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Australia See And Do

Beaches

Sydney has 37 ocean beaches, stretching from North Palm in the north to Cronulla in the south. There are also more than a dozen placid harbor beaches, including the nude or "clothing optional" beaches at remote Lady Bay and Obelisk.


Beaches south of Sydney Harbour

Bondi, Australia's most famous beach, is about four miles from the city center. Finding a parking spot among the surrounding cafes and surf-wear shops is nearly impossible, but if you come early you can stake out a spot on the half-moon of golden sand and settle in for a day of the best swimming, sunning, and people-watching in Sydney. Just south of Bondi is the small bay beach, accessible by the coastal cliff walk (and by bus), called Tamarama—known locally as "Glamarama" for its stylish see-and-be-seen crowd. Bronte, just south of Tamarama and popular with surfers, has a dangerous current most times of the year but also a fantastic park-cum–forested valley that's perfect for picnics. A mile or so farther south is Coogee, a sort of mini-Bondi that's increasingly popular with the young, good-looking backpacker set. There's not much surf here, so it also attracts families with young children. Maroubra, about two miles south of Coogee, is one of the longest and best surf beaches on the south side. It has a burgeoning café scene but is really a locals' beach, quieter than its northern neighbors.


Northern Beaches

Manly, about seven miles north of Sydney via a half-hour ferry ride from Circular Quay or by car from the city center, looks and feels like a holiday resort. The Corso, the main street that connects the beach with the harborside ferry wharf, is lined with boutiques and alfresco cafes. Curl Curl Beach, about four miles north of Manly, is considered the best surfing beach on the north side. It's a picturesque, quiet spot far from the touristy beaches farther south. Palm Beach, about 14 miles north of Manly and known as "Palmie," is locally considered the jewel of the northern beaches. Its beautiful remoteness s the reason celebs have chosen to buy holiday homes here, and visitors tend to be equally flush. Balmoral, about four miles north of the city, is one of the most fashionable harbor beaches in Sydney. It is actually two small beaches separated by an outcropping known as Rocky Point. There's a great view out to North Head and the white lighthouse at Grotto Point. Cute cafes and restaurants line the Esplanade running behind the beach.

Circular Quay and Ferry Rides

It may be the name of Sydney Harbour's busy ferry hub, but Circular Quay also encompasses the wide sweep of foreshore jammed with boutiques, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and a convenient (though ugly) train station. The ferry terminal, with six wharves, is right in the middle and is the place to board ferries to Manly, Darling Harbour, and Taronga Zoo as well as catch the RiverCat to Parramatta.

The state government–owned ferries are the cheapest way to get around Sydney Harbour. In addition to regular commuter services from Circular Quay, there are three daily harbor cruises with sightseeing commentary. The one-hour morning and one-and-a-half-hour evening cruises make a circuit of the harbor, while the two-and-a-half-hour afternoon cruise winds around the bays of the exclusive Eastern Suburbs, explores Middle Harbour, and goes through the Spit Bridge (yes, through it, because it opens up to let water traffic pass) and into little-known bays. Private companies, including Captain Cook Cruises and Sydney Showboats, have a variety of lunch, dinner, and "entertainment" cruises, with offerings ranging from skimpily clad showgirls to opera singers. For a more sophisticated day out on the water, an outfitter such as Flagship Charters offers stylish yachts—there's even a classic Italian wooden speedboat to create a vintage James Bond moment.

Diving + Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef

A diver's heaven, the reef is one of the world's biggest underwater preserves, and home to 1,500 varieties of fish and 400 types of coral—not to mention dolphins, dugongs, sea turtles, rays, whales, sea snakes…the list goes on and on. There are more than 5,000 different dive sites spread across the reef's various islets and cays.

