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Help! Honeymoon in two weeks in Australia and Need Advice on Where to Go

Help! Honeymoon in two weeks in Australia and Need Advice on Where to Go

May 13th, 2004, 06:35 AM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,501
Atlhorn, Sydney is a stupendous city, and there is way more to it than its beautiful harbour. You need at least 3 full days to do it justice, IMO. You in any case have the pre-paid reservation at the Sydney Harbour Marriott, so that's another valid reason for sticking with Sydney.

I do agree with Alan that, if you decide to go further afield than Sydney, it would be a good idea to ask the Marriott staff ever so nicely if they would let you swap Wednesday night (May 26) for Saturday night (June 5). I think there's a decent chance they'd let you do that.

To state the obvious, this trip is just over 2 weeks away. Would it be too much to assume that your wedding will be taking place between now and then too? If so, you have tons of organising to do! Therefore this situation, more than most, calls for you to keep things simple.

To state another obvious point, you'll be spending many, many hours in planes in order to get to and from Australia. I would think you wouldn't want to spend much additional time in planes over and above that, and you'd want to spend as much of your week as possible actually seeing things on the ground as opposed to flying.

Given all that, I think your best options are some that have been mentioned already:

(1) See Sydney and then places that are within driving distance of Sydney (Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley wineries).

(2) See Sydney and then fly to Cairns. There are two small coastal resort towns north of there that are favourites with travellers. Palm Cove (PC) is about half an hour's drive north of Cairns, and Port Douglas (PD) is about an hour's drive north of Cairns. PD, being the larger of the two, has a little more happening in it, and is perhaps better suited to a return visit to the area. PC, being the smaller, is quieter, more relaxed, and better suited to a honeymoon, I think. Here's a website showing PC's hotels:

http://www.palmcove.net/resort.htm

Plan to go to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) on your first day. If the sea turns out to be too choppy to go out that day, you have a chance of being able to get out the following day.

Two GBR companies that come highly recommended at this discussion board are Wavelength our of Port Douglas and Reef Magic out of Cairns. Both will collect you from, and return you to, your accommodation in Palm Cove. It will take you half an hour to be driven from PC to the boat's departure point. Boat rides to the GBR vary in length from 45 minutes to over an hour, one way. The whole exercise takes the better part of a day, and the trip includes lunch. Snorkeling and/or diving equipment is included.

Snorkeling is said to be the best way to see the reef, from the point of view that coral requires sunlight, so the colourful part of it is at a shallow depth accessible to snorkelers. Some people report that some boats treat scuba divers better than snorkelers. If the boat has both diving and snorkeling passengers, it will go to sites better suited to diving than to snorkeling, and it will get the divers into the water first. Wavelength caters exclusively to snorkelers, and on top of that it takes a maximum of 30 passengers, so its service is said to be top notch.

When my husband and I went to the GBR we knew none of these nuances. We went with Quicksilver on a large boat with a mixture of divers and snorkelers. We were told one of the advantages of the Quicksilver boat was that it was more stable when the sea was a bit choppy, which it was on the July day that we went out. We were too naive to notice if divers were given priority over snorkelers. In hindsight I would say they were. Nonetheless we thought we'd died and gone to heaven, the reef was so stunning.

Plan to take a guided rainforest tour on your second day. As with the GBR tours, the rainforest tour companies collect their passengers from accommodations in PD, PC and Cairns.

Since I've come to Fodors, I've received the impression that the best rainforest tour is the one provided by David Armbrust. It's expensive, but David takes only 4 passengers. Furthermore, he takes his guests not only into the rainforest but also further inland where the landscape is drier and they can get a bit of a feel for the Outback.

Another highly recommended rainforest tour is the Heritage & Interpretive Tour provided by Pete Baxendell. It too is based on small groups (6 people, I think, if I understood the website).

We went with Trek North (10 passengers if I recall correctly), and were very satisfied. We went on a boat ride on the Daintree River, drove through the rainforest to Cape Tribulation, had a lunch that included rainforest fruits, and visited Mossman Gorge.

Although one can drive through the rainforest oneself, an interpretive tour really is worth it. The rainforest and mangrove swap ecosystems are more fascinating if they're well explained.

Hotels in the area are very good about booking day tours for their guests. Just let your hotel know what you want.

That basically is all you'd have time to do in FNQ.

