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trip report

glasgow, uk
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trip report

We spent weeks planning for our trip to australia and used this forum as a source of fantastic information. I didn't ever have to post a question though because everything I thought of to ask had already been answered! Just wanted to say thanks to all of the experts (guruswife, alanj, wilnino etc) for spending time sharing their thoughts and ideas. As this was our first trip to oz we had no idea where to start so we built our entire itinerary around recommendations and tips which we read here and booked all of hotels based on reviews on tripadvisor too.

We started our three week holiday in Sydney in mid July, spending 4 days trying to cram in as much as possible. First on the agenda was the harbour bridge climb which we did during the day. We thought before we did it that it was a bit pricey but it was worth every dollar spent. The views were spectacular and our guide was great fun and very knowledgeable. A great start to the holiday.

(We had only been in australia twenty four hours before we lost count of the number of people who had used the words 'winter' and 'cold'. Get over it people!!! We encountered glorious sunshine every day of our holiday. Some of us would kill for summers half as good as your winters.....)

The next couple of days were spent taking various ferries around the harbour admiring the spectacular views, visiting the aquarium, the opera house etc but the highlight was our last day which we spent walking from Spit bridge to Manly. This is something we would never have considered doing (it's certainly not mentioned in any guide books I've read) if we hadn't read the various posts from AlanJ on the subject which sold us on the idea. We did the walk with a couple of friends and arrived in Manly around sunset for dinner and a couple of glasses of wine. Fantastic!

Next stop was Brisbane for four days. We flew with virginblue and jetstar a couple of times each during the three weeks and thought they were both great. Every flight was very cheap but the service was great and the flights were always on time. What more can you ask for?

From Brisbane we visited Steve Irwin's zoo (we saw Steve briefly!) which was great. One of the guides there said there were plans to massively extend the zoo so I reckon it will be an even better place to visit in a few years time. We also visited the lone pine koala sanctuary which, for those that are interested, does give people the opportunity to hold a Koala. We didn't though because neither of us was convinced that any of the koalas were desperate to have their photo taken with either of us!

The only (slight) disappointment of the entire trip was surfer's paradise but only because we're not really into beaches that much and because it just looks like any other tourist trap in the uk or europe with lots of tacky souvenir shops, big hotels etc.

Next stop was Cairns where we stayed at Kewarra beach. We stayed in a lot of nice hotels throughout the visit but this resort was the best of the lot with very helpful and friendly staff, a fabulous setting and a great resturant too. From here we visted Kuranda using the skyrail and scenic railway (fun but overpriced) as well as the GBR using ocean spirit cruises who were excellent. They took us out to the outer reef where they offer diving or snorkelling. We chose to snorkel and loved every minute of it. Truly spectacular.

The highlight of our time in Cairns, though, was a trip into the rainforest. We used Pete Baxendell from daintree specialised tours and haven't stopped talking about the tour since we got back home. He offers personalised tours in his customised jeep up to cape tribulation (or anywhere you might want to go) and gives an absolutely fantastic tour of the region. He offers something completely different from the usual bus tours which take you places then allow the large group of tourists off the bus for 10 minutes for photographs then on to the next stop. This was a full day of great experiences, swimming in a rockpool, swinging on vines, eating bush fruits and the occasional creepy crawly and listening to Pete's many fascinating stories! Great fun and completely different to anything else you're likely to encounter.

We went all the way back down to Melbourne next but only for three days. In hindsight, we would much rather have lost a day or two in Brisbane (surfer's paradise!) and added it to Melbourne because we missed out on a fair bit but that's what return visits are for!! We did take a wine tour to the Yarra valley with the australian wine tour company which we both thought was great value for money. They take small groups of people to four different wineries and include lunch etc in the price. They weren't holding back with the wine either which seemed strange at first as we're not used to drinking at 11am but we soon got in the swing of things!

We spent the next day just walking round the city and visiting the museum and gaol, which were both great and well worth visiting. The city is full of wonderful buildings including my personal favourite, Flinders street station, which I must have taken about 20 different photographs of from various different angles!

On our last day we took a tour to Philip island to see the penguins. I've loved penguins since I was a kid but had never had the opportunity to see any 'in the wild' so was really excited about the opportunity. We booked the 'ultimate' penguin experience which involves sitting with a very small group and a guide on the beach with night vision goggles and watching the penguins stroll past you as they come up the beach to their nests. It was a wonderful experience and well worth the extra dollars for the guided tour.

