First-Time Trip to Western and South Australia

My reasons for having never been to Australia can be summed up by being afraid. Namely, afraid that I’d love it so much that I’d never want to leave, or afraid that I’d meet a blonde hair, blue eye Aussie surfer gal and stay forever. Yes, for real. You remember the Lay’s slogan, “Bet you can’t just eat one”? That’s how I felt about Australia, that I couldn’t just visit once. I’d visit it, and immediately fall in love with it. That sentiment was heightened because of good friends (and Aussie roommates) who’ve visited or lived there and told me that it could become my favorite place I’ve traveled to, or rather, that I’d go and never return.

Well fears aside, it's finally time for my first trip to Australia. Armed with a boomerang, an Australian work visa and a full 10-day Western and South Australia itinerary, I leave on Saturday for my first trip to Australia.

Australia has long been one of the most fascinating places in the world to me. Let’s start with the obvious: It’s an island-continent-country combo. Also obvious: Do Aussies not have the sexiest accent? But beyond being home to my favorite accent, it’s also home to one of my favorite drinks, Bundaberg, which is in my opinion the best ginger beer in the world (Though Bundaberg makes a ton of other great drinks, as well as their own rum). Also, Tim Tams; they are basically the Nutella of Australia.

But perhaps what I love about Australia is this balance that both the country and people strike. Australians are the life of the party (and can hold their beer like no other), yet they are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Australia is beautiful, yet unassuming, and largely stay out of the news. When was the last time you read a major headline involving Australians? In Bill Bryson’s book, In A Sunburned Country, he states that Australia catches news attention about as much as Belarus and Burundi. So basically never, except perhaps in the early 1900s during the “Great Emu War,” when the military went to war against ravaging emus, and lost. Yes, that really happened. (Having lived with Aussies for the last two and a half years, I’ve come to learn a few things about this destination I’ve frequently day-dreamed about visiting, but never actually visited.)

This first trip feels right for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I’m visiting the two Australia states I’ve wanted to visit more than any other, South and Western Australia. It’s not that I didn’t want to visit the other Australian states and see the likes of Sydney and Melbourne. However, I wanted to visit places that most Americans probably aren’t as familiar with, providing a glimpse into Australia beyond Melbourne and Sydney.

My first Australia trip will largely be in and around Perth, Western Australia and Adelaide, South Australia. It feels kind of like if Aussies came to America and first visited San Diego and Austin, skipping destinations like Los Angeles and New York City.

My Western Australia and South Australia trip can be summed up as a fooboozy adventure. While Australia is often associated with great wine, the local craft beer and spirits are making a name for themselves, too. Lonely Planet, recently named Western Australia, and more specifically, Fremantle, as one of the best destinations for 2016. Naturally, I’m beginning there, with a visit to the Swan Valley (Western Australia’s oldest and most visited wine region) to Mash Brewing, Feral Brewing, and the Great Northern Distillery, and in Fremantle, to Little Creatures Brewery, which every Aussie I’ve talked to this week (which is like four people) has recommended. In between all that is a trip to Rottnest Island, just off the coast of Fremantle. Google it; there’s nothing rotten about it (or see below for reference).

Meanwhile, stop two, Adelaide, was one of Lonely Planet’s top destinations in 2014. My time in Adelaide will include visits to Lady Burra Brewery, Pirate Life Brewery, Tin Shed Distilling, and wait for it.....the Prancing Pony Brewery. You guys, Australia has a Prancing Pony (<<For you Lord of the Rings peeps). I’ll introduce myself to the bartender as Mr. Underhill and ask if he’s seen Gandalf. From here, too, I’ll be flying to Port Lincoln, on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia, where I’ll be charged with gathering and cooking my own food (which sounds so very Australian, or like something you do during the Zombie Apocalypse).

What’s unique about this trip (hosted by Tourism Australia and Air New Zealand) is that my flight on Air New Zealand is in conjunction with a special deal on flights from LAX and SFO to eight Australian destinations for the same price (promotion ends later this week on Nov. 15). Let me repeat, you can fly to eight destinations in Australia for the same price. Winter may be coming in America, but not in Australia, because it's come and past. So perhaps it’s Christmas that’s coming.

Now to pack, which will most likely turn into making my Aussie playlist while working on my Australian accent.

For those who have been, what are your Western and South Australia  tips/recommendations?