Island and beach resorts all provide equipment and lessons for a fee and run daily diving and snorkeling trips to various reef sites. Serious divers often forgo the resort experience entirely and instead spend two to ten days on a live-aboard dive boat. This allows them to make several dives per day and visit the farther-flung sites. One of the best live-aboard dive operators is Mike Ball Dive Expeditions. Ball, a Brit who's been in the scuba business for 30-odd years, runs multiday excursions from Cairns on his state-of-the-art, 100-foot twin-hulled boat (for up to 29 passengers at a time). Divers visit sites like Cod Hole (where they can have close encounters with potato cod the size of small cars); Osprey's Reef (famous for its underwater walls and resident hammerhead and grey whaler sharks); Ribbon Reef (home to the beautiful but deadly scorpion fish and, in June and July, minke whales); and dozens of other sites. Prices start at about $1,000 per person for a three-night, 12-dive trip; all meals, snacks, nonalcoholic drinks, and tanks and weight belts are included (61-74-053-0500 or, in the U.S., 888-645-3225; www.mikeball.com).

If one day of underwater sightseeing is enough for you, there are tons of exceptional sites in easy day-trip distance from the mainland coast. One of the most reputable day-trip operators is Tusa Dive, in Cairns, whose fully equipped boats can accommodate up to 60 divers. Day trips include two or three dives (with all the necessary gear), snorkeling for nondivers, and the optional services of a professional underwater photographer—to show the folks at home you really did encounter that giant manta ray or moray eel (61-7-4047-9100; www.tusadive.com).

For more information about diving and snorkeling on the reef, check out www.barrierreefaustralia.com.

Federation Square
Swanston Street (at Flinders Street)
Melbourne
Australia 3000
Tel: 61 3 9655 1900
www.federationsquare.com.au

This architecturally striking cultural complex in City Centre is built around an undulating paved area, which is encircled by bars, cafés, and restaurants, including celebrity chef Michael Lambie's much-lauded Taxi. The space is a favored warm-weather hangout for Melbournians, and often hosts concerts, mass screenings of sports events, and more. Flanking the Square's soaring atrium is the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, with its extensive collection of Australian art, and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), where you can discuss, create, or watch videos, games, and films. Champions: The Australian Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, on the opposite side of the square, houses an impressive taxidermy model of Australia's most famous racehorse, Phar Lap.

Fishing on the Great Barrier Reef

The outer reef—particularly Lizard Island —is home to some of the world's best game-fishing sites. Giant black marlin, sailfish, wahoo, Spanish mackerel, and tuna—as well as barramundi and the picturesquely named sooty grunter—are all plentiful here. Closer to shore, your catch might include red emperor, coral trout, sea perch, and mackerel. Regardless of what part of the reef you're on, the fishing is best between August and December.

If you're game to spend several days hunting down your prize catch, it's hard to beat a charter aboard the Port Douglas–based Phantom. This 65-foot Precision Cruiser (owned by Aussie pop icon John Farnham) is tricked out with all the bells and whistles: state-of-the-art tracking equipment, dual live-bait tanks, top-notch gear and tackle, and a 20-foot tender craft for exploring estuaries. Up to eight people can stay on board at once (you must charter the entire boat); at the end of the day, you can lounge with your friends in the opulent saloon below deck while chef Greg Bull cooks your catch (61-74-094-1220; www.phantomcharters.com.au).

Day-anglers can board the 60-foot luxury Norseman, based in Port Douglas (night charters also are available). Work up an appetite hauling in red emperor or coral trout with rods and hand lines, or use float lines to lure giant trevally and tuna. Then tuck into a smorgasbord lunch while the crew cleans and chills your catch (61-74-099-6668; www.mvnorseman.com.au).

Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras
Sydney
Australia
Tel: 61 2 9568 8600
www.mardigras.org.au

2008 marks the 30th anniversary of Australia's foremost gay pride event: For those who marched in the original, it must seem like a thousand years since the first parade, which was staged to commemorate New York's Stonewall riots. Although police broke up the 1978 Sydney event—violently—it was widely hailed as a defining moment for the gay rights movement in Australia. These days it's more of a family affair, with hundreds of thousands lining the streets of inner Sydney to watch the flamboyant array of floats led by the much-loved "Dykes on Bikes." While parents with young children in tow will find the parade wholesome enough (it's always a fun combination of floats skewering hot-button topics and exuberant, over-the-top campery), the dance party that follows is a hot ticket with international visitors wanting a taste of debauchery. Tickets for the dance party tend to sell out quickly, so be sure to purchase them in advance at Mardigras.org.au, where you can also find a schedule of events.

