Australia, the greatest island

Zerrin Sakarya @The New Anatolian
– 25.8.2006

For anyone from the northern hemisphere, jumping on a plane in summer and descending to a sunny winter morning in Australia is a startling experience. As my plane landed at the Melbourne’s international airport, the lyrics of an old song came to my mind:
“Far away, far away though your land may be …”
“Terra Australis” was the last continent discovered by European explorers. Australia has been a federation since Jan. 1, 1901, having six states (New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia) and two territories (the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory).
The country has an area of over 7.68 million square kilometers and a population of around 20 million. The Aboriginal people, the original inhabitants of the continent, arrived more than 40,000 years ago.


Melbourne is the capital city of the state of Victoria, which has almost 2,000 km of coastline. The city, with its wide avenues and well-regulated traffic, has the air of a busy city. Melbourne has twice shared top position in a survey of the world’s most livable cities, once in 2002 and again in 2004 on the basis of its cultural attributes, climate, cost of living and social conditions (such as crime rates, health care, etc.). This fact is noted on car license plates which declare: “Victoria, a place to be.”
Melbourne is also renowned for its beautiful, immense and attractive parks and gardens. Each park offers an idyllic scene.

One of these hidden paradises of the city is Fitzroy Gardens. Although it is situated in the middle of the city, while roaming in the park, one can feel that you are on the outskirts of the city. Thanks to the huge, old trees with towering trunks, the skyscrapers of the city are invisible. The only thing you feel is calmness. It is a place of visual delights. You can watch the birds as they sing, fly, feed and call each other. After having a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows at the Fitzroy Pavilion with the view of the Model Tudor Village and the Fairies’ Tree (a tree with fantasy figures for children), you can visit Captain Cook’s cottage.
Capt. James Cook, who was a skilled navigator, had his first view of Australia when he sighted Point Hicks on the Victorian coast. When his cottage in the English Village of Great Ayton went on sale in 1933, a businessman in Melbourne purchased it as a gift to the Victorian people for 800 pounds. The cottage was packed into 253 cases and 40 barrels and transported to Australia by ship. Reconstructed in Melbourne beneath English elm trees, the cottage was furnished with both original and reproduction items. It was open to the public in October 1934. The garden behind the cottage is planted with some of the herbs and vegetables found in the north of England in the 1770s.

The Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges

If you’re looking for somewhere to pass the weekend, the Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges are good ideas. The valley hosts rhododendrons, azaleas and daffodils. Fern trees flourish beneath the huge trunks of eucalyptus. Native birds sing all day long. Panoramic views of the Yarra Valley can be viewed from the cafe-restaurants.

The Shrine of Remembrance

Built between 1928 and 1934 as a memorial to the Victorians killed in wars throughout Australian history, the shrine is one of Melbourne’s most sacred and important places. It is situated in the Kings Domain Gardens. It is the venue for not only the annual Anzac Day (April 25) and Remembrance Day (Nov. 11) ceremonies but also for many other events throughout the year. The most interesting parts of the shrine are the Crypt and the Sanctuary. In the Crypt the regimental banners are on display and in the middle it contains the Father and Son statue, representing the two generations who served in the two world wars. The Stone of Remembrance in the center of the Sanctuary is a symbolic gravestone. Each year on Nov. 11 at exactly 11 a.m., a natural ray of daylight shines from an aperture in the roof and illuminates the words written on the gravestone.

The Gallipoli Memorial is comprised of a statue of the Man and with the Donkey and the Lone Pine. The statue portrays Pvt. Simpson and his donkey, who carried the wounded during the war. The Lone Pine was grown from a pinecone seed returned to Australia from the original tree at Gallipoli.
In the garden of the shrine you can see the Eternal Flame, which was lit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1954. The flame symbolizes eternal life for those who have served and is always burning.
When you look from the balcony, you see a very beautiful view of the city and the landmarks of Melbourne.

Phillip Island and the parade of the penguins

Phillip Island is 140 km from Melbourne. Its penguin reserve is the only place in the world where visitors are guaranteed to see large numbers of little penguins. The penguins at Phillip Island are the smallest in the world; they are only 33 cm tall. The nightly parade of penguins starts after sunset. The spectators take a place on the terrace to watch the parade. It is a spectacular performance.

When the sun went down a few penguins came out of the ocean. They looked timid and awkward. They waited a few seconds on the shore and then went back into the ocean. Our guide said that the first group was scouting the shore. After a few minutes, three penguins came out, marched along the sand, chose a place for themselves and started waiting. They were the guards. Five minutes later, a group of penguins (about 30) came out of the ocean. All walked to the same destination, to their burrows. The groups came out of the ocean one after another. The parade continued for almost an hour. Our guide warned us to check the bottom of our cars. Sometimes the penguins that lose their way are found in the parking lots.

The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s finest scenic drives. It attracts tourists with its stunning scenery. It is 300 km long ,and the winding road offers a panoramic view at every return. Sea rock formations like The 12 Apostles are fascinating.


Cairns: When someone says “Cairns” you can immediately imagine a number of pleasant, enjoyable images. Cairns is situated in the tropical north of Australia and on the edge of the Coral Sea. It is a modern, elegant city with its shops and world-famous restaurants.
If you want to spend a lazy day, the Esplanade Lagoon is the right place with its shady spots and barbecue facilities. You can get food and refreshments from nearby kiosks.
From Cairns it is possible to go to the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef and rainforests.

