Australia – New Zealand advice

In less than one month now, I board a plane bound for Sydney, Australia. As I’ve mentioned here once before, I’m honored to be speaking this year at Web Essentials 04. The first annual conference on web standards will be held at the University of Technology, Sydney. I’ll be sharing the stage with Dave Shea, Joe Clark, John Allsopp, Russ Weakley, and geez, a whole host of Australian natives who I can’t wait to meet.

So I can’t tell you how excited I am to be coming to Australia, and how much I’m looking forward to the conference and the rest of my visit. I’ve never been anywhere near the South Pacific (Hawaii is the closest I’ve come). And Australia has been at the very top of my list of places that I’ve wanted to see and experience for a long time. I’ve been told repeatedly that Australia is filled with the nicest, coolest people on the planet.

When a destination is at the top of your list, and you’re invited to speak as a professional, you can’t just go for the event, then turn around and come back. At least… I can’t. Especially after a 15 hour direct flight which includes crossing the International Date Line. So I’m doing what anyone in their right mind would do…

I’m spending a whole month down there. Since I’m going to be in Australia, I can’t pass up the opportunity to pop over to New Zealand for a bit too.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of taking off an entire year, traveling around the world, and spending six months of it driving around Australia in a VW Kombi, like some of my friends. Most of my first week will be spent arriving, dealing with jetlag, finding my way around, then closing out that first week with the conference. After that, I have just three weeks to balance out between Australia and New Zealand. Aside from the conference, nothing is really planned yet.

Since the trip is less than a month away, I’m suddenly realizing I need to get off my duff and start some type of planning. I’m not one to have everything rigidly mapped out. But I’d like to have some type of plan so I make sure I take maximum advantage of my short stay.

Last night, I stopped at a book store to check out travel books on Australia. There was so much available, and I didn’t really know what I wanted, so I chickened out, and only walked away with a copy of Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country. Tonight, I picked up Dunstan, and we drove over to the new REI, San Francisco to pick up a few travel essentials. Once again, I was so overwhelmed by everything in the store, to avoid spending a fortune on everything I wanted, I walked away with nothing.

In trying to come up with a game plan, I don’t really want to rely on my own research and guesses at what I should plan to do or see, or where to go. Instead, I’d like to turn to you, an incredible wealth of native readers from these two great countries — or those who have lived in or visited either or both. I value advice from locals and experienced travelers above most things I can read in a travel book.

Where should I go? What cities and destinations should I hit? What should I not miss if at all possible? Where should I stay? Where should I eat? What should I eat? What experiences should I absolutely try my hardest to fit in? How should I get around? Should I keep lugging my laptop with me after the conference? And the flip side: Anything I should skip? What should I avoid?

Feel free to leave as many related comments here as you’d like. Or if you prefer to send me something directly, use the contact form.

I’m open to all ranges of advice — anything you have to offer. You must have all kinds of great info, tips, and suggestions on visiting Australia and New Zealand. I’d be very grateful if you’d be willing to share any of them.