Australia

Sydney Harbor Bridge is a well-known icon to visitors to Australia
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I had an amazing opportunity to fly on United's newest Boeing 787 plane direct from Los Angeles to Sydney, for my Australia vacation.  The seats were comfortable in economy class with plenty of head room. Each seat had its own entertainment system with a wide selection of movies, TV shows & games -- perfect for our 15-hour flight. The service, staff and food onboard were excellent and made us feel right at home. Upon arrival into Sydney, we had a connecting flight to Hamilton Island. After exiting through immigration it was easy to follow the signs to our connecting flight, though, it was a longer walk than I anticipated. 

It was a 2 ½ hour flight to Hamilton Island. The airport on Hamilton Island is extremely tiny, and they don’t even have a baggage claim area. Once you exit the airport, your baggage is set along the side of the road to claim. We hop onto the shuttle bus to our resort, the Whitsundays Apartments. Our apartment was wonderful, with a large living room area, a full kitchen, bedroom, dining area and full bathroom. We had an oceanfront room, overlooking the entire island and the ocean, and it was perfect in every way.

We chose to stay on Hamilton Island as it was the close to The Great Barrier Reef & Whitehaven Beach. Hamilton Island is like a mini city; there are no cars on the island, and the only way to get around is either walking, free shuttle bus or to rent a golf cart. They have a huge marina area with shops, restaurants and a small grocery, where you would find most of the people milling about if they were not at the beaches or pools. The island has several pools, one located directly at the apartments and a few others scattered all over the beach areas. All the pools are free to use for anybody staying on the island.

We ended up renting a golf cart for the four days we were there. It is definitely a must, especially if you want to go to the marina or cruise around the island. The next day, after we arrived, we took a boat to The Great Barrier Reef for a snorkeling excursion. The boat departed from the marina and cruised about 1 ½ hours to the reef. Once we arrived they told us we would be going to two separate areas to snorkel, the first would be a deep-water snorkel and the second area would be a shallower area. The snorkeling was far from what I expected, the reef was extremely dead and not many colorful fish as I had hoped.

After snorkeling in the deep-water area for about 45 minutes, we moved onto the shallower area, which was also disappointing. We did see a few more colorful fish, but the coral and reef were completely dead. Unfortunately, hurricanes and global-warming has completely destroyed the reef. With that sad disappointment, the next day we headed to Whitehaven beach, which was about a 45-minute boat ride. Upon arrival the view was breathtaking, I had never seen sand as white and pure as I did here. The water was warm, the sand was silk and smooth, and it was the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen in my life. We spent about two hours enjoying the warm weather, the sand between our toes and the crystal blue waters before heading back to Hamilton Island.

After our wonderful relaxing stay on Hamilton island, we headed back to Sydney. We stayed in Sydney for five days at the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel. The hotel has a great lobby area with a restaurant and bar. The rooms were spacious, with either a king or two double beds, a stocked fridge, coffeemaker & bathroom amenities. The hotel is the perfect location for anybody traveling to Sydney. It’s a two-minute walk to the harbor are and harbor cruises, the Opera House, the Sydney Bridge and much more. Around the corner from the hotel is an area called the “Gateway,” offering over 30 restaurants & bars.

Another great advantage of this area is the big-double decker red bus drop off and pick up area, right around the corner from the hotel. We got a 2-day pass for this bus, and it was a great way to see Sydney, as it stops at all the major sights, including the Opera House, Sydney Tower, Darling harbor, the sea life aquarium, Hyde Park, museums and, of course, Bondi Beach. Bondi is a great area with lots of restaurants, shopping and world-famous surfing. We also had the opportunity to enjoy a 1-hour harbor cruise of Sydney and the Sydney Harbour bridge. The cruise was wonderful, seeing Sydney from the water is a must, and you get great photo opportunity of the Harbour Bridge. Certainly, if you haven't been, Sydney should be on your bucket list.

Tracy Wedde