The Australian Youth Hostel Assn. (YHA) has introduced packages that enable independent travelers to visit key Australian cities easily and economically. Each package includes three nights' accommodations in multi-bed rooms, a $7 telephone card and an information kit for the city.
Jet-lagged travelers arriving in Sydney can head straight for the Sydney Central YHA (one of the world's largest youth hostels). You will find the hostel (telephone 011-61-2-9281-9111) at the corner of Pitt and Rawson streets, opposite Central Station in downtown Sydney. It features a rooftop pool, sauna and Internet facilities. In the $132 package, you get a bed in a four-person room, a "meet and greet" service that delivers you from the airport to the hostel, continental breakfasts, a full-day Sydney Harbour Explorer Pass and up to 12 months free mail and message service. The package price will rise to $139 April 1.
The Melbourne Queensberry Hill YHA (78 Howard St.; tel. 011-61-3-9329-8599) won the Tourism Victoria Award for best budget accommodations in 1995. This hostel features a pub, currency exchange and will loan bikes for free. The $118 gateway package includes accommodations in four-bed rooms, daily breakfast, a Skybus transfer from the airport, a half-day city sightseeing tour and a Phillip Island Penguin Tour. On April 1 the price rises to $125.
Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, is a gateway for those interested in exploring the wineries of the Barossa Valley, the Flinders Ranges or Kangaroo Island. The beaches are covered with sea lions, and there are so many kangaroos in the park that picnic areas have to be fenced to keep them out while visitors eat. The hostel is located at 290 Gilles St.; tel. 011-61-8-8223-6007. The $83 gateway package includes accommodations in rooms shared by six to eight travelers, breakfasts and a day tour to the Barossa Valley.
Tropical Cairns is the gateway for visits to the Great Barrier Reef. The Cairns youth hostel is located at 20-24 McLeod St.; tel. 011-61-70-51-0772. The Cairns package costs $101 for accommodations in a four-bed room, breakfasts, airport transfer and either a nocturnal wildlife tour or white-water rafting trip. On April 1 the price rises to $125 and will not include any tours, but you do get an airport transfer, breakfast, a 12-month mail and message service and a "Cairns Croc Card" (valued at $20), which is valid for free entrance to some local nightclubs.
The new Darwin hostel (69 Mitchell St.; tel. 011-61-8-8981-3995) has a large swimming pool, sun deck and air-conditioned rooms. The $111 package includes a room shared by four, breakfasts, airport transfer and an AAT King's Day Tour to Litchfield National Park (including lunch).
For $159, the Britannia International YHA in Perth, at 253 William St.; tel. 011-61-89-328-6121, provides lodgings in four-bed rooms, an airport transfer and a tour to Rottnest Island. After April 1, a four-wheel-drive day tour to the Pinnacles is included instead of Rottnest Island.
Beginning April 1, three-night packages will be available for Hobart, capital of Tasmania, at the suburban Adelphi Court YHA Hostel at 17 Stoke St.; tel. 011-61-3-6228-4829. The $83 package also includes breakfasts, an airport transfer, a Derwent River Cruise, entrance to the Antarctica Museum and a tram tour of Hobart.
The packages are available to members of affiliated hostel associations. For details on Hostelling International: American Youth Hostels, contact the HI-AYH Los Angeles Council, 1434 2nd St., Santa Monica, CA 90401; tel. (310) 393-3413. You can upgrade any of the packages to twin-share or single rooms at a surcharge when you arrive if space is available.
The Australian YHA is a nationwide network of 138 hostels, each offering 24-hour access, multi-bed rooms, self-catering kitchens and desks with local visitor information. No age limits are imposed. At any of the hostels you can pick up free maps and handbooks with details on each location. The YHA has created an Internet Site at http://www.yha.org.au., which includes suggestions for travel routes and information about the hostels along those routes. The site also provides details on more than 800 discounts available to members of affiliated hostelling associations.
Discounts available include a 10% reduction on all half- and one-day AAT King's sightseeing tours in Ayers Rock, Alice Springs, Darwin, Melbourne and Sydney, and special rates with Avis, Hertz and Budget car rentals.
If you purchase your package at a YHA Travel Center (they have offices in the hostels in Sydney, Alice Springs, Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane, Airlie Beach and Cairns), you are eligible for a 10% discount on "Lonely Planet" guidebooks, Greyhound Pioneer and McCafferty's coach services and Rail Australia Coach Class travel on the Ghan, Indian Pacific and Overland routes.
Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. She can be reached at http://www.izon.com.