The Land Down Under

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Australia has been known as the Land Down Under since the days when European explorers found a land “under” the continent of India in the southern hemisphere.

Australia is the sixth largest country in the world in land mass, so it’s a pretty big country to explore on a two-week vacation trip. Vacationers often choose to visit one of the big cities and its surrounding areas.

Sydney, with its stunning opera house, is a favorite. The Sydney Opera House is a World Heritage site. Designed by the Danish architect Jern Utzon, the building resembles white sails billowing in the breeze. You can attend a performance there or take a one-hour guided tour. The building is scheduled to undergo renovation from 2017 to 2019, and it may not be available for visitors during this period.

Other major attractions in or near Sydney are Bondi Beach, the Sydney Harbour National Park and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Bondi Beach is a short ride away. The beach is home to surfers, and if the waves are too rough for children, there are child-safe areas at both ends of the beach. The National Parks protect large swaths of bushland around the shoreline as well as many harbor islands. Walking trails, Aboriginal carvings, beaches and historic sites are just some of the places to explore in the park.

Head back to the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a fascinating walking experience. Both ends of the bridge have stairs you can climb and then walk the length of the bridge, about three quarters of a mile. The bridge is the largest and heaviest steel arch in the world. Try to traverse the bridge at sunset for the best views.

When you return to land, you’ll want to explore the area around the bridge to quench your thirst on one of the many local craft beers. Wander down streets and alleyways to investigate the different cafes and bars.

From Sydney, it’s an hour and a half flight up the coast to sub-tropical Brisbane. The Brisbane River, which meanders through the city, is settled in all directions, creating the third most populous city in Australia. Brisbane has many bike trails, most along the river. The river is popular for fishing and boating. The Kangaroo Point Cliffs, for rock climbing, and the Story Bridge, for adventurers, will provide exciting activities for climbers. The Australian Zoo, the Lone Pines Koala Sanctuary, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens and Portside Wharf are other reasons to visit Brisbane.

Melbourne is Australia’s second-largest city. Located on the natural bay of Port Phillip, Melbourne has several beaches on the bay ideal for swimming, snorkeling, diving, sailboarding and yachting. Melbourne has been recognized as the world’s most liveable city for six straight years by the Economist Intelligence Unit. UNESCO has named Melbourne a City of Literature. The Royal Exhibition Building is designated a UNESCO World Heritage building. Street art is another popular cultural feature.

Adelaide is on the southern coast, a one-hour 20-minute flight from Melbourne. Once considered the sleepy Australian city, Adelaide is becoming livelier with the introduction of small bars, world class art and music. A popular walking tour of the central market provides tastings of cheeses and other treats from farmers. In Adelaide’s North Terrace, visit the Art Gallery of South Australia and the South Australian Museum. The Botanic Gardens houses thousands of rose species. Koalas, Australian sea lions and kangaroos reside in the Adelaide Zoo. When you’re tired of walking, hop on the tram and head for the beach. Stay in one of the heritage hotels, eat in outdoor cafes, and enjoy the beautiful white sandy beach. During February and March, Adelaide hosts some of the best festivals in the world. You can also head for the hills to enjoy a cooler climate and visit a couple of the 60-plus wineries.

Perth is isolated on the western coast, a five-hour flight from Sydney. However, its beautiful beaches and an evolving urban culture make it an emerging place to be. About 166 walls were painted by street artists after a three-year street-art push. Kings Park, one of the largest inner city parks in the world, 150 acres larger than Central Park, is a fascinating park. The park concentrates on untamed bushland containing 319 species of native plants and around 80 bird species. The rest of the park has meticulously groomed gardens and open recreational areas. For children, there are playgrounds, river lookouts and a tree canopy bridge.

Wherever you decide to go, you are never far from the beach in the Land Down Under. The Aussies love their beer and wine accompanied by inexpensive food from farmers’ markets and pubs. Bring several pairs of walking shoes; you’ll need them. Since the seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere, a trip to Australia could be the perfect solution to winter blizzards and ice storms. ■

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