Hotel Photo
Harbour Bridge Climb
Sydney
Australia
Tel: 61 2 8274 7777
www.bridgeclimb.com

The three-and-a-half-hour climb up and over the bridge, snaking along the girders, is thrilling, but not for the unfit—and best avoided on very windy or wet days. If you're not the superadventurous type, it's also possible to walk across the bridge at roadway level, free of charge, and still take in the views.

Healesville Sanctuary
Badgers Creek Road
Healesville
Australia 3777
Tel: 61 3 5957 2800
www.zoo.org.au/healesville

More than 200 native Australian wildlife species make their home in this natural bushland setting about an hour and 15 minutes' drive outside of Melbourne. Meander along the paths and you'll encounter kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, dingoes, echidnas, Tasmanian devils, and reptiles in near-natural environs, along with water birds, owls, eagles, parrots, and emus. Maps are available, but it's simpler and more fun to arrange for a tour with one of Healesville's well-informed volunteer guides. Don't bypass the platypus house: You'll never get a better chance to see these strange, shy monotremes up close. And a darkened walk-through area lets you see nocturnal mammals such as the tiny, super-cute possums; hopping desert rats; bilbies; and fruit bats.

Helicopter Tours
Port Douglas
Australia

If you're short on time or want a literal overview of North Queensland's two World Heritage Areas, helicopter is the way to go. In an hour-long scenic helitour leaving from Port Douglas, you can pack in a sweeping flight over the Low Isles and Batt and Tongue reefs (hovering to see turtles, rays, and sharks); a stop-off on a pristine coral cay; bird's-eye views of Port Douglas, cane fields, and the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area; and a vertiginous foray into Mossman Gorge. It's reassuring to know, as the rotors roar and you strap in, that Great Barrier Reef Helicopters' 11 pilots have clocked in more than 50,000 flying hours—and counting (61-74-035-9669; www.gbrhelicopters.com.au).

Luna Park
1 Olympic Drive
Sydney
Australia
Tel: 61 2 9922 6644
www.lunaparksydney.com

The restored 1930s amusement park is back, and entry is free (although the rides themselves will cost you; unlimited day passes are available). Grown-ups can get a rush on the Tango Train or the Space Shuttle, and put the little ones on the vintage carousel. There are also the usual game-of-chance booths, and vendors selling hot dogs and cotton candy (known here as fairy floss). Not gourmet enough? Check out Aqua Dining, suspended above North Sydney Pool between Luna Park and the bridge, for dishes with a uniquely Australian zing—Pacific oysters with lychee and chardonnay, for instance, or seared kangaroo filet (if you can manage to get past the sacrilege of eating the national emblem).

Melbourne Aquarium
Flinders Street (at King Street)
Melbourne
Australia 3000
Tel: 61 3 9620 0999
www.melbourneaquarium.com.au

A cool blue refuge in the heart of the city, Australia's only aquarium specializing in Southern Ocean creatures houses 10,000 marine and a few dozen land-based animals in a series of spiral-down displays. Start at ground level with the creepy venomous-critters exhibits, and work your way down to the vast oceanarium. En route, peruse surreal sea jelly displays, kid-friendly touch pools, and a massive coral atoll teeming with tropical fish, moray eels, and sea stars. The aquarium's showpiece, the 600,000-gallon oceanarium, has glass tunnels allowing close-up views of the underbellies of cruising sharks, sea turtles, and massive rays. (Arrive at twice-daily meal times and you'll see these awesome creatures in a feeding frenzy.) Intrepid souls can even arrange to dive in this vast tank (advance bookings are a must, and the cost is $180).

