Posted on: November 16th, 2017 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Top Things to Do in the Whitsundays
The Whitsunday Islands off the coast of Queensland are known as Australia’s slice of tropical paradise. This idyllic chain of 74 island wonders stun visitors from around the world with their green-clad beauty and secluded white-sand beaches.
With people as warm as the year-round weather and a holiday feel as relaxed as its calm, crystal clear waters, it’s no wonder the Whitsundays are the premier destination for a tropical escape in Australia.
You’ve seen the mesmerizing pictures of Whitehaven Beach and its pure white sand. You’ve pondered seeing the underwater wonderland of the Great Barrier Reef.
Make Airlie Beach on the Whitsunday Coast the base of your next holiday, and you’ll be on the doorstep of these beautiful destinations. As gateway to the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach is the ideal threshold into the island holiday of your dreams.
Australia is teeming with gorgeous beaches. There’s iconic Bondi Beach in Sydney, the golden beaches of the Sunshine Coast, and a beach so perfect to catch waves it’s named Surfer’s Paradise.
But your idea of tropical paradise is probably a bit more secluded.
At Whitehaven Beach every spot is perfect to relax on its pure white sand, and the only crowds you’ll see are a mere handful of people. This world-famous beach is the crown jewel of the Whitsundays, constantly rated as the best beach in Australia.
The powdery white sand is 98 percent silica, meaning the sand never gets hot no matter how hard the sun glares. And with shallow, crystal clear waters always hovering at 77 degrees Fahrenheit, Whitehaven Beach is like something out of a dream.
How to Get There
Whitehaven Beach is on Whitsunday Island, the largest island of the Whitsundays. Whitsunday Island is a pristine paradise, with no hotels or resorts in sight, and the only way to reach it is by sea or air. The numerous islands and surrounding reef protect the waters, making them calm and perfect for sailing or cruising to Whitehaven Beach from Abell Point Marina at Airlie Beach.
With waters so still and an ambience so relaxed, you might be aching for a little adventure. Embark on an exhilarating ocean rafting ride and jet through the Whitsundays to Whitehaven Beach. Feel the adrenaline pulse through you as the wind plays through your hair and the water splashes around you.
Once you arrive at Whitsunday Island be sure to take the fifteen minute walk to Hill Inlet for those unbelievable views so iconic to Whitehaven Beach.
The heavenly swirls of white sands and aqua waters will be an unforgettable image ingrained forever into your memory.
Though Hill Inlet provides a commanding view over Whitehaven Beach, the best way to see the otherworldly swirls are by seaplane or helicopter.
The soft shades of blue gently blended with white sand glimmer below as you fly overhead. Land on the beach for a dramatic entrance – for a beach as breathtaking as Whitehaven, such a grand entrance is only appropriate.
Whitehaven Beach is not the only gem you can see while flying over the Whitsundays.
You’ll find the heart of the ocean lies in the Great Barrier Reef of the Whitsundays.
White sand beaches, vibrant green islands and clear turquoise water – the Whitsundays are a picture of utter tropical romance. But the picture isn’t complete without Heart Reef, out to steal yours.
This stunning natural composition of coral is in the perfect shape of a heart. Located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, this icon has been the site of many proposals and declarations of love as couples fly overhead by helicopter or seaplane.
The spectacular view appears just as it does in photos on post cards – untouched and brightly colored.
A deluxe scenic flight through the Whitsundays can include a trip over Whitehaven Beach and Heart Reef – two jewels of the Whitsundays. You’ll be reeling from a romance high once you land back on ground.
A more cost effective way to see Heart Reef by air is in conjunction with a visit to the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll depart from the Great Barrier Reef platoon and fly over this romantic natural beauty.
Great Barrier Reef
There’s no way you visit Australia without experiencing the Great Barrier Reef. This mind blowing natural wonder is a definitive Australia destination.
At the Whitsundays, you’re located near the central section of the Great Barrier Reef, making the region ideal for exploring the reef. Airlie Beach and a few of the island resorts of the Whitsundays provide ample ways to experience the reef so you can enjoy this icon in your own style.
Our favorite day cruise departing Airlie Beach out to the reef combines interactive adventures of snorkeling, diving, semi-submersibles and underwater viewing observatories allowing you to see the reef no matter your skill level, or lack thereof.
The reef in the Whitsundays boasts some of the most colorful fish and coral formations anywhere in the Great Barrier Reef. The shallow, warm waters of the Whitsundays provide excellent opportunities for snorkeling.
If diving is your passion, you’ll be in heaven at the Whitsundays, where tens of thousands of fish and other marine life including turtles and dolphins call home.
Want to see the reef without getting wet? Glass bottom boats, semi-submersibles and cruise ships with underwater viewing observatories allow you to marvel at the underwater wonderland of the reef without dipping a single toe in the water.
From sunny day trips to the Great Barrier Reef to leisurely charters around the Whitsundays, sailing is perhaps the best way to explore this chain of islands.
The Whitsundays offers some of the world’s best sailing, and what better way to fall in love with this island paradise than out at sea, enveloped in the glory of a gorgeous tropical sunset?
Airlie Beach offers numerous sail tours departing the marina for half day, full day, and even overnight sailing. One of our favorite luxury yacht tours includes gourmet meals, visits to snorkel sites and Whitehaven Beach – the ultimate all-in-one Whitsundays experience.
Or you may prefer to keep it simple and sail around the bays of Airlie Beach for fantastic views of the sea on a sunset cruise.
You may even hire a private yacht for bareboat sailing without a license or experience, and set course to the Whitsundays for your own island adventure.
As the base for all this tropical island fun, Airlie Beach is the heart and soul of the Whitsundays. The vibrant and social atmosphere in Airlie Beach is infectious and its holiday daze will soon take over, ensuring you’ll never want to leave.
And many people who planned to only visit for a few weeks end up staying forever!
With the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef at its doorstep along with its laid-back main street lined with boutiques, cafes and markets, it’s not difficult to see how the tropical charm of Airlie Beach seduces visitors from around the world to its shores.
You can sunbathe at the edge of renowned Airlie Lagoon, located in the heart of the town.
And indulge in the freshest seafood and gourmet dining in one of many thriving cafes, restaurants and bars. Tip: Head to Fish D’Vine, an Airlie Beach institution, for locally-sourced seafood and a choice of 450 types of rum.
Whitsunday Coast & Hinterland
Just minutes from Airlie Beach is the lush green rainforest of the Whitsunday Coast. Discover quiet coves, waterfalls and scenic outlooks on one of many walking trails through the hinterland.
Take a break from the beach side and explore the tropical rainforest surrounds.
Cedar Creek Falls
This hidden gem is a local favorite as a day trip into the Whitsunday hinterland. Best to see during the wet season, fresh water runs off the surrounding rocks into a crisp, emerald green lagoon.
Enjoy the dappled shade of the rainforest canopy above you as you swim in the refreshing waters of the rock lagoon, and take a lunch break with a picnic in these gorgeous surrounds. Only 30 minutes away from Airlie Beach, you won’t want to miss this hidden tropical oasis of the Whitsunday Coast hinterland.
Conway National Park
Another popular escape into the rainforest landscape of the Whitsunday Coast is at Conway National Park. The diverse beauty of its green-clad hills, secluded beaches and panoramic outlooks over the Whitsundays is enough to lure in travelers from Airlie Beach.
Walk on a wide range of bushwalking trails winding through the park and catch sight of the many butterflies in different shades of blue, yellow and orange flutter about you in the forest. Take in the views of the Whitsundays from Mount Rooper Lookout. Discover the quiet seclusion of Coral Beach and watch as hundreds of tiny crabs run across the sand.
Best Places to Visit in Australia for Tropical Paradise
Not too many people know about the Whitsundays region in Queensland. When people think of a trip to Australia it’s usually to the typical destinations – the Sydney Opera House, Ayers Rock in the Outback, and the Great Barrier Reef as accessed from Cairns.
Sure, those are fantastic places to visit in Australia, but for that tropical island getaway of your dreams there’s no other place as perfect as the Whitsundays.
Whether it’s solitude and rejuvenation, fast-paced action or relaxation, you’ll find it all in the Whitsundays.
Ready to make your escape to the Whitsundays? Contact our Destination Specialists to start planning your idyllic island vacation.
Posted on: October 19th, 2017 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Whale Watching Season in Australia
Whale watching in Australia has grown tremendously over the last decade. The long whale season in Australia – between May and November – no doubt contributes to its growing popularity.
