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Australian adventure - cities down under

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1 April 2009 by Pete Mathers

Australian cities are as different from each other as a koala is to a kangaroo. Yet while each has a list of attractions it’s proud to call its own, all remain distinctly Australian. In other words, they’re all places you’ll be welcomed with a warm smile and a friendly “G’day”, where a relaxed outdoor lifestyle meets a melting pot of cultures and a whirlwind of theatres, restaurants, nightlife and events.

Our cities offer everything from beach barbeques and ballet to open-air cinemas, jazz in the park and alfresco dining with 5-star fodder. And best of all, the skyscrapers and shopping strips are never more than a short drive from our mountains, forests, beaches and vineyards. Cities are an integral part of our laidback lifestyle and a natural springboard to your adventure Down Under.

Sydney, New South Wales

Some of the most amazing things that happen in Sydney happen in and around its spectacular harbour. See a performance of opera, ballet or theatre at the world famous Opera House. Wander the cobblestone streets of The Rocks, the harbourside quarter where modern Australian settlement began. Kayak under the Harbour Bridge, walk the winding, sea-sculpted cliffs from Bondi to Bronte, or take the ferry to Manly’s beaches, bars and restaurants.

Springboard to… The Blue Mountains Just 65km from downtown Sydney, the Blue Mountains are much more than the chintzy tearooms and novelty train rides depicted in most brochures. This is a remarkable wilderness packed with great walks, breathtaking views and endless eucalyptus forests. Don’t miss the Norman Lindsay Gallery in Faulconbridge, the Three Sisters in Katoomba and the 400-million-yearold Jenolan Caves.

Melbourne, Victoria

In the maze of Melbourne’s laneways, you’ll find cute cafes, swanky bars, secret art spaces and off-the-beatentrack boutiques. Shop ’til you drop from Chapel to Brunswick Streets, watch the sun set over the St Kilda promenade and dance ’til dawn in Fitzroy. Don’t miss the city’s landmark cultural space of Federation Square, nor the chance to see some great sporting action, from Australian Open tennis to the roar of the Grand Prix.

Springboard to… The Great Ocean Road Snaking along the south-west Victorian coastline, the 300km Great Ocean Road is one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world. The road winds along cliff tops, up breathtaking headlands, down to the edge of beaches, through lush rainforests and past the magnificent Twelve Apostles, giant rock stacks rising majestically from the Southern Ocean.

Brisbane, Queensland

Discover the gardens, skyscrapers, sandstone cathedrals and classic stilt houses that make Brisbane such a fascinating mix of old and new. Cruise down the Brisbane River, ride a bike through the City Botanic Gardens or abseil the cliffs of Kangaroo Point. Laze in the lush riverside gardens or swim in the lagoon of South Bank. And when culture cravings hit, head to the nearby Queensland Cultural Centre or the Brisbane Powerhouse.

Springboard to… Fraser Island Four wheel drive down the world’s most beautiful highway, 75 miles of broad coastal beach on World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island. Then trade your views of the blue Pacific Ocean for a swim in any of the 40 freshwater, dune-surrounded lakes, or a walk through the ancient Valley of the Giants rainforest, or even take a trip with the rangers in search of the island’s 350 bird species.

Adelaide, South Australia

Adelaide is known for its colonial stone architecture, expansive parklands, lively festivals and incredible sense of space. Explore the museums and libraries of North Terrace, dine on dedicated ‘eat streets’ or picnic in gardens that sprawl over almost half the city. Swim with dolphins at beachside Glenelg just 20 minutes from the city centre, wander the wharves to see the mighty tall ship One & All, or take a nose around the National Wine Centre.

Springboard to… The Barossa Valley Home to some of the oldest Shiraz vineyards in the world as well as acclaimed Rieslings, the Barossa Valley is one of our best-known wine regions.Enjoy tastings from more than 60 cellar doors, including Yalumba, Wolf Blass and Peter Lehman. Nothing beats a long lunch under the gum trees with a bottle of one of the region’s flagship wines, Barossa Shiraz or Eden Valley Riesling.

Perth, Western Australia

Bask in the sunshine in Perth’s alfresco restaurants, friendly pubs and clean and uncrowded beaches. Cruise the Swan River past parks and skyscrapers to Swan Valley vineyards or the Perth Zoo. Explore the bushland, landscaped gardens, lakes and lookouts of huge Kings Park. Bike ride or kayak to Rottnest Island’s secluded bays and beaches. And revel in performances from all areas of the artistic spectrum.

Springboard to… The Pinnacles Regarded as one of Australia’s most otherworldly landscapes, these incredible limestone spires – some several metres tall – rise eerily out of the sand near the coastal town of Cervantes, about a threehour drive from Perth. The ancient formations were created over millions of years, eroded by water and wind. A sunrise or sunset walk through this spooky golden moonscape is a Western Australia highlight.

Darwin, Northern Territory

Try a delicious jackfruit curry, sip a fresh mango smoothie, or sample some crocodile jerky at one of Darwin’s muchloved weekend markets. Learn of the city’s Aboriginal heritage and dramatic history in the many museums and galleries. Sail Darwin Harbour at sunset, cruise next to crocodiles and bushwalk through monsoon forest. Or visit in summer and take your seat for some of the most spectacular lightening storms in the world.

Springboard to… Kakadu National Park World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is a tapestry of rainforest and Aboriginal cultural artifacts spanning 19,000 square kilometres. Its rugged escarpments, lush wetlands, plunging gorges and cascading waterfalls are home to 5,000 Aboriginal rock paintings – the greatest body of rock art in the world – ranging from 30 to over 25,000 years old.

Hobart, Tasmania

Run your hands along the sandstone buildings of Hobart’s colonial past or feast on fresh seafood from any of its celebrated waterfront restaurants. Climb craggy Mount Wellington for sweeping views of the city and the wide Derwent River. Do a ghost tour in Battery Point, walk across Australia’s oldest bridge in Richmond, then relax under striped umbrellas with a crisp glass of wine at the wonderful Salamanca Markets.

Springboard to… Wineglass Bay Regularly listed as one of the world’s best beaches, Wineglass Bay on the Freycinet Peninsula is a perfect curve of white sand and turquoise sea against pink and grey granite peaks. Take in the magical view after an easy climb from Coles Bay or challenging trek from the top of Mount Amos. Or connect with this coastal paradise through kayaking, swimming or scuba diving.

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