We were married on September 1, 2007 and left on the honeymoon of a lifetime September 16-October 6. We began our discussions of our destination shortly after we got engaged about 10 months prior to our wedding. Everything from Alaska to Thailand was considered but we quickly shifted to Australia and New Zealand. We wanted it to be something unique and not an ordinary vacation and my prerequisite was a great location for photography which is my passion. We decided to spend two weeks in Australia and one week in New Zealand. Best decision we ever made.
We made all arrangements for the honeymoon using miles to purchase the roundtrip tickets. However, we did purchase several internal flights within Australia as well as New Zealand. Total costs for the trip were approximately $7,000 above the airline miles. The Honeymoon Registry was a great addition and folks loved giving these items rather than just cash. We even sent postcards as a thank you to those who bought items off the registry to show them what they had bought.
With a lot of ground to cover in a relatively short time here is our itinerary:
Accommodations: Metro Hotel on Pitt, a boutique hotel located blocks from Darling Harbour and Chinatown. Comments: Nice and fairly new and Darling Harbour was a great location to stay.
Activities: Darling Harbour, Aquarium and Wildlife World, ferry to Taronga Zoo and around entire harbour, photo with koala, dinner at Opera Bar beneath the Opera House. Comments: Aquarium, Wildlife World and Taronga Zoo are must-sees and every zoo should model themselves after these places, unbelievable animal viewing.
Accommodations: Clarion Hotel on the river across from the Crown Casino. Comments: great location, nice rooms, balcony overlooking the river, walking distance from main downtown areas of shopping and restaurants.
Activities: Crown Casino for dinner and gambling, Yarra Valley wine country and lunch at Yering Station and Domain Chandon for wine tasting, dinner at Longrain in Melbourne (Thai cuisine, hip setting, communal seating at long tables), Chill On Bar (an actual ice bar, entry fee with a drink and stay about 30 minutes, great photo op).
Accommodations: Hilltop Apartments in Cowes. Comments: spectacular home, stayed in the bottom apartment overlooking beautiful garden with pond, very new and modern amenities, lovely host, within minutes of everything.
Activities: The Nobbies (area for seal viewing and crashing waves, no seals but great shots of nesting seagulls with chicks), Koala Conservation Center to walk on treetop walkways for great views of koalas in the wild, The Ultimate Penguin Tour where we were with a private tour of 10 people who hiked to a private beach to watch the wild Little Penguins come to shore at night (night vision goggles to watch as penguins passed within feet, amazing experience). Great Ocean Road Drive from Melbourne to Adelaide.
Accommodations: Shearwater Haven B&B nestled at the top of a hill. Comments: Lovely hosts who gave us all sorts of insights and unknown spots for photos, wonderful full cooked breakfast overlooking the valley and beautifully landscaped gardens.
Activities: Great Ocean Road, amazing views as you drive right along the ocean with cliffs on one side and green lush hills with sheep and cattle on the other, many scenic turnouts for photos, Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, The Arch, London Bridge (all rock formation areas near Port Campbell).
Accommodations: Koonara Cottage owned by Koonara Winery, self-contained cottage situated in the heart of the Coonawarra vineyards. Comments: Adorable rustic self-contained cottage, breakfast provisions provided for you to cook, wood burning fireplace.
Activities: Coonawarra wineries.
Accommodations: Adelaide Hills Country Cottages in Oakbank, self-contained stone cottage on several acres, sits on top of hill overlooking pond and valley, breakfast provisions provided, complimentary wine and chocolates, two-person hot tub. Comments: Unbelievable!, best overall place we stayed on our trip, new cottage made to look vintage 1800’s, great location to most everything in the area within 1 hour drive or less, amazing attention to detail and the finest touches made you feel completely at home.
Activities: German settlement of Hahndorf, Barossa wine country.
Accommodations: Mantra Amphora in Palm Cove. Comments: Nice hotel across the street from the beach, spa and pool.
Activities: scuba diving and snorkeling, hot air ballooning in the Atherton Tablelands followed by champagne brunch, Kuranda Rainforestation: rainforest area where we held a koala and got a photo, Army duck ride through rainforest, Kuranda Skyrail that took us 7.5 km over the rainforest back down the mountain to Cairns, Flames of the Forest for dinner and aboriginal show (absolutely fantastic, fine food and wines in the most unique outdoor candlelight setting, transportation provided).
Queenstown, New Zealand
Accommodations: Golfishski House, owner occupied duplex residence perched on top of the mountain overlooking Queenstown. Comments: Amazing views from every room!, 5 minutes from downtown, within 20 minutes of most activities, very nice new residence with hot tub on balcony, sleeps 6 or more.
Activities: Gibbston Valley Winery, bungy jumping at site of first jump (my husband did this not me!), Deer Park Heights to feed the wild animals and see many of the Lord of the Rings sites, flightseeing to Milford Sound followed by a cruise through the fjord, gondola ride to Skyline Restaurant atop the mountain above Queenstown.
You couldn’t have asked for a more perfect trip. Unique experiences, beautiful scenery, action along with relaxation and we melded all of them. A majority of the trip was planned using the tourism websites for both countries which were exceptional but we also had great insider information from friends who had lived in these countries. Found the unique bed and breakfasts and self-contained spaces we were looking for which made our trip that much more memorable. These are two places that should be towards the top of what to do before you die. We were also very happy with the overall flow of the trip. We do wish we would have had more time in New Zealand but it was enough to make us want to go back!