Check out the key takeaways and photos from our 2018 Aussie tour:
ROBUST TRANSIT SYSTEM
Sydney has a very robust public transportation system (I’m jealous Austin — please do better). We used the train exclusively – buy an Opal card, top it up and explore the city. Make sure you catch the intercity train if you’re in a hurry.
MASSIVE AND DENSE
Sydney is massive, really massive, and way more extensive than we thought. We will be back, and we will spend more time there. Sydney is also dense – again, please Austin you must do better.
The roads are crazy and busy — lots of people cycle, and there is no or very limited bike-specific infrastructure.
GREAT NETWORK OF PARKS
Sydney has a wonderful park system adjacent to the CBD that connects to the Sydney Harbour. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is definitely worth seeing. It’s an engineering marvel.
The Sydneysiders we met were amazing, super helpful and very friendly. Thank you for your hospitality! Our AirBNB was not so good. We would definitely recommend staying in Surry Hills – sweet neighborhood. If you want coffee in Sydney you don’t have to go far – only saw one Starbucks on our whole visit. It’s a lot easier to get tea in Australia – for that I am truly grateful.
Apparently NIMBY-ism also exists in Australia and the calculation of Floor Area includes train station platforms – some things never change no matter where you are. Minimum bedroom size is a thing here!
Food and beer in restaurants seems super expensive, but there is no tipping so I guess it equals it out. You can’t buy beer in a convenience store in Sydney (this seems strange).
LANEWAYS, LANEWAYS, LANEWAYS
The Melbourne laneways exceeded our expectations. They are truly exceptional and are a model from human-scale placemaking the world over.
A MINI VANCOUVER
100k people now live in downtown Melbourne. We were not expecting that level of intensity. Lots and lots of new residential towers sit just to the south of the CBD. It is a wonderful sight.
DENSITY EQUALS ACTIVITY
They also like their coffee in Melbourne, more so than Sydney (if that’s possible). I wonder if anybody has counted the number of coffee establishments in the Melbourne CBD. I have never seen so many coffee shops in my life. A lot of people are needed to support this type of activity.
EXCEPTIONAL RIVERFRONT PROMENADE
The Riverfront blew our minds – what an asset! The riverfront is a hub of activity, lined with restaurants and cafes. I caught the Riverfront during the rush hour commute – wow – bikes and pedestrians are allowed to share the same space and it was crazy. This would never happen in the US.
MELBOURNE IS COOLER THAN SYDNEY
I’m not sure how I could come to this conclusion having only spent a couple of days in each city – but the Melbourne CBD is a true gem! It’s buzzing with life and activity – not that Sydney isn’t, but Melbourne has a better feel and scale to it – a place you can feel comfortable in and embrace. The scale and vastness of Sydney, for me, was hard to comprehend.
For those of you that were concerned, our AirBnB was much better this time around – the only problem this time was we weren’t in Melbourne long enough to fully enjoy it. If you ever find yourself in Melbourne go to Chin Chin – a quintessentially Australian take on Asian food – and if you can’t decide what to eat just say “Feed Me” and they will serve you up what seems like an unlimited amount of food – this is a brilliant idea and perfect for a large group. And finally, Melbourne is the only major city in Australia where you are allowed to park your motorbike on the sidewalk – as you can imagine this has its pros and cons.
BOOK YOUR NEXT TRIP TO SOUTH AUSTRALIA (I AM)
The similarities between Adelaide and Austin in the mid to late nineties are striking. Adelaide is yet to be discovered by the masses – a true gem of South Australia – it’s laid back, slower paced, quiet streets, and family-oriented. I plan on returning with the family in tow. And if you’re dying to know, Adelaide is currently winning the battle of the coolest cities in Australia award (that we have visited at least). Lets see what Perth has to offer.
Did you know Austin and Adelaide are sister cities?!?
AUSSIE RULES RULES
Visiting the Adelaide Oval for an Aussie Rules game was the highlight of my trip so far (I’m guessing Lee would say his was the Barossa Valley). There is nothing like watching 50k people pile in and out of a stadium using nothing but public transit. Get this, the cost of transit to the stadium is included in the cost of a ticket to the game, brilliant – come on America!
Aussie Rules is played on a cricket oval – cricket in the Summer and Aussie Rules in the Winter. Now that is just pure brilliance.
THE BAROSSA VALLEY
For those of you that didn’t know, it was Lee’s birthday last Wednesday. To celebrate, our hosts David and Caroline took us on a wine tour of the Barossa Valley (highly recommended) – check out a place called Artisans of Barossa and ask for Simon – what an absolute character and wealth of knowledge! They tell me we drank some really good wine. I myself preferred the beer – check out Barossa Valley Brewing.
There is a Target store here that looks and smells exactly like one back home that has nothing to do with the US Target brand. Google “Hungry Jacks” as well – am I the only one that finds this all a little strange!??
Fly Qantas, it’s the only way to go! You get free food, beer, and wine on domestic flights. Qantas makes flying fun again. The same cannot be said for JetStar!
Beer in Australia is significantly weaker than back home. They tell me it’s because they drink so much of it – slow and steady! So much for the stereotypes.
We’re all done and we’re back in the US! We gave our last presentation on Friday at the PIA Congress – it was a roaring success. Thank you to all the folks at PIA that made us feel right at home in the lovely City of Perth.
Perth is very reminiscent of Southern California – palm trees, glass office towers, lots of traffic, really great weather, stunning views and exceptional beaches.
Did you know Perth is one of the most remote large cities (1 million plus population) in the world? It is approximately a 28 hour drive (1,600 miles) to Adelaide, the next closest city with a substantial population.
BIKES, BIKES AND MORE BIKES
Perth has a serious commuter bike culture and an extensive network of off-road bike facilities that are very well used. The City needs to do a better job at accommodating on-street bike facilities.
FISH AND CHIPS
I was lucky enough to have the best Fish and Chips that I’ve had in a very, very long time. Go to the Grand Lane Fish House and tell Paul that Colin sent you – you’ll get the VIP treatment. The restaurant is located in the lane behind Barrack Street – dining outside in a converted alley is the way to go.
We finally found a decent craft beer bar. Petition in Downtown Perth serves some legitimate brews. I briefly felt like I was back in Austin. Thanks to David Cooke, I had my first really strong Australian beer.
NEEDS MORE STREET LIFE
We loved Perth, but the CBD needs more activity in the evenings. The CBD is pretty active during the day – lots of jobs – but it is like a ghost town after 6pm and things really slow down. Perth, you have to get more people living downtown.
And with that, our jaunt around Australia has come to an end. We have learned so much in 2 short weeks and we look forward to future opportunities in the country that is its own continent.
One last tidbit, we got our own personal IPad to use on the Qantas flight from Perth to Sydney. What will they think of next!