But whale watching season differs throughout the country and so do the kinds of whales you’ll see.
In May, whale groups including humpbacks and southern right whales migrate from the waters of the Antarctic to the tropical waters of Australia for mating season. Minke whales and even the rare blue whale also make a stop in Australia’s waters throughout their migration.
The warm waters provide a safe habitat for delivering and nursing their calves, contributing to the growing whale population in Australia. With nearly 60 per cent of the world’s whales found in Australia’s waters, it’s no wonder this is a top whale watching destination.
Make your stop along the coasts of Australia – the best place to see whales – for an incredible opportunity to see these iconic gentle giants. Read our guide below to discover the best times to see whales during whale watching season in Australia.
Whale Watching in Victoria and South Australia
Every year along the southern coast of Australia you’ll see southern right whales migrate to the bays of Victoria and South Australia to give birth.
Whale watching season for southern rights in this region is between June and October, when they swim closest to the shores. In Warnambool, Victoria, blue whales are occasionally seen in May.
Cross off two breathtaking experiences at once and journey along the Great Ocean Road on the southeastern coast of Australia. Cruise one of the world’s most scenic drives and stop at popular lookout points to stretch your eyes across the waters below your to spot whales frolicking and breaching. Southern rights are the most commonly spotted whale from different points along the Great Ocean Road, including at Cape Nelson, Portland Bay, and Warnambool.
These curious whales tend to venture close to humans, often swimming close to boats and ultimately lending to an incredible experience with these gentle giants of the sea.
Whale Watching on the East Coast of Australia
Whale Watching in Sydney
The east coast of Australia offers excellent opportunities for whale watching, especially along the coasts of New South Wales and Queensland.
The best time to see whales in popular destinations throughout the east coast ranges between May through July and September through November.
In Sydney, you’ll typically spot humpback whales close to shore making their journey toward Queensland. Humpback whales, like southern rights, are friendly and curious about boats and divers. Their inviting nature has given them the reputation of the most popular whales among whale watchers.
These whale watching cruises typically combine whale watching with sightseeing and information on Sydney’s history. Cruise vessels provide an intimate experience by carrying only up to 11 passengers. You’ll enjoy a private, small group tour along the Sydney Harbor with personalized and knowledgeable commentary about the city and whales throughout your journey.
Soon you’ll be an expert on Sydney and whale behavior patterns.
If you like to cruise in style, Sydney offers luxury whale watching cruises complete with a gourmet luncheon served on-board and drinks to purchase. Comfortable indoor seating allows you to sip on a cocktail while watching the giants of the sea. Or you may take in the blue expanse of the ocean out on spacious viewing decks.
Take a cruise to the reef and not only will you experience the world’s largest living organism – the reef itself – but you may also see whales, the world’s largest animals.
Whale season attracts humpback and dwarf minke whales between May and September to the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef. The best time for whale watching in this region, however, is between July and September.
Whale Watching on the Gold Coast
If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground but still yearn for the special experience of seeing a whale, Australia’s east coast is the best place to spot whales from the beach.
The Gold Coast is rapidly becoming the premier whale watching site in Australia, with whales venturing as close as one or two kilometers from beach shores. Whales may be spotted all throughout the regular whale watching season in the Gold Coast, peaking in August.
Numerous lookout points along the Gold Coast provide great ocean views where you’ll spot humpback whales breaching and shooting big spouts of mist into the air. Point Danger, a headland on the southern end of the Gold Coast, is renowned as a premier spot for whale watching on land. Other great vantage points include Burleigh Hill and Miami Hill.
Whale Watching in Hervey Bay
Humpback whales make a stop on their return migration to enjoy the waters of Hervey Bay. The clear waters allow you to easily see humpbacks as they frolic and breach, basking in the sheltered waters of Fraser Island with their young. The best time to see humpbacks in Hervey Bay is between July through October, right before they head south again for feeding.
You will typically begin spotting humpbacks twenty minutes into a cruise out on the waters of Hervey Bay – perfect for the eager whale watching enthusiast. Sometimes the whales venture close to the boats, a delightful treat for lucky passengers.
An even better treat is getting to swim with the whales.
Swimming with Whales
Swim with Whale Sharks
The once in a lifetime opportunity to swim with whales awaits at Ningaloo Coast. This World Heritage Site is located in the north-west coast of Western Australia. Here, whale watching adventures can combine a snorkel on the Ningaloo reef with whale watching and swimming on a full day tour.
Take a cruise between March and September for the chance to get up close and personal with these friendly giants.
And the giant you’re most likely to meet on a whale swim is the whale shark. Don’t worry though – classified as the world’s largest fish, these animals are more like whales in their behavior than sharks. These docile creatures are accustomed to swimming alongside humans, with a diet consisting of only micro-organisms such as plankton and krill. So there’s nothing stopping you from taking the plunge and swimming with whale sharks!
Meeting a new friend means first gaining their trust. The same holds true even for these enormous creatures.
You’ll enter the waters with an expert guide in a small group of up to 5 swimmers, so as not to scare off the whale shark. Gaining the animal’s trust may take up to half an hour, but that’s a small price to pay for such a grand experience.
To ensure this exhilarating experience goes as smoothly as possible, a spotter plane flies overhead and alerts the crew on board when a whale is spotted. A photographer joins the swim to capture unforgettable underwater moments you can look back on.
Swimming with Dwarf Minke Whales
Other friendly and inquisitive whales that you are likely to meet on a whale swim are dwarf minkes.
These whales hang around the Ribbon Reefs of the Great Barrier Reef between May and September, peaking in early July. This region is the only place in the world where humans can interact with these whales. With a limited number of tours permitted to offer swimming with minke whales, you don’t want to miss out on this special experience! Day trips and even 3-7 night excursions onto the sea are available for enjoying minke whale watching and swimming.
If you are unsure about swimming with whales, minke whales are just gentle enough to try out the experience. They often seek out human company, swimming around snorkelers and divers and approaching boats just within a few yards. Just another reason why Australia is the best place to see whales – you’re able to experience whales in their natural habitat.
Whale Watching in Australia
All along Australia’s coastline are fantastic spots to see whales. Whether you’re a swimmer and ready for the once in a lifetime experience of swimming with whales, or if you’d rather keep your feet on the ground and see whales frolic in the ocean from the beach or a cruise, there’s a spot in Australia perfect for your style of whale watching.
Want to include whale watching in your trip to Australia? Contact one of our expert Destination Specialists. We’ll set up the perfect whale watching experience for you to see these majestic giants of the sea.
Posted on: September 15th, 2017 by Melissa Maxwell No Comments
It’s no secret, data usage while traveling abroad is expensive. The problem becomes even worse when you travel to a country like Australia, which doesn’t offer endless options for free WiFi like we have in the United States. As we become more and more dependent on our phones and the information their connection brings, we find it harder and harder to function without them. This is especially true when it comes to getting around.
I don’t know about you, but I use my maps app nearly every day!
You need a way to use GPS for free when traveling internationally!
In a foreign land it’s nice to know you can always turn to your phone when you want to find the nearest attraction, explore the area for the best restaurants, or ensure your taxi driver isn’t literally ‘taking you for a ride’. So today we share one of our most used travel tips…
How to use the GPS on your phone without using international data
Using your map app while roaming can incur heavy usage fees when traveling internationally. This is not due to the use of your GPS. It’s because you have to download the map data in order to understand where you are and where you want to go. Using the GPS to target your location is free. The simple solution is to download the map data before you travel.
We suggest downloading your maps a day or two before you depart so you have the most up to date information. You can do this using WiFi while in Australia, but you’ll save a lot of time if you download using the fast connection speeds you have at home. Shared WiFi in hotels and airports can be frustratingly slow!
Here’s how it’s done using the popular Google Maps app.
Step 1: If you haven’t already, download Google Maps. Apple | Android
Step 2: Type in the city you plan on visiting in the Search Bar.
Step 3: Tap on the little “hamburger” menu.
Step 4: Tap on “Offline Maps”.
Step 5: Tap “Select Your Own Map”. If your screen only has “Home” or “Custom map” available, tap “Custom map.”
Step 6: Zoom in or out and adjust your map to represent where you will be while on vacation. The larger the area, the more memory the map will use on your phone. In Sydney, for example, you would likely want to include the CBD (downtown area) and areas along the Harbour up to Bondi Beach. By limiting the area, we’ll be saving 25MB of memory.
