Bryan's Australia Adventure
Well my holiday is now over and I am back into my work. It's only been 3 weeks, but I feel like it was an eternity ago.
This trip took us to Sydney, Tasmania, Melbourne, North Queensland, Bundaberg, Brisbane and Hong Kong. I was away for just over 3 weeks, so the itinerary was pretty jam-packed. Nicola and I would like to say a massive Thank-you to all the suppliers that helped make this trip as amazing as it was. I have lots of great advise that I will pass on to the BTW sales team and as many customers as I can.
We flew over with Cathay Pacific and was pleasantly surprised by the new economy seats they have on their long haul flights. They were the seats that don't actually recline as a normal plane. The seats are very comfortable and when you recline there is still plenty of legroom (even for me at 6'3"). The seat back entertainment was excellent. There are enough films, TV programs and games etc to keep even the fussiest person happy. The meals were definitely adequate, tasty and very good for Airline food. We visited the CX lounge in London and Hong Kong. There are hot meals to be had and shower facilities to freshen up after a long flight. There was plenty of space to stretch out and you didn't feel crowded when it did get full
On arrival in Sydney we were met by family and went straight to the Sebel Pier One Hotel. It has the privilege of being located virtually under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which also means its in a quiet part of Sydney. The rooms were quite large and the bathroom was kitted out very nicely. There is also a bar area once you enter the hotel where you can relax and look out towards Parramatta and the western suburbs. Its about a 5 minute walk to the Rocks area of Sydney and about 10 minutes to get to Circular Quay. There are plenty of chic cafes nearby and we felt safe walking around at night.
One way Airport Train : $15AUD efficient and easy
In the afternoon we went on a Bonza Bike tour of Sydney. This may seem a bit crazy considering we only arrived earlier that day, but it certainly blew the cobwebs out and helped get over the jetlag. The tour lasted about 3 hours and was a brilliant way to see the main sights of Sydney. It was a very relaxed pace, so even a novice would enjoy this tour. The guide was informative and looked after the small groups health and safety. I think you see and 'feel' more of Sydney this way compared to sitting in a bus
In the evening we visited the Shangri La and had cocktails at Blu Bar, located on the 36th floor. It has amazing views over the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Definitely recommend people make appointments for there as its very busy, but well worth it for the view
On the second day we went surfing down at Bondi with Lets go Surfing. This was a big highlight for us. Growing up in OZ I spent loads of time at the beach, but rarely ventured out surfing. Michelle was our guide and made the experience enjoyable and wanting more. What I learnt was learning to surf is for everyone. It doesn't need to be age limited and I cant think of a better way for our customers to immerse themselves into Australia than a surfing lesson. Wetsuits were provided and the lesson takes place away from the crowds and in small groups. Private lessons can also be booked. All in all a fun experience and recommended
The third day was spent relaxing with family. It was important to take the time out to relax otherwise I would have gotten exhausted
The fourth day saw us venture out onto the Harbour with Sea Sydney Cruises and Cruise like a local. This beautiful 52' luxury cruiser took us up and down the harbour, dotting in and out of small coves and bays. With such a small group, max 12, you get a personalised experience of the Harbour and you really do feel like a local. The Capitan and guide were always free to point out local landmarks and stop whenever the perfect photo opportunity arose. The tour lasted 4 hours and in the middle had a tasty lunch including fresh prawns and steak cooked on the back deck. The route of the trip changes depending on the weather, which means you really are getting the best experience available. http://www.seasydneycruises.com.au/
The next destination was Tasmania and flying into Hobart
This was a part of my trip I was really looking forward to.
We arrived and picked up an Avis car hire from the airport. We just asked for a street directory and this ended up being more than sufficient. Tasmania is easy to drive around and there are plenty of road signs that make getting lost nearly
The first night we stayed at the Henry Jones Art Hotel. What a treat this hotel is. It's located right beside Constitution Dock in Hobart. This is a beautiful marina with plenty of fresh seafood outlets to dine at whilst there. The hotel is located in the old IXL Jam factory and retains the beautiful architecture of the old factory. The corridors and hotel suites showcase the Artwork of Tasmania's finest Artists. There are certainly some interesting pieces here! The suites are very large and beautifully decorated.
