Americans do not include Western Australia normally on their itinerary, which is a shame since it has a lot to offer. It is a six hour plane ride from Sydney, which adds to your travel expense. This state is a destination on its own, and worthy of two or three weeks to explore what it has to offer. There are only 1,500,000 people in the state, which is one third the size of Australia. It is large enough to take Alaska, California and Oregon into its borders. Its coastline stretches 13,000 miles along the Indian Ocean. It has more millionaires than anywhere else in the world, because of the mining industry. It also has huge million acre ranches, a fantastic wine region, the best surfing in the country, and a great barrier reef the Ningaloo, which is better I think than the reef in Queensland because it is close to shore.
I once spent four weeks on a bus, on my own, taking a tour through the entire state, so I could see if it was worth sending anyone there. It was a great experience. I was one foreigner with 27 retired Aussies aged 72 to 94 who took a bus trip each year to take a break . I stayed in some tiny hamlets, in unique little hotels, and ate Barramundi (white fish) every night. It is certainly the path less traveled. On each of my visits I have covered a different region, and it is very different to the rest of the Australia.
Australia lost 25 percent of its men in World War II and was desperate for immigrants. In the 1950’s, I think half my class at graduate school emigrated to the land down under. Britain called it the brain drain due to so many young people leaving, and I think 99 percent of them ended up in Perth. For ten pounds, (U.S. $14 ) you got a six week cruise, with your belongings, and many people were also given land.
You will find lots of British people there on holiday, visiting relatives who emigrated after the war.
One in four people own a boat, so there are lots of expert sailors. Because of the tropical climate, they have many keen tennis players and golfers. With magnificent beaches, surfing is popular.
Perth, the state’s capital, is jumping. Hotels are usually full not with tourists, but with business people from around the world. There are some outstanding restaurants and good shopping. Thanks to the wave of development, Perth has risen to the top of Australia’s hot list. The New York Times ranked Perth as one of the world’s top cities to visit, and Chicago Tribune voted Perth one of the best cities for solo travelers. Freemantle, just 30 minutes from Perth, is the port city, and does a roaring trade in anything to do with boats. It has become a very popular port of call in the cruise industry. The Ritz Carlton Hotel chain has announced that it will build a luxury hotel in the city. Starwood and Hilton are also going to build new properties. There were very few five star luxury hotels at one time. This is changing.
South of Perth is the Margaret River region where the shoreline gives way to the vineyards of over 215 wine producers and more than 95 cellar doors.
This state is synonymous with wildlife, boasting an impressive diversity of native fauna. Swim up to frolicking wild dolphins in Rockingham, and see whales and penguins. The wild flowers are most spectacular, with over 12,000 different species with 100,000 flowers to view during the season, which is July through September, and some species which require more warmth bloom in the late spring, during the months of October and November. The Kings Park Botanical Gardens are very unique if you are interested in plants, with over 150 different species of orchids.
I recommend a few days in Perth, and then go explore one of the five distinct regions of the state, such as the Kimberley’s, take a cruise from Broome to Darwin, or take a camping safari, which is a wonderful experience. You’ll find wild rivers, lots of wildlife, and adventure opportunities galore.
(This was recently posted on the Escape.com blog post)
It’s arguably Australia’s most recognisable feature, so it stands to reason that the Sydney Opera House is our favourite landmark.
Travel review site TripAdvisor named the Opera House as the 2017 winner of its Travellers’ Choice Landmarks of Australia awards.
Regarded as one of the great architectural achievements of the 20th century, the Opera House attracts over 8 million visitors a year, and hosts more than 2000 performances.
In second place, was the Sydney Harbour Bridge — otherwise known as the “coat hanger”.
The world’s tallest steel arch bridge, the structure’s highest point is a vertigo-inducing 134-metres above the water. As well as being a famous Sydney icon, the bridge plays an integral part in the city’s transport infrastructure carrying 200,000 vehicles a day from the north shore to the CBD and back.
Last year’s winner, the Australian War Memorial, came in third in 2017 — as a place to commemorate, interpret and understand the experience of war and its lasting impact on Australian society.
Also making the top five, were Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, and Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building (QVB) featuring an original 19th century staircase.
Other landmarks to score a spot on the list, were Melbourne’s Block Arcade, the Port Arthur Historic site in Tasmania and Fremantle Prison in Western Australia.
Parliament House in Canberra and the Byron Bay lighthouse completed the top ten, devised by an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of each landmark’s reviews worldwide.
