From Andrew Harper
American travelers to Australia tend to confine their visits to a few locations, especially Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef. But this vast desert continent contains lush rain forests, arid lunar landscapes, dramatic mountain ranges, swathes of pristine beach and an amazing diversity of exotic wildlife. A month here would scarcely begin to do the country justice. And from the primeval wilderness of the Northern Territory to the Victorian manors of the Barossa Valley, the Australians themselves are unfailingly genial and hospitable. Sydney remains one of the great modern cities of the world, but even once-provincial Perth has lately evolved into a buzzing pan-Asian metropolis.
CLIMATE : December-March is summer and June-September winter, though nearly half of Australia (which is the size of the lower 48 states) lies in the tropics. Coastal cities are temperate and have mild winters (see below). The Great Barrier Reef’s average highs range from the upper 70s to the upper 80s year-round.
TIME : Eastern Australia is 16 hours ahead of New York (EST).
CURRENCY : Australian dollar (A$). Fluctuating rate valued at A$1.02 = US$1.00 as of March 2012.
U.S. EMBASSY : Canberra, Tel. 2-6214-5600. Consulates: Melbourne, Tel. 3-9526-5900; Sydney, Tel. 2-9373-9200; and Perth, Tel. (8) 9202-1224.
DIRECT DIAL CODES : To phone hotels and restaurants in Australia, dial 011 (international access) + 61 (Australia code) + city code and local numbers in listings.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS : Passport and visa. Visit travel.state.gov, and for travelers’ health information, cdc.gov.
GENERAL INFORMATION : Visit australia.com before your trip.