Australia’s travel icons exert a pull so strong that we’re willing to travel halfway across the world – and sometimes more – just to tick off Sydney’s Opera House and Uluru from our bucket lists. But when you’re done sightseeing, what then? For those of us who’ve endured tough winters, short days and long hours at work, a trip to Oz offers escapism, sunshine and most important of all, the chance to experience Aussie lifestyle and culture and have fun.
Aussie Lifestyle and Culture
If your plan is to emulate the Aussie lifestyle and culture, then you might be interested to learn that an estimated 80% of Australian adults gamble in some way, whether it’s a flutter on an Aussie Rules footie match or a spin on the pokies. For those without a firm grasp of Aussie slang, that’s poker machines to you: the one armed bandits that feature in their thousands along the country’s east coast. In fact, you don’t even have to wait until you arrive, or leave your hotel room. Sites like mansion.com have sprung up across the internet offering the chance to try your luck at classic games like online roulette or online poker for cash prizes. You won’t always win, of course, but stick to what you can afford and it can be a lot of fun.
But if you’re looking for the classic Australian gambling game, then a strong contender has got to be Two-up, most closely associated with the mining towns of Kalgoorlie and Broken Hill. In fact, while you can play countrywide on Anzac day, it’s only in these two towns where you can legally experience Two-up year-round. If you’re curious, the game involves betting on which way two pennies will land after being thrown by a spinner inside a ring. It’s considered such a part of Aussie culture that a game even featured as part of the Tin Symphony segment in the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games held in 2000.
Melbourne Cup or Birdsville?
One of the best known events for those feeling lucky is the Melbourne Cup, a fixture on the city’s social calendar each November since 1861.
If you’re in search of a quirkier travel experience along the same lines, however, then head up to Queensland. Each September the tiny Outback town of Birdsville has held its own race meeting since 1882 with 6000 or so punters from across Australia swelling its tiny 100-strong resident population for the weekend. As well as the races themselves, there’s a truck load of entertainment scheduled with everything from a cocktail party to a fun run laid on.
Henley on Todd or Cane Toad Racing?
If you can’t wait that long, then the Henley-on-Todd regatta, held in Alice Springs every August, sees competitors race homemade boats along the dried up river bed in what’s surely the epitome of daft Aussie humour and all in aid of charity.
It’s got competition, of course. Head up to Queensland and seek out the Iron Bar on Port Douglas’ main street. There you can participate in cane toad racing in between courses, a novel approach to dealing with what amounts to a feral pest. The food’s not half bad, but it will be the thrill of the racing you’ll remember.