Step 7: Click Download
Now, when you are in this area of the map, you will be able to use Google Maps as you normally would without using any data or WiFi. You might want to turn the mobile data off on your phone so you don’t accidentally use your data when you search outside your downloaded area.
Step 8: Repeat this process for every city on your itinerary.
Tip: If you’re driving and need a large area downloaded, the standard rectangle selection might create a map that is too large to download. Instead, break up your trip with multiple maps. Download smaller, overlapping areas along your route. These will combine in your maps app and allow you to explore the region along your entire route.
Now that you can use GPS for free when traveling, you can travel carefree!
Posted on: August 10th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
Sydney is a world-class city with limitless ways to entertain yourself and enjoy the sights.
They say that the best things in life are free, so take a tour of Australia’s most famous city with our list of free things to do in Sydney.
Explore the Sydney Harbour
The whole Harbour area is many visitors’ first-stop on a tour through Australia. You can stroll along the edge of the water and take pictures of stunning Harbour views.
Then, take a walk across the Harbour Bridge and wave to the climbers above you!
Get Cultured at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
This Sydney mainstay will leave you in awe at the amount of amazing artwork that is on display. Australian and International works displayed in a quirky, art-deco building right inside The Rocks district.
Photo: Tourism Australia
Soak Up the Sun
You can’t think about Australia without thinking about those sunny, golden beaches. Sydney’s beaches are some of the best and most popular in the country. Whether you’re looking to lounge and want to learn to hang-10 and surf the famous break, you can’t go wrong with a day at Bondi, Manly, Coogee or any other Sydney beach.
Photo: Tourism Australia / Andrew Wallace
Listen to the Buskers at Circular Quay
In this bustling Harbour-side plaza you’ll find plenty of street-musicians performing for the masses. Everything from folk duos, solo musicians and didgeridoo players fill the air with the sounds of local and native tunes. It’s free to listen, but of course a busker always appreciates a good tip!
Walk the Clifftops from Bondi to Coogee Beach
Can’t decide which beach to pay a visit? How about all of them?
There are plenty of great walks in Sydney and the surrounding areas, but the walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach may just be the most spectacular. A constructed boardwalk sits perched high over seaside cliffs and runs the entire length, connecting 5 of Sydney’s sunniest beaches.
Walk along and make a stop at each beach, from surf-mecca Bondi to the sandstone-striations of Clovelly.
Visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship
This tranquil oasis in the middle of Sydney CBD is the perfect place for a peaceful pit-stop under a pagoda.
Sydney’s Chinatown is ranked one of the 10 best in the world. While you could go all out and try a smorgasbord of authentic Chinese cuisine – including the world-famous Golden Century Seafood Restaurant, where you can pick your own catch of the day from the fish-tank lined walls – walking through this Chinese cultural mecca in Sydney is just as satisfying.
Plan to be there on a Friday night to see Chinatown transformed in to a buzzing, outdoor night market.
Peruse Paddington Markets
One of the oldest markets in Sydney. Paddington Markets have plenty to browse through with arts, crafts, hand-made trinkets and goods and more. Walk around and enjoy the vibe of this market with Aussie locals. The market is open Saturdays from 10am to 4 pm.
Photo: Masaru Kitano snaK Productions
Take a Free Guided Walk of the Royal Botanic Gardens
We make no secret about our love of the Royal Botanic Gardens. There’s no better place in Sydney to see such a diverse collection of flourishing flowers and lush, green plant life. The best part? You can take a free walking tour to get the in-depth low-down on this floral wonderland.
Tip: Be sure to stop for a picture at Mrs. Macquaries Chair for one of the best views from the park of the Harbour and Harbour Bridge.
If you plan your trip around certain times of the year, you can take advantage of Sydney’s packed schedule of annual festivals. See the city all lit up during Vivid Sydney from May-June, see art installations, music, dance, talks and more at Sydney Festival in January, see beautiful blooms at the Cherry Blossom Festival in August and many more.
*Tip: If you miss Vivid, you can see the Sydney Opera House lit up every night with the mini light festival, Badu Gili. This 7-minute art-installation projected on the “sails” of the Opera House happens each night at sunset.
Photo: Destination NSW
Roam Through the Oldest Park in Australia
Hyde Park is a 40-acre park smack in the middle of Sydney. At nearly 140 years old, it was the first park established in the entire country. This communal green space is manicured and pristine, with tree-lined avenues, monuments and memorials, fountains, flowers and more. Post up on a bench for a bit of people watching or take a leisurely stroll.
Explore The Rocks District
This 18th century historic Aussie settlement (one of the first ever established) has a storied past of convicts, gangs and other sordid affairs. Since then, the area has cleaned up it’s act and is perfect for a historical walk over cobbled streets, past renovated, centuries-old buildings. The Rocks is also home to two of Sydney’s oldest surviving pubs.
Photo: Tourism Australia
See The Rocks Museum
This unique museum is located in a restored 18th century warehouse. You’ll find a historic collection of artifacts and artwork that follow the timeline of the Rocks District, from pre-settlement to present day. Fun, interactive exhibits make this museum a history lesson that’s fun for the whole family.
See Amazing Architecture
Sure, the Opera House is the architectural wonder that put Sydney on the map for beautiful buildings, but the industrial design of other sites will give even the most discerning eye something to geek out over.
Australia Square Tower
St. Mary’s Cathedral
See Local Music at a Free Gig
Sydney has an active live music scene and you can find free shows going on any night of the week, from free jazz nights at Venue 505 to free gigs and DJ nights at the chic Oxford Circus.
Stop into the Queen Victoria Building
While Queen Victoria Building (QVB) is a shop-til-you-drop paradise, you don’t need to spend anything at all to enjoy this Sydney staple. QVB makes for a great stop on a sightseeing tour of Sydney. The Victorian architecture, glass roof, tile work, stained glass panes and animated-diorama Royal Clock show an attention to detail unheard of in modern shopping malls. There is even a free historical tour.
Image Credit: Daniel Boud; Destination NSW
See Great Works at the Art Gallery of New South Wales
Curating some of the finest international and Australian art in the world, this free museum is perfect for an afternoon of art and culture. On Wednesday nights, the Gallery opens it’s doors until 10 p.m. for lectures, film screenings and more.
Stroll Through Everleigh Market
With all the usual trappings of a farmer’s market, including organic produce, coffee, juice and takeaway food, this market makes for a relaxing Sunday afternoon. Everleigh Market is adjacent to Carriageworks Art Space, so along with produce and food there are plenty of vendors offering local art and handmade goods.
See the City from Observatory Hill
Photo ops abound in this park overlooking the Harbour and Harbour Bridge. Post up for a photo, pack a picnic lunch or walk the grounds taking in the gorgeous views along the way.
Photo: Tourism Australia
Let the Kids Play at Darling Harbour Playground
Imaginations will run wild in this inventive, outdoor activity center that will allow your children to rediscover the act of “play”. Modern and built from the ground up with ziplines, giant slides, a mega-swingset, climbable net-tower, sand diggers and much more.
Explore the National Maritime Museum
Enjoy free entrance to selected galleries and exhibitions in this museum dedicated to Aussie Naval and marine history.
Take in the View from North Head Lookout
Gaze out over views of rugged cliffs and rocky coastline that only Australia can provide. Take the scenic walking track from Manly Wharf and arrive at North Head.
Spend Your Down Time with These Free Things to Do in Sydney
You no doubt already have a packed itinerary with plenty of the amazing tours in and around the city. But during your down time, spend some time with these great sights. We think it will take a while to exhaust this list of free things to do in Sydney, so hopefully you have enough time in the city to try them all!
If you’re ready to start planning your trip and looking for even more suggestions and tips, talk to one of our Destination Specialists. We’ll get you set up with the perfect itinerary for you and make it so the only thing you have to worry about is what to see next.
Posted on: August 10th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
Sydney has deservedly earned a reputation as Australia’s global city. It serves as the country’s financial center, it’s tourism capital and it’s probably the city that most people easily recognize (thanks Sydney Opera House!).
And you don’t become a world-class city without the world-class cuisine to go along with it. Check out our list of restaurants to try in Sydney and see why you’ll never go hungry in this foodie mecca.
