... our Grand Finale
All good things must come to an end. After an amazing 110 days, we're excited to share with you all our final entry on our brief return to Australia and our introduction to the beautiful country of New Zealand...
Sydney, Australia. Four years ago Ryan and I celebrated our honeymoon in Australia, traveling for almost 3 weeks on the eastern seaboard. In 2009 the exchange rate was in our favor, meaning $1 US dollar bought $1.30 AUD, now it has switched and $1 USD buys $0.93 AUD. This unfortunate switch in the relative strength of our dollar made us feel penny-pinched in Sydney. A meal of sharing a pizza, salad, and two beers cost $70 US at our favorite restaurant the Australian Hotel. The same meal was only $40 US four years ago. Accommodation was another difficult aspect to book. We thought $100 US could buy us a decent room at a hostel… not really. Our free (points) nights at the Tokyo Ritz were missed when we stayed in a hostel in Sydney. In a matter of days we dropped from 5 stars to maybe 1/3 of a star. The place was dirty and the toilets were down the hall. Not to mention the shenanigans among all the hostel guests that, while somewhat amusing, went on at all hours of the day and night. The staff was friendly at the hostel and the place was well-rated, but if we wanted to have our own en suite we would need to double our accommodation allotment. Sydney has been ranked the third most expensive city in the world after Tokyo & Osaka, Japan. In only four years, the U.S. dollar lost substantial ground down under.
Nonetheless, we went out to enjoy beautiful Sydney. Walking down George Street to Circular Quay is really pleasant. Our first day in the city, we were fortunate to have gorgeous weather. The Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House were stunning. The air was chilly and crisp with the bright sun warming areas outside of the shade. There are bars that line the harbor and many people were out enjoying the beautiful weather. Ryan had a craving for our favorite restaurant in Sydney - the Australian Hotel. We wandered on memory and finally stumbled across it in “The Rocks” section in the shadow of the Harbor Bridge. We had a tiger prawn pizza with several pints of our old favorite “BeezNeez” Aussie beer. All of the Aussie accents around us speaking English were a comforting change from not understanding Japanese in Tokyo. Our old favorite, The Australian Hotel, didn’t disappoint. Our second day in Sydney was rainy and we opted to go to the Contemporary Museum on the Harbor. We joined a tour and contemplated contemporary work for a couple of hours while it poured rain outside. Our day ended with beer samplers at… the Australian Hotel of course!
After 3 weeks in New Zealand, we come back to Sydney for two more days. I hope we have good weather because we are planning on going to Manly Beach and an animal rescue center full of Australia’s crazy and amazing animals. New Zealand here we come!
“New Zealand is like if the states of Oregon and Hawaii had a baby… then that baby grew up and studied abroad for a little while in Scotland.” – Ryan’s astute assessment of New Zealand.
Also, the statistic of 12 sheep per person is true… 4.1 million people, 49 million sheep, and there used to be more!
Christchurch. Whereas Sydney was pricey and difficult to afford, New Zealand was a nice surprise. The U.S. dollar is strong here and accommodation is not expensive. We joined the BBH (Budget Backpackers and Hosteling) group in NZ and it made it really easy to secure decent accommodation all over the country in minimal time. Once in the system, you have access to 250+ hostels all over the South and North Island. Ryan and I laid out maps of NZ and plotted our journey for 3 weeks in Kiwi land. We have a rental car which makes it super convenient to get to different areas.
Our first stop in New Zealand was Christchurch on the eastern part of the South Island. The city was decimated by a February, 2011 earthquake that left nearly 200 people dead and leveled most of the city center and the surrounding suburbs. Christchurch is continuing to build itself back up, but there is visible destruction everywhere. The famous landmarks in the city center are only half standing. Ryan had to get his camera cleaned while we were in Christchurch and spent time visiting with a repairman in the suburbs forced to work out of his garage after his office was destroyed by the quake.
In the middle of Christchurch are beautiful Botanical Gardens free to the public. Between two days, we probably spent 4 hours roaming around the manicured lawns. There is a gorgeous rose garden with many hybrids of roses in one section of the gardens.
