Australia & New Zealand
These are a few of our favorite things: sailing Whitsunday Islands, hiking the Milford track, and listening to opera!
Some of Australia's main attractions include the Great Barrier Reef, Aboriginal culture and art, Uluru, kangaroos, Tasmania, koalas, the Queensland rain forest, Sydney, beaches, white-water rafting, diving and the Outback. Almost everyone will love Australia. The only people who should avoid it are those who are made uncomfortable by unrelenting informality.
Australia's vineyards produce wine that rivals the best produced in France, but you won't find any champagne there. Because of an agreement with the European Community, Australian-produced bubbly is known as sparkling wine. Australians are passionate about their football, known as "footy," which comes in three varieties (which bear little resemblance to U.S. football): Rugby League, Rugby Union and Australian Rules. The last is considered "real" Australian football, and the games get pretty wild. The Australian native macadamia nut is so hard to crack that it was not grown commercially until a machine was invented to open the shell. Identified by Europeans in 1857, it was named after John Macadam, then secretary of the Philosophical Society of Victoria.
The oldest rock art in the world was found in the remote tropics of northwestern Australia. Stone engravings said to be more than 60,000 years old—at least twice as old as ancient cave paintings in Europe—were discovered on a sandstone monolith in the Northern Territory, near the town of Kununurra. Camels in the beach town of Broome are required to wear taillights. Local camel-ride operators have outfitted the rears of their animals with battery-operated bicycle lights to alert motorists. Kangaroos may be the national symbol, but they're also a source of protein. Kangaroo meat is a A$42 million-a-year industry in Australia, and hunters are licensed to kill more than 5 million kangaroos annually.
Australians are prolific nicknamers. Aussies (pronounced ozzies) call mosquitoes mozzies, surfers surfies, swimming costumes cossies and barbecues barbies. Even the toughest leather-clad, two-wheeled road hog will refer to himself as a bikie. Park officials at Uluru (Ayers Rock) support and encourage the Aboriginal belief that stone fragments taken from the site are cursed. Officials hope that this will help stop visitors from pilfering rock fragments to take home as souvenirs. So far, nearly 900 lbs/400 kg of the "conscience rocks" have been returned to park officials, many accompanied by notes describing the bad luck they caused.
New Zealanders sometimes refer to their country as "God Zone," a rather prideful twist on the phrase "God's Own." But if you like gorgeous scenery and gutsy people, you'll agree with them. New Zealand is blessed with some of the most varied and dramatic terrain in the world—from glaciers, fjords and beaches to mountains, meadows and rain forests, known to New Zealanders as "native bush." If you're so inclined, you can admire the breathtaking scenery while skiing, surfing, horseback riding, mountain climbing, hiking (which the locals call "tramping") or kayaking.
And if those pursuits aren't exciting enough, you can try some of the adventures the Kiwis (as New Zealanders are called) have invented: You can bungee jump off cliffs or bridges; paddle through white-water rapids; rocket through narrow caverns on jet boats; or strap yourself inside a giant plastic ball and roll down a hillside. If you prefer more leisurely activities, you can still enjoy New Zealand's natural wonders by strolling on its pristine beaches, sailing along its picturesque coastline or fishing in its crystal clear rivers and lakes.
Everyone should visit New Zealand at least once. The country's foremost attractions include great natural beauty, mountains and glaciers, rain forests, beaches, bright blue skies, fjords, fishing, sailing, surfing, scuba diving, skiing, golf, hiking, thermal baths, wildlife and sheep, friendly people, Maori culture, vineyards and fresh seafood.