Other Travel



Here's a trip report on my amazing vacation to Australia, 18-Nov-2007 thru 11-Dec-2007!

If I create this correctly, you should be able to click on the links below; photos will pop up that match the topic, or hotels and places of interest that have websites will open in new windows.

At the bottom of the page is a link to all the accommodations if anyone is interested in contacting them.

To start, let me say that this was an absolutely astonishing trip from start to finish. The wonderful people, the great vistas and hiking, the cities' nightlife and culture, it all added up to make this a trip of a lifetime. Australia is a country that has so much to recommend, and almost no detractions (other than all the wildlife which can kill you instantly - those of you who have read Bill Bryson's wonderful book 'In A Sunburned Country' know what I'm talking about). I know it took me 45 years to get there for the first time, but trust me - it won't take that long for me to back!


Sunday, Nov. 18th
Leave Boston on Sunday at 4:45pm on AA 767, with the AA's Business Class seats in First Class. The FC Lounge in LAX offered free food and booze. After the three-hour layover, by the time we boarded our Qantas flight and took off, it was 3am east coast time, and I just went directly to sleep, skipping the dinner meal. Dozed on and off throughout the flight, while watching a few movies and reading in between. Breakfast was quite tasty with eggs, sausage, home fries and toast. I promised myself that on the way home, I'd take more advantage of the food and beverage selections, which looked yummy.

Tuesday, Nov. 20th
Arrive Melbourne in the early afternoon, after small flight delay and then getting through customs. Took a shuttle bus to downtown, on the way Steve realized he had forgotten his backpack at airport, and we went back to retrieve it. Luckily it was turned in to the Information Desk, and still had everything in it. After arriving at the Quest on William, Steve also realized he had taken the wrong suitcase, and had to back to the airport yet again. After checking in to our two-bedroom apartment, I started walking around downtown a bit, including a stop at a grocery store for water and munchies. Once Steve made it back with his bags, we went for a longer walk of the area, and then took the train to the South Yarra/Prahan area. As we walked the city, one of the things we noticed right off, and saw throughout the trip, was the Australia has a lot of sculpture and artwork on the sidewalks. It is a great idea, making the cities more beautiful and interesting. After walking around a bit in the artsy district of South Yarra with its galleries and boutique restaurants, we then had dinner at an Irish pub on Chapel Street called Bridie O'Reilly's while it poured rain outside. Pretty good pub food washed down with a couple pints of Guinness. Called it an early night, being still pretty tired from the 24 hours of travel.

Wednesday, Nov. 21st
Walked down to City Square and on to Federation Square, doing some sightseeing along the way - shopping Arcades, statues and street art, St. Paul's Church, Flinder's Station. Had a beer at the Young & Jackson Hotel in front of the famous nude painting "Chloe". Visited the Australian Center for the Moving Images and saw a fascinating exhibit of the music-inspired video-art of Christian Marclay. Then walked next door to the National Gallery of Victoria and saw a large collection of Australian art there, both indigenous and more Western style. Walked to Chinatown and had a late lunch there at some hole-in-the-wall that was very good. Back to hotel to refresh, then off to Northcote Social Club to see Colin Hay Band/Sime Nugent show. Had dinner at the club on the back porch; I had greasy but good fish & chips, Steve had a Middle-eastern flavored chicken dish.

Thursday, Nov. 22nd
Happy Thanksgiving! Well, sort of - it's not really Thursday at home until 6pm here. And we never did find anyplace to have  turkey dinner. Started out at the Victoria Market for shopping, picked up a jacket for myself and Steve bought several small gifts. Also bought various foods from the vendors, including huge strawberries, mussels in chili sauce, variety of cheeses and breads, and bratwurst for lunch. We were very amused at the variety of meats available at some of the stalls! Swung back to hotel to drop of items and regroup, then headed to 360-degree Observation Deck on Collins Street for some nice views of the city and its layout. After that, we headed down to St. Kilda for a concert via trolley. Walked around the Esplanade, amused at the various funny names and decorations on the buildings (including two competing hair salons on either side of the street from each other - the Hairroom and Smik). Had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant called Cafe di Stasio. Was sad to see that the Luna Park amusement park was closed, it would have been fun to walk around there for a bit. Finally headed over to the Palais Theater to see Bryan Ferry and Joan Armatrading on a great double bill. Ended up being one of my favorite shows of the year - both acts were outstanding, and the Palais is a beautiful old theater with great acoustics. (And here's another example of the random street art that dots the cities.)