It’s been said that Christchurch is “more English than England” and traveling around Christchurch, you immediately notice the English influence in the architecture. Additionally, there are ads for pies, pints, and fish and chips… how much more English can you get?! Near our hostel was a restaurant called Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn that specializes in serving craft beer and entrees with locally-sourced ingredients. The first night we went to Pomeroy’s a jazz band was playing and we got to witness how the Kiwis relax on a Sunday night. I enjoyed a coconut milk stout and Ryan tried a cask edition stout. The food and beers were so delicious that we decided to back and try their fish and chips a few nights later.
Renting a car in New Zealand has made travel much easier for us than relying upon buses and other public transit. The drive from Christchurch to Dunedin is beautiful. As I am typing this now I see sheep, cows, glimpses of the Pacific Ocean, and rolling green hills. Ryan has become a pro at driving on the left side of the road. Out of all the countries that we have visited, Cambodia and Namibia were the only ones that drove on the right side like the U.S.
Dunedin. So if Christchurch yields to an English influence, Dunedin is decidedly Scottish. Dunedin touts its own tartan and is appropriately-enough nicknamed “Little Edinburgh.” The town’s population is 110,000 with New Zealand’s oldest school, University of Otago, near the center of town. A short drive away from the city center takes you to the Otago Peninsula where one can enjoy penguins, seals, sea lions, albatrosses, and beautiful views.
While wandering around Dunedin, we went to the Edwardian railway station and then got some chocolate at New Zealand’s own Cadbury World. The city is really hilly and we got a workout trekking back up to our hostel for lunch. Our second hostel in NZ was called Hogwartz, sporting an obvious Harry Potter theme to justify the name. Although the guests were all ages, the common thread tying everyone together was the desire to explore NZ. While eating breakfast our last morning a 65 year old man and some younger 20-somethings were trying to organize a group outing to see a Rugby match in Dunedin that evening.
The highlights of our time in Dunedin included seeing yellow-eyed and blue penguins, sea lions, and the gorgeous views at Tunnel Beach. The yellow-eyed penguins are an endangered species in New Zealand and there are several conservatories that are trying to rebuild the penguin populations. We got lucky at Sandfly Beach, spotting a few penguins and walking past some giant sea lions. The yellow-eyed penguins are really shy; in order to see them we had to hide out in a blind that was built next to the beach.
One of the most gorgeous hikes that I have ever done in my life was Tunnel Beach. The views were breath taking. Once you hike down the large hill, there is a tunnel taking you to a small private beach surrounded by cliffs and boulders.
To wrap up Dunedin, we ventured out on the Otago Peninsula and went to the Royal Albatross Center. Although we didn’t see any of the giant albatrosses, we did witness around 50 blue penguins awkwardly hop to shore at 7pm. Our tour guide was named Mary and she was a local Maori with tattoos on her face showing the history of her heritage. She was really informative and took our small group to witness the small penguins come home for the evening. Apparently the blue penguins hop back to their nesting holes at the same time every evening. Even though it was dark, Ryan did manage to capture one picture of the "little blues."
Milford Sound. The best kayaking trip that Ryan or I have ever done was in Milford Sound. We joined a group at 7AM and kayaked roughly 20 km over the length of the massive fjord to the Tasman Sea. It was a five hour kayaking journey with unbelievable views at every moment of the trip. We felt like small specks against the massive cliffs that line the sound. The highest point on the sound is Mitre Peak at close to 1700 meters, making it the 2nd highest mountain in the world to rise directly out of water. On the rocky cliffs there are trees clinging to the rocky slopes by putting roots down into the moss that has spent years growing into a thick “soil” on the face of the rocks. Every now and again there are tree avalanches that wipe out the forests in certain areas of the cliffs.
The Milford Sound gets 7 meters of rain per year causing many waterfalls to cascade down the cliffs after it storms. The abundance of precipitation creates an ever present mist on the sound. Other members of our group kayaked under Stirling Falls, but with Ryan’s camera equipment we opted to view the beautiful waterfall from afar. Stirling Falls and Milford Sound’s other permanent waterfall, Beckton Falls, are both several times the height of Niagra Falls and Iguazu Falls, but it was a bit difficult to appreciate their massive size as they were made to look almost short by the surrounding mammoth summits of Mitre Peak and Picton Peak.
While kayaking we encountered many male juvenile fur seals basking on the rocks. A few swam and belly-rolled next to our kayaks at certain points. They liked to pose for our cameras and they put on a show when we kayaked close to them.
