This February I had the chance to escape the Virginia winter and experience Australia for the first time. There were a lot of incredible things to do and places to see, but I also tried to steer the trip towards theme parks when I could.
First stop was Sydney, home of the world's only wooden wild mouse! Unfortunately, it was closed , but at least it was getting refurbished.
One of the most notable things about downtown Sydney for me, was how close together everything was. From the hotel, we could walk to the Opera House, the docks, and hundreds of restaurants. We could also take a slightly longer walk across the bridge and go to Luna Park. The city was vibrant - it just felt bright and colorful, with new activities around every corner. Very clean, too. Beats every city I've visited in the US.
Sydney Harbour Bridge: I loved the bridge. Went across it a few times, including once for a morning run. It provides great views of Sydney, the Opera House, Luna Park, and the downtown buildings. You can also climb it for a price. The Bridge Climb was exciting and efficient. The climb tour guides were all a lot of fun. They were knowledgable and seemed to truly enjoy their jobs.
Luna Park: The location on the water is pretty great, and the Wild Mouse looked fun. Unfortunately we didn't get to ride it. The rest of the park has a drop tower and pretty standard carnival attractions. It's also right next to an Olympic-sized swimming pool if you're interested in that sort of thing.
Opera House: Being the uncultured American that I am, I had never been to an Opera before. I saw The Nose, which is really weird, but also very funny depending on your sense of humor. During this performance, I discovered that I don't like Opera. Even though everything was in English, I still needed the subtitles to understand what they were singing. The lack of discernible tunes also started bothering me after a while. I'm very glad I got to see an Opera at the Sydney Opera House, but I would be reluctant to see another one.
Restaurants: The food was great! There's a different place every 10 feet as you walk around the harbour by the Opera House. Breakfast was my favorite. I found that every breakfast I ate in Australia was huge. Greatest bacon I've ever had. Also, Australians seem to really love mushrooms. They are offered as a side for almost every meal. I started to assuming this was one of the reasons people were so healthy . . . I did not see a single overweight non-tourist on my whole trip!
Tall Ship Harbour Cruise: The cruise was an add-on to the Scenic World trip package we purchased, and I'm very glad we went. The captain was great, and very patiently interacted with all the kids around him while he navigated. The other tour guides were also friendly, pointing out all the landmarks and such. Happy tour guides seemed to be the theme of this trip, as everyone seemed to be enjoying their job.
Chinese New Year: It was Chinese New Year when we were there, so the city was all decked out in celebration. It was pretty neat, and made me want to see what awesome things Sydney did for each of the holidays.
A great view after spending 24 hours flying
The entire harbour area was beautiful and handled crowds pretty well
Walking Across the Sydney Harbour Bridge
View of the bridge and the Opera House from Luna Park
There were tons of farmers markets and shops on a lot of the streets
The Ferris Wheel provides some great views
Luna Park had a nice, clean midway
Saddest picture of the trip
It looked so pretty
The tall boat tour was one of the pleasant surprises of our Sydney trip
Opera House from the tall ship
Opera House from shore
Opera House from the bridge
The tall boat captain was pretty cool, as you can see in this picture
We made it out to Scenic World in the Blue Mountains (home to the tragically SBNO Orphan Rocker). And even without the coaster, Scenic World is one of my favorite parks I've ever been to. The staff is really nice (like Dollywood/Silver Dollar City nice) and super energetic. The park is in a rainforest, so everything about it is absolutely beautiful and breathtaking.
The crazy thing is, there was a massive amount of fog when we went, so I can't even imagine how much more beautiful everything would look without it. If I went back, I would definitely plan on spending more than half a day there.
The park has three "rides." One of them is a Skyway, which takes you across a valley hundreds of feet in the air. Second, there is a railway, which is the coolest railway I've been on. This is not Magic Mountain Orient Express. This thing is STEEP. The elderly folks in our car did not like it at all. It goes in a pitch black tunnel for a while, and then opens up to beautiful views of the rainforest.
Once you are down in the valley, you could go hiking for days. But, given that we were short on time, we took the shorter, 30 minute trail to the Cableway. The Cableway is very similar to the Skyway, but it takes you from the bottom of the valley back up to the top, which is where all the food/gift shops are. The cool thing about the Cableway is that it gives you some good views of the cliffs, and more importantly, Orphan Rocker.
Seeing Orphan Rocker's track in person made me so sad it is not operating. It uses the terrain so well, and is in such a unique area that it would probably be in my top 10 based on that alone. I have a new dream that Mack will come in and rebuild it the right way, because it truly would be an experience like no other.
On the way up the mountains
It's starting to look a little foggy . . .
We stopped at a small town to eat breakfast
Everything looked nice and picturesque
Another great breakfast! Australia also seemed to love buttered banana bread.
The fog kept on rolling in
We got dropped off at the entrance to the skyway
In line for the Skyway
Leaving into the fog
The gondolas had a glass floor and everything! Too bad it made no difference in the fog.
This was the view for most of the ride. Kind of scary just knowing your hundreds of feet up
In line for the railway
Historical railway photos
The employees were awesome! Relaxed, energetic, and REALLY nice.
They were making balloon animals for all the kids waiting in line.
Great look at Australia so far! It's a place that's definitely on my list for a coaster trip.
I can't recall my previous thoughts on whether I wanted to go to Scenic World, but you've convinced me that it's 100% worth visiting despite the lack of an operating coaster (and worse, the sad teasing presence of Orphan Rocker).