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The top 32 things I learned about Australia on my vacation

When I lived in Sydney, Australia, in the late 1960s, the population was 11 million. Now, it’s 24 million

The purpose of my recent two-week vacation was to visit the places I lived and worked in Sydney and to visit a city I hadn’t been to, Perth.

Here’s what I learned during my vacation:


1. Sydney is a bustling, dynamic city. With a population of 2.5 million in 1967, its population is now approaching 5 million. We saw a lot of construction underway, but one resident told us the economy is slowing down. We did see some high-rise buildings with rusting steel frames, indicating that, although they’d been started, their construction had been abandoned.


2. The Sydney Opera House is fantastic. We enjoyed Beethoven’s First Symphony performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellows, student performers who are receiving training from the orchestra.


3. The public transportation is Sydney is wonderful. We used trains and buses for most of our trips to old neighborhoods and workplaces. I wish we had a similar system in the Seattle area.


4. Australia is now much more diverse than it was in the 1960s. When I lived there, Australia had the White Australia policy. The preferred immigrants were from Italy, Greece, and Eastern Europe. On our trip, we saw many Asians in Australia. Eastwood, the suburb where we first lived when we moved to Sydney, is now 90 percent Asian. The photo is of three billboards at the Eastwood train station.


5. Housing prices are rising rapidly in Sydney. Homes in Eastwood, similar to the one where we lived, now cost about $1 million.


6. People can now climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. That tourist attraction wasn’t available during the 1960s.


7. Cockatoos still live in the backyards in Sydney. We saw this one in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. We also had a lemon tree in our backyard when we lived in Sydney.


8. Australia produces great wines. We enjoyed wine tasting in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney and the Swan Valley near Perth.


9. Australia is beautiful in the spring. We were there at just the time when the jacaranda trees were in full bloom.


10. Sydney Tower is new since I lived there. Open to the public in 1981, it’s 1,014 feet tall and has revolving decks. It’s the tallest structure in Sydney and the Southern Hemisphere.


11. Australia has some great museums, among them the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The photo is a 1967 work by William Turnbull in the gallery. I choose to visit the gallery’s modern art offering rather than its Rembrandts in its Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum exhibit.


12. The Sydney ferries looked just like they did in the 1960s. You can live in Kirribilli and other suburbs and ride the ferry to work.


13. Sydney Harbour is beautiful. We took a lunch tour in addition to riding the ferry to Kirribilli.


14. It was nice to visit Kings Cross in Sydney and see the El Alemein Memorial Fountain again, which was installed in 1961.


15. Bondi Beach is still beautiful.

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16. East Sydney Technical College where I taught is now the National School of Art. You can see where "Technical College" was removed under East Sydney.


17. It was again strange to see Christmas decorations in the hot weather because the seasons are reversed.


18. Perth, Western Australia’s capital city on Australia’s west coast, has a population of 2 million. It is one of the most isolated major cities in the world. Western Australia, covering the western third of the country, is made up mostly of the arid Outback. Its population is concentrated in its fertile southwest corner, home to the Margaret River wine region and Perth. Perth is a major industrial center which manufactures paint, plaster, printed materials, sheet metal, cement, rubber, tractors, steel, aluminum, and nickel. There are also petroleum refineries and food-processing plants. Mining also is important in the region. Tourism has grown in importance as has the service industry.


19. Perth tries to keep some of the facades of its historic buildings, but sometimes it’s attempts miss the mark such as in the photo above.

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20. Perth has a bell tower in the harbor area with the only royal bells to have left Great Britain. You can take a tour and ring the bells, but we didn’t have time.


21. Perth has many beautiful parks.


22. Perth also has a great public transportation system.


23. The Christmas bush is beautiful in the countryside around Perth in the spring.


24. You can sand surf north of Perth or take dune buggy ride on the beach. The beaches are beautiful.


25. The Pinnacles are limestone formations in Nambung National Park, near the town of Cervantes, Western Australia.


26. Kangaroos like to graze in the afternoon in Yanchep National Park north of Perth.


27. Rottnest Island, off the coast of Perth, is the only place quokkas, the world’s smallest marsupial, are found.


28. Perth is famous for its black swans. We saw this one in a park.


29. We saw little penguins on Penguin Island south of Perth.


30. At the Caversham Wildlife Park, we were able to have our photos taken with koala bears, kangaroos, wombats, and snakes.


31. Flying back to Sydney, we saw some desert areas.


32. Australian currency doesn’t have any quarters. It changed its currency from pounds, shillings, and pence when I lived there. I sure was happy because I had to make a change for my students when they brought money in to pay for supplies for cooking classes.

These are just some of the highlights from my trip to Australia. I'll be posting more photos to Facebook and writing more articles about it.


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Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

I loved reading your post Rita because I was born and lived in Sydney for 30 years. We lived on the lower north shore and I actually taught ballet at Eastwood! Memories of childhood are catching the ferry to Manly for fish and chips during school holidays and of course sailing by the beautiful Opera House (the design was a little controversial at the time but everyone loves it now). Jacarandas are gorgeous and even though I've lived in Australia all my life (now in Brisbane/Gold coast) Perth is still on my bucket list. Thanks for the memories and glad you had a wonderful time. I'm visiting through BBB. Have a great week!

Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski

I would love to visit Australia someday. That's one part of the world I haven't been to yet and it sounds wonderful. I wasn't aware of the White Australia policy they used to have. We don't hear about that stuff much here in the US.


Hi Sue,

I didn't know you lived in Australia. I'm glad you enjoyed my article. I loved Australia when I lived there in the late 1960s, and I loved my vacation to Sydney and Perth. The Australian people are so friendly and welcoming. I love Australia. I look forward to reading your blog regularly now that you've joined the Best of Boomer Blogs.



Hi Rebecca,

I certainly would recommend a vacation to Australia. There's so much to see and the people are really friendly. An additional benefit is the seasons are reversed so you can go during the winter and find great sunshine Down Under.


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