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Honeymoon Trip Report - Sydney, Cairns/Kewarra Beach and Uluru

Honeymoon Trip Report - Sydney, Cairns/Kewarra Beach and Uluru

Nov 2nd, 2003, 11:27 AM
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Honeymoon Trip Report - Sydney, Cairns/Kewarra Beach and Uluru

Hi folks. After this site proved such a help to me in planning our honeymoon, I thought I'd return the favour and post a report on our trip to Oz. I'm going to include as much info as I can, and hopefully future travellers will find it useful.

First stop SYDNEY: We stayed at the Westin Hotel in central Sydney, opting for a room in the modern Tower rather than the period-style Heritage rooms in the older part of the building. The hotel was absolutely perfect. Flawless (and I mean flawless) service, a luxurious, contemporary-style room and all at a very reasonable price. I cannot find a single thing to fault about the Westin. You may not have a view of the Opera House, but let's face it, how long are you going to spend sitting in your room looking out the window? The lower rates more than make up for this, in my opinion. As it was our honeymoon, a relative had kindly paid for an upgrade to the 'Executive Package' which includes complimentary Continental breakfast, use of the Executive lounge (newspapers, TV, pre-dinner drinks etc) and other benefits. The rack rate for this upgrade is 66 AUSD per night but I think discounts are available, so you might want to consider it. We also tried the hotel's non-complimentary breakfast buffet which was very impressive too. Try the eggs royale!

The Westin also has the advantage of having some great restaurants in its basement floor, so you don't have to travel very far to find a good place to eat (we actually found the CBD area of Sydney a little short of places to have dinner at night so this was a bonus). The basement bar area is buzzing on a Friday night.

Our Sydney dining highlight was Forty One Restaurant, not far from the Westin. Stunning views and great service. The food was very good. Not amazing, but very good. I think you pay a premium for the view. My tip would be to try and dine early to catch the sunset over Sydney. The views from the restaurant are literally panoramic. A meal for two cost 300 AUSD. We also tried fish and chips at Jordons in Darling Harbour, which was so-so. Nothing special. At the other end of the scale, Harry's Cafe de Wheels was a treat. An unforgettable meat pie with mash, peas and gravy. Delicious!

Around Sydney: The Rocks - disappointing. Coming from London, I have to admit I was underwhelmed by Sydney's 'historic' quarter. You won't be missing much if you skip this part of the city; Sydney Harbour: We went on the 'official' Sydney Ferries harbour tour which was great value for money and highly enjoyable;

The Blue Mountains - We went on the Wonderbus Blue Mountains Eco Tour, which highlights the flora and fauna and includes some 'medium-strength' walking. Our guide, Marlowe, was fantastic; Really enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable about the Mountains. At Euroka Clearing she led us straight to gathering of wild kangaroos, and at the Mountains themselves she led us on a 'Thousand Step' walk which really brings you right into to the mountain environment - far better than just bussing from lookout to lookout with the other tourists. At the end of the walk, during which we'd only seen a handful of other people, we arrived at the Scenic Railway boarding point, which was literally swarming with tourists. How can you appreciate the location when there are so many crowds? It made me appreciate doing the Eco tour with just a small group.

Beaches: We checked out Bondi and Manly. I personally preferred Bondi, which has a younger, more fashionable atmosphere whereas Manly is more family-oriented and maybe a bit too touristy. Bondi is a 40 min bus ride from central Sydney and you take a ferry to Manly. Apparently Palm beach is better than both of them, but we didn't have time to go there.

Other highlights: Try out a Max Brenner Chocolate shop. There's one at the far end of Oxford Street and also at the Manly ferry terminus. It's like a coffee shop except every drink is chocolate based. Also, try the Vienna almonds from the Nut Shop in the Strand Arcade (not far from the Queen Victoria Building).

