Travel Dates: December 27, 2016 – January 1, 2017 and January 16-27, 2017
G’day mates! Australia has always been high on my list of countries to visit. A land of endless beaches, sunshine, the Great Barrier Reef, and kangaroos. I’ve never met an Australian who didn’t seem happy and full of life. It’s one of the countries I’ve been most excited to visit on our Honeymundo. And the land down under did not disappoint.
If you’ve ever seen pictures or videos of the New Year’s fireworks show in Sydney, you’ll understand why we wanted to celebrate NYE in this town. If you haven’t…
We arrived in Sydney between Christmas and NYE, probably the busiest time of year to visit. The city quickly grew into one of my favorites in the world. My best friend Rusty described it best: it’s like merging the best of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. The setting is probably the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, countless bays with beach communities, all connected by ferries. The gorgeous Sydney Harbor Bridge and iconic Opera House. We soaked in as much as we could that week, but alas were pressed for time and decided to return in a few weeks, after touring New Zealand and before driving up the Australian Coast.
Some of the highlights from that first week include the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb, a four hour tour where we donned jumpsuits, a harness, and scaled to the top of the bridge. It was extremely fun with breathtaking views (we recommend the sunset tour).
We had some of the best Thai food of our trip at Longrain. And we ate many of our meals in the food court at Sydney CBD Mall, which has an Ippudo (for any ramen lovers), Din Tai Fung (for dumpling lovers), and Cha Time (if you’re as addicted to milk tea and boba as I am).
When we returned to Sydney, we spent a week at Bondi beach. Linda did yoga next to Icebergs Pool. I swam in the ocean almost everyday. One day, I woke up early (or what I thought to be) at 6am to go for a sunrise swim. I arrived to find the beach buzzing with hundreds of locals doing their morning swim too! We spent our days reading, writing, swimming, watching movies, and soaking in the Australian sun.
Accommodations: Byron Bathers B&B
From Sydney, we rented a car and drove up the coast to Byron Bay. It was an eight hour journey and with only one driver (somebody forgot to check their license expiration date before we left…), we stopped for the night in a little beach town called Port Macquarie, ordered in some Dominos, and took off bright and early the next morning.
We spent several days in Byron Bay, enjoying the beach town vibe, the good food, the shopping (it’s a modern hippy town with cool clothing and art shops), and the excellent surf!
Before we flew out of the area, we made a pit stop at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. We had just 20 minutes to spare between the sanctuary opening and when we had to be at the airport, and we couldn’t leave Australia without seeing koalas and kangaroos! This place was awesome – so many adorable koalas climbing trees and an open field where you could feed roos. I fed one particularly excited roo, which we noticed in the photograph later on 🙂
Accommodations: One & Only Hayman Island
Our final stop in Australia was the Great Barrier Reef. Ever since I got my scuba certification, I’ve wanted to dive here, and now I was finally getting the chance.
We decided on Hayman Island because it looked like an awesome jump off point to dive and snorkel the reef and visit Whitehaven Beach. The location turned out to be perfect, though the hotel itself felt a bit outdated. The staff and service were outstanding – where else can you land from a plane and be whisked onto a yacht to transfer you to an island, meanwhile they take your bags directly from the plane to your room!
We had several extraordinary experiences at Hayman. On our first day, we were dropped off on a tiny deserted island surrounded by sea turtles. Day two, we took an absurdly cool helicopter ride to Whitehaven Beach. It truly is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, completely protected from development, and set apart by its pure white sand. Unlike regular sand, the sand here is 98% silica (which doesn’t retain heat) making it cool on your feet despite the blazing sun. It was a very special experience for our honeymundo.
On our final day, we made our way to the Outer Reef for diving and snorkeling. Linda’s still building her swimming skills, so she opted to snorkel on a SEABOB, which is basically a mini jet ski that lets you cruise around the reefs and even dive a few meters while holding your breath. The huge smile on her face when I surfaced from my first dive said it all. We loved our time on the reef – beautiful coral, turtles, an extraordinary variety of fish. The perfect way to celebrate the Lunar New Year and say goodbye to the land down under. Until next time Australia…