Our itinerary was practically perfect for spending two weeks exploring Australia and New Zealand. We arrived in Sydney in the morning which worked well for jet lag, since we slept the night on the flight and basically just leapt a day forward. Qantas has much better business class lay-flat seats than American Airlines on their double decker A380.
The Park Hyatt was the perfect hotel. You can reserve balcony rooms with the most incredible views of the Sydney Opera House. Our room view is in the collage. I had a photo shoot that first afternoon, so Gwyn and I drove to Bondi Beach with Josh Howlett, the photographer. Icebergs, the iconic public pool, is adjacent to Bondi Beach.
For our first full day, we hired a great tour guide named Lloyd (through the Park Hyatt) to take us to Scenic World in the Blue Mountains. We stopped at Featherdale Wildlife Park on the way, where I had arranged koala feeding encounters and photos. The kangaroos are very friendly too. After Featherdale, we stopped in a small mountain town called Leura. We loved the vibrant town. My daughter found a vintage ACDC sweatshirt that she wore the rest of the trip. We also loved the cafe we ate at called Landseer’s. At Scenic World, we took a cable car over the valley, rode a fast moving train down a mountain and walked through the rainforest.
The next day, we flew to Cairns then drove to Silky Oaks Lodge in Daintree Rainforest. The amazing luxury resort is nestled into the rainforest and sits along a gorgeous river where you can swim and kayak. From there, we took a car about thirty minutes to Port Douglas to snorkel around the Great Barrier Reef. My husband saw a big reef shark, and my daughter got stung by dangerous Irukandji jellyfish. Thankfully the guide squirted vinegar all around the stings to neutralize them. I highly recommend wearing Cover or a wetsuit to protect not only from the harsh sun but against jellies. I was swimming right next to her and saw the tiny jellies, but didn’t get stung, as I had on Cover leggings and a Cover swim shirt.
From Cairns, we flew to Auckland, New Zealand where we rented a car. They drive on the other side of the road, so our Hertz agent advised us to buy the collision insurance and always look to the right at the roundabouts. We checked into another Park Hyatt. We loved that hotel too. They are very modern and beautiful. You can request an amazing view here as well. Our room view from here is also in the collage. We booked Sealink Halfmoon Bay tickets to drive our car onto the ferry to Waiheke Island. We stayed at Delamore Lodge, which has the most incredible views, grounds and staff, but pretty ugly, dated interiors. We should have booked dinner at Mudbrick instead of using their hired-in chef. Mudbrick is an incredible vineyard and restaurant about five minutes away. The town is great, and likened to the Hamptons of New Zealand.
We ferried back a couple days later to Auckland and headed south to Solitaire Lodge in Rotorua. We passed through Hobbitown, which is the set of Lord of the Rings. Also not too far are the glow-worm caves. Our group didn’t want to spend the extra time to go to those attractions though. We only spent one night in Rotorua. Wayne and I woke up early, and a host at Solitaire boated us across Lake Tarawera to the most incredible natural hot spring. Then we loaded up and stopped by Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve to see the geysers. The smell of sulfur is pretty pungent. They have a cute little kiwi conservation there too!
About an hour drive later, we arrived at Hula Lodge in Taupo. This was my favorite hotel I have ever stayed at. It sits on a turquoise river with the most lush, beautiful grounds and accommodations. The chef is incredible. This is the epitome of a luxury lodge. I didn’t want to leave. During our full day there, we went for a soak in the natural thermal baths and went jet boating, both only five minutes from the property.
We flew an Air New Zealand prop plane back to Auckland, then went on to Sydney to return the following day to the US. We had stored some luggage at the Park Hyatt, which was a nice way to lighten our load throughout the trip. What a special part of the world! I can't wait to go back and see the South Island of New Zealand and the Outback middle of Australia.