So You Wanna Visit Australia?

My wife and I just returned from our honeymoon. We spent 2 weeks in Australia and really loved it. I've got a few gigs of photos and a bunch of interesting stories, but for the sake of this blog I'll just post a few of each.

Qantas Airlines

We flew on Qantas Airlines the whole way and really loved them. Qantas was on time, organized and the flight crew constantly was bringing snacks, meals, drinks, socks (yes, socks), free headsets and pretty much anything possible to make us comfortable. Qantas even did a full meal service on a 1 hour domestic flight. Rather striking considering the weak, mealy-mouthed offerings from US based carriers... If you plan to visit, get the Aussie Air Pass, a package where you can visit a number of cities all for a single price.


Our first stop was Brisbane. Brisbane is located on a river system and is a really nice city with lots of nice things to do.

Where to Stay

We stayed at The Marque a neat hotel centrally located to the docs and the Queen Street Mall area, a center of eating and shopping. The staff was great and they had our room ready at 9AM when we checked in. I can't tell you how nice it was to have travelled so much the previous 2 days and actually be able to check in to a hotel room at 9AM.

Lone Pine Koala Reserve

We only had a few days here and visited the Lone Pine reserve, one of the few places in the world where you can cuddle a Koala. The best part of Lone Pine was the Kangaroo and Wallaby open area where you can touch and interact with these animals without restraint. Here is Shannon petting a Kangaroo. If you go to Lone Pine, catch a 10 AM ferry from the downtown docks. You get a great view of the many interesting houses on the river banks as well as a running historical commentary. The south bank of Brisbane is rather interesting, having a man made beach which was very lovely to dip into on a warm spring day.

Moreton Island

We also visited Moreton Island, a sand island just off the coast of Brisbane. This is a resort island with plenty of diversions like sandboarding, wreck snorkeling, archery, 4x4 cruises and more. Here is a picture of a random beach shot:

Port Douglas

Port Douglas is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and also a gateway to the Daintree Rainforest. Both are world heritage sites and they actually touch each other at Cape Tribulation. We spent a little time diving and also on tours in the area.

Where to Stay

If you go, stay at the Port Douglas Retreat. It is beautiful and the folks there will help you get sorted out on a number of tours. Here is a picture of the pool at Port Douglas Retreat:

Great Barrier Reef

Diving was incredible with many amazing views of colorful corals and even more colorful aquadic life. I took pictures with a waterproof disposible camera and I'll post a picture or two when I get it developed. In short, do it. If you aren't Scuba certified, you can still take an introductory dive or two. We used the Silver Series group and thought they were safe, efficient, reasonably priced and just good folks. Our boat, Silver Sonic, visits the outer reefs and this means you get the best visibility and diversity of marine life.

Cape Tribulation

We also did some sea kayaking on Cape Tribulation, the convergence of both world heritage sites, along with a tour of the Daintree rainforest.

Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree rain forest contains a lot of primary rain forest. Primary rain forest has never been logged or cut for any reason. This means trees are many hundreds of years old and the forest appears much like it did thousands of years ago. We used Daintree Discovery Tours as our tour company and Uncle Neville as our tour guide. We very throughly enjoyed this tour as it was rather private (only 6 people) and visited rather private spots in the rainforest. If you go, definitely get a knowledgable guide as the guide will tell you lots of interesting stuff about what you are seeing. I've never really been much into guided tours, but I definitely appreciated having Uncle Neville to explain the many interesting things about the forest. Here is a picture of us by a large vine and surrounded by trees that haven't changed much in the last 500,000 years:

Hot Air Ballooning

Another day, we went Hot Air Ballooning. Even though we had to be up at 3:30, (and I'm defintely no morning person!), this was a great trip. Our hot air trip took us over vineyards, farms, fields strewn with wallabies and other interesting sites. After ballooning, we all packed up the equipment and headed to a full catered champagne breakfast. Here is a picture of one of the other balloons:


Sydney is home of the famed Opera House and the famed Harbour Bridge. I must have taken a few hundred pictures of each until I got over it. When you go, you'll probably do the same thing until you realize that the bridge isn't that attractive after all. It is just a metal bridge. The Sydneyites will try to sell you a bridge climb for $170 where you can climb up the bridge. Apparently the views are incredible up there. We opted out, and just walked across it using the pedestrian parts, the views were still pretty darned good and we spent the $340 on good Thai food and other tours instead! There are some neat botanical gardens on the Harbour. Here is a picture of Shannon looking in the rocks, with the famed Opera House and Bridge in the background.

