Discover Aboriginal Australia

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You can now deeply connect with Australia and see the country through the eyes of its first inhabitants with experiences from the Indigenous Tourism Champions collective.

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The collective of inspiring Aboriginal experiences offers diversity and engagement bound to leave a lasting impression. With over 50 members in the collective delivering 180+ experiences Australia-wide, these transformational experiences have been carefully selected as some of Australia’s very best. 

Every part of Australia is Aboriginal country, and every part of the country has a series of stories and experiences unique to that place. 

As custodians of the world’s most ancient living culture, Indigenous Australians have a continuous history that stretches back more than 50,000 years. Their story is linked to the birth of the Australian continent and its ancient landscapes.

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Aboriginal Australia emphasizes spirituality, custodianship of the land and the connections between all things.  The modern Australian landscape records with every stone the Ancestor Spirits’ long journeys. These travels form the basis for the ‘Dreaming stories’ that are still told today. By learning about Indigenous Australian culture, you’ll arrive at a better understanding of Aboriginal people and the ancient land they inhabit. 

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Whether you're in a city, traveling the outback, or enjoying a coastal holiday, you can certainly find ways to connect with the world’s oldest living culture. 

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Importantly all experiences are guided by Aboriginal people who share personal stories about their own country and connection to place, bringing the landscape to life. Aboriginal guides are warm and welcoming. They’re often keen to share their story ... and known for their sense of humor.

The Indigenous Tourism Champions collective offers an exciting array of accommodation, activities and tours ... with options to taste bush tucker, experience the healing powers of nature, discover breathtaking scenery, ancient rock art galleries, meet artists, or take an art workshop yourself to gain a first-hand insight into the creation of contemporary Aboriginal art.

To further assist in flavoring itineraries with these Aboriginal experiences, you can also view the Indigenous Tourism Champions Fact Sheet detailing information on each of the experiences.

Air Adventure Australia

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For the past four decades, Air Adventure Australia's scheduled tours have been making hard-to-reach Australian destinations easily accessible. More recently they’ve introduced a series of private charter transfer tours, designed to not only get you to your next destination effortlessly, but also to provide unforgettable experiences along the way.

Below are just some of the transfer tours now available:

Melbourne to Kangaroo Island via 12 Apostles

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This transfer tour allows guests to experience the wonders of The Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles from the air (with a low level scenic flight), and from the ground. A  former National Park Ranger will be your tour guide for the day as you explore Gibson Steps, the 12 Apostles viewing platform and Loch Ard Gorge. Lunch is a locally caught lobster before flying directly to Kangaroo Island. Learn More

Melbourne to Kangaroo Island via Mayura Station

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This transfer tour will certainly appeal to foodies. Guests experience the wonders of the 12 Apostles from the air and land before flying onward to South Australia’s multi-award winning Mayura Station - a full-blood Wagyu beef cattle station. Here, you can experience an authentic paddock-to-plate lunch and matching wines in Mayura's Tasting Room. After a leisurely 4-course lunch fly directly to Kangaroo Island. Learn More.

Tasmania to Kangaroo Island via 12 Apostles

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Travel between Saffire Freycinet on Tasmania’s east coast and Southern Ocean Lodge in just a few hours with ample time to experience the beauty of the 12 Apostles from the air and from the ground. The  Gibson steps and Loch Ard Gorge are two of the locations you will visit during a guided tour of the region, before flying onward to Kangaroo Island. Learn More.

Kangaroo Island to Arkaba via Mayura Station

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Guests traveling between Southern Ocean Lodge and Arkaba can now enjoy Mayura Station’s premium Wagyu beef – produce normally reserved for Michelin star restaurants all over the world.
At Mayura Station you will experience a private behind-the-scenes tour of the cattle station, and a 4-course master-class style lunch at Mayura's Tasting Room, followed by a direct flight to Hawker. Learn More

Kangaroo Island to Uluru via Angorichina

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Three vastly different landscapes in one day. The lush greens of Kangaroo Island are replaced with the rugged and spectacular gorges of the Flinders Ranges and then the desert landscape of the Red Center. During this tour you will experience authentic outback hospitality at Angorichina Station – a 554 sq. kilometre sheep ranch. A guided tour and traditional homestead-style lunch is provided before the onward flight to Uluru. Learn More

 

Since 1977, Air Adventure has been an industry leader in outback air safaris and over the years have solved the problem of vast distances for thousands of visitors to Australia. They cater to discerning travelers who wish to maximize their time 'down-under'; enabling travelers access to places others simply cannot go.

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Luxury Lodges Of Australia : Western Australia

Source : https://www.elquestro.com.au/

Source : https://www.elquestro.com.au/

Western Australia has four premium level lodges providing sensational, one-of-a-kind hospitality, in spectacular natural locations.

Subtle local interventions are elegantly woven into each of these properties where you can indulge in 'out-of-this-world' experiences, with each luxury lodge offering a profoundly different magical effect.

So, let’s take a look at four very different premium lodges in Western Australia.

1. Cape Lodge

A stay at Margaret River's Cape Lodge is more like residing at a private country estate, yet with all the paraphernalia of a world-class boutique hotel. Located on its very own vineyard and producing fine Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc for guests, Cape Lodge is heaven for those yearning to enjoy outstanding food and wine in the heart of the world-renowned Margaret River wine region. You can also find great wineries in Pierro, Cullen, Moss Wood and Vasse Felix close by. 

Twenty two romantically designed rooms and a magnificent 5-bedroom private residence welcome guests to a secluded retreat sitting on 40 acres of parkland and ornamental lakes.

The Cape Lodge Restaurant features a sensational menu of seasonal home-grown produce, and paired Margaret River wines.

Getting There: By Air: Cape Lodge can be accessed by flights from all major Australian airports via Perth.

By Car: It's just a 3-hour drive south from Perth.

Things to Remember: Margaret River is a place of inspiration for many acclaimed jewelers, photographers, painters, and craftsmen, and, when not indulging in wine tastings, or 'relaxing' at the beach, you can easily spend time wandering the artisan trail.

2. El Questro Homestead

Solitude can be found at El Questro Homestead, located on 700,000 acres of vast and stunningly beautiful terrain ... and more than 60-miles from the nearest town. Some of Australia’s best wilderness vistas can be seen from this cliff-top lodge serving just eighteen guests.

This east-Kimberley based luxury lodge also offers fabulous wilderness tours. You can soak in the Zebedee thermal springs, cruise private gorges with permanent waterfalls, experience the terrain on foot or on horse-back, or enjoy the vast wilderness from the air. 

El Questro is renowned for serving scrumptious cuisine in the most dramatic locations - we recommend sunset drinks overlooking Chamberlain Gorge, and dinner under a canopy of stars.

Getting There: By Air: You fly in to Kununurra. There are regular flights from major Australian cities to Kununurra via Perth, Darwin, and Broome.

By Car: El Questro Homestead can be reached by car via Gibb River Road ... considered one of Australia's great outback drives.

3. Sal Salis  

One of Australia’s very best kept natural secrets can be found at the luxury lodge, Sal Salis, located among the coastal dunes of Ningaloo Reef. With just 15 eco-luxe tents (plus one very special honeymoon 'suite' ), Sal Salis offers one of the very best locations to swim with marine giants as they migrate through each year. 

With a 'touch-of-barefoot-style' in a remote and spectacular wilderness, Sal Salis offers a chance to reconnect with nature ... and with prolific wildlife ... given the mobs of euros, red kangaroos, wallabies, emus and echidna in and around the camp.

You can go on guided wildlife safaris in Cape Range National Park, or get amazed by the marine life around Ningaloo Reef. Supported by some of the best local cuisine and fine Western Australian wines, the camp’s environment ensures a memorable bare-foot wilderness experience. 

Getting There: By Air: Qantas flies daily to Exmouth. The Sal Salis team will collect you from the airport ... or you can request a scenic flight.

By Car: From Perth, it's a 13-hour drive north to Sal Salis, or 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Exmouth. 

Things to Remember: The camp is not sign posted, and, there's a “No Drive After Dark” policy within the Cape Range National Park given the abundance of wildlife.

4. True North

A signature luxury cruise that has long been regarded as one of Australia’s most outstanding adventure tourism experiences, True North offers flagship Kimberley cruises. The activity-based itineraries are designed for discerning travelers who wish to experience Australia’s most remote islands, spectacular gorges, majestic waterfalls, and hard-to-access coastal regions.

[Our Previous Blog was on Luxury Lodges Of Australia : Northern Territory, Tasmania And Victoria]

The cruises have all been designed to access wilderness with spacious cabins featuring modern décor, and offer a range of tour options from scenic heli-picnics to overnight camping adventures.

Getting There: True North Cruises are located in Broome, from where the signature Kimberley Wilderness Cruise departs. The vessel also picks up guests from Kununurra.

True North cruises also depart from several other Australian capital cities. For details, go to: https://www.truenorth.com.au/cruise/schedule/.

Things to Remember:  If your primary focus is wildlife-watchingwe suggest traveling in the build-up to monsoon when rivers become fuller and masses of wildlife congregate on the shores.

 

Luxury Lodges Of Australia : Northern Territory, Tasmania and Victoria

Source : http://www.saffire-freycinet.com.au

Source : http://www.saffire-freycinet.com.au

In our last few blogs we’ve spoken about fabulous lodges in natural Australian settings, boasting majestic views and exclusive hospitality ... and as promised, this blog introduces more such luxury lodges in Northern Territory, Tasmania and Victoria. 

Saffire Freycinet (Tasmania)

Discretely positioned on Tasmania's mid east coast Freycinet Peninsula and overlooking Hazards Mountain and Great Oyster Bay, Saffire luxury lodge offers a memorable blend of man and nature.

The property features a fabulous array of suites, an exclusive spa, and a stunning restaurant, Palate, where chef Todd Adams produces innovative dining based on world-renowned Tasmanian produce.

Saffire also offers spa treatments designed by celebrity facialist Marionne De Candia, and chiropractic doctor Dr. Jean Laing.

Getting There: By Air: Helicopter or light aircraft transfers can be arranged by Saffire.

By Car: You can choose a chauffeur-driven transfer, or self-drive 3-hours from Hobart, or just 2.5-hours from Launceston along Coles Bay Road.

Things to Remember: 1. If self-driving to Saffire, remember that driving around dawn and dusk can be hazardous as wildlife may be in abundance. 2. From breakfast to gourmet dinner, you can customize your dining experience.

