My 19th Australia trip was so unusual in contrast to what most Americans, who are visiting for the first time, experience. My most recent experience "Down Under" only reinforced the magic of Australia that always delights, satisfies and surprises me. This continent-nation fulfills so much travel wonder lust; experiences beyond your imagination.
Using mileage and award tickets, I started the trip in fine style in United Global First, non-stop from LA on an appoximately 15-hour flight to Sydney. Yes, by booking in November, 2013, for a September 2014 trip, my advance planning paid off! There is always some place in the world to use those miles. The key is planning way ahead and being flexible. My result was a very comfortable and well-serviced flight in both directions on United with a nice flat bed and some good sleep.
I then flew on Virgin Australia to The Great Barrier Reef Airport (Hamilton Island), where I was met by the very friendly One & Only Hayman Island staff, who then guided me to the 50 minute yacht ride, complete with champagne, to the just reopened Hayman Island resort. Luxury is the experience here, after an $80 million investment to impress a new generation of travelers. An all-suite pool wing with a massive pool, eight luxury beachfront units with private pools, and the family-friendly Hayman Wing with its own pool and redesigned restaurant, fit well together on a very nice, wide beach. Several restaurants, a gym, spa and an extensive list of Great Barrier Reef activities keep you busy.
My recent visit revealed some rough edges in the service, always friendly but sometimes tardy. These were minor issues which I am sure will be addressed. The overall experience was impressive, complete with seaplanes, yachts and helicopters. With these and other appropriate toys, One & Only Hayman is bringing new luxury to the Great Barrier Reef experience. The food was outstanding, particularly in Fire, with some very nice Craggy Range wines, and at the Italian Restaurant with a unique and well seasoned lamb.
After four days at Hayman, it was back to Hamilton Island for two night. Hamilton Island offers many different types of accommodations, all connected by self-drive golf carts. My favorite was Qualia, an exclusive adults-only enclave complete with "Jurassic Park" gates. Consisting of the Leeward Side of approx. 900 Sq. ft. of free standing units along a hillside and the Windward Side of approx. 1,200 Sq. Ft. and a private pool, your feeling is of complete privacy and freedom. This is luxury with a small private beach and beachside restaurant that’s yours alone. In true Hamilton Island style, you have your own included Qualia golf cart. Of course,you may decide to just enjoy the resort and never leave.
The second night I moved to the newly renovated Beach Club, at the most popular beach on the island. Although the Beach Club is adults only, the resort across the street is family friendly as is the beach on the other side. The rooms are very comfortable, but children will always be nearby. This part of the island, however, is within walking distance of the main town which can be a plus for some.
Then it was back on Virgin Australia for about a 2 1/2 hour flight to Sydney for a four-night stay. My home was the Four Seasons Sydney fresh from a renovation of most of its rooms, as well as a new restaurant and bar. Room 2815 was a corner, full harbor view junior suite, with about a 300-degree view of iconic Sydney Harbour, The Opera House and Circular Quay. With this view and the outstanding service here, it is one of the best values in the city.
Sydney continues to grow and evolve with new areas of activit,y such as along Darling Harbour towards the Harbour Bridge, but also The Rocks and the less touristy and local Surry Hills area, with a nice restaurant there called The Book Kitchen. Get a transport pass and use Sydney Ferries to fun and unique areas such as Taronga Zoo, with lots of Aussie animals, or Balmain East, for a typically local suburban atmosphere.
The locals continue to be friendly and helpful and the city continues to be alive and exciting. From Bondi Beach to Manly to day excursions to The Blue Mountains, Sydney continues to excite and delight for the 19th time as much as it did the first time.
No serious traveler can claim the world as theirs while overlooking the continent nation of Australia. Even after 19 trips, there is so much left to see. Your own Aussie Adventure awaits. Let us show you how to make it happen.