What To Do: Visit Australia, virtually

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

What do most people in this area know about Australia?

It’s a country.

It’s an island.

It’s on the other side of the world.

G’day mate!

It has kangaroos.

It’s the “Land Down Under.”

It is home to Crocodile Dundee.

What other things about Australia do many people know?

It is a continent.

It is summer there when it is winter here.

It is home to Koala Bears.

“Women glow and men plunder.”

They eat vegemite sandwiches there.

It is where the Great Barrier Reef is located.

What do those a bit more familiar with Australia know?

It is the sixth-largest country in the world by total area.

It is the oldest inhabited continent in the world (human habitation of the Australian continent is known to have begun at least 65,000 years ago).

It t is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world with an average population density of 3.3 persons per square kilometer of total land area.

It is the flattest inhabited continent in the world.

It is the home of many of the world’s top rock acts including AC/DC, the Bee Gees, INXS, The Seekers, Crowded House, Little River Band, Men At Work and Tame Impala.

Now that COVID-19 has forced everyone to stay at home in order to “shelter in place,” now can be a good time to learn more about the “Land Down Under” via a large and interesting assortment of virtual tours focusing on Australia.

The Western Australia Tourist Information Center (https://www.facebook.com/ExtraordinaryWesternAustralia/)  has created a 13-day virtual vacation that will take you to some of the most stunning destinations in the country. Virtual travelers will start at the Esperance in the south and travel north until they hit the Horizontal Falls in the Kimberly region. Each day, the Western Australia Facebook page will post a new video at 9 a.m. WST for travelers to watch.

Each video offers 360-degree functionality so you can click around to explore every aspect of the location as if you were there. You can watch these at your own pace, whether it be one video a day or all at once. Each video is labeled by day, in order of how you would experience these sights if you were actually there and heading north.

Day One will let you relax on the beach with some kangaroos while Day Two will show some stunning views of Albany’s imposing granite cliffs and sheltered bays. Day Three will provide an up-close look at the stingrays that lurk in Hamelin Bay, while Day Four will feature a cruise through the Margaret River. On Day Five, the focus will be on exploring the depths of Ngilgi Cave in Yallingup.

Far North Queensland is destination for those wishing to check out Australia’s natural wonders.

Get a taste of all it has to offer with this virtual video that takes in its two most incredible features — the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef

Guided by Dan Churchill, the tour starts with a bird’s-eye view of the reef on the journey from Cairns before 360-degree video takes you on a boat cruise up the Daintree River.

You can look around the rainforest as Churchill reveals just how old the unique trees and plants in this part of the world are and focuses on one of the curious creatures you might spot roaming the boardwalks.

Then, you’ll have the opportunity to take in the vast views over the hinterland and out to sea from the Skyrail and understand just how glorious this place is.

Video link for North Queensland — https://youtu.be/_ezmZakArjQ

A visit to Uluru will introduce you to Bruce Munro’s breathtaking “Field of Light” exhibition.

“Field of Light” is an art installation that employs tens of thousands of small frosted-glass spheres, which transform their setting into a dreamily lit wonderland.

Field of Light

Since 2017, the exhibition has been illuminating the ancient lands near Uluru, its closing date extended several times as visitors flock to walk among the more than 50,000 solar-powered bulbs.

This virtual tour allows you to pivot your vantage point to take in as much of the installation as possible, with a sweeping view of the frosted globes. A stunning soundtrack sets the mood perfectly as the purple, pink and white lights start to flicker.

Displayed in the grounds of Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, about 15 kilometers north of Uluru, the installation will now remain until December 31, 2020.

Video link for “Field of Light” — https://youtu.be/NAnocEAs8FI.

Localing (https://localingtours.com/), a private tour company based in Melbourne recently launched Virtual Victoria, where homebound travelers can join 360-degree tours showcasing popular tourist attractions around the state and its capital.

The Localing team was able to film for the free initiative in March before extensive restrictions came into place in Victoria.

Video link for Victoria — https://localingtours.com/virtual-victoria-tours/.