Friday, Nov. 23rd
Rented a car from Thrifty ($141 for the full-size car for the three-day weekend), and headed off to Warrnambool via the Great Ocean Road. This was my first time driving on the left, but I picked it up fairly easily (there was one close call in Sydney, but that's a story for another day). I was worried about Melbourne's strange go-left-to-take-a-right rule, but that was also easy to catch on. The ride to GOR was quicker than I expected, and we ended up having lunch in Anglesea, further along than originally planned. From there it became a succession of evermore amazing sights - Hutt Gulley, Eagle Rock, Split Point Lighthouse, the Twelve Apostles, the Loch and Gorge, London Bridge, and the Bay of Islands. Ended up at a Warrnambool, where we stayed in a two-bedroom cottage just a couple blocks from downtown. Had dinner at Bojangles Pizza, which was quite good and reasonably prices (although skip the red house wine, not that good).

Saturday, Nov. 24th
Started the day by driving west to Port Fairy and had breakfast, then headed back east towards Queenscliff to catch the ferry to Phillips Island. Stopped along the way at Mt. Leura to see the local countryside from a nice viewpoint. Caught the 5pm ferry to Sorrento, and just made it to Phillip Island in time for the Penguin Parade (drive was a bit further than we thought it would be). The Penguin March is seriously over-commercialized, with bleachers and loudspeakers and huge crowds. Despite all that, however, it was really fun and cute to see all these 12" tall penguins make their way up the shore towards their nests, and to see and hear them aftewards on the boardwalk through their nesting grounds. Unfortunately it is very hard to take photos of the event (flash lighting scares the penguins and so all photography is strictly forbidden). But check out the website for some official photos so you get an idea about just how cute they really are, and you'll see that despite all its drawbacks, its still a fun night out. After leaving the penguins, we ended up eating peanut butter & jelly sandwiches at the apartment because there were no decent options for food past 10pm.

Sunday, Nov, 25th
Drove to Wilson's Promontory for a day of hiking and sightseeing. This is most beautiful place I've ever seen in my life, matching Yosemite National Park as my all-time favorite place in the world! Hiked for hours throughout the property, including the Amazonian-looking Tidal Basin, the lovely sandy beaches, and great trails through the hills with breathtaking views. Not to mention all kinds of amazing animal and plant life. We saw a Tiger snake just a minute into our first hike, then a lizard just a few feet away. Explored Cotter's Lake, where we eventually saw a wombat and some kangaroos for the first time on the trip as well! (We were wondering if were ever going to see a kangaroo - eventually over the trip we saw lots of them, both in zoos and in the wild.) Towards dusk we drove back to Melbourne (3 hour drive), eating at McDonalds on the way back. This was the second time we noticed a propensity for burgers in Australia to have beets on them; unheard of in the U.S., but quite common here.

Monday, Nov, 26th
Flew on VirginBlue to Launceston in Tasmania for five days of driving and exploring. The flights only cost $48; just $7 for the ticket, the rest was taxes! Steve had to pay $20 for overweight luggage because we hadn't thought through the fact that this was a domestic flight and would have stricter baggage rules. Still, it wasn't too bad considering. Even better, Thrifty honored their price mistake and gave us a mid-size Camry rental for $1/day! Yeah!! Walked around downtown Launceston for an hour or so before heading to the Commercial Hotel to watch the NFL New England Patriots play the Philadelphia Eagles. The game was close at half-time when we started watching, and the game remained tight until the very end, but the Pats ended up winning and staying undefeated. Went to tour Hoag's brewery to take the tour, but we missed the last one (and it was $25, which we probably wouldn't have paid anyway. In the States, the brewery tours are free.). Went to check in to the Tamar Valley Resort (renting a 2-bedroom chalet). Lit out for the Cataract Gorge and took the chairlift up and the suspension bridge back. While waking around we ran into several peacocks there. Had dinner at the Jailhouse Restaurant, which was okay but not up to the recommendations.