Overall, I would say you only really need three days to 'do' Sydney. One to explore the harbour and surrounding areas, one to visit the Blue Mountains, and one to do the beaches. Just my opinion though. Sydney in early October is a little cold. You may find it warmer in mid-late October.

Next stop CAIRNS.....

CAIRNS: We stayed at the Kewarra Beach Resort which is about a 20min drive out of Cairns itself. After the spotless luxury of the Westin, Kewarra was a bit of a let-down at first. The rooms look like they have not been renovated since the Eighties, when the hotel opened. I actually considered transferring at one point to the newly opened Beach Club hotel further up the beach in Palm Cove.

Here are some minus points about Kewarra Beach: The decor - the place needs a facelift badly; Charging a daily fee of 5 AUSD for the use of a room safe - penny pinching in my opinion; Misleading advertising - The hotel website states "The gardens flow right onto our private beach" but it doesn't. The resort has a private beachFRONT i.e a small patch of land before you get to the beach. Not the same thing. The beach is open to the public and there is no barrier between your room and the beach. This makes charging for a room safe even more mean, in my opinion, since anyone can walk right up to your front door (also the water at that part of the beach is not as clean as Palm Cove. More brown than blue); No complimentary bottled water - for these prices, a small bottle of water to take to the beach would have been appreciated. The staff - competent but not the happiest staff I've seen. There were some tetchy words between the receptionist and our driver when we arrived, which wasn't a great welcome.

But on the plus side, there are things about Kewarra you would not get at a more conventional resort: The seclusion - we saw a brilliant night sky on the beach, with not a single other person about. It would not have been the same amongst the lights and bustle of Palm Cove; The unique feeling of being amongst rainforest yet having the beach right on your doorstep; The wildlife - we would constantly see butterflies when walking from our room to reception, and one morning I saw two grouse-like birds walking through the lobby; Room size - our beach front 'pipi moud' was pretty spacious compared to an average hotel room.

Overall, I would recommend Kewarra if you really want seclusion and a back-to-nature feel, and don't mind paying a lot for a room looks a little dated. For something more luxurious, modern and conventional, I would suggest going to Palm Cove - perhaps the Sebel Reef or the Beach Club hotel.

The local bus service (Sunbus) is a great way to travel between Cairns and the Northern beaches. A 24hr pass costs just 9 AUSD.

Dining highlight in Cairns was the Red Ochre Grill - fantastic food, great service, and a really lively, pleasant atmosphere. Great place.

Be warned that the Cairns coast gets jellyfish stingers in the summer months. October is probably the best time to go, rather than the height of summer. Luckily, they weren't around when we were. Apparently a lot of people don't know about the jellyfish problem.

Up next: Tours we did while in Cairns/Kewarra Beach:

Tours while in Cairns/Kewarra Beach:
Kuranda Tour with Trek North: An informative tour with Craig from Trek North, who had tonnes of local knowledge. A lot was crammed into the day tour - possibly too much - but you get see a lot of (and learn a lot about) the local area. Highlights include the Curtain and Cathedral Fig trees and of course the Skyway cable car ride (this tour is cable car up, railway down). Remember to get off the Skyway at both stops otherwise you'll miss some great views. The only let-down was the town of Kuranda itself, a real tourist trap with a few bland market stalls selling weird hippy trinkets. The best thing about this place was the river bank, which you get to by crossing over the railway bridge and descending some steps. It's peaceful and a great place to take photos. The scenic railway back was ok, but took a long time. Cable car both ways would probably be more enjoyable, although the train does take you right back into Cairns centre.

Lizard Island Tour with Daintree Air: Expensive but worth it. We flew out on Greg's twin prop aeroplane (no in-flight movie I'm afraid) to Lizard Island on a gorgeous sunny day. This was truly unforgettable. The lagoon was crystal clear and perfect for a quick swim and photos. Then we moved on to the bay for some snorkelling (my first time ever). Even though we stayed in the shallower parts of the reef, we were still able to to see loads of see life, fish, polyps and coral. And most of the time we were completely alone too. The whole tour group only had 5 people and we only saw one or two other people once we got to the beaches. Brilliant. The lunch isn't that great, considering the cost of the tour, but despite that, I would actually do this tour again, just to sample more of the reef.