Queenstown. After taking in the stunning views of Milford Sound, we traveled to Lake Te Anau to spend a night en route to Queenstown. The views are breathtaking while driving through New Zealand, and you begin to understand that there really must be 12 sheep for every Kiwi. There are fifty million sheep grazing around the country-side with different levels of fluffiness. Our goal was to find an extremely fluffy sheep that looked like a circle on stick legs while driving.
Queenstown, New Zealand is an adrenaline junkie’s dream come true. There are multiple tour outlets offering bungee jumping, canyon swinging, and hang gliding among other things that I have never heard of before. I am sure all of the tour operators required a signed waiver prior to the chosen activity. We didn’t partake in any of the death-defying activities. We ended up walking around the town and enjoying the gardens and a local pizza parlor during our day in Queenstown. It is a beautiful city set up on a hill overlooking a lake with mountains making a stunning backdrop. In the main garden, there was an 18-hole Frisbee golf course with a group of “golfers” on every hole/ basket.
Aoraki/Mt. Cook. After staying in Queenstown for a day, we drove to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park early the next morning to tramp around on several trails (in New Zealand, the term “tramping” is preferred to hiking, making for some pretty funny conversations between the two of us on our travels!). The alpine park boasts New Zealand’s highest mountains and the largest glaciers in the country. The weather was unbelievably gorgeous and the views of Mount Cook and the Hooker Glacier were stunning on our 3-hour hike through the Hooker Valley. The air was crisp, fresh, and windy with the sun peeking out of the moving clouds often. It felt nice to spend a day outdoors enjoying New Zealand’s beauty.
That evening, we had booked accommodation at a hostel on a sheep farm called Buscot Station. The proprietor owned 7000 sheep, and around 2400 cattle. It felt like staying at your grandparents’ house on a farm. The hostel was full of a group of German backpackers that were working their way through the country. They told me that Central Otago, where we were, was good for apple and cherry picking. They were 20 years old and had just finished high school in Germany. Before they went to college or grad school they wanted to travel for as long as possible. Apparently, there is a backpacker workforce that does minimum wage jobs to extend their travels. New Zealand’s minimum wage is $13/hour and Australia’s is $21/ hour while the U.S. minimum wage is $8 per hour… go figure!
Arthur's Pass. Our next stop on our South Island journey was Arthur’s Pass to take in some beautiful hiking views. Our lofty plans of completing a six-hour hike with expansive views of the Waimakariri River Valley and surrounding mountains was ruined with a two-day rainstorm during our stay. We did suit up in our rain gear and went out to see the “Devil’s Punchbowl” waterfall and complete about two hours of small hikes. Even though it was raining the hikes were beautiful and the lush forest was on full display.
With all of our unexpected downtime with the rain, we watched the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy from start to finish over our 2 days in Arthur’s Pass. It was cool seeing the backdrop of New Zealand throughout all of the scenes. Peter Jackson was brilliant using his homeland of New Zealand as Middle Earth. I have read that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was the best thing to happen to NZ tourism since Captain Cook.
One of the highlights from Arthur’s Pass was meeting one of New Zealand’s endangered native birds: the Kea. These brightly-colored green parrots prefer high altitudes and are curious and fearless. They are intelligent birds and are not afraid of people at all. Their favorite thing to do is to peck off the rubber from vehicles and take scraps of food from unknowing travelers. The Keas almost succeeded in pulling a rubber part off our rental car before we were able to shoo them away.
Kaikoura. Our unfortunate luck with the weather kept following us. Throughout the past year there has been a drought in New Zealand, but the long streak of dryness broke while we were visiting. A huge countrywide rainstorm lasting almost a week was dumping rain everywhere. Nonetheless, we jumped on the opportunity when the weather cleared for part of the day in Kaikoura.
Kaikoura is famous for whale watching and seeing marine mammals year round. There is also a wonderful day hike around the town. We left the small city center and started in a wooded area and then ended up walking along the coast for the majority of the day. At one point we had to walk through some cow pastures to stay on the path. The air was fresh and the landscape was beautiful. New Zealand has immense natural beauty. We’re so lucky to spend 3 weeks enjoying the country!
The cliffs against the Pacific Ocean were striking. I wonder if there are anytowns in New Zealand with ordinary views. Everywhere we go in this country is stunning. Near the end of our hike we came across Point Kean where fur seals like to take naps. The furry creatures were all over the parking lot and on the walkways sleeping. When a tourist got too close, the seals would bark and claim their territory.
