Jamie’s Hawaii and Australia Adventure – Final Blog

Wow, what a week in Sydney we’ve had.  I spent 5 of the days in a conference, but luckily the conference organizers had some fun and unique activities planned for us throughout our stay.  We also spent a few days catching up with friends and seeing some of the sights on our own.  Here are a few of my top picks if you have a few days in Sydney!

1)       Taronga Zoo.  It was my second visit there and went to Sydney knowing that I wanted to revisit it.  It is a quick ferry ride from Circular Quay and it really is one of the best zoos in the world.  You arrive at sea level and take a Gondola up to the top of the zoo.  From there, you spend the day making your way down to sea level again to take the ferry back to downtown Sydney.  The views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are incredible.  They have a wide variety of local Australian Animals as well as African animals like elephants and Giraffe and other exotic animals like Tigers, etc.  You could spend a few hours or a whole day, depending if you want to catch any of their shows.  A family pass to the zoo including the ferry, etc for 4 people is $150.00 AUD.

2)      Sailing on Sydney Harbour.  You can learn to sail with an experienced sailing company right on Sydney Harbour.  Your afternoon adventure with East Sail has you going on board with a skipper and your crew of new sailors-to-be.  You learn a few basics, then you have two races against their other sailboats.  You get to do everything from steering the sailboat to pulling and letting out the ropes (I wish I remembered what it was all called!)  It was something I wouldn’t have done on my own but it was a blast – unexpectedly my favorite thing I did in Sydney.  I am not sure the cost is as this was included in our conference rate.

Sailing on Sydney Harbour

Sailing on Sydney Harbour

3)      Sydney Aquarium.  We spent about 3 hours here with the kids and could have stayed longer if we weren’t all starving for lunch.  They have tons of sea life – sharks, dolphins, Dugong’s (looks like a Manatee) Barrier Reef fish, all kinds of Sting Rays, octopus, Platapus, sea horse, penguins, etc.  It was fabulous and the kids loved it.  It was about $26.00 AUD for adults and $16.00 AUD for kids if you bought the tickets online – they were more at the door.

4)      Darling Harbour.  I didn’t go over to Darling Harbour on my first visit to Sydney and that’s a shame.  It is a beautiful harbor with some excellent restaurants, the Aquarium, Sydney wildlife Park, shops, a large playground, the Maritime Museum and more.  You could easily spend a day or two exploring this area and enjoying the views.

5)      Manly Beach.  This was also new for me.  You can take a fast ferry – about 20 minutes – over to Manly Beach from Circular Quay.  It is $12.00 AUD each way.  When you arrive, you can walk along a pretty little street full of shops and restaurants over to Manly Beach.  It is beautiful – stunning.  Just what you think of when you picture Australian beaches.  Sugary white sand and water that’s every shade of blue and green.  You can learn to surf there, go scuba diving, find great shopping and restaurants, or just enjoy the beach.  We walked along Manly beach to a second little side beach called Shelley Beach and had lunch at a restaurant called Le Kiosk.  It is tucked out of the way with incredible views of the beach.  The food was excellent, but just make sure you aren’t in a hurry as the dining process there is meant for you to take time to enjoy the food and views and not rush through.  It was a very busy little spot – I think reservations would be a must.

Manly Beach

Manly Beach

Sydney remains one of my favorite cities.  The people are welcoming, there is lots to do and it had a clean, safe feeling.  It is also a very expensive city – quite a bit more than being at home and even quite a bit more than being in Hawaii.  If you go, you will need to budget accordingly.  It was hard to have a meal for 2 adults and a child that was under $100.00.

We are now back in Hawaii – our last night in Honolulu at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach, before we fly home tomorrow evening.  I have the patio doors open and I can hear the Hawaiian band playing in our outdoor hotel lounge.  I will be sad to leave and return to the -40 temperatures of Saskatchewan, but I guess no one can be on vacation forever….

Jamie’s Hawaii and Australia Adventure Part Three – Hawaiian Airlines Coming Up Roses!