Cape Tribulation Tour with Trek North. Our second tour with Trek North and Craig was our guide again. This tour was much more enjoyable. Craig really knows his stuff when it comes to the rainforest, and clearly cares deeply about the plant and wildlife too. The tour includes a trip on the Daintree River, with some amazing views, and there are two chances to swim during the day, once in a mountain stream and again at a gorgeous rainforest beach at Cape Tribulation. The tour also includes a great barbecue buffet lunch. This was a much more relaxed and laid back tour and was highly enjoyable.

Wild World Zoo, Cairns: This is a small zoo where the main attraction is the chance to hug a koala. It's probably not as spectacular as Taronga Zoo in Sydney, but you get the chance to get up close to a koala. The crocodiles are impressive too.

Cairns Centre: A busy place with a young, back-packer feel to it. They've built a really nice 'lagoon' public swimming area right on the shoreline in the town complete with sandy beach, grassy sunbathing areas and barbecue facilities. Really impressive and probably unique. There are plenty of shops for cheap souvenirs and internet access too.



We stayed at Desert Gardens in the Yulara Resort - a fine hotel and our room had a balcony with a view of Uluru. My only complaint was that the room was cold at night and there was no way of turning up the heating. Buffet dinner and breakfast at the hotel were both very good.

Our main recommendation for Yulara would be: Rent a car! It only cost us 50 GBP for 24hrs rental with Thrifty, who have an office at the Yulara resort. This meant we could go where we pleased, when we pleased. Uluru is one of those places where you see another great photo opportunity every few metres and we were able to get some amazing shots where the tour buses would have just driven right past. There are also excellent guides and information packs at the cultural centre, so you will not miss out too much by going it alone.

We arrived early in the morning and decided to see Kata Tjuta first, then Uluru, watch the sunset at Uluru and come back for sunrise.

Kata Tjuta is just as impressive as Uluru, maybe even more so. The sight of it as you approach by car is breathtaking. It's impossible to describe the scale and sheer weirdness of the rock formations. This site is best viewed in the afternoon/evening or, if you have time, at sunset.

Although Kata Tjuta perhaps has more character, Uluru is the main landmark, so we ended up watching both the sunset and sunrise here. As well as doing the Mala Walk. In the time we had, I felt this was the right itinerary. We also had time to fit in one last look at Kata Tjuta before checking out. Be warned that Kata Tjuta is almost 50kms away from Uluru, which means a 30 min drive each way. Also be warned that you will be pestered by flies all around Yulara and Uluru. A cheap fly net to wear round your face is essential (don't worry about looking silly. It will save you swatting madly every 10 seconds).

While the local aborigines do not forbid anyone to climb Uluru, time and time again, in all the literature, it is stated that to climb the rock is disrespectful to their culture. So why do people still do it? I really wish the non-aboriginal park rangers would take it upon themselves to stop tourists climbing the rock. It's not very inspiring to see that line of people clambering up, when there are repeated messages in the guide books that doing so is disrespectful.

Well that's all. I hope it proves useful to someone. Overall, Australia is an awesome country with incredible natural wonders. We had a truly memorable trip and would love to return.
stevelondon88 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2004, 10:40 AM
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Hi Steve,

Just thought you could give me a bit more info on Kewarra. I've had my heart set on going for my wedding but your review has made me think twice! Did you see any weddings whilst you were there?? We arent too bothered about the rooms but obviously as we will be having photos taken around the resort, we want that to look nice. What are the garden areas like?