Tuesday, Nov. 27th
Had the breakfast buffet at Tamar Valley Resort. Tried Vegemite for the first time, but it was all I could do to keep from spitting it out. How the hell do people eat this stuff? It tasted like dirt to me! Started out towards the northwest corner of Tasmania. Our first stop was Penguin, simply because of the name of the town sounded so amusing. However, it turned out to be an lovely seaside town with a great beach and nice little shops. Had a mince pie for lunch, and got lots of photos of things that said "Penguin Market" and "Penguin Butchery" and the like. In my opinion, everything is funny when you put the word "penguin" in front of it! Continued on to Boat Harbour where we checking into our 2-bedroom house overlooking the beach and ocean - the places we stay at just keep getting better and better along the way! Had a lovely chat with the owner and found out her brother is the gentleman we were just reading about; he restores cars and races bikes, and displays his work at the Wonders of Wynyard, and exhibit at the Visitor's Center. Continued on to Stanley to visit The Nut, which is basically a large rock along the coast. Took a chairlift up and walked around the numerous paths before walking down the hill (chairlift closes at 5:30pm). Drove to Smithton to check it out and drove around town briefly, but to be honest there wasn't much to see there. Drove back to Stanley to have dinner at the Stanley's On The Bay Restaurant, which had good food but a little pricey and had very slow service. Coming back to Boat Harbour, we walked down to the beach where some locals were having a bonfire and trying to light off some fireworks (or maybe they were flares - either way, they just fizzled).

Wednesday, Nov. 28th
Woke up early and hiked around the small land extension in the Boat Harbour area. Making our way towards Strahan, we cruised through some beautiful countryside and forests. Saw some Galloway cattle, which can best be described as fuzzy cows. Drove down to Rosebery where we had lunch (nice sandwiches on homemade bread). Continued south to Montezuma Falls, where we did a three-hour, 7-mile hike to the falls and back. It was a fairly easy trail, and well worth the time to see the waterfall and the suspension bridge you have to cross to even see the falls! Be aware though the bridge is pretty narrow and can be scary! Arrived in Strahan around 5pm, where we booked a cruise on the Gordon River for tomorrow morning. Saw a pretty amusing two-man play about an old mutiny called 'The Ship That Never Was'. At least it starts as a two-man play, before they rope in some of the audience members to help out. Yours truly played a pirate (and quite a fierce one, I might add!). Had dinner from the local store next to the campsite (Steve have the 'Big One' burger which looked amazing), and watched a interesting documentary movie on the architect Frank Gehry, before calling it an early night.

Thursday, Nov. 29th
Booked a 6-hour Gordon River Cruise throughout the bay and up the Gordon River. Started out through Hell's Gate, back past the fish farms.  Headed up into the amazingly calm Gordon River, took a walk through the rainforest (saw 'Fluffy' the Tiger Snake). Then, after a buffet lunch on the boat, toured Sarah Island, the site of an old prison and shipbuilding yard. After the cruise, we started the long trek towards Hobart on a very windy but stunning road through the mountains and several state parks. Stopped 3/4 of the way to Hobart to hike to Russell Falls, where we saw several animals along the way (including a mommy-and-baby wallaby and an echidna). After arriving late in Hobart and finding nothing open for food after 10pm, we ended up at Hungry Jacks, the local version of Burger King, then crashed.