Melbourne Cricket Ground
Brunton Avenue
Melbourne
Australia 8002
Tel: 61 3 9657 8867
www.mcg.org.au

A temple in this sports-mad city, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is also the birthplace of Australia's homegrown football game, Aussie Rules. The high-flying, fast-paced game was originally developed to keep Melbournian sportsmen fit during the winter, but subsequently grew its own fan base. Hugely popular games are held at the grounds each weekend from March till late September. As many as 100,000 fans turn out, and their roar can be heard from blocks away. Guided tours of the grounds run on non-game days; call ahead for tour times. For tickets to games, be prepared to book weeks in advance and even earlier for finals games.

Melbourne Museum
11 Nicholson Street
Melbourne
Australia 3053
Tel: 61 3 8341 7777
www.melbourne.museum.vic.gov.au

This modernist monolith with the sail-like roof is the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere, so allow a few hours to do it justice. Six themed exhibition halls explore Australia's complex fauna, flora, culture, scientific legacy, and indigenous heritage—and give visitors a sense of Australian society. A highlight is the world's first "living forest gallery," where nearly 8,000 live trees are home to a variety of species including snakes, birds, fish, and frogs. Another must-see is the sensitively curated Aboriginal gallery, Bunjilaka, with its fascinating archival footage, artifacts, and oral histories.

National Gallery of Victoria: The Ian Potter Centre and NGV International
Federation Square
Swanston Street (at Flinders Street)
Melbourne
Australia 3000
Tel: 61 3 8620 2222
www.ngv.vic.gov.au

Federation Square's Ian Potter Centre houses the nation's largest repository of Australian art, with some 25,000 works. The three floors of gallery space include an exhibit hall with a nearly comprehensive overview of indigenous artwork, including some spectacular Tiwi Islander works. Upstairs, there's a collection of Australian Impressionist, colonial, and 20th-century art. A second museum, NGV International, is located across the river at the gallery's original home in St. Kilda Road, Southbank. Here, the eclectic exhibits include Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and pre-Columbian antiquities, as well as paintings, photographs, and prints by latter-day masters like Albrecht Dürer and William Blake. Don't miss Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles, one of the NGV's more controversial buys, now worth a small fortune. The gallery's tranquil sculpture garden has works by Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin (180 St. Kilda Rd.; closed Tue.).

The National Gallery of Victoria is closed on Mondays. NGV International is closed on Tuesdays.

Phillip Island

About a third of a mile offshore from Melbourne, the 40-square-mile Phillip Island is best known for its resident colony of adorable fairy penguins (about 90 minutes by car or bus, with an additional half hour needed to reach the penguins). Every evening, hordes of camera-toting tourists converge to watch thousands of the fat feathered creatures waddle from sea to burrow; the parade can be witnessed from viewing platforms or from a secluded sand strip with infrared goggles and a naturalist guide. Contact Phillip Island Nature Park for more information (Cowes; 61-3-5951-2800; www.penguins.org.au). Phillip Island also has large colonies of koalas, Australian fur seals, and shearwaters; spectacular coastal walks; and excellent fishing and surfing. Stay overnight at the Glen Isla House, a luxurious country home with an exceptional private dining room and wine cellar (230-232 Church St., Cowes; 61-3-5952-1882; www.glenisla.com); or hole up in an ultra-modern suite at The Hill of Content, which caters to couples (33 Rhyll-Newhaven Rd., Rhyll; 61-3-5965-0100; www.thehillofcontent.com.au).

Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary
Port Douglas Road
Port Douglas
Australia
Tel: 61 74 099 3235
www.rainforesthabitat.com.au

No luck spotting wildlife in the wild? Make up for it at the delightful Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary just outside Port Douglas, where you're guaranteed close, eco-friendly encounters and Attenborough-worthy photo ops with 180-plus species of native Australian birds, reptiles, and mammals. Wide boardwalks wind through a gigantic walk-through aviary (divided into rain forest, wetland, and woodland environments) and a compact grasslands wildlife park. You'll see bright-plumed parrots, wallabies, 'roos, lizards, crocs, and koalas. Arrive early for the popular Breakfast With the Birds and Lunch With the Lorikeets sessions.

