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Destination:
Dawn to Dusk

By December 11, 2019 No Comments

Sun rising over Sydney Harbour and Circular Quay, Sydney (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)

DAWN TO DUSK

STORY

NISARAT SITASUWAN

PHOTOGRAPHY

TOURISM NT AND DESTINATION NSW

PART 1: FIRST SUNRISE

One of the items on my bucket list which I had not had the chance to cross out was seeing the first sunrise of the year before anyone else in the world. This year, my adventurous friend and I did some research and planned the trip to the smallest detail to make it happen. 

Cape Byron, located on the east coast of Australia, is the place where the sun touches the land first in all of the world on New Year’s day (not counting other islands in the Pacific and New Zealand). Actually, seeing the first sunrise in East Cape near Gisborne in northeastern New Zealand is easy, but we also wanted to see Uluru on this trip, so we picked Australia.  

Cape Byron is in the far-northeastern corner of the state of New South Wales, so it’s more convenient to travel from Brisbane in Queensland. It took us three hours to drive there, so we gladly skipped the New Year countdown in Sydney to catch a plane to Brisbane and drive down to Byron Bay on New Year’s Eve.

1. Nura Diya Aboriginal Discovery Tour guide playing the digeridoo outside the main entrance of Taronga Zoo. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)

2. A couple enjoying sunrise at the Cape Byron Bay Lighthouse, Byron Bay. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW/Hugh Stewart)

Byron Bay is a small town near Cape Byron with a lighthouse as its landmark. There are many hotels to choose from, but if you want to visit this time of year, you might have to book months in advance.

We arrived at our hotel in Byron Bay in the afternoon. There was a New Year party in town, but we decided to take it easy that day. We had a light dinner and went to bed early, because we would have to get up at 4AM to see the sunrise at about 5AM.

On New Year’s morning, it was still dark, but the weather was really nice (it’s summer in Australia). The roads were not too empty because people were headed to the same place — the Cape Byron Lighthouse. We parked as close to it as possible and walked among other visitors to the lighthouse. Some people brought their yoga mats and did yoga to welcome the new morning, but most people just stood there and waited. There were some visitors, who appeared to have not slept the night before, making audible noise not far from us.

The sky gradually turned purple, with a tinge of yellow shining from the horizon. The wonderful thing about the first morning of the year is that I could see the sun before me, without any obstruction, and the aura of the sun shone directly on me.

1. Nura Diya Aboriginal Discovery Tour guide playing the digeridoo outside the main entrance of Taronga Zoo. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)
2. A couple enjoying sunrise at the Cape Byron Bay Lighthouse, Byron Bay. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW/Hugh Stewart)
3. Tourists enjoying sunset views of The Three Sisters, Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)
4. The Queen Victoria Building in Sydney’s CBD. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)

3. Tourists enjoying sunset views of The Three Sisters, Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)

4. The Queen Victoria Building in Sydney’s CBD. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)

5. Exploring Kings Canyon (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Wayoutback Australian Safaris)

6. Uluru at sunset (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Jason Charles Hill)

I watched the sun go up until the sky turned bright, drinking up this wonderful moment. Then, we went to have some breakfast and take a walk in town, before checking out of the hotel and continuing our journey.

The road along the East Coast in NSW is one of the most scenic roads of Australia. We drove south and stopped for coffee along the way, and in four hours, we arrived in Port Macquarie. We spent one night in this holiday town, which was quite vibrant. In the evening, we cruised the beautiful Hastings River and had French food for dinner.

The next morning, we continued to Sydney. It should actually take four hours without stopping, but we decided to make a stop in Hunter Valley to visit a vineyard. It is Australia’s oldest wine growing region, and there are many gorgeous restaurants. We visited one and were not disappointed. Next, we drove to the Three Sisters rock formation in the Blue Mountains to wrap up our day.

While in Sydney, we spent two whole days exploring it. We went to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, enjoyed coffee and food at The Rocks, visited Taronga Zoo where we saw native Australian animals and other animals from around the world, including Thai elephants, and ended our trip at Queen Victoria Building, Sydney’s most popular and prestigious shopping centre.

5. Exploring Kings Canyon (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Wayoutback Australian Safaris)
6. Uluru at sunset (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Jason Charles Hill)

7. Cuddly koala resting in its tree at Taronga Zoo, Sydney. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)

8. Exploring Uluru (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Wayoutback Australian Safaris)

9. Friends enjoying a twilight BridgeClimb Sydney experience overlooking Sydney Harbour. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)

10. Stargazing in the desert (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Matt Glastonbury)

PART 2: CHASING THE SUN AND STARS

My adventurous friend’s dream was to drive a 4WD through soul warming red earth of the Northern Territory, and to see the sunset at Uluru or Ayers Rock, a sacred cultural place, and to gaze at the starry sky in the desert. So, we left Sydney to go to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory to embark on this wonderful journey. 