Cheap Bites on the Go
Sydney is a big city with a lot to explore. If you like to keep moving when you’re exploring the Harbour city, pop into these walk-up and takeaway stands for a quick bite of delicious, affordable fare to fuel you for sightseeing.
Big Bite on Pitt – Blink and you might miss the entrance to this lunchtime favorite. The sandwich is the perfect food while you’re out and about. Big Bite does them to perfection. Simple, fresh ingredients piled as high as Ayers Rock.
Lentil as Anything – This not-for-profit local concept is a restaurant with a mission. The all-vegetarian menu has no set prices and is completely pay-as-you-can-afford. They believe that those who can pay will and those who can’t still deserve a spot at the table. The food is great, but supporting the mission is even better.
Hot Star Large Fried Chicken – This unassuming takeaway stand is a local favorite and easily missed by tourists. Taiwanese fried chicken is sort of a mix between the chicken shops of London and Nashville Hot Chicken in the U.S. Hot Star Large Fried Chicken markets on chicken that’s “as big as your face” and caters to the business lunch crowd and after-bar partiers alike.
Cafes and Coffee
Sometimes what you really want is the perfect meal to go with your morning pick-me-up. Try these breakfast/brunch/lunch/whenever-you-want spots for a taste of Sydney’s cafe culture.
Workshop Espresso – You might not know it, but Australia lays a pretty hefty claim as being the country that invented avocado toast. We can’t completely verify that claim, but if Workshop Espresso is any indication, they’ve at least mastered the art! A quirky, walk-up spot with coffee, sandwiches, pastries and of course, avocado toast.
Marlowe’s Way – Tucked in to a small alley off the main thoroughfare, you might miss this casual-café at first glance. But once you find this cherished “hole in the wall”, you’ll be glad you took the time to explore a little. The hip-spot is the perfect café to mix with the locals while tasting great coffee and a quick bite.
Kafeine – With a name like that, you know they take their coffee seriously. Professional baristas serve crafted coffees and lattes while the culinary team in the back of the house cooks up breakfast, lunch and dinner items. Kafeine serves high-quality diner items with a twist, like a pulled-pork burger, satay lemongrass-chicken salad and much, much more.
Noodle Houses and More
Ramen is having a bit of a moment in the U.S. right now, but Aussies have been hip to the pulled noodle bowls for years. Taste Japan’s culinary influence on the land Downunder with these noodle houses.
Gumshara Ramen – This authentic noodle house is located in a food court in Chinatown. Perfect for those days when you’ve worked up an appetite walking around Sydney. Locals love Gumshara Ramen for an affordable, quick bite while out and about in Sydney.
Chinese Noodle Restaurant – Sydney is a city that wears its Asian-influenced cuisine on its sleeve, as you’ll notice with the abundance of Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and other restaurants packed in and around the CBD. What sets Chinese Noodle Restaurant apart from many are is its famous hand-pulled noodles made fresh daily. Stop in for a hearty bowl of noodles just a few minutes’ walk from Darling Harbour.
Ippudo - This centrally located noodle house is a Japanese-based chain of ramen shops. But being a chain doesn’t mean Ippudo is lacking on authenticity or flavor and their noodles are consistently considered some of the best in Sydney.
Date Night in Sydney
If you’re on the trip of a lifetime with your partner or significant other, make it extra special with a night on the town in one of these chic lounges with cocktail menus that go toe-to-toe with their world-class dinner menus.
Rabbit Hole Bar + Dining – Hip digs serving modern Australian cuisine and well-curated cocktails. Bartender Doug Laming specializes in “molecular mixology”, a term that means combining science with drink mixing. If you’ve ever wanted to try a “powdered cocktail”, a “vodka foam” or a “spherified olive” – and believe us, you need to try it at least once! – Rabbit Hole is your place.
GPO Cheese + Wine Room – Step in to this underground cellar for a wine and cheese paired date night. You’ll love the low-key atmosphere and cobbled walls that give this spot the feel of a 19th century winery. Your sommelier will find the perfect wine to pair with fondue pots, cheese boards, charcuterie plates, antipasto and desserts for an unforgettable date night experience.
Bar Tapavino – Spanish tapas, the small, shared-plate style of food and drinks was all over the place a few years ago. The tapas-boom seems to have finally plateaued a bit in the U.S., but the communal, small plate style of cocktails and food is perfect for a date night out. Bar Tapavino’s emphasis on Spanish wine and upscale tapas is the perfect way to kick off a night out, or wind down from your day in Sydney.
The Apollo – This Aussie take on Mediterranean cuisine is helmed by one of Australia’s most exciting chefs. Jonathon Barthelmess’ restaurants are heavily awarded and he brings his experience and his heritage, to Sydney’s newest haven for Greek cuisine. You’ll find Mediterranean staples like lamb, yogurt sauces, fried cheese with honey and, of course, piles of warm, fresh pita.
Uncle Ming’s Bar – This casual hideaway is teeming with ambiance. Step in to the dimly-lit basement bar and you’ll feel like you were transported to another dimension. Munch on Asian-inspired bar food like dumplings, prawns, edamame and wings while sipping on signature cocktails and sake. The atmosphere of Uncle Ming’s is unbeatable for a casual date night out in the CBD.
Dining With a View
Sydney is a beautiful city. What better way to enjoy those amazing city views than alongside a delicious meal and drink?
Cafe Sydney – Wide, panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows surround this popular cocktail and dining spot. Gaze out over sweeping views of the Sydney Harbour and Harbour Bridge while you dine on upscale cuisine.
Bennelong Restaurant + Bar – Located inside the famed Sydney Opera House, the interior of this airy space is like the cavern of a ship. Wide, iron girders between huge glass windows provide amazing views of Sydney CBD and skyline. The Sydney Opera House is an architectural wonder, but Bennelong is a can’t miss destination in it’s own right.
Sydney Cove Oyster Bar – Serving fresh seafood in an unbeatable waterside location. With views of the Harbour and Harbour Bridge so close, you can hear the water splashing while you dine.
Treat Yourself with These Amazing Restaurants to Try in Sydney
Sydney is home to hundreds of amazing restaurants, bars, cafes, takeaway spots, food trucks and much, much more.
Contact one of our expert Destination Specialists for more recommendations. We’ll help you build the perfect itinerary, ensuring you have plenty of time to taste your way through Sydney.
Posted on: August 10th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
Australia has a bit of a reputation as one of the beer-drinkingest capitals of the world. There are few things that go better with warm weather, contact sports and barbecues than an ice-cold brew and Australia has all of the above in spades. With year-round warm weather in the tropical north, to Aussie Rules football, cricket, rugby and the occasional soccer match, there are plenty of occasions to imbibe Downunder.
However, Australia’s world-class wine industry is quietly preceding it’s love for lager and the Hunter Valley wine region, bottling world-class wines since the early-19th century, has a lot to do with it.
Hunter Valley’s beautiful vineyards and cellar doors are no doubt the destination of choice on a drive out to the wine region. But in the Valley, the journey plays just as big a role in a trip to wine country. As you depart Sydney, your scenic drives takes you north, passing Yengo National Park. This World Heritage-listed wilderness area is a dense, green forest of native Aussie trees and plants. The Park is also home to ancient Aboriginal Australian cultural sites dating back thousands of years.
You could also spot plenty of native Aussie animal species like kangaroos, wallabies, gliding possums, wombats and more, in the wild.
Once you make it to Hunter Valley, gaze out your window upon vast stretches of neatly arranged grape vines. Hills and valleys rise and fall and grazing animals dot the green landscape as the winding road snakes its way around the Valley.
This is wine country at its finest.
History in a Glass… Or Two
The Hunter Valley is the oldest wine region in Australia. More than 150 vineyards dot the fertile landscape west of Sydney. Vineyards dating back to the 19th century are still in operation here.
For your first step back in time, drive out to Drayton’s Wines. The Drayton family planted their first vine saplings more than 150 years ago and the winery remains in the hands of the family to this day. Six generations of Drayton vintners shaped this legacy vineyard in to what it is today and you’ll want to stop in for a taste of history along with a taste of their classic Hunter Valley Shiraz.
Next on your list of vintage vineyards, you’ll want to make a stop at Mt. Pleasant Estate. This turn of the century winery has a laundry list of accolades under its belt, but all you need to know is that Mt. Pleasant’s wine and history is pure Hunter Valley.
