Legendary Locations: Australia
SwimDaily is celebrating the impending launch of Swimsuit's 50th anniversary issue with this video-a-day series featuring our most memorable shoot locations, hosted by the memorable-in-her-own-right Emily DiDonato.
Be sure to come back daily because we are sending ONE LUCKY READER on the trip of a lifetime to the No. 1 Legendary Location. Go here for more details!
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Day 7: Australia
FOR $16, you can hold a koala in your arms at the Cairns Tropical Zoo. This is an experience that at once confirms expectations—the marsupials are as gentle as their reputations suggest—and offers surprises. Koalas, it turns out, are far heavier than you'd imagine: They weigh up to 30 muscled pounds. They also smell as if they've been spritzed with eucalyptus perfume.
You undoubtedly have a broad image of Australia in your mind, shaped by such noted emissaries as Paul Hogan and Steve Irwin, the late Crocodile Hunter. But as the SI Swimsuit team discovered, it requires a journey Down Under for the exhilarating details—Australia's natural and cultural magic—to truly emerge.
Cairns (locals pronounce it cans) acts as the portal into the varied ecosystems of the country's northeast. It's a starting point for exploring the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral system and a haven for divers, and a 90 minute drive north leads to the majestic Daintree Rainforest, where kangaroos instantly transform from strange creatures on nature shows to those that hop in herds right beside your car.
A flight 1,500 miles south will land you in Sydney, and there is no better place from which to have your expectations for the city both met and wonderfully upended. You have seen the shells of the Sydney Opera House, with the Harbour Bridge beside it, on posters. But no image—and no other hotel in Sydney—can match the panoramic view you will take in with a drink in your hand, after a glorious day at Bondi Beach, from the Blu Bar on the Shangri-La's 36th floor. After that, you might venture out to enjoy Sydney's thriving foodie scene, which far exceeds its shrimp-on-a-barbie billing.
Sydney is a 14½-hour flight from Los Angeles, but after your first day there, you won't regret having made it. Your only regret will come on your trip home, as you think of what you've left—koalas included—behind.–Ben Reiter