I'd be really grateful for any advice.

lydzyB is offline  
Jan 13th, 2004, 01:04 PM
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I just want to introduce another "slant" and opinion on whether people should climb Ayers Rock or swim at Kathrine Gorge or do all the things that "some" Aboriginal people find offensive.
Australia is ONE big country. My taxes, and those of all other taxpayers, go to the upkeep of all of Australia which includes parts that are under Aboriginal occupation/protection. Whilst climbing the Rock may be something that some Aboriginals do not like the other side of the coin is that tourist attention at Ayres Rock pays for a hell of a lot of facilities/ salaries for those Aboriginals who live and work around there and other parts of the N.T. Without tourists there is not a lot of income for these people and if you are going to pay to go to Ayers Rock ( which is expensive) then if climbing it is something you want to do, then do it because not all Aboriginals find that it is offensive, they realize that it is a source of income and with that comes a lot of benefits. Try sitting down with some Aboriginal Elders one day and asking them their opinion on things and I am sure that you will find there is a lot of what is written in so called guide books that is regarded as total rubbish by these wise and very aware people. If it was such an issue then you would not be allowed to do it because the non-Aboriginal Park Rangers are paid by the Aboriginal Authority responsible for that area.
Jan 14th, 2004, 01:04 AM
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Hi lydzyB. First of all, congratulations!

I do have slightly mixed feelings about Kewarra. There are some great things about it but also some niggling things that I take away from the experience. We didn't see any weddings there during our stay.

On the plus side, it's very secluded and you do get the feeling that nature is all around you. The beach is right on your doorstep and it's a nice looking, tropical beach with great coastal views but the water is a little murky. Then there are all the little minuses that I mention in my main trip report.

I would say the grounds near the beach are very pleasant, but not stunningly picturesque. I know that the person who looks after the grounds is very well qualified and respected but the feel is very much 'unspoilt nature', so it's slightly wild and unkempt. The lagoon, when we were there, was very dark - I mean the water was black. I'm sure (well, I hope) this was intentional but it kind of created a slightly dark and dingy feel to the place. I'm sure it's a great resort from an environmental point of view but it might not make for really stunning wedding photos. As your wedding is a special day, you're going to want it to be perfect, and I think Kewarra might not be able to deliver that. Have you considered the sister resort Thala Beach? The singer Natalie Imbruglia got married there just a few weeks ago so perhaps that would be a better choice? We were going to stay there ourselves but I was worried it might be too far away for day tours and trips to Cairns etc.

You can email me for more details on my hotmail (stevelondon88).


re: climbing the rock. All I know is the local people say it is disrespectful and most of the site literature says this too. I don't know why they don't ban it. Maybe the concept of banning people from going there is also not part of their culture, so all they can do is is politely ask that you don't trample all over their sacred place?

I'm not sure if I agree with the 'tourist dollars' argument. I mean the Aborigines were doing just fine before the settlers came along, weren't they? A lot of these funded projects are actually a by-product of being forced to co-exist.
stevelondon88 is offline  
Jan 15th, 2004, 04:20 PM
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Hi Steve,

We are a family of five trying to figure out if we would be better at Thala Lodge or Kewarra lodge.

We are in the Cairns area for three days primarily to do the lizard island day tour with Daintree Air Services and for some r&r before returning home.

Which lodge would be better for us considering we have the kids to think about as well. We were sold on Thala until we read your report about Natilie.

We now think it just might be a little up market for three energetic kids.

One last question how long did it take you to drive to cairns from both lodges.

What do you think ?
Thanks for your help.

marlean is offline  
Jan 15th, 2004, 06:53 PM
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Well Stevelondon I will bow to your superior knowledge about our history and Aboriginal culture but I just can't understand why my husband spent so much of his time in the NT with the Aboriginals and doing anthropology if someone can come on a short stay and have all the answers.
I am sure too that the Pics were doing quite well before the Saxons came along too!
Jan 16th, 2004, 12:40 AM
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Hi Marlean,

Well Kewarra is closer to Cairns. You can drive there in about 20-25 mins whereas Thala is probably a 90min drive away. The beach and pool at Kewarra are nice enough, but the kids might find it a little too quite? I didn't see much provision for kids in the resort.