Lake House (Victoria)

In the heart of Victoria’s spa country, on the shores of scenic Lake Daylesford lies Lake House . Nestled among 6 acres of towering trees, Lake House offers a village-like cluster of cream colored buildings providing direct access to lake walks and the Wombat State Forest. While staying at Lake House, you'll likely experience wallabies, wombats, kookaburras, gang gangs ... oh, and thousands of cockatoos.

Over three decades Lake House has fostered an excellent network of local suppliers and has become a mecca for food travelers. In nearby Daylesford, every country lane seems to offer farm-gate sales of organic fruits, veggies, honey, eggs, and rare breeds of lamb, beef and pork.

Lake House boasts a renowned restaurant featuring modern Australian cuisine, a fabulous wine list ... and a cellar of over 10,000 bottles.

Getting There: By Air: The Lake House can be easily accessed from Melbourne Airport.

By Car: It’s a 90-minute drive from Melbourne. 

Things to Remember: We recommend a hands-on culinary workshop hosted by Alla Wolf-Tasker in a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen.

Longitude 131° (Northern Territory)

Longitude 131° offers an outback luxury base-camp amidst desert beauty rich with cultural heritage and history. Luxurious tented pavilions floating over rust-red dunes welcome you to experience classic touches and indigenous textures that evoke an earthy sanctuary.

Enjoy unparalleled vistas of the fabled Ayers Rock / Kata Tjuta from your room, experience the stories of this spirited land, enjoy an outback sundowner at the Dune House, and savor exceptional meals that celebrate a perfect blend of modern and outback flavors.

We also highly recommend dining under a glittering canopy of stars at Table 131°.

Getting There: By Air: Virgin Australia offer direct flights ex Sydney, and Jetstar and Qantas also operate regular flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns via Alice Springs.

By Car: Complimentary 4WD transfers can be arranged from Ayers Rock Airport to Longitude 131°. Alternatively, you can opt for a 4-5 hours scenic drive from Alice Springs via King's Canyon.

Things to Remember : Longitude 131° recently re-opened after extensive renovations.

Bamurru Plains (Northern Territory)

With an abundance of wildlife and an extraordinary bush experience on the edge of Kakadu National Park, Bamurru Plains offers ecologically sensitive, understated luxurious comfort. The 10-room camp safari ensures that guests are introduced to the sights and sounds of the surrounding environment in style and comfort. 

[Read Our Previous Blog : Ultimate Winery Experiences]

Bamurru’s passionate field guides offer a variety of activities that include crocodile spotting on the Sampan River, scenic helicopter rides over the coastline and floodplains, four-wheel drive safaris, and tours to the nearby rock art galleries of Arnhem Land.

While in Bamurru, you'll get a chance to encounter Australia’s richest wildlife in the floodplains and savannah woodlands. Spot tens of thousands of Magpie Geese, whistling kites, egrets, herons, blue-winged Kookaburras, cockatoos, parrots and agile rock wallabies.

As evening sets, sit back with a cocktail and canapes to enjoy wild bush luxury that is an exclusive Bamurru trademark.

Getting There: By Air: You can take a 30-minute charter flight from Darwin or Jabiru. 

By Car: It’s a 2 ½- hour drive to the property entrance from Darwin.

Things to Remember: 1. If you're into fishing ... this is a great spot  2.Private vehicles are not allowed inside the property.

 

Stay tuned for our next blog focused on luxury lodges in Western Australia. 

Ultimate Winery Experiences

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GO BEYOND THE CELLAR DOOR

Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia (UWEA) is a hand-picked collection of Australia’s premium wineries offering exciting and immersive winery experiences based around world-class wines, warm and knowledgeable hospitality, and culinary excellence. 

Australia’s signature wines have as much personality as their makers. 'Approachable', 'unpretentious' and 'gutsy' are words that could be used to describe Australia's world-renowned wines - and equally the people behind them. Walk into almost any cellar door from Margaret River to the Hunter Valley, and you're likely to find yourself chatting to the wine maker and several family members - often second or third generation vignerons.  The relaxed and democratic nature of those in the industry belies Australia’s reputation as one of the most outstanding wine-producing countries in the world.          

These experiences are designed to take visitors ‘beyond-the-cellar-door’ to discover characteristics unique to each winery and region. A pre-booked wine tasting experience can range from an intimate tutored wine tasting and chance to meet the winemakers, to a wine blending lesson to test and better understand your own palate. While tasting wine is the central theme, the variety of experiences on offer and the diversity of the wineries within the collection mean that no two are the same. Many experiences also include complementary activities to enhance connection with the region, such as a scenic regional flight, a cooking class, a relaxing bike ride, or on adventurous 4WD tour. 

UWEA have also designed ‘Wine Trails’ – itineraries connecting winery experiences and regions with suggestions for additional activities and accommodation.

What sets the collection apart is a commitment to visitor experience and not simply venues to taste and purchase wine. They offer a memorable experience featuring quality restaurants, accommodation, winery and vineyard tours, as well as exciting behind-the-scenes winery packages allowing visitors to interact more directly with the product, the winemakers and enjoy first-hand the rich diversity that Australia’s wine regions have to offer.

UWEA MEMBERS IN AUSTRALIA’S WINE REGIONS

New South Wales

Hunter Valley :

Approximately two hours drive north of Sydney is the famous Hunter Valley wine region. The Hunter Valley is home to over 130 wineries producing a wide array of exceptional wines. It is recognized as a world leader in dry white wines made from Semillon. The region specializes in fine food and wine, and hosts a busy calendar of events. It's also renowned for its national parks, spa retreats, and great golf.  UWEA member Audrey Wilkinson is one of the oldest wineries in the region and boasts award-winning wines and incredible views over the nearby Brokenback Ranges.

Victoria

Yarra Valley :

Yarra Valley wineries produce some of the world’s best cool-climate wines and are renowned for restaurants that match their wines with regional produce sourced from nearby orchards, farm gates and dairies.  Located less than one hour's drive east of Melbourne, the beauty, climate and fresh produce of the valley, just a stone’s throw from the city, is a popular choice for fans of fine food and wine. Award winning winery De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate is one of the valley’s largestThis family owned and managed winery produces high-quality cool climate wines from 240 hectares of vines, some more than 40 years old.

King Valley :

Victoria’s stunning King Valley is located at the foothills of the Alpine National Park, approximately 3 hours north-east of Melbourne. The King Valley wine region has become known as Australia’s home of Italian wine varieties although the region has also long been producing traditional cool climate wines.  UWEA members Pizzini Wines and Brown Brothers Milawa offer highly diverse but equally engaging winery experiences that celebrate the wine, food and personality of the King Valley.

Strathbogie Ranges:

The unique and relatively unknown region of the Strathbogie Ranges is located just 60 miles (100 kilometres) north of Melbourne.  This ruggedly beautiful and highly diverse region produces distinctive wines from over 25 vineyards. Fowles Wine cellar door based in Avenel at the foothills of the Strathbogie Ranges is renowned for making cool-climate wines to match with food. In fact, what really sets them apart is their 'Ladies Who Shoot their Lunch' and 'Are You Game?' wines - blended specifically to match with wild game.

Nagambie Lakes :

Located just 90 minutes from Melbourne, Nagambie Lakes is known for its picturesque habitats of tall, shady red river gums and tranquil views of the Goulburn River and surrounding wetlands.  Visitors can enjoy premium wines, pristine habitat and quaint towns filled with cafes, local produce stores, antique shops and galleries. Nagambie Lakes is home to Tahbilk. Established in 1860, Tahbilk is not only one of Australia’s oldest wineries but also boasts the world’s largest, and some of the oldest, plantings of Marsanne and Shiraz. 

Mornington Peninsula :

On the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay and within an hour’s drive of Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula is famous for its exceptional wine, seaside villages, world-class golf courses, spa retreats and local produce. 

As well as award-winning wine, Montalto Vineyard & Olive Grove is highly regarded for its welcoming ambiance, relaxed Australian architecture, intimate cellar door, and the beauty of its grounds that include an olive grove, acclaimed restaurant and café, sculpture walk and wetlands.

Tasmania

Tasmania produces elegant cool climate wines at around 200 vineyards and wineries. Tasmania’s food and wine experiences spring from its pristine water and pure air and the skill of its growers and makers. As well as its stunning wines, it produces famous cheeses, premium beef, honey, and some of Australia's best boutique beers.  The collection boasts two well known Tasmanian wineries – Josef Chromy Wines near Launceston, and Moorilla at the famous MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, in Hobart.

South Australia

Adelaide Hills :

The Adelaide Hills wine region is known for its elegant cool climate wines. Located in the Mount Lofty Ranges just 20-minutes east of Adelaide, the region is Australia’s largest geographical wine region, and one of the most diverse in terms of climate, soil and topography. Esteemed Adelaide Hills wineries Penfolds Magill Estate and The Lane Vineyard are proud members of the UWEA collection.

Barossa Valley :

The Barossa wine region is a contemporary region with a European tradition of celebrating food and wine that spans seven generations. The Barossa wine region has a long history of making full-bodied reds, fortified and robust white wines.  Here, world-famous wine brands Jacob’s Creek, St Hugo and Seppeltsfield offer beyond-the-cellar door experiences.

McLaren Vale :

Nestled between the Mount Lofty Ranges and white sandy beaches, the picturesque region features rolling hills, vineyards, a rugged coastline and charming villages. As well as exceptional wine, the region is known for its produce, on offer at its 110 wineries and 65 cellar doors, five-star retreats, quirky cafés and funky art galleries. The collection includes two of McLaren Vale’s best-loved wineries, d’Arenberg and Wirra Wirra Wines.

Western Australia

Margaret River :

Geographically isolated, Margaret River specializes in great wines, memorable regional cuisine and spectacular scenery.  Highly regarded as a producer of powerful yet elegant Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River is also famous for its white wines, especially its Chardonnay and Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc blends. Margaret River’s ideal climate, good soil and maritime environment produce consistently superior vintages that confirm its reputation as one of the premium wine producing regions of the world.  Three of the region’s best regarded wineries are members of the UWEA collection: Leeuwin Estate, Vasse Felix and Voyager Estate.

Australian Wildlife Journeys : Part II

In the initial phase of this series [Read our previous blog  Australian Wildlife Journeys : Part I], we discussed some of the wildlife tourism experiences of Australia. 

