I recently turned 30 and to celebrate my sister invited me to visit her in Australia. Now the land of Aus has never really appealed to me. I spent my childhood watching American films and dreaming of visiting New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco, etc. Australia was always my sister’s dream. I couldn’t understand this. One: it is really, really far away. Two: there is a much greater risk of getting skin cancer as the sun is so strong. Three: it is the one place in the world where everything can kill you; the animals and insects include pythons, crocodiles, spiders as big as your head, box jellyfish, sharks, dingos, bull ants, scorpions… need I go on? Obviously, I know that you are only really going to encounter these creatures in the outback or deep in the ocean but it was enough to put me off (I really hate spiders – I could never be a contestant on I’m a Celebrity). However, I decided to be brave and actually act my age and get on the two planes and, man, am I glad I visited the wonderful land of Aus.

Friendly and laidback

Everyone I encountered was friendly and relaxed. The conversation always started with a “Hiya, how you doin’?” So friendly in fact that I actually struggled with the small talk. I am British after all. Even my hairdresser has a hard time getting anything out of me. And some people don’t even wear shoes. I mean, how laidback is that?

Beaches

The beaches are everywhere. And they’re all lovely. No litter, no discarded bottles of White Lightning and no chavs hanging around asking you for cigarettes. My personal favourite was the beach at St Kilder. Instead of an amusement arcade, you are treated to a giant smiling face welcoming you to Luna Park. Pretty cool and scary in equal measure.

Great Ocean Road

A road trip down the Great Ocean Road was the highlight of my trip. From the 12 Apostles to spotting koalas (or camping under them at Bimbi Park) to birds feeding out of your hand (and landing on your head) to endless sandy beaches and beautiful coastal towns; Lorne being a personal favourite.

12 Apostles

No tipping

You don’t have to tip. Anyone. Ever. Now I know this makes me sound cheap but after spending many holidays in America where tipping is expected regardless of whether the service was any good (and expected at 18% I might add and if you don’t leave a tip you can often be chased down the street) this was a breath of fresh air. Mainly because 99% of the time I received truly excellent service from truly friendly individuals who weren’t just putting on an act just to get money out of me.

Street art

When my sister suggested we visit the street art in Melbourne’s city centre, I thought she was kidding. I had noticed that Aus has a graffiti problem – it is on trains, walls, houses, buses, benches, etc. But I was dead wrong. There are some truly magnificent artists in Aus who have created some truly wonderful art in back alleys that are must-sees for visitors and locals alike.

Street art in Melbourne

Sydney

The two main areas I had the chance to visit were Melbourne and Sydney. I like Melbourne but when I saw the Sydney Opera House from the plane window, I know this was the place for me. It’s like visiting a smaller (nicer) version of New York, which is my favourite place in the world (or was… hmm). I didn’t get the chance to explore properly but the architecture makes you feel like an ant, there are countless beaches, the train service is very London Tube-esque (in a good way) and Darling Harbour is really beautiful. I felt very at home here. Except for the cockroaches.

Darling harbour

So I returned safely from my trip. I was not bitten and only got a little sunburnt, which was my own fault. I also slept in an apartment with baby cockroaches and on the floor of a house with a small huntsman spider on the loose (very brave of me) and managed to avoid the two bull ants I saw. I still believe the wonderful land of Aus is a dangerous place but it is also beautiful, interesting and, I have to say, a must see. There is so much to see and do there and I only managed 1% of it. So now I’m home I’ve put aside thoughts of sharks and sunburn and can only focus on one thing – when do I get to go back and do it all over again?

 

Do you have any Australia travel tips?

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