Friday, Nov. 30th
Stayed in the Hobart area for the day. Toured the Cadbury Chocolate factory ($15), which looked closer to Willie Wonka-Land, with all its machinery and people running around in hairnets and facemasks. Wandered downtown Hobart, having lunch at a little cafe right near the docks on Morrison Street (the uniquely Tasmanian dish of scallop pie - yum!). Checked out the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery which was surprisingly good considering the size of the town. Headed off to the Cascade Brewery for a tour, but the last one was at 1:30pm (what???), so then headed up Mt. Wellington for sightseeing and mild hiking. It was pretty cloudy when we were heading up there, but there were enough breaks in the fog to see down into Hobart. Back downtown, we walked through St. David's Park. This used to be an old cemetery, and when they converted it into a park they kept some of the old gravestones and put them into a wall; it looked really cool! Sauntered around the Salamanca Market for more sightseeing, taking the Kelly Steps up to Battery Point and Prince's Park. Back in the market, had a delicious dinner at Mummaluka BBQ (a delicious meal of bruschetta, baby-back ribs w/salad and potatoes, and desert for a very reasonable $32).

Saturday, Dec. 1st
Took a mid-morning Qantas flight to Sydney, checking into the Y Hotel around 2pm. Walked around the Oxford Street area and had lunch at Burgerlicious (decent fast food, better than any of the other burger places we tried). Walked through Hyde Park, stopping in at the Anzac Memorial, with its art deco exterior and stunning sculpture inside. Continued down MacQuarie St., passing a multitude of churches and government buildings. Wandered into the Royal Botanical Gardens and didn't leave for hours, walking all over and being amazed at the variety of birds and flora and statues throughout the park. There was a nice cactus garden, and a multitude of interesting trees of all shapes and styles. Oh, and the giant bats. Seriously, HUGE GIANT BATS were all over the park! Thousands of them, covering the trees! A few hours later we caught them as they left to feed that night, and it was exhilarating and frightening at the same time. Continued walking all around the park, over to Woolloomoolow Bay and it's warships, around Farm Cove, and ending up at the Sydney Opera House. Had dinner at a small restaurant on the harbor, decent but nothing special (you're paying for the view, not the food). Walked back by way of MacQuarie Street, which had a lot of the older building fronts lit up with various designs. Very cool! (photo, photo, photo, photo)

Sunday, Dec. 2nd
Beautiful sunny day in Sydney, temps in the upper 70s. On the way to the waterfront, we walked down St. George St. and checked out some of the cool older buildings like City Hall and the elegant Queen Victoria Building (QVB), which has been turned into an upscale mall. Walked to the Museum of Contemporary Art and saw an interesting exhibit by Julie Rrap, before heading back to the hotel to change into shorts (it started to get hot out). Went back to the waterfront and walked around The Rocks, stopping at a nice little book store and then an amazing store called the Puppet Cottage (another picture). Had a nice lunch at an outdoor fish shack. Did some shopping at the Rocks' outdoor market. Walked up and over the Sydney Bridge. Went to the Sydney Observatory to sign up for the night's lecture, but it was closed until 8:15pm. Had beers and food (a delicious Ploughman's Lunch platter) at the Lord Nelson Hotel and Brewery, the oldest hotel in Sydney. Excellent homebrew, I liked the Admiral Ale best. Went back to the Observatory and made the last two slots on the tour, saw stars and nebulae through both the original 1848 telescope and a much more modern one.

Monday, Dec. 3rd
Spent some time in the morning planning the upcoming drive to Brisbane and booking hotels. Finally headed out around 11am and headed down to Circle Quay again (it really is the center of everything!). Grabbed a daytripper pass (unlimited ferry and bus) and headed to the Taronga Zoo. Spent several hours there (including a convenient lunch when it started to pour out). We finally saw a Tasmanian Devil, along with emus, koalas, a huge Komodo dragon, and a very ugly Mata Mata, whatever the hell that is. Back to Circle Quay to grab another ferry to Manley for a couple hours of walking around the promenade and the beach there. That evening we headed into Darling Harbor for a quick bite at the mall food court (running late!) and to see 'Beowulf' in 3-D on the largest IMAX screen in the world, over 7 stories tall!