Have you considered one of the hotels in Palm Cove? We passed this spectacular place called the Beach Club (with rates about the same as Kewarra), which was brand new and had a massive pool. It's right in the heart of Palm Cove so you have shops, cafes and the beach to explore too. PC is probably a 30-35 min drive from Cairns and the water there is better than at Kewarra. What Palm Cove doesn't have, though, is Kewarra's seclusion and 'back to nature' feel, so I guess it depends on your priorities.

Hope that helps!
stevelondon88 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 09:18 PM
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Hi marlean - just to be pedantic, Thala Lodge is about a 45 minute drive from Cairns airport, Kewarra and Palm Cove are beaches of Cairns and are about 10 minutes drive apart with Kewarra being closer to Cairns airport, as Steve says about 20 minutes. Although these beaches almost run into each other (Clifton Beach is between Kewarra and Palm Cove) there is no link road between the beaches- they all have exits off the Capt.Cook Highway. Think Palm Cove would be preferable for the kids - there's a lot more infrastructure than Kewarra or Thala. The kids would like Cairns Zoo which is on the highway coming into Palm Cove, up until about yesterday it was called Wildworld. They also have a night show and Aussie BBQ which the kids would enjoy. For the night show they'll pick you up at your accommodation which means you can have a beer or wine or two without worrying about driving.
pat_woolford is offline  
Jan 17th, 2004, 02:42 AM
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Well, originally coming from America, and having lived in Sydney for 10 years and being able to understand the aboriginal culture and the impact of European settlement for myself, I have to agree that the aborigines do not have a right to say the practice of going up the rock is "disrespectful".

The main problem with the aborigines is that they were not "conquered" by the settlers as most of the Indian population was in America.

Now, whenever there is a moment that they have a chance to claim that something was a "sacred site" for them, they do. This way, they can get free money from the government which is mainly pissed away on alcohol.

Most successful cultures in the world have managed to compromise and learned to assimilate into a changing, modern culture. The main reason most of the aborigines don't do this is simply to get free funding from the government.

It's an atrocious practice and a huge waste of my tax dollars.

I have no qualms about climbing the rock. I would have happily when I was there two years ago if it hadn't been pissing down with rain.
benderbabe is offline  
Jan 17th, 2004, 11:37 AM
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I know that this is not the place or time to enter into a controversial or political debate but I have been "baited" and I will bite - this time.
I have English In-Laws and the thing that sends me into a hopping mad spin when they visit is that although everything was great i.e. scenery, food, service etc etc they always find something that they have read about in those dreadful British Tabloid Newspapers ( I will use the word newspapers here loosely) and use as an excuse it seems to denigrate Australia in some way as if they are saying " it was all wonderful if only......" The last time they were here it was the Aboriginal situation and the time before it was the destruction of the rain forest in the Daintree!!!!! Anyone who has been to the Daintree of late will realize that that is not the case at all.
Now to put to rest the question of the Australian Aboriginals.
Australia is an equal opportunity country and has been for many years. You can go back as far as 1867 "date I think" when the very first Australian cricketers to visit and play England was a team of Aboriginal Cricketers from Australia. You can make it if you want to. I have campained for Aboriginal Politicians. I have lived, worked and schooled with Aboriginals and I decided long ago that they "could" have a case for compensation against a Government who disrupted their lives back in 1770. I would even go as far as to say that I would be glad if they got compensation and would even assist if I could in seeing it come to fruition. So whenever the British people and the British Government wish to compensate the Aboriginals for invading this land then I for one will clap my hands with glee. It was not the poor souls who stole a loaf of bread to survive and were deported to Australia who killed the Aboriginals and it was not the free settlers who came and conquered the outback and the difficult conditions who killed the Aboriginals. It was the British Soldiers on orders from the representatives of the British Government who fought and killed the Aboriginals.
Since that time the people of Australia have been trying to live together without the race problems of countries like the UK i.e. Brixton Riots etc. We don't say that we have all the answers and we have a perfect world but we are trying . So please, when you come here and enjoy our hospitality if you feel that some section of society has been dealt a poor blow feel free to donate as much as you want to help change that situation. But perhaps first, before you react, ask or research the situation just a little bit.
Jan 17th, 2004, 02:24 PM
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I think I might start a new thread on the Aboriginal issue, whether you should climb the rock etc. as this wasn't the real purpose of me starting this thread.
stevelondon88 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2004, 07:12 AM
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Started a new thread on the Uluru/Aboriginal issue here:

stevelondon88 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2004, 01:38 PM
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Hi again , Thank you for the input.
I was not aware feelings were so strong about the local people in Australia, however the disscusion has sparked some interest within our family.

We have been talking with the charter company in Cairns which is flying us to Lizard Island for the day and they have offered to stop at a real aboriginal village on the way home that afternoon after we finish at Lizard.

Apparently we are able to walk with some of the older people through cave art sites. Has any one ever done any thing like this?

It all sounds very remote and sacred.

We have decided to spend our time at Kewarra Beach Resort mainly because of the shorter drive time to Cairns and the proximity to the beach where the kids can let of steam.

Thanks again for your input.

marlean is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2004, 02:34 PM
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Hi Guys.

Has any one had any experience with visiting Aboriginal Villages.

If so could you give us an insight into the experience. Would you recommend a day during your vacation dedicated to this experience.

Thanks Marlean.

marlean is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2004, 03:19 PM
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Marlean - Aboriginal people don't really live in villages as do, say, the Fijiians. They were originally hunter/gatherers who saw no need for them. Now they often live in settlements with government housing or in the cities. Just out of Mossman which is a little north of Port Douglas you can take a "dreamtime walk" in rainforest with the Kuku-Yalangi people who live nearby. There's a very new day tour (website is still under construction) with the Djumburru people from the dry country west of Kuranda - eco-Aboriginal guide with incredible knowledge of rock art, artefacts, etc. Will have details in the next few days and will post it on this board.
pat_woolford is offline  
Feb 16th, 2004, 04:29 PM
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Just read your adventure --- sounds great! On the north end of Palm Cove (on Cedar Road) is the "Sanctuary Palm Cove." Did you notice it? If so any comments?
cold_canada is offline  
Feb 16th, 2004, 09:27 PM
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Steve, thanks for re-posting that, but did you have any idea what you were starting?? Maybe this is why air1975 ("Worried about racism in Australia") is worried!
Neil_Oz is offline  
Feb 17th, 2004, 10:23 AM
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Hi cold_canada,

Sorry I didn't notice that one in particular. All I can say is Palm Cove in general seems like a great place to stay.
stevelondon88 is offline  
Feb 19th, 2004, 06:43 PM
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thanks for a great trip report! Very informative and well written..good on 'ya!

I'm not going to enter the debate about the politics of Australia, because I don't claim to understand US
politics either!

Those posters talking about tax dollars, etc, make a very good point, and this isn't the only area in the world where an issue like this comes up. It's always confusing. An example would be: On my first trip to the Caribbean I was struck by the conflicting messages I was experiencing as a tourist -- every piece of literature, every tour warned about the turtle being an endangered species; warnings to respect coral, don't use sunscreen (pollute the water), don't remove items from the ocean, etc.... AND YET.....every shop seems to sell various skin products made with turtle oil, coral fans, necklaces, tacky "sculptures" from shells, etc.

No one wants to be branded as the "Ugly American" or bad tourist, but it is difficult to know sometimes what you should or not do.

I think the best any of us can do is our homework on where we're going, what the customs are and decide our own moral compass of what you feel comfortable with. Just my two cents!


Certified Aussie Specialist
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