Back From Down Under 2

Three years ago with our good friends, my wife Trisha and I ventured down under. We flew from San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand, rented a car and headed off for a week-long road trip experiencing the sights and culture of this picturesque country. At the end of the week we boarded a ship, visited other cities in NZ, and then sailed to Tasmania and Australia. When we arrived in Sydney we learned my mother had become ill and we returned home. Earlier this month, my wife and I flew back to Sydney to complete our adventure. For the benefit of those thinking of traveling to Australia, I thought I would share some of the highlights of our trip  and offer some recommendations.

Make sure you have a Visa. Having previously visited on a cruise ship, we forgot the cruise line had then arranged our Visas. In making our own arrangements this time, we neglected this important detail. While you can quickly acquire one via your smart phone, in my case they inexplicably imposed a 12-hour hold. It took some quick work by one of the airline customer relations people to help overcome this obstacle. The lesson here is, always check to see if the country you are visiting requires a Visa.

Be prepared for the long flight. Some travelers we observe on long flights (Sydney is nearly 15 hours from the west coast), have way too much stuff with them. It’s a parade of neck rolls, back rolls, water bottles, etc. We try to keep it simple and orderly. All passengers are provided with pillows, blankets, headsets, and plenty to eat and drink. The one thing we do carry are noise canceling headsets. These cut out all engine and passenger noises. Just relax, watch a movie or two, and get some rest. Get up and stretch every so often and you’ll be fine. Some make such a big deal about the long flight, it’s almost as though they talk themselves into being miserable.

Sydney, Australia


Sydney is one of the most iconic cities of the world. For both citizens and travelers, one of the best things about this city is how easy it is to get around. There are taxis, buses, trains, and more types of ferries than you can imagine.

Hotel Recommendation:

Sydney Harbour Bed & Breakfast




–  Perfect Location at the top of The Rocks

– Quaint traditional brick building

– Very clean and well-appointed

– Great staff (Owners James and Linda are quite welcoming)

– Delicious breakfast

– Garden patio to enjoy breakfast and converse with fellow travelers

– Easily arranged car service to and from airport for a reasonable fee


–   No lift (but staff is always ready to carry your bags)

Things To Do:

It would be impossible to list everything of interest to do in Sydney.   There are parks, museums, art galleries, fine restaurants, wildlife areas, aquariums, etc. We tried to see as much as possible, but here are a few of our favorites:

The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

Trisha and John Parker Sydney Harbour Bridge

Trisha and John Parker
Sydney Harbour Bridge

Please understand, this adventure takes three hours and with the practice climb involves nearly 1,500 steps. We loved it and the view from the top of the bridge is so spectacular we could have stayed up there for hours.

Trisha and John Parker Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

Trisha and John Parker
Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb


Sydney Opera House Tour

Perhaps the most recognized structure in the world, the Sydney Opera House is a true work of art. There are several tours and programs available. It’s not to be missed.

Trisha and John Parker Sydney Opera House

Trisha and John Parker
Sydney Opera House

Sydney Skywalk

The Sydney Skywalk takes you to the top of Sydney and the view in incomparable. The tower is the second tallest structure in the southern hemisphere. There is an observation level, and for a little more money you can go up another level and walk around the outside of the structure. Be prepared, two of the large areas you will walk on are glass. It’s quite a thrill.

Trisha and John Parker Sydney Skywalk

Trisha and John Parker
Sydney Skywalk

 The Sydney Harbours

While no visitor should miss the main harbour area of Sydney known as the Circle Quay surrounded by the bridge and opera house, we also spent time and enjoyed Darling Harbour. It’s filled with shops, restaurants, an IMAX theater, and much more. Don’t miss Saturday night with an outstanding fireworks display. I should also add the biggest surprise about Sydney is the great food. We never had a bad meal. Here is my wife Trisha enjoying some great treats at Darling Harbour.

Trisha Parker Darling Harbour

Trisha Parker
Darling Harbour

 Manly Beach

One of the most beautiful places to visit in the Sydney area is Manly Beach that is easily reached by ferry. On weekends, I suggest you take the Fast Ferry because locals will be using their yearly passes on the other ferries with their families and the lines are quite long.

Trisha and John Parke Manly Beach, Australia

Trisha and John Parke
Manly Beach, Australia

John Parker Manly Beach, Australia

John Parker
Manly Beach, Australia

After our stay in Sydney, we caught a flight to Cairns, Australia. It’s a very slow-paced area compared to Sydney and is the place where you can take boats out to The Great Barrier Reef. Our boat trip was two hours out to the reef but well worth it. My wife Trisha, an average swimmer at best, discovered a new passion – snorkeling. I couldn’t get her out of the water. It was just as magnificent as we had heard. Well worth your time for a visit.

Trisha and John Parker The Great Barrier Reef

Trisha and John Parker
The Great Barrier Reef

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Australia 2015 095

Australia 2015 097

From Cairns you can also enjoy their beautiful rainforest. We took the train through the mountains to Kuranda, enjoyed Barron Falls, met some fellow travelers, had some fun looking around, and took a gondola (the world’s second longest) back across and down the mountain.

Trisha and John Parker Barron Falls

Trisha and John Parker
Barron Falls

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John Parker Kuranda

John Parker

Trisha and John Parker Kuranda, Australia

Trisha and John Parker
Kuranda, Australia

We enjoyed our adventure, loved the people, and basically understand better why they say, “No worries.”

John Parker

John Parker