Tuesday, Dec. 4th
Steve went to the Powerhouse Museum (the largest museum in Australia) to rave reviews. I went to the Sydney Aquarium which had several incredible large tanks filled with more fish than I can ever remember, including some fearfully large sharks and many other creatures that can kill you instantly if you even think about going into the water. We met up at the Pyrmont Bridge Hotel (which has strict hiring requirements) to watch the NE Patriots play the Baltimore Ravens. Amazing game, came down to the very last play, but the Pats pulled it out and continue to remain unbeaten!! Also had a great lunch there, the Tuesday Surf-n-Turf special was one of the best meals of the trip (tasty 12oz. steak and lightly-battered fried shrimp, with mashed potato and salad, all for just $10!). Toured the Sydney Opera House (saw all the spaces, which was cool, I guess they're not always available to tours). Took a fruitless ride up to Newtown, to the Enmore Theatre, to try to score tickets to see the concert Zappa Plays Zappa. We at least got to see a new part of town, and it helped us realize just how large Sydney truly is. And if you're in the area, its worth it to swing by the Enmore just to check out the box office/cafe, which is covered with hundreds of signed posters of the acts who have played there over the years - it's like a mini Hard Rock Cafe!

Wednesday, Dec. 5th
Picked up the rental car for the next 6 days, a very nice Ford Fairlane Ghia. Drove out to the Blue Mountains for a day of sightseeing and adventure, but most of it was dampened by the rain and fog clouding in most of the area. We did manage to make it out to the Jenolan Caves, and toured the Imperial Cave (not our first choice, but only tour available around the time we arrived). There were some stunning structures on the tour, and an underground river. We also met up with a group that was replicating the original discovery of the cavern. After the tour, we headed back into Katoomba to take the Skyway, but it was all fogged in and shut down. After having dinner (surprisingly good Chinese food at the Three Sisters Restaurant, although the place is kinda grungy), we thought we'd try our luck with the Wentworth Falls. Even though it was pretty foggy even in the parking lot, we trudged down to the lookout and was shocked to see a beautiful, partially obscured vision of the waterfall, made even more elegant and stunning with the clouds drifting in and around the scene. Headed back to Sydney to get an early start on the next day.

Thursday, Dec. 6th
Packed up and headed out of Sydney, heading towards Hunter Valley. On a whim, got off at Rt. 33 to take a more scenic route. Immediately stopped to check out the Australian Wildlife Refuge which was at the bottom of the exit, and decided to stay and take the tour. Turned out to be pretty good, with a nice guided tour of aboriginal sites, and then we were free to walk around the 80 acres of preserve with all the wild animals. Many wallabies and kangaroos around, some tame enough to pet. Also emus, koalas, and we finally saw some dingoes. Continued towards Pokolbin, center of Hunter Valley and home to many wineries. Had an excellent lunch at Hannigan's Irish Pub, one of the best Caesar salads I've ever had! Went to finally try some wine (4pm by this time), and managed to hit two of them. On the advice of the tourist information center, we checked out the view at the Audrey Wilkinson Winery. They also had a very good Museum Shiraz, but at $55/bottle it was a little out of my range. But the view from their estate really is "to die for", and that was free. The other stop was at Linderman's because it was close and it was almost 5pm, but most of the wines there were merely okay and nothing special, not worthy of purchasing there. Headed back towards Wollombi to check out an art exhibit called "Sculpture In The Vinewards", with 40 sculptures scattered across the grounds of 3 wineries in town. Stopped in at the Wollombi Tavern for a glass of their famous "Dr. Jurds Jungle Juice", which was a little sweet for me as a shot but tasted pretty yummy in a Victoria Bitter beer. The tavern itself was a nice place to relax and have a pint on the back deck. We then started the looooong trek up to Tamworth, ending up arriving close to 11:30pm at the Quest Tamworth. Very lovely scenery along the way, and as it darkened the stars carpeted the sky unlike anything we had ever seen before in our lives.

