Trip Report - Just Back OZ and NZ

Nov 27th, 2000, 04:52 AM
  #1  
Mary Ann
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Trip Report - Just Back OZ and NZ

Hi everyone, just back from 20 days downunder. Would be happy to help with any questions, I know how hard it was to plan. Our itinerary included the following:
* Sydney - 5 days Marriott, including trip to Blue Mountains, Bridge Climb, Aquarium, Botanical Gardens, Opera, Amp Center and Great Restaurants.
* Rainforest -Daintree Eco Lodge, massage, rainforest walk and cruise
* Palm Cove - 3 nights Courtyard
* Auckland - 1 night, dinner at Sky City
* Blenheim/Kaikoura - 1 night Whale watch
* Akaroa - 2 nights (one of my favorites)
* Christchurch - 1 night (left by Tranz Alpine)
* Franz Joseph - Helicopter ride was great
* Queenstown - 3 nights Waterfront condo view, dart river (missed Milford due to weather) should have spent one night in Te Anau
* Dunedin - 2 nights, Great food, beautiful views, shopping, penguins.
 
Dec 1st, 2000, 06:07 AM
  #2  
Kaylene
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Dear Mary Ann,
Who did you take the tour with to the Blue Mountains? Did you rent a car while in Australia? My family and I are traveling to Australia in August 2001 and staying in the Sydney Marriott for 10 days and then at Palm Cove Courtyard for 4 nights. Can you take public transportation from Palm Cove to Daintree or is it best to book a tour? Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated - I feel like I am in over my head. We are taking 3 children, son age 21, son age 17, daughter age 13. What did you fly from Sydney to Queensland and did you get a pretty good deal or is it way expensive like I have heard? Thanks in advance.
Kaylene
 
Dec 4th, 2000, 03:59 AM
  #3  
Mary Ann
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Kaylene:
We used Aussie Bush tours, it was highly recommended by the concierge at the Marriott. It starts with Breakfast with the Kangaroos (which was great, lots of Kangoaroos in the open, hopping, joeys jumping in and out-it was spring), we also did boomarang throwing, viewing of the 3 sisters and a stop at featherdale before a ferry ride back to Sydney)
We did rent a car for Cairns. We picked it up at the airport and returned it there. I am unsure if there is any public transportation to Daintree. We had a 4wd tour for our rainforest day, which did pick us up at the hotel in the rainforest and then we used Posiedon for snorkeling out of Port Douglas. They would have picked us up for an additional charge but we had the car. Palm Cove is about 20 minutes to 1/2 hour from the Cairns Airport. I think the Courtyard did have shuttle service. Palm cove has a very small town New England feel which we really liked. The netted beach area was a 10 minute walk away. however, since you will be there in August, I am not sure if that is a problem then. The courtyard has plenty of outdoor pool space. Restaurants are easy walking distance.
We flew from Sydney to Cairns. It is a 3 hour flight so it would be a long drive. We flew Air New Zealand there and Qantas back. I liked Air NZ better. It was not that expensive but with 5 of you it will add up. I think we paid $155 US for one way. We were flying over to NZ on Qantas and that leg was a different price. It is cheaper to book it before you go. A car may be equally expensive to drive from Sydney since it is a longer drive and the cost of gas there is higher, plus an overnight stop would probably be necessary.
Good luck, if you have any other questions feel free to ask.
Regards, Mary Ann
 
Dec 4th, 2000, 06:34 AM
  #4  
mary
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We visited Australia with our 2 teenage boys July/August 2000.
We flew from Sydney to Cairns using the G'Day pass with Ansett which is the same as the Boomerang pass with Quantas.Both these fares need to be booked outside the country. You may want to chek impulse and virginblue web sites. We rented a car which we picked up at Cairns airport (booked in advance through travelnow on the web). We stayed in an apt in Port Douglas for 5 nights and traveled the area independently. I looked into some of the tours and found them very expensive and we actually prefer to do things in our own time.Went drove up to Cape Tribulation and took in Daintree en route. Snorkeled and scuba dive with Haba Dive from Port Douglas. There are some good trips to the reef which start in Cairns. We did not have a car in Sydney - we bought a weekly travel pass which was most convenient. I believe you can go out to the Blue Mountains by train - we did not go there. But if you want to you can always rent a car for a day or two when in Sydney to make that side trip. I believe Bayswater has good rates.
It is a great country and we had a wonderful time.
 
