Recently we took a flight from our home in Vancouver, Canada to Melbourne, Australia to do this 3 week “Grand Australia & New Zealand” land tour with Tauck so we could report back to you about it…
…it’s a dirty job but someones gotta do it! LOL
Below are our “in person” (not read to you from a glossy booklet) highlights so you can see for yourself whether you’d like to take this trip or not.
We recon you may be booking your trip VERY SOON after seeing all our pictures and videos… just saying! 🙂
“What is a trip to the DOWN UNDER of Australia & New Zealand like?”
Read on below to find out and also be sure to have a look at our Australia & New Zealand Pictures & Video Gallery and make sure to read the captions below those picture & videos for more golden nuggets of information.
Here are the Highlights:
We flew into Melbourne a day early before our official trip with Tauck started to rest, to get over the jet lag and to be sure that we were on time- you know from other blog posts we highly recommend arriving to your start City early since air travel can be so unpredictable! Pretty much weekly we have clients somewhere in the World miss a flight connection due to delays, cancellations, maintenance issues, strikes, etc. & end up late into their arrival City… luckily, most of them take our advice & arrive early!!
When we arrived into Melbourne a private driver, in his sparkling Cadillac, picked us up from the airport (compliments of Tauck, they always include this on your arrival and departure days) and then it was a quick 20 minute drive to the lovely “Langham Hotel” located in one of the best locations in the city.
Make sure to come in early as the Langham Hotel sits by the waterfront promenade that is alive with street entertainers, small markets and lined with shopping and dining… Melbourne is a very walkable & safe city!
See a few pictures we took from our many walk abouts in Melbourne:
TIP: Coming in early to Melbourne?
Try these “casual” but hidden gem foodie establishments that locals clammer over and are not far from the hotel:
ShanDong MaMa Mini for dumplings…
Stalactites Restaurant for Greek…
and to stay in theme and taste Australian specialties, try:
Princes Pies and then…
…for a sweet treat, look in any of the many bakeries for what locals call “Lamington” cake.
Our first evening with Tauck we met everyone (our small group of 20 which is the best way to travel) during open bar drinks & appies at our “Welcome Reception” followed by a delicious “Welcome Dinner”.
(As we’ve said in other posts, when we travelled with other Land Tour companies our first night was “go get dinner on your own/see you tomorrow for the start of touring” so it’s GREAT that Tauck always starts things off on the right foot with this included event!!)
Here we are with a little bubbly in hand… note: this is the dressiest we got the entire trip and 3 weeks later we wore it again at the Farewell function as the rest of the trip was very casual!
We really had a nice time during our 2 days in Melbourne with our Tauck group where we enjoyed our Welcome Cocktail party & Dinner, we did a small group walking tour of their famous Alleys & Arcades, we visited the “Queen Victoria Market”, we went to the “Royal Botanic Gardens”, etc.!
After Melbourne we then took our first, of six, PRIVATE Charter Flights for just the 20 of us… it was AWESOME!!
Later in this blog post we go into more detail about these flights which were one of the MAIN reasons we chose this tour… due to their time savings we saw A LOT of things in these countries we couldn’t have otherwise with other Land Tour companies or if we had done a Cruise! But more on that later. 🙂
Our first Private Charter Flight took us to stay at…
“Ayers Rock” for an Overnight Stay
It’s in the middle of Australia in the desert called “Uluru” better known as “Ayers Rock”… AKA: the heart of Australia.
This massive sandstone rock is sacred to indigenous Australians and is thought to have started forming around 550 million years ago!!
After a visit to the site’s informative Welcome Centre, that evening, we went to the “sunset strip” to sip cocktails and were one of the few to be served canapés & drinks from a white linen cloth table (see pic below) as we watched the changing of the colours on Ayers Rock at sunset. We were Spoiled for sure!! 🙂
The next morning we got “up close” as we did a walk around the base of the rock and got some incredible commentary from our fantastic guide who reminded us of the late Steve Irwin who had the same enthusiasm.
Fun Facts: Ayers Rock, we found out, would take us (fast walkers) around 2 hours to walk around the entire 6 mile/10 km base… it is taller than the Eiffel Tower at it’s peak AND it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site… it’s truly a MASSIVE & IMPRESSIVE site!!