Friday, Dec. 7th
Trip is starting to wind down, only a few more days left. Checked out the Big Golden Guitar before leaving Tamworth, and then left for Coffs Harbour. Randomly stopped at Hassett's Military Museum in Uralla that we passed along the way, which was actually worth well than the $3.50 we paid and more. There was large army guy out front, a small submarine sunk in the pond out back, plus a ton of interesting items inside, including a collection of swords and rifles, and even a tank! Had lunch in the small college town of Armidale. Stopped at the Ebor Waterfall, which was prettier and larger than we expected, and it has a great view of the valley to boot. Stopped at Dorrigo Rainforest, but it was too foggy to see anything. Turned out to be a good thing, because afterward we learned that there are lots of leeches there, and we almost definitely would have gotten covered with them. (As attested to by one one traveler we met while there, who showed us her bloody leg.) Arrived in Coffs Harbour, and after checking into the Aqualuna Resort (very nice place with a private beach) headed immediately to the harbor and Muttonbird Island. From the top of the island we took in a nice view of the harbor, then walked to the very end of the island and waited until dark to see the birds return from a day of hunting for food. The best part was listening to them cooing and bellowing as we walked through their nesting areas on the way back. Finished up with a late dinner at SSS BBQ, a small chain that reminded me of the Texas Roadhouse here in the States. Nothing amazing, but very good food and a lot of it, along with very pleasant and fast service.

Saturday, Dec. 8th
Just because it was there, we took a tour of the Big Banana plantation. After learning more about bananas than I ever expected to know, we started up north via an inland route, going through Glenreagh and stopping at the Golden Dog Pub for a tasty lunch. Continued heading towards Ballina where we stayed at the Best Western Ballina Island. This was the only disappointing accommodation on our trip, but it was inexpensive considering it was a Saturday night and during a holiday period. Went up to Byron Bay for walking and dinner; hiked along the coast and beach and then checked out the lighthouse. Walked down to the most easterly point in mainland Australia, and gawked at the view of Seven Mile Beach. Had dinner in downtown Byron Bay at Earth 'n' Sea Pizza, with good salads and pizza at a reasonable price. Plus a nice local homebrew called 'BK' after a local surf legend.

Sunday, Dec. 9th
Had breakfast in Byron Bay, then headed up the coast to Brisbane. Spent the afternoon at the Warner Brother Movie World Theme Park, taking in such fun rides as the Superman (0->60mph in 2 seconds!), Lethal Weapon, Batwing (4.5G's!) and the mellower Wild West log ride. Arrived in Brisbane about 6pm, started walking around the northern bank of the riverside. Lots of activity and a festive feel in the air with the Christmas decorations up. Had dinner at Gilhooley's Irish Pub, good pub food.

Monday, Dec. 10th
(Last day! Nooooooo!) Spent most of the day just walking around the city, both north and south sides of the river. Saw lots of older, cool buildings. The former Treasury building is now a casino, the former City Hall is now a concert auditorium. Also in the former city hall was a small museum that had a couple nice exhibits. Took a quiet tour of St. John's Cathedral. Had a very good lunch at the Brewhouse pub; awesome pizza and a great chicken sandwich with really great fries. Toured the Science Museum in Southbank, then the Art Museum (both free). Ran out of time for the Contemporary Art museum, will have to see it on the next visit. Walked around the waterfront where there was a stunning beach built right into the esplanade, along with really artfully decorated walkways, a short Rainforest Walk, and a beautiful pagoda. All accessible from the north via a pedestrian bridge. For dinner, we wanted to check out at least one neighborhood, so we drove up to Fortitude Valley and had salads at a local cafe.

Tuesday, Dec. 11th
Started the trip home in Brisbane, flying through Sydney to LAX and then Boston. A very long flight overall, about 30 hours due to a long layover at LAX. Fortunately I had access to the Flagship Lounge, so at least I had free internet and food and a place to hang out. I stayed awake for just about the entire trip in home in a effort to get directly back on schedule, which worked for the most part.


Click here for a listing of all the properties we stayed at, along with their websites.



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This site was last updated 06/17/08