Then, visit the crown jewel of Hunter Valley wineries at McGuigan’s Winery, located in Pokolbin, the idyllic heart of Hunter Valley wine country. This winery is best known for winning the International Winemakers Award 3-times in its history, an almost unheard of feat among vintners. Explore this cellar door and dig in to their winning varietals like shiraz and chardonnay.
Learning with a Twist
Love wine, but can’t put in to words why? Do you hear the other tasters around you talking about the bouquet but there’s not a single flower in sight?
It sounds like you might need Wine School. Drive out to Hunter Valley Resort, where you can join up with a class of other wine amateur wine connoisseurs and have an expert guide you through a proper tasting.
You’ll learn about the winemaking process from harvest to fermentation to bottle finish. Your guide will walk you through the grounds of the vineyard to see up close how the rows of lush vines are grown and harvested.
Then, class begins in the Resort’s Wine Theatre where the history of wine comes alive. Of course, throughout the class you’ll taste and assess various varietals of whites and reds. Wine School is the perfect primer for the rest of your tasting tour and will give you an appreciation for the layers of complexity in a single glass of wine that you never even knew existed. With 38 wines from 8 local producers, you’ll have plenty of ‘homework’ to do without leave property.
Cleanse Your Palate
Like we said, there are a lot of wineries in the Hunter Valley, but you don’t have to burn yourself out packing in too many at once! Be sure to spend some time experiencing everything this quaint region has to offer.
What goes better with wine than an artisan, craft cheese? Head over to Binnorie Dairy Cheese Factory, where you can try and buy dozens of different cheeses straight from the artisans themselves. You can also stop by the Hunter Valley Cheese Company, one of the oldest dairies in the Valley region.
If you’d like to get a bit adventurous on your trip in wine country and get a true bird’s eye view of your lush surroundings, you can board a hot air balloon for a float over the pristine valley. Or, if you’re really up for an adventure, try skydiving from up high! There’s really nothing like the adrenaline rush of jumping out of a plane several thousand feet in the air!
You can even take a horseback or Segway tour of parts of the Hunter Valley. Trot or roll through pure Aussie bush land where you could even see wild kangaroos or a wombat or two.
There are plenty of other shops like antique stores, cafes, galleries and more, so you’ll always find something new and exciting to try in the Hunter Valley.
And if you’re a fan of hitting the links, the Hunter Valley also hosts some of the most beautiful golf courses in Australia. Relax with a cup of world-class wine on an 18-hole award winning course ranked among the best in Australia.
Detour to Port Stephens
Located just about an hour east of the Hunter Valley, Port Stephens is a charming coastal city that you’ll want to make some time for. Explore the busy esplanade with its quaint shops and cafes. Then, gear up for a bit of adventure if you’d like. Try out sand-boarding on the more than 20 miles of sand dunes at Stockton Beach. If you’ve never heard of sand-boarding, it’s exactly as it sounds: riding a board down the steep side of soft sand dunes. It’s just like surfing in the ocean, but without the whole swimming thing!
And if you didn’t get enough Aussie wildlife in Hunter Valley proper with the wild ‘roos and wombats, hop aboard a local Port Stephens cruise ship for some dolphin spotting. More than 150 bottlenose dolphins call Port Stephens home, making it the dolphin capital of Australia!
Of course, you can always just spend your time relaxing on more than 26 golden-beaches like Box Beach and Zenith Beach. The perfect side-trip for your stay in wine country.
Wind Down in Wine Town with a Hunter Valley Driving Tour
There’s nothing like a relaxing trip to a winery. There’s just something about those rolling, rural hills that’s undeniably pleasant. And when you do it at your own pace by driving yourself from Sydney, you can spend your time the way you like at some of your new favorite places.
Need a few more recommendations? Not sure how to go about booking a car hire halfway around the world? Get in touch with one of our Destination Specialists for a free consultation today. We can show you where to go and tell you how to get there for a worry-free trip to picturesque Hunter Valley.
Posted on: August 10th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
Why You Should Spend 5 Nights in Sydney
Most people tend to spread themselves too thin when they travel abroad. But the depth of your trip, meaning the quality of time you have experiencing the culture and sights of a given destination, is just as important as the quantity of things you see and experience, if not more.
When we plan vacation itineraries, we are very careful to include the minimum amount of time it takes to thoroughly enjoy a city. This usually means spending 3 – 4 nights. That varieties, of course, with what our clients want to see and how much time they have to see it. In a perfect world, we would want everyone to spend at least 5 nights in Sydney.
Sydney is Australia’s largest and most cosmopolitan city. It boasts some of the world’s most iconic landmarks and authentic Aussie experiences. The city itself has a plethora of things to do and see, while the greater surrounds hold enchantments for lovers of nature, wine and beaches.
From world famous sites like the Sydney Opera House to world class beaches to wildlife you only find in Australia, Sydney has everything you need for a quintessential Aussie experience.
And with plenty of time to have a quality experience, your vacation in Sydney will have the depth to keep you sated when you return to the ‘real world’.
Here are just a few things you can fill your time with while you stay in Sydney for 5 nights.
City Sights and Opera House
Get your bearings and feel out the lay of the land in Sydney with a city tour. By taking a city tour early in your trip, you’ll be able to figure out how to get around and eye a few spots you may want to return to for a closer look later in the week.
Sydney is a huge, diverse city and deserves exploring. However, many strapped-for-time tourists make a mad dash for the Opera House and miss everything else Sydney has to offer.
Luckily, with a week in Sydney you won’t be strapped for time.
Of course, the Opera House and Harbour are a must visit. Start off with an insider walking tour of the world famous venue. You’ll hear the behind the scenes scoop and controversy surrounding the building’s construction.
Whether you take a organized tour or make your own way around the city, here are some sights you won’t want to miss!
This bustling marina precinct is just adjacent to Sydney CBD makes for a great stop along a city tour of Sydney. Take advantage of Sydney’s excellent public transportation and take a ferry from the Opera House to this beautiful, waterside location. You’ll have near limitless options for dining, shopping and other activities
Queen Victoria Building
Shop like the locals do at this beautiful, Victorian-era building right in Sydney CBD. This architectural masterpiece was built back in 1890 and has since undergone a complete restoration to its original beauty. Take in the airy windows, stained glass and a fully operational, vintage lift all restored to their 19th century glory. There is plenty to see at QVB and the building is worth a tour even if you’re not up to shopping ’til you drop. Want to learn more? We’ve written a guide to the Queen Victoria Building‘s rich history as a shopping staple in Sydney.
Royal Botanic Gardens
This impeccably manicured mecca of native plants and pristine greenery is perfect for a pre or post Opera House walk. Go for a walk through the beautiful garden grounds, spot local Aussie wildlife like sulfur-crested cockatoos and flying foxes and find prime photo-ops overlooking the Harbour. The Royal Botanic Gardens are saturated in color, from the 2,000+ bloom rose garden, to the lush-green Glasshouse, ferny and native succulent gardens.
Step back in time to the earliest days of Sydney settlement. Just a quick walk from Circular Quay, The Rocks district was the home of the first European settlement in Australia and features some of Sydney’s oldest buildings, shops and pubs. These days, The Rocks serves as a pedestrian friendly district with great views of the Harbour, Bridge and historical buildings.
You could spend an entire afternoon touring the museum district within walking distance of the Harbour Bridge. For modern works, you’ll want to stop at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. A hip, diverse collection of cutting-edge art is housed in this building whose architecture is a work of art in and of itself. Then, check out The Rocks Discovery Museum for a historical look at The Rocks district through the years. Adjacent to Circular Quay is the Museum of Sydney, with informative and diverse collections and exhibits of Sydney history.
Tip: If you want to see more of Sydney outside of the CBD, but still want the option to walk at your own pace, get a spot on a hop-on, hop-off bus. You can ride the bus route around Sydney, including the beautiful suburbs outside the CBD, and hop-off wherever you’d like to walk around and see the sights up close.
Dip your toes in the Harbour at Sydney’s newest waterfront destination. Adjacent to The Rocks, this mixed use district has green spaces, restaurants, shopping and the chance to see Sydneysiders at work and play.
With Sydney’s excellent infrastructure and public transportation, getting to some of Australia’s most popular beaches is easy. Hop on a city bus or train, take a ferry or go for a quick drive to Bondi Beach. This sunny spot is the perfect destination for casual beach goers, hardcore surfers, locals and tourists alike.
This horseshoe shaped section of coastline features golden sands and brilliant, turquoise waters. The surrounding esplanade is home to a dining precinct featuring some of the best beach side restaurants and cuisine.
