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In 2014, we decided to plan a family vacation to a place none of us had been. We asked our kids, who were 19 and 16 at the time, to come up with some ideas. The place they agreed on was Australia. Australia was also a place on our radar, so I was more than happy to begin the planning! We needed to go during their winter break, which was perfect, because it allowed us to experience New Year’s Eve in Australia, which was magnificent! Since Australia is such a large country, we had to narrow down our travels to a general area and chose to explore three main areas that were short plane rides apart. It was such an amazing vacation, and it left me wanting to go back again and again!

My Itinerary

December 23

Leave LAX for 13+ hour flight to Brisbane

~*Cross international date line so miss December 24*~

December 25

Arrive in Brisbane and go through customs

Flight to Cairns

One hour drive to Port Douglas

  • Very pretty along the ocean (similar look to Hawaii)

  • Hotel (Cayman Villas) arranged a car service for airport transportation

Very long day but happy to be in Australia!!

Arrive in Port Douglas

Check into Cayman Villas

  • Good family-friendly apartahotel

  • Pretty pool

  • Stayed in a very spacious three-bedroom condo

Walked into town

  • Not much open because Christmas Day

Snack at Rattle N Hum

  • Good food

Dinner at Siam by the Sea

  • REALLY good Thai food

Note: If you are arriving on Christmas, make sure to make your dinner reservation ahead of time. Not many restaurants were open, so we were happy the hotel manager suggested this to us before we arrived.

December 26

Breakfast at Beaches Café (appears to not exist anymore)

  • *cash only*

  • Very good food

  • Right by the beach

Bus to Wildlife Habitat

  • Fed kangaroos

  • Picture with koala

  • Lots of birds 

Lunch at Dave's Takeaway

  • Good burgers

Go to the beach

  • Four-mile walk along coast

  • Swim in stinger-free/protected area

Note: December is stinger season, so you want to make sure you follow the guidelines where you choose to swim.

Dinner at Bucci (permanently closed)

  • REALLY good Italian food

December 27

Up early 

Down Under Tour to Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation

  • Very good tour

    • Not a lot of walking but got a good sense of the rainforest

  • Ian was our tour guide

  • Daintree river boat

  • Saw a crocodile and monitor lizard

  • Barbecue lunch in the rainforest

    • Very good

  • Drive to Cape Tribulation beach

  • Take ferry across Daintree River 

  • Drive to Mossman Gorge

  • Have tea

  • Mossman Gorge presentation

    • Learned that green ants for sinuses and sassafras tree for arthritis

  • Shuttle into Gorge 

Order in dinner from Chilly's

  • Pizza and pasta

  • Food so so

December 28

Tropical Journeys Aquarius sailboat Great Barrier Reef trip

  • Great tour!!

  • Snorkel-coral reef, fish, sharks, turtles-great day!!!!

  • Andy, Dom, and Shay guides

  • Small group

Note: The small group tour was much better than the large tour boat companies out there.  This particular tour group was highly recommended to us by a friend who spent a lot of time in Australia.

Walk around and explore Port Douglas

Dinner at Central Hotel Restaurant

  • Very casual and very good food

Gelato for dessert

December 29

Check out of Cayman Villas

Car ride back to airport 

Travel to Sydney

  • Virgin Australia flight

Check into Westin Sydney (now the Fullerton Hotel Sydney)

  • Really nice hotel

Walk to The Rocks

Dinner at Saké

  • Eclectic Japanese food

  • REALLY good

Dessert at Guylian Belgian Chocolate Café

December 30

Breakfast at The Strand in the Strand Arcade

Botanical Gardens to pick up NYE tickets 

  • After researching the best way to watch the New Year’s Eve festivities, we discovered several options at several price ranges. We wanted to ensure a place to sit as opposed to going to a public place where you have to “camp out” all day, but we didn’t want to spend a ton of money. The option we chose was to purchase a membership to the Botanical Gardens. Through purchasing a basic membership, we were able to purchase four tickets at the member price for the NYE celebration, which allowed us to go there at our leisure and have a place to sit and relax

Train and bus to Bondi Beach

  • Beautiful and VERY crowded

Drink and snack at Icebergs

Walk to Bronte Beach

  • Very scenic 

Bus and train back to hotel

Dinner at Meat & Wine Co at Darling Harbor (location permanently closed but other locations open)

  • REALLY good food

December 31

Breakfast at Westin Sydney (now the Fullerton Hotel Sydney)

Ferry to Taronga Zoo

  • Walk around

  • Picture with giraffe 

Early dinner at Westin Sydney (now the Fullerton Hotel Sydney)

Botanical Gardens for NYE Fireworks at 9 PM and 12 AM

  • Amazing show and evening!!

  • Instead of eating an early dinner, we could have arranged, ahead of time, a picnic dinner to take to the gardens, but we didn’t plan that early enough. We did bring drinks and snacks

January 1

Brunch at City Extra at Sydney Harbor

Captain Cook Cruises harbor tour

  • Two-hour cruise

See spectacular homes in Double Bay

  • Really pretty bay

Souvenir shop 

Dinner at Trovata in East Sydney (permanently closed)

  • REALLY good Italian food!

  • Cute small restaurant on quaint street

January 2

Breakfast at Westin Sydney (now the Fullerton Hotel Sydney)

Hop-on-hop-off city bus tour

Finished city bus tour

Visited UGG Store but didn't buy 

Dinner at Searock Grill at harbor

  • Another good meal

Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb at 9:05 PM

  • Three-hour climb to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge

  • Spectacular view!

  • 1300 steps!

  • Really fun

  • This is a must do activity, as long as you aren’t afraid of heights! I do recommend that, if it is summertime, you do it early in the morning, or at night, when it isn’t too hot.  

January 3

Breakfast at The Strand in the Strand Arcade 

Travel to Melbourne

  • Crazy busy at airport

  • Jetstar airlines

Check into Adina Apartment Hotel on Flinders Street

  • Two-bedroom/two-bath with view of the city

  • Only negative is that it’s across from train tracks, so it was a little noisy at times

Dinner at Mamasita

  • VERY good Mexican small plates to share

January 4

Breakfast at Terra Rossa (permanently closed)

Bunyip Tour to Phillip Island

Got back @ 12:30 AM

January 5

Breakfast at Time Out Café

Hidden Secrets Lanes and Arcades tour

  • Great way to see the city!

  • This small-group tour group adds a personal touch to seeing the off-the-beaten-path lanes, alleyways, and amazing graffiti locations in Melbourne

  • Chocolate tasting at Koko Black

Lunch at Chin Chin

  • Really good and lots of food 

Order in dinner from Café Tono (permanently closed)

  • Ok pasta

January 6

Our last day

Breakfast at Degraves Espresso

  • Small cafe in Degraves Lane

Walk around shops

Waterfront area

Lunch at Grill'd

  • Good burgers 

Walk around a little more

Dinner at Ca de Vin

  • Little Italian café

  • Very good

January 7

Head to airport

Fly home

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