by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
about Australia prior to our visit there ranged widely from a country
with a primitive road system to an advanced, modern, industrial
society. The reason for this wide range of thoughts (and emotions,
too!) is simply that my family had no idea what to expect. For me, it
was a six-month sabbatical, and I had made contact at four educational
institutions to teach or lecture.
arrangements from such a distance away, everything went surprisingly
smoothly, and the three-out-of-four of our teenage children who
accompanied us, loved the entire experience. Our fourth child joined us
with about a third of our trip left — and loved it, too.
One thing we have
discovered from all our travels is that people are both friendly and
helpful. As an example, we were standing at the Sydney Opera House
looking at a map, and an Australian who overheard our accident, came
over to help us out and give us direction. We were in Australia for
about six months, and we visited most of the common tourist sites;
however, in all of our travels throughout the country, we never
encountered another American — not one!
We moved from
Sydney to Manly Beach where we stayed for a week. It is a major tourist
destination, and our apartment there looked out onto the beautiful
beach and the Norfolk Pines that lined it. The Corso at Manly is a
partly-malled promenade area between Manly Beach and Manly Wharf, an
area of cafes, interesting shops, and street entertainment.
From Sydney —
where I delivered several lectures at the University of Sydney — we
traveled north to (Australia’s answer to Florida) Queensland (in a
rental car) where I taught a course at Bond University in the College of
Humanities and Social Sciences. It was a rhetoric course in which I
taught a speech-communication component.
rented a place for our family in a luxurious, resort-oriented motel-like
location nearby the university; thus, our family had outstanding
accommodations where we could swim and walk just a short distance for
groceries. We used our “home” as a base for exploring Queensland — the
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, the white-sand beaches, and some of the
interior areas where “hippies” had created a self-sufficient lifestyle.
I also delivered one lecture at the University of Queensland.
destination was Melbourne, and before heading there, we had to make some
plans. We had no place to stay, but we found one advertised in the
newspaper in St. Kilda; we purchased rail passes for each of our family
members — timing their purchase to cover our future trip to Perth. While
in the U.S., we arranged a faculty exchange with a professor from St.
Albans University. It is located just south and west from Melbourne.
So, from Queensland, after our six-week stay was complete, we boarded a
train bound for Sydney and then on to Melbourne.
member from St. Albans, whom we never met, left us her car to use while
there (it was a French Peugot), and her mother and father invited our
family over for a typical Australian meal.
Just a quick
aside here. Every family we met thought it would be a special treat to
give us a typical Australian meal; thus, we had lamb and potatoes and
some kind of pumpkin for each of these meals. The only exception was in
Perth where we met one of my wife’s relatives who treated us to an
American meal instead.
Melbourne is a
large, diverse city with much to see. One of our biggest treats was to
travel to Phillip Island to see the fairy penguins (called that because
of their tiny size). It is the second most popular tourist attraction
in Australia — second only to the Sydney Opera House. Because our older
son was not with us yet, our other three children traveled by train
from Melbourne to Sydney to meet him and ride with him to where we were
living. Once they were all back in Melbourne, we went a second time to
see these little penguins.
Melbourne, we traveled the Great Ocean Road (some call it the Great
Coastal Highway), visited the Old Melbourne Gaol (Jail) — the site where
135 people, including infamous bushranger Ned Kelly, were hanged. —
Flinders Street Station, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Ballarat (which
has a topnotch historical park in Sovereign Hill in this goldfields
town). Ballarat has Australia’s largest recreation of a phase
(1851-1880) in Australia’s history.
We had to miss a
trip north from Adelaide to Alice Springs and Ayers Rock (Uluru). With
six adults, the trip on the Ghan Railroad, a stay at one of the Ayers
Rock hotels, and a bus trip and tour out to see the Rock, was going to
be far too expensive for us. One website on the Ghan says, “The Ghan
train fare is substantially more than what it would cost you to fly –
and if you plan to stay over at Alice or Katherine you should make sure
that your budget can stretch to cover the sightseeing activities.”
Instead of going
north, however, we went west. We took a three-day, three-night trip on
the Indian Pacific Train from Melbourne, through Adelaide, across the
Nullarbor Plain to Perth. About this plain, Wikipedia says, “The
Nullarbor Plain is part of the area of flat, almost treeless, arid or
semi-arid country of southern Australia, located on the Great Australian
Bight coast with the Great Victoria Desert to its north. The word
Nullarbor is derived from the Latin nullus, ‘no,’ and arbor, ‘tree.’”
About the train
ride, one website explains it in this way: “One stretch of track goes
for 478km [297 miles] without curve, kink or bend. Dead straight, and
the view at the start is the same as it is at the end. It may seem
mind-numbingly boring, but the sensation, and the sense of achievement
is what makes this one of the world’s greatest train journeys.”
We had two
highlights of our trip to Perth. The first, “Leaving Perth eastward
along the Great Eastern Highway, as you drive up Greenmount Hill in the
Darling Range, you are climbing up onto the oldest plateau on earth: a
huge slab of granite, part of ancient Gondawana, sitting in the sun,
wind and rain for more than a thousand million years. It has eroded down
into the soils of the valleys, and the chains of lakes, and the old
blind volcanos like Hyden Rock have been exposed.” It is called Wave
Rock, and is a site that must be visited.
highlight was our visit to Nambung National Park and the Pinnacle
Dessert, one of Australia’s best known landscapes. “Here, thousands of
huge limestone pillars rise from the shifting yellow sands, resembling a
landscape from a science fiction movie”
several lectures at the University of Western Australia, and our visit
to Perth ended our six months in Australia — an interesting,
spectacular, and memorable visit. We did everything we could do within
our time limit and budget, and it is a place to which we would gladly
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If you are planning a trip to Australia, make sure you visit Australia’s Official Tourism Website Not only are there terrific pictures, but the “Learn More” icon associated with every picture offers great information.
At the Viator
website offers, “Top 25 Things to Do in Australia & New Zealand:
2010 Viator Travel Awards” (November 28, 2010) and provides much useful
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Copyright November, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing L.L.C.