Most Meaningful Australian Experience: In 2001, I visited an old friend, baseball teammate Jamie McDonald in Australia. We took a bus trip all the way from Brisbane to Whitsundays. We had a great time and adventure; till this day we share that bond.
#2: I probably couldn’t have been a Navy Seal.
13 top things to do on Australia’s East Coast
I’ve visited Australia three times all up – once as a backpacker in my youth and again in 2013 and 2015 – exploring the ever-popular East Coast of the country. While it was sad to see the deterioration of the Great Barrier Reef over this ten year period, returning “Down Under” has allowed me to discover places I didn’t previously. If you’re thinking of heading to Australia, here are my top 13 tips on what to see and do.
1. Climb the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge and book in for a show at the Opera House, then stroll through the beautiful Botanical Garden or soak up the waterfront views from the bars of Darling Harbour.
2. Head north of Sydney to laid-back Palm Beach and Whale Beach or jump on a ferry across the harbor to go paddle-boarding at Manly Beach.
3. Stretch your legs on one of the hiking trails in the Blue Mountains – a mist covered plateau to the west of Sydney.
4. Visit the southern city of Melbourne – a mini San Francisco with great food, street art and design, as well as a more free-spirited culture than Sydney.
5. Sample the oysters and seafood (barramundi is particularly good), washed down with a glass of Shiraz – the best wine in Australia in my opinion.
6. Go spearfishing at Jervis Bay in an old navy seal boat to catch halibut, then eat it fresh as sashimi. Note, I spent half the trip laying in the boat because of large waves due to a rainstorm. Only 2 of the 9 didn’t get sea sick. Then I got sunburned from laying on the boat when the rain cleared. In the end, we did catch and carve up some fish.
7. Buy a pair of cowboy-style boots at RM Williams – an iconic Australian bushman’s store.
8. Visit a wildlife park to get up close to Australia’s weird and wonderful creatures – the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo is a good option if you’re visiting the city.
9. Run along the Bondi to Coogee coastal trail that connects these two iconic beaches, with oceanside swimming pools where you can cool off.
10. Head north to the city of Cairns, which serves as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the tropical Daintree Rainforest.
11. Travel along the east coast from Sydney to the Airlie Beach, stopping to camp on magnificent Fraser Island and go surfing at Byron Bay.
12. Fly east to unspoiled Lord Howe Island and hike to the peak of Mount Gower for sweeping views across its subtropical forests and the Pacific Ocean.
13. Island-hop through the Whitsundays and sink your feet into the blindingly white sand of Whitehaven Beach.