From December 16, 2008 - January 4, 2009 our family visited Australia. We flew to Honolulu and overnighted at the KOA OLINA Beach Resort: beautifully appointed luxury one bedroom, 2 bathroom, Ocean view condo, with two large pools, Japanese Koi water garden, ocean bar with morning coffee/tea service and Hawaiian music. There are four man-made bays with tropical fish and sea turtles. Good for snorkeling and swimming. Ideal for families with small children. It is next to a Marriott time share and the Ihilani Hotel. Excellent dinner at Roy's, which is walking distance on Golf course across from resort.
Flew on Jet-Star (star service = business class) Honolulu to Sydney. Jet Star is a budget airline ( 1/4 the air fare of Quantas), operates Airbus. Leather seats, 75% reclining, movies on demand, use of Quantas business class lounges in Honolulu and Sydney.
Spent two night in SYDNEY at newly renovated Four Seasons on George Street at Circular Quay. Spacious Junior Suite, harbor view, large marble bathroom, great service. Restaurant and spa area still have the 80′s Regent Decor. Outdoor pool, right next to street, noisy - not very pleasant.
SILKY OAKS LODGE, DAINTREE FOREST: One of Australia's unique wilderness lodges, offering private, deluxe, air conditioned timber cabins tastefully appointed with handcrafted Australian Colonial Timber furniture. It is truly a nature-lover's delight where from your veranda, in your hammock, you may hear the sounds of birds and water cascading over the rapids of the Mossman River Gorge.
Located in the heart of the rainforest and an hour's drive north of Cairns, this special haven offers the finest in cuisine and luxury accommodation. Some of the activities offered are swimming in a salt water pool or the Mossman River, canoeing, biking and fish feeding. Spa treatments are available. Recommended for honeymooners. Not for families with small children.
Went on the Daintree Forest eco tour: walking through rainforests that evolved 130 million years ago. The rainforest droops down over the river - wildlife & birdlife abound here. You cross the river by cable ferry and continue to drive to beautiful Cape Tribulation Beach. A bbq lunch was served at a small site next to a billabong (swimming hole in a river); you could swim with turtles and fish. After lunch we went on a river cruise on the Daintree River, where we saw crocodiles, green frogs and a variety of birds. The TV series ""Pacific"" was filmed in this area.
CAIRNS: We spent 1 night at The Sebel Harbor Lights: Apartment Hotel, contemporary and cold. Would recommend the Shangri La next door, great restaurant and bar. Hip and happening place!
HAYMAN ISLAND: We were transferred on their luxury launch with light lunch and champagne to Hayman Island (1 hour). Great way to see the Whitsunday Islands. Warm welcome by Hayman staff, informative information about layout and activities of the resort. We stayed in a Lagoon Wing Suite: large living room with separate balcony, bathroom, plasma TV, desk. Large bedroom with king bed, terrace, plasma TV. Huge gorgeous bathroom, teakwood floors and large walk-in closet, great oval bath tub in the middle of the bathroom, separate shower and WC with milky glass doors. Two round sinks. Elegant and stylish. Some days turn down left Evian waters, other days incense and candles, other day's bath mat next to bed. Service was good, however not consistent.
Hayman is undergoing renovation over the next 6 years. They started with the beach villas and Beach Pavilion Restaurant kitchen. Next will be the Lagoon Wing. Activities at additional cost include fishing, snorkeling, yachting, sea plane excursions, coral viewing, diving at Great Barrier Reef. Complimentary activities: swimming, tennis, indoor squash, 18-hole putting green, 3-hole golf target range, windsurfing and parasailing. Gym and Fitness area (outdoors, no air conditioning) is run down and not well maintained next to the staff quarters. Not on 5-star level. Spa is beautiful (expensive).
There are 6 international restaurants (Italian, French, Asian, Seafood, Beach Pavilion and Hayman pool restaurant) on the property. Lovely buffet breakfasts at AZUR restaurant, however sea gulls like lox and bagel and ate it right off my plate!
We went deep sea fishing and Jonathan caught a 12 lb Mac Tuna, which the chef at the Asian restaurant prepared for us (sashimi, tempura and steak). It was delicious and probably the most expensive tuna I ever ate.