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is parallel to the Queensland seaboard. It is more than 2,000 km long. The reef system is made up of 6,600 species of flora and fauna including 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 species of mollusks and 400 types of coral. The reef begins at the south of the Tropic of Capricorn around Gladstone and ends in Torres Strait below Papua New Guinea.

To visit a tropical island with a choice of half- or full-day cruises was a good idea for us. Our choice was Green Island. We took our bathers, hats and snorkeling equipment. It took only 45 minutes to the island by catamaran. When we arrived at the island’s wharf, a glass-bottomed boat was ready to take us to explore the underwater beauties of the reef. We pampered ourselves in the crystal clear water and underwater playground. The island has fine restaurants, nice shops and serene beaches warmed by the tropical sun.
There are also scenic helicopter and seaplane flights over the reef.

Waterfalls and rainforest walks

From Cairns, it is possible to go on waterfall tours. The Milla Milla, Malanda, Ellie and Zillie Falls have been attracting tourists for over a century.
As a romantic getaway or a family holiday, Yungaburra offers an idyllic spot for holiday makers. Its highest profile landmark is its ancient curtain fig tree. This tree is a popular natural attraction and may be the most visited tree in the world.

Daintree: Continuing north from Port Douglas on the Captain Cook Highway, you eventually come to Daintree Village with a spectacular riverside rainforest. Daintree is one of the most famous rainforests. It is not only well-protected, but also beautiful. We took the first and the only river train in the world, the Daintree River Train. Along the journey we saw three saltwater crocodiles, many white-tailed kingfishers, a baby python, large egrets, tree snakes and lots of tropical butterflies. Our guide told us that this river was home to almost 300 crocodiles.

Mossman Gorge: The picturesque Mossman Gorge is a must to see for holiday makers. When we entered the rainforest, the first thing we saw was a forest dragon on a tree. When we were taking photographs of it, it was calm and silent. It seemed to pose for our cameras. While walking in the gorge we realized that despite changes in the rest of the world these rainforests remained relatively stable and undisturbed.

Kuranda: You can go to Kuranda by steam train and return by the Skyrail (or vice versa) from Cairns. We rent a car and tried to explore the secret beauties of the forest by car and by walking.

Tourism came to this area in the early 1900s. Kuranda is surrounded by World Heritage listed wet tropical rainforest. It includes about 1,200 species of flowering plants. These include orchids, strangler figs, palms and a variety of climbing plants. While walking on the boardwalk trail, we enjoyed the beauties of the rainforest. After a short walk, we reached Barron Falls. The view of the falls was breathtaking.

The Cairns Tropical Zoo: The Cairns Tropical Zoo is home to alligators, freshwater crocodiles, dangerous snakes, koalas, kangaroos, wombats, red pandas and many kinds of parrots, owls, eagles and other birds.
During our visit we enjoyed special moments with koalas and kangaroos. With the help of a professional wildlife keeper, we cuddled a koala and had our photographs were taken.
While we were walking through the kangaroo enclosure we saw plenty of them wandering around. My daughter with the help of some leaves called one of them over. The kangaroo ate all of the leaves. Then she found other leaves and it ate them all too. It looked so friendly and walked with us for some time. We named it Kadife (velvet). Kadife was really very polite and friendly with us. We took many photos together with it.


We arrived in Sydney on a rainy night. It is a cosmopolitan city and known for its Opera House, the Harbor Bridge and ocean beaches. It is a city of captivating natural beauty. Bondi and Manly are the best known surf beaches. Although there are sharks and dangerous currents, lifesavers at the beaches are always on duty.

The Opera House is an icon of the city. Sydney’s most famous landmark had a long and troubled construction phase. In 1954 the Bennelong Point site was chosen and a competition to find a suitable plan was launched. A total of 233 submissions arrived and the one chosen was by Joern Utzon. The building was projected to cost $7 million and take four years to erect but finally cost $102 million and took some 15 years. Some people think that the Opera House looks like a sailing boat, some think that it is like orange slices and some think it looks like popcorn, while some others think that it looks like sharks’ fins. In my opinion, when I look from the Harbor Bridge, it looks like orange slices, but from the sea it looks like the eyes of a gigantic shark.

The Sydney Aquarium: The Sydney Aquarium is situated at Darling Harbor and home to saltwater crocodiles, giant sea turtles, delicate reef fish, corals and sharks. With two transparent tunnels you can watch the most dangerous sharks, eels and stingrays glide overhead.

The Blue Mountains: Only 100 km from Sydney, the Blue Mountains are in the midst of the most spectacular wilderness areas of Australia. They reach around 1,190 meters. When a railway line from Sydney was completed at the end of the 19th century, the mountains suddenly became fashionable. Many families from Sydney have weekend retreats to enjoy the beauty of the mountains. At the lookout at Katoomba you can have a breathtaking view of the beautiful Blue Mountains and a rock formation called the Three Sisters.

Australia is a faraway country and its geological history is as old as the earth itself. Its human history stretches back more than 40,000 years. It’s a country for all tastes; it offers busy cities, picturesque valleys, mountains, surf beaches, war memorials and rich cultural life. You have a variety of choices to enjoy and entertain yourself in Australia.



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