Dec 11th, 2000, 04:34 AM
  #5  
Diane
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Just wondering if you did a snorkeling trip from Palm Cove and who you used? If so, how was the equipment? Thanks
 
Dec 12th, 2000, 10:46 AM
  #6  
lisa
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Hi Mary Ann. Boy, I need more details! How were each of your hotels? Are there any you would particularly recommend or NOT recommend? I am particularly interested to hear how Daintree was (that and Silky Oaks both sound nice...). What would you say were the highlights of the NZ portion of your trip? In other words, if you had to leave something out, what? Also, how was the weather in both NZ and Australia in November? What were the highlights and low points of your trip, overall? I have heard OZ & NZ are a particularly good value right now -- did you find this to be true? Also, any standout restaurants you would recommend that are a don't miss? I have lots more questions but will stop there for now.
 
Dec 13th, 2000, 03:59 AM
  #7  
Rosalie
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Would love to get names of the 'great' restaurants in Sydney. Live in NYC, so spoiled on great food!
Thanks,
Rosalie
 
Dec 13th, 2000, 12:38 PM
  #8  
Laurie
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Rosalie, we are just back from 4 weeks in Australia. A restaurant in Sydney you must try is Rockpool, 109 George St.,The Rocks. It was our best meal there. If you are in Melbourne there are a couple of restaurants I would recommend there.

Laurie
 
Dec 14th, 2000, 05:54 AM
  #9  
Mary Ann
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Hi
In response to your questions, I just spent about an hour answering them and lost it all when I went to post. I guess I need to do it in pieces so here goes:
Diane:
We did do snorkeling with Posiedon. Regarding equipment, the other couple took their own. When I emailed the tour they informed me that their equipment was very basic. It did not have purge valves or any guards against waves. This concerned me since we were beginners and I did talk to others who did not enjoy the snorkeling because masks did not fit and too much water in the mouth. Therefore, I went to a diving shop where I purchased Dry Snorkel tubes. These are great, you can actually go under without getting any water. They would have been cheaper buying them on the internet but I was not sure if we had enough time. We also got masks to try to help us enjoy it more since they would fit better.
 
Dec 14th, 2000, 06:09 AM
  #10  
Mary Ann
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Hi Lisa
this will be long, I hope I make it this time.

Each of our hotels/lodges were wonderful. Most were chosen for location. All had hairdryers, some laundry facilities, all staff were exceptional in their desire to help make the trip. Most were queen beds or two beds. You do not find alot of kings in OZ or NZ

Hotel Run Down:
Sydney - Marriott - We redeemed a reward, the location was okay, we did alot of walking, it is by hyde park. We opted to pay $33OZ (about $18US) to stay on the concierge floor. This was terrific. It gave us continental breakfast every day for 2 (cereal, fruit, cheese, hard boiled eggs, juice, coffee, sometimes cold cuts) on the 19th floor. Also the waiter gave us each, each day bottled water, we had access all day to pop, and from 5:30-7:30 they had cocktail hour included with caesar salad, fruits, cheeses, etc. Talk about a deal, at least twice we had big lunches and skipped dinner for cocktail hour.

Daintree Eco - Secluded private, only 15 units, wonder massage and facials, evening cruise right there, screened balconies, ceiling fans. Wonderful restaurant. We did not see Silky Oaks, I know they are bigger, perhaps ,more modern.

Palm Cove - Courtyard by Marriott. Across the street from the ocean. Easy access to restaurants. Great Staff, laundry and internet access available. Huge Pool, great pool view from large rooms. About 20 minutes from airport which is great if you have an early flight.