Here are some more great Aussie destinations, more great wildlife tourism experiences ... and more great wildlife tourism operators.

Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, Queensland

Lady Elliot Island is a true coral cay located on the southern tip of Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef, situated within a highly protected ‘Green Zone’ of the Marine National Park. It is regarded as one of the best diving and snorkeling sites, with its offshore and southern location resulting in outstanding water clarity, perfect to admire year round Manta Rays, reef sharks, hard and soft corals and tropical fish.

Lady Elliot Island has the highest seabird diversity of any island along the reef, with a number of species migrating to the island between October and April to nest including noddies, terns, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Red-tailed Tropic Birds. The beaches are also sanctuaries for nesting Green and Loggerhead Turtles over the summer months whilst Humpback Whales migrate past the island from June to October.

Lady Elliot Island Eco-Resort is a low-key resort that accommodates up to 150 overnight guests and is world acclaimed for the range of environmental best-practice measures implemented, including an extensive citizen science reef monitoring program in which guests participate.

Lords Kakadu and Arnhemland Safaris, Northern Territory

Lords Kakadu and Arnhemland Safaris has been connecting guests to the Northern Territory’s ‘Top End’ for over 25 years. Located just over 100 miles (170km) southeast of Darwin, Kakadu National Park is one of the world’s most magnificent natural reserves, boasting 280 bird species, 77 mammals, 50 species of freshwater fish, 132 reptiles and more than 50,000 years of Indigenous history and culture.

The wetlands of Kakadu are a birdwatcher’s paradise, given the immense concentration of waterbirds, especially in the dry season, including Magpie Geese, Whistling Ducks, Great Egrets, Royal Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts, Great-billed Herons, Brolgas, Comb-crested Jacanas and Black-necked Storks (Jabirus). The combination of floodplains and wetlands, savanna woodlands, sand-stone cliffs and escarpments provide sanctuary for Agile and Wilkin’s Rock Wallabies, Northern Bandicoots, Black and Antilopine Wallaroos, Northern Quolls, Dingoes, flying-foxes, Ghost Bats, goannas, frogs, pythons, and cathedral termite mounds. But it's the massive populations of the world’s largest reptile, the Saltwater Crocodile, that has made this area so famous.

Oz Whale Watching, New South Wales

The sparkling waters and stunning skyline of Sydney Harbor has long been recognized as one of the most beautiful urban settings in the world, but what is surprising is the diverse wildlife viewing opportunities at Sydney’s doorstep. Sydney has more marine species than any other harbour in the world and is a superb location to observe the incredible Humpback Whale migration from May to November each year. Further out to sea where the continental shelf drops off, the region is one of Australia’s best pelagic birding sites, with an abundance of albatross species across winter months, shearwaters in summer months, with petrels, gannets, skuas, terns, gannets and gulls also present.

Image Credit : Trevor Scouten

Image Credit : Trevor Scouten

Oz Whale Watching is part of the Sydney Princess Group, with the company dedicated to showcasing the remarkable nature and cultural based offerings of the area. Aside from whale watching and pelagic birding trips, the company offers guided tours around Sydney National Harbour, with snorkelling at Shelley Beach providing the opportunity to spot Blue Groper, Gunthers and Dusky Butterflyfish, Black Rock Cod, Wobbegongs, Cuttlefish, Potbelly Seahorses and the ethereal Weedy Sea Dragon.

Premier Travel Tasmania

Australia’s largest island is the beautiful state of Tasmania, where around forty per cent of land is protected via national parks and reserves. Premier Travel Tasmania has been sharing this pristine region’s abundant wildlife, diverse flora, pristine wilderness, rich heritage, gourmet food & wine and local characters for over 20 years.

Renowned as a prime area for marsupial spotting, Tasmania is a crucial habitat for many lesser known species, including Eastern and Spotted Quolls, Eastern Barred and Southern Brown Bandicoots, Tasmanian Bettongs and Long-nosed Potoroos. This is in addition to Platypus, Echidnas, Forester Kangaroos, Bennett’s Wallabies, Common Wombats and the most famous resident, the Tasmanian Devil.

Numerous World Heritage Listed areas are scattered across the state, comprised of rugged mountains, temperate rainforests, wetlands, white sandy beaches and massive dolerite cliffs. This provides sanctuary for an abundance of birdlife, including the twelve Tasmanian endemic species such as the Forty-spotted Pardalote, Green Rosellas, Black Currawongs, Yellow Wattlebirds, Tasmanian Scrubwrens and Strong-billed Honeyeaters. The marine offerings are also spectacular with touring covering colonies of Australian Fur Seals, Common and Bottlenose Dolphins and the adorable Little Penguin.

SEIT Outback Australia, Northern Territory

Australia’s ‘Red Centre’ is considered the spiritual heart of Australia, due to its incredible desert landscapes, rich indigenous history and iconic rock formations such as Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon and Mt Conner. The Anangu people of Uluru have been the traditional custodians of this ancient land for many generations, balancing the intricate relationship between people, plants, animals and landscapes.

SEIT Outback Australia has been sharing insights into this balance for many years, showcasing the remarkable wildlife that thrive in these semi-arid environments. This is a prime region for spotting reptiles including the iconic Thorny Devil, Shingleback & Blue-tongued Lizard, Bearded and Central-netted Dragon, Sand Goanna and occasionally the largest lizard in Australia, the Perentie. It’s also a hotspot for birds of prey such as Whistling Kites, Nankeen Kestrels, Black-breasted Buzzards, Brown Falcons, Australian Hobby Falcons and Wedge-tailed Eagles. Nomadic Zebra Finches, Budgerigars and Painted Finches are also prize sightings after rainfall has occurred.

The Maria Island Walk, Tasmania

World Heritage Listed Maria Island is located just off Tasmania’s east coast and is known for its historic ruins, picturesque bays, rugged cliffs and mountains and amazing fossils. But for many visitors, it's the island’s remarkable collection of rare birds and animals, largely unaffected by human presence, that is the highlight.

The Maria Island Walk is a four-day walk that brings these remarkable wildlife stories to life through expert interpretative guides, with guests able to enjoy gentle walks by day and elegant accommodation and gourmet dining by night. As a vital location for numerous threatened and endangered species, Maria provides the opportunity to spot Common Wombats, Cape Barren Geese, Forester Kangaroos, Bennett’s Wallabies, Tasmanian Devils and 125 species of birds; including all of Tasmania’s endemics such as Tasmanian Native Hens, Green Rosellas, Yellow Wattlebirds, Black-headed & Yellow-throated Honeyeaters, Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagled and the endangered Forty-spotted Pardalote. In the warmer months, the island’s Blue Gums are a key habitat for the critically endangered Swift Parrot.

Wildlife Coast Cruises, Victoria

The Phillip Island and Wilson’s Promontory area provides a blend of spectacular coastal scenery, abundant marine wildlife, beautiful coastal heathlands and important seabird rookeries. The team at Wildlife Coast Cruises has been educating guests about the region’s marine diversity for almost 25 years, with an onboard marine biologist providing fascinating insights into the interaction of species across this unique ecosystem.

Highlights include close observation of Australia’s largest population of Australian Fur Seals (7,000+) off the aptly named Seal Rocks, spotting Common and Bottlenose Dolphins and tracking seabirds including Pied and Black-faced Cormorants, Australasian Gannets, Shy Albatross, Crested Terns and Pacific Gulls. This is also the area to witness parades of Little Penguins as they come ashore in the evening time. Phillip Island plays host to majestic whales during their annual migration every winter from June to August, with Humpback Whales most commonly spotted, but Southern Right Whales and Orcas also opportunistic sightings.

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Australian Wildlife Journeys : Part I

Australian Wildlife Journeys is a new group of Australia’s leading, independently-owned wildlife tourism experiences, showcasing authentic wildlife encounters within natural habitats, combined with premium hospitality. A high level of guiding expertise and focus on interpretation that connects with guests, encourages self-reflection and aligns with local community values underpins the group.

Australia boasts a truly remarkable wildlife story, being home to the world’s most bio-diverse waters, the highest number of endemic bird species, the highest number of reptile species and a vast collection of mammals that can’t be seen anywhere else on earth. The Australian Wildlife Journeys group is passionate about enhancing the profile of Australia as a world-class wildlife destination and increasing wildlife observation across natural environments.

All members of Australian Wildlife Journeys are united by the vision to bridge the gap between the conservation and tourism sectors. The group has started assembling a portfolio of programs, that allow guests to actively contribute to the re-generation of local ecosystems and assist in preserving Australia’s incredible natural assets.

A wide array of Australia’s iconic marine and terrestrial landscapes are represented across the group, from coral reefs, coastal and alpine eucalypt woodlands, wet and dry rainforests, wetlands to desert sandplains.

The twelve founding members include Arkaba Conservancy (SA); Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours (VIC); Exceptional Kangaroo Island (SA); Exmouth Diving Centre (WA); Goin’ Off Safaris (SA); Lady Elliot Island (QLD); Lords Kakadu and Arnhemland Safaris (NT); The Maria Island Walk (TAS); Oz Whale Watching (NSW); Premier Travel Tasmania (TAS); SEIT Outback Australia (NT) and Wildlife Coast Cruises (VIC).

Arkaba, South Australia

Arkaba is nestled amongst the ancient outback landscapes of the Flinders Ranges, famed for its beautifully sculpted ridges, spectacular deep gorges, and striking river red gum creek lines. The former sheep station was developed into a 60,000 acre wildlife conservancy in 2013, to assist in the re-establishment of endangered endemic reptiles, birds and marsupials including the Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby, Western Quoll and Common Brushtail Possum. Arkaba boasts a luxurious 1850’s Homestead with just five guest rooms and offers a four-day immersive walk and safari drives with expert guides to showcase the various habitats across the conservancy.

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It is one of the best locations in Australia to see Macropods, with the largest living marsupial, the Red Kangaroo, in very healthy populations, as are Western Grey Kangaroos and Common Wallaroos. Bearded Dragons, Painted Dragons, Barking Geckos, Shinglebacks and numerous skinks are noted reptile residents, with the birdlife also varied. The area offers year round sightings for Emus, Ringneck, Mulga, Red-rumped and Elegant Parrots, Wedge-tailed Eagles, Brown Goshawks, Black Kites, Rufous Whistlers, with migratory Rainbow Bee-eaters, Budgerigars and Zebra Finches delightful summer visitors.

Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours, Victoria

Connecting travelers with the diverse wildlife across the You Yangs, Great Ocean Road and East Gippsland has been the passion of Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours for over twenty years. A blend of magnificent lush rainforests, coastal heathlands, dramatic sea cliffs, giant alpine Eucalypt groves, pristine rivers, estuaries and vast grassy plains provides the opportunity to see a truly remarkable number of Australia’s iconic species.

In the You Yangs, guests will venture out with a Koala researcher to learn about the history and behaviour of individuals within the colony, with the opportunity to pull out invasive weeds to save this precious population. A rich array of marsupials including Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Swamp and Red-necked Wallabies, Short-beaked Echidnas and Common Wombats is in offer, with East Gippsland particularly attractive to travelers interested in shier forest dwellers, including Yellow-bellied and Greater Gliders, Lace Monitors, King Parrots, Eastern Whipbirds, Satin Bowerbirds, numerous honeyeaters the most famous songbird in Australia, the Superb Lyrebird.

Exceptional Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island, with over one third of land declared as National or Conservation Park. Exceptional Kangaroo Island has been providing expert interpretation of the natural environment and numerous endemic species and local sub-species that inhabit this incredible sanctuary for over 25 years. Over 90% of the terrestrial wildlife habitat is mallee and woodland, dominated largely by Eucalyptus, with the balance shrubland, fernland and forest.

This provides opportunity to spot a vast range of animals including Kangaroo Island Kangaroos, Tammar Wallabies, Short-beaked Echidnas, Koalas, Rosenberg’s Goanna and 260 species of birds, with endangered Glossy Black Cockatoos, Hooded Plovers, Cape Barren Geese, Scarlet Robins, Southern Emu Wrens, Crimson Rosellas and Caspian Terns prime species for enthusiasts. The marine environment is equally diverse, with highlights including walking on a pristine beach with Australian Sea Lions at Seal Bay and spotting Long-nosed Fur Seals across the spectacular landscapes of Admiral’s Arch and Remarkable Rocks.

Exmouth Diving Centre, Western Australia

As the region’s original eco-tourism operation, Exmouth Diving Centre is synonymous with experiencing the aquatic treasures of the World Heritage Listed Ningaloo Reef Marine Park. Flanking the North West Cape coastline, Ningaloo Reef is one of the world’s largest and most magnificent fringing coral reefs. This intricate reef system stretches over 260 km (160 miles) and is renowned for its bio-diversity, with 250 species of corals, an assortment of uniquely colored nudibranchs and over 450 different species of fish.

The region is home to a myriad of marine megafauna, including the world’s largest fish, the Whale Shark, with visitors able to swim with these graceful creatures from March to August. Humpback Whales are also in abundance when the world’s largest migration occurs between May and November, with the recent addition of Humpback swims a highlight from August to November. Manta Rays, Dugongs and Turtles can be seen year round, with three species of turtle nesting over the summer months.

Goin’ Off Safaris, South Australia

The Eyre Peninsula is considered as Australia’s ultimate temperate aquatic playground, featuring striking coastlines, vast sand dunes, rugged offshore islands, secluded coves and picturesque coastal heathlands. Goin’ Off Safaris has been showcasing the region’s unique aquatic activities since 2005, including famed encounters with Australian Sea-lions, Bottlenose Dolphins and the oceans most formidable predator, the Great White Shark.

Experiences are not limited to the vast shoreline, with the region home to distinctive rock formations, a rich geological history and a variety of flora and fauna. The Southern Eyre Peninsula is home to 270 species of birds and 1900 native plant species, providing abundant opportunities to spot Western Grey Kangaroos, Emus, threatened Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats, Port Lincoln Parrots, Rock Parrots, Golden Whistlers, White-Browed Babblers, various waterfowl at Big Swamp and an array of seabirds including cormorants, terns oystercatchers, Black Winged Stilts, Osprey and White-bellied Sea Eagles.

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Final Phase in next Blog.... 

Luxury Lodges Of Australia : South Australia

If an indulgent 'down-under' vacation is on any of your lists, then you’ll probably wish to include South Australia in your itinerary. 

In our last few blogs we’ve spoken about fabulous lodges in natural Australian settings, boasting majestic views and exclusive hospitality ... and as promised, this blog focuses on three such luxury lodges in South Australia. 

Arkaba

Luxury experiences can be truly delivered in the Australian outback!

Arkaba is a 60,000 acre South Australian outback property, that can truly deliver.

Located in the colorful landscapes of the Flinders Ranges and flanked by the awe-inspiring Chase Ranges and Rawnsley Bluff, Arkaba is probably one of the most splendid outback properties in Australia.

Just ten guests at a time have a unique opportunity to be immersed in guided wildlife safaris, and to enjoy relaxation in one of the finest Australian outback landscapes.

We recommend dining outdoors on the terrace at the end of the day ... enjoying the ever-changing colors and sounds of the bush ... and then indulging an after-dinner drink in front of the fire-pit just watching stars appear in the ancient outback 'big sky'.

Getting There: By Air: Private charters can take you from Adelaide to the closest airstrip, Hawker, in just over an hour.

You can also fly from Adelaide to Port Augusta and then take a 75 minute drive north to Arkaba.

By Car: You can take a splendid 4.5 hours drive from Adelaide. Stop at Quorn and the Pichi Richi Railway on your way north.

Things to Remember: The adventure-minded can also enjoy a memorable four day walking safari (along with camping-swags-under-the-stars) ex Arkaba.

The Louise

Located in the heart of an idyllic vineyard, with an acclaimed restaurant on-site, and breath-taking vistas of the world-renowned Barossa Valley is The Louise.

Inspired design, fabulous artwork, and luxurious suites (each with its own private terrace) cater to a maximum of just 15 guests.

With more than one hundred Barossa wineries to choose from, The Louise offers wine tastings beyond compare. Quite apart from fabulous wine experiences, you can enjoy hot air ballooning, cycling and hiking, and/or relaxing massages in the spa ... and, we recommend enjoying a Barossa Farmers’ Market Breakfast with the Kangaroos while staying at The Louise.

Make your very own blend at iconic Penfolds winery, or accompany 'Appelation' chefs on their farmer’s market visit and watch them securing the very best regional produce for the restaurant kitchen.

The Louise is all about enjoying simply outstanding food, spectacular wine, and fabulous accommodation in the very heart of one of Australia’s most respected wine regions.

Getting There: By Air : The Louise can arrange for helicopter transfers from Adelaide ... or to/from Southern Ocean Lodge.

By Car : The Barossa Valley is just over a one hour drive north of Adelaide.

Things to Remember: Leave your scales at home.

Southern Ocean Lodge

There's a very good reason that Kangaroo Island has been referred to as 'Australia's-zoo-without-fences'.

Set atop a secluded cliff on a rugged stretch of Kangaroo Island's south coast, commanding spectacular ocean views, and with nothing but open ocean for 2,000+ miles to the south, is Southern Ocean Lodge - a sensitively designed luxury lodge, recognized for its unique fusion of luxury and nature.

[Read Our Previous Blog On Luxury Lodges Of Australia : New South Wales ]

Southern Ocean Lodge offers just twenty one glass-walled suites each featuring bespoke furnishings, lavish sleeping areas, and a sunken outdoor lounge with spectacular Southern Ocean views.

This is certainly the place to fine dine on fabulous local produce, and enjoy spectacular guided touring of Australia's very own Galapagos.

Getting There: By Air: Kangaroo Island is just a 35 minute flight from Adelaide International Airport.

By Car/Ferry: It’s 90 minute drive from Adelaide to Port Jervis and then a 50-minute ferry across to Kangaroo Island.

Things to Remember: Take a camera!

Luxury Lodges Of Australia : New South Wales

When it comes to luxury, Australia, has numerous options to pamper. In our last few blogs we’ve been talking about hideaways within natural settings, boasting majestic views and exclusive hospitality. Our previous blog focused on luxury lodges located in Queensland.

This blog will discuss three luxury lodges in the state of New South Wales.

Capella Lodge

Located on world heritage listed Lord Howe Island is a pinnacle of luxury, Capella Lodge.  Overlooking romantic Lovers Bay and at the foot of dramatically rising twin mountains, Capella Lodge represents luxury at its best. A short flight will take you to this real deal ‘treasure island’, a sub-tropical paradise perfectly preserved in time. A feeling of relaxed sophistication flows throughout ... alluring guests to enjoy a civilized island escape.

Capella Lodge offers just nine contemporary island-style suites that compliment Lord Howe Island’s pristine natural environment. The design is inspired by an authentic Australian beach house ... and apart from the stunning view, the suites offer chic furnishings and generous decks.

You can take mountain walks, relax on white-sandy beaches, or explore a riot of colors in the southernmost part of the coral reef. Whatever you do, Capella Lodge makes sure that you can enjoy it lavishly ... but, on a first-name basis.

Experience fine dining showcasing a bounty of local seafood and fresh farm produce to help make your stay an unforgettable experience.

Getting There: By Air: Being a secluded gateway, Lord Howe Island has limited flights - with Qantaslink being the exclusive carrier to the island. Most flights operate from Sydney, with weekend flights out of Brisbane, and a seasonal flight ex Port Macquarie.

Things to Remember: All flights to Lord Howe Island only allow 30 lbs luggage per person ... mind you, that's all you'll need.

Pretty Beach House

If you're looking for an epitome of relaxed luxury that combines fabulous food, a perfect balance of intimacy, privacy and personalized service in the heart of NSW's Bouddi National Park, then it’s got to be Pretty Beach House. Experience effortless and unforgettable sanctuary in this stunning coastal luxury lodge limited to just eight guests at a time in four exclusive pavilions.

Surrounded by glorious golden beaches and picturesque bays, Pretty Beach House offers hiking expeditions and complimentary mountain bikes, an open bar, unlimited wi-fi throughout the property and a special indigenous smoking ceremony. All dining during your stay is included as part of the hospitality.

De-stress in the day spa, dine on a luxurious private boat with authentic seasonal menus and enjoy the quintessentially Australian coastal views. 

Getting There: By Air: From Sydney, Pretty Beach House can arrange helicopter transfers on request ... or you can take a stunning 30-minute seaplane transfer from Sydney's Rose Bay. Either way, take a camera!

