By Skyler Matthews
Going to Australia was always a thing I wanted to do. It sounds silly, but I have always been particularly fond of Australian accents, so every time I would hear one I would automatically want to go there. Well, luckily enough, I was given the amazing opportunity to visit Australia with my family in December of 2018.
Ever since I was in high school, my family believed my sister and I were old enough to travel long distances, in which my parents decided that they would take us on a whole bunch of trips abroad before we go off to college and onward with our careers. I like to consider this the “last-minute nesting period” with my family, because it seems we banged out a bunch of destinations over the course of 6 years. This was the first time we had traveled abroad over the winter however, which was fitting because this was actually during the Australian summer. Typically, we would try to travel over our own American summer.
The first thing I will say about traveling to Australia – the flight length is insane. It was by far the longest flight I had ever been on. Luckily, I consider myself a pretty good flier, so I did not have that hard of a time. Just lots of movies, sleep, and trying to keep my body moving periodically throughout the long flight time. A lot of this process is at certain times so that I can get my body on the right clock, because it makes dealing with jetlag a lot easier than not.
Our first destination in Australia was Sydney. It had always been promised to my sister that when she hit 16 years old, we would all go to Sydney, Australia because her name is in fact, Sydney. The city of Sydney is very special. It is one of the cleanest cities I have ever seen, and it is all very modern. A lot of people think of Australia as some crazy swamp land with crocodiles and spiders trying to kill you at all times, but that really isn’t all it. Sydney is also one of the most expensive cities in the world, just because it is so popular and difficult to get to. When we were there, we mostly walked around looking at all the sights, and we took a couple tours. It was interesting to hear all about how Sydney was used as a place for Britain to store their prisoners and keep them at work. This living area is now considered the old district, where the history is still taught and witnessed. While we were in this district, we made sure to visit the Australian Heritage Hotel, where we got a drink and tried a Kangaroo burger. Yes, you read that right. Kangaroo is actually a very popular meat that can be bought at any Australian market. It is a very lean meat and can be cooked just like a steak (on the barbie).
After spending time in Sydney, we went ahead and moved on to our next location. We flew north to Cairns, Australia. The airport there was one of the smallest I had ever seen, and the weather was like a warm rainstorm. I grew up in Seattle, so I am very used to the rain. But this rain? I had never seen anything like it. It was almost like a monsoon in hot weather, so the humidity was higher than most places I’ve ever been to. We needed a way to travel around on our own, so we went over to the lot next to our bag pickup and rented a car. However, renting a car in Australia is a lot more daunting than the states. This is because the drive on the opposite sides of the road there! So, without any previous training on driving on the left side of the road with everything flipped, my dad drove us to our Air BnB. If I’m being honest, this was one of the scariest drives I have ever been on. However, eventually throughout the rest of the trip my dad got very used to driving like an Aussie and we had nothing to worry about.
In Cairns, the weather stayed very rainy and never got much better. While we were here, we decided to spend our time looking around at local shops since the town was so much smaller than Sydney for the first day. The next day we were there, we took a snorkeling trip all the way to the Great Barrier Reef! It was so amazing seeing something in real life that I had seen on so many movies and shows on TV. Everyone knows about the Great Barrier Reef and how important it is for the ocean. However, it is sadly dying, and it was hard to see some of the marine life there. However, it was still quite the spectacle.
For our final destination, we drove down to Port Douglas, which turned out to be one of my favorite places. It’s funny, because Port Douglas could easily be compared to Maui, Hawaii. Just the feel of it and the town there was so much similar to what I had seen on that tropical island. Port Douglas also has some amazing beaches, but we never got around to going to that. So after some leisurely days of discovery and driving around the area, we returned back to Sydney for one more day to spend in the beautiful city. For this last moment we decided to visit Manly beach, which was only a quick ferry ride away. This beach was big and beautiful, and quite popular among the locals and visitors. It reminded me a lot of one of my favorite places, San Diego.
Overall, Australia is one of the coolest places I have ever been to in terms of the places and things we saw. It amazed me how vast the area was even though it looks small on a map. I would love to return again in the future, and experience more when I do. There is still so much to see, and I feel what I experienced is only the tip of the iceberg!