Where to Stay

We stayed at The Russell within sight of the Circular Quay and also The Rocks. This is where all the action is and you should consider staying in the area. The Russell is a bed and breakfast that is over 100 years old. It is a very cute, boutique style hotel and you should consider staying here. You should also consider The Russell doesn't have an elevator. Yup, it is that boutiquey and that old. Still, give it a go.

Taronga Zoo

We visited Taronga Zoo, on the advice of Mike Labriola, who sold me on the zoo. Not only is the zoo chock full of great animals, but the Zoo is built on an incline, with cable cars taking you to the top. All you have to do is walk slightly downhill for the afternoon and see everything! This was pure awesome after our marathon hike over the Syndey Harbour Bridge and Kirribilli. Here is a picture of the cable cars, with the Opera House and the Bridge in the background. Speaking of marathon walks, at this point of the trip we were still getting up at 4AM in the morning and walking around on tours or other stuff all day. (Jet Lag!) So when I saw these meerkats lounging, I thought it would be a good idea to post it, along with a reminder to you potential visitors of Australia, to bring quality and comfortable shoes (gel inserts anyone?)!

Manly Beach

We visited Manly Beach that afternoon and walked around the whole beach. Manly is very pretty and had a lot of good stuff to look at. I didn't get the chance to surf while I was down there, mostly because the surf report said it would be too windy. I shouldn't have listened to the report. because it was passable enough for a surf. Here is a picture of a guy surfing:

Blue Mountains

We also took a tour of the Blue Mountains one day. Our tour company dropped us off at another reserve in the morning and we walked around looking at more animals. They had heaps of Koalas, birds, wombats, tasmanian devils and so on, but they also had an open area full of Kangaroos and Wallabies. This one wallaby in partcular had been raised by humans and was very social. He kept licking us much like a dog would. They are SO CUTE. I want one for a pet. Seriously. Here is a picture of Shannon petting that wallaby: I also took a good picture of a koala. Koalas love to sleep and they sleep for 20 hours a day. Catching one awake and alert is a challenge. Also, I caught a picture of a kangaroo who was hopping all over the place. Watching a kangaroo hop around is very entertaining, because no other animal in the world moves quite like that. Here is a video on youtube of the hopping kangaroo.


Our last city on the trip was Melbourne. This is the cultural center of Australia and also the site of CF.Objective(anz) 09. conference. This conference was a 2 day affair in the heart of Melbourne. I got to meet a lot of the Australian CF community and put lots of names with faces, definitely a great bunch of guys and girls. A big thanks to the organizers of the conference who put on a really great show. As I was at the conference, I missed a lot of Melbourne. Shannon went out during the days though and took lots of pictures. She thought a lot of Melbourne.

Where to Stay

After the conference, we moved hotels to the Art Series - Cullen. This hotel is designed around a prominent, contemporary Australian artist named Adam Cullen who is stil living. The hotel is brand new, only open for 9 days and was a wonderful place. It had the best bed, bathroom, TV and design of any of the hotels we visited. It is also in the heart of Prahran, a center of entertainment and eating and if you go, visit the Prahran Market for some fresh foods and local produce.

Twelve Apostles

We had the pleasure of spending Saturday with Mark Mandel and his excellent Fiancee Amy Moss who took us to the Twelve Apostles, a natural rock formation in the south western area of Victoria. Mark is a saint, putting in nearly 7 hours of driving to get us there and back, without any complaints at all. The Twelve Apostles are just stunning. Take a look: Afterwards, they took us to a really good Thai restaurant and Mark and Amy picked a bunch of really delicious plates for us to share. It was good to finally meet Amy as I'd heard all about her through Mark. Amy runs a very popular website called Eat Drink Chic, dedicated to stylish ideas and D.I.Y for parties, entertaining, weddings, home decor, gifts, food and fashion. She does amazingly creative things like this ice cream buffet concept or these fancy DIY Party Cups. Mark and Amy are great hosts and we wish them much happiness in their upcoming wedding.