Auckland - Centra Airport, we had an early flight for one night with free shuttle and no noise.

Kaikoura - Anchor Inn Motel - Great view of ocean across road, very clean, kitchen facilities.

Akaroa - Loch Hill Country Cottage Motel, probably my faorite, They have about 8 stone and timber cottages on the hill overlooking the harbour. We had a 2 bedroom, one bath unit with kitchen, sitting and view terrace surrounded by flower gardens, the ducks visited daily. They have their own sheep which were nice to listen to. Sunset was wonderful with wine and cheese before going to dinner in town, about 1/2 mile downhill. Staff excellent. Laundry available

Christchurch - Chateau on the Park - Exceptional staff who made us dinner and train reservations in advance, took care of returning our rental car, booking shuttles/taxis in advance, In process of renovation, if go get newer rooms. Across street from Botanical Gardens, a little longer walk to city center but not bad. Easy access to train station and airport.

Will continue on next post to ensure I do not lose.
 
Dec 14th, 2000, 06:22 AM
  #11  
Mary Ann
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Lisa (continued)
Franz Josef - Punga grove Motor Lodge - Huge, clean - We did not know we would have a bedroom and a loft bedroom, with kitchen facilities. They arranged our heliflight. Easy walk to restaurants and shops and flights. Nice windows looking to the gardens.

Queenstown - The Waterfront - This was a 2 bedroom, 2 bath condominium with kitchen and living room french doors to Lake view. Easy walking to restaurants, shops, wharf casino, great view, covered parking helpful concierge. Since we were there 3 nights having breakfast foods was nice.

Dunedin - Larnach Castle Lodge - Between this and Daintree for my second favorite. A little ways out on the peninsula but the drive, view etc well worth it. We stayed in Kates Room in the lodge behind the castle with a panoramic view from our balcony of the harbour and town. Stars were incredible at night. Free tour acess to castle, half way to the penguins.

Highlights of Trip
Sydney - Bridge Climb, Kangaroo Breakfast, Opera tour, walking the city. Also liked harbour cruise
Daintree - Rainforest Walk
NZ - Heliflight, Jet Boating, Drive from Franz Josef to Queenstown via Haast Pass, Akaroa (a vacation from the vacation for Rick steves fans). The beauty of the country from the train ride across the Alps to Dunedin Peninsula.

Leave out
This is hard since I designed the itinerary based on a ton of research. However, in retrospect if I had to leave something out:
Sydney - Blue Mountain visit - it was nice but not necessary. Especially since going to NZ where the scenery is so spectacular.

NZ - May have left out Blenheim wine tasting. It was spread out not like in Beaune France. Also whale watching was time consuming, interesting but not spectacular. However, if we did not do it would not have found a great restaurant.

I also would have stayed at least 1 night in place in Te Anau. We had planned to fly there from Qtown take the 2 hour coach to Milford and fly back. Weather prevented. Had we stayed in Te Anau, the drive to Dunedin fromthere was not much different. Missing Milford was my biggest disappointment.

To be continued.
 
Dec 14th, 2000, 06:36 AM
  #12  
Mary Ann
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Lisa (continued - we are snowed in today can you tell!)

November weather was not as great as we expected. Sydney was to be low to mid 70s we had mid 60s to low 70s. Cairns areas was in the 80s which was nice. Everywhere we went in NZ they said it was 10 degrees cooler than normal. We expected mid 60s. Maybe one or two days we had that, mostly it was mid 50s. We took fleece for nights and gloves and ear protection for the glaciers, we ended up wearing it on harbor cruises and other times as well (jet boating).

Value - Right now is great. In NZ it was an NZ dollar was worth 40 US cents. We could have a huge meal with wine, dessert, etc and when our Visa bill just came it was about $33 US for a couple. In OZ it is more expensive about 55 cents and many of the restaurants especially in Sydney were higher priced. Some meals ran $60 to $100 for wine, etc. and all.

RESTAURANTS
Sydney -
Rockpool - A wonderful place, great food and staff. Make reservations they book up even on the week, more expensive.

