We board our international flight from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Sydney this evening, crossing the Pacific and the international dateline.
Arriving in Sydney early this morning, we are transferred to our downtown hotel. One of the most naturally beautiful cities in the world, Sydney is endowed with a sparkling harbor with its twin landmarks, the Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge. Add to this a sunny Mediterranean climate and a relaxed lifestyle with a diverse population that gives it a vivacity and choice of galleries, restaurants, shops, nightlife and entertainment.
We have tickets for a harbor cruise today, and that is an excellent way to start discovering this lovely city. There are several sailings to choose from, so we are free to choose one that is convenient for us.
We will be picked up this morning for a half-day sightseeing tour of the city. Some of the areas visited may include the historic Rocks, where the city was founded some 200 years ago with a shipload of British prisoners! Travel through the Harbour Tunnel across to North Sydney to catch a glimpse of Kiribilli – the residence of the Australian Prime Minister, before crossing the harbor again on the Harbour Bridge. Enjoy spectacular views at the ‘Gap’, where the mouth of the harbor meets the Pacific Ocean. After a brief stop at the famous Bondi Beach, return to town through the trendy suburb of Paddington and the shopping and entertainment complex of Darling Harbour.
The rest of the day is open for us to do as we please – sit on a sidewalk café and watch the world go by, inspect some outstanding Aboriginal Art at one of the excellent local museums or visit some of the unique shops and boutiques that showcase Australian creativity.
A free day to enjoy Sydney and its surrounding areas - take a tour (optional) to visit the famous Hunter Valley vineyards or the scenic Blue Mountains near Sydney, or ride the public ferries on the Harbor and check out some of Sydney's many interesting suburbs.
An early morning start today - our train leaves Sydney at 8:10 AM today and we travel through some charming New South Wales countryside until we arrive at the Rock Railway Station around 2 PM. The town is named after a local geological feature, a craggy outcrop that rises more than 1000 feet and dominates the immediate landscape. We will be met at the station and then transferred to a local farm - a large (over 5,500 acres) family-owned wheat, sheep and cattle property. A warm welcome assured, this is a perfect retreat with each guest having the opportunity to experience what life with a typical Australian farming family is like. Farm activities may include droving, shearing, stock work and the harvesting of crops. A host of other activities including horseback riding, viewing nocturnal animals, tennis, swimming, bush barbecues and fishing for 'yabbies' (crustaceans) are also available.
The wonderful fresh country air makes for a hearty appetite and all meals are included. From starting the day with a full cooked breakfast, wonderful home made morning and afternoon teas, hearty, wholesome lunches and sumptuous dinners; there is plenty of food and never small servings.
We have an opportunity to relax at the farm and get a taste of the country life in Australia.
After lunch, we will be transferred back to the Rock, to continue our journey by train on to Melbourne, where we arrive this evening.
We have a free day to explore cosmopolitan Melbourne, which is undoubtedly Australia’s most ‘European’ city. Ride around the city in trams, or take an optional tour to visit the spectacular coastal scenery of the Great Ocean Road or view the fairy penguins, which come ashore every evening at the nearby Philip Island.
After a morning transfer to the airport, we catch our flight to Hamilton Island, off the coast of Queensland – where local rumor has it, it is beautiful one day and simply perfect the next! We will be met upon arrival and transferred the short distance to our hotel. The rest of the day is ours to play and relax at this piece of tropical paradise.
Today we have reservations for a full day cruise to the Great Barrier Reef. Travelling in the air-conditioned comfort of a high-speed catamaran, we cruise to Hardy Reef, a beautiful natural coral garden. Two large floating platforms are anchored here, with conveniences such as changing rooms, fresh water showers, children’s swimming enclosures, large uncrowded open sundecks and extensive shaded areas where we can enjoy a lavish buffet lunch (included in our vacation package). Both snorkelers and divers are well catered for. For those who would rather stay dry, it is possible to get close to the reef in the comfort of a glass hulled submersible vessel or from an underwater observatory.
Leaving Hamilton Island today we fly to Cairns in the north, tracking the coastline of Queensland. Upon arrival, we are met at the airport and transferred to our hotel. This resort town in the tropics has a wonderfully casual atmosphere, with plenty of outdoor cafes and colorful shops.
Today we get to experience the World Heritage rainforests of Cape Tribulation and the Daintree in a fun, informative and relaxed style. We will be picked up in the morning in a comfortable off-road vehicle and then travel north from Cairns in a small group, taking in the spectacular scenery of the Coral Coast and the rainforest covered ranges. The first stop is at the small farming town of Mossman the last township before we head off into the wilderness. We leave civilization as we board the Daintree River cable ferry to our destination "The Daintree National Park". There are opportunities to hike on boardwalks and trails, as our guide explains the unique plants and animals of the world's oldest rainforest. We return to Cairns by early evening, after an interesting day out with some enjoyable company.
As an alternative to the above trip, we may also choose to visit Kuranda and ride the Skyrail, a cable car that travels at treetop height. Leaving Cairns in the morning, we can travel on the famous Kuranda Scenic Train to Kuranda Village. We get to ride an ‘Amphibious Army Duck’ through the rainforest - a unique experience in land and water, before visiting the Koala and Wildlife Park. We also visit an Aboriginal Cultural Center, and get to learn more about their ancient culture. Return to Cairns on the Skyrail cable car, overlooking the rainforest.)
A free day to relax, do some last minute shopping or perhaps take an optional tour.
We leave Cairns early this morning to return to the United States, with an intermediate stop in Sydney where we change aircraft. Flying across the International Date Line in the reverse direction, we now ‘gain’ a day and arrive back in California on the same day.