Sept. / Oct. 2007 Australia & Cooks

Old Jan 7th, 2007, 05:23 PM
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Sept. / Oct. 2007 Australia & Cooks

I've been "lurking" on this board for about 4 months, and reading everything I could find trying to plan our 2007 first visit to Cook Islands and Australia. We have a fair idea of where and what, and would love to get some input from those of you who live and/or have spent time in these areas. First, we are early 60s, good health, love water, snorkeling & fishing. Also people, food, animals and scenery. Not into long difficult hikes, but short ones OK. We can spend up to 5 weeks on this trip. We like to stay in an area for at least 3 days. Renting cars is OK, as are guided tours (as long as there aren't very many people on them...) Our budget is probably mid to high range (a few very spendy nights OK, but most places we'd hope to stay between $100-$150 US per night unless we're at a resort).

Here's the (very rough) itinerary:

~Mid to late Sept. 2007, fly LAX to Rarotonga, and spend a week or 10 days between Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Still looking at places to stay, but we'd like to do an introductory dive either in the Cooks or on the GBR, so if anyone has opinions on which place would be better to do a first dive, please chime in.

~Next stop Sydney, since its hard to get from RARO to anywhere else without spending a lot of time doing it. Probably spend 4 or 5 days in Sydney and surrounds, seeing Blue Mtns? driving part of the Great Ocean Rd?

Next fly to Adelaide for Kangaroo Island - 2 or 3 days? or longer if we do some "outback" tour? We will also be in Cairns and Darwin, both of which have outback possibilities, so I could use some guidance here

Next fly to Darwin for a week or so, for litchfield and/or Kakadu. Not sure if Kakadu, yellow water etc. is good at this time of year (Oct.) We would also like to visit the Arnhemland aboriginal art sites possibly, but its difficult to determine distances, etc. and whether we should rent a car or take a tour. The other area that looked interesting was Katherine Gorge, but that's in the other direction entirely, I think. We may also want to do a day of Baramundi fishing if this is a good place to do that, so if anyone can recommend a guide, we'd appreciate that as well.

Next stop would be Cairns area for probably a week. There's so much too see! We would like to go up to Port Douglas and we may want to go out to the reef from there rather than Cairns. Rainforest, tableland are all on the agenda. We've also been looking at the various islands that are located along the GBR and it's way too confusing! Each seems to have good things to offer. We are also considering a sailing trip around the Whitsundays, with a skipper since we don't sail.

In this area, there also seems to be a good opportunity for Baramundi fishing, as well as ocean fishing. Again, any information on guides would be appreciated.

We would also like to be on the reef at a time when snorkeling is easy to do (low wind conditions mainly). I'm not too sure whether Sept., Oct. or maybe November would be better.

We will leave the "red center" and the west coast for our next visit. Seeing all of Australia in a month is like trying to see the US or Canada in a few weeks. Thanks for any advice or suggestions you may have on these plans.

Sharon
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Old Jan 7th, 2007, 05:32 PM
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Dear sharon,

we got into Arnhemland on a tour with Lord's an operator I believe located somewhere in the Northern part of the country. They were excellent

AndrewDavid
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Old Jan 7th, 2007, 07:56 PM
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The Great Ocean Road ias about a 14- 15 hour drive from Sydney so don't expect to do it from there. However it is only a hour and a half drive from Melbourne, a city that should be on your itinerary at some stage. Melbourne is the nations restaurant capital and is on Pt. Phillip Bay, an excellent place for fishing. IMO Kangaroo Island is vastly overrated and you should be able to see most of what it has to offer on various other places you mention. Adelaide however is a great place to access the Outback. I am thinking a 4WD trip or tour to the Flinders Ranges and beyond. If you are considering hiring a vehicle, distances between places to see are vast with, in most cases, not much to see on the way. Especially in the Outback. Except for around the coastal areas I would leave the driving to someone else. i.e to Kakadu take a tour ex. Darwin.
With the Aussie dollar hovering about 78 cents to the USD, your budget will be tight. check www.wotif.com.au for a guide to accommodation prices.
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Old Jan 8th, 2007, 02:14 AM
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I agree that KI is overrated - I mean it's nice, but can't understand why it is on the itinerery for so many first time visitors.

When push comes to shove can't understand why the GOR is either - unless, UNLESS you are going to take your time doing it. Cos the scenic stretch is quite short but the hinterland has plenty to offer.

Best advice would be not to get too fixated on hiring a car all the time. For Kakadu a tour is the way to go. And there are some that will take you to Arnhemland too.

The Whitsundays f
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Old Jan 8th, 2007, 02:19 AM
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I agree that KI is overrated - I mean it's nice, but can't understand why it is on the itinerery for so many first time visitors.

When push comes to shove can't understand why the GOR is either - unless, UNLESS you are going to take your time doing it. Cos the scenic stretch is quite short but the hinterland has plenty to offer.

Best advice would be not to get too fixated on hiring a car all the time. For Kakadu a tour is the way to go. And there are some that will take you to Arnhemland too.