Australian landmarks failed to crack the global top ten, which was topped by Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
The breathtaking Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi came in second, and Mezquita Cathedral de Cordoba in Spain third.
St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Italy was fourth and the Taj Mahal in India wrapped up the top five favourite landmarks throughout the world.
TripAdvisor Director of Communications for the Asia Pacific, Janice Lee Fang said the awards honoured 706 landmarks in 82 countries.
“The Travellers’ Choice Landmarks highlight some of Australia’s most loved attractions that have been highly recommended by the TripAdvisor community all over the world,” said Ms Lee Fang.
The list includes historically, architecturally or culturally significant attractions that are typically owned or run by a government or non-profit organisation.
TOP 10 LANDMARKS IN AUSTRALIA
1. Sydney Opera House — Sydney
2. Sydney Harbour Bridge — Sydney
3. Australian War Memorial — Australian Capital Territory
4. Shrine of Remembrance — Melbourne
5. Queen Victoria Building (QVB) — Sydney
6. Block Arcade — Melbourne
7. Port Arthur Historic Site — Port Arthur
8. Fremantle Prison — Fremantle
9. Australian Parliament House — Canberra
10. Cape Byron Lighthouse — Byron Bay
TOP 10 LANDMARKS IN THE WORLD
1. Angkor Wat — Siem Reap, Cambodia
2. Sheikh Zayed Mosque — Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
3. Mezquita Cathedral de Cordoba — Cordoba, Spain
4. St. Peter’s Basilica — Vatican City, Italy
5. Taj Mahal — Agra, India
6. Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood — St. Petersburg, Russia
The Tasman Sea has a reputation for being stormy, a hot spot for low-pressure systems that swirl tightly, giving rise to fierce winds and colossal swells.
Who can forget images of countless Sydney-Hobart sailors embracing in relief and exhaustion after emerging from an oceanic tumult into the refuge of the Derwent River?
Nautical history oozes from the colonial surroundings of the Tasmanian capital’s Constitution Dock, which is flanked by 1830s sandstone warehouses that once stored wool, grain and whale oil but now house bustling art galleries and restaurants.
Strolling through time and tide, you can’t help but ponder the tribulations faced by those aboard fishing boats and yachts moored nearby, some surely too diminutive to weather a tempest. Stacked with crayfish pots, nets and thick ropes, the vessels carry colourful names such as Suicidal Dream, Vagabond, and the wishful thinking of Serenity. So many tales in this port in a storm. So many more on the horizon.
Azamara Journey, in its maiden Australian season, is set to sail from Hobart, bound for New Zealand. Most passengers picked up the cruise in Sydney, the starting point for a 14-night adventure.
Wave height modelling indicates the waters will be lively. A pretty palette of concentric circles on the computer forecast begins with deep red, signifying swells of 7 metres (22 feet) from the southwest, blending to a nice shade of salmon (under 6m) and lemon (5m).
Our captain calmly informs us of the looming conditions and urges those with expensive perfumes and cologne to ensure they are securely stowed. He suggests eating early as “an empty stomach makes things worse”, and for those who are prone to sea sickness to collect free pills from guest services.
“The ship is very stable and we will ride it like a swan,” the captain promises.
Fortunately, the weather system is far enough south that strong winds don’t accompany the generous swell, and skies remain clear. The feeling is one of excitement. Those among the “Azamara family” embrace life and fresh experiences. That’s why they are here. Bring on the high seas and we will sip champagne as we surge through them, they say.
The ship rises and falls almost rhythmically, and guests and staff brace and take measured steps as they wobble about the ship. Passengers settle in to enjoy live music, make new friends, play cards, and share stories of previous cruises. The captain is true to his word and, after feeling like we have been nursed to sleep by a giant, we awake to the most stunning of days.
Azamara Journey weighs 30,277 tonnes, measures 592 feet (180m), and has nine passenger decks. With a carrying capacity of 690 passengers and 408 crew, it is considered a mid-size cruise ship. Its “boutique’’ proportions are a clever point of difference and a guest on his seventh Azamara trip told of his delight at visiting intimate ports and gaining views that those on larger ships need binoculars to see. Seasoned travellers can also savour longer stays in new destinations, and more authentic cultural experiences, including night touring. A company motto is “cruise global, connect local”.
My ocean view cabin, close to the starboard bow on Deck 4, is remarkably easy to find, another advantage of a cosier vessel. There are all the conveniences of a five-star hotel room, including ensuite, mini bar, writing desk, sofa and a decent-size television that I suspect is rarely watched due to the scenery.