Localing’s Mornington Peninsula tour features the region’s stunning coastline and rugged basalt formations — source material for Melbourne’s famous bluestone lanes and buildings. Point Leo Estate, a winery and sculpture park, is also on the itinerary, along with a stop in the seaside town of Flinders and a walkthrough of Moonlit Sanctuary in Pearcedale, home to koalas, wallabies, and other native animals.

Other virtual visits offered by Localing feature The Great Ocean Road, Yarra Valley, Phillip Island and Tasmania.

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) — Australia’s oldest art gallery — has created virtual tours of its current exhibitions, including “Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines” and “KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness.” About 90 percent of NGV’s collection of approximately 75,000 works is available to view online, including iconic paintings depicting the region.



Melbourne Museum is another city highlight. The cultural and natural history museum has arranged an extravaganza of web-based activities as part of the Museum at Home initiative developed by Museums Victoria across its social channels, such as hands-on YouTube home projects and curator Q&As.

The Sydney Opera House (https://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/digital/season.html) has announced an all-digital program to keep arts lovers entertained. Every day at 6pm AEST between Wednesday and Sunday, a new performance will be featured on the Sydney Opera House website for people to stream digitally, free of charge.

Sydney Opera House

The weekly program will be announced every Tuesday; the first batch of shows includes the Sydney Symphony Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Ninth, and an interview panel with Australian writers Celia Pacquola, Josh Thomas and Luke McGregor.

Once available, the videos will remain on the site for viewers to watch on demand.

If you want to take a peek beneath the sails, you can also watch a 360-degree video tour of the iconic space to examine the exterior and interior architecture, accompanied to a soundtrack performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Video link for Sydney Opera House — https://youtu.be/K4z7k4GWdho.

As long as you’re “Down Under,” you might as well hop over to New Zealand to check out Wellington.


A range of 360 videos are available on the WellTown Youtube channel that showcase some of the best things to do in the city. Marvel at works on display at the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand; feel the buzz of the crowd as you take in the pregame entertainment for an All Blacks game; and peek inside the Weta Workshop, the Oscar-winning special effects company made famous for its work of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

Video link for Wellington — https://youtu.be/eb0XbpIMbIA.

Heading back across the Pacific Ocean, you can stop in Hawai’i for a virtual tour of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park presented by the National Park Service (https://www.nps.gov/havo/index.htm).

Volcanoes in Hawai’i

Upon starting the virtual tour, guests are transported to the park’s entrance. It is an entrance to a world of a vibrant ecosystem that comes with many native plants, birds, insects — many of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world.”

Then, virtual visitors can enter right into the volcano’s incredible lava tubes which are like the veins of a volcano, transporting lava from the heart of an eruption

Visitors can then use their mouse to explore the gorgeous cave structure, simply clicking around to see it all as if they were right there with Kaawaloa-Okita.

From the caves, visitors head out to the coastal cliffs, where more than 500 new acres of land has been added to the island in the last 30 years alone.

Back on the mainland and closer to home, Pennsylvania’s Americana Region (www.visitpaamericana.com) is offering families a special online program geared to helping young kids avoid cabin fever – weekly activities packets.

These “Discover Pennsylvania” packets have puzzles and other activities for kids up to fourth grade.

You can find “Weekly Activity Packet Three,” which is this week’s group of activities, at https://www.visitpaamericana.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Week-3-Activity-Packet.pdf. The webpage also has links to the first two weeks’ activities.

Another activity to keep families occupied this week is checking out the skies for a good look at Venus, a brilliant planet that has been very visible this year.

Every night when the sun goes down in the west, a bright “star” becomes visible directly above in the twilight sky. The fiery second planet from the sun is known as the “Evening Star” This week, it reaches its peak brightness.