By Ferry: Wagstaffe ferry service to Palm Beach is a favorite option to get to Pretty Beach House. If driving north from Sydney you can park at Palm Beach Wharf.

By Car: You can also reach there by car following the Pacific Highway less than two-hours north of Sydney.

Things to Remember: If traveling by ferry, car parking at Palm Beach Wharf can be a little difficult at peak times. 

Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley

With a number of accolades and awards Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley offers an ultimate experience of luxury and solace in its 7,000 acres property. The resort occupies just one percent of the property, featuring 40 individual suites, each with its own swimming pool. Its main homestead offers distinctive dining with fresh local produce and a Timeless Spa to re-energize.

[Our Previous Blog on Luxury Lodges Of Australia : Queensland]

Wolgan Valley is a carbon-neutral resort that has been recognized as an honoree of the Travel+Leisure Global Vision Awards for Sustainability and Conservation. It has also been awarded a coveted Banksia Award for heralding conservation based luxury in Australia. That’s not all. It's been named one of the 10 Best Luxury Hotels in the World, and recognized as one of the world’s most unique and stylish hotels and resorts by Mr & Mrs Smith. In fact, it’s the only Australian resort to make it to many top 10 lists. TripAdvisor’s 2016 Traveller’s Choice Awards named this ultra-luxury conservation resort as the #1 Hotel in Australia.

The seclusion of this place creates natural sanctuary where guests can experience breathtaking natural beauty and a haven of wildlife while soaking up the rich heritage of the region. You can spend your day enjoying a range of nature-based activities that include horse riding, wildlife spotting, four-wheel drives, nature walks, and interpretive tours.

Getting There: By Air: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley offers a dramatic 45 minutes helicopter transfer from Sydney offering superb views of the Blue Mountains en route.

By Car: There are several recommended scenic drives from Sydney to Wolgan Valley that take approximately three hours.

Things to Remember: The resort’s daily tariff includes gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner ... and all non-alcoholic beverages.

In our next blog we’ll highlight luxury lodges in South Australia.

Luxury Lodges of Australia : Queensland

In our previous blog, we discussed 16 luxury lodges of Australia offering the opportunity to splash out on luxurious hospitality and sink your soul in complete otiosity. With more than 300 days of sunshine each year, it’s easy to see why Queensland is known as the ‘Sunshine State’. Discover endless golden beaches, exquisite coral reefs, tropical rain forests, palm fringed islands and hidden mountain retreats. As you can already guess, in this blog we will discuss the five luxury lodges of Queensland.

Crystalbrook Lodge

Crystalbrook Lodge is an unparalleled luxury destination where you can explore, indulge and relax in a setting unlike any other. Crystalbrook Lodge offers an exclusive, fully hosted experience for a maximum of 10 guests at a time in 5 courtyard suites.

Wake up to a gorgeous sunrise and a gourmet breakfast, and then spend your days fishing for iconic barramundi, kayaking, or exploring the property trails on foot or bike. In the afternoon, indulge yourself in the magna pool with craft beer in hand, and end your night by the campfire, sipping cocktails overlooking the serene manicured gardens.

Remember to Bring: Light casual clothing and suitable footwear for bush walking, and hats and sunscreen, and warm tops for cool winter evenings.

Getting There: By Air: You can reach there on charter flight or helicopter landing on Crystalbrook’s own airstrip or helipad.

By Car: Experience true outback living and lifestyle as you journey across unsealed roads. We recommend travelling with a 4WD vehicle 3 hours drive from Cairns or Port Douglas, and 2 hours from Mareeba.

By Train: The Savannahlander, departing every Wednesday 6.30am from Cairns, offers travelers a memorable way to explore Outback Far North Queensland.

Lizard Island

With 24 powdery white beaches and over 1000 hectares of national park, Lizard Island Beach Resort is truly secluded from the rest of the world. Uniquely located right on the Great Barrier Reef, this island resort offers some exclusive reef and water activities including snorkeling, in the coral gardens and secluded picnics on private beaches.

Important parts of the resort are The Essential Day Spa, The Pavilion, Salt Water Restaurant and Driftwood Bar & Wine Cellar. Indulge yourself in mouth-watering gourmet meals, non-motorised water sports and motorised dinghies, unlimited non-alcoholic beverages, in room mini-bar, picnic hampers, selected range of wines, beer and champagne and soul refreshing spa treatments.

Getting There: By Air: Regular flights are available from all major Australian cities with Qantas and Virgin. Private charters can also be arranged.

By Train: Two Tilt Trains and Three Sunlander departures from Brisbane to Cairns. From Cairns, you have to take a short 60 minutes flight to transfer to the main island.

Important to Remember: Lizard Island comes under world’s first Ecotourism Certification Program launched in 1996. Therefore, tourists are responsible for maintaining the island’s purity during their stay.

Qualia

World-class luxury and an outstanding example of design is known as Qualia. Located on the northern-most tip of Hamilton Island and encircled by the splendid beauty of the Great Barrier Reef Qualia relaxes your mind and spoils your senses. Unwind at the stunning Spa Qualia that offers authentic Australian spa menu. There’s two serene pools, fitness center, library and private dining rooms exclusive for in-house guests. Guests also enjoy priority access to Australia’s only island championship golf course, the Hamilton Island Golf Club. It has a gorgeous 360-degree view of the Whitsunday Islands, Whitehaven Beach and the Great Barrier Reef. With choices of sixty private individual pavilions with plunge pools and outdoor showers, Qualia welcomes you to divine relaxation.

Getting There: By Air: Qualia is easily accessible with daily flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Cairns. Private helicopter transfers are also available.

By Ferry: You can also enjoy regular ferry transfers to Hamilton Island from Airlie Beach.

Special Mention: If you visit Qualia during August, you can participate in the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. It’s a perfect week-long yachting event for friends and family.

Silky Oaks Lodge

Silky Oaks Lodge offers luxury boutique accommodation nestled in Kuku Yalangi country, sitting high above the crystal-clear waters of the Mossman River and enveloped by the lush Daintree Rainforest veiling the steep mountain sides from the riverbanks.

You’ll be spoiled for options to explore the surrounding region with extensive hiking trails, canoeing, river snorkelling, goanna spotting or early morning yoga classes followed by a swim in the river. Its awarded spa offers 7 treatment rooms including Vichy showers and Sodashi massages. You can also journey to the remote Cape Tribulation in guided safaris and learn about the ancient refugial rainforest marvelling at the diverse flora and birdlife.

Getting There: By Air: 20 minutes helicopter transfer from Cairns Airport to the Silky Oaks Helipad is available for your convenience.

By Car: You can hire third party shuttles or drive yourself to the lodge from Cairns airport. Silky Oaks also offers private limousine transfer from Cairns Airport.

Special Mention: At Silky Oaks, you can enjoy sightings of saltwater crocodiles and extraordinary bird-life under the guidance of local representative of Birds of Australia, Del Richards.

Spicers Peak Lodge

Experience the height of luxury in this eclectic mix of contemporary and classic designed Luxury Lodge Spicers Peak. It’s Australia’s highest non-alpine lodge retreat, just 2 hours from Brisbane. With ten luxurious suites and two private lodges, Spicers Peak Lodge offers divine relaxation amidst stunning natural environment.

[Read Our Previous Blog :

Wollongong Tour - A Weekend In Wollongong 

by Guest blogger: Olivia Bourke]

You can enjoy range of tailored experiences that showcase the strikingly pristine landscapes with guided nature walks, mountain bike adventures, 4WD discovery tours, yoga, nocturnal walks and local history presentation. Spicers Peak also offers a 4-day guided trek from March to October. The property is renowned for bird watching that includes rare glossy black cockatoo, bushy tail rock wallaby along with kangaroos, dingo and koala. Perched atop a mountain on 9,000 acres, enveloped by the World Heritage listed Main Range National Park and the Great Dividing Range, Spicers Peak Lodge offers luxurious wilderness experience like no other.

Getting There: By Air: Daily flights are available from all major cities of Australia. The lodge operates a helicopter transfer which should be requested at the time of booking.

By Car: Spicers Peak Lodge is 2 hours driving from Brisbane Airport and two and half hours from Gold Coast Airport.

Things to Remember: All visits to Spicers Peak Lodge are by appointment and reservation only. Even if you want a helicopter transfer from airport to the lodge, it should be requested at the time of reservation. However, the helipad is certified for daylight operation only. Also, have the pilot call the reception desk five minutes before arrival for luggage assistance.

These are the five Luxury Lodges serving successfully in Queensland region. In our next blog, we’ll discuss about the luxury lodges located in New South Wales region.

A Weekend In Wollongong

Guest blogger: Olivia Bourke(http://greatlost.com/)

The South Coast of New South Wales is considerably underrated when it comes to weekend getaways. Great beaches, extraordinary national parks and lots of wildlife, this makes for the perfect way to escape the city lifestyle.

Also known as the gateway to the South Coast located just south of Sydney, Wollongong is the perfect place for a weekend away.

Saturday | 9 am

If you are traveling to Wollongong from Sydney you absolutely must go via the Grand Pacific Drive, a spectacular route following the coastline through the Royal National Park.

Once you arrive in Wollongong it’s the perfect time to grab some breakfast. We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so you want to make sure you grab something delicious ahead of your big day exploring all that Wollongong has to offer.

Head down to The Green Room City Beach cafe for a delicious beach side breakfast. Located along South Beach, you’ll be able to sip your coffee whilst listening to the waves crash on the shore.

There are plenty of options in terms of breakfast, a little something for everyone but I highly recommend getting your lips around their famous bacon and egg roll. This breakfast delight is made up of two eggs, bacon, tomato, chili jam, cheese and rouquette - a must for all burger lovers.

Saturday  |  11 am

After you’ve indulged in breakfast with a view, head to the Wollongong Art Gallery for a culture fix. The leading regional art gallery has many different exhibits, and a constantly changing events calendar for plenty to see and do.

Spend an hour or two admiring the permanent art collection of Aboriginal, Asian, colonial and Contemporary artworks and learning about the history of the area.

Saturday  | 1 pm

Next up you’re heading to the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere, Nan Tien Temple. You can just simply visit for a couple of hours, or you can choose to stay here for the duration of your trip at Pilgrim Lodge.

