All the best that Australia has to offer including food, wine, shopping, and beaches.
OceaniaAustralia10 days / November 2017
Highs & Lows
The Whitsunday islands are a MUST. Our favorite part of the whole trip. Think white sand beaches and clear turquoise water.
We neglected to account for the missing day of travel — and accidentally booked a hotel for a night we lost.
Ten years ago I took my first international trip — six months studying abroad in Australia. My parents were reluctant but I was insistent. I wanted to see the world and this was the trip to kick it off. I’m so happy I went as it was one of the best experiences of my life.
It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago, but as I spent two weeks there with my husband over Thanksgiving playing tour guide, I realized that my memories from my time there were very fond, but also very distant.
Australia has been at the top of his list for places to travel to in the world, so when we decided it would be one of our next international trips, I set my alerts on all my favorite travel apps and found a deal of a lifetime: $550 round trip from Seattle to Sydney on United.
W A T ? ? ? I know.
Even when I studied abroad the price was quadruple. The secret? Set travel alerts on Hopper for optional dates and set low fare alerts on Kayak for desired places to go. You’ll get notifications when they’re extremely low and when to buy. When I received the 5am push notification from Hopper a week after we had booked Paris, I freaked. Trevor, my husband thought I was ridiculous and was reluctant at first. It was going to be too much travel at the end of the year. But wow was it worth it. He fell in love and it was our best trip yet.
Originally published on TheGreyEdit.com
● Drop your bags off at your hotel near the Circular Quay. Once you’re refreshed, step out to get your bearings of this amazing city. Walk through the beautiful Botanical Gardens, Visit the Opera House and take pictures of the landmark with the Harbor Bridge in the background from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.
● After your done taking photos, grab a drink at the Opera Bar to get a feel for the Aussie scene, ask your cute bartender a few questions only to hear him/her speak with their accent, and sip your cocktail in the sun.
● With your swimmers, grab an Uber or hop on the bus to Bondi Beach for your first beach day as it’s one of the top 10 in Australia – culturally the most beautiful and famous. Grab a fresh juice from The Bondi Juice Company and soak up the rays alongside the locals. Don’t be afraid to go topless too – tan lines are overrated in Australia.
● After you’ve bronzed like a sun goddess, grab drinks and a bite on the uber vibrant and lively Bucket List bar. Think local scene with lots of good looking people hot beats and a beach view.
● Head back to Sydney for dinner on The Rocks. Enjoy the street performers after dinner while eating gelato.
● Set your alarm for as early as possible, order a long black with the fresh fruit and muesli from room service for brekky so you can get out and start your first adventure day. Head to the train station at Circular Quay and hop on the first train to Central Station so you can jump on the Blue Mountain line. Bring a book for the +2 hour ride or admire the countryside as you leave the city.
● Arrive at Katoomba station and begin your walk towards Echo Point, where you’ll land in a sea of tourists exploring the Three Sisters viewpoint. Pop in the visitors center where someone will be able to suggest a bushwalking route for you at your desired length and level of difficulty. We did a 4-5 hour “hard walk”which was an incredible way to ditch the crowd, get a sweat on and explore the rainforests within the Blue Mountain Valley: Echo Point > Prince Henry Cliff Walk > Gordon Falls > Leura Falls > Leura Cascade Loops > Giant Staircase. Keep your ears and eyes peeled for wildlife! You’ll run into a variety of birds and lizards. We had a pretty large Gooana cross our path.
● Head back to the city for well deserved cocktails at the Shangri-Li’s top floor Blue Bar on 36 with an incredible view of the city. Head to your reservation at Sydney Cove Oyster Bar with view of the Harbor and blankets to keep you warm if it’s windy.
Extra day recs:
● Sleep in a little since you’ll likely be sore from your hike, then grab brunch at the Grounds of Alexandria. Take lots of pics.
● Then catch a ferry to Manly Beach from Circular Quay. Explore the markets.
We booked all domestic flights in the mornings so we could make the most of our time. I recommend flights between the hours of 9am – noon. This way you can get in a good amount of sleep, snooze a little extra on the plane, and be ready to go in your new location. Jetstar operated by Qantas has many cheap options and is a great carrier.
