Australia is a country and continent surrounded by the Indian and Pacific oceans. Its major cities – Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide – are coastal. Its capital, Canberra, is inland. The country is known for its Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, a vast interior desert wilderness called the Outback, and unique animal species like kangaroos and duck-billed platypuses.
Did you know that in Australia, there are three times as many sheep than people living? Yeah, that’s true! And in addition to that, did you also know that the country has over 10 000 beaches. If you visited one beach a day, it would take about 27 years to explore 10 000 beaches. No wonder that surfing and other water and beach activities are so popular!
Australia, the Land Down Under, home of the kangaroo, the koala and the kookaburras, is an island continent that was colonized by European settlers in the latter half of the 18th century. Australian cuisine is commonly dismissed as heavy, fast food cooking or weird dishes with a kangaroo or crocodile meat as ingredients. Wrong and wrong again! Like its indigenous flora and fauna, the landscape of Australian cooking and food is varied and diverse with surprising twists to normal recipes.
English vs Australian chocolate
Enjoy it the Australian Way
Whether it's the food, wildlife or the sheer size of the place, Australia is full of surprises for first-time visitors from overseas. So, here are some of the tips when visiting Australia.
- The Sydney Harbour recalibration. The Sydney Opera House is the international icon. But it's smaller and more beige than most people expect. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, however, is way more impressive than billed. So on balance, the views from Circular Quay are slightly better than expected, but for surprising reasons.
- The distances. The classic error first-time visitors make is trying to 'do' Australia in two or three weeks, forgetting that it's a continent as well as a country. It's far better to pick two or three areas to tackle well than attempt to tick off the highlights in one visit. Otherwise, most of the visit is spent in transit.
- The seasons. Another common misconception is that because Australia is in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed from the northern hemisphere. That's true in the south of the country, but definitely not in the north. The best time to visit Sydney may be November to April, but visitors don't realize it's the opposite for the Great Barrier Reef and the Top End – when that's the monumentally soggy and sweaty wet season.
- Quality of ingredients. Aside from the inexplicable beetroot thing, Australian food has long shed its British stodge on the other side of the world reputation. This is partly due to a high quality of ingredients. Your average pub or café steak will generally be of better quality than the equivalent elsewhere in the world. Notable exceptions are to be made for cheese, bacon, and chocolate here.
- Cheap Thai food. Ingredients are only part of the story, though: A willingness to embrace and integrate cuisines from around the world makes a big difference. Nowhere is this more obvious than the massive plethora of Thai restaurants and take-outs. Most are pleasingly cheap, and it's wonderfully rare to pick a dud.
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