On the second day in Tasmania we travelled approx 30 minutes north from Hobart and visited Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. The park owner, Greg, gave us a guided tour around the private reserve. Tasmanian Devils, quolls, wombats and echidnas are popular residents at this wildlife park. This is not a zoo, rather a centre that looks after and rehabilitates wildlife that are orphaned or injured and returns them back into their natural environment once fully recovered. A great experience where the animals come first!
We continued further north via some beautiful town rich in history. There are many beautiful places to pull over and admire the views of Tasmania's east coast. The drive to the Freycinet Peninsular took 3 hours but was an easy drive with the roads in excellent condition
Saffire Freycinet. I don't know where to start writing about this place. My words wont be able to do this experience justice. I say an experience as its far more than a Hotel in a great location. I've been fortunate enough to stay in some amazing properties and locations all over the world. But Saffire is something a little extra. The whole Peninsula is beautifully decorated by the National Park and encompasses Wineglass Bay. The experience is All Inclusive. The rooms are exquisite and nothing is overlooked. The Restaurant and Bar have wonderful views over the Great Oyster Bay and the Hazards Mountains which change colour in the ever changing light. The food prepared was by 2 young Chefs whose imagination and creativity meant the food was at the highest level. If you have one luxury adventure this lifetime... Saffire Freycinet is it.
We headed back south towards Hobart and Port Arthur. Arriving in Port Arthur we stayed at the Stewarts Bay Lodge. It is located next to the main Port Arthur Historic site and is set amongst immense physical beauty, incredible history and rich natural diversity. The rooms are extremely well presented and have all the facilities you would expect from an apartment. There are no shops in Port Arthur, only a couple of kiosk's so if you plan on staying for a while it pays to bring some supplies. The Hotel has a fabulous restaurant with views over Stewarts Bay Beach.
Port Arthur Historic Sight is a former convict settlement on the Tasmanian Peninsula. From 1833, until 1853, it was the destination for the hardest of convicted British and Irish criminals and those who were secondary offenders having re-offended after their arrival in Australia. There are guided sightseeing trips throughout the day and Ghost tours in the evenings. The ghost tours are worth staying until after dark to hear about the 'other' side to the history of the area.
The following day we ventured out on a 3hr Wilderness Cruise with Tasman Island Cruises. It's far from a cruise as you are taken out in small boats with a maximum of 43pax. They are fast and very stable. Just what you need when you venture into the Great Southern Ocean. The highlight is Tasman Island where its slender white lighthouse is still a beacon for seafarers entering Storm Bay including during the famous annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. There is a rich variety of marine life and seabirds. The tours depart and end next door to the historic sight of Port Arthur.
The return to Hobart takes an hour. On the way we visited the MONA gallery located on the outskirts of Hobart. The Museum of Old and New Art is certainly unusual. It is built underground and.... its hard to describe. Lets say its bizaar and you need an open mind, but worth a visit!
The Islington Hotel in Hobart is located just outside the city centre. It has been beautifully restored and is decorated with fine artworks and furnished with antiques. Islington will appeal to those who want the very best in life, surrounded by great service, presented in an atmosphere of serenity, luxury and tranquillity. The meals are focused around seasonal, local and organic produce where possible. Their menu changes daily and showcases the best Tasmania has to offer.
Next stop on the journey was into Melbourne
We stayed 2 nights in the Travelodge Docklands. This hotels location is very convenient. It's located near Etihad Stadium and there are quite a few bars and food outlets within a 2-minute walk. It's also only a 5-minute walk to Central station. The rooms were large enough for 2 people and the property is fairly new, so the decor is up to date. The trams run nearby which links you to the rest of Melbourne.
