AUSTRALIA: When it comes to ultra-long distance travel, most Americans are hard-pressed to find two more appealing destinations than New Zealand and Australia. Presently Australia is battling devastating brushfires fueled by high winds and weather extremes. It is said that the fires will continue to scorch the island continent during the summer season “down under.”
Environmental damage in wildlife and ecological habitats promises to be staggering. At this time, one-third of the island, not far from the famous Sydney Harbour, is burning.
Though large, Australia is still an island and, therefore, typically the climate is influenced by ocean currents, including the Indian Ocean Dipole and the El Nino-Southern Oscillation. These climatic patterns often correlate with periodic droughts and a seasonal tropical low-pressure system that produces cyclones in the northern region of the country.
Australians could easily be called the “Texans of Oceania.”
They are fiercely independent, passionately proud, highly competitive, vociferously opinionated and yet, at the same time they are magnanimously friendly, charmingly hospitable and, perhaps most admirably, dedicatedly loyal.
Australia is the largest country in Oceania and the sixth-largest country by total area in the world. Most of the population resides in coastal cities that line the perimeter of the country.
Most visits to Australia begin and/or end in Sydney, the bustling, lively capital of New South Wales with its now-iconic opera being as familiar a landmark for Australians as is the Eiffel Tower to the French, Big Ben to the English and the Colosseum to Italians.
Regarded as one of the 20th century’s most famous and distinctive buildings, the gleaming white layered shell-shaped Opera House Performing Arts Centre at Sydney Harbour is a multi-purpose venue that is capable of offering several different performances simultaneously.
Darling Harbour, Australia
Adjacent to Sydney’s city center is Darling Harbour, a large recreational and pedestrian area situated on the western outskirts of the central business district. Originally named Long Cove, the locality extends northwards from Chinatown, along both sides of Cockle Bay to King Street Wharf 3 on the east, and to the suburb of Pyrmont on the west.
Always a favorite spot, even if travelers have never heard of the district until they arrive, is The Rocks, an urban tourist precinct and historic area in Sydney’s city center near the opera house.
The Royal Botanic Garden
The Royal Botanic Garden is the most important green space in Sydney, hosting both scientific and leisure activities.
Fifteen separate parks within the city center include Hyde Park, The Domain and Prince Alfred Park. But these are merely appetizers that most avid travelers easily discover on their own.
Beyond Sydney, a two-hour drive west, are the Blue Mountains with their seemingly infinite stretches of eucalyptus trees. This UNESCO World Heritage area boasts of 87 miles of walking trails that include native bush-lands, impressive rock formations and underground caves.
Here you can be entertained by stories told by local Aboriginal guides and also admire the craftsmanship of resident artisans.
Be sure to dine at Darley’s Restaurant and don’t forget to sample some of Australia’s famous Blue Mountains wines.
The Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock
Australia also has a pair of equally famous natural destinations that are more remote than the Blue Mountains but well worth the effort to make a visit: the Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock.
Uluru, better known as Ayers Rock, is a large sandstone rock formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory of central Australia. Situated 208 mi southwest of the nearest large town, Alice Springs, Uluru is sacred to the Pitjantjatjara Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the area.
The area around the formation is home to an abundance of springs, waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings, and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system off the coast of Queensland. Composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching over 1,400 mi, the reef is located in the Coral Sea and can be seen from outer space.
It is the world’s biggest single structure built by billions of tiny living organisms known as coral polyps. Selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981, CNN has labeled the Great Barrier Reef as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
If this was a normal travel story, this is where it would end
But this time the story is not typical.
The places in Australia listed above are traveler’s favorites, just as Australia itself is one of our favorite destinations. We mentioned these locales as a reminder to us all at just how fragile our planet can oftentimes be.
The sites and attractions mentioned above are little more in this article than scene setters to whet our wanderlust appetites and to remind us of what could be lost forever.
For those of us who have savored the beauty of Australia, it is time to ask what we can do to help.
Contact Australian Red Cross’ Disaster Relief and Recovery or get in touch with WIRES, an organization committed to wildlife in Australia. You can also donate to local fire brigades.
To support people affected by the fires, Fast Company suggests donating to the Salvation Army’s Disaster Appeal or the bushfire appeal fund set up by the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
The fires have made Australia’s declining koala population more vulnerable than ever; consider a donation to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, which rescues koalas in regions across New South Wales.
As Executive Editor, George Stone of TRAVEL, a publication of National Geographic, so appropriately writes,
“It’s not enough to love a land only when the sun shines.
Now is the time to care for a faraway place as if it were our own backyard.”
About the author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor us an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up