The third-brightest object in the sky behind the sun and the moon, Venus is always brighter than the brightest stars. However, because it orbits relatively close to the sun, it is only ever visible for a short time after sunset or before sunrise. It has been visible after sunset since November and will sink behind the sun in June. In late March, Venus had its greatest eastern elongation and appeared to be as far from the sun as it ever gets. Because it is closest to Earth just after that point, Venus appears to reach its peak

Venus is very easy to locate after the sun has set. Look to the west where Venus will be visible about 40º above the horizon (halfway between the horizon and the zenith above your head). That large separation from the sun means Venus keeps on shining brightly for many hours before setting after midnight.

For when you’re inside rather than outside stargazing, here is a list (not by genre and in no particular order) where you can enjoy interesting and informative virtual journeys: The Penn Museum (www.penn.museum), The Museum of the American Revolution (www.amrevmuseum.org), The Delaware Art Museum (delart.org/connectwithartfromhome), The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en), the Van Gogh Museum (https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en), The Louvre in Paris (https://www.louvre.fr/en); Musée d’Orsay in Paris (https://m.musee-orsay.fr/en/home.html); The Vatican Museums in Rome (www.museivaticani.va); Uffizi Gallery, Florence (https://www.uffizi.it/en), Faroe Islands (https://www.visitfaroeislands.com/), Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden (http://cincinnatizoo.org/), The National Park Foundation (https://www.nationalparks.org/connect/blog/take-virtual-visit-national-park), Abbey Road (https://www.abbeyroad.com/news/google-presents-inside-abbey-road-1003?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1), York Minster  (https://www.york360.co.uk/movies/york-minster-interior.htm), Appalachian Trail (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/walk-the-distance/id634548793), The National Park Service and The National Cherry Blossom Festival  (https://nationalmall.org/bloomcam), Schönbrunn Palace (https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/schloss-schoenbrunn). The B&O Railroad Museum (http://www.borail.org/jrjunction.aspx), Roman Baths (https://www.romanbaths.co.uk/walkthrough), Hadrian’s Wall (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGcpiwL3CEg), The National Gallery in London (nationalgallery.org.uk); The British Museum (britishmuseum.org); Guggenheim in Bilbao (www.guggenheim-bilbao.eus/en); Guggenheim Museum in New York (https://www.guggenheim.org); Metropolitan Museum of Art (https://www.metmuseum.org); The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (www.nga.gov); Giants Causeway (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giants-causeway/features/take-a-virtual-tour-of-the-giants-causeway?awc=3795_1587148311_51431446614873859d363fe54b35b29d&campid=Affiliates_Central_Mem_AWIN_Standard&aff=78888), Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (https://naturalhistory.si.edu/), Space Center Houston (https://spacecenter.org/app/), Buckingham Palace (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gen0NgJjry4), The Tower of London (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeLQVare-3k), The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution (https://airandspace.si.edu/), Palace of Versailles (https://artsandculture.google.com/project/versailles), Six Flags Great Adventure (https://www.sixflags.com/greatadventure/attractions/vr2016/experience), Dorney Park(https://www.dorneypark.com/), Walt Disney World (https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/), St. Paul’s Cathedral (https://www.360cities.net/image/inside-st-paul-s-cathedral), Stonehenge (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RyqU1r1Fmk), LEGOLAND Florida Resort (https://www.legoland.com/florida/), SeaWorld Orlando (https://seaworld.com/orlando/), Universal Orlando Resort (https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us), Betsy Ross House (historicphiladelphia.org/betsy-ross-house), Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Brontë residences  (https://artsandculture.google.com/story/FwLyGtC06USyJA), Loch Ness (https://www.google.com/maps/@57.1866913,-4.6170689,2a,90y,179.9h,82.17t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sFB8R6jT4YbOQd8Kpy4Xg7g!2e0!7i13312!8i6656), Valley Forge National Historical Park (https://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/valley_forge), the American Treasure Tour Museum (http://americantreasuretour.com/), The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania (https://rrmuseumpa.org/about/musviews/), The National Toy Train Museum (www.nttmuseum.org), The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/archaeology/resources/virtual-tour.html), the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum (http://lumbermuseum.org/) and Edinburgh Castle (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zu-KVWSqJlI).

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