Australia is a big country!! We are so glad we used "About Australia" tour and self-guided services!!!
Sydney was a beautiful city!! clean and lots of action at Darling Harbor ... Our(...)
(...) accommodations were two blocks from Darling Harbor ... Easy walking distance to everything: Sydney Opera House, Harbors, Fish Market, and boat taxis to Manly...
The first half of the trip we used three arranged tours and we were not disappointed ~ we saw the country side and animals we couldn't have found ~ the Blue Mountain tours was great and nice lunch included ! Phillip Island and Penguin parade are a must (the private Penguin tour is worth it to be up-close to penguins ... but bring sweatshirts as it's chilly their at night :) ... As well, we had tour arranged at Kangaroo Island to discover more kangaroos, wallabies, and seals - lunch was included in the countryside under a canopy tent! ALL Excellent!
The second half of our trip, we took a self-guided road trip driving trip on the "Great Ocean Road" from Melbourne to Adelaide - roads/highways are well marked and easy to drive (we didn't have a GPS and did fine with local maps and directions) ... "About Australia" had arranged our rental car, all hotels, and gave great ideas of things to see "along the way" - these were fantastic tips!!! We saw geological formations (12 Apostles), caves, waterfalls and lush forest, wineries, and the "blue Lake" in Mt. Gambier! (Mt. Gambier is a very cute town and worth staying an extra day!)
Everything was pre-arranged (and pre-paid in the USA before we left) by "About Australia" team ~ fantastic locations of hotels/apartments, close to amenities and sites, wonderful friendly people, Rav 4 rental car, and tours picked us up at the doors of our hotels :) We were so impressed and grateful to "Darin" who arranged our vacation ~ it was easy to travel about, perfectly organized, and great hints for more things to do at different places! (We had decided that Australia was too big and too expensive for us to waste time deciding "what to do next and how to get there"!)
We flew into Sydney: Beautiful city! Clean, historical, fantastic sites (ie: Opera House and the "Rocks" district) and Harbors ... and very expensive to eat (be warned to up the budget for food)! People are super friendly ... If you're there over the weekend, go to the market in the "Rocks" districts - great foods and souvenirs!
Then, we flew to Melbourne: We weren't too excited about the city (kind of dirty and we aren't the "partying type" of people), but offered free public transport loop ... But definitely visit Phillip Island and the Penguin Parade private tour! The Victoria Market was a great place to get souvenirs - the cheapest in all Australia!!
Finally, we rented a car and began driving the "Great Ocean Road" from Melbourne to Adelaide: Easy driving and directions (without GPS) ... Visiting little towns along the way, wineries, 12 Apostles Rock formations, waterfalls, caves, etc... was a ton of fun - easy pull offs to rest and take pictures as well!
Our Highlights along the way:
Torquay:: Right outside of Melbourne, we stopped in town of Torquay - it had a little gem of an Aboriginal Cultural Center - just along the road (well worth the stop: history, cafe, gift shop) ...
Mt. Gambier:: Wished we had stayed a couple of days ~ super cute town, sink holes with gardens inside, and the Blue Lake walking path ... too much to do, too little time :) (great bakeries and gift buying too :)
Kangaroo Island: Definitely do a tour on eucalyptus refinery, seeing Kangaroos crossing the road, and the seals!! If you're with a tour group, you get to see kangaroos and koalas in habitat, go on the beach close to the seals, and have a lovely lunch on private conservation land under a canopy tent!
We finished our trip in Adelaide:: What a great historical town/city ... fantastic architecture unique of an historic Australian town, yet very modern (and free trolley/train transport) ... Great Museums, open shopping district, and he "Market" was most awesome! ... Absolutely lovely town and we should have spent a extra couple of days!
Turned in our car at the Airport (very easy) and flew home to a snow storm in the States!
This trip definitely exceeded our expectations - big, diverse country and lovely people!! We're glad we used "About Australia" services, as we would have wasted a lot of time (and money) trying to figure it out on our own ... Our "customized trip Itinerary" was perfect for us!
Thanks a ton!
Brad & Amy R.