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15 Days in Australia

Paul Seaton, Australia's Commercial Consul to the UAE, is not a person who would share photographs with you. "I prefer sharing memories with friends". What began as a casual chat in the sedate conference room of the Australian Consulate in Dubai, took us imperceptibly on a delightful journey to Paul Seaton's Australia with its good food, friendly people and pristine beaches.

We gave this unassuming diplomat a simple parameter; "15 days in your country. What would you have us do?" And the friendly responses served with a very slight Australian drawl came in sets of two. One from the diplomat who has spent a number of years abroad with a keen idea as to what tourists are looking for and the other from Paul - keen surfer, scuba diver and quintessential Australian.

Cairns/Port Douglas
With just 15 days to cover a vast destination such as Australia, I would recommend a snapshot tour of the country starting with Cairns. You can dive, snorkel or take one of the glass-bottom boats to view the Great Barrier Reef. I would, most definitely scuba dive. Besides the reef, there's some great sea-food and fresh fruit to be had. The more-adventure inclined can try their hand at white-water rafting.

Though not given to backpacking, Paul prefers to do the place "on his own" and avoid conducted tours. "I would shortlist two to three places to visit based on some thorough pre-travel research and do just that. I did surf GoDubai.com before taking up my assignment in Dubai and I found it very informative," He revealed. We did our best to look modest! The rough and tumble of camper vans and tents are not for him. "I prefer a hotel room with a proper bed", he says unapologetically.

Brisbane/Gold Coast/Sunshine Coast
The next stop on the 15-day holiday would be my home town, Brisbane and Australia's biggest tourist attraction, Gold Coast. With all its theme parks, there is something for everyone in the family. My personal favourite is Sea World. While in Brisbane, visitors should not miss the river cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. This is probably the best place to get up close with Australia's unique animals like the kangaroos, koalas, Tasmanian Devils and wombats.

There have been waves of tourism in Australia. In the 70's and earlier, Europeans and largely British tourists flocked to the country. Somewhere in 80's the Japanese discovered Australia. Today, you will find a lot of signboards in the Gold Coast in Japanese. Of late, Gold Coast has enjoyed the patronage of the Arabs. It is one of the top tourist destinations for the Emiratis. Among the theme parks in Gold Coast, Sea World is my personal favourite.

Given a choice I would spend most of my time on the beaches along the Sunshine Coast. Just 45 mins north of Brisbane, there are some great places to stay. Noosa is one of my favourites.

Good food figures highly in his attitude to places and that's about as close as he gets to being a Gulf Expatriate! A keen sportsman, Paul Seaton is a soccer player, deep-sea diver and surfer. He has been the head of the well-known Surf Life Savers on the Manly Beach, Sydney. "We won the silver medal last year," he reveals in the ___________ contest.

I had a 3-year stint in Sydney between two overseas postings in Japan and Hongkong. I love Sydney for its cosmopolitan nature and great food. I enjoy the noveau cuisine that is the trademark of the many eating places around Sydney. For the tourist, the Sydney Harbour is a breathtaking starter. Among the many things to do, you must definitely go on a harbour cruise. For the families, I would recommend the Taronga Park. Other than housing Australia's finest collection of native animals, the zoo is situated on elevated land along the waterfront, with the most spectacular views of Sydney Harbour.

The 15-day itinerary
Diver's Paradise
This coastal region is framed by two features of such pristine beauty and exceptional value - they have been listed by the World Heritage Society. Acclaimed as amongst the world's most wonderful assets are the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforests.

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Australia's "most liveable city"
Brisbane, the capital of 'Sunshine State', Queensland, and host to the 2001 Goodwill Games, is the gateway to the Gold & Sunshine Coasts and the Great Barrier Reef. While in Brisbane, don't miss the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and sheep shearers at the Australian Woolshed.
Sunshine Coast :A day-trip from Brisbane should give you just a fleeting glimpse of this varied land with its Pineapple farms, ginger factories, Glasshouse Mountains and underwater world at Mooloolaba. There are many beaches and resorts from Caloundra to trendy and cosmopolitan Noosa.

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Gold Coast
The Coast with the most!
70 kms of sparkling coastline and 300 days of sunshine! The Gold Coast is Australia's theme park capital.
Movie World : Meet all your favourite superheros, watch the hilarious police academy show and experience the awesome Wild Wild West Adventure ride.
Sea World : A spectacular Dolphin Cove, sea lions and a world-class water ski show.
Currumbin : Take a break from make-believe and soak in some aboriginal culture. Let the kids feed the lorikeets and Kangaroos.
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Great Harbour, great beaches
If you've only got a week or a few days in Sydney, your time would be best spent by taking a walk around the wider central business district area, visiting The Rocks (oldest part of Sydney dotted with cafes and boutiques) or spending time on the harbour. Sydney is also blessed with exceptional beaches and waterways. Manly and Bondi are two of the world-famous beaches. Make Booking Requests
Australia's Bush Capital
With over half the land classified as natural reserve, the Kangaroos are never too far away. Just a 3-hour drive from Sydney, Canberra is a beautifully laid out capital city. Take time out to visit the sheep farms or have the distinction of climbing Australia's not-so-high highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko.
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The Cultural Capital
Walk the Melbourne Golden Mile through the city's historical past, visit the Royal Botanical Gardens and watch penguins in their natural habitat. Enjoy good food, high fashion, theatre, the opera and the visual arts. Take a break and drive down the Great Ocean Road for its magnificent views of coastline and cliffs.
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Paul has far too many dream destinations on the "to visit" agenda to mention. The historic cities in the Middle East are among them. For us, He chose to recall a dream holiday to Tasmania with his family. "We drove around Tasmania - a small island that can be covered within a week. We stayed in different places, enjoyed the clean air and took in a lot of convict architecture.". Hobart, the capital of Tasmania is the finishing point of the famous Sydney-Hobart Yatch Race held annually in the month of ______.

As a grand finale to the 15-day trip, you would ideally drive to Canberra the capital of Australia and proceed to Melbourne from where you would choose to fly back.

If cities and theme parks are passe, there is always the outback adventure and crocodile meat to be had in abundance. Only Paul Seaton would rather ride the waves, explore the undersea or simply unwind on any one of Australia's beaches. Not many countries can claim to have supplied sand to the famous Waikiki beach in Hawaii. As Paul says, "Australian beaches are pretty hard to beat".

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