Koala Cuddling and Penguin Parades

I am truly fortunate to have an amazing job, where I get to plan vacations all day long (and get paid for it). But when you’re holding someone’s “trip of a lifetime” in your hands, there can be more than a little bit of stress involved. I am always SO pleased when clients take the time to let me know that everything worked out exactly as planned. And in this case, with Susan and John’s “bucket list” trip to Australia, it certainly sounds like we hit a home run!

Hi Ann,

Sorry this has taken so long but I really wanted to give you some highlights and comments.  By the way, if you’d like to send me back to do more research, just let me know.  I am ready and able whenever you say. (if only!)

The flights on Qantas were really great.  The trip over and back was incredibly long but it really didn’t seem it.  The flight attendants were also extremely good and pleasant. (something I find lacking in most US carriers, especially American!).  They fed us very well and even in Coach, all the Australian wine you want!

Generally all the on-ground pick-ups and drop-offs were really good and efficient except that one time in Melbourne when John e-mailed you.  That was definitely the exception.

Hirsch Sydney Harbor


Please let me move there!! The harbor is amazing!! No matter what you imagine, it’s more spectacular and beautiful than that! Of course, as we are sailors, we did so appreciate all the activity in and around, especially the 10 meters.  We got the lay of the land on our first day by hopping on a train from Erskinville (our friends’ neighborhood) to the harbor and then utilizing the ferry system. The second day, we took a car into the Blue Mountains (blue hue from all of the Eucalyptus)! I am going to include pics of it with the Three Sisters Rock formations.  Truly amazing. (I think I’m using that word too much). We also were able to explore the botanical gardens and again will include some pics.

Hirsch Three SistersHirsch Kangaroo refuge


I wish we’d had more time as it is a really lovely city with lots to do.  We had a chance to walk around quite a bit but since we arrived there on New Year’s day, many of the restaurants were closed for holiday. The highlight for me, though, was the day we traveled to Phillip Island, and the Penguin Parade. It’s difficult to describe this scene at sunset when a few little penguins emerge form the sea after a day of fishing. The few quickly become hundreds all trekking their way back to their burrows to find and feed their babies. We were not allowed to take pictures of them as the flash would have been a hindrance but it really didn’t matter.

Hirsch Melbourne Town Hall


An extraordinary island and since we didn’t really have enough time to get to New Zealand, this was certainly a great way to spend that time.  We had a wonderful hotel room with a perfect view of the waterfront.  (thank you very much!).  It was much colder in Tasmania than further north as it is much closer to the Arctic. The number of birds and animals is mind-boggling, very different from our varieties! Our first full day there, we took a car to the top of Mt. Wellington where the rain became sleet.  The views from up there were spectacular. Also the Salamanca Market which takes place on the Square in Hobart every Saturday was really special.  We purchased many of our gifts there as much of it was made in and came from Tasmanian products- scarves, wood, jewelry. We also visited a reserve which featured Tasmanian Devils, a baby Wombat whose mom had been hit by a car and now thinks of the zoo keeper as his “mom”. Lots of kangaroos, koalas…I was in heaven but I think that John had had enough animals at that point.

Hirsch Tasmanian DevilHirsch Trevor with a friend in Tasmania


Palm Cove was very nice and only about 20 minutes from Cairns proper. The apartments were clean and lovely and it was really great to be able to have coffee, breakfast, wine and snacks in our own space and not have to go out for everything. We could have even done our laundry but opted out.  Unfortunately a jelly fish problem kept us from swimming on any of the beaches in that area. However, the pool was fabulous and we managed to get a couple of swims in there.

Hirsch Great Barrier Reef

The Outer Reef experience was amazing and certainly one of the highlights for John.  He even got to take advantage of a short scuba lesson and was able to go 8 meters down.  Both of us snorkeled and all I can say is “speechless”. It was overwhelming and I found myself humming “Octopus’ Garden” as I swam to different spots to view as much as possible during that time out there. Only regret is that we did not take an underwater camera and really wish we had. (They also equipped us with head to toe wet suits as a precaution to jelly fish stings). Weird at first but worth the peace of mind.

Hirsch John with bird in CairnsHirsch Me with Kangaroo

The last day in Cairns we went to the zoo in the morning and had a nice breakfast there while a keeper walked around with a koala who he introduced to everyone. Cuter than cute, of course! I also gave in and had myself photographed holding a koala named Buster (pic included) and I really did not want to give him back.

Hirsch Cairns breakfast with CuddlesHirsch Buster the Koala

Back to Sydney for last two days

Took a tour of the Opera House (I mean we had to!) but it was fantastic and the tour was excellent.  We also got a chance to experience Darling Harbor (which had so much going on for children with water, playgrounds, etc) and loads of outdoor places to have lunch! Our friends surprised us with a late afternoon cruise on one of the Tall Ships.  They also purchased tickets for John and me to climb up to the crow’s nest which in Sydney Harbor is quite a view from that high up! The last night we were taken to 360 Bar & Dining in Sydney Tower with revolving views of the skyline.  We arrived at sunset so the view really was very special.

Hir‏sch Tall ship on last day with friendsHirsch prepare for crows nest

Now we are home and trying to comprehend it all.  At this point, it is the best trip we’ve ever taken and I cannot thank you enough for all your hard work for it. Sorry if this became a bit wordy but please do use what you’d like and e-mail or call me if you have any queries. It was the trip of a lifetime and the ONLY complaint I have is that it should have been longer! (maybe next time).

Can’t wait to start planning the next trip but we need to re-coop from this one.

Thanks again for everything,

Susan and John




From Waikiki to Wallabees

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!

Hi Ann,

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!


You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)