The Rocks
George Street
Sydney
Australia
www.therocks.com

Just a few streets west from Circular Quay is a neighborhood that seems frozen in time, with a 19th-century pub on nearly every corner. The oldest preserved convict precinct in Australia, The Rocks gained its name from the natural sandstone rock ledges lining Sydney Harbour. A rough area in the late 18th and 19th centuries, today the foreshore is home to a cluster of upscale boutiques, restaurants, and hotels housed in restored wharves and warehouses. Be sure to have a drink in the Lord Nelson or the Hero of Waterloo.

Royal Botanic Gardens
Birdwood Avenue
South Yarra
Melbourne
3141
Tel: 61 3 9252 2300
www.rbg.vic.gov.au

Established in 1846, the Royal Botanic Gardens encompasses 87 acres of meandering paths, sweeping lawns, and lily-littered ornamental lakes. Plants are displayed in major groupings and include a shady rain-forest walk, rose and cactus gardens, fern gullies, a tropical glasshouse, and a delightful children's garden that's also fun for adults (who isn't wowed by gigantic vegetables?). Guided garden tours, including an Aboriginal Heritage Walk, leave from the visitor center near Observatory Gate, which also serves café-style meals, if you haven't packed a picnic.

Royal Botanic Gardens
Mrs. Macquaries Road
Sydney
Australia
Tel: 61 2 9231 8111
www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/welcome_to_bgt/royal_botanic_gardens

This undulating series of gardens wrapped around the southeastern edge of Sydney Harbour was the site of the city's first farm. Today it's an oasis where massive Moreton Bay figs tower over picnicking office workers and joggers, and where the junglelike Palm Grove shelters a colony of fruit bats. Exhibits include the mysterious Wollemi Pine, one of the rarest plants in the world, which was thought to be extinct until its discovery in the Blue Mountains in 1994. On show in the hothouse—otherwise known as the Tropical Centre—is a display that plots the life of an orchid, enticingly entitled "Sex and Death." There are several entrances along Macquarie Street, Mrs. Macquaries Road, and near the Opera House.

Open November to February 7 am to 8 pm, March and October 7 am to 6:30 pm, April and September 7 am to 6 pm, May and August 7 am to 5:30 pm, June and July 7 am to 5 pm.

Sailing in the Great Barrier Reef

Cruising the Coral Sea, dropping anchor at deserted beaches, and hopping overboard to snorkel and swim: Could there be a more idyllic way to enjoy the reef? Although the sailing weather is best between June and December if you're north of Cairns, it's fabulous year-round further south—especially around the Whitsunday Islands.

A multiday trip on board a crewed luxury yacht is, obviously, the best way to sail here—and there are tons of posh vessels that make three- to seven-day cruises from Cairns and other mainland ports. One of the most opulent choices is the 60-foot Juston motor sailer appropriately named Bliss, based in Airlie Beach. The boat has three queen-size suites and can accommodate up to eight people; you'll need to book the whole boat ( www.bliss.com.au).

Day-sailing trips are a great option for those on tighter budgets. Cairns-based Ocean Spirit takes groups of between 80 and 100 passengers to the beautiful sand islands of Upolo Cay and Michaelmas Cay on luxury catamarans; the boats have attentive crew members, restaurant-quality food, comfortable decks for sunning, and well-maintained snorkeling gear for passengers who want to get wet (61-74-031-2920; www.oceanspirit.com.au).

A comprehensive list of sailing trips and craft—including retired World Cup maxi sailboats and historic square-riggers—can be found at www.whitsundaysailing.com.au.

Sydney Aquarium
Darling Harbour
Sydney
Australia
Tel: 61 2 8251 7800
www.sydneyaquarium.com.au

Giant stingrays, sharks, huge turtles, and thousands of fish swim right over your head as you walk through this aquarium's feature attraction, an underwater glass tunnel. You could easily spend a whole day here checking out the building's resident fur seals, penguins, saltwater crocodiles, and sharks. If your trip to Oz isn't going to allow you a trip to the actual Great Barrier Reef, there's a wonderful replica here with tons of Technicolor fish.