Along the walking route was a favorably positioned food truck selling fresh seafood, Kaikoura Seafood BBQ. Kaikoura means crayfish food in the Maori language and the city is known for having the best crayfish, or what we call LOBSTER in the U.S. Of course we had to try it along with seafood chowder. It was really good, fresh, and much less expensive than what it would cost in a restaurant in the Kaikoura area.
Across from the seafood truck, was a farm advertising a “Sheep Shearing Show” and after seeing thousands of puffy sheep all over the country we decided to give it a go. We were the only tourists for the show and the farmer answered all of our sheep questions (the difference between a lamb and a sheep? A lamb is a baby. How many times a year is a sheep shorn? Usually once, sometimes twice, etc.). There are several different breeds of sheep with the Merino sheep being the most commercially valuable to farmers. It only took a few minutes for the farmer to shear the puffy sheep. He told us that New Zealand’s record for the fastest sheep shearer was 832 sheep in an eight-hour day. That is like a warehouse of wool!
Considering that Kaikoura is well known for whale-watching (and previously, whaling), the main bar is called The Whaler. We enjoyed drinking New Zealand beer made by a local brewery called Monteith’s. The second evening we hung out at The Whaler, we watched a Rugby match between the Wellington Hurricanes and the Western Australia Force. While watching, we spent time figuring out what the various rules of the game were and learning about the NZ’s favorite past time.
From Picton (South Island) to Plimmerton (North Island).
Continuing to head north on the South Island from Kaikoura, we drove the Queen Charlotte Drive around Picton. It was again a beautiful backdrop of mountains, water, and lush forests. Our accommodations were a play on Picton’s cemetery that was across the street; the hostel was called Tombstone. The BBH program that we bought memberships for has been impressive and really affordable. Our room with a private bathroom, unlimited WiFi (super-rare in NZ), access to a hot tub, exercise equipment, and a free breakfast in a new and clean hostel was around $68 USD.
The next day we turned in our miniature Corolla at Hertz and took the 3-hour ferry from Picton to the capital city of Wellington. The dismal rain continued and put a damper on the supposedly epic views from the ferry. Luckily, once we got to Wellington there was an amazing free museum in the middle of the capital city called Te Papa that included 5 floors of exhibits on Kiwi history, people, and art.
That evening we stayed at a highly rated BBH property in Plimmerton, which was 30 minutes north of Wellington. The beachfront property was charming and our room had gorgeous views of the water. It was also warm enough to keep the windows open. Walking along the waterfront, we were impressed with the beachfront homes near our hostel. They were elegantly designed and all of them had large windows to take in the beautiful landscape. It would be fun to have a vacation home in NZ… yet the reality of traveling there from the states doesn’t make much sense.
New Plymouth and the Forgotten World Highway. Our plans changed due to a 5-day rainstorm in New Zealand. The rain providing a needed relief from the 2012-2013 drought, but our outdoor tramping plans were seriously compromised. Initially, we intended to complete the famed Tongariro Crossing trek, but with the constant rain and promises of gale force winds and snow, it just didn’t make sense.
Nonetheless, we made the best of it and stayed in New Plymouth for an evening. New Plymouth acts as the west coast’s international deep water port with many beaches and Egmont National Park just a short drive away. The main attraction is Mt. Taranaki, a large volcano, with the last eruption over 350 years ago. With the rainy weather, we never saw the top of the volcano. It was under a giant cloud the entire time. Although the weather was not in our favor we put our rain gear on and completed a small trek at the bottom of the famous volcano.
Continuing on to our next stop in the town of Waitomo, we opted to drive the Forgotten World Highway. If you have seen Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit , the rolling hills and winding roads look like the Shire where Bilbo Baggins lives. Most of the hills had sheep grazing and due to the recent storms some rocks were crumbling off the cliffs making the road a one-lane drive at certain points. The highlight of the Forgotten World Highway was coming to the Republic of Whangamomona. The quirky town became an independent republic after disagreements with local councils resulting from the proposal to shift district lines requiring the townspeople to play for a new rugby club. Ryan got his passport stamped and we enjoyed lunch at the town’s hotel. In its brief history, Whangamomona has elected a poodle as president, who resigned following an assassination attempt, followed by Billy the Goat. They celebrate a Republic day every other year drawing thousands of people for the vibrant festival. At the local pub, newspaper articles were on display chronicling the history of these shenanigans.
