A visit “Down Under” isn’t complete without the natural splendors of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the gems of cosmopolitan Sydney. Revel in the myriad colors and vibrant life of the Great Barrier Reef ... Stroll along iconic Sydney Harbour and discover its fascinating history ... This trip combines the best of both worlds.
- It's Included:
- Airfare between Wellington and Cairns, and Cairns and Sydney
- Accommodations for 3 nights in Port Douglas and 3 nights in Sydney
- 8 meals—6 breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 1 dinner
- 3 small group activities
- Services of a resident, English-speaking OAT Trip Leader
- NEW for 2015: Gratuities for local guides, drivers, and luggage porters
- All transfers
Today we conclude our Pure New Zealand adventure and begin our journey to the Great Barrier Reef, located off the northeastern coast of Australia. Our OAT Trip Leader, who has been with us throughout our New Zealand trip, continues with us on our extension.
We transfer to the airport for our flight to Cairns via Sydney or Brisbane. We arrive in Cairns in the evening and transfer by coach to Port Douglas, or “Port,” as the locals warmly refer to it. This will be our home for the next three nights.
After enjoying a leisurely breakfast at our hotel this morning, you have the rest of the day to explore this once sleepy port. Port Douglas' popularity soared during the 1980s as day-trippers and those seeking a new vacation escape began flocking to its shores. Suddenly Port Douglas became a resort town for the wealthy as well as those looking for a new starting point to visit the Great Barrier Reef.
You have a number of options for exploration today. You could take the town shuttle into Port Douglas and visit the Court House Hotel, where live music often plays in the beer garden. There are also numerous shops, cafés, and restaurants to whet your appetite for trinkets and tastes. Or, if it's a weekend, you could peruse the Sunday Markets, with their abundant stalls of fresh fruits, vegetables, craftwork, and clothing. Whatever you decide, the pleasant ambiance of Port Douglas surrounds you today. Let your explorations lead you to an interesting eatery of your choice for dinner.
Or, join our optional Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime Gorge Walk, where an experienced guide will show you how the local aboriginals are connected to the land and the unique wet tropical rainforest.
We depart after breakfast for our Barrier Reef cruise. The Great Barrier Reef is not only the largest reef in the world, but also the largest natural structure made by living creatures. The coral of the reef is formed when tiny organisms, commonly referred to as polyps, create a hard shell for themselves by producing lime. When they die, their shell, or “skeleton,” remains. New polyps then build off of the remaining skeletons to form an even greater expanse of coral. It’s unfathomable to think that this simple process has created a stretch of coral that runs over 6,500 feet in length, and in some areas, more than 1,600 feet thick! Studies have also shown that the majority of the reef dates back over two million years. In addition to the coral, many other forms of marine life thrive off of this environment, forming an intricate and delicate ecosystem.
We experience this natural wonder firsthand as our vessel heads for the Outer Barrier Reef. Since there isn't a "right" way to explore it, you'll be given a range of choices. Our boat will moor at a pontoon that is surrounded by a reef, in which you can swim or snorkel amongst dazzling tropical fish and a wide array of corals. Or, if you wish to observe this spectacular underwater world without submerging yourself, you can view parts of the reef from a semi-submersible vessel, and an experienced guide will point out astonishing sights. There is also an underwater viewing platform underneath the pontoon that will give you a unique view of this astounding landscape under the sea. However you choose to explore, you are in a prime location to experience the Great Barrier Reef's majesty. And in between our undersea adventures, we'll enjoy lunch on board.
Later in the afternoon, we arrive back at the Port Douglas Marina. We transfer to our hotel, where you have the evening free to explore this relaxed seaside town and to scope out a local eatery for dinner.
We fly to Sydney today following a leisurely breakfast. After we transfer to our hotel, our Trip Leader will take us on an orientation walk. The rest of the day is free for you to enjoy the relaxed lifestyle in one of Australia’s most exciting cities. Dinner is on your own tonight.
This morning, we explore Sydney, beginning with The Rocks, one of the first parts of the city to be settled. We continue to Sydney's eastern suburbs, a modern fashion center boasting 19th-century architecture, and Bondi Beach, long known as the "playground of the Pacific" and the center of Australia's robust surfing culture. By mid-day we arrive at the world-famous Sydney Opera House, whose distinctive architecture has made it the city's signature attraction. This visually spectacular performance facility boasts four auditoriums that host symphony concerts, theater productions, and opera. After touring the Opera House, you'll have time for lunch on your own.
In the afternoon, enjoy free time or join us for an optional Sydney Harbour Cruise. We begin at Circular Quay, at the hub of Sydney Harbour, where we'll board our vessel and cruise for over two hours. We'll get striking views of the memorable city skyline as we blend into the perpetual bustle of water-borne activity.
Dinner is on your own this evening.
Today is yours to explore the city. You might want to start by strolling through Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, a beautiful park that showcases the flora of the South Pacific. Founded in 1816 as the “First Farm” of colonial times, it is a humble vegetable plot still maintained here as a piece of living history. There is one site near the gardens that has such wonderfully scenic views that a former governor Macquarie had a seat built here for his wife, and it is now known as Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. Enjoy the scenery from her special vantage point.
Or visit the historic Rocks district. The Rocks boasts some of the oldest buildings in Sydney. Some of the original European settlers camped here amid the rocks of the sandstone ridges, hence the area’s name. Because many of the first Europeans to arrive were exiled convicts, the history of this part of town is unusually colorful. Imagine a Wild West-like collection of bars and houses of ill repute where drunken brawls were common. Today, The Rocks is an amiable neighborhood that invites visitors to stroll its cobblestone lanes and take refreshment in its tearooms.
You can also revisit Circular Quay at the heart of Sydney’s waterfront. Circular Quay is a hub of activity where a constant flow of ferries and water taxis transport commuters and day-trippers to their destinations all around the harbor. You can board a vessel and cruise around Sydney Harbour, getting striking views of the city skyline and the perpetual bustle of water-borne activity. Take in the sights and fragrances of Chinatown, with its characteristic street lanterns and graceful archways. However you spend your day, you’re sure to find your own ways to mingle with “Sydneysiders,” who are not known for being shy.
In the evening we gather together again for our Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant, where we share stories, laughter, and memories from our adventure "Down Under."
This morning, transfer to the airport for your flight home. You'll cross the International Date Line en route and regain the day you lost at the beginning of your trip.