Open daily 9 am to 10 pm.

Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point
Sydney
Australia
Tel: 61 2 9250 7250
www.sydneyoperahouse.com

Are those soaring roof peaks more like giant shells or sails? You can decide for yourself when you take a behind-the-scenes tour and get up close to one of the most recognizable buildings on the planet. You'll learn about its controversial design (architect Jørn Utzon has famously never returned to see his creation after a falling-out with government officials) and the outrageous expenses that were run up during the years of its construction. A cutting-edge array of musical and dance performances are on view at the six indoor theaters. Most shows tend to sell out, so be sure to purchase tickets in advance (61-2-9250-7777). Or if you time it right, you might catch one of the occasional free rock or pop concerts at the outdoor performance venue set against the stunning backdrop of the harbor.

Tours daily, every 30 minutes between 9 am and 5 pm; backstage tour daily at 7 am.

Sydney Tower
100 Market Street
Centrepoint Podium Level
Sydney
Australia
Tel: 61 2 9333 9222
www.sydneytoweroztrek.com.au

It's been dominating the skyline for a quarter of a century, as both the highest point in the city and the highest observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere. And it only takes a 40-second elevator ride to bring you to the top for views that can stretch for more than 50 miles on a clear day. For those that really want to test their fear of heights, there's the SkyWalk, a newly built platform that lets you walk around the tower's golden turret 880 feet above the city. (Just don't say we didn't warn you—it's dizzying.)

Open Sundays to Fridays 9 am to 10:30 pm, Saturdays 9 am to 11:30 pm.

Taronga Zoo
Bradleys Head Road
Mosman
Sydney
Australia
Tel: 61 2 9969 2777
www.zoo.nsw.gov.au

Arriving by ferry and then being whisked by cable car high above the animals is the way to make an entrance to this sensational harborside zoo. You can check out the Wild Asia enclosure, where 200 Asian rain forest animals like tapirs, otters, and brightly colored birds make their home. You can also see why the giraffes have the best harbor views in town, or drop into the daily talks and animal shows. There's also a photo op with a koala—although on a busy summer's day you may have to wait a while for your chance to get up close and personal.

Open daily 9 am to 5 pm.

Telstra Stadium
Sydney Olympic Park
Edwin Flack Avenue
Sydney
Australia
Tel: 61 2 8765 2300
www.telstrastadium.com.au

A new interactive tour of the biggest stadium in Olympic history lets you relive highlights from 2000—from the Down Under perspective (cheer Cathy Freeman in the 400m!). If the Games aren't your thing, though, you'd do better to visit the stadium when there's a music concert (big-name bands such as U2 play here regularly). Or, if you want to observe Aussies at their most sport-crazed, go when there's a rugby match on.

Tours daily at 11 am, 12:30 pm, 2 pm, and 3:30 pm.

Twilight Bird-Watching Safari
Mareeba Tropical Savanna and Wetland Reserve
Pickford Road
Biboohra
Australia
Tel: 61 74 093 2514
www.mareebawetlands.com

An hour's drive southwest of Port Douglas but an ecological world away, Mareeba's wetlands give refuge to hundreds of bird species, including ospreys, sea eagles, black swans, red-tailed black cockatoos, pink-eared ducks, rare Gouldian finches, and Australia's only stork, the Jabiru. The terrific two-and-a-half-hour guided Twilight Safari combines a tranquil bird-watching cruise on a lagoon, a leisurely drive through termite-mound-dotted savanna, and a stop for "billy" tea (boiled in a tin pot over a fire). Back at the visitors' center afterward, you can chat with other wildlife enthusiasts over fine Australian wine, cheese, and (bird)song as the sun sets over Clancy's Lagoon. Call ahead to get detailed driving directions from the reserve staffers.

Closed January to March.