The Whitsundays, for my money, are one of the must see "not hard to get to" places. Do a google for sailing whitsunday and you will see that there is an enormous range of trips you can take - seriously lux on a wooden tall ship to seriously sketchy on a retired maxi for the young crowd.

I'd rate the Whitsundays over and above the GOR and KI any day, but not over Kakadu and Sydney (or Tassie and WA - but then you are not planning to go there this time!!).

Happy planning.

Oh, and PS, Aitutaki is (was) sublime.

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Old Jan 8th, 2007, 02:33 AM
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I would dive on the GBR after all its one of the worlds natural wonders!! The snorkelling is Great in both Raro and Aitutaki I would reccomend Pacific Resort in Aitutaki and maybe Crown Beach or Pacific Beach in Raro as well as you can you usually get a combo deal using the two islands!
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Old Jan 8th, 2007, 06:47 PM
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Thanks for the replies - all are helpful. we were torn as to Kang. Isl. as we'd seen many posts raving about it and others who said not to bother. Main reason for having it on the itinerary was seeing kangaroos in the wild. Are there other areas where they will be relatively easy to see (other than zoos)?

Also not thrilled about renting cars, although we would do so if there was no other good way to see things. Distances in Australia are like in the Western US - long ways between destinations!

If we skipped KI, what would make a good 5 or 6 days - fly to Adelaide and do outback, or Melbourne (not crazy about seeing another City as we live in LA...) but love good food, and Pt. Philip Bay and Philip Island, or could we do both Adelaide and Melbourne?
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Old Jan 8th, 2007, 11:16 PM
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If you decided to hire a car in Adelaide you could drive through Horsham to the Grampians (always kangaroos in the wild there although at the moment the drought seems to have changed their food gathering habits a bit),then head south through Halls Gap, the main tourist centre in the Grampians, towards Warrnambool and Apollo Bay and then the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne. Kangaroos and in certain places Koalas can be seen in the wild on the road at any time, but the Grampians and the Anglesea golf course on the GOR are two of their favourite places.
Melbourne is a European style city with a modern Australian sophistication.I think you would find it very different from LA. It has great restaurants (Anthony Bourdain filmed an entire program on them) and it is a good base for Phillip Island and the Penguins and Koalas. Healsville Sancturary (an hour out of Melbourne) has an excellent Platypus exhibit as they are very difficult to find in the wild.
The above trip would require 5-6 days and I would have thought that if you include Darwin and Kakadu on your trip to Australia, you probably would have seen enough of the Outback.
If you have the time there is always the possibility of flying from Darwin via Alice Springs(Ayres Rock) to Adelaide and then drive to Melbourne as above.
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Old Jan 9th, 2007, 02:49 AM
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you could always check out:

www.waywardbus.com.au

driving is fine if you want to meander - and have loads of time - otherwise, hey,let someone else concentrate on the tarmac while you see what there is to see. IMHO of course!!
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Old Jan 13th, 2007, 02:08 PM
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Thanks for the info re: adelaide area. I've checked out a lonely planet guide for South Australia and will be researching a bit more. good news that there are Kangaroos to see outside of KI - not seeing some would be like visiting hollywood and never seeing a movie star! Melbourne does sound like a good place for us as well, close to things we'd like to see and lots of good restaurants. thanks for the responses!

Sharon
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Old Feb 14th, 2007, 03:07 PM
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For your Victorian part of your trip see www.visitvictoria.com - the official web site of the Victorian Government tourism organisation.

For phillip island see www.penguins.org.au - the official website of the phillip island nature parks (home of the little penguins and koala conservation centre). There's a lot to see on Phillip Island and its just 90 mins drive from MElbourne _ and you can hop over to Mornington Peninsular or Yarra Valley for wines etc. See www.visitphillipisland.com - the web site of the Phillip Island Tourism Association!
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Old Feb 14th, 2007, 06:26 PM
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Thanks, Ian - I'll check out those sites. Based on the information this board has provided, we're well on our way to figuring out what to do and when! As another poster said "I love this board!" You have no idea how much help it is to us neophytes in planning a trip to such a huge and diverse area! Thanks to you all.
Sharon
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Old Feb 15th, 2007, 08:22 AM
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stamiya, You were asking what to do with the extra days you will have by not visiting Kangaroo Island. We just made a similar itinerary change. We were planning nearly 5 weeks to visit 5 main areas: sydney, great barrier reef, top end, red centre and kangaroo island/adelaide.

I had wanted to see Tasmania, but for some reason had it in my head that it would be too cold in late September/early October. Thanks to this forum, I found out that wasn't true. Sounds like beautiful weather in early Oct.!! So, we removed the kangaroo island/Adelaide and replaced it with several nights in Tasmania.