At Nan Tien Temple there is plenty to see and do, so make sure you plan your time here. I would recommend staying for at least two or three hours. Your afternoon will be filled with grand architecture, culture, art and many different exhibits that explore Buddhist festivals, vegetarian and vegan food options, health and lifestyle retreats and educational classes.

Check out the Dew Drop Inn for lunch and grab one of the delicious vegan options. There’s lots to taste, but apparently one of the most popular dishes is the veggie mince and ham noodle soup. Perfect to warm you up during the winter months.

Saturday | 7 pm

You’ve worked up an appetite after a big day of playing tourist, so it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy some great food. It’s a Saturday night so there’s a lot happening in and around Wollongong.

If you are after some fine dining then look no further than Caveau. The Sydney Morning Herald Food Guide has awarded this popular South Coast restaurant with a ‘hat’ and has continued to do so every year since 2005.

Mixing French culinary techniques with local produce, the staff at Caveau aim to provide quality fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere at reasonable prices. It’s highly recommended that you try the seven-course degustation menu, that way you can sample multiple dishes in one sitting.

Sunday | 9 am

This morning you are heading just out of the city in order to devour yet another great meal on your weekend away at The Shack Cafe Thirroul. Whether you're interested in a green smoothie or a black coffee, The Shack Cafe has something to fulfill everyone’s morning routine.

If you decide to bring the kids along, there is a little something to satisfy their sweet tooth. Grab them the waffles with homemade berry coulis and cream or a milkshake to get them on board.

It is Sunday, so you might have spent the morning rugged up under the covers and that's okay! Luckily for you, you can grab a muesli and yoghurt to go with your take away coffee from The Shack Cafe!

Sunday | 11 am

If you’re feeling a little sluggish after all that food then perhaps a little physical activity will get you going. Make your way to the Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures to have a fun and exciting morning at one of Australia’s best treetop walk and zipline experiences.

You’ll need a little over 2 hours here to completely immerse yourself in all it has to offer. With great views, a visitors centre, a cafe and guided tours, this could be perfect for the whole family.

Experience the 1.5 km return walk that includes a steel walkway, swaying cantilevered arms and a central tower, all 50 metres above the ground. From here you’ll able to see the most spectacular views.

Sunday |  3 pm

All that ziplining and adventuring amongst the trees must have got you a little thirsty. Not to worry the next stop is the Illawarra Brewery, a bar and grill opposite Wollongong’s City Beach perfect for winding down after a big weekend.

As the name suggests, the brewery offers a large selection of hand crafted beers, most of them brewed locally. So take a seat outside or inside depending on the weather, relax and get taste testing.

After a couple of local beers, grab a bite to eat from the grill. This family friendly venue has plenty to choose from, specializing in modern Australian cuisine. There is a menu full of all time favorites, you’ll find the perfect meal to sit and enjoy the last few moments of your weekend.

 

About The Author

I'm Olivia, an adventurous traveler who just wants to explore all the world has to offer. I'm an American who has slowly made my way to the beautiful land down under, Australia and I'm loving every minute of exploring this ever so scenic country, one state at a time. With my feet moving and my fingers typing, I love sharing all the gems that I discover with the world (http://greatlost.com/), so they can enjoy them as well!

Luxury Lodges of Australia : An Introduction

Travel to Australia is about more than just the natural beauty of the country. It’s not just the cosmopolitan cities, white beaches, mountains, ancient rainforests and ochre-red outback, but as an integral part of the trip, Australia also excels in the quality of hospitality.

Traveling down under can create an intense connection with the surroundings ... and with your soul.

If it’s about relaxation in high-end accommodations with exquisite food and wine you're all over, then Luxury Lodges of Australia, can fulfill ALL of your expectations as here the priority is always you. 

The portfolio comprises a collection of nineteen top-tier lodges as diverse as the country itself. Located in premium locations, these environmentally-sensitive lodges with spectacular backdrops can be found throughout the length and breadth of the Aussie map, and all come with a commitment to five-star experience.

Most of the lodges are easily reached from major Australian cities, making them a 'must consider' inclusion into a wider holiday itinerary. 

New South Wales alone possess three exciting options. Less than three hours by road from Sydney is the Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, sitting beneath soaring cliffs and two national parks.

Even closer to Sydney is the serene Pretty Beach House, a spa retreat with sublime food and offering just four exclusive pavilions – best reached by seaplane. Even more dramatically situated is Capella Lodge, on Lord Howe Island.

For visitors to Victoria, there’s the prospect of spending time at the secluded Lake House - a multi-award-winning property on the shores of Lake Daylesford.

The choices continue in South Australia with Southern Ocean Lodge that combines a show-stopping location on Kangaroo Island with twenty one ocean-view luxury suites and guided wildlife touring options – not to mention a first-rate selection of wines.

Moving back to the mainland is The Louise, a gorgeous design-hotel and spectacular restaurant in the heart of the world-famous Barossa Valley wine region, and an outback resort, the ultra-exclusive Arkaba with 10,000 hectares of land in the Flinders Ranges. However, it welcomes only ten guests at one time.

Queensland has no less than five lodges in the portfolio. The Sunshine State is home to tropical island retreats Qualia and Lizard Island, both set right on the Great Barrier Reef.

Meanwhile, the mainland offers Silky Oaks Lodge, with high-end tree-house accommodation right in the Daintree Rainforest, the lavish Crystalbrook Lodge, perched over a lake, and Spicers Peak Lodge, a mountain getaway set in 8,000 acres of private conservation land in Main Range National Park.

[Read Our Previous Blog on The Great Alpine Road Drive : Leg 2]

Equally jaw-dropping are the lodge options in Western Australia. Closest to Perth is Cape Lodge, a country estate in the Margaret River region, while further north, close to the Ningaloo Reef, Sal Salis is a deluxe ecotourism bush camp with just sixteen wilderness tents.

Make your way further north to the Kimberley Region, and set in untamed wilderness is a five-star clifftop homestead, El Questro, while a unique 18-cabin adventure cruise ship True North will take you to sail the rivers and gorges of the NW coastline in serious style.

With any of Luxury Lodges of Australia's properties, you’re certainly guaranteed an Aussie experience to be cherished for the rest of your life.

We’ll be discussing more details about these nineteen Luxury Lodges of Australia in subsequent blogs.

 

The Great Alpine Road Trip - A Few Things to Do: Leg 2

We talked about the first leg (The Great Alpine Road Drive : Leg 1) of this great road trip in our previous blog. In this blog, you’ll discover more of the Great Alpine Road, waiting to surprise you in the most pleasant way.

The name of this spectacular road trip actually comes from this second leg that travels from leafy Bright straight towards the alpine area and the historic town of Omeo.

Leg Two :- The Great Alpine Road

Bright to Omeo

Time to go upwards

Pull yourself from colors of Bright and ascend along the Great Alpine Road that’ll take you to the charming Harrietville and Mount Hotham. As you head upward the landscape changes from alpine ash to snow gum forest and heathland.

Mount Hotham is Victoria's highest alpine village offering 500 acres of ski area. It offers a wide selection of downhill and cross-country trails perfect for beginners as well as experienced skiers and snowboarders.

On Mount Hotham, you can trek along fields of wildflowers, or go horse riding, or fishing. Take in the spectacular views of Mount Feathertop, (the second-highest mountain in the state), over the Alpine National Park. On a clear day you can see as far as Falls Creek and Mount Buffalo. Follow the Razorback Trail, to take you along the exposed ridges that leads to the summit of Mount Feathertop.

Less than 10-miles south of Mount Hotham is the Dinner Plain which is a popular center for horseback trail rides in summer, and cross-country skiing in winter.

What goes up must come down.

As the landscape changes from alpine ash to lush grazing fields, you know it’s time to descend to the old gold town of Omeo. Once the site of one of Victoria's richest goldfields, Omeo will quickly win you over with vistas of snowy mountains over green fields.

Omeo to Metung

Travel temptations

Go further south following the Great Alpine Road to small towns of Swifts Creek and Ensay, with a contemporary passion for freshly baked goods, just-picked fruit, and local wines, and then onto Bairnsdale.

Now it’s time to explore the spectacular Gippsland Lakes.

Past Bairsnsdale drive towards Metung, a starting point for exploring the Gippsland Lakes.

Next is Bruthen, a small rustic village overlooking the Tambo River with its very own brewery ... be sure to get refreshed by an energizing ale before you leave to explore any further. Departing from Bruthen, drive towards NowaNowa and Lakes Entrance and watch the daily catch being unloaded ... or cast a line yourself.

Lively Bairnsdale

Bairnsdale would be your last stop before Metung. It has everything that you need to sustain you for some time. On the banks of the Mitchell River, Bairnsdale was originally settled as an inland port.

In Bairnsdale you can attend a musical and sporting event, or enhance your hunger for further exploration of the impressive Gippsland Lakes network by roving the Mitchell River silt jetties that extend five miles into nearby Lake King.

Explore the Majestic Lakes

The Gippsland Lakes system happens to be the biggest expanse of inland waterways in the southern hemisphere. With five main lakes, fed by the waters of four major rivers, and with over 400 square kilometres of lakesand lagoons have made this region an ideal location for all forms of water based fun and sport, and an exceptional fishing spot.

With that you're off to Metung, a picturesque village on the shores of Bancroft Bay and Lake King. The Great Alpine Road trip ends in Metung. Check out the harborside restaurants that serve fabulous local seafood and wine, spend a day in a relaxed pace by floating around in a boat or take a stroll along the water's edge admiring the sunset.

Side trips

Alternate route from Bright

An alternative route turns off at Bright and continues to the Tawonga Gap, Mt Beauty, Bogong, Falls Creek and across the Bogong High Plains, then joins to Anglers Rest and Omeo. This road remains closed in winter. This road will amaze you with breath-taking views of historic cattleman’s huts, before connecting with the Omeo Highway to descend into Omeo.

[Read Our Previous Blog on The Great Alpine Road Drive : Leg 1]

Bogong Alpine Way

Bogong High Plains Road loops through Bright, Mount Beauty, Bogong, Falls Creek, Dinner Plain and Mount Hotham and back to Bright. This loop drive can amaze you with scenery like nothing else. We can bet that you’ll spend the rest of your life admiring every single sight from this loop drive.