It takes three nights and two days to make the almost 2000km journey across “The Ditch”, plenty of time to arrange excursions, relish superb food and wine, have a Swedish massage, take in a few shows and, most importantly, relax. The itinerary includes breathtakingly beautiful Milford Sound, picturesque Dunedin, Akaroa, Napier, Tauranga (Mt Maunganui), and Auckland.
Many passengers are from the US and Europe, and they report having a ball Down Under, playing golf, hugging koalas and learning about colonial times. The Americans ask about cricket, which they find baffling, especially the part where players cease hostilities and walk off for “tea”.
Conversations turn worldly over breakfast, a sunset cocktail, or on exercise bikes in the gym, but politics is approached with caution due to the polarising effect of US President Donald Trump. In the interests of ship harmony, there appears an unofficial truce between rival camps.
Australians, as usual, find each other. They include a retired school principal from Brisbane who knew some of my teachers, a family from the Hunter Valley, and an Italian-born Gold Coaster who belts out a killer version of La Bamba at karaoke.
Azamara Journey, which has a twin called Azamara Quest, was built in 2000 and given a massive makeover in 2016. This saw $33 million spent on redesigning suites and staterooms and adding new spa suites and a scenic poolside dining area called The Patio.
There are six dining options, including room service, and two specialty restaurants – Prime C and Aqualina. The Patio is a great option for lunch, and you can select from a lean and healthy array of fare, such as seared tuna spinach wraps, salmon burgers, and Cuban-style pork sandwiches.
Adjoining is Windows Cafe, which lays out expansive buffets, including everything from bacon and eggs to crispy fried frogs’ legs, sushi, roasts and salads, plus an irresistible spread of desserts.
Bakery treats are available with specialty coffees and fine teas at Mosaic Cafe. You can take these away and find a comfy chair to soak up some sun.
To burn off the calories there is a running track on Deck 10 and a glass-framed fitness centre on Deck 9. Next door is Sanctum Day Spa, where weary bodies and minds are soothed with massage therapies, facials and pedicures.
On-board activities range from dance lessons with Russian champions Anton and Alina to trivia, table tennis and even Wii bowling. There are lectures from touring experts, with topics including Maori Gods and Rituals, Musket Wars, and Will the Monarchy Survive?
Adding to the stress-free holiday is a long list of inclusions, such as standard spirits, wines and international beers, meals (apart from those at specialty dining venues), gratuities, coffee, and shuttle transportation in port. The service is always cheerful and the wait staff intuitive.
Expect surprises such as a pop-up chocolate buffet that Willy Wonka would be proud of, and the dazzling singing, comedic and musical talents of lofty cruise director Eric De Gray.
A stunning day winding through southwest New Zealand’s pristine fiords is forever memorable. With its sheer cliffs, lush forests and snow-capped peaks, this unspoilt region is among the world’s natural wonders.
We also delighted over a stop at the French-settled hamlet of Akaroa, performances from Maori groups and Scottish bagpipers in Dunedin, and a bike ride along the glorious beachfront at Mt Maunganui.
After just a sample of the rough conditions the Tasman can produce, the cruise offered smooth sailing, glorious sunny skies, and a voyage of discovery. This left many guests already planning their next escape.
The writer was a guest of Azamara Club Cruises.
Azamara Journey returns to Australia for a second season in January. Fares start at $4399 a person, twin share, for a 14-night Tasmania and New Zealand voyage departing Sydney on February 8. This will include overnight stays in Hobart, Dunedin and Napier, as well as scenic cruising through Milford Sound and calls at Akaroa, Picton and Tauranga before arriving in Auckland. There is also a 13-night Auckland to Sydney voyage, and an 18-night Sydney to Singapore itinerary, along with a new 18-night Bali to Sydney voyage departing January 21.
A 14-night cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong, sailing through Thailand and Vietnam, is priced from $3879 a person, twin share, and departs December 9.
Meanwhile, Sun Princess will sail 13 roundtrip departures from Sydney to New Zealand, Fiji, Tasmania and Queensland, as well as an Asia & Australia voyage sailing 19 days from Hong Kong to Sydney. Sea Princess will make maiden calls to the Conflict Islands on 11-day Papua New Guinea itineraries sailing from Brisbane. Finally, Sun Princess will sail an Australia Getaway departing January 5, 2019, with a maiden call to Moreton Island.