There is no snorkeling at Hayman, which was a disappointment. You had to take a boat (costly) to go out to a bay on the other side of the island. In order to dive at the Great Barrier Reef, you have to go on an hour long rough boat trip with 100 other passengers, wait for your.5 hour diving slot, again with 6 other passengers, wear a stinger suit. Again not what we had envisioned. My recommendation is to stay at Lizard Island if you want to go diving at the Great Barrier Reef. Expensive but worth it for divers.
We departed Hayman by sea plane (30 minutes flight) to Hamilton Island. Our flight to Melbourne on Jet Star was 4 hours delayed. We took a tour around Hamilton Island, did not care for it. Recommended for budget travelers. Quite commercial and developed. Jet Star is known for their delays within Australia. You pay for everything, even water and coffee on their flights. Our favorite domestic carrier was Virgin Blue, leather seats, more leg room, fun and friendly flight attendants, and entertainment even on one-hour flights. You also have to pay for drinks and snacks. Only Quantas provides complimentary soft drinks and snacks.
MELBOURNE: LANGHAM HOTEL, deluxe club room. Sister property to London's famous Langham Hotel, this 5-star deluxe hotel has Melbourne's most enviable location on the banks of the famous Yarra River with an established reputation as one of Australia's finest hotels. Inside the hotel has been designed as a Victorian mansion. The classically designed guestrooms are elegant and spacious with marble bathrooms with separate shower unit and bathtub. Award-winning Melba Brasserie offers one of the best and most delicious breakfasts in the city. The ""Chuan"" spa offers extensive treatment rooms, conservatory covered pool, whirlpool and extensive gymnasium.
Located on the River walk packed with restaurants, bars an gelaterias, next to Opera, several art galleries and the walking bridge across the Yarra River to the Railway Station, main shopping area, Laneways with lovely Cafes, Belgian Chocolatiers and Restaurants, as well as Federation Square. Melbourne is a cosmopolitan city.
Tour: Savannah Walkabout with Janine of Echidna Walkabout: Depart Melbourne across the Yarra River on the Westgate Bridge with dramatic views over the city and Port Philip Bay. Travel past the grasslands of the great Western Plains, a true Australian landscape, to Serendip Sanctuary (open-range). Run by National Parks Service. Short easy strolls along bush land pathways to discover the wild koalas in the Eucalyptus trees. We saw large free range mobs of the tallest kangaroo, the Eastern-grey, and family groups of the world's second largest bird, the emu. As well as some of Australia's rarest birds, including the Bustard, Brolga and Cape Barren Goose. We also visited places of importance to the Aboriginal people of the region. Janine Duffy, owner, is a wildlife expert, very knowledgeable and she talks to the animals. Lunch in the bush included the billy tea service. This tour is highly recommended for families with children. They also offer a two day Phillip Island Penguin tour and a 3 day Coastal Road tour.
SYDNEY: INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL, deluxe club floor city view room. Great location, best view of Sydney Harbor and Opera House from Club lounge and pool. Beautiful lounge, former Treasury of Australia. Spacious contemporary designed room, small bath room. Club Lounge is best place to view the famous Sydney fireworks, if you want to avoid the mob scene of Circular Quay and Harbor. Service left something to be desired for. Too large for my taste. Hotel caters to groups, pre- and post cruise passengers.
Had lunch and site inspection of the Observatory Hotel, an Orient Express property. Michelin star restaurant, Asian-European fusion cuisine. Elegant, home away from home, beautifully appointed rooms, some with balconies. Overlooking Commercial Harbor, only 5 stories, therefore notable views. Located in an old neighborhood of the Rocks, very quiet location. (Great indoor pool.) For travelers returning to Sydney, who want to be away from the action. The Park Hyatt has best position next to the Harbor Bridge.
Restaurant recommendations at the Rocks, beautiful view, reservations necessary:
Seafood: Peter Doyle. Meat: Wildfire Grill.
Australians are fun loving and friendly people. It is a great destination for families.
Returned on Quantas nonstop to LAX. Great service, movies on demand even in economy, food were better than Jet Star business class. However seats were not as comfortable. Check in at Sydney airport was a nightmare, because of the huge Airbus 800 passengers boarding. Flight was delayed by 80 minutes because they did not have enough check-in counters to handle this big crowd.