First of all, I have to admit I am a terrible flyer.  Most people are surprised by this, given that I own a travel agency and I have been in the travel industry for over 15 years.  I hate flying, I am terrified of turbulence, I get sweaty hands and at can’t wait to get off the airplane at the end of a flight.  I have never flown Hawaiian Airlines before and I was a bit skeptical (and nervous)… I was sure this would be some sort of second rate-discount-airline that would not have my safety and comfort as their top priority.

However, they were the only airline flying direct Honolulu-Sydney on the days I wanted and they were a good price, so that’s how we came to have a reservation on Hawaiian Airlines.  I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised!  The check in staff was very helpful.  Please make sure to get to the airport  in Honolulu at least two hours prior as they suggest – the security lineups were very long and we stood in line about 45 minutes.  The in flight crew and staff were very friendly and polite and they took extra time to make sure Sydney was comfortable and felt special.  I had ordered a special children’s meal ahead of time for Sydney (complimentary) and it was chicken nuggets and tater tots and fruit salad – perfect for a kids meal.  The adult meal was also quite good – surprising by airline standards.  It was an Asian chicken stirfry with asparagus and rice, plus cheesecake and a salad.  They came around with a snack later in the flight which was sandwiches, cookies and macadamia nut chocolates.  They also had complimentary drinks including wine and beer throughout the flight.  In between the meal services, they had snacks for purchase in the galley.  They have personal in seat entertainment units (not standard on all flights, but I think it’s standard on most of the long haul international flights.)  They had a selection of movies, music, tv shows and games for free, plus a few new releases at an additional cost.  There was no problem finding something to pass the time.  It was an 11 hour flight…I watched three movies and read the rest of my book and we were there!

My only complaint is that the leg room was not quite what I would have liked.  If I had anything at all in my seat pocket, my knees were touching the seat in front of me.  However, the seats reclined quite a bit and had adjustable head rests which made it nice for napping.  They also gave everyone a pillow and blanket.   All in all, Hawaiian gets two thumbs up from me and I am quite happy to be flying them back to Honolulu next Friday night.

We arrived in Sydney in the evening and took a taxi from the airport to our downtown hotel (about $45 AUD).  Check in at the Four Seasons was very quick and efficient and our room was as requested with a king bed and a cot all made up for Sydney.  The room is quite large with a really nice bathroom.  They provide adaptors which is a bonus and there is a DVD player and very large flat screen TV.  They have complimentary bottled water in our room – replaced nightly and they include breakfast and WIFI.  My only complaint about the room is it seems quite dark.  The lights are all covered in a very dark shade and there aren’t enough lights in the ceiling.  Ironing was a bit of a challenge when I couldn’t see where the wrinkles were!

View from hotel room in Sydney

View from hotel room in Sydney

The included breakfast at the Four Seasons was very good – buffet style but made to order eggs and lots of fresh breads, baking, fruit, eggs benedict, bacon, pretty much everything you could want.  I am thankful for the included breakfast since the costs in Sydney have not gotten any better since I was here a few years ago.  Caesar Salad at the hotel is $28 AUD and at a restaurant on Darling Harbour it was $18 AUD.  Pasta was $24-$30AUD for lunch and a glass of wine starts at $13 AUD – beer starts around $9 AUD.  Considering the AUD is pretty close to being on par with the CAD, the prices are quite a bit higher than at home.

Tomorrow we will check out the Aquarium and do a bit more sightseeing before my conference starts on Monday.  It really is a beautiful city and the view of the Opera House out our window can’t be beat!