Okay. The Whitsunday islands are a MUST. Our favorite part of the whole trip. Think white sand beaches and clear turquoise water. It was awesome to have this type of island vacation a few days into the trip.
● Fly Sydney to Hamilton Island in the morning. Purchase tickets through Cruise Whitsundays to Arlie Beach, one of the main hubs of the islands.
● Walk the Bicentennial Walk to town where you can grab lunch at Mr Bones for pizza or on the terrace of the Whitsunday Sailing Club for views.
● Get your bronze on at the Lagoon in town – perfectly manicured and man made, but safe from stingers (it’s the busy season).
● If you’re up for some late night island fun, head to Magnums Hotel for local beers and a local DJ, guaranteed to make you move. We got into some pitchers of the Lazy Yak pale ale.
● Wake up early for your second excursion – sailing the Whitsundays with Providence Sailing. Meet your fun Aussie crew and other guests from all over the world. Be sure to bring a sweatshirt as it could get windy. The crew has rain coats on board and they serve brekky, coffee/tea and lunch. This 10 hour day trip includes sailing through several islands, snorkeling in Dumbo Bay, visiting Sea Turtles in a mating sanctuary and exploring the famous and picturesque Whitehaven Beach. Watch out for spiders above in the trees. We walked under a huge Golden Orb – harmless, but huge! Take all the pics!
● Get cleaned up for dinner at Coral Sea Resort or Sorrento Restaurant and Bar
● Sip champagne from your hot tub and cheers to one hell of a day.
Extra day recs:
● Spend one day on Hamilton Island. We loved flying into there because the ferry through the islands was gorgeous from there to Arlie, but wish we could have explored the island before having to go. It’s said to be very beautiful. You can also check out Daydream Island too. Look out for kangaroos!
● Fly from Prosperine Airport (Whitsunday Island’s mainland airport) to Brisbane in the morning, where you’ll rent a car and get to experience driving on the wrong side of the road down under. Remember just stay left ;). Drive 2-3 hours north along the coast to Noosa Heads – an incredible resort town along the waters.
● Stop along the drive to one of the many beach towns for brunch. We ate in Caloundra and visited Dicky Beach.
● Head to the beach for rays, grab a smoothie or gelato to keep you cool. The beach is perfect for swimming (low jellies), which is why you’ll find many families splashing around the water.
● Grab a pre-dinner cocktail at the Sofitel Bar. Mingle with other out of towners decked out in resort wear.
● Have dinner at Locale – a contemporary rest with black decor and Italian food to die for (we flock to Italian… warning: doesn’t help the beach diet).
● Get up early for a walk or run along the Coastal Walk to Alexandria Bay. It’s hilly and scenic so be prepared to stop along the way. It’s a 1-2 hour adventure with amazing views of bays full of surfers and incredible views. Tea Tree Bay is known for its special healing powers with all of the surrounding eucalyptus trees. Hell’s Gate is one incredible view and Alexandria Bay is yours to sun in along with other nudies.
● Grab brunch at Café le Monde. Try their Juno kombucha. Order the avocado toast and the healthy but hearty kale chicken salad. This spot was my FAVE.
● Walk the strip and shop the shops! I fell in love with Seed, Kookai, Witchery and anywhere that carried Seafollyswimming suits, a popular Aussie brand. Pick up a new bikini as a souvey!
● Grab dinner and drinks at El Capitano – an awesome spot for organic pizza and yummy wine.
● Nightcap at Miss Moneypenny’s – because you’re on vacay, mate!
Extra day recs:
● Book and excursion or rent a car to visit Frasier Island – the world’s largest sand island. Hike to Indian Head Lookout for a view of sharks, stingrays and turtles. Lookout for dingos roaming the island. Check out the incredible Lake Mackenzie. We tried to cram this in but just couldn’t do it without an extra day.
We loved that we started in the city and ended in the city with this trip. Melbourne is super cool – in more ways than one. We fell in love with the laneways and cafes, but definitely wish we would have packed better for the weather. A bit of a prep for cold weather at home.
● Drive to Ballina where you’ll return your rental car and fly to Melbourne. Arrive to your Airbnb in the CBD. Grab coffee at Kinfolk. I opted throughout the trip for cappuccinos and long blacks. Grab a light bite from here – they have such yummy food!
