Subject: Australia and New Zealand
G'Day Jonathan, You are fortunate to have an extended period of time to travel in Australia. It is a huge country (about the same land size as the Continental US), although most of the center parts are the so-called Outback: read hot, sand, barren, inhospitable. The East coast is the most developed (on the Pacific). To answer the big question, whether to include New Zealand: it is a backpacker's dream. Most of the country, both islands, are still mostly unspoilt. Nature lovers return often for its environment. We will spend 3 weeks there February/March, for instance. That is the best time of the year for those of us who are sun worshipers. The Great South Highway is beautiful, near Melbourne, so you should try to drive that. Maybe cross over to Tasmania while you are that far South in Australia? Have you thought about the Indian-Pacific train trip? Marghe and I enjoy train travel when we mean to cover long distances. Here is a site showing the train trips that we would recommend (any one of them, but we liked the Indian Pacific the most.) Since you have flight coupons, you can fly into most of the large cities of Australia, rent a car or camper and drive around quite a bit in the 4 months or so that you have. We live in mid Queensland, so we are within driving distance of Brisbane and, starting at the Gold Coast, all the way up to Cairns (which is as far as we have driven so far.) Queensland, from the Sunshine Coast to the North, is very temperate weather wise, and gets progressively more hot and humid as you cross the Capricorn belt. The Great Barrier Reef starts where we live, at Coral Cove, just East of Bundaberg. It extends far into the North along Queensland's coastline. Don't miss many dives of this Wonder of the World. What should you see? You will have to decide if you like to see a little of a lot, or more quality experiences with fewer attractions. Australia is truly beautiful, and the people are the greatest. There is good value for your hard-earned dollar down here, too. Gail has mentioned the Cairns north to Cape Tribulation area, which we understand are some of the lovliest in the world, to quote her. We intend to drive that, too, but only after taking the train to Cairns (pronounced cans BTW), and renting a car there. Barb and Rob at Boyne Island can give you a lot of information, too. Check out their site at We can give some more specific recommendations if you would like to write us personally. However, we are sure you will enjoy your trip to Australia, wherever you end up going. This is still a young country, a vibrant economy and inhabited by friendly, helpful Aussies. This might explain why we are going to retire down here.

Have a great trip. Good luck at the Melbourne Open, too. Marghe and Marty.