Here are a few pics from our evening and morning visits to “Ayers Rock”:
From Cairns, Australia we took a Ranger Guided “Daintree Rain Forest” Cableway & Interpretive Walk:
After our 24 hour visit to Ayers Rock, we took another Private chartered flight to Cairns (pronounced “cans”) in Northern Australia (we stayed 3 nights up here) where we took the “SkyRail” Cableway over the world’s oldest tropical rainforest and did an interpretive walk with a Ranger who impressed us with his knowledge.
What makes this forest SO special is that it is 140 Million years old with more species of pre-historic plants than anywhere else in the world!!
What a great visit…
For our next day in Northern Australia we got to choose one of these enticing options…
Snorkelling OR Diving at the infamous “Great Barrier Reef”, a Spa Treatment at our Gorgeous Resort OR a Helicopter Ride over the“Great Barrier Reef”
As we’d never been to the “Great Barrier Reef” we chose to do a snorkelling tour there.
FYI, there were two options for snorkelling… let us explain.
If you are nervous in water and would like to do a little snorkelling plus you want to relax and read a book or people watch, then the “Quicksilver Catamaran” snorkel is for you.
BUT if you are comfortable snorkelling (you don’t have to be a pro or swim well, just be comfortable snorkelling and you want to do lots of it) then the Snorkelling/Diving on the “Silversonic Adventure Boat” is the better choice for you!
There are less people, no small kids and there is a step down platform to swim off of and floatations such as lifejackets and noodles are provided so you can just glide on top of the water easily.
If none of that appeals, you can take a Helicopter ride over the reef or choose a spa treatment at the resort.
We chose Snorkelling on the “Silversonic” boat. We had a GREAT time that day!! 🙂
OPTIONAL: Hot Air Balloon Ride over Atherton Table Lands:
Never been for a Balloon ride before but want to ty it? It is fascinating and a whole bunch of fun. Check out our pictures to get a feel– FYI, this was an optional excursion with Tauck, it cost $239 USD per person.
**For seasoned riders, Please See our “Tips” section below on whether we would recommend this tour for you or not.
.Crocodile Farm Visit:
This was so fun! From the moment we arrived, all of our “mini-tours” at Hartley’s were exclusive to Tauck which made the experience that much better!
We got to have a private viewing & hold a python snake and baby salt water crocodile while learning about them- and we were not rushed.
Then we got up close and interactive with kangaroos. We were able to pet them, feed them and took lots of pictures with them.
Our Tauck group were the only people in the enclosure so we had lots of time, space and interaction.
After that, we took a private boat tour where we got to see different birds and the Captain fed the crocodiles so they came out of the water so we could see and photograph them.
Then we had a private crocodile feeding show with a BIG 11 foot male who showed off his agility and strength. Plus the crocodile expert answered all our questions and had lots of fun facts about crocodiles for us. Fascinating!
After that, we were treated to a Super Yummy water-side lunch… ever have a Crocodile stare at you while eating! :-)… and then we had the option to purchase a photo holding a cute 2 year old Koala bear which we took advantage of.
See our pictures of our time at the farm:
Arriving to Sydney, Australia we took a Scenic “Sydney Harbour” Boat ride:
After our 3 night stay in the Cairns region it was time for our 3rd Private Charter flight while in Australia where we flew to Iconic Sydney!!
To get our first taste of Sydney we were treated to a Private “Captain Cook” catamaran cruise for our small group with commentary while we sailed around the famous Sydney Harbour.
We had tea, coffee, Scones, Jam & cream too while we snapped pictures for each other and enjoyed the magnificent views- especially as we went under the bridge and past the iconic Opera House…
Then, if that wasn’t enough, we took a…
Foodie & History Tour of Sydney:
We ate our way around Sydney during our first day there and it was so much fun!! 🙂 We drove by Coach to each restaurant and got to see places in the city we wouldn’t have otherwise and had a mini walking tour too.
Tip: Eat a light breakfast or even skip it this morning as on the boat tour first thing in the morning, scones with tea and coffee are offered which is plenty food as you want to be hungry for the “foodie” tour shortly after…
We had some asian food in “Spice Alley”: dumplings, fried chicken & a sticky rice dessert. We had a tasty seafood sampler at the “Sydney Fish Market”, stopped at famous “Harry’s” for “Tiger” meat pie -yum yum, we went to the “Old Fitzroy” Pub for 3 delicious beer tastings & had a stop at “Messina” for their delicious Gelato where you got to pick from 40 different kinds…
We both had the salted caramel with white chocolate which we “highly” recommend…