As we were flying home from Sydney we spent two final days where we had started and took the opportunity to take the train up to the blue mountains. Our time there was quite limited but a very helpful girl in an information centre helped us to plan our visit around the time we could spend there. The views were great as it was a crystal clear day and the railway journey was hilarious!

Our last night in Sydney was spent in the opera bar watching the sun go down behind the harbour bridge and wondering if you would ever tire of the view!

In short, we had a fantastic time everywhere we went. Everyone we encountered was very friendly and appeared to be very laid back and happy. This made a very welcome change from the uk where everyone looks miserable most of the time!

Three weeks wasn't enough though because we didn't come close to seeing Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Uluru etc and felt there was still plenty to see in the places we did visit so we've already started saving for our next visit!

Thanks again for all the tips. We can't wait to get back there.

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1. Re: trip report


The report of your trip sounds great. We're heading to Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns in November for just under 3 weeks and am counting the days until we leave. We've also planned to do the bridge climb although haven't booked it yet. Do you think this is advisable? I was wanting to wait to see what the weather was like and also not sure whether to do the day climb or the twighlight one. And funny you mention the Spit Bridge walk to Manly. I've just spent the weekend telling my partner all the different things we should do that aren't run-of-the mill tourist things and this was one of them. 8km doesn't seem too long and a glass of wine and a meal at the end of it will be great.

We've also just this week booked a trip with Pete Baxendell, again based on a report read on TA a few weeks ago. He was great at responding to my countless questions and we are also doing a private tour, so I'm really pleased to read you had a great time.

How did you do the Blue Mountains trip? We're not sure whetehr to do it by train or hire a car for the day to give us more flexibility. Any information yuo can give me on this would be really good.

And you've certainly given me an idea of what to do on our last night in Sydney, which will also be our last night in Oz. I can think of nothing nicer than sitting looking at the sun set behind the bridge. What a lasting memory!

Can't wait to go! Only 9 weeks!

Newport Pagnell...
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2. Re: trip report

Hello ozrookie

What a great report.I am counting the weeks to my trip down under(10 yesterday).We aren't doing Brisbane but we are going to Cairns ,Sydney and Melbourne,and already I'm thinking we wont be there long enough.Did you book your harbour bridge climb before you left Glasgow,or did you wait 'till you got there?Did you get travel cards for the ferry or did you pay each time you used them?I hope to do the Spit bridge to Manly walk but will have to wait 'till my husband does the bridge climb to see if his legs are OK.Am originally from Airdrie so know what you mean about laid back and happy.I too have got lots of tips from the TA site which I have put in a journal and I can't believe how much more I know about the countries I'm visiting than I did before I found Trip Advisor.

glasgow, uk
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3. Re: trip report

Hi Artemis1,

We didn't book the bridge climb until we got to Sydney. In fact, on our first day there we just popped in to the booking office on the off chance to see what times were available and they told us we could climb in the next ten minutes! We had been a bit worried about the weather because some friends in Sydney had told us that it had been raining for a few days immediately prior to us leaving scotland so we took the decision not to book in advance and take our chances. I'm not sure if the time that you are visiting will affect things. We maybe got lucky because we were visiting in the winter when it is less busy possibly and I know that the twilight climbs were more popular but if you're not too concerned about when you climb then I wouldn't bother booking. We took the decision to climb during the day rather than twilight because there are opportunities too numerous to mention from all sorts of different angles to get spectacular sunset views of the city without paying the extra for climbing in the twilight. That said, I've read a lot of posts saying that the twilight climb was well worth it and I wouldn't argue with that.

If there was one single thing I was really grateful to this forum for when doing my research it was the recommendation of the spit-manly walk. It was brilliant. As a blissfully ignorant Scot, I hadn't even heard of Manly (let alone spit bridge) so would never have contemplated doing the walk but it was great. We took it easy so it probably took about four hours with a couple of stops for a picnic lunch etc but we got to Manly just before it got too dark to see the pathway! A couple of things really topped our day off when we got to Manly. Firstly, we went for a couple of drinks before dinner and whilst we were sitting chatting, an australian couple approached us to point out the bright orange full moon rising over the water. It was a spectacular sight which we would all undoubtedly have missed out on but for the intervention of this couple. Then we headed out for dinner to an italian restaurant/pizza place. There was a twenty minute wait for a table but it looked really good so we decided to wait. Our waiter couldn't believe that we hung around waiting so gave us a free bottle of wine with our meal. Both of these examples summed up the friendliness of all of the people we encountered wherever we went in australia. It must have something to do with all that sunshine.....