If you visit the GBR and go on a guided rainforest tour, you don't need a car. Shuttle buses take people from Cairns Airport to their accommodations in PC and PD. We didn't have a car in PD, and we didn't miss it at all. Enquire if your hotel includes automatic shuttle serve from and to the airport. If it doesn't, book the shuttle bus when you book your flights to and from Cairns. If you were to stay in the area for longer, I'd recommend a car. Next time we go, we'll get a car, and we'll venture further afield.

The Cairns / Palm Cove / Port Douglas area has a well developed infrustructure that caters to people who want to see the GBR and rainforest. It doesn't require all that much research.

While the islands off the coast of Queensland are gorgeous, it would require more research to pick the one that was just right for you. While this isn't true right across the board, on the whole accommodations on the islands tend to be more expensive than on the mainland. Transferring from the mainland to an island also would require additional time, which is something that is in short supply for you.

For what it's worth, if you insist on going to an island, I agree with those who have been encouraging you to go to one of the more northerly islands. Here's a websites that provides information on Queensland's islands:

http://www.queenslandislands.com/

Hope this helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
May 13th, 2004, 07:52 AM
  #22  
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I am overwhelmed by how detailed everyone's recommendations are. I am still digesting all the information, but very much appreciate the time everyone is taking to help us plan our trip. We actually got married back in February and postponed our honeymoon until late May because we planned on going to Europe and wanted to wait for nicer weather. As mentioned above, a great airfare deal caused us to change all our plans and go to Australia. I have been to Europe several times, my wife has been to Europe and we both always wanted to visit Australia so we find ourself going to Australia at the last second.

Atlhorn is offline  
May 13th, 2004, 08:19 AM
  #23  
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In reviewing my post above, I realized that it could be interpreted that I do not find the posts helpful because they are so detailed. I very much appreciate how detailed everyone is in their recommendations. This is exactly what I need.
Atlhorn is offline  
May 13th, 2004, 08:43 AM
  #24  
 
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The Queensland island website Judy posted above is a great one. In there (under Visitor Info) you will find the costs of transfers to/from Heron Island via helicopter as Alan suggested I do. It's expensive (AU$495 round trip from Gladstone), but could be worth it in terms of convenience, making connections and getting a spectacular view of the reef from the air. As I recall pilots circle the island a time or two so you can take it all in.

And I stick to my guns here...Heron Island is typically lovely in May - as seen on the Queensland Isl website, average temp is 72 F.
RalphR is offline  
May 13th, 2004, 01:46 PM
  #25  
 
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Ok here is another line:
Heron Island is in the sub-tropics and the others are in the Tropics which means that the species of fish and marine life is far greater and more diverse in the tropics than elsewhere.
By flying into Cairns from Sydney - getting a cab to the wharf you can take your pick of about 100 ways to get to a coral cay on the reef. There are literally hundreds of different boats waiting to take you either on a tour or by a self operator . Take one that goes to Michelmas Cay ( spelling?????) which is a coral cay in the middle of the reef. Doesn't take long to get there by high-speed cat.
In terms of surrounding geography and things to do in an area like Cairns, I was referring to be able to see many different places in one day from Cairns i.e. cascade gardens, lake Placid, Atherton tablelands, Kuranda, Daintree, Cape Tribulation, Lava tubes etc etc. When surroundings were mentioned in context with Heron Island Ralph did not mention that Carnarvon Gorge is about 900 Klms from Heron Island, and you can't fly there, Fraser Island is about 400 Klms and no direct flights or any other direct method of getting there, and the local countryside is nothing but brigalow, which is about as boring as you can get. Carnarvon Gorge right now is getting sub-zero temps at night though the days are lovely. If you wish to see my previous suggestions of destinations you will see that I have plugged Carnarvon Gorge on many occasions BUT you need a lot of time to get there and out again.
I think I would, if I had a short time in Australia, just stay around the Sydney/Canberra/Hunter Valley/Southern Highlands & Blue Mountains area as there is enough to do in that area without going anywhere else. But do remember that it will be cold inland ( and that means not far inland as well) so dress accordingly. If you like hiking then the Blue Mountains have some wonderful places to go. You could also get the postal boat on the Hawkesbury ( river about one hour from Sydney) which is a fantastic river and beautiful surrounds for a lovely day trip. If you like oysters then there is a bonus for you there. This could be done en route to the Hunter Valley wineries for instance.
Let Margo, Alan, Neil and the gang advise you on wonderful areas around Sydney for your trip to Australia and spend more time on the ground and less in the air and I can guarantee that with their help you will return with fantastic memories of your trip. There are some beautiful B&Bs in the Blue Mountains from which you could base yourself to see that area.
I know what your climate is like in Atlanta as I stay with friends in one of your many Peachtree Streets there when I am in the US, though I think my friends are going to move seeing that their condo home has been invaded with busy celebs like Janet Jackson, Elton John etc and she can't get out the door without going through a dozen body guards.
The Blue Mountains are not like your Smokey Mountains but they are different and they are a "nature" destination, as is a lot of Australia. Our mountains are only hills in comparison to yours.
I think that you will probably be able to talk to the Marriot and have your stay changed. Perhaps Canberra has a sister hotel in which you could spend one of those nights perhaps.
Anyway whatever you do ya'll have a great time!
lizF is offline  
May 13th, 2004, 01:55 PM
  #26  
 