Bel Mondo - Italian flare, mortenbay bugs were great (if in the pasta, hold the chili). A little less expensive than rockpool.

Botanic Gardens Restaurant - Probably my favorite in Sydney. We had lunch, I had Barramundi, a fish native to OZ. My husband had the Veal it was great too, nice portions, great ambiance in the gardens. We ended up only doing the coctail hour at the hotel

Quay - Great view, perhaps overpriced, smaller portions, others above were better except for view.

Daintree Eco - Great Food, soups

Cairns - Fishlips - We did not eat there but our friends did and loved it.

The Store - Exceptional, on the coast of NZ between Blenheim and Kaikoura. The Crayfish was huge, fantastic and cheap. Others later never lived up to it.

Akaroa - C'est La Vie - only 8 tables and 2 sittings, truly enjoyable. BYO

Christchurch - Canterbury Tales - Great Food, exceptional staff, make reservations.

Dunedin - A cow called Berta was good, but High Tide was another of my all time favorites which Good portions, great staff, wonderful food.

Queenstown - Bob;s Peak is great for the Gondola ride, view is exceptional. Buffet is okay, great variety not the exceptional quality. Also we ate at the Boardwalk a highly rated restaurant on the lake. It was overpriced for the smalled portions and okay quality but we could have had a bad night.

Hope this helped, feel free to ask any other questions.
 
Dec 14th, 2000, 06:42 AM
  #13  
Mary Ann
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Hi Rosalie:
See the restaurants discussed above under Lisa. Quay (pronounced "key") caters (we found out later) to more business clientele. It is listed in Frommers. Personally we all felt that other than the view, the other 3 had better food. If you go the Manly beach, there is a french fry place about 2 or 3 stalls in from the street that had great frys.
If you get over to NZ, see the comments above. C'est la vie we were told was written up in the NY Times as one of the great restaurants and we would agree.

Also, in NZ many restaurants are BYO, such as High Tide and we bought our wine in Blenheim knowing we would use it at the various restaurants.

Hope this helps. regards, Mary Ann
 
Dec 15th, 2000, 10:42 AM
  #14  
lisa
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Wow, Mary Ann, thanks for all this great info! I am going to save this for future reference. NZ sounds great but chillier than I would have expected at that time of year.
 
Dec 21st, 2000, 04:47 PM
  #15  
blinkybill
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Mary Ann travelled in NZ during an unseasonably cold snap (as we say here). The weather is often changeable in November/December, due to the spring warming. It's much much better even one month later. Right now, December 22, it's 23 degrees C in Dunedin.
 
Dec 24th, 2000, 12:43 PM
  #16  
Kaylene
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Dear Mary Ann,
We are also staying at the Sydney Marriott by redeeming an award. I had not heard anything about paying extra to stay on the concierge floor. How did you go about doing that? Did you contact the Marriott before arriving or once there ask about upgrading or whatever? I would like to be able to have that option also. Thank you for all your advice and help.
Kaylene
 
Dec 26th, 2000, 05:01 AM
  #17  
Mary Ann
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Kaylene:
We inquired at checkin, the other couple we were with suggested it. We had not known about it before we left. You might try calling Marriott or emailing the hotel directly. I know they used 3 floors for concierge access, with the breakfast/cocktail room on the 19th floor. Our rooms since they had concierge availability were on the 19th. I think you can be on another floor and still get the access it justs makes it more convenient being on the same floor. Access is made by your room card to the floor and to the courtesy room.
Regards, Mary Ann
 
