We visited 3 separate areas of Australia,: Sydney, Port Douglas (the rainforest and the great barrier reef), and the Barossa Valley wine Country.
Holiday Inn Old Sydney – Great place to stay in Sydney – in the best location (at The Rocks) and if you are high enough, (i.e. your room is on an upper floor on the side facing the harbor) an incomparable view of the opera house and the harbor. Also a quick walk to the Harbor Bridge. For a pittance, (US$200 each) you can climb the bridge. Or, simply walk across for free. Not as thrilling by a long shot but you pick your thrills, eh?
Pancakes at the Rocks –dinner at a local hangout. Noisy with atmosphere. Stays open late. Just 1 minute walk from the hotel.
The Fine Food Store – Great Coffee and pastries with internet right next to hotel on Kendall Lane. Had breakfast here daily and lunch one day, too. The food is fresh and the ingredients are organic plus the prices, while not cheap, are very reasonable for the pricey neighborhood. Expect to get breakfast for less than half of what you’d pay at the Holiday Inn. Busy during the morning rush but a great, hard working staff. Not pretentious, just “Find Food”.
O Bar & Restaurant – Great tapas bar and restaurant on 47th floor with revolving views of city. 1:45 to make an entire revolution. All the tapas and drinks (mojitos) were outstanding. $150 for tapas, 4 drinks and desert for 2. The best free dinner show in town.
Captain Cook Harbor Cruise – We took ‘long lunch’ harbor cruise. Beautiful and good lunch. Optional: disembark at Darlington Harbor to walk back to the Rocks. A long walk but a good way to see a bit of Sydney day life.
Caminetto – nice Italian restaurant just in back of hotel, with outdoor dining just below the rocks. Excellent food and atmosphere Try the spaghetti marinara.
Museum of Contemporary Art – As art museums go this will not wow you out of your sox. Begs the question, “What would Australia DO without aboriginal art?” Answer: they would have no art at all. (None worth schlepping to a museum to see anyway.)
Coral Sea Retreat B&B –A charming Bed & Breakfast run by 2 sisters, Denise and Marie, from their home that looks down over the rain forest canopy. In Oak Beach just south of Port Douglas. $119 per night including a gourmet breakfast and shuttles into town for $15 each way. Shuttle to and from Cairn airport $60 each way. With advance notice, the sisters can also cook delicious dinners on their romantic tree house at the B&B. Try the jewel coral reef fish or the chicken schnitzel or the fresh prawn salad.
Nautilus Restaurant – Bill Clinton’s favorite; the most beautiful setting ever, surrounded by palms in a garden setting. I had a delicious Barramundi filet (farmed in the wild). Pricy but worth the splurge. (Not everyone in our party was delighted with the service. Really inconsistent and s l o w. They apparently keep their wines in a sauna. “Cave temperature is 57 degrees, fools!”)
Zinc – Nice restaurant on main street of town (Macrossan). Good food, great service and atmosphere; Try their pork chop special or spaghetti bolognaise. Excellent people watching from a sidewalk table. With a bottle of Barossa valley wine, dinner for 2 @ $130. Best bathroom on the continent!
Or try Salsa another highly recommended restaurant that we did not get to since it was booked – very popular with locals.
Full day private tour of Daintree Rain Forest and Cape Tribulation, including a boat ride on the daintree river (which has crocodiles) and a walking tour inside the untrammeled forest. Our guide was Pete, a 76 year old character who was born in Kenya and ran a plantation in Papua New Guinea for 27 years and knew everything about leaches, licked the green ants’ butts and ate every kind of flower and bug in the rainforest. www.daintree-specialised-tours.com ($400 for the private all day tour for two includes a picnic lunch).
Half day tour (Brett’s Kuranda Half Day Tour) which included taking the cable car to Kuranda, exploring the village, taking the Kuranda Scenic Train to Cairns and then returning to Port Douglas with a stop in Palm Cove for a drink at a local bar (Apres Beach Bar Grill). ($300 for the tour for two – good value since the cable + train ride alone cost $96 per person; you are on your own for drinks and an upgrade to the first class train car will cost an extra AU$50 each. Save your money. It’s too early in the day to swill wine and how good can the cheese and crackers be?)
Kuranda Rainforest Coffee – (roasted daily) Simply the best coffee in Kuranda served with a dose of Kuranda local culture and a lovely biscuit.
The artists’ market in Kuranda is quite large with a mixture of local “hippies” selling their wares and the usual “local” handcrafted jewelry, etc. There were a few hidden “gems” among the usual: ask for “Amanda”, a sculptress who uses recycled copper wire as a medium for her ingenious wire creations.
Doongal Aboriginal Art – specialized in Didgeridoos. The best place to acquire Aboriginal Art. This gallery was the best we visited in AU. They will even ship your Didgeridoo anywhere in the world with Fedex.
gbrhelicopters – A trip highlight. We chartered an hour long helicopter to ride over the barrier reef and the rainforest. “Ultimate Reef and Rainforest Scenic Flight” ($1020 for the flight for two). Wow!
Jacob’s Creek Retreat, Nitschke Road, Tanunda, Barossa Valley. Fantastic cottages set in the vineyards in the heart of the Barossa Valley. Skip the big Novotel resort, this charming cottage in the winery is not to be missed.
Moorooroo Vineyard – tasting room (on the JCR grounds) is one of the best wine tasting experiences anywhere outside of France. Small, intimate and friendly with just a few seats you will feel after a couple pours that you are visiting the wine cave of your French cousins who just happen to make the best Shiraz you’ve had in a long, long while.
Dinner at 1918 Bistro & Grill in Tanunda. Great little restaurant – lovely and knowledgeable young staff – we had Beet salad and Scottish Filets with a good Barossa valley Syrah.
Barossa Bike Hire – rented two bikes for a day. Riding bikes is a wonderful way to explore the wine country. ($90 for 2 bikes including delivery and pick up at the winery).
Melville is the cultural and culinary capital of Australia, well worth a trip
Tasmania is exquisitely beautiful and relatively untouched by tourism. Worth a trip.