Australia beyond Sydney - Page 2

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Outback Farm Stay
Most of the country's myths and folklore originate in or describe the outback; the cattle drover is Australia's version of the cowboy. That's why a few days at a cattle or sheep station will give you insight not only into an often very isolated rural lifestyle, but into the country's culture as well. Depending on the time of year, you may get to see (and perhaps try your hand at) sheep-shearing, mustering, or simple daily chores that will nevertheless be novel to most city slickers. You can also ride horses, tour the properties, or just relax and observe another way of life.

Aboriginal Culture Center and Tour, Queensland
The Aborigines were here long before the English; these indigenous people have inhabited this continent for more than 40,000 years. It's one of the world's oldest surviving cultures. There are the original spots to experience the culture: the sacred spot, Uluru (renamed Ayers Rock by those same English) is a prime example. Most Aborigines have adopted Western ways, but their traditions and values are still remembered and passed on, even if the customs aren't actively practiced. To get immersed in the culture in one fell swoop, visit the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Centre outside of Cairns, a museum highlighted by theatrical performances. Or take an Aboriginal-led day tour of Cape Tribulation for a view of the natural environment through traditional eyes.
Coober Pedy, South Australia
The fact that a third of this remote outback town's 4,000 residents live underground only touches on Coober Pedy's eccentricities. Most of its long-term residents came here with one intention: to find a mother lode of opals and leave. But the town eventually grew on them, and now people from about forty nationalities call Coober Pedy home. The town's frontier feel is accentuated by the heat, dust, and unusual sights—such as the dugout homes and the mining supplies that litter many front yards. All in all, it's a good place to experience an unusual lifestyle and perhaps even buy an opal.

The Outer Islands, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
Despite its name, the Great Barrier Reef isn't one continuous reef, but a maze of more than 2,500 smaller reefs that together stretch for 1,250 miles, roughly paralleling the coast of Queensland. For the ultimate reef experience, you can't do better than to spend a few days at an island that actually lies on the GBR (most Queensland resort islands are continental islands; although they may boast a fringing reef, they are a boat ride away from the vast network of reefs that define the area). Heron Island, a private resort at the southernmost tip, is known for its tropical flora, fauna, and great diving, which includes benign shark encounters. Go north to find Lizard, a choice spot marked by its exclusivity and proximity to some of the reef's best dive sites.

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