Waitomo Caves. The next stop on our NZ journey was the town of Waitomo with the sole intent to experience black water rafting. Waitomo means “water hole” in Maori, and there are impressive underground cave systems throughout the town. Black water rafting refers to “rafting” about 60 meters underground in the caves…SUPER COOL! If you ever travel to NZ I highly recommend this activity. (Due to the fact that it was underground and cameras weren't permitted, there are no pictures for this one...)
Ryan and I were equipped with thick wet suits, a head lamp, and a sturdy inner tube. We joined a group of 16 other travelers to experience the underground caves with two lively young guides. Our training included jumping off a dock backwards into a cold river outside of the caves to simulate how it would feel when we jumped off the waterfalls deep inside the cave. This aspect definitely freaked out some of the other travelers.
Fully equipped with our gear, we climbed slowly into the cave and started to navigate through the underground tunnels. The water was cold yet invigorating and it was difficult to maintain footing while walking through the passageways. Finally, when it was deep enough we all sat in our inter-tubes and the current took us slowly through the underground tunnels. Ryan befriended our guide named Mark, who then told us about the large eels swimming along with us in the passageways. Mark didn’t want to tell the group about the eels because there was a large group of study abroad students who were already slightly hysterical about the experience so far, and the eels were not a threat.
The first waterfall jump gave me an adrenaline rush. After the entire group finished jumping backwards off the waterfall with every other person screaming with delight, we linked up and floated deeper into the underground passageways. Mark stopped the group in an underground hallway and told us to turn off our headlamps. Once it was completely pitch black, we could see thousands of glowworms on the ceiling of the cave. They reminded me of the glow in the dark stickers I had growing up forming constellations on the ceiling of my bedroom. Comically, the “glow worms” are actually, as our guides informed us, "the glow-in-the-dark excrement of a cannibalistic maggot that fishes and sleeps for 9 months, wakes up without a mouth and has sex until it dies." They are really pretty if you do not think about what they actually are…. Thousands of tourists come annually to see the glowing poo! Regardless it made the cave seem magical… only in NZ!
Rotorua. After hiking through beautiful mountain ranges, rafting through black water caves, and kayaking through the breath-taking Milford Sound, it was only par for the course that NZ has a colorful thermal wonderland. Rotorua sits on an area that has been geologically active for thousands of years and includes geysers, hot mud pools, and streaming craters. We visited the colorful park Wai-O-Tapu, which is part of a scenic reserve administered by the Department of Conservation.
Although the views were incredibly interesting, there was a “rotten egg smell” that permeated throughout the park caused by hydrogen sulfide. Ryan thought it looked like a paint ball game gone crazy, and I thought the pools looked like a giant toxic Easter egg dying party. It was wild seeing all of the different colors and knowing that it was 100% caused by nature and the volcanic activity. Another highlight of the park was seeing the “Lady Knox” Geyser explode at exactly 10:15 a.m. The park guide gave an informed speech about geysers and added soap to speed up the natural process. The geyser exploded 20-30 meters into the air, thrilling the crowd.
After visiting Wai-O-Tapu, we headed to a community with people actually living on the geothermal activity. Whakarewarewa (actually a shortened form of a word initially consisting of 37 letters!) is where the Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao Maori people live. That is a mouthful! Basically the Maori people belonging to a tribe live in the community and continue to share their culture and experience with tourists. We joined an informative tour learning what it is like to have boiling water just below the surface of your neighborhood.
One cool aspect that jumped out about our visit was learning about Hangi cooking. Since the water in the ground is so hot, food is put in secure boxes and placed underground just about the water to be steamed. Ryan and I enjoyed corn on the cob and a warm meat pie that was prepared underground. Also, when people take baths in the village they use the warm water from beneath the ground to take a steaming bath. The town’s graveyard is above ground because of the hot water underneath the surface could destroy the graves. Overall the Maori people are able to live in harmony in the thermal village.
A highlight of our visit to the thermal village included a Maori cultural performance. NZ’s famous rugby team, “The All Blacks,” perform the Maori War dance called the Haka before big matches, and we got to see this famous dance performed. The troupe performed several Maori dances, including the famous Haka, and it was really entertaining. It involves the men slapping their chest with their eyes bugged out and their tongue out as far as possible. It also involves lots of grunts and intimidating threats. The point of the dance is to intimidate your opponents and get yourself psyched up for a looming battle. In war it was performed to scare the opposition in hopes they would run away before anyone was hurt. We took a picture with the performers… I don’t quite have the bugged eye look, and I don’t think either of us are intimidating anyone.
