Although my study abroad program was based in Canberra, the capital of Australia, I took every chance I could while abroad to travel to various other cities within the country. I had the opportunity to visit four different cities in Australia, each offering unique experiences that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Sydney – New South Wales
- Sydney is the city that most people think of first when they talk about Australia, and I have to say, it lives up to the hype. I took a tour of the Sydney Opera House on my first day. The history behind the architecture of the building was so interesting, and I learned a lot about the city itself based on this tour. I spent the rest of the day walking around and getting to know the area, focusing mostly on Darling Harbour and Circular Quay. The next day, I took a city tour and got to see St. Mary’s Cathedral, Royal Botanic Gardens, King’s Cross, Bondi Beach, and Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. The tour ended with a lunch cruise through Darling Harbour, which was complete with a delicious seafood lunch, wine, and tea. I also went whale watching in the Pacific Ocean and had the opportunity to see humpbacks close up as they migrated north for mating their season. Finally, I spent my last day in Sydney on a tour of the Blue Mountains. I hiked through the rainforest, explored an old coal mine, saw the Three Sisters, watched an Aboriginal dance show, and road the steepest railway train in the world. The day ended with a visit to the Featherdale Wildlife Park, in which I got to see and feed all of Australia’s unique animals, including kangaroos, koalas, emus, wombats, dingos, Tasmanian devils, and much more. Sydney was an amazing city with so much to do, and I truly hope I get another chance to return in the future.
Melbourne – Victoria
- Melbourne has definitely been added to my list of the best cities in the world. From the Yarra River to the Great Ocean Road, the beauty of this city is a sight for sore eyes. I spent my first day exploring the Queen Victoria Markets and touring the Victoria Parliament building. The architecture of all of the buildings in Melbourne are uniquely diverse, but the Victoria Parliament building stood out as one of the most splendid I have had the chance of visiting. I finished the day at St. Kilda’s pier where I watched a beautiful sunset and penguins swimming back into their rock homes located below the pier after their day out at sea. My second day was full of some of the most amazing sites in the world – I took a tour along the Great Ocean Road, which was built after the second World War as a way to keep soldiers employed. The highlight of the tour was a stop at the 12 Apostles and “Shipwreck” Coast. I can honestly say that I have never seen anything like these structures in my entire life. I finished my weekend with a Yarra River cruise through the city. I couldn’t have gotten luckier with the weather in Melbourne that weekend, which made the trip all the more better.
Cairns – Queensland
- Although it is technically winter in Australia right now, Cairns is very similar to Florida in the sense that it stays warm all year around. I was anticipating this trip the most because not only was I going to get the chance to put on summer clothes again, but Cairns is the home to a significant part of the Great Barrier Reef. I took a day cruise out to the reef and got to snorkel and scuba dive among the most beautiful fish and coral in the world. This was my first time to ever go scuba diving, and although I was a bit nervous going in, it was easily one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. The natural beauty under that water doesn’t compare to anything the Northern Hemisphere has to offer. Unfortunately, the reef has been subject to a lot of degradation over the years, and people told me on numerous occasions that I was lucky to see it this year, as it may not be there in the years to come. Finally, I also attended a night ceremony at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park where I took part in a fire dancing ceremony and ate dinner with the original custodians of the Cairns land. My weekend in Cairns was one of the most unique of anywhere else that I have been because of these experiences, and I also got to add a few checks to my bucket list at the same time.
Hobart – Tasmania
- My last weekend excursion was spent in Hobart, one of the most surprisingly beautiful cities I have been to. I chose Hobart for my last weekend because of the multitude of recommendations I got from friends and online sources. The first thing I did was take a VIP ferry over to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), which is known for its bold statements on modern culture. I can easily say that it was extremely different than any other museum I have ever been to, and you really have to see it for yourself to appreciate it…however, make sure to go in with an open mind, and I wouldn’t recommend taking young children. I finished my first night by attending The Beginning of Nature Show at the Royal Theatre; I enjoyed a fascinating ballet story put on by some of the best dancers in Australia. The next day was one of the most delicious and relaxing days of my entire trip – I took a gourmet food tour through Bruny Island. I did tastings at the Bruny Island Cheese Company, Get Shucked Oysters, Bruny Island Chocolate Company, The Honey Pot, a local winery, and Bruny Island Whiskey House. My favorite part of this tour was the oyster stop. I have always liked oysters, but this was actually the first time I had eaten them raw with no crackers, and I was genuinely mind blown; all that was served with them was a sweet chili sauce, which was a perfect pair with the salty texture of the meat. I also bought some mint chocolate fudge from the Bruny Island Chocolate Co. that was so divine that I genuinely think I could eat it on a daily basis. I am still trying to figure out a way to get them to mail a box to the U.S. so that I can share it with all of my friends and family. Hobart was the perfect ending to an amazing six weeks of studying and traveling, and once again I couldn’t have asked for better weather in such a beautiful little corner of the world.