Thursday, March 24: After a hot breakfast and a short coach ride, our tour group boarded the Great Adventures Catamaran for a ride to the Great Barrier Reef. Several of us chose not to snorkel at the reef and disembarked at Green Island. We rode in a glass bottom boat and took the Island Rainforest Walk. A few took a swim at the beach. We had a buffet lunch at the Canopy Grill as part of the excursion. During our time on Green Island, we understood why this is called a rainforest. The heavy downpour continued for quite some time and my raincoat did nothing to keep me dry. Our tour guide, Ronan, said the green itinerary sheet represented the Rainforest. It should have had streaks of blue to represent the water that drenched us.
My husband, Roger, thoroughly enjoyed snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. He saw a fantastic variety of coral of many different colors and shapes and a wide variety of fish, but not in large numbers. The tourists who rode to the Great Barrier Reef had a hot and cold buffet lunch onboard the catamaran.
After the snorkelers finished their fun, they picked up the rest of us who were as wet as they were. We returned to the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel to freshen up before taking a two-minute walk to the RSL Club for a four-course dinner.
Friday, March 25: Roger and I decided to relax, do laundry, and take a walking tour of the city. Most of the group went on the optional tour of the Tjapukai Aboriginal Centre to taste bush food, learn about bush medicine, and take boomerang throwing lessons.
Later that afternoon, everyone gathered at the hotel for a Learning and Discovery lecture on the Aboriginal Culture and Life Today. Afterward we left to have dinner on our own.
Saturday, March 26: Some members of our group took the Hot Air Scenic Balloon Ride at sunrise while the rest of us slept in. At 9:30 am our briefing about the Sydney visit was followed by a short coach ride to the Cairns Airport for a three-hour flight to Sydney, Australia. We moved our watches forward one hour, then went directly from the Sydney Airport to Nicks Bar ‘n Grill at the Darling Harbour for dinner. At about 8 pm we checked into the Holiday Inn Darling Harbour.
Sunday, March 27: Our blue sheet itinerary (blue represents the ocean) indicated we were on our way to a guided tour of the beautiful, impressive Sydney Opera House. It was sad to learn that the brilliant Danish architect, Jørn Utzon, who designed the multi-building structure, resigned during the construction and never saw the finished product.
During our next coach ride we saw a spectacular harbor view and stopped for a photo op in Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. More than 150 years ago, Lady Macquarie’s husband, Governor Lachlan Macquarie, had prisoners carve exposed sandstone rock into the shape of a bench on the peninsula in Sydney Harbour so that she could enjoy the panoramic view of the harbor and wait for her husband as he sailed home from a long journey at sea.
We continued to the Opal Centre for a shopping opportunity. To my very young grandchildren, I sent a picture of a beautiful opal I selected as a wished for birthday gift. The opal only cost $162,750 in Australian dollars. It’s a little cheaper in American dollars, but not by much.
That evening while on the Sidney Harbour Dinner Cruise, we had a perfect nighttime view of the harbor, a splendid view of the opera house, the beautifully lit Sydney Harbour Bridge, and a colorful fireworks display on the harbor.
Monday, March 28: The tour group went by coach to The Rocks at Circular Quay and learned about Sydney’s historical beginning. Because Britain’s prison system was overcrowded, some convicts, skilled tradesmen, and farmers convicted of trivial crimes were shipped to Australia to colonize the island continent. Some of the convicts were later given pardons and parcels of land to farm.
At 10 am we took the two hour Sydney Harbour Coffee Cruise then spent the afternoon exploring the city. At 6 pm the group took a 10-minute walk from the hotel to Stacks Taverna for dinner.
Tuesday, March 29: Several members of our group took the 3 ½ hour walk over the awesome Sydney Harbour Bridge. The participants were tethered to the bridge and not allowed to wear jewelry or carry cameras, purses, or other loose items. The bridge authorities didn’t want anyone or anything falling onto the vehicles on the bridge deck below. Does that give you an idea of how difficult the walk is?
Roger and I opted not to “enjoy” that adventure. Instead we took the coach out of Sydney, toured the Featherdale Wildlife Park, and then stopped for lunch at Roger’s favorite place to be, a golf course. We went to the Blue Mountains for a tour of the canyon, took a ferry back to the harbor, and then took a cab back to the hotel.
Wednesday, March 30: We took the three-hour flight out of Sydney to Queenstown, New Zealand. We had to set our watches forward two hours. Managing the various time zones was sometimes confusing. Thankfully our tour guide Ronan McChesney reminded us of the correct local time. Because we arrived at the airport at 2:30 pm and dinner was scheduled for 6:15 pm, he suggested we buy lunch at the Queenstown Airport. At 4 pm, we arrived at the Rydges Lakeland Hotel to check in and freshen up. At 5 pm we met in the lobby of the hotel to take an orientation walk which ended at the Ballarat Trading Company Restaurant. The décor of the restaurant depicted a replica of the old trading post chalkboard showing the prices of the cattle, sheep, and other items sold there many years ago.
Thursday, March 31: We walked 10 minutes to the Steamer Wharf to take a steam ship to the Walter Peak Sheep Station for a guided tour of the farm. (What we call a farm, they call a station.) While there, we had afternoon tea, coffee, scones, and cakes in their comfortable sitting room and veranda. We also watched a sheep dog herd sheep and saw a demonstration of sheep shearing.
Friday, April 1: At 7:45 am the tour group met in the hotel Lobby to board the coach for a day-long trip to Milford Sound (a fjord). We photographed spectacular scenic waterfalls, some seals, unusual rock formations, beautiful mountains, and took a one hour forty-five-minute boat ride up the fjord with a turnaround at the Tasman Sea. In the first hour, they served a delicious hot buffet style meal on the boat. During the captain’s interesting commentary about the fjord, he told us from which side of the boat we could take good pictures of the various sites.
Those who chose not to take the long trip back by coach could take a $250 scenic flight back. Roger and I chose to take the coach back. We’re a thrifty couple. As a diversion during the long ride, Roger and I played Scrabble on our iPads. At 8 pm we arrived back at the hotel and had dinner on our own. We rested in preparation for the next day’s adventures on a jet boat and on a gondola.
Tags: Great Adventures Catamaran, Great Barrier Reef, scuba dive, Green Island, glass bottom boat, rainforest, RSL Club, Tjapukai Aboriginal Centre, boomerang, Aboriginal Culture, Cairns, Sydney, Nicks Bar ‘n Grill, Darling Harbour, Hot Air Scenic Balloon Ride, Sydney Opera House, Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, Opal Centre, Sidney Harbour Dinner Cruise, The Rocks at Circular Quay, Stacks Taverna, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Featherdale Wildlife Park, Blue Mountains, Queenstown, time zones, Ballarat Trading Company Restaurant, Steamer Wharf, Walter Peak Sheep Station, Milford Sound, fjord