Travelling to any country for the first time is a journey of discovery, and that is especially true when the country in question is as diverse as Australia.
Of course, visiting iconic sights like the Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef or Uluru is part of the reason for any trip Down Under. But Australia offers many ways to relax and have fun that won't find their way onto a typical tourist itinerary.
With that in mind, we asked Flight Centre Travel Expert and resident Aussie Vicky Savage for her insider tips on doing Australia like a local.
The first thing to remember is that like the Australian terrain, the Australian weather can change completely between one state and the next.
"The weather very much depends on where you are," says Vicky. "South Australia has quite a Mediterranean climate, for example, with more of a dry heat in summer. Up north in Darwin, the summer weather is much more humid, with torrential downpours in the afternoons. In Tropical North Queensland the winter is very pleasant and so UK summertime is a great time to go."
The crucial thing is to plan carefully, says Vicky. Australia is not uniformly hot, and it is famously said of Melbourne that it can go through four seasons in a day. With that in mind, research the weather in the areas you will be visiting and pack accordingly. Doing Australia like an Aussie means knowing that conditions in Sydney might be a complete contrast to those in Perth.
It's a cliché but it's true. Australians love their sport. If you really want to see Australia from a local's perspective, taking in a game at one of the country's cathedrals of sporting endeavour is a great way to do it.
Heading to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) for a test match is perhaps the most iconic Aussie sporting celebration, says Vicky. But if you're visiting in an Australian winter, it's worth knowing that the MCG is also the home of Australian Rules Football. Don't try and understand the game first time round – just enjoy the spectacle.
Alternatives include the stunning Adelaide Oval (cricket and soccer) and the ANZ Stadium in Sydney (rugby and, increasingly, soccer).
Eat like an Aussie
When it comes to fine dining, Australian cities like Sydney and Melbourne are among the best locations in the world. Many Australian towns and cities also have large Asian populations, meaning that great Chinese and South Asian cooking is never far away.
But if you really want to eat like an Aussie, there are other 'specialities' you should try. As Vicky points out, Aussies on average consume 12 meat pies a year. "If you attend a footy match a meat pie with tomato sauce is a staple item! If you are visiting Adelaide turn it into a pie floater. This involves a meat pie sitting in a bowl of thick pea soup, garnished with tomato sauce," she says.
There are also the BBQs of course – Vicky confirms that Australians like nothing more than eating outside – and a vibrant café culture. "Australia is a nation of sidewalk cafés. We have a strong coffee culture as well, so you are likely to spot Aussies having Eggs Benny (Benedict) and coffee, or smashed avo (avocado) and toast."
Oh, and if you fancy a beer, it's worth remembering that Australians don't usually talk in pints. Ponies, schooners and pots are more the thing. Maybe stick to large or small...
There are so many good beaches and unspoiled areas of countryside and outback that many Australians leave the most popular areas to tourists. Instead, they head for spots that, if not exactly secret, are at least less well-known.
"South Australia is like that now," says Vicky. "It's an emerging tourist destination but isn't anywhere near as well-known as the popular east coast destinations. And yet Australians love the Fleurieu Peninsula, for example. It's just 45 minutes south of Adelaide and offers some of the best food and wine, wildlife, sandy beaches, cliffs, surfing, swimming and fishing you'll find anywhere – there is so much to do."
There are lots of similar places in Australia, where you can get a real sense of what Australians like to do on their holidays. But whatever you do to get a real feel for Australian life, one thing is for sure. Doing Australia like an Australian is a lot of fun.
Flight Centre's Travel Experts have the in-depth knowledge and experience to put together your dream holiday. With access to in-destination specialists all around the globe, they can tap into the very best tours, activities and travel trends to create your perfect Journey itinerary. With 24-hour customer assistance, ABTA and ATOL protection and an exclusive concierge service called Travel Butler, a Flight Centre Journey is the perfect way to see Australia.
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