Travel Agent Review, by Kevin Dupuis
It was just me, my girlfriend and our tablet (LOL thank gawd for those!) visiting Australia for two glorious weeks this spring. We decided we wanted something different from our usual all-inclusive vacations, and this was truly the trip of a lifetime. We really wanted to see the Great Barrier Reef, and fortunately we were able to visit my girlfriend’s family in the Golden Coast area while we were there.
We stayed in three hotels:
- 5 nights at the 3* Menzies Hotel in Sydney – great location and good value.
- 3 nights at the 4* Hotel Grand Chancellor Brisbane — it was a bit far from the city, but still walkable.
- 4 nights at the Holiday Inn in Cairns, which was a great hotel, close to everything.
Honestly, the only hotel I’d change was the Grand Chancellor, the other two were perfect. All in all, the rooms were all fairly large (bigger than Europe for sure) and they had king-size beds with large balconies. The rooms were very clean and the customer service staff at all the hotels were very helpful with recommendations for tours, restaurants and transportation.
If I had to compare cities, I’d say that Sidney is truly the Toronto of down under, with lots of nightlife, action and entertainment. Brisbane was like the Ottawa of Australia featuring more artsy, historical neighbourhoods. Fortunately, it’s just a quick drive back to the beautiful beaches of the golden coast.
We visited a few different beaches. The golden coast was a surfers paradise with nice powdery sand and awesome waves. Bondi beach, in Syndey, also had great sands and waves — great for surfers, not so much for swimmers.
My absolute favourite spot was Cairn, what I consider a tropical paradise. There, you can go diving, snorkelling and shopping, and enjoy tons of great dining options. If I had it to do over again, I probably would have stayed in Cairn longer.
For $75, you can take the Great Barrier Reef tour, where you can go snorkelling. And you have the option to take a boat in to the reef and fly out in a helicopter — or vice versa. There are a lot of different companies offering similar tours, so I recommend shopping around for this one before committing.
More Fun Day Trips!
Jet boating on the ocean — this was a blast! Sixty bucks per person buys you 45 minutes of extreme jet boating with 360-degree turns and jumps — you will get WET!
We took the Blue Mountain/Feartherdale Wildlife Park tour for $100 per person, which was a full day – well worth the price. We got to see koalas, kangaroos and platypuses, and visited the famous Three Sisters mountains. We stopped at Featherdale Park and actually got to pet the koalas!
And we went to the Toranga Zoo (which was $60 per person), as well as a small bird sanctuary, where I fell victim to a feeding frenzy!
We took the Brisbane River tour, which was $30 per person. It was a really easy going two-hour tour which explained the history of the area and the big floods that happened a few years ago. Definitely a must if you really want to learn about the area.
Another amazing excursion was the Hot air ballooning in Cairns, which was $200 per person for four hours. You wake up early for this one to see the gorgeous Australian sunrise. It’s a calm morning drift into the clouds as you want the sun come up. There are about 10 people per balloon, so you get to share the experience with some new friendly faces.
The food, overall, was fine. If you can stay away from the touristy spots, prices are reasonable. I tried kangaroo and alligator — that was pricey, but definitely worth it! Some other words of advice, expect delays, especially when taking several connecting flights (we had an 8-hour delay on the way home). Pack lots of snacks for the 20+ hour flight, and make sure you’re dressed comfortably!
If you’re planning a trip to Australia, I recommend spending 3 weeks, as you will lose several days recovering from jet lag. If you’d like more information about my trip, or want to plan your own Australian getaway, give me a shout at 1-800-665-4981 ext. 7374 or email me directly at email@example.com.