Once we arrived and checked in to our hotel, we took a walk and visited a local gallery. Alice Springs is a big town, but since it was summer, the weather was really hot and we were sweaty the whole time. It only got cooler after sunset.  

The next morning, after stocking up on snacks and drinks for our 5-hour drive, we headed to Uluru. The road was quite straight and empty, but we had to look out for animals, especially kangaroos, which might jump out anytime (But taking photos with the kangaroo warning sign is a must!). 

The view on both sides of the road in Outback Australia is amazing. The heat made us tired, so we made a stop every hour, and in total we had made four stops before arriving at our hotel. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to spend the night in Kings Canyon, which I heard is amazing.  

11. Uluru helicopter tour at sunrise (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Emilie Ristevski)

12. Cultural tours with SEIT Outback Australia (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Archie Sartracom)

Uluru (Ayers Rock) is about 900 metres high and 350 metres wide. It’s a wonder how this big red rock came to be here in the first place. It is considered a sacred place by its native people, and in the past, visitors were allowed to climb up the rock, but about 30 years ago, the government returned Uluru to the Aboriginal owners, and the world famous climb to the top of Uluru permanently closed earlier this year.

We arrived at the hotel in the late afternoon and took a dip in the pool to cool down. Next on our itinerary was to enjoy dinner outdoors and listen to local music, before star gazing at the Southern sky, which is different from the Northern hemisphere. The sky was filled with countless stars, and it was so beautiful that we made it a point to drive out again the next day to look at the stars.

The next morning, we got up before dawn (at 4AM) to get on a small plane to see the sunrise. This flight takes about an hour, and you have to wait until there’s enough sunlight to begin the journey. We saw the sky gradually changing its colour, and from the plane, we could see Uluru and Kata Tjuta, a group of large, domed rock formations. After that, we went back to our hotel.

7. Cuddly koala resting in its tree at Taronga Zoo, Sydney. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)
8. Exploring Uluru (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Wayoutback Australian Safaris)
9. Friends enjoying a twilight BridgeClimb Sydney experience overlooking Sydney Harbour. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)
10. Stargazing in the desert (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Matt Glastonbury)
11. Uluru helicopter tour at sunrise (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Emilie Ristevski)
12. Cultural tours with SEIT Outback Australia (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Archie Sartracom)

13. Scenic coastal views from Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)

14. Starry Sky at Glen Helen at Night (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Matt Cherubino)

15. Shoppers in Queen Victoria Building in Sydney’s CBD. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)

16. Uluru at night (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Matthew Vandeputte)

That day, we drove around the see Uluru and Kata Tjuta (the National Park, with admission fees). Later, we took a walk until noon, before stopping for lunch and cooling down in the pool in our resort. In the late afternoon, we drove to a scenic point to watch the sunset at Uluru. The changing colour of the sky painted Uluru in different hues, from pink to orange and red. Every moment was worth a photo. After the sky had turned completely dark, we had dinner at the resort before driving out to look at the stars as planned. The resort told us not to drive too far as there could be animals at night.

We found a (safe) parking spot and looked at the stars to our heart’s content. We wanted to see the Milky Way, but we had been too worn out from the heat and all the stops that we decided to go back.

On our last day of this trip, we got up early to visit Uluru once again to see the sunrise, and it was just the right decision, because from that angle, it looked completely different from how we saw it from the plane.

It was time to go home and cross a few items off my bucket list — sunrise, sunset, and stargazing. From Uluru Airport, we flew to Brisbane and spent a night there before connecting to Bangkok, bringing home such a sense of fulfillment.

13. Scenic coastal views from Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)
14. Starry Sky at Glen Helen at Night (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Matt Cherubino)
15. Shoppers in Queen Victoria Building in Sydney’s CBD. (Mandatory Credit: Destination NSW)
16. Uluru at night (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Matthew Vandeputte)
17. Night sky over Uluru (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Matt Glastonbury)
18. Gliding over Alice Springs (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Flow Mountain Bike)

17. Night sky over Uluru (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Matt Glastonbury)

18. Gliding over Alice Springs (Mandatory Credit: Tourism NT/Flow Mountain Bike)

TRAVEL TIPS

1. If you are planning to visit during the holiday season, reserve accommodation, restaurants and other activities in advance.
2. You need a visa to visit Australia. Find out more at https://www.vfsglobal.com/.
3. For a self-driving trip, you can get an international driving license. Read more at https://www.dlt.go.th/.
4. December and January is summer in Australia, so pack light clothes and check the weather forecast before your trip

DESTINATION