● Start walking along Southbank where you’ll find restaurants and bars galore. The scene is incredibly vibrant along the Yarra River. Have fun hopping around from spot to spot here.
● Grab drinks at the Arbory – cool music, packed with locals and a great cocktail list. Their espresso martini is amazing.
● Eat dinner at one of the many restaurants. We chose Breslin Bar & Grill for its outdoor seating and meat on the menu (Trevor was craving a burger!) but there are options to suit all of your flavors.
● Check out views of the city in the evening at Eureka Sky Deck. Don’t do “The Edge” – it’s an extra cost and a pretty big tourist trap.
● Put your name down for brunch at The Hardware Societé, an incredible French hot spot. Sit at the counter to awe over every dish being created by the chefs.
● Walk off brunch down Collins ave, enjoying the mix of Victorian buildings within the city. Stroll through Hosier Lane for some cool street art.
● SHOP til you DROP! There are a ton of hidden malls all in a row. Just walk down Bourke St and drop into the many MASSIVE shopping centers. At first we wondered where all the people were in the CBD on Sunday… they were here: Galleria Shopping Plaza, Bourke Street Mall, The Strand Melbourne, Melbourne’s GPO, Emporium Melbourne, Roay Arcade and Melbourne Central. Dear LORD right?! I was overwhelmed and in heaven (and wishing my poor husband didn’t have to sit while I shopped). I fell in love with Cos, Bardot, C/MEO Collective, Super Glue Store, Camila and Marc, Tony Bianco, Sheiko, Tallulah… and was told Brunswick street is great for boutiques (though I didn’t have enough time!!!).
● Grab lunch at one of the many cafes on Degraves Street – so reminded me of Paris!
● Rent another car for a day excursion along the Great Ocean Road – only 3 hours away. Grab snacks at a local mart (we loved The Pantry) for your long journey. Note: you want the entire day to do this. Get up as early as possible so you can get on the road ASAP! We stopped at nearly every viewpoint and by the time we got home, it was nearly midnight.
● Stop off for lunch in Apollo Bay – lots of cute beachside cafes and rests for you to grab a sammy or fish and chips!
● Visit Split Point @ Aireys, Cape Otway for a lighthouse tour, koalas and kangaroos, Gibson Steps and the famous 12 Apostles. A great turnaround point is Port Campbell and you can cut up directly to Melbourne on the M1.
● Call it an early night, you have your final and very early morning excursion tomorrow!
● Book a hot air balloon adventure during sunrise through Global Ballooning Company. It was seriously the most amazing experience we’ve had.
● Wine taste in the Yarra Valley. You can book through a wine tour company or find a private driver (recommended). We visited Bawlgownie, Yering Estate, Yarrow and Chandon – awesome way to end with bubbles and a beautiful property to enjoy with your travel mate :).
● Head back to the city for dinner at Meatball & Wine Bar. To die for! Cool vibes, hip beats, and incredible food. Order some Italian wine, burrata to share and go to town on a make your own meatball bowl. Perfect for post wine tour goodness. I’m literally still dreaming of this place. Old you we always default on Italian!
Extra day recs:
● Penguin parade at Frasier island – this has been said to be one of the wildest experiences. We tried to do it on our trip to the Great Ocean Road but just didn’t have enough time!
● Shop!!! I could have spent days exploring all of the hidden gems.
Fly out of MEL back to LAX or SFO. Expect a shorter flight than the way there, around 13 hours. Pack it with more movies, more wine, and eating the unhealthy meals your airline gives you. After all, diet starts the day after vacation, right?
Q & A
What would you have changed?It was a little cold in Melbourne — and also an insane time to visit for anyone with allergies! Maybe we have rethought the timing there.
Anything go wrong during the trip?We neglected to account for the missing day of travel — and accidentally booked a hotel for a night we lost.
Restaurant recommendations?Don’t let people tell you “the food in Australia is bad” -- you can eat fresh and try amazing restaurants just the same as you can anywhere else. Follow your nose, ask locals and do some research!
Booking details?Set a tracker on the Hopper app — I’ve gotten the best deals by far from this! I mean $550 RT?!