It really seems almost easier to get to than Kangaroo Island (you can fly to Hobart or Launceton directly out of Sydney), and apparently there is LOTS of wildlife (lots of marsupials I think--but I'm not sure about full-size kangaroos). If somehow we haven't seen any kangaroos in the wild by the end of our trip, we will go to Euroka Clearing while we are on our daytrip from Sydney to the Blue Mountains --apparently there are loads of them there. Plus, in Tasmania they have the famous Tasmanian Devils!! (we will go to Tasmanian Devil Park to see them, while we are in Port Arthur--they're nocturnal, so I don't want to leave seeing one up to chance).

We are planning on renting a car--and we are not used to driving on the left side of the road. But, it seems like the city driving won't be bad (because the cities aren't huge)--and since we're doing this toward the end of our trip, we're hoping we will have gotten a bit used to it while in some of the other areas.

Anyway, there are also fairy penguins at Bicheno--which all come back in at night. I think it is less touristy than Phillips Island (I assume that we will NOT have to sit in bleachers, for example). That is near Freycinet National Park. We will stay 2 nights there--and on one of the days we will hike to Wineglass Bay--it is supposed to be beautiful. Pink granite rock above it and white sands!

My impression is that there are fascinating old convict towns to visit--Ross and Richmond are two of them. Great food and wine--along the Huon Valley Trail there are wineries and cheeseries where you can stop. And apparently lots of good restaurants. There is an Airwalk through the huon pines which are the second-oldest pine in the world (bristlecones are the oldest).

Port Arthur looks fascinating (and pretty!)--and they have a "Remarkable Rock" there--plus I think a blowhole, and some other things! Hobart (where we will base ourselves) looks like a lovely town--lots of good places to stay.

I had been excited about seeing koalas in the wild on kangaroo island, and I don't think we'll be seeing any of those on our trip now. But, we've decided we'll just see them in a zoo--(if we saw them in the wild, they'd just be sleeping at the top of a very tall tree, anyway I assume--possibly hidden in the branches).

Anyway--search this forum for Tasmania.
You will find so much information--and there are a few very very good trip reports which will give you lots of ideas! I feel the same way: "I love this forum". I have a bunch of books on Australia--but the trip I am planning would not be nearly so wonderful without the help from all the wonderful people on this forum. (Look for trip reports from LizF and Melnq8 in particular for info on Tasmania!)
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Old Feb 15th, 2007, 06:47 PM
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thanks, Caligirl, for the tasmania suggestions. We'll check it out! you sound as excited about seeing Australia as we are!
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Old Feb 27th, 2007, 09:30 PM
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In Rarotonga, I recommend the Muri Beach area - the nicest beach on the island IMHO. We used to stay at the Muri Beachcomber, but it was torn down and replaced around a year ago. The Pacific Resort also looks very nice.

Rarotonga is our very favorite island. (We like it much better than the Hawaaian islands or the carribean.) All of the hotels are low rise - nothing taller than around three stories is allowed. The people are very friendly and everyone speaks english, since it used to be protected by New Zealand.

Rarotonga has much more to do than Aitutaki. Aitutaki is very quiet, but has fabulous snorkeling. Rarotonga has lots of great restaurants and it is very easy to get around. We depended on the island bus, which had two directions - clockwise and "anticlockwise". You can take it in either direction around the island, and it gets you almost anywhere you'd like to go.
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Old Feb 28th, 2007, 06:13 PM
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Sandys, what were your favorite places to eat in Raro? We will be staying in Muri Beach area, at the Rarotonga Beach Bungalows, which look really nice. The beach looks great there, too. We've read that sometimes it gets kind of windy in late sept., but we figure we can always hang out at a more sheltered beach if the wind blows! We are really looking forward to the Cooks.
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Old Feb 28th, 2007, 06:57 PM
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It's been a couple of years, but we liked Sail's Restaurant and the Flame Tree on Muri Beach - both were walking distance from the Muri Beachcomber. The restaurant at the Pacific Resort was also pretty good, although not as good as the other two. We also liked the Vaima Restaurant near the Rarotongan Resort. Also Trader Jack's Bar and Grill in Avarua was always good. (Watch for coupons for Trader Jack's.) We always took the circle island bus. The driver would always let us know the times that the bus would return to a specific location for the return trip.
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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 08:15 AM
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Best restaurant on Raro is widely considered to be the Tamarind House (on the north shore, near Avarua). It is owned and operated by Sue Carruthers (Rarotonga's most famous chef) and her husband Robert Brown. They owned the Flame Tree during the height of it's fame, sold it and stared Ambala Gardens, which then gained the reputation as the best restaurant. Having gone on to the Tamarind House, that place is now considered tops. VERY good food there. Service as usual in the Cooks is leasurely.

Not a fan of Trader Jacks. Have found the service to be horrendously slow (even by Cook Islands standards).

Sails is good and is a great place to have dinner during the rise of the full moon

Ken

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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 08:16 AM
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Opps, mean to say "STARTED Ambala Gardens" not "stared Ambala Gardens".

Ken
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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 08:19 AM
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PS - For Sails at the full moon, reserve an outside table.

Ken
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