New Zealand, Australia, Fiji · 22 Days · 19 Moments · January 2017

New Zealand and Australia

20 February 2017

Day 6 in Australia and enjoying Port Douglas despite the heat. Today started with catching the sunrise from 4 mile beach with birds serenading the entire morning. We next spent our morning at the local Habitat Park where we all got to see our favorites......Paige and her Galah bird, Angelique and her bats and me and my Koala and here we actually got to hold one!! We all hand fed kangaroos agreeing that we could spend all day watching them. The afternoon brought us back to the reef where we spent time snorkeling on the lower isles. Dinner tonight was at Nautilus which had been recommended by several so we made a reservation.

13 February 2017

Day 9 Donuts anyone? We are spending Valentine's Day wandering around Melbourne. We skipped ice cream but couldn't make it past the donut window. We trammed out to the equivalent of the soho NY area to check out some eclectic shops after a morning around The Victorian Markets. The wall murals were a pleasant surprise. We say goodbye today as my flight leaves this evening for Fiji. Paige and Angelique caught a perfect dinner show for VDay, Dracula :) and fly back to the states tomorrow.

12 February 2017

Day 8 in Australia. Get out the tuxedos! Today we are moving south to Melbourne. Along the way, we passed through an area called Palm Cove, a great place to stay next time. We wasted no time, again, once at our hotel in Melbourne. The Penguin Parade was high on our list and a couple hours from the city at Phillip Island. It was amazing!! The colony of around 4000 comes in every evening at dusk and all make their way up hill to their burrows, many hobble for more than a mile. It's pretty cold on the coast and the views are spectacular......wallabies bouncing around on hills with the ocean crashing on the rocks behind them. Given only one more day in Australia, this has been a fabulous way to wrap up our time here.

12 February 2017

Day 7 All paths lead to ice cream !Still in Port Douglas, Queensland. When you travel, there are a similarities to other places you've seen with always at least one exception. Today was that exception for me when touring the Daintree Rain Forest. Two world heritage sites meet here and it's a bewildering of mangroves between the rainforest and beach. Today a cassorary, a very rare sight, dodged in front of our vehicle and a skilled driver avoided collecting this beautiful bird. Lunch was in the middle of the rainforest and a feast of steak and best sea bass ever. Our first stop of the day was Mossman Gorge and the last stop was for ice cream made from the fruits of the area, Davidson Plum, yummy. In between included a boat ride down the Daintree River.......crocs, pythons and bats, oh my.

10 February 2017

Day 5 in Australia and in Port Douglas, Queensland. Shark Bait!! Today's plan is to dive and we booked with Poseidon Scuba and Snorkle outfitters. Our sites are Phil's Reef, The Point and Stonehenge. It's a rough day but visibility is good at 15 meters. Yes, meters and quite the challenge for us yanks. Our dive master is also a marine biologist so an extra plus. However he did manage to get off course on the third dive leading us all into the open ocean. Did I mention we are on the GBR where great whites live? Anyway, the skiff came out to pick up for those smart enough not to make the long swim back to the boat. Some elected to stay with the dive master and manage another dive. The currents are strong which made some swim thrus challenging. All in all a good day with good stories to tell, the best part of scuba. A well earned dinner tonight at Salsas where the snapper was amazing.

9 February 2017

Day 4 in Sydney and after a necessary massage with the hotel spa, we are off to Sydney Airport for our flight to Cairns. Once in Cairns, we have about a 45 minute ride North to Port Douglas. Port Douglas is charming and a great slowing of pace from the big city. There are lots of boutique shops and restaurants. We chose to have dinner at The Mexican where crocodile tacos were on the menu. More impressive were the avocado margaritas. The staff at our hotel, Peppers Resort, are absolutely wonderful and glad we have 4 nights here.

8 February 2017

It's Day 3 and monkeying around in Sydney! A ferry carries us out to Taronga Zoo. A trip highlight is to see the Koalas. What's not to love about a cuddly creature that sleeps 20 hours a day because of eating so much Eucalyptus! We spent a great deal of time entertaining the spider monkies . Many of the enclosures at Taronga are interactive allowing you to be close with the animals. After a full day, we headed straight to the opera house for Barmu, a burlesque style circus show full of great acts and fun shananigens. An art walk around the harbor afterward leads us to each animal represented for the Chinese New Year.

7 February 2017

Day 2 in Sydney begins with a morning visit to St Mary's Cathedral which is the 6th largest in the world. Its intricacies can only be appreciated by the eye. The crypt lies below and we were able to tour it. Hyde Park sits next door with its fountains and sculptures that all tell a story. It's pouring rain which gives the entire park a crisp green aroma. From here, we move on to take an inside tour of the Sydney Opera house. The architectural story behind this legend is well worth reading up on and after so much walking, we appreciated the low riser stairs. Apparently they were designed that way for ladies past when wearing their heels and gowns. Next we made way to the Sydney Aquarium , a great conservation and teaching center. The highlight of the day came in the evening with a climb to the top of the Sydney bridge. Nothing can describe the freedom felt standing atop this wonder in the pouring rain.

6 February 2017

The Chinese New Year.
Day 1 of our time in Australia begins in Sydney. The hotel Amora Jamison was a great central location and within walking distance to the harbor. We took a Sydney night tour that carried us to the iconic stops of Harry's for a pie, the harbor to take in the beauty of the Sydney bridge and to the Glenmore Hotel for a nightcap with a rooftop view of the harbor. The Chinese New Year is in full celebration with art displays around the city. The rabbits were a big hit and of course we were smilingly scolded for petting them. Sydney is highlighted in so many movies and shows. None of those compare to standing waterside with a warm breeze looking at the glow of the opera house and bridge while watching bats fly overhead.
Day 9. Were not yet ready to leave New Zealand. We know we'll be back in that we saw so little of each Island. Pictures give account for what we've seen but are an injustice to the beauty that shines and can be felt. We all wish we'd back packed around the world like Matilda at 20 but nobody told us we could. Of course she's eating oatmeal and ramen noodles in a hostel but pretty darn happy. Given I've gained 6 lbs so far ,oatmeal and ramen noodles might not be a bad plan. Worry about that later. Now on to Australia. Our first stop is Sydney. Here I am teary eyed again as we fly in. I started wanting to come here at age 12. Now I'll ask myself what took so long.