Dec 26th, 2000, 08:08 PM
  #18  
Lynn
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Help! We have to make plans quickly..We are flying to Sidney for 3 days then to Christ Church for 4-5 days and back to Sidney for 1-2 days. BIG QUESTION...help me with our itinerary, especially this NZ part...family of 5 three kids ages 20, 18, and 13... Day 1-arrive in Christ Church 8:30AM, drive 4 hours to Mt. Cook get "acquainted" here, spend night...Day 2-see glacier (I think by boat) in the AM and drive 3 1/2 hours to Queenstown ..Day 3- "play" in Queenstown...Day 4- either "play" more here or drive to Milford Sound...Day 5-we have to be back in Christ Church for a 4:00pm flight to Sidney so we could either get up very early to drive back to Christ Church or try to stay another day to do more in Queenstown (taking away one day from Sidney) I forgot to mention we have three days (two nights) in Sidney before we go to NZ then we return to Sidney for either 3 nights (2 days) or 2 nights and 1 day if I extend the NZ part...Is Milford Sound worth the long day trip??Or is there so much to do in Queenstown that we should skip it? IS the "extra" day better spent in NZ or Sidney? What about day trips out of Sidney? Where is the best place to see the kangas and koalas? Do you recommend the Blue Mountains on such a short stay? I guess this is really getting long...sorry, but I would love anyone's advice!
 
Dec 27th, 2000, 05:01 AM
  #19  
Mary Ann
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Dear Lynn,
Hopefully you sleep on your 3 hour or so flight from Sydney so that you feel like driving to Mt. Cook. It is about 205 miles so the 4 hours is about right if you drive nonstop. Plan ahead for a lunch break. Driving many areas in NZ are not heavily populated and if you do not have an idea, you may get overtired (or overcranky or both). I have heard that lake Tekapo is a nice area, you may want to look into lunch there. Most NZ cities have something on the web. Then driving to Mt Cook. To see the Glacier, you generally take a helicopter, not a boat. It is up on the mountain. They fly late into the day and most rides are 30 to 45 minutes. However if the weather is bad, it does give you the option of going up the next morning. Therefore, you should be able to leave early the next morning for Queenstown. Again, try to plan a stop for siteseeing on the way.
You should get to Queenstown early enough to plan a Shotover jet boat ride. We did dart river which is a little further out and you probably have had enough driving for a day. The kids will love it, it gets you out in the fresh air, check out there web sites. For dinner, you might take the gondola up to Bob's peak. Buffet dinner is decent, view is great and if you check it out, the Luge rides might still be open and the kids would love it.
Queenstown is also a shopping area for postcards, novelties, Lanolin, etc. Kind of like a Lake Tahoe feel with a couple of streets that are doable quickly.
We never made it to Milford due to weather and the drive. You are talking a minimum 5 hour drive each way, plus the hour or two cruise. A really long day. Buses usually leave Qtown at 7am. We were going to fly, but due to weather the planes were not going. The cost may also be a bit much for the 5 of you to fly depending on your budget.
There is also a Lake cruise in Qtown you can take for dinner and sheep shearing.
For walking, there is the Routeburn track which I think may have a one day thing.
Just outside Queenstown, is where Bungy jumping began off the Kawarau Suspension bridge. It is 14 miles outside Qtown and you may see it either on your way in or out. We stopped for awhile just to watch the jumpers.
You are planning so much driving, with the kids (my daughter is 24 and I remember the drives) you may want to plan more outdoor activities rather than all the time in driving.
In reality if time is shorter I would skip the Blue Mountains. They are lovely but once you spend the time in the NZ alps, I would save the driving time. Breakfast with the Kangaroos in the National Park is great, everyone enjoyed watching them feed and hop around, with joeys popping in and out of the pouches. Plan to do one of the animal reserves/zoos for Koalas. Bridge climb was wonderful (see our itinerary above discussion).
Also be advised, unless you are use to it, driving on the left does take some getting use to. If you are not, we would not advise trying in it Sydney, better to take in slowly in NZ. The Amp tower in Sydney also has a ride that is neat in addition to the viewing area. The IMAX by the aquarium was good for the 1 hour Sydney show to give you the history of the Rocks area. Harbourside by the Aquarium and the IMAX was great for Lunch with lots of variety for carryout.
Hope this helps.
 
Oct 9th, 2001, 12:41 PM
  #20  
Mary Ann
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Just topping for another post.
 

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