Affectionately called Oz by those who live there, Australia is a magical other world that you can get to without having to venture into a tornado. Iconic in many respects, Australia is known for its splendid idiosyncrasies, manmade and natural. Feel the vibrancy of Sydney, the country’s most cosmopolitan city. Venture to the Taronga Zoo and see icons of Oz’s natural world in the koala, platypus, and Tasmanian devil. Take in the primordial beauty of Lamington National Park, where transition and change are displayed in a living museum of evolution. Travel to Heron Island, a jewel of austerity in the Great Barrier Reef, and be completely taken by the magic of Oz.
Moderately Active. May involve some moderate hikes in rainforests and nature reserves, getting in and out of vehicles and rocking boats, and walking in uneven pavement in archaeological sites, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.
Seasons in Australia and New Zealand are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere. Australia is a big country, as big as the continental U.S., stretching from the tropics to much cooler temperatures, and it has a correspondingly wide range of climates. From April to September in northern and central Australia the days are clear and warm, with cool refreshing nights. At the same time in the south, days are cool with occasional rain but still plenty of sun. The weather in Sydney is much like that of San Francisco. It is possible to divide the continent into two zones – the tropical zone in the far north and the temperate zone in the south. The tropical zone experiences two seasons: the wet season between November and April, and the dry season May to October. The temperate zone experiences four seasons: Spring and summer from September/October to March and autumn and winter from April to September.
Your journey begins as you fly to Sydney. En route, you will cross the International Date Line and lose one calendar day. Early on Day 3, arrive Sydney, Australia’s largest metropolis with a population of over 4 million. Your day is at leisure. Drop your bags at the hotel and discover this city ‘Down Under,’ on your own. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner in a local restaurant. THE PARK ROYAL DARLING HARBOUR HOTEL. (D)
A hearty breakfast awaits you before you transfer to Circular Quay to board your morning cruise. Highlights of this nautical excursion include: Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Fort Denison, along with magnificent waterfront homes, parks, beaches and marina. Enjoy coffee or tea while floating on Sydney harbor. Stop for a cook your own barbeque lunch at the historic Phillip’s Foote Pub. Then, be touched by the most ancient human culture on earth in a 90-minute leisurely walkabout with an Aboriginal guide in The Rocks, and journey into DreamTime, the culture of Aboriginal People. Discover how the ancient Aboriginal dreaming is still alive within the modern Sydney landscape and how the billion-year-old harbour, marine environment, sandstone strata, waterways, flora and fauna influenced how Aboriginal people lived in the area. THE PARK ROYAL DARLING HARBOUR HOTEL. (B,L)
Cross the Harbour Bridge by motor coach and arrive at the Taronga Zoo for your walkabout tour. The Zoo houses more than 3,000 animals from all over the world as well as those indigenous to Australia. Experience the “‘Creatures of the Wollemi” exhibit, which recreates the wonder of a Blue Mountains sandstone gorge where you can see over 40 species of Australian animals and the recently discovered ‘dinosaur tree’, the Wollemi Pine. Discover Sydney’s only platypus exhibit, see the Tasmanian devil, and meet a koala and kangaroos up close for that photo op! Take the Sky Safari Cable Car for some of the most amazing views of Sydney and the Zoo. In the afternoon, enjoy a tour of Sydney, starting with the narrow cobbled streets of Sydney’s historic Rocks area, Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, once notorious Kings Cross, Bondi Beach, and much more. Learn about the history and magic of the Sydney Opera House on a guided tour which takes you beneath the iconic white sails of Danish architect Jorn Utzon’s world heritage listed masterpiece. THE PARK ROYAL DARLING HARBOUR HOTEL. (B)
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Brisbane then drive along sinuous roads to Lamington National Park. Only 60 miles away from Brisbane, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a world away. At 49,914 acres the park is a topographic composition of volcanism and tectonic shifts. A rich blanket of varying forest types covers the landscape, alive with vines, ferns, orchids and over 160 species of birds, including Albert’s Lyrebird found only here. Enjoy the various trails and avail yourself to the many included and optional activities available at Binna Burra. Take your pick from abseiling (rappelling), flying fox (zip line), archery, or spotlighting walk after dinner to see nocturnal wildlife. Your charming lodge is authentic, heritage listed, offering a genuine Australian experience since the early 1930s. The natural beauty of Lamington is literally at every doorstep, and beyond your own verandah. Home-style meals are served in a cliff top dining room with expansive views of the spectacular Coomera Valley below. BINNA BURRA MOUNTAIN LODGE. (B,D Daily)
Travel back to Brisbane and connect with your flight to Gladstone with launch connection to Heron Island. A secluded coral cay right on the Great Barrier Reef, Heron Island is small enough to walk around in 20 minutes. Here you can swim straight off the beach into an endless garden of coral where the waters are literally teeming with beautifully colored fish and marine life. On land (and in the air) Heron is home to tens of thousands of birds. Activities on the Island seem endless and are published daily in The Heron Times, highlighting seasonal occurrences that could include turtles and whales. From September to March each year, Heron Island is the breeding home for the Loggerhead and Green sea turtles. These giants of the sea return to lay their eggs, some 30 years after they were hatched, in the exact same spot. Here, the emphasis is on the natural beauty of the barrier reef where you can enjoy such optional activities (some at additional cost) as Guided Semi-Submersible trip, Guided Turtle Nesting Tour, University of Queensland Research Station Tour, scuba diving, kayaking, sunset cocktail cruise, fishing excursions or a pampered spa treatment. Note: In order to maximize your experience of the island’s environs, there are not any televisions nor is cellular phone service available. HERON ISLAND RESORT in Reef Rooms. (B,D Daily)
Transfer from Heron Island to Gladstone by launch and fly back to Brisbane. Tonight enjoy a three course farewell dinner at Il Centro Restaurant & Bar. NOVOTEL BRISBANE. (B,D) Next morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight to Los Angeles. En route, you cross the International Date Line once again and regain your “lost” day, arriving in Los Angeles on the same day you left Brisbane. You will have many lingering memories of your trip to the “Land Down Under.” (B, Meals Aloft))
Start your adventure in New Zealand where majestic volcanic peaks are a back drop to white sand beaches. Where Maori and European cultures have melded to create an attitude that is uniquely “Kiwi” as New Zealanders call themselves. Experience Auckland, Tamaki-Makau-Rau in the Maori tongue translated as ‘City of One Thousand Lovers’. Become lover 1001 when you take in its volcanic hills, subtropical islands, sparkling waters and native rainforest. Join the elite few on an overnight cruise on Milford Sound in the World Heritage Fiordland National Park. Then visit Queenstown on pristine Lake Wakatipu, below the shining brow of the stunning Remarkables Mountain Range. Take a thrilling jetboat ride on the Shotover River and sample New Zealand’s famous wines in the Gibbston Valley.
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