We travelled out to the Melbourne Peninsula with AAT Kings and experienced the Penguin Parade. My trip was run in conjunction with APT. It takes 90 minutes to travel to the peninsular, even longer if you do the express that departs at peak hour. The half-day trip, which includes visiting a wildlife park departs around midday, might be a better option to avoid the traffic out of Melbourne. We did the viewing platform option and whilst this got you close to the penguins when they leave the water, I felt after 5 minutes everyone mixes together on the boardwalk, so the value of paying extra for the platform I didn't see. Overall it was a great experience.
Onward towards North Queensland. We did the package that we sell which includes Kewarra Beach Resort and Silky Oaks Lodge and Quicksilver Outer Reef trip.
Transfers were included on arrival in Cairns. The drive to Silky Oaks Lodge took just under 2 hours. Silky is beautifully situated on the Mossman River. There are a host of complimentary activities available, but its definitely worth the while trying the Healing Waters Spa. The River and Tree houses are set apart from each other and surrounded by the rainforest. The rooms are very spacious and have wonderful veranda to relax in a hammock. Silky is a place for complete relaxation. There is a complimentary shuttle service daily that runs to Port Douglas. The journey is about 20 minutes. Overall Silky is for our passengers who want to escape to a retreat and completely unwind and relax. Beautiful
After 2 nights at Silky we were picked up, bags included and transferred to Port Douglas. Our bags were stored at the marina and boarded the Silversonic for a day on the reef.
Quicksilver have a few vessels that travel to the reef. Quicksilver travels to the viewing platform. Silversonic travels to 3 different reefs, but doesn't dock at a platform. Wavedancer is a luxury catamaran that visits Low Isles, an unspoilt coral island. We ventured out on the Silversonic. Its very comfortable and got us to the reef quickly. It was stable and at no time did I feel seasick. The boat stops at 3 reefs during the day with approx 1.5hrs at each reef. Snorkelling and diving options are available on the same vessel. Safety is the key and it is a priority with Quicksilver. A smorgasbord lunch is served which is very tasty and filling.
On arrival back to Port Douglas marina, we picked up my bags and were transferred to Kewarra Beach Resort
The first thing that you notice arriving in Kewarra Beach Resort is the quiet setting. The foyer to the resort is wide open and set amongst 30 acres of lush landscaped rainforest gardens. This really feels like a resort to relax. The bungalows are set apart from each other and dotted around the property. They have very large rooms with excellent facilities. Definitely a place to relax in yoursurroundings. The beach directly in front of the resort is private, peaceful and the resort has lounge chairs accessible to relax on. The White Lotus Spa on site is also a great place to unwind with many different treatments. The restaurant at Kewarra Beach Resort has excellent food and very affordable.
The next leg of my travel was on the Sunlander. We travelled in the Queenslander Class of the train. There are only 6 twin compartments in this premier class and you have the services of a maitre de for the journey. There are 3 carriages available only to Queenslander class passengers. The sleeping compartment, lounge bar and the restaurant car. The main highlight is the dining. Put simply the food is fantastic. Its an experience on its own. The seafood platter that is served at lunch was a definite highlight. Overall a very enjoyable way to travel from North Queensland south.
After a week in Bundaberg visiting family we travelled to Brisbane for 1 night.
We stayed at the Sebel and Citigate on King George Square. Only a 5-minute walk to both Roma Street Station and the Queen Street Mall where there are many dining and shopping opportunities. Roma Street is where all the trains and busses arrive into Brisbane. The Air train also departs from here. The rooms were very large, clean and comfortable.
It was time to head back to the UK, but not before a quick stopover in Hong Kong.
Tour East arranged our Airport transfers, and I must say it was very efficient. We had private transfers and within 5 minutes of collecting our bags we were on our way. The taxi line up was horrendous, so definitely glad this was pre organised. The YMCA Salisbury was our accommodation for 2 nights. The property is equivalent to a 3 star hotel, with a 5 star location. Located right beside the star ferry terminal on Kowloon. It was very clean and the staff were very helpful. The rooms were quite large and I'm not surprised it gets a very high rating on trip advisor. Definitely recommend this property for price conscious people
That brings the end of our travels!!!