I’m sure many of us have taken advantage of a work commitment (conference, training, out of town meeting, etc.) to tack on some extra vacation time for ourselves…but my client Selina really did it right! Since she was going to be in Hawaii for a conference, she brought along the family and headed to Australia afterwards for some exploration and adventure!
We had a great time! Here are the highlights of the trip, along with some tips:
In Honolulu / Waikiki, we hiked to the Manoa Falls. It was about a 2-3 mile hike, the last half mile of which was muddy (but we were advised beforehand to wear old sneakers). We made arrangements with Oahu Tours. They were good (although I don’t have any way of comparison with the other companies). Zipline Oahu not worth it, though. It was a dinky line over the minigolf overlooking the ocean.
If you’re in Honolulu, don’t forget to go to Diamond Head. It’s a hike and there are some steep areas but with rails. It’s worth it though, as the scenery on top is breathtaking. I would imagine parts of the trail would be slippery when wet.
As an American, visiting Pearl Harbor and being at the USS Arizona Memorial was really moving, as you imagine the soldiers and civilians scrambling for action and safety during the attack.
If you want to take surfing lessons in Honolulu, don’t do it in Waikiki as it can be crowded and somebody can be in front of you and cut short your smooth glide on the wave! We went with Discover Hawaii Tours. They brought us to a nearby town and we took a boat to the surf site offshore. Of course, I stayed on the boat and watched the girls from afar while they surfed. Our group was pretty much alone, so the girls could ride their wave without interruption.
Food (and everything else in Hawaii) is expensive. But we went to a hole in the wall place called Ono Hawaiian Foods and it was delicious. It’s a small place, maybe about 10 tables and they serve authentic Hawaiian dishes like laulau (roast meat covered in taro leaves) and haupia (I think this is the dessert containing coconut cream, almost gelatin like).
On to Sydney...the Bridge Climb was an experience! It’s expensive, but it’s a good way of raising funds for the upkeep of the bridge. It’s one of those things that you do once and could say ‘been there done that.’ It’s not for somebody who is afraid of heights, though. The view of the opera house from above is impressive. Holiday Inn at Darling Harbor was a nice location and the rooms are clean and a good size. We had adjoining rooms and the staff was very accommodating and opened the door between the two rooms. We took the Harbor Cruise from Darling Harbor. It’s a hop-on-hop-off ferry to different sites on the Harbor including Taronga Zoo, with onboard commentary about the different locations. That was a nice trip, except the weather was not very cooperative. It was drizzly and damp the day we did it. Still worth it, though.
The Blue Mountain tour was wonderful, especially since we were the only group present. So we basically had a private tour. Our guide was knowledgeable too, and accommodating, especially when we spotted two kangaroos with joeys in the bushes. We took our time taking pictures and watching the joeys eat! Then on to King’s Table where it got foggy and looked like we were on top of the world.
Surfers Paradise and Q1 Resort and Spa was almost perfect. There was just a lot of construction on the main drag (updating the cityrail tracks) of Surfers Paradise, so walking along it was cumbersome and the machinery was noisy. We got upgraded at Q1 from a two bedroom suite to a three bedroom. It was huge! The girls each had their own room. We also had an ocean view which was so nice, we could watch the sunrise.
We drove to Burleigh Heads, which was about half an hour south of Surfers Paradise. We hiked on parts of the small National Park. It was a good hike with trails and lookouts along the rocky cliffs and forest. We enjoyed that too. The girls also enjoyed watching the surfers from the park shores. You could tell that it’s a surfing mecca as even the park benches were in the shape of surfboards. It was a quaint beach town.
The highlight of Australia Zoo was the enclosure of the kangaroos and wallabees where you can feed them from food you get at a vending device. One can also pet the koalas.
Driving in Australia had its moments! Ray had to get used to driving on the ‘wrong side’ of the road. He said that was not as bad as trying to get used to the car where the buttons and levers are on the ‘wrong side.’ The street signs are also not that visible. Sydney / Gold Coast has a high standard of living, higher than here, so it is more expensive. It even seemed more expensive than Hawaii. Sydney is a beautiful city and is pedestrian friendly with plenty of sidewalks and separate walking lanes for pedestrians. I would not mind going there again!