I was privileged to be invited on a VIP trip to Queensland with Qantas Airways which included 10 flights; 2 of which were overnight, 8 nights in Australia staying in 6 hotels plus 4 boat trips.
I flew economy from Heathrow via Dubai to Sydney where I identified my suitcase and re-checked in for the internal flight to Brisbane. The service on the A380 to Sydney was impeccable and food was excellent. What I loved about the flight was that everyone is permitted to carry 30 kilos of luggage, the innovative footrest net that allows you to stretch out and raise your legs. The meals were also served without a tray which provided more space and made the eating experience more comfortable. Numerous snacks were provided throughout the flight where you could help yourself to muesli bars, fruit, cake, Twix bars etc. as well as drinks. First time I’ve ever had hot chocolate with marshmallows on a flight. The internal flight from Sydney to Brisbane was equally as good however as not all internal flights offer in-flight entertainment I would highly recommend everyone to download the Qantas entertainment app.
Upon arrival in Brisbane I was swiftly checked into the Sofitel and ventured out within 45 minutes to my first excursion to Lone Pine Sanctuary which cost AUS$28 per person. Lone Pine is the World’s largest Koala Sanctuary, therefore I managed to cuddle a Koala as well as feeding the Kangaroo’s, watching a sheep dog show and experiencing numerous species of Australian wildlife including snakes! I can highly recommend taking ride to the sanctuary and then taking a coach trip back to the city via Mt. Cook-ha lookout which has spectacular views of Brisbane City out to Moreton Bay. Whilst I did not have an opportunity to visit Moreton Island, it come highly recommended as well as Tangalooma as you can feed the dolphins, go quad biking, sailing as well as snorkelling.
Another top tip in Brisbane is to take advantage of the ‘greeter’ tour which is provided free of charge by the Tourist Board. This is where you meet with a registered tour guide whole will provide a city tour free of charge for up to 4 hours. They will tailor make each tour depending on your interests. The tourist office in the city centre is also well worth a visit, as it used to be the theatre therefore the décor is spectacular. I can also highly recommend venturing to Eagle Street for dinner which has restaurants to cater for everyone’s budget / taste.
The following day I travelled around an hour down the coast to Surfers Paradise to experience a 4 hour whale watching boat trip. Whilst sailing out to sea, I witnessed a floating chapel (one of two in the World) and beautiful homes along the river. The season for whales is at the end of May where the whales migrate north to warmer waters in order to mate and give birth. I was fortunate enough to see a sleeping horizontal humpback whale as well as one which was quite lively which the boat followed side by side.
A quick check in to the quirky QT Gold Coast hotel followed by a visit to the Q1 which is Australia’s tallest building and until 2011 it was the World’s tallest building. Views from the 77th floor of the sunset is outstanding with 360 degrees of Surfers Paradise and the surrounding areas. I’m a Celebrity has also been filmed here where you can walk outside at the top.
The following morning was an amazing culture experience as I joined the Jellurgal Walkabout Tour at Burleigh Heads, with an entrance fee of around AUS$20 the 1.5 hour tour through the rainforest was fascinating as I learned so much about the Aboriginal culture. Lunch stop as at Rick Shores, which is situated on the water’s edge and the cuisine was impeccable. I would highly recommend anyone to make a reservation as it a popular venue to be seen at.
After lunch it was time to venture to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary which is part of the National Trust and is the ultimate holiday adventure for the entire family and it has just celebrated 70 years in business. In this sanctuary whilst you can still feed the kangaroo’s and cuddle a Koala you can also go on a Segway safari, go zip lining, visit the wildlife hospital or even feed the crocodile plus throughout the day there is over 13 shows you can attend. At 8am and 4pm every day the lorikeets (bird) descend on one area and you can feed them which is a great photo opportunity, the noise is phenomenal.