Phillip Island

We spent our last day on a tour to Phillip Island. Phillip Island is world famous for the Penguin Parade, a nighly migration of fairy penguins. The tour took us around Phillip Island to see the sights and a special tour to see the largest colony of fur seals in Australia. While the seal tour was a little extra, it was WAY worth the money. Apart from the nice boat cruise with complementary coffee and tea, we got to look at thousands of playful seals. Here is a picture of some of the seals just hanging out: . It was very hard to take pictures of the seals swimming and playing around, but I managed to grab a little video of Fur Seals swimming around Seal Rock. Keep in mind when watching the video, fur seals can weigh 800 pounds. We also saw the penguin parade, a nightly migration of little fairy penguins. It happened to be the time of year when new baby penguins are just hatching. We saw hundreds of penguins of all sizes swim in from the sea, land on the beach and march to their burrows in the sand. Some of the burrows held little tiny penguins, too small to swim yet. Photography is not allowed at the penguin parage because the camera, and flashes especially, can disturb the penguins. This penguin colony was on the verge of extinction a couple of decades ago, so it is important to keep the penguins from too many stressors. You can see some images of the penguin parade and video of the penguin parade though.

Flying Home.

I won't say much about flying home apart from two things.
  1. Qantas Rules
  2. Having an empty seat next to me rules!
If you have any questions about visiting the places we went, add a comment to this post and I'll do the best I can. I've got a lot more pictures that will make it to Flickr soon.

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11/17/09 5:45 PM # Posted By Roger Austin

Really nice commentary on a great trip. Thanks for sharing the photos and the text. Best of wishes from MissHunt and I to you and Shannon. You both will have some great memories for the future.

11/17/09 6:55 PM # Posted By Mark Mandel

I didn't complain *at all*? ;) I find that hard to believe.

In all seriousness, was great to have you and Shannon in town, and it was a really fun day Saturday.

Glad you got out to see the Penguins walk in, its lots of fun.

Looking forward to the next time your in AU :D

11/18/09 9:34 AM # Posted By Dave

You didnt surf?!?!?!!? Whats wrong with you, tape that knee up and get some!

11/18/09 4:21 PM # Posted By Kay Smoljak

Holy crap, that's a LOT squeezed into two weeks!

It was lovely meeting you both and I'm glad you had a good time here.

11/20/09 11:57 PM # Posted By Mike Brunt

Very well commented and some great pictures here thank you for sharing them with us all.

11/22/09 12:02 PM # Posted By Dee Dee

It is a stunnning and beautiful place..... only made better by the presence of you and your wonderful wife!!!

11/23/09 10:41 AM # Posted By vakr

Congratulations on your marriage. Seems like you had lots of fun. Enjoy!!

11/23/09 12:36 PM # Posted By Dan Wilson


My good friend! How are you?!

A long time and no see. Are you still in the US?


10/21/10 12:04 AM # Posted By Daintree rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest is home to the most diverse range of plants and animals on the planet, period. It is also the largest area of tropical rainforest in Australia. It is always a pleasure visiting such beautiful places on the earth. Hope you had a wonderful experience.

10/15/11 8:53 PM # Posted By Sarah

This was a fantastic piece. Thank you for sharing. Austrailia is one of the two places I am dying to visit, but since no one in my life has ever gone, finding non commercial touristy information has been difficult. This, however, was exactly the type of article I was looking for. I would love to know more about the walking tours u and your wife took that u briefly mentioned. Also I see a lot of "swimming with dolphin" tours are those worth it? Or is it best just to go diving instead? As far as booking flights, hotels etc. Did u go through an agent or just research and book on your own through various web sites? Also any thing on New Zealand?

Again thank u so much for this article it really wasa great asset to my trip planning.

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