Jamie’s Hawaii and Australia Adventure Part One – Travelling with Children – “Patience and a Plan”

 

It was with utter excitement and just a little trepidation (on my part) that the three of us embarked on our next travel adventure.  We have travelled with our 5 year old before, but this was by far the longest and furthest adventure we had  undertaken.  We are travelling from Saskatoon to Honolulu (via Calgary and Vancouver) total travel time including layovers was 17 hours door to door.  Then after a 6 day island stopover we are travelling Honolulu to Sydney – a 10 hour flight each direction.  After days in Sydney it’s back to Honolulu for 2 nights/3 days, then home to Saskatoon.  Total trip length of 18 days and total time on an airplane or in airports about 50 hours…..did I mention that will be with a 5 year old????  Some think we’re crazy, but I think we’ll survive and have some much needed family time in Hawaii, which has been in short supply after a very busy fall and we’ll get to have some great adventures.

So, I often have clients ask me – what do you need to remember when travelling with children? My best answer – patience and a plan.  My husband is much better at the patience part and I am much better at the plan part and together it seems to work out.  For the “plan” I am the one who makes sure we have the booster seat packed, I spend the week before packing to make sure the favourite blanket isn’t forgotten and that we have massive supplies of new colouring books, activity books, iPods with games and tv shows loaded, crayons, a new very tiny dolly with very tiny doll clothes (the normal ones were NOT fitting in our carry-on!) cups with lids and spouts for the airplanes (no spills!) and my specialty – the bag of surprise “treats.”  I let my daughter Sydney know before we leave home that I have this magical bag of treats and that she has to “earn” them with her best behaviour.  I surprise her by letting her pick a treat when I thint boredom is about to kick in (ie – whining and crankiness) – it helps to avoid these types of meltdowns.  When meltdowns do occur, I remind her that is not the way to earn another treat and she usually turns it around.

If not, such as when she decides she is going to lay down on the floor of US customs in Vancouver because she is too tired to walk any further… well, that’s when the patience comes in.  While I just get frustrated and tend to pick her up and haul her along crying and throwing a fit, Mark will get down and talk her out of it and before I know it they are all smiles again and we’re back on our way.  Thank goodness, because that way seems to work better!  Thankfully as well, she is a great sleeper and slept 5 out of 6 hours on the flight to Honolulu from Vancouver.  It left Vancouver at 6pm (8pm our time) and arrive at 10:30pm – 2:30am for us.  By the time we got our car and got checked in to our hotel it was 12:30am local time and Sydney had been awake for about 3 hours.  We all managed to go right back to sleep and slept till 6am – not too bad since that was 10am at home and that NEVER happens – we are always early risers.  I thought “No problem – we have this 4 hour time change/jet lag thing kicked on the first day!”  Did I mention this is day two and Sydney and I were up at 4:30????  That will teach me not to gloat!

So here we are, morning two, having cheerios and coffee at the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club and watching “Tangled.”  I am very thankful that we upgraded to the one bedroom Villa and have the extra space and kitchen.  The Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club is located 30 minutes west of the Honolulu airport in the resort town of Ko Olina.  There are a few other resorts along this stretch – the JW Marriott, the new Disney Aiulani and Ko Olina Villas.  I chose the Marriott Beach Club because of its family friendliness and we wanted some place quieter than being right in Honolulu – where we will spend our last couple of nights on the way home from Australia.  This is one of Marriott’s time share properties, but they also sell it as a regular hotel.  They have junior suites with a microwave and fridge (no stove no laundry, no separate bedroom.)  This is what we were originally booked into.  We upgraded for $35/night to the one bedroom villa and I am so glad we did.  We had to give up our oceanview, but this place is huge.  It has a large marble bathroom with glass shower, then a separate area off the master bedroom with a huge tub and vanity.  It has a full kitchen with marble countertops, stove, full size fridge, coffee maker, all the cookware you could need and even a dishwasher.  It also has in suite washer and dryer – a big bonus because then we didn’t have to pack quite as much – we can wash everything before we head off to Australia.  It has a master bedroom with a king bed and a pull out couch, two flat screen tv’s and two dvd players.  You can rent DVD’s for free from Marriott.  One last note – after paying $24 for Sydney and I to share bacon and eggs in the restaurant yesterday morning, I was very happy to go to Foodland and buy supplies for breakfast and lunch during our stay – I am positive we more than saved the $35/night on restaurant bills!  Plus, when we were all tired last night and didn’t feel like going out for dinner, spaghetti and salad was easily whipped up and we had a nice quiet night staying in.

