Ever since I was a child I have dreamt of travelling to Australia, and in April that dream came true. The big adventure began with our Qantas Airways flights on their refurbished 747s–good legroom seats, adjustable headrests, edible food and attentive crew.

After a few days’ rest and relaxation in Bali we arrived in the cosmopolitan city of Melbourne. Located on the banks of the river Yarra, we found Melbourne to have a very European “chic” feel to it, with superb restaurants and shopping. The botanical gardens are perfect for a few hours’ quiet contemplation, whilst for a touch of nostalgia, dinner on board the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant is a must!

The adventure continued with a short hop up to Sydney. I shall never forget the complete “wow” factor of that first afternoon in Sydney. Realisation that I was actually on the other side of the world hit me whilst sitting on the quay side, watching life go by in the harbour, as the sun set on the Opera House–just a magical moment. The atmosphere of Sydney is unique–life revolves around the water and businessmen, tourists and locals all live life side by side. There are so many things to see and do in Sydney that I could write pages about it, but three things particularly stay in my mind: take a trip up the Sydney Tower for magnificent views of the city; explore the city from the water on a ferry, launch or cruiser; and visit the northern suburbs around Neutral Bay and Manly. We were also lucky enough to attend a concert by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Opera House–the building really is an awesome structure and the acoustics are just fabulous.

Too soon we had to tear ourselves away from Sydney as we hired a car for a few days and headed west out of the city into the Blue Mountains area. We were not disappointed as the scenery is stunning and if you stay for a night or two like we did, you can enjoy the beauty without the crowds once the tour buses have left for the day or before they arrive! Driving in Australia is so easy–empty roads, air conditioned automatic car, and they drive on the left like at home!

An hour’s flight north to Brisbane took us to our next stop at Surfers Paradise about 50 kilometres south of the city. Although I had read about the shadows cast across the beach in the afternoon by the skyscrapers, I hadn’t quite believed it–but it is true! And yes the surfing here does live up to its name! A short helicopter trip along the coastline is breathtaking and doesn’t cost the earth. This area is perfect for a few days to unwind after a hectic sightseeing schedule, and children will love the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and Seaworld.

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Our last stop on this adventure was Port Douglas, just north of Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef. The town is situated on Four Mile Beach which needs no explanation and is just the most incredible beach you have ever seen! But beware of the jellyfish at certain times of year! As you would expect there are many fantastic seafood restaurants here, and you can take a trip out to do some deep-sea fishing of your own.

Most of the hotels are set just outside the town, but with a shuttle bus operating the loop between hotels, beach, town centre, marina and back again every 20 minutes there is no problem with access. From the marina a huge range of trips out to the Great Barrier Reef is on offer, ranging from large catamarans accommodating 250 people to smaller craft taking 25 people. All are well organised and you can swim, snorkel, learn to dive, use glass bottom boats–whichever you choose it will certainly be a highlight of your trip.

A car is probably the easiest way to explore this part of Queensland–Cairns is only an hour’s drive south from here, don’t miss out on a visit to the Tjapakai Aboriginal Cultural Park or the Skyrail to Kuranda. A beautiful experience is taking a balloon flight at sunrise over the Atherton Tablelands, and for a real taste of adventure head north to Mossman Gorge and into the tropical rainforest–a boat ride on the crocodile infested river is optional!

Our three weeks exploring some of the east coast of Australia soon disappeared, but it certainly was an experience to treasure. However, we only really scratched the surface of what this diverse continent has to offer, and this trip has whetted our appetites to explore some more. Now where are those brochures?…

If you’d like to know more email me: charmaine@hallmarktravel.com

Meet me in the gallery!