Wonders of Australia

Written by  Maxine Albert

Australia gives visitors a diverse array of exciting offerings, from gourmet cuisine paired with fine wines, to stunning landscapes and top luxury resorts. This vast country with a unique mix of wide open spaces and culturally rich cities deserves a minimum of two weeks to explore and enjoy. Many who go become captivated and come back time and again

Famous sights, renowned restaurants and sizzling nightlife attract travelers from around the globe to this glamorous city. Sydney has it all: an iconic bridge over the beautiful harbor, dazzling opera house, thriving contemporary art scene and splendid beaches.
Chic and sophisticated with a laid back vibe, the city is best experienced on foot. Meander The Rocks, a historic district of cobblestoned streets lined with outdoor cafés, galleries and specialty shops. Oxford Street, the main thoroughfare, bustles with fashion boutiques, nightclubs and lively bars. Stroll the wharf in trendy Woolloomooloo which houses celebrity residences and popular waterfront eateries. Saturday morning, the action is at Sydney’s award winning Carriagework’s Farmers Market. Sample the goodies and you’ll see why.
A 20 minute drive from downtown takes you to famed Bondi Beach where you can sun, swim surf and lunch on delectable seafood at Icebergs. Dining on oysters and roast duck at acclaimed Bennelong inside the Sydney Opera House, followed by a performance of ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ was spectacular!
For another treat, hop a Sydney seaplane to charming 5-star Bells at Killcare Boutique Hotel. Here, amid a picturesque garden setting, I enjoyed a tasty lunch of Italian specialties at Manfredi.
The QT Sydney, located within the State Theatre, may be the coolest hotel in town; women’s legs in sexy red heels form the counter stool pedestals in ground floor café, Parlour Lane. Striking and sassy, rooms are colorfully decorated in a variety of edgy styles. Eclectic flourishes like bowler hats, glass cabinets and martini kits create a whimsical ambiance. Nightly, fashionable locals and guests alike vie for creative cocktails and tasty dishes at always packed Gowlings Bar & Grill. The hotel’s hip spa is seriously superb.
The Langham Sydney, formerly the Observatory Hotel, reopened in December 2014 after a spectacular redo. Located in the back of The Rocks district, it’s light, bright and beautiful. White spacious rooms adorned with turquoise, pink and red accents showcase posh contemporary furnishings. Guests enjoy an elite art collection, personalized concierge and butler service, tennis courts with lessons and Kent Street Kitchen featuring excellent, modern Australian cuisine.

The Great Barrier Reef
The planet’s largest coral system, with remarkable seascapes and marine life, is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world. If you want access to this ravishing reef directly from your luxury beachfront accommodation, Lizard Island is hard to beat. An hour flight from Cairns in Far North Queensland, it’s located right on the Barrier Reef. A member of Luxury Lodges of Australia, it reopened last June after a $45 million renovation that delivers barefoot luxury at its best. Spacious ocean front suites are beachy-chic with large comfy beds and scenic verandas.
Marvel at vivid coral, fish and giant turtles in the water just steps from your room. It’s a diver’s and snorkeler’s dream. You can hop a boat to the outer reef, spa, dine on Australian specialties at outdoor eatery ‘Salt Water’, picnic at one of the resort’s 24 beaches, hike, fish, kayak, paddleboard, or loll however you want in this secluded paradise.
Surrounded by unspoilt beaches and turquoise waters, Hamilton Island, part of the tropical Whitsunday Archipelago, offers another popular getaway in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a veritable aquatic playground with accommodations, restaurants, bars, yacht club, golf course, spa, koala sanctuary plus a large selection of aqua sports and tours to the outer reef. You’ll find the exclusive, adults only Qualia Resort here. It’s also the gateway to Hayman Island’s luxurious One&Only resort, which is great for families.

Getting There
Virgin Australia offers service from the US to major Australian cities, and also domestically within the country. Passengers fly on one of the carrier’s partner airlines and connect in Los Angeles for flights to Australia. The airline features excellent food, fine Australian wine, a large entertainment selection and a professional, attentive staff. Seats in business class are spacious and lie-flat which makes a big difference on long flights.


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