Buchan Caves Reserve worth a stop

From Bruthen a scenic 20-minute drive takes you to Buchan, the gateway to the Buchan Caves Reserve that offers camping, bushwalking and wildlife spotting. Inside the caves you’ll find spectacular limestone formations. Guided tours take you for an easy walk through these ancient caverns, exploring beautiful calcite-rimmed pools. On a hot summer take a plunge in the underground, spring fed Buchan Caves Reserve pool, with the purest water you can imagine.

Take a Detour to Cassillis

An alternative route from Omeo to Bairnsdale is through Cassillis, a small town that was once a thriving mining community. Explore the picturesque valley on foot and see relics of the gold-mining era, including the unmissable Oriental Claims walking trails, the Cassilis Cemetery and the old goldmine.

The Great Alpine Road Drive : Leg 1

The Great Alpine Road has been described as one of the most scenic drives in the world. The 200 mile adventure along Australia's highest year-round accessible sealed road takes you close to Victoria's diverse landscapes. Drive through lofty mountain ranges, down plunging valleys, into lush forests, and past rolling vineyards along the way to the sparkling waterways on Gippsland's coast. Dine on fresh local produce and award winning cool climate wines, or catch your own lunch in a mountain stream or lake as you go.

Whatever the season, you can be sure of breath-taking views, outstanding scenery and warm welcomes along the way.

We’ll discuss the possibilities of this road trip in two legs so that you can make the most of it.

Leg one:- The Great Alpine Road

Wangaratta to Bright (76 km/47 miles, about 1 hour)

Start your trip in friendly Wangaratta, with its beautiful gardens, period homes and love of music. If you're a music lover, then time your visit for the annual November jazz festival, when the city really kicks up.

Time to Make Mouth-watering Memories

Without wasting time getting acquainted with the fine wine and local produce in the valleys of the northern side of the Great Alpine Road, consider the spectacular scenery with crisp mountain air.

At Milawa, stop over at the celebrated Brown Brothers Epicurean Centre and Cellar Door, and sample your way through Milawa Cheese Factory. The historic Rutherglen, famous for its muscats and fortifieds, has been revamped with new life as bold young winemakers pour new life into it.

Take a detour to Beechworth, a village built on the wealth of the gold rush of the 1800s, exploring the historic honey granite buildings. To get a taste of Beechworth's booming food and wine scene, try for a reservation at the much-admired Provenance. Otherwise, you can also munch on fabulous pizza and sip on beer at famous Bridge Road Brewers.

Adventuring in the Alpine

Travel onwards to Mount Buffalo National Park and get stunned by its unique rock formations. A gentle walk takes in waterfalls, granite formations and lookouts with great views of the Australian Alps. You can be more extreme by heading out on horseback or by hiring a bicycle. Rock climbers will be in their element at the summit of Mount Buffalo. This is also popular for cross-country or downhill skiing in winter.

Ending the Leg

This leg ends at Bright, a beautiful town on the Ovens River, filled with grand deciduous trees that are breathtaking in autumn. Mark the first stage of your drive with a memorable meal at Simone's, one of Victoria's most celebrated restaurants.

[Read Our Previous Blog on Driving The Great Ocean Road ]

Side trips along Great Alpine Road

Golden Heritage Drive

From Wangaratta to Tarrawingee, you'll take in Tarrawingee's historic buildings, including St Peter's church, the Plough Inn and Carinya House. Then turn to Beechworth and Wooragee to see the 30-plus beautifully preserved National Trust-classified buildings and places of significance to the legend of bushranger Ned Kelly. On your way towards Yackandandah and Myrtleford, walk the tree lined streets of Yackandandah with its stately Victorian architecture.

Gourmet Food and Wine Drive

From Wangaratta drive towards Milawa via Oxley, at the heart of the famed Milawa Gourmet Region. Here you can taste fine wines at cellar doors, including the renowned Mediterranean styles of the nearby King Valley. Sample outstanding local produce, experience the hospitality of award-winning country hotels and fine dining restaurants. Don’t forget to pull over at farm gates to stock up on seasonal bounty. From here you can loop back to Wangaratta or move on to Myrtleford and beyond.

Mount Buffalo Drive

From Myrtleford, drive 24 km along B500 towards Porepunkah. Break your journey with a tasty pub meal at the Ovens Hotel, serving tourists since 1854. Then move to C535 to Mount Buffalo for the top of Mount Buffalo Gorge to take in fantastic views of the High Country and the Alps. You can also follow numerous walking tracks for even more majestic panoramas. In winter, get the adrenaline pumping by hiring cross country or downhill skis. The summers are for indulging in adventure activities.

Tips for Saving $ 'Down-Under' : Part 2

In the previous blog we suggested 5 ways to save money while travelling in Australia. Here we've jotted down five more ways to make the most of your dollars.

[Read our previous blog : Tips for Saving $ 'Down-Under' : Part 1]

6. Consider sharing a ride on a long road trip :

From Alice Springs to Darwin, a 3-day journey of 1,000 miles can cost you only $60 per head if you share your ride using Gumtree or Coseats. Many tourists and locals share their ride to save on fuel costs ... and for fun conversation on the way.

BTW, if you're getting your own transport try to plan ahead and get the tanks full on Wednesday, as the price of fuel seems lowest mid-week. On weekends fuel prices creep up due to demand.

7. Look for free internet :

Budget-conscious travelers may find fast internet painfully expensive in Australia, and the network frustratingly slow. If you don't mind 'getting-what-you-pay-for', head towards the nearest library or McDonalds for free Wi-Fi . Telstra also offers public hotspots in many town centres across the country ... now including both Darwin and Noosa. Be aware that public WiFi is not secure, and 'free' networks often come with time or download restrictions. 

Telstra customers can get this Wi-Fi access for 'free' by purchasing a pre-paid SIM. Packages start from $30 AUD per month.

8. Try drinking Goon :

The infamous Goon or box wine is the best way to get a cheap buzz. A 'box' of goon typically costs $13 AUD.

If you're going to a restaurant, check if they allow outside drink. In many restaurants, you can bring your own drink.

9. Book your tours as a package :

Booking trip activities as a part of a package may get you discounts. While booking activities individually may make them private ... it may cost you more.

10. Refill your water bottle :

Tap water is clean and safe to drink in Australia. So instead of spending 2-3 AUD for each bottle, refill the existing one from nearby public taps. You'll also 'do-your-bit' for the environment.

Tips for Saving $ 'Down-Under' : Part 1

It's an undeniable fact that Australia can be an expensive place in which to travel. Locals will tell you that it’s an expensive country to live too - even if you're a full-time employee. However, despite its posh culture, around 6 million tourists visit Australia every year - a large number considering the Australian population is only 23 million.

While Australia maybe different in terms of number of regulations, high cost-of-living, first world status, and levels of development, the land 'down-under' is still a wild and incredible place to make your vacation a memorable one.

In this article, we’ve listed a few ways to save money while travelling in Australia. With these easy ways at your fingertips, you can be rest assured that you can make the most of your time and money - esp. if you're on an 'extended' trip.

1. Cook your own food:

Food is something that you can’t avoid at least 3 times a day. Food prices here might seem extortionate compared to other countries, still there are ways you can save a few bucks. The easiest way is to buy groceries and cook at your convenience. Usually dinner is costlier than lunch.

Try restaurants that are located 'off-the-beaten-track' as restaurants in prime tourist locations can be pricey.

BTW, if you really want to splash, plan ahead, as on Tuesdays many restaurants, and cafes have special deals. You’ll get set meals for as little as $10 AUD. So, plan your evenings out on Tuesday to save money without missing out much.

2. Sign-up for a Gumtree account:

Everything from where to stay, giving or taking a lift, buying or selling items from surfboards to cars, you’ll need a Gumtree account. It really helps. As soon as you get to Australia, get an account and use it as a duct tape.

3. Try to shop at farmers-markets and save the receipts of supermarkets:

Due to lack of competition, supermarkets can be a bit expensive, but at farmers markets you can bag yourself a cheaper load of veggies. Almost all towns have markets full of independent traders who sell local harvest at least once a week. For example, Noosa Farmer’s Market, held every Sunday is a favorite and firm hit with residents and tourists alike. So, go on and bag a bargain helping the local community at the same time.

Moreover, if you shop at supermarkets like Woolworths and Coles, don't throw away the receipts. You’ll get a discount voucher for their requisite fuel or liquor supplier with every $30 spent. So, its worth holding onto the receipts to grab a deal.

4. Try to explore the national parks as much as possible:

Australia has hundreds of national parks and state forests across the country that offer an array of free activities like hiking, fishing, picnicking. Many national parks have basic and cheap camping facilities ranging from free to $20 per night. The camp sites can be booked through the state park authority by phone or online.

Our favorites include Cape Range National Park, Whitsundays National Park, Kakudu National Park, Carnarvon Gorge National Park, and Boodjamulla National Park. All you need is your own transport and a good number of provisions. Most of the campsites have cheap but top notch facilities like picnic areas, BBQ spots, drinking water and even showers.

[Our previous blog : Top 10 Marine Encounters 'Down-Under' : Part 2]

5. Use Travelcard for transportation:

In city transportation, cost can be saved by using travelcards. Travelcards are the cheapest way to travel in the city using public transport. In Sydney you can use tap-on/tap-off OpalCards, in Melbourne  it's called Myki, in Perth it’s the Smart Rider and in Brisbane its Translink, whatever city you visit, using these pre-paid travelcards can give you discounted rides.

5 more tips on saving money are coming on the next blog (PART 2) ... Visit Us again.

Top 10 Marine Encounters 'Down-Under' : Part 2

In our previous blog, we listed five thrilling marine encounters you can experience while holidaying in Australia. Here are five more: 

You'll be mesmerized by the intensity of the adventures and, unlike safaris where the action may be going on at a distance, here you’ll certainly be part of it.

1.  Cage-diving with great white sharks: Neptune Islands, South Australia

Apparently, being in the water while two 4.5-meter sharks buffet the metal cage in which you stand, can be the most adrenaline-flooded fifteen minutes of your life. You’ll emerge with nothing but admiration for this key-stone predator's power ... and returning divers to the Neptune Islands, are encouraged by the increasingly healthy population of great whites.

There are many great operators that run cage-diving expeditions from Port Lincoln, with 2-night trips from $1,395.

2.  Swimming with dwarf minke whales: Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

This expedition is only possible during a very narrow window in June and July each year. Only one operator, Eye to Eye Marine Encounters, operates 4-6 day expeditions that include swimming with dwarf minke whales.  During this trip, you’ll also have time to explore the northern Great Barrier Reef, Cooktown and Lizard Island, diving and snorkeling some of the least spoiled parts of the reef. 