Marriott ko olina beach resort 1

Marriott ko olina beach resort 2

The hotel itself is very nice.  It has three pools – one with a waterslide and 7 hot tubs (actually “hot” which is awesome for early mornings evenings and warming up from the regular pools!)  It has a full gym and spa and lots of activities for kids.  Yesterday Sydney got to swim with a “mermaid” and she read all the little girls’ books by the pool.  They also have craft time for the kids and they get to feed the fish and do lots of other fun things.  The beach is a man made cove which is calm and perfect again for kids – you don’t need to worry about undertow or big waves.  There is a great walking/jogging path along the beach.  All in all, we are very happy with our choice of resort for these 6 nights.

Hawaii Beach

Next up ….  Well hopefully a nap at some point, more beach time and I would like to do a drive up to the North Shore.  Stay tuned!

Czarina’s Australian Experience

Mar 7th, 2012

Driving back from Great Ocean Road to Melbourne took a lot of patience.

Great Ocean Road

We had to concentrate as city driving has certain obstacles being from Saskatchewan wouldn’t be familiar with.  Example: Hook Turn – Because of the tram system in Melbourne, auto drivers must make a right turn by moving into the furthest left lane and driving forth.

Hook Turn

Always keeping in mind they must turn into the left lane.  Sound complicated?  Tell me about it.  I’ve never been so happy to drop off a rental car in my life.  Melbourne is a dangerous place to be for shoppers like myself.  A girl could do some damage buying an entire store filled with shoes, clothes, jewelry and more. The weather here is much cooler and I can feel my tan begin to fade.  As they move into their fall months, the temperature begins to drop.  I need more sun quickly!!!

Mar 5th, 2012

Yesterday we flew to the beautiful city of Melbourne.  Here we will be staying with friends but today we drove the Great Ocean Road.  Easily the most scenic drive of my life!  The roads are thrilling with gorgeous vistas around every corner.  We rented a small vehicle for the day and I’m glad we opted for something smaller because those roads can be quite narrow.  We made it from Torquay (beginning of the stretch) to The Twelve Apostles.

12 Apostles

The rock formations are stunning in person and I’m so glad we made it out there. Tonight we are staying at the Sandpiper Resort, a charming boutique style hotel located in Apollo Bay.  After a long drive, we could use some R&R.

Mar 2nd,  2012

We made the drive down south to Byron Bay today.  This might be my favorite area so far!  The small beach town is a happy mixture of tourists and locals.  Byron is the most eastern point in Australia and seems to be a great getaway for nearby Aussies from Brisbane and other big centers.

Byron Bay

We spent the day walking around in the hot sun and discovering hidden beaches, excellent shopping and finally some affordable restaurants.  The town area is not that big so it is very easy to get around.  We met up with other Canadian friends who were traveling and hit the town for some cocktails and laughs.  We were told that “The Balcony” was a great place to start the night with some Thai iced teas and kiwi martinis to compliment our delicious tapas.  The Balcony is in a great location, right in the center of it all.  Later that evening, we made our way to “The Cheeky Monkey”, a nightclub near our hotel.  The music was loud, it smelt funny and it was filled with too many people.  Just proves to me again that I’m too old for this.  Sigh!

Mar 1st, 2012

One of the great features of Hervey Bay is that you are just a ferry ride away from Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world.

Fraser Island Beach

We rented a 4×4 and cruised over by barge with our new ride for a day trip.  Our day flew by with amazing, challenging trails and unbelievable sights.  Driving on the beach with the water 20 feet away is something else.  We also visited the beached shipwreck of the Maheno which has been on the east side of the island since 1935.

