Subject: Australia for 17 days
Seasons Greetings Ziners:

Jonathan - you are going to love Australia.

My husband and I got back from Australia/New Zealand a month ago and we're still glowing from the trip. It was amazing. We spent 13 days driving New Zealand (both the North and South Islands) and 17 days in Australia. Although 13 days was reasonable for New Zealand, we felt that we could have been there longer. Hopefully, we will return someday.

Although I do not think that you have enough time in 17 days to visit both Australia and New Zealand (and enjoy both), we have friends who visited New Zealand and flew from place to place because of time contraints. I wouldn't recommend that, however, because the country is so scenic that you really should see it from the ground. If you want a taste of New Zealand, I would suggest that you limit your visit to the South Island. You could fly to Queenstown from Australia. Once there, you could see the mountains, take a drive to Milford Sound (amazing), and even have a bungy jump if you're so inclined.

One bonus to New Zealand is the currency exchange. The New Zealand $ is much less than the Canadian or US. It makes accommodation and food very reasonable. The other bonus is that the lamb is the best that I have ever tasted.

With regard to the weather, New Zealand is rather moderate in temperature during the summer. I suggest you visit some world weather sites on the internet (Yahoo has a good site). I added the cities that I was going to visit to my Yahoo home page so that every time I logged on, I saw what the weather was for that day. It helped with my packing plans too. I think that the temperatures today are around 70 F. but then again, so is Melbourne.

Australia is also amazing but different. First, the distances are vast. We spent 17 days in Australia and only visited Melbourne, Sydney, Fraser Island (north of Brisbane) and Cairns area. With regard to the beaches, do you know that from October to April, you cannot swim from any beach north of Brisbane (or so) because of stingers (box jelly fish) which reside in the warm shallow waters. This really disappointed us because the beaches are so beautiful and the water so inviting. Also, many beaches are shark infested waters. Make sure that you heed the signs on the beaches and if it says don't swim, don't even walk in. We were told by the rangers on Fraser Island that we shouldn't even go in knee-deep because the sharks can be and often are in shallow waters. Apparently though, the great barrier reef is safe to swim if you go on an organized tour. We took the Quicksilver tour from Port Douglas and it was fine. (hint: if you take the Quicksilver tour, consider taking the marine-biologist escorted snorkel trip. It was wonderful and well worth the additional cost since there were only 5 of us with 2 marine biologists to show and tell us all about the fish, reef, etc. We even got to pet a sea cucumber which the biologist brought up from the bottom of the ocean.)

We loved both Australia and New Zealand but with only 17 days to spend, I would suggest that you give up the idea of going to New Zealand. Save that for another time. I think that you will find that your time is Australia may even be too short and that you will want to return someday. We certainly did.

Another itinerary consideration if you like nature and the outdoors is to go to Fraser Island - a world heritage site and the largest sand island in the world. The island also has a splendid rain forest through which you can hike and a population of pureblood dingoes (wild dogs) which are fascinating but dangerous if you're not careful. We stayed at an excellent ecotourism resort called Kingfisher Resort. I would have to say that Fraser was one of the most memorable highlights to our Australian trip.

Another recommendation for you is to book your Quantas flights as soon as possible. Even though we went during a shoulder season, we found the flights difficult to arrange since they were so full. With the other Australian airline (Ansett) going bankrupt at the end of the summer, Quantas had to take up the slack. Due to the large number of travellers, we had to rearrange our itinerary to be able to use the flight coupons. I believe that they only have so many seats/flight for coupons holders. Going to Melbourne or Sydney was no problem but going to Cairns was difficult. The only saving grace for you would be that Cairns in January is considered low season (because it's very hot and rainy). Maybe that will make it easier to get flights. Nevertheless, have your travel agent book the seats. You can always change them over there if there is availability.

If you ask us which country we liked more, we couldn't say because both we fantastic in their own ways. Both New Zealand and Australia are definitely worth visiting but don't cut one short in order to do the other. You will end up not being happy with either and that would be truly unfortunate.

If you would like any additional info, I would be more than happy to provide what I can. I just know that you will have a great time.

All the best, Minna