As an Aussie living in the United States, I am often confronted by the misconceptions about Australia and its people. I’ve certainly heard them all, from killer wildlife to the cherished pastime of comparing knives. And while they all sound incredibly entertaining (and Australians do love a good yarn), the truth is they make about as much sense as a talking clownfish.
So I want to set the record straight and prove that the land down under is a one-of-a-kind destination that’s well worth the journey. Here’s a roundup of some common misconceptions, that will make you realize you’re completely full of porky’s (lies) about Australia and have no choice but to book yourself a ticket to see our picturesque scenery and experience our welcoming and friendly nature.
“Everything Doesn’t Want to Kill You”
It’s true that we Australians are more accustomed to being around wildlife in our daily lives. Whether it’s possums lurking about at night, skinks (lizards) darting across the backyard or a Daddy Longlegs chilling in a bathroom corner. But pretty much everything you’ll encounter is harmless and even useful–the Daddy Longlegs will keep the mozzie (mosquito) situation under control.
But it’s also true that Australia is home to more deadly snakes than any other country, a snail that can fire a poison dart, and pythons that can swallow a saltwater crocodile whole. So it’s not surprising that, unfortunately, deadly encounters can occur. But the chances of you seeing a deadly animal in the wild, let alone being attacked by one, are pretty slim.
In fact, the large majority of Australians themselves only see such creatures in one of our many wildlife sanctuaries and zoos that protect and display the country’s unique and fascinating native fauna (including some of its deadliest).
At the Australian Reptile Park in Sydney you can witness everything from a Galapagos tortoise being fed to venomous snakes, watch the milking of funnel-web spiders for the production of antivenin, and hand feed friendly free-range kangaroos (okay, roos aren’t dangerous, but that is cool). The Sydney area is also home to the Taronga Zoo, which features up-close encounters with kangaroos, koalas, and other animals, as well as a nocturnal platypus habitat and a behind-the-scenes tour!
But no mention of Australia’s wildlife parks would be complete without mentioning Queensland’s Australia Zoo. It was owned and operated by the legendary Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) and is now run by his family, including kids Bindi and Robert. The Australia Zoo is an hour drive from Brisbane and is famous for its live croc feeding show (no surprise there)!
“It’s So Far Away, You Need to Visit for a Lengthy Stay”
Australia is on the other side of the world, granted, but for many Americans, the thought of a 14-hour flight is unfathomable. This somehow leads to the notion that you need at least a month, maybe even two, to really “do” Australia, and that spending just a couple weeks of annual vacation time isn’t worth it.
Trust me, mate: the flight really isn’t a struggle. The airlines make a point of offering great customer service, surprisingly delicious food, and quality entertainment systems for those long-haul flights, so you’ll be there in no time. On top of that, there is a whole host of helpful tips and tricks for avoiding jet lag and making those international dream vacations come true!
On top of that, there is a whole host of helpful tips and tricks for avoiding jet lag and making those international dream vacations come true!
“Everyone Drinks Fosters”
Despite what you heard, Fosters is not “Australian for beer.” In fact each year, a little more than 100 million pints of Foster’s lager is drunk in Australia! And, although the commercials were very clever, Foster’s lager, in this Australian drinkers opinion, is the “Outback Steakhouse” of beers.
When it comes to national-beloved brews, Foster’s lager pales in comparison to some of our bigger selling beers, like XXXX (“Four X”), which is popular in Queensland, and VB (Victoria Bitter), which is well-loved in New South Wales. These two beers are famous for representing their preferred state, and their rivalry is solidified through a fierce rugby league competition called the State of Origin.
Beer is a culinary staple in Australia, and you’ll find an abundance of historic pubs and clubs that are full of character, as well as a thriving craft beer scene where you can learn Australia’s beer history and sample some of the best the country has to offer.