Off to check in at Peppers Hotel, Broadbeach next which a great property is plus Broadbeach is a little more sophisticated than Surfers. Peppers had been voted the best hotel in Australia by Trip Advisor for 3 consecutive years. I can also recommend staying at Coolangatta which a nearby resort is offering a more relaxing experience. Whilst I did not see Coolangatta many of the locals highly recommended it and a few suggested staying at Reflections which is located on the beach front and close to a National Park.
If you are in this area you must experience breakfast at Elk’s Espresso for mouth-watering fresh cuisine and drinks, however you must book in advance.
Now it was time for a 2 hour flight to Hamilton Island. Highly recommend you to download the Hamilton Island App prior to arriving as it provides day by day activities as to what is happening on the island as well as things to do. There is a free shuttle bus around the island or for 87AUS$ a day you can hire a golf buggy but don’t forget to take your driving license. The golf buggy was a fun way to see the island, we took it up to the top of One Tree Hills which is the place to be seen for cocktails at sunset. The photos simply do not capture the beauty of the surrounding islands.
There are properties on Hamilton to suit every budget. I stayed at Reef View which is a great family property where all rooms have breath taking views, however I was also fortunate to visit Beach House which is an adult only property has only 57 rooms as well as viewing 4/5 bedroomed villas at the Yacht Club.
The evening venture was on board Hamilton Star operated by Explore which was a sunset cruise with canapes and champagne followed by an amazing dinner, cost of which was AUS$175 and well worth the money.
The following morning we ventured out onto the Great Barrier Reef which is named one of the seven natural wonders of the world which is home to over two thousand types of coral, fish, bird, reptiles and mammals. The snorkelling experience included stopping at two reefs and included lunch. Although the generator broke down or two hours whilst we were at the last reef, it meant we yet another incredible sunset at sea.
That evening we experienced a South East Asian banquet at Co Ca Chu, renowned for its signature dish ‘betel leaf with lobster’ which was divine.
Up at 4.45am in order to commence a 90 minute, 2.5km hike in time for sunset. Due to the damage from the cyclone which hit the island six weeks prior to arrival, the beginning of the walk was like an obstacle course climbing over and crawling under trees. Hamilton Island survived the cyclone due to underground power whereas other islands nearby did not survive and will be closed for at least a year! The views from the summit of the climb were incredible and again the pictures do not do it justice.
Straight after the hike it was time for our next flight which was 1 hour 20 minutes to Cairns followed by a 2 hour drive south to Mission Beach where we checked into Castaways Resort. This hotel as well as Mission Beach had a very relaxing feel and somewhere I would like to return to spend longer. Sunset and sunrise views were spectacular.
That evening we headed out to Tully Gorge National Park to experience the stunning area with dinner included at the campground. Whilst at Tully it’s highly recommended to go rafting where the rapids range from 2 to 5 so you can decide on a leisurely or an adrenalin adventure. Mission Beach is also popular for sky diving too.
The following morning we took a water ferry from Mission Beach to Dunk Island before boarding the Reef Goddess for an exhilarating snorkelling / diving adventure. The two reefs which we stopped at were so clear and the crew ensured everyone had an amazing trip, even one lady who could not swim managed to see the reef.
You can also spend the day on Dunk Island and enjoy the beach or a rainforest walk.
The following morning meant a two hour drive back up to Cairns to witness the World Heritage Rainforest of Karunda with a Sky rail and Scenic Rail Tour. It took approximately 40 minutes to reach the top by Sky rail with two opportunities to stop off for photo opportunities. At the top there are numerous traditional shops, chance to visit a Butterfly Sanctuary or a river cruise. The scenic train takes around an hour and a half to reach the bottom.
My final evening in Cairns was spent at the Typukai Aboriginal Park to learn about the aboriginal culture followed by dinner where I managed to sample crocodile and kangaroo.
Whilst I would not recommend visiting Queensland for just 8 nights, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have sampled a fabulous part of Australia and I now believe I have gained knowledge to pass onto my clients.
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