|Subject: Re: Visit to Australia and New Zealand|
Two and a half weeks in Winter 2004 in Aus/NZ -
Can I start by mentioning climate? Here in Brisbane we have wonderful winters - quite mild, sunny. Down south however you will find skiing :) so it does get cold. And I know I was surprised when I went to NZ at just how far south that country was located - I spent 2 weeks in the South Island of NZ in October 2000 and in Dunedin I had thermals and a parka and a beanie on! (And it was still amazingly beautiful!)
So having said that :) I'm horribly ignorant of the rest of my country having travelled overseas more than domestically, so perhaps another knowledgeable person will contribute on things like the best time to visit destinations with regard to climate and opening hours: say Ayers Rock (Uluru), Kakadu, Daintree (what with rainy seasons and all). These would certainly give you a taste of our outback cultural offerings.
As another Ziner mentioned, Cairns is a lovely spot with many wonderful day trips. Cradle Mountain in Tasmania offers great opportunities for cycling, bushwalking, horseback riding, or just sitting by a fire in a lovely B& B. But it may be chilly.
It is important to stress though that ours it truly a *wide* brown land so distances can be lengthy, But as another Ziner mentioned there is a domestic air pass available in Australia (I think on Qantas?) but it is not widely advertised so a local agent would have to source that for you.
Other travel options include catching the Indian Pacific train from Sydney to Perth http://www.gsr.com.au/index.htm
An indication of distances - it's about 1000km between Brisbane and Sydney which is a full day's drive if not staying overnight (or a 1.25 hour plane trip). If you drive of course you get to detour to places such as Byron Bay along the way... :)
And then of course the must-sees for some are different to others - Sydney has the Opera House, Harbour Bridge climb http://www.bridgeclimb.com.au/, take the Manly ferry, visit The Rocks. Or head out of Sydney to the Blue Mountains and Leura.
In Melbourne catch a sporting event or shop and eat :) Or head out of town for a drive along the Great Ocean Road, or perhaps a visit to Philip Island to see the penguins (bookings required I believe) http://www.phillipisland.net.au/penguinparade.html
In Brisbane, spend a day at SouthBank on the river, check out the markets, visit the museum, catch a CityCat to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Perhaps day trip to Tangalooma Island to see the dolphins http://www.tangalooma.com/tangalooma/start.asp Head down the coast to Broadbeach for some sand without the commercial Surfers Paradise feel.
Disclaimer I guess to all of these is I am unsure of what attractions (particularly nature related) are operating at what times during the year, what the temperature would be like, and most of all, 2 and a half weeks is not a lot of time to see Aus and NZ.
That being said, if you are comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road :) I'd travel without a tour as there is so much more flexibility this way.
Briefly on NZ - I spent 2 weeks in NZ: flew in an out of Christchurch, train to Fox Glacier, glacier walk, bus to Te Anau, overnight boat cruise in Doubtful Sound, overnight boat cruise in Milford Sound, bus to Queenstown (from where you can ski etc), bus and steam train to Dunedin, wildlife aplenty (penguins, albatross cruises), train to Christchurch. So much to do, so little time. Heaps of B& B options. I actually combined organised touring with do-it-yourself by working with a company that let me customise one of their tours, and they booked all by accomm and bus and train seats in advance for me and arranged transfers and pickups. This does of course remove flexibility if you wish to change your mind because of the weather... :) Megan Brisbane, Queensland