Photo: Tourism Australia / Andrew Wallace
Spend some time on the beach soaking up the sun or learning how to surf. Bondi Beach is famous for its surf schools, teaching all skill-levels how to ride the waves of the sunny Aussie coast.
If waves aren’t your thing take a dip at the Cliff-side Bondi Icebergs pool (or ‘baths’) where you get a front row seat to watch the surfers without getting sand in your shorts!
The scenic, clifftop coastal path along sheer cliffs connects Sydney’s most well-known beaches along a pedestrian boardwalk. Soak up the sun all along the way as you beach-hop Sydney’s coast. Each beach has it’s own feel and quirks and whether you’re catching waves at each one or digging your toes in the sand, this is one of the best ways to see Sydney’s beaches.
Spend a day at the beach like a local by heading to Manly Beach. This Sydney suburb can be easily reached by ferry from Circular Quay. It’s a beautiful white sand beach where you’ll see Sydneysiders doing the three S’s – surfing, swimming and snorkeling. Manly Beach is a great place to get active for the day – bike rental, paddle-board lessons, surf lessons, kayaking, amazing walking trails and much more. And, of course, plenty of pups to wash down an Australian beer if it gets a little hot!
Hop On Hop Off Ferry
Spend a day seeing many of the sites listed above with a Hop On Hop Off Ferry pass. Travel on the harbour highway and skip the maze of commuter timetables as you cruise to 11 famous Sydney Destinations.
Fort Denison – A former penal site with an interested history.
Watson Bay – A suburb with a great beach, bird life, vibrant green parks and Gap Bluff, South Head, where you might just spot some whales in the winter months.
Luna Park – Known for it’s iconic smiling face of the Moon, this amusement park is great for children and the young at heart.
Shark Island – A pristine park in the middle of the harbour, perfect for a picnic
Garden Island – A military base where The Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre
International Convention Center – Worth a look for the stunning architecture alone!
Food and Dining
Of course, you wouldn’t be in a world-class city without world-class dining options right in the heart of the city. Whether you’re in the mood for a 5-star, fine dining experience or just a quick bite to go from a food truck, Sydney is never short on great food.
You can find everything from Vietnamese to-go carts, upscale Italian dining, Australian gastropubs, eclectic French cuisine and more.
Adjacent to the Opera House, discover some of Sydney’s best seafood restaurants, like Sydney Cove Oyster Bar and GRAZE, sitting in the perfect spot for views over the bay while you dine.
Or head over to Chinatown for your pick of authentic cuisine, noodle bars and dumpling houses like China Town Noodle King, Golden Century Seafood Restaurant and more.
Mountain Walks and Hikes
Not a city person? Tired of the hustle and bustle of the downtown sights? Get into the great outdoors with a day trip to see world-class Aussie natural wonder.
Credit: David Ireland / Tourism Australia
Since you’ve got plenty of time in Sydney, take a short drive to Blue Mountains National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered the “Grand Canyon of Australia”. Rolling, rugged terrain, deep canyons and blue gum-trees as far as the eye can see cover the expansive vista.
A tour of the Blue Mountains provides unforgettable views from various lookout points in the park where you can spot tall waterfalls, sheer cliffs and famed rock formations like the Three Sisters. An expert guide drives you out to the Blue Mountains region, providing informative commentary and in-depth knowledge along the way.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also choose to participate in the hike portion of the trip. You’ll be dropped off at the trail head and make your way along a well-marked hiking trail. After you’ve worked up an appetite, a well-deserved lunch awaits before heading back to Sydney.
It’s the perfect way to experience the great outdoors and still have time for happy hour drinks at the Opera House.
Craving a little of those famous Australian wines? How about a taste of Aussie Red and White with a trip to wine country?
Head out to the Hunter Valley wine region, just a short drive from Sydney proper.
Photo: – Tourism Australia / Oliver Strewe
The Hunter Valley region is home to some of Australia’s best wineries. Embark on a tasting tour and experience award-winning wines in beautiful, green vineyards. Landscapes lined with rows of grape vines provide a picture-perfect backdrop to satisfy wine-lovers and fans of the great outdoors alike.
To really do the Hunter Valley justice, spend a couple of nights in wine country. Drive yourself along the rolling hills dotted with wineries, make a few leisurely stops and take your time in this relaxing region outside Sydney.
Photo: Pernod Ricard Winemakers / Ernest Fraczak
If you’d rather let an expert do the driving for you, you can embark on a luxury-coach tour of Hunter Valley. You’ll visit a few of Hunter Valley’s most renowned vineyards and all you have to do is kick back, relax and remember to cleanse your palate between each tasting!
There’s nothing more iconic to Australia than its kangaroos and wildlife. Luckily, in Sydney you’re never far from experiencing wildlife up close.
Taronga Zoo, located just across the Harbour from the Opera House, is not only the most convenient place to see wildlife in Sydney, but maybe the most fun to get to. You’ll board a ferry from Circular Quay in Sydney CBD and cruise over to Taronga Zoo’s personal dock and wharf. Step right off the boat and into Taronga Zoo where you’ll see more than 300 unique species, including all of your Aussie favorites.
Or, if you opted for the Blue Mountains tour, you’ll already be in a prime spot to visit the Featherdale Wildlife Sanctuary, where you’ll get to meet plenty of Australia’s native wildlife.
Man-made environments and walled enclosures not exactly the nature experience you were imagining?
What if you could see Australian wildlife that’s actually in the wild?
Take a day trip to the Australian Bush, just a short drive outside of central Sydney, and search towering forests for kangaroos, koalas, platypus’ and more.
The Southern Highlands outside of Sydney features thousands of acres of untouched wilderness, where animals run wild and free, just as nature intended.
See the Most of Sydney
To be honest, you could spend weeks seeing all that Sydney has to offer. Don’t shortchange yourself with a few short days. By the time you’ve traveled to the city it seems like it’s already time to leave the city.
Spend 5 nights in Sydney and get to know the city from the inside out. You’ll make some solid, unforgettable memories and a vacation with the depth you deserve.
Posted on: August 4th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
As native-born Aussies, we named our business About Australia because we’re truly all about Australia. We love nothing more than spreading the good word about our home country and all that it has to offer. From its beautiful beaches, unique wildlife, bush land Outback and Great Barrier Reef, we could go on and on about why you shouldn’t miss the land Downunder (and we have – for nearly 20 years!).
But as Aussies, we can’t forget our island-neighbors to the east in New Zealand. Aussies and Kiwis have a close kinship. We’re basically right next to each other, we’ve fought together in the trenches and our flags are a bit similar, to the say the least.
Here are a few reasons why splitting your time with an Australia and New Zealand vacation can make your trip an unforgettable, multi-destination grand tour.
You Can Drive On the Same Side of the Road
So maybe this isn’t one of the first things that comes to mind, but hear us out. If there’s one thing that Americans, Aussies and Kiwis have in common, it’s our shared belief that there’s nothing like the freedom of the open road. Packing the car up and heading out on a self-paced tour of the country is a bond we all share, know and love.
We just happen to do it on opposite sides of the road.
Aussies and Kiwis both adopted left-side driving from the Brits way back when and the tradition continues to this day. The good news for those keen on a self-drive tour is that once you’ve mastered left-side driving in one country, you’ll be an expert in the next.
Get ready to tackle some of the most scenic drives on the planet.
Starting in Australia? You can race along highways that hug rocky coastline, with incredible views of open ocean on the Great Ocean Road – one of the top rated drives in the world.
Then, hop on a plane and take the short flight over to New Zealand. From there, you can pick up another car and continue your road trip, tackling New Zealand’s North Island, South Island or both. You can drive out to Mt. Cook, see famous Lord of the Rings filming locations, or simply take a tour of New Zealand’s amazing beaches.
Take your time and get off-the-beaten-track with an Australia and New Zealand vacation road trip.
You’ll See Perfectly Contrasting Landscapes
Did you know that Australia and New Zealand were once attached at the hip? More than 85 million years ago as the super-continent Godwana broke up, New Zealand slowly drifted away. Maybe that’s why Aussie’s have always felt a fondness for their Kiwi cousins.
It’s a wonder then, how their landscapes could be so unique. Australia and New Zealand are so diverse that you could spend weeks in each and just scrape the surface of what each has to offer. A contrasting trip between the two countries will give you an appreciation of the natural world like never before.