The Maheno Shipwreck

The highlight for me was Lake Mackenzie, a large freshwater lake in the middle of the island.  There, we swam in warm crystal clear water.  It was so clean you could almost drink it.  Looking for dingoes was a bust.  Apparently, they aren’t the friendliest so maybe it’s for the best.  Unfortunately, I threw my neck out and may need to be referred to a chiropractor from all the off-roading, I wouldn’t change a thing though.

Lake MacKenzie, Fraser Island

Feb 28th, 2012

We were off to an early start today because we are off to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.  We hopped on another Jetstar plane for a two-hour flight from Cairns to “Brissie”.  Once reaching “Brissie”, we grabbed our car for our four-hour drive to Hervey Bay.  Driving on the left is nerve racking for me and I’m only a passenger!  The vistas are incredible with unusual looking trees and wildlife all over.  One thing we have noticed is the laid-back nature of the people of Queensland.  Everyone is very friendly and accommodating.  Surprisingly, nobody wears shoes!  Gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants are filled with shoe hating Aussies.  Once we reached Hervey Bay, we were spent.  Thankfully, we have the next two days to bask in the sun at the beautiful Hotel Santalina.  My new “home away from home”…

Hotel Santalina

Feb 27th, 2012

I woke up excited about our trip today to the Great Barrier Reef!  It’s not every day you get to visit the world’s largest living organism.  We had booked our excursion back home with Viator.  We decided to combine our snorkel with a visit to Green Island, one of the many beautiful islands within Great Barrier.  Our boat ride over there took about 45 minutes on what may have been the roughest seas my poor stomach has ever had to endure.  Thank goodness for Gravol because I was able to keep my breakfast down!  Arriving at the island, we quickly set up shop on the beach.  We decided to take the Lycra suits that were highly recommended by the crew.  Jellyfish stings are on the rise at this time of year so it never hurts to be careful.  We jumped into the warm water to find the best snorkelling we’ve ever experienced!  The pockets of coral, fish and colors are indescribable.  I can’t believe the amazing things we saw.  Green Island is a haven for those looking for some peace and quiet.  There is a small resort here for people who want to spend a few days.  We packed a picnic lunch as prices on food are quite high.  I think food prices here are even higher than in Europe.  All in all, another great day!

Green Island

Feb 26th, 2012

Today we flew to Cairns in Northern Australia.  This is my first time using Jetstar Airlines.  I was worried about the overall experience because their fares are so cheap, but I was pleasantly surprised.  We rented a car and had a day exploring the northern coast.  Cairns and the surrounding areas are very humid and it feels like we are in a tropical jungle.  Everything is so lush and green.

We first visited Ellis Beach where we had the area to ourselves.  You couldn’t see another person in sight for miles of shoreline.  The UV rays are very high so we have to be careful about burning.  It’s such an intense heat here.  Next, we did some cable wake boarding using a cable line.  None of us had seen that before.  The boys are awfully sore but for $39 AUD each they are happy they tried it.

Next, we made it to an animal sanctuary in Port Douglas, just 50 km away from Cairns.  There we got to feed kangaroos!  It was amazing.  I was very nervous at first because it’s a big open area with about 50 kangaroos and tons of birds.  It took me a while to get comfortable but what a truly Australian experience!

Feb 25th, 2012

After a long journey, I’ve finally made it “down unda”.  I am so glad we went direct from Vancouver because the flight was painfully long.  We quickly hopped in a cab and started our trip to the busy, yet beautiful, Bondi Beach.   It almost reminds me of Waikiki beach with all the shopping, restaurants and bars.  It is very commercialized but appeals to the young with plenty of hipsters and surfers looking to relax.

We stayed just across the street at Hotel Bondi; a grungy little hotel with what might possibly be the best location on Bondi Beach.  The beach is powdery white sand and there is plenty of room for the thousands of people who spend their Saturday’s lazing around.  It is so beautiful here and I’m excited to come back at the end of the trip to explore the rest of Sydney.