5 February 2017

Day 8 We are up early to rendezvous with our next adventure, bungy jumping. I woke up with every intention to cancel the plunge from 40 stories up . I went to the top anyway (non refundable) to watch Angelique take the plunge and once there, well, I braved up and did it. The most real 8 seconds of my life. We made a new friend, Matilda, who is back packing around at 20 and by herself. We all held each other's shaking hands. If that wasn't enough, we joined up with Paige and spent the afternoon white water rafting on the Shotover after putting in at Little Creek. The bungy jump was scary, rafting was cold but the bus ride to launch our boats caused Paige and I to wear our rafting helmets and assume crash position. Narrow gravel road better suited for ATVs, a 20 something year old adrenaline junkie bus driver intent on showing he's got skills and no beer on the bus. Back at the hotel, we all crawled to the hot tub and then out for some dancing!

4 February 2017

Day 7 we begin the winding journey back to Queenstown by bus and boat. On return we changed hotels and have an incredible view overlooking Lake Wakitipu. Beauty is so abundant here . Every view is worthy of being a cover box for a puzzle. The weather for February is cool for summer and the kiwis are not shy to complain about it. This evening we took a walk through town, visited a cemetery, took a gondola ride to the top of Queenstown and played by riding the luge 3 times. Angelique's managed to be as fast as her Beamer and she drove it the same way, with her fire. The casino proved lucky for Paige with a quick double of her money. Have I mentioned our new addiction? Jet Planes ......gummy candy that we can't stay away from. Pretty sure we are bringing a case home.

3 February 2017

Day 6 we start an early day with Real Journeys. A two hour ride carries us west to the lower Southern Alps and Lake Manapouri, the 2nd deepest lake in NZ, for an overnight cruise through Fjordland, a world heritage site. Doubtful Sound is our destination and along the way dolphins, albatrosses, penguins and seals tease our cameras along with rain. It rains on the average of 200 days a year here. We sailed aboard the Navigator with Captain Dave, our naturalist guide Carol, our chef Stephen and cruise manager Chelsea along with the remaining fantastic crew and about 70 passengers from all over the world. We tendered around the edges to see the beauty in detail. The trip highlight was awaking at 515 to look outside at the darkest night ever witnessed and at about 900 am the Captain shut everything down so we could listen to the silence. Yes, listen to the silence of the surrounding fjords where the only noise was the abundance of waterfalls echoing through the mountainous walls.
Day 5 we board our plane in Rotorua for a quick hop to Auckland and a plane transfer to the South Island of New Zealand into the City of Queenstown. When below the equator, going south means chillier weather and a hunt for new boots though we didn't find any in our first shopping spree this evening. We arrived in Queenstown around 2 and by 430 we were on a jet boat spinning around on the Shotover River. The beauty of this place put tears in my eyes. Mother nature truly is the only real artist. After walking around Queenstown and a few shops, a Mexican dinner and margaritas were heavenly at Coyote Grill.

1 February 2017

Day 4 starts early with a drive to the Whirinaki Forest area for an all day talk with some pretty serious trees. It's not an area frequented by tourist given its remoteness making it top on our list of must dos. Pictures can't do it the justice it deserves. There is a constant echo of cechadia, unique birds, (including the friendly robin that will come closer to you if you scratch in the leaves) and a background harmony in all directions of the river and waterfalls dancing. Lucky enough to have a private tour, our guide is an enthusiastic Kiwi with a passion for the conservation of what exists in this amazing country of New Zealand. After today's eight mile hike that included some steep and slippery navigating, an early dinner at Ambrosia and a good night's sleep prevailed.

31 January 2017

Day 3 begins with a 2 hour drive from Auckland to Hobbiton, the set location for the Hobbit series and a highlight for protectors of the ring :). The lunch was in keeping with the theme of the day and we continue to stay impressed with the freshness of produce. The 1200 acre working farm is absolutely stunning even without the hobbit homes. From there, we continued on for about another hour for a two night stay in Rotorua, a city built inside a volcanic crater. The evening adventure was spent at a Maori village complete with an authentic show of music, dance and food. The crafting trades of woodworking and weaving are taught here preserving the heritage of the Maori's. The village is a great way to spend time watching the bubbling mud pools and steaming geyser.

30 January 2017

Day 2 and another full day around Auckland. A day trip to the west coast for tramping in the bush to a beautiful waterfall was well worth the climbing. Titirangi, to the Maori people, means fringe of heaven, which is exactly where you will find yourself staring. Rungi is the god of the spectacular sky. After a picnic lunch at Piha beach, a walk on black sand to admire Lions Rock made for a perfect cap off to the day.
Day 1 starts on the North Island in the City of Sails, Auckland New Zealand. A ferry trip to Waiheke Island proved spectacular with amazing views. Several wineries were worth touring and the winner was the Cable Bay area for the amazing aromas of rosemary and lavender. We even came across an NZ dirt track race that is taken very serious by the local kiwis. Another ferry trip to Davenport was an excellent choice for dinner at the Manuka Cafe.The return to Auckland found the annual Auckland city celebration fully underway with the Auckland Symphony Orchestra commanding an amazing finale of music and fireworks.