I've promised photos from my recent trip to Australia. Here are some of my favorites so far, along with some brief commentary about the places we visited. Click on any photo to zoom in.
Great Ocean Road
I flew into Melbourne by way of San Francisco. Melbourne—which sits on the southeastern coast of Australia, in the state of Victoria—reminded me of San Francisco in some ways. We got a rental car as soon as we landed and headed for Great Ocean Road, in some ways Australia's version of California's Route 1. Great Ocean Road hugs the southeastern coast of Australia through mountain passes, scenic cliffs, beach towns, and historic lighthouses.
I was only able to spend a day in Melbourne, but it was by far the favorite city we visited. Melbourne had a certain spirit and vitality that felt unmatched by any of the other cities we saw. Citygoers enjoying their mid-afternoon coffee brought life to narrow alleyways. Trams crisscrossed the central business district on tracks laid more than a century ago, and several streets in the urban core were entirely closed to cars in order to make way for trams, cyclists, and pedestrians. Culinary establishments opened their windows and doors to the streets, seemingly integrating private space into the public sphere.
Over and over, the sense I immediately got was that Australia—at least compared to the U.S.—better embraces a notion of the public. Infrastructure that might otherwise be sparse in American cities dotted Melbourne and all the cities we visited, from the little things like public seating and restrooms to the big investments like parks and transportation.
That optimism is a bit too shallow, though; after all, Australia is far from free from the grip of privatization. Driving into Melbourne from Great Ocean Road, we passed what some pretty major construction projects. Google quickly helped me figure out that Transurban, an infrastructure company that builds, operates, and manages toll roads largely in Australian cities, was behind those projects. Transurban collects tolls on the roads it builds, often for many decades or more, through contracts it signs with local governments. Want to guess where else Transurban builds and manages toll roads?
That's right: an Australian company built and profits from the toll lanes on I-95 and I-395 from Stafford, Va. to the Pentagon and on I-495 from National Harbor, Md. to Tyson's Corner, Va. (Coincidentally, while I was in Australia, Transurban actually dropped its bid to construct new toll lanes starting on I-495 and I-270 from Tysons through to Gaithersburg, Montgomery County.) I'll stop there, but I'm always happy to talk about privatization.
We had a free day and I wanted to get a taste of small-town Australia, so we decided to spend a night in Orange, New South Wales. (Sydney is the major city located in NSW; we'd visit Sydney later during our trip.)
I went on a sunrise hike at Mt. Canobolas State Reserve, and it might just have been my favorite moment of the trip. This was one of the rare moments where the views somehow feel more breathtaking in retrospect than they did in the moment. I'll let the photos speak for themselves, but the endless layers of hills and ridges that fade off into the horizon—as if they has been painted—made these views particularly unique.
Gold Coast, located in the southeastern tip of the northern state of Queensland, is best known for its many beaches. It's located just over an hour south of Brisbane, the major city that anchors the Southeastern Queensland region and the next stop of our trip. In addition to being a vacation town, Gold Coast is also where many Brisbanites come to spend their weekends.
The sunrises certainly didn't disappoint.
In the next two photos, the little dots in the water are all surfers—despite it being just 6:15 a.m.
Gold Coast is also just an hour away from Lamington National Park and Springbrook National Park, both known for their natural waterfalls. We didn't make it to Lamington and I didn't get any great photos of the waterfalls, but if you zoom into the first photo, you can actually see the buildings of Gold Coast in the far background.
The main attraction in Brisbane—and our first stop—was Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where visitors can feed kangaroos and hug koalas.
Brisbane is a pretty cool city in itself. In particular, Brisbane has really good bike infrastructure. In the photo below, the zigzag path that's raised over the river is actually a multi-use cycling trail. And there are several pedestrian- and cyclist-only bridges over Brisbane River. Surprisingly, however, we didn't see any municipally-backed bikeshare systems in Australia in the vein of DC's Capital Bikeshare or New York's Citi Bike systems.
We biked around Brisbane using Beam—a commercial e-bike service similar to Lime—and my bike breaking down midway really made me miss the convenience of Capital Bikeshare.
Sydney was the last stop of our trip. Located in the state of New South Wales, it's Australia's largest and perhaps most global city, comparable to the likes of New York, London, and Shanghai.
Just look at all the trains departing from the main Central station!
We tried to hit all the major destinations. We saw the Sydney Symphony Orchestra perform at the Sydney Opera House, walked around the Chinatown Night Market, and getting a taste of Sydney's Fish Market. I had lots of fun chasing different angles of the Sydney Opera House at sunrise and sunset—and perhaps got on my friends' nerves a bit with my early-morning alarms.