Joanne’s Fam to Australia

Hello Everyone,

Well we finally made it to Adelaide.  We took The Great Ocean Road which was totally amazing. The scenery is absolutely beautiful.  The road was very curvy, and i survived.  I took gravel and then at the first coffee stop i ran into the pharmacy and bought an Australia motion sickness drug.  Thank goodness that worked!!  The distance from Melbourne to Adelaide is about 1000 km and it took us 3 days.  At our first stop we saw wild parrots and koalas.  Next stop was the tree top walk at Otway.  The walk is 600 meters in length and  25 meters above the ground made from steel.  We then made our way to the Lady Bay Resort were we spend the night.  We were taken to the light and sound show were we watched the Lochhart ship sink back in 1876.

We left the Lady Bay Resort early in the morning and headed toward Adelaide.  We toured 3 winery’s   before we made our way to the Chardonnay Lodge.  The Lodge is built in the middle of the vineyards and is about 4 hours from Adelaide. Across the street is the Poplars vineyard where we bought the best olive oil,  garlic and merlot.

The next  day we headed to the fossil and cave park.  That is the first time i have been in a cave and what a cool experience.

Well i better run, tomorrow we are heading out to Kangaroo Island at 615am.  No sleeping in for me.

Joanne’s Fam to Australia Melbourne June 8 and 9

Good Morning everyone,

Well it has been a great 2 days.  On Wednesday we went to Philip Island to see the penguin parade.  On route we stopped at a small farm house to have tea.  We saw 2 Wumbats, and many Kangaroos .  I was able to pet my first Kangaroo and feed them out of my hand.  Next we stopped at the Koala Conservation center were we saw many Koalas in the gum trees.  Next to the beach for the penguin parade.  It was very cold, windy and rainy.  I had to buy 2 scarves to keep warm.  The little penguins came in at about 545pm and we watched them waddle up to their burrows.  Not sure how many we saw but the day before there were 720 penguins that came in.  What an amazing experience!!!!

On Thursday we took the tram to the Victoria Market.  At the market we had a tour where we sampled all kinds of food. I sampled peppered roo (kangaroo).  It was really tender and i actually liked it.  Some of the vendors in the market have been there for 50 years.

Next on to the Aquarium where we saw all kinds of sea creatures.  Then we made a quick stop at the casino were i donated a few dollars. Ha Ha!!

Today we are leaving for Adelaide.  We are traveling  the Great Ocean Road.  It is suppose to be really amazing.  Looking forward to that except it is suppose to be quite curvy.  I have my gravol so i should be okay.

Well i better run and eat breakfast.

Joanne’s fam to Australia-Melbourne Tuesday June 7

Hello Everyone,

Well i made it after 36 hours of waiting in airports and flying.  Air New Zealand is amazing,  i think the best airline i have been on.  The service was outstanding and all the fights on time. I did not sleep much on the plane maybe 3 hours at the most.   Melbourne  reminds me of  Toronto with all the hotels, skyscrapers, and shops.  Melbourne is definately the city for those you like to shop, drink coffee and go to shows at night.  The weather today is cold and rainy.  The temp  is about 12 degrees.

The day that we arrived we walked to the Eureka Sky Deck, which is the tallest building in Melbourne 300 meters high.  I did the Edge experience, some chickened out but i did it holding on the rail and not looking down.  The edge is a glass dome that goes out on the side of the building at the very top.

We seem to be eating and drinking a lot. The food is amazing.  We are definitely not starving. We are walking a lot so hopefully burning some calories.

Day 2 we did wine tours all day.  We toured 4 different wineries and probably sampled 30 different kinds of wine.  Of course it is winter here so the vineyards are harvested already but still a great experience.  We ended our day at the winery that makes Champagne!!!!

I saw my first Kangaroo with 2 little ones in the wild on the drive back to Melbourne.  That was really exciting.

Day 3 we walked to Federation Square for our Hidden Lanes and Arcades walking tour. We saw parts of the city that the locals don’t even find.

Well i better get ready for my dinner tonight.  We are having dinner on the Tram Car Restaurant and maybe after if we have time we will go to a show.