Sydney Pub Tours
In the Sydney section known as “The Rocks,” which is where the First Fleet of British settlers arrived in 1788, you’ll find some the oldest pubs in the country along vintage streets that are teeming with history and culture. Sydney Pub Tours offer guided visits to these establishments, where you’ll learn their individual histories and how they’ve contributed to Sydney, as well as shed light on why beer has become such a significant part of Australian culture. It is also the only pub tour in Sydney, with exclusive, behind the scenes access inside the working brewery of Australia’s oldest brew pub! Tours start at $145 and run for approximately 4 hours (dinner and drinks are included).
Abbotsford Brewery, Melbourne
In Melbourne, the legendary Abbotsford Brewery boasts a bit of beer history. The well-known brewery has been at it for over 150 years and is home to some of Australia’s most beloved beers, from Carlton Draught to Crown Lager, and even the mighty “green demon” herself, Victoria Bitter. Over 2 million liters of beer is brewed there every day and more than 1,000 stubbies (small glass bottles) are bottled every minute! The brewery also offers behind the scenes tours where you can get an insight into the brewer’s craft and learn more about their brewing history and knowledge. And, when you’ve finished, you’ll be able to wet your whistle with a few cold tasters of brewery-fresh beers! Tours start at $22 and run three times a day, Monday to Friday.
“It’s Always Hot”
Weather is a popular talking point when discussing life in Australia. And, an alarming number of people are under the impression that the whole country is a baron, sunburnt desert where it never rains or gets cold. Well, guess what? IT GETS COLD. We wear coats, and scarves, and boots and can even whine about how chilly it is outside!
Chances are, if you’re visiting Australia between June to August, you’re probably going to be heading to Sydney, Melbourne or another capital city, and if that’s the case, you’re going to need a jacket. The only real thing affected by the colder climate will be your motivation to hop in the ocean, other than that, winter in Sydney or Melbourne is beautiful and crisp, with a whole heap of sunny days!
The Blue Mountains, Sydney
If it’s a cooler climate you’re after, consider a trip to Sydney’s Blue Mountains. A two-hour train ride from Sydney’s Central Station, the area gets it name from the colored haze, the result of the oil mist exuded by eucalyptus trees mixing with water vapor and sunlight, that forms a dense canopy across the landscape of deep valleys and outcrops. The region, which has eight connected conservation areas, is famous for its breathtaking scenery, excellent bushwalks (hikes), Aboriginal engravings, and a famous rock formation known as the Three Sisters. There’s also a popular B&B scene, which allows for stays longer than day trips.
“What About Sharks?”
Precisely. What about them? Did you know that realistically, you are more likely to be killed by a deer than by a shark? And yet sharks always seem to bear the reputation as man-eating villains, which for some, is a good enough reason to not bless our beautiful shores with their presence. Other than a handful of exceptions, sharks in Australia are to be respected and are certainly not scheming in the surf waiting to pounce and ruin your dream holiday. As long as you exercise some common sense, like swimming between the flags and watch out for currents (these are deadly), you have absolutely nothing to fear from enjoying a dip in our ocean.
But if you’re in awe of the great white shark, then why not come and experience them first-hand? With a trip to Port Lincoln, South Australia (a 3-hour flight from Melbourne), close to the shark-filled waters of Neptune Island, you can experience the ultimate adrenaline rush of diving with the ocean’s number one predator. Services, like Adventure Bay Charters, offer cruises where you can witness the awesome stealth, and beauty of the great white shark in its natural habitat. For the more adventurous traveler, some tours are equipped with shark cages, just so you can tick “swimming with sharks” off the bucket list. Alternatively, if you want the view but also wanted to stay dry, there is the Aqua Sub, a submerged glass chamber that gives you a panoramic underwater view. Prices for such tours can range from around $200 and up…depending on how close to the sharks you want to get.
Come and relish in our relaxed culture and overall quality of life that makes Australia such a tip-top (good) place to visit! The only things to watch out for are ocean currents and the sun. Seriously. Watch that sun.