My trip to Australia and New Zealand

My trip to Australia and New Zealand – August 17th – August 29th 2014

by Audrey Whittaker

Travel with Travel 2 – One of our preferred partners for this region

My travels to this region was spectacular, memorable and forever lasting!

We flew over with Air New Zealand departing from San Francisco via Auckland into Melbourne. Great Airline..comfortable and accommodating flight attendants 9food was not bad too J)

Hotel: Crown Plaza Melbourne, situated right on the Yarra River and within walking distance to shopping, restaurant s, transit and sightseeing. Our first night we were met by Ina Becker, representative for Tourism Victoria, she escorted our group on the fabulous Colonial Tram car. This is a delightful, innovative approach to dining, the food and drinks offered was amazing and the views of the city by tram car is a must for any visit to Melbourne!

Day 2 – Tour offered by AAT Kings, boarded a tour bus and were guided around the city to view sites including Captain Cooks Cottage, Parliament House, many sport complexes, St. Patricks Cathedral just to name a few. Melbourne is a vibrant city, the architecture is a mix of old and modern offering some the the best sculptures and architecture. A stop to have a latte and scone is a necessity!

In the afternoon we boarded another coach and were taken to Maru Koala and Animal Park, you are able to feed and walk with the kangaroos and see a koala. After the park we headed out to Phillip Island for a night tour to watch the famous little penguins performing their nightly ritual to come ashore to their nesting places. This was amazing! I so enjoyed this tour, the facility is set in their natural habitat, this is a must see!

Day 3 – Great Ocean Road Tour! This is an all day tour and well worth it, it offers a scenic journey and there is a highlight around every corner! Our pick up was in Melbourne, you will see Bells Beach, one of the worlds premiere surfing spots! The driver provides an informative commentary about the roads history and its place in Australian Folklore. We had a brief stop in the township of Kennet River where we could see wild Koala sitting in their Eucalyptus tree, many birds (watch out one landed on my head!) but managed to see a King parrot and Crimson Rosella. We arrived at the Otway Ranges-spectacular walk in the rain forest, the driver also provided commentary and was very interesting-great photo opportunity. Arrival to Port Campbell National Park…all I can say is WOW- views of the Twelve Apostles was truly an awe inspring site. I also did the 10 minute heli tour of the majestic formations..well worth the money. You can view the collapsed Londons Bridge and hear of the shipwreck at Loch Ard Gorge.

This would be great for the self drivers, there are many bed and breakfasts along the way-book early though as many of the little towns do book out.

Day 3 – This day was dedicated to tours of a few great vineyards within the Yarra valley wine region..just to name a few Yering Station, Balgownie, Yaring Farm and my favorite Chandon. Beautiful scenery and tastings along the way makes this a fabulous tour. If youa re a newbie to wine knowledge this is a great tour as there are many educational items that you will pick up from the production of wine to fermentation.

Day 4 – Soverign Hill Goldfields and Ballarat Wildlife park. The park offers a guided tour to see Tasmanian Devils (you also learn of the ongoing fight of the Devils with face cancer-very sad) take a picture with a koala or kangaroo and enjoy the park and its many inhabitants. We were then off to the “town stuck in time” great gold rush town of Soverign Hill, you have the afternoon free to explore, enjoy a truly authentic Aussie pie, gold pan, see real life charectors or get dressed up and have a picture taken in theme clothing.

Day 5 – Transferred to the airport to fly to Hamilton Island.

Hamilton Island is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, it is located in the Whitsunday Islands offering some of the beach white powder sand beaches in the entire region. We stayed at the Reef View Resort, great location and within walking distance to the beach, shopping and restaurants. This is a 4 star hotel offering the largest rooms with a separate shower and bath..the deck overlooks Catseye Beach..beautiful to watch the tides come and go – but watch out for the parrots, if you leave your door open they will come in and cause havoc! This is a resort style island, main tranportaiton is gold carts that you can rent, it has a great little town and many levels of accommodations. Aprrox 30% of the island is developed, for golfers an adjoining island offers a championship 18 hole golf course, with the resort … “The one and Only” beautiful “wild” island!

This night we also met with 50 suppliers in the region and had one on one meeting with the suppliers to gain knowledge on what they offered and gain contact information-invaluable!

Day 6 -  Cruise to the Great Barrier Reef-SPECTAUCLAR! Approx 2 hour boat ride in open ocean to arrive at a platform that was on the edge of the reef. You are able to snorkel, dive or lay and sun bathe … a masseuse was also on site. We enjoyed the day at the edge of reef with lunch served from the ship…

You also have the opportunity to take a 10 min heli ride to see the reef including the “heart” shaped reef, beautiful and amazing sites…a must see!

Later this night we walked into town and enjoyed a great dinner and walk around the island…very peaceful, great shopping and relaxing!

Day 7 – Air transfer from Hamilton Island via Brisebane to Auckland, New Zealand

Australia is a huge country and although I was privileged to see many great sites that this country has to offer, there is so much more!! The Australian people remind me of Canadians…they love you to visit their country and love to enjoy it with you!

Day 8 – Early morning tour of Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton and Agridome, this was a tour by coach, stopping first at the Caves, this 45 min tour of the glow worm caves by a local aboriginal guide was spectacular, her great grandfather was one of the founding members of the caves. You will learn how stalactites are formed and witness and learn about the glow worms, then onto the Agrodome to witness sheep sheering and browse through the great sovenier shop. Our next stop the famed Middle Earth..view the movie set and walk through the many Hobbit holes, after the tour be sure to go to the local bar in Hobbiton and enjoy their local beer. Bring good walking shoes as the tour is up and down hill. You will learn how a local farmer has transformed his land into a must see tourist site!

Day 9 – Great city coach tour with commentary through the inner city of Auckland, Fish Market and Viaduct Harbour, when we arrived at the harbor (one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere) we boarded a sail boat to tour the harbor by sea..this was truly an amazing experience (little cold and choppy water) but well worth it! They served a delicious boxed lunch and took a turn at “driving” the sail boat (apparently you can relate it to driving an old Cadillac on a bumpy road with one flat tire!)

We stayed the Historical Heritage Hotel Auckland. Great hotel offering the best breakfast buffet I have seen!!

Our journey ended on day 10 to a transfer to the airport to begin our trek back to Calgary.

New Zealand is a beautifl place, the scenery is the best of the west and east coasts in Canada.

The New Zealand people have a great relationship with the aboriginals

It is known as the “City of Sails”

Topography is unique – even their soccer fields are made in dormant volcanic craters

Although a long journey, it is so worth it…I was only there for 9 full days, and would turn around and go again!