Something to suit all tourist tastes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 January, 1997, 12:00am

Australia offers the tourist an extraordinary range of things to see and do. Where else could the visitor see kangaroos, cuddle koalas, cackle along with kookaburras and observe an abundance of other unique fauna? The glories of nature's tropical rainforest environs are just six hours by air from Hong Kong, near Cairns. From there you can ride a gondola along the world's longest cable car line, stretching 7.5 kilometres across the rainforest. If you're interested in aboriginal activities, you will enjoy visiting the village of Kuranda and the Tjapukai Dance Theatre. Australia's biggest city, Sydney, capital of New South Wales, rests tidily on and around one of the world's most magnificent harbours. The best view in town is from the Sydney Tower, a cloud-scraping ultra-modern landmark.

For a glimpse of history on the gold-rush era, try Australia's Wonderland, 35 minutes from Sydney, where children will find a hundred different ways to spend their time and your dollars on a multitude of games and rides. If Sydney is fast and trendy, Melbourne is staid and strait-laced. It is a mixture of old money (from the Victorian goldfields of Ballarat and Bendigo) and new settlers. Melbourne and Adelaide, capital of South Australia, are both laid out on a square grid, with main streets interspersed with delightful arcades and malls that abound in shops selling a surprising range of unexpected items.

The dedicated shopper (or window-shopper) visiting Melbourne should check out the trendy shops of Toorak. Queensland has a lot going for it. It's a laid-back sort of place where the weather is almost always fine and sunny. The Great Barrier Reef extends along much of the state's coastline, with many tourist-oriented jumping-off places for a visit to its marine wonderland . . . Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton and Gladstone are just a few. Brisbane, the capital, is a friendly city. Right in the middle is a wide pedestrian mall, which is a pleasure to stroll along. There's a casino in, of all places, the former treasury building, while down on the riverfront you can take your choice of restaurants and dine lazily while watching the boats cruise by. From Brisbane, it is less than an hour south by road to developments such as Sanctuary Cove, with its world-class golf course. From there you are on the threshold of Movieworld, Surfers' Paradise and the Gold Coast.

For decades, Surfers' Paradise has been Australia's No 1 tourist destination and every activity is tailored for the enjoyment of visitors. If there's a way of contracting a long word, trust a true-blue Oz (short for Australian) to find it. A football becomes a footie; a can of beer a tinny; a magistrate a beak; a barbecue, a barbie; and so on. So, go ahead and good luck, mate . . . she's a bonzer country. You'll love it!