airlie Beach. A small, bubbly town on a stretch of beach called Whitsunday Coast, this is the gate to the stunning Whitsunday Islands. While on land, you can enjoy its bustling night life, with great bars, cafes and restaurants.

A marvelous marina is just a short walk away, and you will be amazed by the beautiful blue water and artificial lagoon.

The quiet park in front of the beach is great for a relaxing picnic, watching the birds – and the camel rides along the shore. The cruise to the Whitsunday Islands is a must and the main attraction for tourists around here. It suits all budgets, whether you’re a backpacker or a jetsetter, you can book anything from a small sailing boat (highly recommended) to a fancy yacht. The unique sea park has stunning islands and turquoise lagoons.

Two or three days are required, and prepare yourself for sleeping on deck, listening to the ripple of a deserted lagoon.

Fraser Island Departure point: Harvey Bay. One of the most popular sites on the Australian East Coast, this is a 10-kilometer stretch of beautiful beaches, and the ideal base for a cruise to Fraser Island. You can watch the humpback whales in season, and an array of other marine sites. If you book a cruise to Fraser Island through a travel agency or a backpacker lodge, you can expect professional treatment. Fraser Island is the biggest sand island in the world – 120 km. long – and contains a lush rain forest, 200 sweet water lakes, the famous Australian dingo and large dunes. Traveling on the island is prohibited on foot, and only 4x4 vehicles are allowed. Depending on your budget, you can book a two-day special bus trip with an overnight stay in a nice (but not fancy) motel with a pool, or rent your own 4x4 on the mainland (after a quick driving course to learn what driving on sand means). Then rent a tent, and take a ferry to the island. Driving on the island is a great experience, but dangerous too.

In high-season, there is a lot of traffic so expect strict rules and speed limits for driving on the beach or inland. Swimming is not allowed because of sharks and dangerous currents, but don’t miss the chance to visit Lake Mackenzie’s white beach, and its inviting light-blue water.

Sydney This big great city is one of the centers of Australia’s culture and economy. A perfect place for night life, with the finest restaurants, shopping and concerts. Take a walk from the city center, and stroll around the Royal Botanic Gardens. On your way to Sydney Harbor, you will see the shell-shaped Opera House arise from the horizon, and it’s worth checking out when the next concert takes place. Nearby, there are numerous coffee places, with a 360-degree view: on your right, the Sydney Opera House, and on your left, the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The bridge connects the two halves of the city, and you can actually climb it to see the best panoramic view.

Melbourne This colorful cosmopolitan center has a mix of ethnicities and cultures, which you can feel throughout the city and taste through its varied cuisine in restaurants and cafes. This is also the gateway to the famous Great Ocean Road, one of the most beautiful drives on the planet.

Take a car or bus, and enjoy the vast beaches and the view points while the vehicle goes up and down the cliffs. Have a picnic with the wild koalas on trees around you, and watch the sunset over the stunning Twelve Apostles, which stand tall like guardians of the ocean.

Wherever you go, all over the East Coast, surfing is the thing to do, with courses for beginners and big waves for pros. If you want to surf, try the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise.

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