Delighted you have booked a trip with Pete (please tell him Heather was asking for him!) He is a great guy and you'll love his tour. We too sent him numerous e-mails with lots of questions which his wife Trish replied to very swiftly. She bakes some superb cookies too! It's a really different kind of tour to the norm which is what we loved and I'm sure you will too.

We took a train to the blue mountains but only because neither of us was brave enough to drive! I know they drive on the correct side of the road and everything but they do some weird stuff over there (right hand turns from the left lane in Melbourne for example) so we gave it a miss!! We took the 9.02 train (as recommended by AlanJ) and it only takes a couple of hours. The trains run all day so you'd be able to see everything you want I'm sure. We were only restricted time wise because we were meeting friends for dinner in the evening.

We spent a few nights in the Opera bar because we just couldn't get enough of the view. It gets really busy at night but we were always fortunate enough to get a good spot to watch the sun go down. The bar itself is a complete rip off but you can't put a price on some things!

Hope you have a fantastic time. We can't wait to go back.

Any more questions just ask

glasgow, uk
11 posts
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4. Re: trip report

Hi sistermags,

Less than ten weeks. I'm very jealous! We can't wait to go back but it'll take a good while saving again before we can.

Your trip sounds great. To be honest, if we had to choose one of the four places we visited to miss out on, it would have been brisbane. It was a great place but with only three weeks we could have been doing with more time in the other three cities.

The one thing I would add about booking the bridge climb is that the sydney long range weather forecast is a lot more accurate than you would get anywhere in the uk. Must be quite easy right enough (sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, more sun....) If you are at all worried about missing out I would maybe check the forecast a couple of days before you go and book it then. Like I said earlier though, I had no problems whatsoever turning up on the day. Unless you have your heart set on a specific time (weekend/twilight) you'll probably not encounter any problems but I'm no expert!

We bought an all day travel ticket which allowed us access to trains and ferries. We used these a lot so the value for money was great. We spent one day just trying out the various ferries to get different views of the harbour which would have cost a lot more if we'd bought the tickets individually.

I hope you are both able to do the spit-manly walk. It was a real highlight of our entire trip. The bridge climb is a lot less taxing than you might expect. It has a very gentle incline for the most part and the whole experience lasts 4 hours so it's actually quite relaxing. There are one or two fairly steep sections on the spit-manly walk though so if you have any concerns at all you might well be better off giving it a miss.

Hope you have a wonderful time

Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands
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5. Re: trip report

Thank you for the compliments,

it's nice to get feedback about the information we all provide and to know that others are also benefiting...

We are laid back and happy becuase of our weather and the economy is also booming...Guru reckons the magistrates got it wrong..should have left the convicts in England and moved to Oz themselves... but maybe then we wouldn't all be so happy.

Southern United...
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6. Re: trip report

Thanks what a great review. I can tell you from my recent visit to australia that Uluru is a not to be missed place to visit. read my holiday review from last week. we are also saving again to return to Oz probably in about 4 years.

I'd like to see Perth, Melbourne again and Cairns again!!!

Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: trip report

that was a great trip report. thanks.

sistermags......just a reminder that almost-middle-aged caught the ferry back from manly after the spit to manly walk and they timed it for the sunset. he said it was great. perhaps you can do that too if you are not staying on at manly for dinner.

the trip will be here sooner than you think. this is the best part of the trip...the planning and the anticipation.


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8. Re: trip report


Thanks for the trip report! I too have used advice from TA to plan and book our trip that begins on 29 Sept.

Would like to contact Pete Blaxendell & book with him. Can you supply his email or a website?


Cairns, Australia
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9. Re: trip report

bookaholic - Pete Baxendells tour is Heritage and Interpretive Tours, email: info@daintree-specialised-tours.com and website is www.daintree-specialised-tours.com He picks up Cairns, northern beaches as well as Port Douglas.

glasgow, uk
11 posts
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10. Re: trip report

thanks for the feedback everyone.

bookaholic - I e-mailed Pete and his wife Trish (who takes all of the bookings) at info@nqhit.com.au. Every time I had a question Trish would reply within 24 hours and was incredibly helpful. I hope you do book the tour because you will have a wonderful time.

Fudge - It was actually reading your fantastic report last week which prompted me to write mine. It'll probably take us a good two or three years to save up enough money to go back too but we've started already!

guruswife - I'd love it if you would take all of our magistrates/lawyers. I'm sure more of us here would be walking around with smiles on our faces more of the time and not craving a visit to your wonderful country quite so much!!