Start off in New Zealand and visit famous volcanoes and geothermal sites. Rotorua is a steaming cauldron of the Earth’s magnitude. The scent of sulfur wafts in the air, a constant reminder of the power of geothermal heating below. You can harness this power in Rotorua with a visit to hot pools and bathe in hot, healing mineral water.
From there head to Queenstown, the birthplace of adventure travel and the most famous bungy-jumping site in the world. There, you’ll take an exhilarating stunt-boat ride through Shotover Canyon.
Then, drive yourself through green rolling vistas to Hobbiton and see how New Zealand’s incredible landscapes inspired movie-magic.
Make your way to Australia where you’ll start off with back-to-back adventures to see the most iconic natural wonders of the world, Uluru (the Red Center), the Great Barrier Reef and the Kuranda Rainforestation Nature Park.
You’ve just seen beautiful rock formations, volcanic activity, a holy site that looks like the surface of Mars, a rain forest and the technicolor of the Great Barrier Reef. And you couldn’t do it anywhere else but Australia and New Zealand.
You’ll Experience Distinct Aboriginal and Maori Native Cultures
Both Australia and New Zealand have a rich, diverse cultural-history that deserves celebration. Australia’s native history dates back more than 60,000 years. Aboriginal Australians are the oldest human civilization in the world and their native culture is survived and celebrated to this day.
Photo: Steve Strike / Tourism Australia
Aboriginal Australians most notable Australian destination is Uluru, or Ayers Rock, located in the Australian outback. Uluru is a red, sandstone monolith that Aboriginal Australians revere as a holy site. The striking rock formation and the surrounding red clay have given Uluru the nickname “the Red Center” – and it could no doubt stand in as an other wordly Martian landscape.
New Zealand has its own unique history in the native Maori culture. In the 12th century, settlers from Polynesia landed and developed their own culture they called Maori.
The culture of Maori people stands side-by-side in New Zealand daily life. Most historical and natural sites and destinations have both an English name and a Maori name, such as Mt. Cook / Aoraki, Milford Sound / Piopiotahi and White Island / Te Puia o Whakaari.
Photo: Te Puia Maori Institute
Go on a country-hopping tour to experience the native culture of each country. You can go on a tour of the Red Center and see Uluru up close (believe it or not, it’s taller than the Eiffel Tower!) and then hop on over to Kiwi country, where you’ll receive an official Maori Hongi (greeting), roam the grounds of Te Puia Geothermal Reserve, view traditional artwork and culture at Maori Institute and enjoy a Hangi (traditional cooking method) feast.
You Can See Each Country’s Unique Wildlife
Australia and wildlife go hand-in-hand. With kangaroos, koalas and of course crocs (made most famous internationally by Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin) – there’s no shortage of iconic Aussie wildlife.
If your trip begins in Australia, make your way to Kangaroo Island just off the coast of Adelaide. The island is a wildlife-wonderland, with all of your Aussie favorites in their natural habitats.
If you’re in Sydney, you’ll have plenty of options for wildlife touring and viewing. Stop by Tonga Zoo right in Sydney CBD, or make a day trip out to Featherdale Wildlife Reserve (this makes a great top over from a Blue Mountains tour) where you’ll have up-close encounters with kangaroos, koalas and more.
Did we mention that Australia also has the distinct honor of being home to the largest organism in the world with the Great Barrier Reef?
Much like the Aussies, New Zealander’s take their own native wildlife very seriously. They even gave themselves an affectionate nickname, Kiwis, based on the flightless bird that is their national pride and joy (it even adorns their currency’s $1 coin).
Photo: Rob Suisted
Have you ever seen a video of an acrobatic dolphin doing 360-spins in the air, back flips, front flips and more, just for the fun of it? Dusky Dolphins are found in much of Australasia, but concentrated populations are best seen off of the New Zealand coast.
New Zealand is also home to plenty of other native animals like yellow-eyed penguins, glowworms, fur seals, Kea parrots and more.
If you love seeing unique, diverse and super cute animals that you can’t see back home, try an Australia and New Zealand vacation for the perfect opportunity to witness some of the world’s favorites up close.
Australia and New Zealand Vacation Adventures
Australia and New Zealand are two-peas-in-a-pod. Make the most of your trip half-way around the world with a stopover in New Zealand. You’ll feel like you’ve been on two vacations at the same time and have twice as many stories to tell when you get back.
Talk to one of our Destination Specialists and we’ll make sure your multi-country trip goes off without a snag. We can suggest the best routes to take and take complete care of your trip, from A-to-New-Zealand.
Posted on: July 27th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
Very rarely does a city’s list of must-see attractions include “the alley behind Chinatown”.
Or “the dead-end street covered in graffiti”.
But Melbourne isn’t your usual city and you aren’t looking for the usual destinations.
If your idea of travel involves “doing as the locals do”, then head to Melbourne’s laneways and arcades and learn to love the city from the inside out.
What Are Laneways and Arcades?
Melbourne’s laneways (small, tucked away alleys) and arcades (covered shopping plazas) boast a diverse array of hidden, locally owned cafés, boutiques, shops, restaurants and bars. This cosmopolitan heart of the city is the true definition of a “hidden gem”.
In fact, much of the magic of the city is found in Melbourne laneways and arcades. We’ve pointed out some highlights, but while you’re in Melbourne there’s nothing like a walking tour with a local guide to show you around and chat you up in person.
See Amazing Street Art
One of the first things you’ll notice in Melbourne’s laneways is the large amount of street art lining the walls. Not even the dumpsters and trash cans are immune to being beautified by local artists. Here are some of the best places to see colorful works in person.
You may not even notice the entrance to Hosier Lane tucked between a handful of non-descript offices and apartment buildings on the south-east end. But once you enter the innocuous alley, you’re confronted by walls of bright, colorful artwork.
Photo: Roberto Seba
Hardly a single square inch of brick or stone is left unpainted. Much of the art on Hosier Lane has been commissioned and permitted, but the rest exists in a legal grey-area. You may even see an artist at work adorning the wall with a new piece. Regardless, we think you’ll find it a beautiful place to begin your laneways and arcades tour.
Photo: Roberto Seba
AC/DC Lane / Duckboard Place
These two laneways circle around a cluster of restaurants and the infamous Cherry bar. The walls on Duckboard Place are covered in great art, but the standouts are the larger than life pieces that adorn the western and eastern corners.
Photo: Robert Blackburn
Once you turn on to AC/DC lane, you can’t miss the mural of Angus Young from the Australian rock and roll band for which the lane was named.
This barely-there laneway is almost narrow enough to touch both sides with your arms outstretched. The wall to wall covering of paint makes this laneway one of the most covered in the city. At any time of day, you’re likely to encounter artists making their own mark.
Parts of the wall are covered in so much paint that you can press down with your fingertip without ever touching the brick behind it!
Shop Local Boutiques
Melbourne is a chic Aussie city. As such, they take their fashion and shopping very seriously. You’ll find some chain fashion brands, but Melbourne is best known for its boutiques and one-off shops.
Impressive arcades and tucked away lanes house some of Melbourne’s best boutiques to find unique clothing and other gifts. Check out local clothiers and artisan fashion shops to get decked out like a fashionable local.
Photo: Rob Blackburn
This shopping plaza is aptly named for its architecture that looks like it was pulled straight from Victorian royalty. The building itself is a true Victorian antiquity. It was constructed in 1870 and stands to this day as the oldest shopping arcade in Melbourne. Shopping at the Royal Arcade feels like you’ve stepped back in time.
Natural daylight fills the inviting space from overhead skylights supported by intricate arch-work. At the Royal Arcade you’ll find everything from bespoke clothing and tailors, jewelers, game shops and more.
In the past, this thoroughfare laneway served as Melbourne’s textiles manufacturing center for more than 100 years. These days, Flinders Lane continues its fashion tradition as the home of some of Melbourne’s best fashion boutiques.
Nearly 20 one-off shops are clustered on Flinders between Russell St and Elizabeth St alone. You’re sure to pick up a fantastic find from a local clothier.
Take a quick turn on to this laneway for high fashion finds. Somerset Place is home to high-end menswear staple Comme des Garcons. Just a few doors down, Belmore Australia is a local bootmaker that specializes in timeless design and craftsmanship. It’s rare to find a local shoemaker, but Belmore’s entire manufacturing process is done right in Melbourne.