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Here is another thought:
I checked the Marriot hotels in Australia and they are mainly in the main destination areas. So perhaps you could spend some time in Sydney and surrounds and then fly to the Gold Coast where you can stay in a Marriot hotel there ( very nice one too) and take a hinterland tour into the rain forest areas and the like. Many, many things to do in this area and not far from Sydney in terms of time for you. Melbourne too has a Marriot and again not far in time either.
lizF is offline  
May 13th, 2004, 02:30 PM
  #27  
 
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Liz, Good suggestion about the Gold Coast. I don't care for it much but there are a lot of great places within an easy day's drive, including beautiful beaches and rainforest.

In no way was I really suggesting Atlhorn drive out to Carnarvon with just 2-3 days. But someone with time to spare could certainly do it without too much hassle. My wife and went to Heron and Carnarvon Gorge during the same trip with an easy day's drive between Gladstone and the gorge.

Incidently, Gladstone-Carnarvon Gorge is 500 km and Gladstone-Hervery Bay is well under 400 km. Also Heron Island lies right on the Tropic of Capricorn, and so is not sub-tropical at all. Important to get your facts straight as people do use these posts as a resource.
RalphR is offline  
May 13th, 2004, 03:33 PM
  #28  
 
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Having read all the great suggestions by Liz, Ralph, Alan and Judy and others, and on the assumption that our friends may not get back to this part of the world, I'm leaning towards that side trip to the tropics. This will cover Australia's two must-see destinations for overseas visitors while keeping arrangements reasonably straightforward.

Alan, as a former resident I share your enthusiasm for the Blue Mountains, but it doesn't extend to Lithgow, I'm sorry. Still, if it's only to rent a car ...
Neil_Oz is offline  
May 13th, 2004, 03:55 PM
  #29  
 
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Yes, Neil, it was only to rent a car. I wouldn't like my reputation ruined by having anyone think I was advocating our Atlanta visitors spend their honeymoon in Lithgow!
Alan is offline  
May 13th, 2004, 05:57 PM
  #30  
 
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Atlhorn,

wow...I'm still trying to come to grips with the fact that you were planning to do Paris / Italy for a week from HotLanta and then switched to Sydney!

To visit Australia and not see the Reef is almost a "sin"...however, with your limited time, and a long international flight, I wouldn't recommend it. So much packing / unpacking, another trip to the airport, thru Security, Baggage Claim, etc. Very draining. It basically comes down to plunking yourselves down in Sydney and enjoying all the city has to offer (an environs) or getting a taste of that and then another flight / mad dash to Cairns to cram in what you can and then yet another flight back to Sydney. That's alot in a short amount of time.

I don't know if you're interested in wine, but the Hunter Valley isn't far and has some very romantic resorts to stay in. You could split up your time there.

Another option would be to rent a car, head out of Sydney and explore the Central Coast area north of Sydney. It's an area that most tourist don't visit and it would give you a different perspective without spending alot of travel time.

Hope this is helpful!