Walks
Sydney
Australia

Sydney is one of the world's great walking cities: Its famous coastal tracks are the perfect way to catch the waterfront sights. If you're not a power walker, you can try the mile-long (one-way) Hermitage Foreshore Walk; it starts at Nielsen Park in the harbor suburb of Vaucluse and includes a rock platform with superb views of Sydney Harbour and nearby Shark Island. Slightly longer (about two miles each way), the Bondi to Bronte Coast Walk hugs the foreshore, winding south from Bondi Beach past rocky outcroppings, intricately eroded sandstone, Aboriginal art, and native plants. This is the city's most popular walk, particularly in October and November, when it plays host to Sculpture by the Sea, an exhibition of 3-D art by both national and international artists; the work ranges from the out-there to the sublime (www.sculpturebythesea.com).

A newish route is the Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach Walk, which winds through native bushland and past historic military sites and affords dazzling harbor views. If you're up for a more strenuous trek, the 6.2-mile Manly Scenic Walkway takes between two and four hours one-way. You'll see the lovely Reef Beach and Forty Baskets Beach, the striking Grotto Point Lighthouse, a red gum grove, and bays where hundreds of yachts are moored.

For more information on these walks and others around Sydney, check out the National Parks and the Waverly Council Web sites.

Wildlife-Spotting in the Great Barrier Reef

It's hard to wrench yourself away from the water, but once you do, you'll discover that many Barrier Reef islands have great walking trails. Large portions of the islands are designated national parks, with surprisingly varied scenery: Some are shrouded in rain forest; others are rocky and mountainous. The abundant wildlife on islands like Hinchinbrook and Long Island includes colorful lorikeets, kingfishers, possums, lizards, snakes, 'roos, and wallabies.

In the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, scenic walks abound, but wildlife, though abundant, can be elusive. Touring with a guide will help you spot well-camouflaged natives such as the endangered southern cassowary (a large flightless bird with blue-black plumage), nonvenomous tree snakes, amethystine pythons, goannas (large monitor lizards), bandicoots, the elusive Bennett's tree kangaroo, and estuarine crocodiles (known in these parts as "salties"). Both Daintree Eco Lodge and Coconut Beach Resort run wonderful rain forest tours for their guests.

Outside of the resorts, there are lots of independent tour operators to take you creature-peeping. Down Under Tours, based in Cairns, is a cut above; by appointment, their expert guides bring small groups on four-by-four treks into the rain forest, as well as to other prime wildlife-viewing spots around the coast (61-74-035-5566; www.downundertours.com).

Wine Country

Melbourne's verdant Yarra Valley (about 30 miles east of the city center) has some of Australia's most acclaimed cool-climate wineries. The region has 55 cellar doors, including the third-generation family winery De Bortoli, with its private Trophy Tasting Room; the historic Yering Station; the boutique winery Coldstream Hills, with its reserve pinot noirs and chardonnays; and the magnificent Domaine Chandon, where you can taste award-winning sparkling wines matched with modern Australian food. Epicurean Food & Wine Tours runs excellent, unhurried small-group excursions through the area (61-3-9598-0943; www.epicureantours.com.au).

About an hour's drive southwest of the city is Melbourne's second wine-producing region, the Mornington Peninsula (www.morningtonpeninsula.com.au). Here, 50 wineries offer world-class pinot noirs and chardonnays, as well as fine pinot gris, pinot grigio, reisling, sauvignon blanc, semillon, shiraz, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon. Enjoy an epicurean picnic in the sculpture garden of Montalto's, a Tuscan-style winery with extensive vineyards and olive groves. Also consider taking wine-appreciation sessions at Red Hill Estate or bottling your own sparkling wine at Foxey's Hangout. Other Peninsula hot spots include the acclaimed boutique winery Prancing Horse Estate, the award-winning Paringa Estate, the charming Tuck's Ridge, and Red Hill's microbrewery. Both Melbourne Private Tours (61-4-1957-1800; www.melbprivatetours.com.au) and Epicurean Food & Wine Tours (see above) give relaxed, reputable tours through the area.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.