By Emily Garlock
When your mother presents you with round trip tickets to Sydney, Australia, for under $400, never say no. Just a month before we left, my mother told me about this opportunity that I did absolutely everything to make happen. Before I knew it, school was out and I was on a 14 hour flight to Sydney. We arrived early in the morning, where we were greeted with sunshine and Australian accents I could listen to all day long. After arriving at our Air B&B and a much needed nap, we stopped in a recommended restaurant for a late lunch. I put my brave face on, and tried kangaroo! Even I was surprised with myself, and even more surprised in just how delicious it was. Don’t think about it, just do it. After being refueled, my mother and I ventured our way through the Botanical Garden in the heart of the city. I have never seen so many different species of birds in one place at one time. Oh, and the trees… Being from Alaska, where there aren’t any good climbing trees, I was a kid on a playground all over again. Some of those trees were truly magnificent. Once we made our way through the garden, we found ourselves at the steps of the Sydney Opera house. Everything that you may have heard, all of the pictures, they hold true to the beautiful architecture. I ran up the steps to the very top, and just that short distance made me feel unstoppable. I watched the sunset from start to finish, while my mother took picture after picture to capture the moment, though we both knew no picture could truly capture all of the vibrant colors. We continued our walk down the harbor, then headed back to our apartment. On our way back, we had to stop at the famous Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, a famous Aussie pie joint. If you ever go, it doesn’t disappoint! We arrived to the couch, put our feet up, and ate while enjoying some good old fashioned TV time. I couldn’t have pictured a better first day.
The following day was just as eventful. We started out by hopping on a city tour bus which we rode and saw the sights, and then hopped off at the fish market. I warn you now, Australia was full of things I have never seen, and so again I say I have never seen so many fish! It was completely insane! Not only was there fish after fish after fish, but there were multitudes of prepared dishes ready to buy al a cart. From the fish market, we made our way to a small aquarium down by the fish market, grabbed a bite to eat, and walked our way around Sydney. Night came and went, and we started the next day by going to Bondi Beach. Bondi Beach is a popular hub spot which in peak season is overflowing with people. The beach was beautiful with the white sand, bright blue waters, colorful houses, and various surfers trying to catch some waves. Following lunch, we jumped back on the bus back to the city. Our final stop of the day was at the Sydney Tower. It is the tallest building in Sydney, and definitely has the best view of the whole city. We were lucky enough to get spots for the sunset Skywalk, which is going outside on the top of the tower. They strap you in so you can’t blow away, which was much needed because of the 40 knot winds that happened to be upon us that night. It was freezing, but absolutely worth it. The sunset was beautiful, and then we got to watch the city light up during its light festival. This was one of my favorite things that we did our entire trip.
The following morning, my mother and I caught a flight to go a bit north of Sydney to a little island called Hamilton Island. It is in the heart of the Great Barrier reef and is hands down one of the most beautiful places on Earth. We stayed right by a beach, where I have never seen whiter sand or felt warmer water. It was absolutely incredible. We immediately rented a paddle board for me and a kayak for my mom and jumped in the crystal waters. However, we didn’t come to the heart of the Great Barrier reef to just stay on an island. So come morning we went out on a vessel to Hardy Reef, where we spend the night out on a pontoon and slept in a swag overlooking the stars. I believe this is one of the most incredible experiences in the world. Snorkeling the reef and seeing all the beautiful coral and colors and fish was amazing. I even saw a sea turtle, and let me say I’ve never seen one swim so fast. And the stars…. I have never seen so many stars, and all shining so bright. At night, the sea seems to come alive. It was such a weird feeling, being so far out surrounded by absolutely nothing but the sky, the sea, and the vastness of the life hidden in the depths of the water. Come morning, the fish were jumping out of the water almost constantly, and all at once too so the ripples appeared as though it was raining. Right after lunch, my mom surprised me again with a short helicopter ride over a nearby reef, called Heart reef. That was my first time in a helicopter, and I don’t think there is a more perfect first helicopter ride out there. The end of the day came too soon, then we arrived back to Hamilton Island to enjoy a beautiful last sunset in the beautiful northern shores.
It was time to leave Hamilton and go back to Sydney for our final couple days in Australia. As soon as we got back, we hopped on a ferry across the harbor to the Taronga zoo, a gigantic zoo focused on educating the public about the amazing wildlife. Australia is home to a variety of animals only found in that country, and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see so many of them. Not only did we get to adventure around the zoo, but we also participated in the roar and snore, an event that you stay overnight. Of course, the weather picked that night to absolutely downpour. Now, there’s Alaskan rain, and then there is Australian rain, the real kind of rain. When I say downpour, I mean absolute downpour. We didn’t let that damper our moods though as we walked around and explored the nightlife found at the zoo. It was one of those moments that can make you miserable or make the experience so much more tale worthy, and I chose for it to be the latter. Come morning, the sky cleared up to make for a balmy day, and the activities began bright and early. However, it was absolutely worth it to wake up at 6am to feed the giraffes! Not to mention, they have the best view of all of Sydney, overlooking the entire harbor and the opera house.
The zoo was our last adventure in Australia, and I was so sad to leave. The people are so incredibly nice, and we met some Aussies who hopefully will be friends for a long time. Or at least friends whom you can switch homes with for awhile! I joked with my mom that I was going to go to college there, but she didn’t let me get far with it. “Emily, that’s a 14 hour flight. That is way way way too far.” Yeah, she doesn’t even want me to go to the East Coast because it’s too far.
Australia will always have a place in my heart, and my time there was much too short. I will definitely go back. There’s just too many things I still have to see!