While you’re trawling the laneways for local art and goods, grab a pick me up from one of the local, independent coffee shops that line the streets. There are so many cafes in Melbourne that you’re never far from a great cup of coffee. After all, this is the city that lays claim to inventing the flat-white! The latte like beverage recently rose to international fame when Starbucks began offering it at it’s locations worldwide.
Cafe culture in Melbourne is world-renowned and each space offers a unique and distinct local experience.
These hidden laneway cafés are easily missed and they like it that way. When you happen upon a good one, you’ll feel like a true “in-the-know” local. Skip the Starbucks this time and try a local brew from one of these cafes:
Good 2 Go: Blink and you might miss this endearing hole-in-the-wall, surrounded by and covered in Hosier Lane’s swath of spray paint.
Krimper: Look up “rustic charm” in the dictionary and you’ll find Krimper. A café where the clientele is as hip as the decor
Manchester Press: A small door opens in to an airy space in this tucked-away café. Manchester Press focuses on coffee at its purest, with featured single origin blends and no frills.
Have a Drink and a Bite
Melbourne holds the distinction of having the highest concentration of restuarants and cafés per capita than anywhere in the world. The large, multi-cultural population is represented by more than 140 nations. This means that Melbourne’s food scene is eclectic, diverse and never dull. Whatever you’re in the mood for, you’ll find it in Melbourne.
MoVida: A hip, Spanish-tapas bar just off Hosier Lane with a street-art covered façade – pure Melbourne.
Rice Paper Scissors: Other than the fact that we love the name of this Southeast Asian-fusion spot, the street-food inspired tasting menu is perfect for both a quick lunch or a date night.
ShanDong MaMa Mini: Located on the infamous Centre Place (one of the most photographed spots in Melbourne!), this dumpling bar is a Melbourne staple.
Lustre Bar: Right across from ShanDong MaMa mini on Centre Place, this chic cocktail bar is perfect for after-dinner drinks. The crimson, plush interior is like if David Lynch opened a cocktail bar. Upstairs location provides prime people watching to the street below.
Laneway Greens: A health-foodie’s paradise featuring salads, juices, smoothies, acai and grain bowls and more.
See Melbourne Laneways and Arcades
Want to learn more about Melbourne’s hidden gems? Let one of our Destination Specialists give you the low-down on more unique Melbourne finds. We’ll make you feel like a local and ensure you don’t miss out on any off-the-beaten-path sights.
Posted on: July 21st, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
It’s the Aussie icon that’s adorned post-cards, book covers and travel brochures the world over. It’s been featured in movies and travel documentaries countless times.
For most, it’s the face of Sydney. And nearly 50 years later it’s still a top tourist draw to the city.
Would you believe us if we told you it was almost never built?
We’ll show you how what was once called “the biggest planning disaster in the world” continues to amaze visitors and locals alike and why it’s an Aussie staple you don’t want to miss in Sydney.
The stark-white, scalloped building is unmistakable. The white, shell-like wings sprout in to the sky from its personal peninsula on Sydney Harbour.
It was this standout building proposal that won Danish architect Jorn Utzon New South Wales’ competition in 1957 to design a public space to be constructed on the Harbour.
The opportunity of a lifetime, right?
Not so much.
The construction of the Opera House was riddled with problems. An estimated $7 million construction cost ballooned to more than $100 million – a 1400% cost blowout that still stands as the largest in history.
Contractor mismanagement, infrastructure disasters and government cover-ups all but ruined the career of Utzon for good. In fact, seven years before the building’s completion, Utzon packed his bags and left the job and the country.
He never returned.
A group of auxiliary architects stepped in to take his place and with a lot of hand-wringing and a little bit of luck, by 1973 construction had wrapped on the Opera House.
But sometimes the end justifies the means and as luck would have it, the Opera House went on to become an international landmark. Each year, the building-that-almost-never-was adds more than $700 million in tourism.
We’d call that a winning bet!
Though Utzon never returned to see his completed design in person, he did receive his long overdue comeuppance. In 2003, he has awarded an honorary Doctorate of Architecture.
And in 2007, the Opera House was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Just one year before his death.
Besides it’s brilliant architecture, the Opera House is renowned for a plethora of activities that solidify its place as one of the top destinations in Australia.
Take a Tour
Dive right in to your Opera House experience and get set up with an expert guide to give you an inside look at the Sydney Opera House. You’ll walk the inside of the historic building while you listen to the oral history of it’s construction and completion. This exclusive look at the interior of the multiple concert halls within the Opera House is often unseen by the average tourist.
Since the Opera House hosts six different performance halls, it’s hard to get an in-depth look at the entirety of the venue on your own.
Your guide will take you through many of the unique performance venues, each with it’s own particular architecture and feel.
Insider Fact: The Grand Organ in the Concert Hall is the largest mechanical action pipe organ in the world!
See a Show
It goes without saying, but seeing an actual show at the Sydney Opera House is one of the most memorable ways to experience it. And although you might not know it by the name, the Opera House hosts more than just operas.
A wide range of Broadway-shows, gigs, contemporary concerts, symphony orchestras and more ensure that you won’t miss an opportunity to sit in on one of the most fantastic live venues in the world.
A lot of people can see they’ve seen the Opera House – even if just in the distance from the Harbour. But how many can say they’ve experienced all it has to offer?
Tip: Book early – the Opera House didn’t become world renowned as a venue by playing to an empty house! Seats tend to fill up quickly and it’s best to book your tickets ahead of time, ideally before you even arrive in Sydney. Ask us how.
Wine and Dine
Looking to ramp up your already-special occasion? Grab a table at Bennelong, the Opera House’s premier restaurant. With world-class chefs and a fine-dining level of service, there is no better way to make your Opera House experience special. Tables inside this airy space face out on to the Sydney Harbour and city-skyline for a view that rivals the five-star menu.
The space and architecture of Bennelong was one of the last projects Jorn Utzon (the Opera House’s original designer) completed before leaving the project. The tall ribcage of wood and glass that provides those stunning views of the Harbour also provides a look in to Utzon’s original idea for the rest of the Opera House’s interior.
Also be sure to check out the Opera Kitchen, just adjacent to the Opera House. The al-fresco dining experience overlooks the Sydney Harbour for great views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. If all that walking around has you hungry, combine your Opera House tour with lunch at the Opera Kitchen.
Cruise to the Sydney Opera House
Looking to arrive at the Opera House in style? Hop aboard a Harbour Cruise and ferry over to the Opera House entrance. The scenic cruise takes you around the entirety of the Sydney Harbour for unprecedented views of the city skyline, Opera House and Royal Botanic Gardens. With an Express Pass, you’ll have the option to use this hop-on, hop-off ship as your personal water taxi.
Cruise over to the Opera House for your tour and when you’re done, hop back on and ferry over to Darling Harbour. From there, head to the Royal Botanic Gardens and Rocks historic precinct. You’ll get to enjoy the beautiful Sydney weather aboard the open air Harbour Cruise. It’s an unforgettable way to see all the sights around the Opera House and Harbour.
See it All Lit Up
If you’re lucky enough to plan your trip around mid-May to June, you’re in for an incredible audio-visual festival experience. Vivid Sydney is a two-week festival that covers the city, including the Opera House and Harbour in light-installations and art. The city comes to life as blank walls become canvases for talented artists to paint with light. Colorful light projections illuminate the scalloped-wings on the Opera House – and the view of the Opera House lit up from the Harbour is stunning.
The Opera House also holds special concerts during Vivid, blending this visual-experience with music to create a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Can’t travel to Sydney for Vivid? Don’t worry! You can still see the Opera House in all it’s lighted glory every single night.
Badu Gili is a 7-minute art-installation projected on the “sails” of the Opera House. A different work of art from Aboriginal artists will be displayed each night at sunset and repeated at 7 p.m. So even if you can’t make it for Vivid, you’ll get the beautiful visual of the stark white Opera House turned technicolor each night of your stay in Sydney.
Visit the Sydney Opera House
Sometimes a city’s biggest attraction can be something of a tourist trap. Overhyped, too crowded, not worth it.
The Opera House is none of those things.
There is something for everyone to enjoy at this Aussie icon and you don’t want to leave Sydney without a visit. Remember, the biggest tourist destination in Sydney draws big crowds and events sell out fast.
Let us do the booking for you, whether you want to be there for Vivid Sydney, see an amazing show, or simply cruise the waters of the Harbour.