Auckland. Our last stop on the North Island was NZ’s largest and most diverse city: Auckland. With a population of 1.2 million, it is definitely the largest city that we visited in NZ. We opted to take a walking tour to learn about Auckland and a get a glimpse of the local people. From our hostel we walked through an area that reminded us of Little 5 points in Atlanta – a funky, artistic area that was just a little rough around the edges. Shortly after crossing through the artsy area we were in the city center next to Auckland’s main Civic Theatre. There are beautiful museums free to the public close to the city center. A few blocks away from the museum area was the beautiful Auckland University campus.
Walking around downtown Auckland, it was apparent that a large portion of the population is of Polynesian and Asian descent. There were many different types of Asian restaurants to choose from. With Auckland University in the city center, there were a lot of students everywhere making it a young and vibrant city. We made our way down to the waterfront and enjoyed a beautiful, sunny (finally) day without rain. Since we had spent time in Southeast Asia, we chose not to eat at one of the many Asian restaurants and decided to eat at a Belgian restaurant called “The Occidental” which specializes in grilled mussels and Belgian beer. The mussels were amazing and we were able to try a sampler of different flavors like bacon and cheese or parmesan and olive oil. I always feel that it is a good choice to try the local seafood when near the ocean. It was so fresh and enjoyable!
Christchurch, the sequel. In order to catch our flight back to Sydney, we had to spend a day back in Christchurch… a welcome inconvenience! I am sad that our three-week adventure flew by exploring Kiwi country, and we had to go home so quickly. Our last day in Christchurch, we decided to drive a short distance (12 km) to the waterfront town of Sumner. Sumner is a bit of a paradox: on one hand, it's a relaxing place with great restaurants to enjoy next to the beach, yet on the other hand, Sumner was the community most noticeably impacted to this day by the 2011 earthquake.
Artists in the Sumner area have started an interesting new project. Rather than allow the town to be overrun by shipping containers doubling as rock slide protection, they've thrown giants canvases up over top of the containers and painted some amazing works on them for everyone's enjoyment. The incredible thing about NZ is that you can take a small hike around a town like Sumner and nearby Taylor's Mistake and see breathtaking views from all angles. Everyone was out enjoying the beautiful weather as well. I think a full week of rain made all of the Kiwis crave some bright sunshine.
Our final meal in Christchurch was at our favorite place: Pomeroy’s. Once again, we enjoyed fresh food, craft beers, and friendly service. Our time in NZ flew by. If you enjoy the outdoors, I highly recommend a trip to NZ. It is a small accessible country with such a breathtaking natural beauty. There are thousands of gorgeous hikes to go on. If you are an adventure seeker your choices are endless in NZ.
The last stop: Sydney, Australia. To wrap up our epic trip, we chose to repeat two favorite activities from our honeymoon from four years prior. Sydney was unbelievably gorgeous our last two days. I felt that all of the tourists and Aussies were out enjoying the crisp beautiful air. Ryan and I boarded the ferry bound to Manly along with the hundreds of other beach bound people. The ferry was crowded because of nice weather, but it was lovely to pass all of the Sydney icons on the way to Manly Beach including the Opera House, the Harbor Bridge and a slew of stunning mansions along the waterfront.
Ryan and I made our way to Manly Grille to repeat a meal we had four years prior. The restaurant has the best oysters and we were not disappointed. I believe we even sat at the same table to enjoy our lunch. After lunch, we walked along the waterfront watching all of the happy people enjoy their time at the beach. It was crowded, but the overall vibe was light hearted.
Our final day of entire journey, we went to Featherdale Wildlife Park near Sydney. The park is full of all sorts of Aussie animals, and you can pet some of them as well. As soon as we entered, we were greeted by jumping Wallabies, Wombats, Kangaroos, and a whole slew of exotic birds. There was even a barking owl. Australia has some of the most interesting wildlife. Maybe because it has been isolated for so long?!—Who knows, but it was such a joy to spend time at the wildlife park.
After one last night time walk along Circular Quay, it was time to close the Australia and New Zealand chapter of our travel book.