A lot of Australia in 18 days

As promised, I will give you a bit about my trip to Australia. It was amazing. Now, trying to say I have seen Australia in 18 days would be like saying the same thing of the U.S. It is just too big. But we certainly did see a lot.
The first 5 days were spent in Sydney. We used the On/Off Bus (and an On/Off Ferry) to visit most of the sites. These are a great way to travel as you have the transportation and just get off at various places for as long as you wish and then get back on and go to another.
The first thing we did was ride the entire circuit – two of them at 90 minutes each. That gives you a good overview and then you can go back to where you really are interested.
Our first real stop was a Bondi Beach, well-known on the surfing circuit, for a good look and lunch. We chose the outdoor restaurant, The Bucket List, because we were working on just that. How nice to sit in the warm sunny day at the beach and think of all of you in wind and rain.
From there we really got into a few days of deep Sydney. We did the ferry across Sydney Harbour, under the bridge and past the Opera House, to the zoo. We were hit with a very heavy tropical rain as we took the cable car to the top of the zoo but it was only for about 15 minutes and once again the sun was out. We did Manley Beach, another surfing mecca; the Botanical Garden; Darling Harbour; Circular Quay; rode the monorail; shopped at the Queen Victoria Building; relaxed at the Marble Bar; toured the Opera House; looked around Kings Cross and Oxford Streets; waited for the New Year’s parade in China Town; and walked many miles in this city which is so easy to get around in.
One day we took a train and rode for an hour to Hawkesbury River. It was nice to be able to get out of the city proper and see the residential area and then into more tropical forest to the river. Here we sat by the river and had some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever eaten. The shrimp wasn’t off the bar-bee but it was wonderful, along with the sweetest oysters.
Once on board Rhapsody, our ship from Royal Caribbean, we were off for 11 days of greater adventure. The first port of call was Newcastle (founded in 1797 as a penal colony). This is the second-largest city in New South Wales and is a commercial port for coal and steel. We did a walking tour for about three miles, which took in Fort Scratchley (built in 1882), historic buildings from the penal colony days and the famous ocean bath (saltwater pool made by the prisoners).
After a couple of days at sea in 80 degree weather, we arrived in Cairns, the “tropical north.” It became important in the gold rush, followed by the advent of the railroad and transportation of tin and lumber. Fishing and pearling came next, and then the world found the astonishing natural attractions of the Great Barrier Reef and the tropical rainforests. This area has over one-third of the planet’s colorful coral (1,500 species of fish, 4,000 types of mollusks, hundreds of bright colored coral, World Heritage Site and the oldest surviving rainforest on Earth). We took the Skyrail to Kuruanda, a village in the rainforest, and returned by rail. Another rainstorm sent us dripping back to the ship to change before attending a professional basketball game between the Tarpins and the Crocodiles.

The Sydney Opera House (background) was among the sights for Linda Finch and her traveling companions. (Courtesy photo)
The Sydney Opera House (background) was among the sights for Linda Finch and her traveling companions. (Courtesy photo)