Melodie
Certified Aussie Specialist

wlzmatilida is offline  
May 13th, 2004, 08:14 PM
  #31  
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I was checking airfares tonight and noticed that it was $96 Australian dollars roundtrip to go from Sydney to Cairns so that pretty much made it a no brainer to go see the GBR (it was $400 australian dollars round trip earlier today and yesterday). We are going to leave Thursday morning and come back Saturday evening. Pretty crazy but I figured that I would be upset if I never saw the GBR and we still will have time to spend some time in Sydney (and now we can still use our reservation for the Marriott Wednesday night). I very much appreciate everyone taking the time to tell me about the pros and cons of visiting various places near the GBR and how you all recommended that I spend my time there. I am very excited to be going to a place that I know I will love. I am sure that we will be exhausted when we get home, but will hopefully have great memories of Australia. I will now be reading this forum intently to decide what to do with our limited time in the Cairns area as well as Sydney.
Atlhorn is offline  
May 13th, 2004, 08:53 PM
  #32  
 
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Ralph, if you want to split straws, Heron Island island is just under the Tropic of Capricorn which goes through the middle of Rockhampton, so it is actually in the sub-tropics.
lizF is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 04:12 AM
  #33  
 
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Ninety six dollars return? Forty eight dollars each way? I'll come with you! Where, dear Atlhorn, do you find this airfare? The cheapest I could come up with when I looked for you three nights ago was $99 each way. Obviously, I have a lot to learn about where to find the airfares! Please share!
Alan is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 04:21 AM
  #34  
 
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Hey Alan - me too - that's about a fifth of the price for the bus fare - it wasn't too long ago that Sydney - Cairns was AUD$800 + one way. I know because my husband did it every week for a couple of years. It is at least a 3,000km flight.
pat_woolford is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 05:29 AM
  #35  
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I found the fare on the Virgin Blue website-- http://www.virginblue.com.au

I just looked on the site this morning and the $48 AUD was still available, for example, for the 7 A.M. flight on June 5th from Cairns to Sydney.







Atlhorn is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 12:28 PM
  #36  
 
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Damn! Couldn't find a $48 fare!
margo_oz is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 05:54 PM
  #37  
 
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Liz: I'm sure you do not intend to purposely mislead Fodor's readers and that you have only the best intentions regarding recommendations of where and where not to go, but, for the record I will point out a few other mistatements of yours in this thread:

"Besides Elliot does not have a resort". Indeed it does: See
http://www.ladyelliotisland.com.au/

"Fraser Island is about 400 Klms [away from Gladstone]" Using the same RACQ map I figure it's 301 km by road to Hervey May (the main port for Fraser) i.e. the difference of at least an hour's driving time. As I said above Carnarvon Gorge is 500 km from Gladstone, not 900 km - 4+ hours difference in driving time.

"Heron Island island is just under the Tropic of Capricorn which goes through the middle of Rockhampton". Heron Island lies NE of Gladstone, and so is the same latitude as Rockhampton. My RACQ map of Rocky and surrounds shows the tropic going right across Heron Island.

Obviously the exact latitude of Heron Island is less important, but the other assertions could mislead an interested reader into thinking that there is no accommodation on Lady Elliot and that Fraser Isl, and Carnarvon Gorge are less (or much less) accessible to Heron Island than they actually are.

RalphR is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 07:16 PM
  #38  
 
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Hi,

Good 'on ya Althorn for finding such a good fare!

Alan & Pat - Virgin does have some really great fares, but don't beat yourselves up about not finding them!

You pretty much have to have the "luck of the draw", or be lurking on their website, have the timing down and then react immediately and book it.

I constantly hear from clients that they found a good fare, went back a week later...and SHOCKING...it was gone! When you find something good you have to purchase it ASAP without checking with your significant other, your relatives, etc, because by the time you do that, it's over!

I've had fares change while I was in the middle of a booking!

Speaking of which, Qantas is adding a fuel surcharge to EVERY SEGMENT of their flights - both international and domestic that's taking effect by May 18th. So, if you were holding multiple segments, times the number of the people on the reservation, it can add up to some serious money. I contacted all my clients today and they've all opted for paying for the air tickets before this takes effect.

Regards,

Melodie
Certified Aussie Specialist
wlzmatilida is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 07:50 PM
  #39  
 
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As Melodie says, better get in VERY fast for those cheap seats - you have until midnight tomorrow, 16 May (Aust EST, which is GMT + 10) or until sold out.

They're advertised in today's paper and apply from SYD to Alice Springs, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Perth and Townsville for travel between 16 May and 16 June. The ad notes "seats are limited and may not be available at peak times or on all flights".
Neil_Oz is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 07:54 PM
  #40  
 
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Melodie, apropos your mention of the NSW Central Coast area, have you had the chance to check on the NSW south coast (i.e. as far as the Victorian border)? Much nicer than the Central coast IMO, picturesque and relatively unspoilt. Matter of opinion, of course, but I think many would agree with me.
Neil_Oz is offline  

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