However, the star attractions are obviously the inquisitive dwarf minke whales that tend to gather in groups of up to 15 around swimmers holding onto a "Minke Line" at the back of the boat. Interacting with these giant creatures up-close is a once-in-lifetime opportunity.

Eye to Eye Marine Encounters offers four dwarf minke whales trips in June/July that cost from $2,950.

3. Diving with manta rays: Stradbroke Island, Queensland

There is no more graceful sight than that of manta rays gliding through the ocean ... and diving off Stradbroke Island is like being in the midst of a manta ballet.  During their November to March migration, just a 10-minute boat ride from Straddie, is a 'manta ray cleaning station'. As the rays hover in clear 35' water, small fish rid them of parasites, and divers and snorkelers can get a great, close-up vision of the giants. Kneeling in the shadow of a manta and looking up at its 10' wingspan can certainly form an engrained memory.

Double dives start at $131 and snorkelling from $35.

[Read the Previous Blog : Top 10 Big Marine Creature Encounter Down-Under Part 1]

4. Diving with leafy sea-dragons: Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Appearing like something out of medieval legend, yet as tiny and fragile as tissue wafting in the swell, the leafy sea dragon is a touching sight.  An encounter with one, on Kangaroo Island, will remain etched in memory, in spite of the sea dragon’s leafy camouflage making it hard to find among the seaweed.

Single guided dives start from $140.

5. Swimming with blue-fin tuna: Port Lincoln, South Australia

Swimming with 60-odd tuna inside a 40' deep show pen anchored in Boston Bay has become one of South Australia's must-do experiences.  If it's not a big enough thrill to swim among juvenile bluefin tuna reaching speeds of 40 mph, for an even more heart pounding experience, apparently you can hand-feed them sardines ... trusting of course that the 30-kilo fish don't clatter into you.

This tuna encounter will cost you around $90 for adults and for $60 for kids.

Top 10 Marine Encounters 'Down-Under' : Part 1

snorkelingwithwhalesharks

Personally, I'd pay you a lot of money NOT to swim with anything larger than me ... but there are many travelers who do not share my view.

Whether it be discovering a secret food and wine trail, taking a memorable road trip, enjoying a music tour ... or meeting some of the planet’s largest creatures, being surrounded by oceans, Australia offers some of the best opportunities to encounter stunning marine life.

In any up-close meeting with marine life, using a tour operator capable of delivering memorable (and safe) experiences is very important. 

In this two part blog, we’ll be talking about the 'where' and 'when' of marine creature encounters that you can experience 'down under'.

1. Snorkelling with Whale Sharks: Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

Your first encounter with whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef is a heart-jolting moment.  If you wish to be dropped into the path of an open mouthed whale shark, all you need to do is travel to Ningaloo Reef ... oh, and have a strong and healthy heart.

Ningaloo's whale shark season runs from April to July, and Exmouth-based tour operators use spotter planes to ensure success.

King's Ningaloo Reef day-tours cost $385 for adults, and $270 for children.

2. Swimming with Humpback Whales: Hervey Bay, Queensland

Hervey Bay is a resting place for mothers and calves on their migration south. Only one operator has permission from National Parks to offer a 'swim-with- humpbacks' experience. It's available for an additional $75 on whale watching trips and relies on a combination of curious humpbacks circling the boat and suitable sea conditions.

Even if you're unable to get into the water it's very difficult to be disappointed when you get within touching distance of huge humpbacks as they pass under the boat.

Quick Cat II whale watching tours run daily from Hervey Bay and Kingfisher Bay resort, between August and late October, from $110 for adults and $70 for children.

3. Swimming with Sea Lions: Baird Bay, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia

It's difficult to beat the sheer joy of swimming with the ocean's cutest combination of a puppy and a kitten. It’s hard not to giggle when you are in the water with a dark-eyed, whiskery snouted juvenile performing aquatic acrobatics. Moreover, it’s privilege to swim with these endangered species with a population of only fifteen thousand.

The tour often also includes a swim with bottlenose dolphins and plenty of time in the shallow, protected waters inside Jones Island playing with sea lions.

The tours cost around $150 for adults, $75 for children. 

[Read Our Previous Blog : Great Barrier Reef Drive]

4. Diving with Grey Nurse Sharks: Seal Rocks, New South Wales

While fierce-looking with a stack-full of gnarly, twisted teeth, the grey nurse sharks are harmless. They aggregate at a few locations along the eastern shores, including Seal Rocks, near Forster on the NSW mid-north coast. It's not uncommon to see around 50-60 grey nurse sharks in one underwater trench beside submerged boulders.  The tour in double boat dives at Seal Rocks will cost $120-$180. 

5. Swimming with Bottlenose Dolphins: Nelson Bay, NSW

With all other heart-boggling possibilities around the shores, one can easily underestimate the exhilaration of swimming with wild dolphins.  But we bet that you’ll always remember your first swim with bottlenose dolphins in Nelson Bay.

We'd call them the most amusing marine creature ... and they'll leave you astounded by their amazing friendly interaction. You're bound to feel part of their pod as they zip through the ocean, riding the waves and emitting loud, joyful squeaks and clicks underwater.

Tours run between September and May, in Port Stephens Marine Park, from $289.                                                                  

... to be continued

Great Barrier Reef Drive

Embracing two World Heritage areas, the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef Drive is an envious rival of the Great Ocean Road drive. The drive is just 80 miles long that you can take a full-day exploring ... or stop over in a few places to make it a week-long drive. The choice is yours. But make sure that you don’t run out of time, as Cape Tribulation is the crown of this majestic drive and you need 3-4 days just to explore all it has to offer.

Here’s route map that you can follow however long you choose;

Cairns to Cape Tribulation

Distance 140 km Time 2 h 38 min

Start from Cairns heading north across the Barron River to the stunning beaches of Trinity Beach, Palm Cove and Ellis Beach. Then drive along the edge of the Coral Sea to Port Douglas, an ideal place for cruising to the Great Barrier Reef.

Port Douglas is also the gateway to the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, the Daintree. Cross the Daintree River on the cable ferry for a leisurely drive through ancient rainforest, as you wind your way past pretty beaches to Cape Tribulation where the rainforest meets the reef. Head north to the beautiful Mossman Gorge to discover the Kuku Yalanji people. Take a crocodile spotting tour, fish for barramundi, follow a food trail, or marvel at the incredible birdlife. Turn your journey into a rainforest adventure.

Palm Cove to Port Douglas

Distance 43 km Time 42 min

To the north of Cairns, Palm Cove and Port Douglas are cosmopolitan beachside villages linked by a spectacular section of the Great Barrier Reef Drive. With its long sandy beach lapped by the Coral Sea and a backdrop of rainforest-clad mountains, Palm Cove has the perfect setting for an intimate getaway. Everything is within walking distance in this friendly village.

Driving north pass through pretty Ellis Beach. Stop at a deserted beach along the Rex Lookout for an incredible 180-degree view of the Coral Sea that just begs a photograph.

Port Douglas is known as the place where A-list celebrities escape. This village has an eclectic range of restaurants, great boutiques and the iconic Four Mile Beach.

Port Douglas to Daintree village

Distance 55 km Time 47 min

The Port Douglas and Daintree region is the traditional country of the Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people who call the Wet Tropical Rainforest their home for a thousand years.

To the south is the Mossman Gorge with steep mountains, thick with rainforest where the Mossman River is dipping over the Gorge’s gigantic granite boulders that makes clear freshwater swimming holes. 

[Our Previous Blog : What Are 5 Common Characteristics Of Travelers To Australia?]

Daintree village to Cape Tribulation

Distance 48 km Time 1 h 15 min

The picturesque township of Daintree Village is famous for the resident saltwater crocodiles that live on Daintree river-banks. You can try to find Scarface, Fat Albert or Gummy on cruises that depart regularly. If you are inclined to eat croc-meat, try a croc burger or croc san choy bow at one of the cafes.

Further, venture over the river on the cable ferry exploring the Daintree region. On this journey through the world’s oldest tropical rainforest see an endangered cassowary, be dwarfed by an ancient king fern or swim in a clear freshwater creek.

It's an awesome experience to march straight to the beach from the rainforest, at Cape Tribulation. Explore the coastal reef by kayak spotting turtles and dugongs, enjoy a night tour watching nocturnal animals by flying through the rainforest awning on a flying fox.

Things you’ll see on The Great Barrier Reef Drive:

·         The Great Barrier Reef

·         The Daintree Rainforest

·         The endangered cassowary

·         Lots of stunning beaches

·         huge salt water crocodiles

[More on GBR : 10 Ways To Indulge And Explore The Great Barrier Reef]

What are 5 common characteristics of travelers to Australia?

Without any doubt, potential travelers first develop a bond with the country to which they will travel.

That said, every traveler is unique ... and then very particular about their travel experiences in Australia.

Admittedly, based on anecdotal experience with our North American clients, five common characteristics applying to leisure travelers to Australia (... beyond carrying a passport):

1. They’re generally experienced international travelers. i.e. Australia tends NOT to be their first travel foray.

2. What makes client itineraries so similar is that all travelers are so different. While climbing Sydney’s Harbor Bridge, marveling at the Opera House, shopping and dining in Melbourne, diving the Great Barrier Reef, enjoying an Uluru Sounds of Silence outback dinner, savoring South Australia, indulging Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, and Western Australia get plenty of well-deserved play, what makes all itineraries so similar, is that they’re all so different!  

Specific requests as diverse as ‘… can we abseil in the Blue Mountains? …’ to ‘… can I experience the Great Barrier Reef without getting my hair wet? …’ attest to the differences. (BTW, the answers to both questions are YES, and YES).

3. Most clients are very well informed, and know what they want. However, a common complaint is that while online information maybe very plentiful, accessing seemingly unbiased info is now akin to ‘drinking-from-a-fire-hose’.

4. Most travelers are open to experiences we may suggest. Many look for unique itineraries and won’t hesitate to plan 'outside-the-box'.

5. Primary motivations are unique. Some travelers wish to relax at the beach, some come for a musical tour, some to indulge in food and wine, some to experience adventure and wildlife ...

[Also Read : Should I Include New Zealand In My 'Down-Under' Itinerary ? ]